Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Menickies

’Tis the time of year to look back, mostly because we can’t think of anything else to do. The first question is: What happened in 2010? The second question is: You mean you forgot already? Hell, the year isn’t even over yet. Oh, well. To satisfy the incredible clamor from the VCA to mark the moment when we tear the "Cute Kittens Calendar for 2010" off the wall and replace it with the "1000 Places You’ll Never be Rich Enough to Even Think of Visiting 2011 Calendar," we present our annual awards, the Menickies.

The Most Unnecessary Comeback of 2010: Nostrum, Series 2.
It’s nice for Jules and the Nostrumite to ply their craft again, such as it is, but weren’t a bazillion episodes of Series 1 more than enough?

The Least Successful Renaming of Debate Ziti by a National Circuit Event: “Tastes of the Mediterranean.”
I mean, seriously now. I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.

Most Welcome Comeback of 2010: The Modest Novice.
It worked in 2009, and it worked even better in 2010. Why New Jersey turned their back on it remains a mystery, but then again, they call themselves the Garden State as if that stretch on i95 near the Meadowlands simply doesn’t exist. It did, and it does, so get used to it.

Worst New Trend in Registrations: Selective Judging.
Joe McDoakes will not be available Round 1 or 2. Or has tickets for the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre production of King Lear and will not be available for elims. Et cetera.

Favorite New Conversation at the Registration Table: “Talk to your coach about that.” “We have a coach?”
When I see certain schools, I simply can’t resist rubbing it in, especially when I know they really do have a coach, and really don’t know it. Unfortunately, since these parents seldom have much of a grasp of English, the irony might be escaping them.

The Best Idea I Should Have Thought of But Didn’t: 9:00 Close of Registration is Actually 9:05.
It’s either this or buy them all watches. A tip of the hat to PJ Wexler, who knows when a chase needs to be cut to.

Least Successful Solution for Missing Judges at the Ballot Table: Fines.
This doesn’t deter them, it just gives them a way to get away with it. Unfortunately, our petition to the Supreme Court to allow us to summarily execute these people without prejudice was turned down. Curse you, Nino Scalia!

Hardest Thing for Old-Time Tournament Directors to Remember: Strikes and Prefs mean you can’t push a ballot to anyone who happens to be standing within shouting distance.
Which is why I stand there nowadays with my computer. Life was so much easier in the olden days (specifically, 2008).

Best Way to Keep Track While Lolling About in Bed: The Warm Room.
Who are your students debating and how are they doing? If you’re there, you know, but if you’re back home running some other tournament entirely, it’s a nice way to keep up.

Best Indication that Even Adults Can Text if You Train Them for Twelve Months: Princeton.
In 2009, texting was hit or miss. In 2010, more than two thirds of the people roaming all over campus texted results. You don’t become a blithering idiot as you get older: you become a blithering idiot when you claim you’re too old for something. Jeesh.

Most Promising Newcomer: Novice PF.
It came out of nowhere, and it’s hit the ground running. We have novice LD and novice Policy, so why did we get such a slow start on novice PF? After all, it’s the logical thing to do. Oh, well. Live long and prosper.

The Most Revolutionary Idea of 2010 That Was About as Revolutionary as Using A Can Opener to Open a Can: Computers in the rounds.
I may be wrong about this, but I have a feeling that, a) computers are here to stay, and b) they will be useful in the daily lives of our students almost everywhere they venture. Resistance was, of course, futile, but nonetheless vigorous. It must be fun to be a Luddite. You always lose out, but you get to grump till the cows come home. You think I’m bilious? I don’t even come close.

The Duh Award: Longer Final Focus.
And how about more prep, while we’re at it. CP gives more prep ad hoc, because he can. Not a bad idea at all.

Best Change of Heart: The November PF Resolution.
The original resolution would have forced students to defend the abridgement of free speech and the free practice of religion in the United States. We don’t allow freedoms because they’re easy, but because they’re hard, and we don’t defend them when they’re obvious, but when they’re difficult. Further, the original resolution would have potentially put Moslem students in the position of arguing in defense of their faith, or worse, against it. The clamor throughout the country was unprecedented, and the NFL, rather than attempt to defend themselves, simply and expediently changed the resolution. This was the correct thing to do. Some people maintained that the original resolution was fine, but it wasn’t about that (although the VCA knows that I believe that it was far from fine, and was about as representative of a “controversy” as creationism versus evolution). No matter how you sliced it, the resolution would have caused subtle albeit real personal harms to a minority of kids in our community. While it is right that we should believe that we should freely discuss everything under the sun, there is a limit when that discussion harms a child (or anyone else, probably). Anyhow, this story had a happy ending.

Favorite Sight in the Audience at the Christmas CFL: All those headscarves.
Thanks to things like not running the Nov PF topic, we’re getting great turnout with our new Moslem school. If they can brave an institution like Regis, they can brave anything. Bravo to them! Bravo to forensics for being that kind of place. That's why we're all here in the first place.

A personal note to the VCA: You want to change the world? It's easy. Just start with yourself.

My work here is far from done

Last night was trivia night with the Sailors. The category was Muppets, which was met with the following comment. "The Muppets? Oh. Wait a minute. That's what's-his-name: Hermit the Crab."

This is why we invented crappy prizes, and why there will always be a need for them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two—2—two, yes two Christian Bale questions. Yee-ha!

First of all, I have to keep O’C happy. It’s taken me a while to get all the results files posted from Regis, and with every passing moment, he bites down another fingernail to the nub. The thing is, because of NYSDCA we need to post the contestants in order (8 divisions), then there’s results for all the divisions, and 5 divisions of speaker awards. Quelle pain in the butt, as the Frenchies say. But, it’s done. He’s still got a finger left, which he no doubt wishes to give to me. Pfui.

Last night I buckled myself in and recorded what seemed like an endless Nostrum. Jules and the Mite aren’t putting them out with the frequency with which they published in the old days, but they are still plugging away, bless their corroded little hearts. And the VCA knows I love to do my bit for forensical fiction. If Nostrum didn’t exist, we might have to invent it, but thank goodness it does, so I don’t have to give it a second thought.

Tonight is, joy of joys, Bean Trivia night. The Sailors always celebrate the end of the calendar year with an evening of stupid answers to stupid questions. The crappy prize box is packed to the gills, and this year I’ve remembered in advance to bring the beans, the lack of which can seriously hinder the proceedings. I’ve also got some NFL degrees to hand out in order to get my hundred bucks worth of Rippin’ goodness. The only down side to trivia tonight is that I need to quickly replenish the questions for the Lexwegian RR, otherwise the Panivore will know all the answers. And unfortunately we’ll be turning off the Ask Cruz feature of the proceedings, since he’s studying English as a Second Language or something at Upper Schmegeggie Community College, but my daughter will be doing some lifeline duty, and I’ll drag in KS, the new nautical speech coach. She probably doesn’t know half as much about Disney as O’C, but then again, neither did Walt Disney.

And so, another first half of the year is put to bed. It says its prayers, we tuck it in, and we turn off the light, hoping that the monsters under the bed leave it alone for just one more day. Or not, as the case may be.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Whining? Moi? C'est impossible!

Never answer the phone at eight o’clock in the morning on your way to a debate tournament. It could be Kaz telling you that she may not be there to help tab. It is better to let it ring, and ring, and ring. It’s better not to know.

The story is that her bus didn’t show up, despite having been confirmed earlier in the week. There was no way she could get them down to Manhattan before around noon, so, being the pro that she is, she just came down herself by train. As it turned out, she arrived at around ten or so, and I handed off policy to her at that point.

But…oy. One person registering everybody is a nightmare. We’ve got most people trained pretty well that drops only will be accepted, but there are some teams that haven’t gotten that message, and other teams that haven’t gotten other messages entirely. My favorite conversation: “I’m a judge. I’m here to check in.” “Check in with your coach.” “We have a coach?” Yes, there is at least one team that has what can be considered a phantom coach at best. No one from the team was assigned to handle registration. And the parents who are judging (untrained, of course) don’t even know if a coach exists. Wonderful. And, of course, there’s the school that shows up with a list of who’s debating that is completely different from the one entered a mere 36 hours ago online. As I say, I’m one person registering everybody, hoping to start things by ten o’clock to provide four good rounds. Do you think that I have time to do your registration over from scratch? And finally there’s the team that didn’t show up at all, giving us no indication that they were blowing us off. Lovely.

Fortunately, I’m a magician, and I had the rounds started on time and the tournament over on time. Kaz ended up having the biggest nightmares, what with rejuggling because of that blow-off team not showing up, and the lack of her own team throwing things off balance. But she managed to perform the magic on her end as well, and pulled it off. Dunay was in tab, thank goodness, reading the ballots. Just try to do PF by yourself, what with all the switcheroos of who’s on which side when. Those ballots need careful handling. Once or twice we resorted to cards to avoid quadruple pull-ups (and also to impress Dunay that we knew how to do cards, but he seemed blas√© about the whole deal). We were so busy that I never even broke out the music, also I did manage to squeeze in the crossword puzzle. I couldn’t engage Dunay in a duel for $20 on it, for some reason, but this was probably prudent on his part.

Ain’t debate great?

Friday, December 17, 2010


If I never had to charge a fine at Bump, I'd be happy. This year we had more people not bringing judges, not showing up for rounds, and generally driving us crazy, than ever before. As a result, we collected $445 in cash on the spot in my little tin box. I've finally gotten my act together, and today I donated that money to Grameen Bank (no, I wasn't trying to live off the float, I'm just a little disorganized about things like this). Better still, the DJ matches the gift, so it comes out to $890 altogether. So there is, at least at Bump, a bright side to the whole miserable business.

I urge other tournament directors to treat fines the same way (once they've covered their expenses). First, it eases your way demanding that the fines get paid, because there's no personal gain, and second, it goes to a good cause (whatever cause you happen to choose, of course).

Sylvester Stallone, Bronx Science, Class of '27 (if you were wondering)

What’s going on with the travel to Blake? All these Facebook statuses complaining about canceled and postponed and generally miserable flights, at least going in from the northeast. If you ask me, they have nothing to complain about. They need to look on the bright side, i.e., the possibility of an extra trip through the TSA Underwear Grope. We get so little human contact in our internet-heavy lives these days. Having strangers put their hands down your pants makes up for this deficit. As a matter of fact, we’re going to have underwear groping tomorrow at Regis, just for the sake of parity. We don’t want to miss out on the benefits of being on the $ircuit, after all.

Menick’s Law #428: If you set the closing of registration for 9:00, at 9:02 someone (actually, multiple someones) will email you asking to register their team because they “just missed the deadline.” We’ll be selling alarm clocks at Regis, right past the underwear groping stations. Jeesh.

I haven’t broken the news to my plebes yet that, because they’ve qualified for the state tournament as novices, they will be debating at one-day events, like the one tomorrow at Regis, as JV. That’s usually a jaw-dropper for them, in that it’s almost a guarantee of lots of losses. But if you don’t debate up, you don’t get better. That’s just the way it goes. Plus there’s still plenty of normal novice divisions at invitationals at which they will remain among their peers. You might be thinking that they’ll read this, thus ruining the surprise, but they won’t. Plebes usually don’t enlist in the VCA until they realize that I’m not going to bite their heads off any time soon, usually toward the end of their first year. Some never enlist, and never have any idea what the rest of us are talking about. So it goes.

Their reward, of course, is their first round of Bean Trivia this Tuesday. I hope O’C has his phone all charged up and ready to go. “Ask Cruz” is one of the favorite lifelines. Who won the 1923 novice division of Blake will not be one of the questions, but go ahead. Ask him. He’ll know. Really. He will not, on the other hand, be able to name a sport with bases, nine innings, balls and bats. We all have our specialities.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A new TVFT? A weary world rejoices, sort of.

TVFT fans, celebrate madly: Show #35 is now up and running. Normal people should run for the hills.

We intended to talk about Jan-Feb, but agreed before we started that we should wait, so we mostly talked about wiring tournaments. This tournament does this, that one does that. How can we put it all together? The point is not, of course, tech for tech’s sake, but tech to speed things up. If you can trim ten minutes off each round, that’s over an hour of tournament time we could all spend doing something other than getting lost, waiting mindlessly or scratching our nether portions. Some ideas did come out of it. With luck CP will listen to it (he was recovering from a tour of the slums of Prague) and provide some ideas from his end, i.e., the end of someone who actually knows something about tech.

A lot of people (a lot of people) are going out to Blake this weekend, but some of us homebodies will be working with our local leagues. We have a CFL debate event at Regis which looks to be, as usual, way too big. Regis is always generous with space, hosting lots of events throughout the year, but this one tends to threaten to break through the rafters. Hundreds of LDers and Pfffters of all vintages, plus some assorted Polician nuts, stuffed into every little crook and nanny that can be dug up. The ninth circle is the cafeteria in the dungeon basement, where every table hosts a round and every round is happening at the same time at high speed and high volume. I went down there once years ago to find somebody, and ran back up the stairs screaming, never to return. But, rounds are rounds, and I don’t see any other schools volunteering to host it, so there you are. With JV and O’C off in the Blakewegian hinterlands, and even Catholic Charlie having better things to do, Kaz and I will be flying semi-solo, although we’ve elisted Dunay to help out with the heavy lifting. Four rounds, out by 6:30. Can we do it? Is the Pope German? Ja.

One thing I’ve noticed is that for the next couple of months I’ve had to reserve motel rooms up the wazoo. Newark, the UnHarvard, Bigle X… It’s curious nowadays that Expedia prices are almost identical to the tournament block prices, and one must weigh ease of reserving virtually vs mano a mano (click button vs talk for fifteen minutes to some Yabbo on the reservation desk). I tend to trust Expedia more than a Yabbo, but I’m probably just paranoid. Not to mention that everybody seems to have Marriott points but me. I should do something about that, but that’s the sort of thing that just annoys me, for some reason, i.e., having to keep track of where I’m what. I have enough trouble keeping track of all the websites I’m on, with different passwords and the like. Do I need more of that sort of thing?

I’m up to the Gs cleaning up my contacts on the iPhone (slash iPad slash Vegas Elvis, they being all connected). I don’t know who half of these people even are! A new toy encourages a little house cleaning. This morning I patted my V.1 Nano on the head and thanked it kindly, having moved all talk (podcasts, audiobooks) to the Touch. More housekeeping. I mean, how many iPods does one person need, anyhow? Sometimes I think that I have singlehandedly been keeping Apple in business, but then I look around and I realize that I’m not the only one. And the benefit of all this? When I buy yet another unnecessary essential from them, my email address pops up quickly when they put in my credit card. If they would only off the Frequent Fanboy discounts, I’d be in like Flynn.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Robert Frost said it better

Things are still a little crazy at the DJ, and that spills over into everything else. First allegiance must be to the mother ship, after all. The DJ makes all the rest of it possible.

I’ve been thinking about that lately. At Ridge, for instance, I realized that “the rest of it” includes all sorts of sturm and drang (those elusive judges, for instance), the life and death (sorta) issues that arise at every tournament. Lots of action, in other words. Plus there was all kinds of backroom chatter about this and that, including a great idea from JV for next year to cover the Modest Novice vis-√†-vis their short December fling with Nov-Dec. Why not extend Nov-Dec, just for the novices, for the first January tournament at Byram Hills? Why not indeed? It makes the work they put into those cases that much more rewarding. And given that nowadays even the novices, if they go on past February, are still debating Jan-Feb, it won’t harm them. I like that. We’ll float it as the 2011-12 season commences. There was also all kinds of socializing, as we faced the frigid Friday night and headed over to what can only be thought of as Holiday Inn, Center Street, Nowheresville, America. The guy at the piano singing “Feelings” has been replaced by an aging rock and roll band with less hair than I have and with an uncanny ability to almost be in pitch, the operative word there being almost. Rule number one for these people ought to be that their guitarist isn’t Carlos Santana and they should therefore simply steer clear of the comparison. Go for songs/groups without virtuosos. Stick to simple hooks that even your mother-in-law can handle in Guitar Hero. Still, in the midst of all the noise we got to sample these funky Belgian Christmas ales, and it was a lot of fun. Walking back to the motel I realized that if it wasn’t for “the rest of it,” I would have been home doing nothing. Although maybe not. Home doing nothing has its appeals, but only once in a while. I have to wonder what if, if not this, if you know what I mean. Hard to imagine.

Note to self: obscure Lou Reed is perhaps the best music on a cold ride through the darkest reaches of New Jersey. The more obscure, the better.

Ridge itself was, as always, run with amazing precision. I want the Ridgewegians to run my tournament. I would swear I never saw the same runner twice as this endless flow of young humanity came storming into the tab room bearing ballots. Never wanted for a ballot, either. They are organized the way Eisenhower organized the Allies on 6/6/44. Their housing was a little wacky, though, based on some combination of the first name of the kid living in the place they were going, divided by the square root of -1, but this was a small flaw in the overall proceedings. JV and I did manage to find the best milkshakes this side of the Mississippi, which forgives a multitude of sins. The inability to connect to Sporcle, however, does have to be chalked up on the debit side. And the lack of a Q key on La Coin’s computer (she was handling the PF duties) was rather disquieting (or just dis-q-ing) when she asked me to look at some bizarre thing that had come up. I mean, it’s not like one uses a lot of Qs in everyday tabbing, but still…

This weekend we end the calendar year with a big little event at Regis. Tonight we will TVFT the new topic. And the boys from Cambridge have sent me the latest episode, which I hope to get recorded tomorrow.

Provided, that is, the DJ doesn’t wear me out completely first.

Monday, December 13, 2010

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

While we’re at it, another rant. Whatever happened to judging obligations? At every tournament I know, there is an expressed mention in that invitation that judges are obligated one round past their participation; some tournaments go even further, and I don’t know any that ask for less. This is not some whim on the part of the tournament directors, or an attempt by the bastids in tab to affect yet another power trip. If people disappear after their own entries are eliminated, it is becomes progressively less possible to continue pairing the break rounds, especially the early ones (doubles and octos) where 24 or even 48 judges might be required. At some tournaments, just one or two judges skipping out can bring the whole thing down. Sometimes it’s a factor of those judges being highly rated. If they were going to be assigned a double-flighted round as an A judge, and we now have to sub in a C judge, that means that 4 debates have been affected. Other times, at smaller events where we need just about every judge, slipping off into the night could mean a literal end to the tournament. I have seen that happen.

Here’s the deal. If you’re judging, deal with it. Meet your obligation. No theater tickets that night. No hot dates. No “I really live far away and we have to go now,” when we know that if your kids were still in it, you wouldn’t be going anywhere. No “my bus is here.” No suddenly feeling a little rumbly in the tumbly. No nothing. Period. Stop it. You’re doing a bad thing, and possibly harming the tournament you would not want to see harmed if you or your team were still in it.

Does anyone have any idea how to end this growing, selfish practice?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


So here you are, putting on a tournament. You want it to be a good tournament, so you hire a bunch of extra, experienced judges. You also want to be a mensch, so you offer a few judges for sale at your tournament. It is understandable, especially when there are hotel rooms to consider, that you might want to help out some teams with hired judges, but at the same time, you keep a stash for yourself. A good tournament needs a lot of good judges. A bad tournament has too few good judges. Every tournament is probably somewhere in between. If you manage things correctly, you can make yours as good as possible, keeping your stash and servicing your requests both.

But here’s the problem. Some schools look at hiring judges as a right, not a privilege. They put in hiring requests, and expect them to be fulfilled. Almost inevitably, there are more requests than there are judges in your available pile. So the first problem you have is, do you weaken your stash? Your stash of good judges is what makes a tournament good; add to this the judges brought by the attendees, and you’ve got a good event. But if the attendees don’t bring their judges, and you squander yours as hireds, then there’s no room for tab to play around. Every judge judges every round, often indiscriminately, even if English is their 8th language and they’ve never even heard of the activity they’re judging. I mean, your attendees will usually bring a mix of judges ranging from A to C, while you’re hiring what you think are As. It should work out. But if you sell all your As, you don’t get their As. That is a problem.

So, step one, you limit the number of judges you sell to, as I say, maintain your stash. The tournament is better for it.

But there are trolls out there. There are people who, when their hiring requests are not fulfilled, show up at the tournament without judge coverage. They dangle the threat of non-attendance (and not paying registration) as their weapon. Now what do you do?

Well, you could send them packing, but that harms the kids, not the coaches responsible. I’ve don’t it once or twice at MHLs, but because I’ve had no choice, not because I was being strict. In the 1 to 4 ratio of an MHL, more often than not we have just enough judges. We literally have no one to sell. But at an invitational, given the arithmetic (1 to 3 ratio whereas in reality you need 1 to 4, plus there’s your stash), you probably could cover. So what do you do? You sell them a judge at the table, and maybe you fine them $25 or something.


Here’s my recommendation going forward, to all tournament directors. Sell judges as you normally do, maintaining your stash to keep your events solid. When you shut down registration, leave a couple of days for those people who didn’t get hired judges enough time to scramble to find their own or shave their entry. Then at the table, here’s the deal. You don’t have judge coverage? Okay, first, you have to pay the judge hiring fee, then you have to pay $100 for each uncovered student. $100 a head. Right here, right now. You publicize this up the wazoo before the tournament so that there’s no surprises. And you don’t admit their entries unless they pay up.

If this weren’t a problem rife in the activity, I wouldn’t care so much. But week after week, teams that want to hire their way out, which is understandable, act as if their requests are orders that must be obeyed, which is not understandable. This action makes the tournaments they attend lesser events by sucking up the resources that have been set aside to make it good. It forces planning in the tabroom after the table shuts down that should have occurred a week ago, slowing down the tournament. It perpetuates bad behavior that we should be banning. But we’re all too nice, and we put up with it, week after week. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

No more. Tournaments I help out with, we’re going to start putting this in the invitation. It will be in big old boldface letters on the Bump invite. You might want to do it do: when hired judges are sold out, they are sold out, and if attendees turn a deaf ear to this, they will pay the price. We are going to stop this practice. There are parasites out there. They destroy the host. We should not let this happen.

Enough is enough.

(Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the show?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Huxley, Disney and Alice in Wonderland

Disney geeks know Jim Korkis, who has a new book out containing a lot of deep Disney background. Last night I read about the story I had always heard, that Aldous Huxley had worked on an early version of Alice for Disney. It's quite true. Of course, I had always thought that it was, simply, an animated version of Alice, but it turns out that it was this incredibly cockamamie live-action story about Dodgson and Alice Liddell and Queen Victoria and whatnot, and all sorts of Oxford dons and the like, and any resemblance to any book you might have read was strictly coincidental. It never happened, of course, but it was seriously considered. What survives (Huxley lost a lot of work in a house fire—this was pre-Dropbox) are the notes from meeting(s) among Disney people, including Walt. I have to say, we can all be happy that this movie went nowhere. Not that the movie that was made was great, but it was pretty good, and the Cheshire cat was pulled off very well.

I speak, of course, as an Alice lover. It's in the top 5 of books I've read repeatedly, up there with Moby and Huck. Like any work of art, it doesn't really translate into another medium because it's right where it is. Everything else is just a version or a critique. So all the Alice movies, and there's plenty of them, might have something going for them (W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty or Tim Burton's art direction or the aforementioned Cheshire cat), but none of them do the job because it's a job that can't be done. If you really want Alice, read the books. They're brillig. Trust me on this.

Anyhow, I'm home this morning, heading for Ridge after lunch. I will post this, shut down the computer and start packing up. Ridge looks very nice this year, solid attendance numbers (especially in PF), Y says we're moving to the media room for tab (which sounds very classy), and we're driving down by cars so I'll be able to entertain the Sailors with my random selection of music guaranteed to send them running out into traffic with their hands over their ears. A swell time is guaranteed for all.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

This is all I remember, to tell you the truth

All right. Just some random notes from the Tiggers.

So this guy comes in to the tabroom Friday afternoon, a Tig, and asks if we want anything. We look around and say, well, we could use some water. He salutes and says he’s on it, and runs off. We didn’t see him again for another twenty-four hours. And, needless to say, no water was forthcoming. So I ask you, what former English major wouldn’t refer to him as Gunga Din the next time he appeared, asking if we wanted anything? I assure you, my reference was entirely to Kipling. The fact that the so-nicknamed Gunga was, well, a little Indian guy was mere coincidence. If it had been Sarah Palin I would have used the same reference. Please. Give me a break.

O’C and I were doing the LD chores, while JV was over in Speechland, which meant that we only intersected with him socially on Friday for a quick dinner. La Coin was dispersed to PFdom, which meant that we only collided with her for breakfast. That’s the problem with big events: your friends are scattered to the winds. So it goes.

On the entertainment front, O’C made me turn off my Disney Princess Christmas album before the first song was even finished. (Thank God!)

And I learned that O’C is, uh, a little obsessive about certain things. To wit, he’s gone way around the bend on his Star Trek Second Life recreation. The jaw-dropping detail was literally jaw-dropping. I was speechless. Still am. You would be too.

Another thing I learned is that everybody has an iPhone and everyone gets messages with the same notification sound, which means all of us in any given room are dipping our hands into our pockets whenever one of us gets a message. I fixed this. My new sound, much more annoying, has everyone in any given room dipping their hands into their pockets to pull out their pistols so they can kill me and my phone both. Anyhow, one week into SmartPhone ownership and I can’t imagine how I survived without it. Looking up the names of the errant PF novices in the breakout on the stage of the award ceremony, for example, and finding them in seconds flat, just can’t be done any other way.

We shared a bus with the Scarwegians. So, you ask, is JV the tyrant he appears to be with his team? And the answer is, are you kidding? That stuff doesn’t wash off at night. Jeesh. Anyhow, it was nice to have a comfy bus. On the way down I entered the rooms for LD and got all but three of them right. That’s pretty good by any standard. Try that on a school bus.

The whole room thing is as complicated as I thought it was. It’s not so much divvying up spaces as those spaces being appropriate to their activity. You can’t do extemp prep in a broom closet, for instance, and the definitions of small and big employed by some Tigs are not the same as those employed by some tabroom directors. ‘Nuff said. It got fixed, and I’ll have a better idea next time out.

I still haven’t debriefed the Tigs on the whole thing, but mostly I felt it went fine. Our real issues were in the lead-up to the event, and knowing what those issues are is 99% of solving them. In other words, mark your calendar now for next year. It will happen again, same time, same channel. Although next year I’ll try to find time to read the Sunday paper.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Important announcement? Who cares.

Princeton was fine. Maybe some details later, but in a word, the Tigs were great to work with. There weren’t any horrible messes, but when things went mildly awry as they usually do over the course of a weekend, they handled them with concern and good spirits. Plus we learned a lot and should be able to improve things for next year. So, all in all, a good event.

Here’s the problem, though, which has nothing to do with Tiggers, since it’s true of every tournament we go to. You, the tournament management, wish to communicate with the people at the tournament. You have something really important to share with them. Let’s concentrate on communicating with the judges, who are in many respects the extended management of the tournament insofar as they are the adults making things happen, things that you in the back room are merely setting in motion. You want your judges to know where to go and what to do, which varies from tournament to tournament. That is, while I may wish the LD judges at Princeton to go to McCosh 46, at Ridge I may wish them to go to the cafeteria. One assumes that even the most arrogant of judges would nonetheless have a fleeting interest in hearing where to go and what to do. I mean, I know that the judges at Ridge, having it their head that they should go to McCosh 46, would find the results distressing.

So why can’t we make this basic transferal of information happen?

I send out email blasts, for one thing. These are directed to whoever registers for the tournament, i.e., the email address of record for that school. The emails have information of great importance to all the judges. The information never gets to all the judges. Where is the problem here? I mean, it looks suspiciously as if sending information to whoever registers for the tournament is not working. Now, is that person the coach of the team, or some myrmidon? If it’s the coach, why isn’t the coach disseminating that information to the troops? If it’s some myrmidon under the team’s shield, one still wonders likewise what that information isn’t being disseminated. I’m talking here about emails sent before the tournament starts, when everyone has email access. “Click ‘forward’,” is my implicit advice here, unheeded.

So, question number one, why don’t people pass along the information we send them? I offer some possibilities. 1) They deliberately wish to keep their judges ignorant. 2) They deliberately wish to keep the tournament from running successfully. 3) They are inept at their job as coach and don’t know any better. The VCA most certainly knows that since I am a fairly mean-spirited person, I assume that the order in which these are potentially true is 3, 2 and 1. Remember, these are emails sent days before the tournament. The excuse that people don’t have email available doesn’t hold. I mean, there’s no excuse. Simply no excuse.

It seems to happen all the time, with a surprising number of coaches.

Now, there’s also the tournament website or invitation. That seldom is looked at by anyone other than the person registering (if even that person looks at it). Here, the responsibility can go directly to the judges (we’re still talking about them). Why would they not take a peak at the home of the information for their upcoming weekend? Same three possibilities, probably the same order of likelihood. Again, it happens all the time, with a surprising number of judges.

So we know that emailing the information to the coaches doesn’t necessarily work. Hoping that people will find out for themselves doesn’t work. Without going into details, trust me that Twitter doesn’t work. And once a tournament starts, sending emails doesn’t necessarily work because access to the internet is compromised. And, oh yeah, writing the information on the blackboard in the judge area in letters as tall as the average novice doesn’t work either. Again, trust me on this.

One solution ought to be the judges’ meeting. Get everyone into a big room and tell them what they need to know. We don’t do this enough, and I’m thinking that even at smaller events it won’t hurt, but even this isn’t a perfect information delivery system. The point of the meeting is, of course, to get everyone on the same page, and there are always judges, usually the ones most likely to be on some other page, who blow off the meeting, or, more likely, since they haven’t been getting any information so far, don’t know there’s a meeting. Then there are judges who aren’t scheduled to arrive in time for round one, or are only judging on day two or somesuch. Even allowing for the best of intentions, unless you have meetings over and over again, and take attendance, this won’t be a foolproof solution. It will help though, and as I say I will do more of it. But it’s still not enough.

Passing information from the ballot table to people mano a mano might help, but this isn’t necessarily a good idea strategically because you’re trying to get 50 or 100 ballots out as quickly as possible so that rounds can start. It has occurred to me that pertinent information can be printed on the backs of the ballots. That might help. Of course, at Princeton, where we wanted text messages to speed things along and printed the number on every single ballot, at least a third of the judges ignored the request. A third of the people judging at Princeton in the LD pool don’t know how to text? Good grief. (The good news here is that when two thirds do text, the time gain is enough that things are speeded up nicely, unless there’s that one ballot you must have to run the elims, and that person is off in the ether somewhere, and, inevitably, is one of the non-texters.)

So, I don’t know. Can someone help me here? I’ve learned that email, broadcast texts (Twitter), meetings/blackboards, invitations/websites, and printed instructions on the ballots don’t work.

What, in the name of all that is holy and moly, does?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Inventory on Tigger Eve: throw another lug on the fire, you lug!

Okay, just a couple of things.

I love my iPhone. I learn new stuff everyday. Why didn't I do this ages ago?

I feel good about the Tiggers. Which means that all of a sudden there's the Gem of Harlem to contend with. I'm on it, I'm on it. Note to self: Do not become CP.

I reseved rooms for UPenn, which wants a nickname. I chose the tournament hotel. Pretty daring, that.

Amazon says they shipped Epic Mickey. Maybe I should stay home this weekend and check in with Yen Sid and let the Tiggers fend for themselves. Naa'ah.

Instead of playing Epic Mickey, I do have music O'C and I can suffer through in tab while we set up the next CFL and the next MHL. If you value your playlists, you may wish to steer clear of us.

Tonight I'm working with the lone Speecho-American who took me and KS up on the author of a private work session. I think CP was right in his recent evaluation of Speecho-Americans...

There's a new Nostrum up, and a new TVFT. One of them is about a murder investigation and the other one isn't, to paraphrase General Grant (who, when he was asked if he liked music, said he had only two songs that he liked, and that one of them was the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the other one wasn't).

Oh, yeah, there's a new resolution. Been there, done that, but once a classic, always a classic. I haven't looked at the wording, though. Meanwhile, I may have a PF team doing stuff in January. Why do the topics I vote for never win? Plea bargaining is the lingua franca of our justice system. If we tried every case, we'd never get anywhere. I forget the exact numbers, but it is only the tiniest fraction of cases that ever make it to trial. And isn't the trial itself the ultimate attempt at a plea bargain? Anyhow, maybe I'll get mine in next time. It has to happen sooner or later, right?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Still tied up

Very busy on the Tiggers, the Bright Shiny Object and other stuff. You know the drill. So, nothing much else to say here, except:

Depressingly, I recorded a new Nostrum but for reasons that elude me the file is behaving like, well, an episode of Nostrum, and I can't post it. I'll have to go back to the source and recreate it. On the bright side, I am glad the members of the NFL, true Nostrumians all, have agreed to adapt for Jan-Feb the resolution being argued now at the Pup-a-Roni & c. Now if everybody will start chanting the Eric Rand-Walsh marching drill, my work here will be done.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sent from my iPhone

I could blog, but I'd rather play with my new shiny toy. I mean, who wouldn't, being that the alternative is handling Pups registrants who, as a group, seem to have never attended a tournament before. Jeesh.

Life is good, for those who find satisfaction in shiny new toys. And as a bonus, I bought it yesterday from good old NoShow, who presently works at my local Apple store. Now I know why I took up debate. Give me enough time and I'll have enough connections to do everything I want as painlessly as possible.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Their bottoms are not made out of springs, however

Things have been percolating on the Tigger front.

When CP passed the management of the event to the Traveling Tab Team he has assembled over the last couple of years, I won the job of divvying up the rooms, which is both easier and harder than it sounds. I managed to find some old material about which rooms were big and which were small so that the Sunday elims won’t be held in the same closet as the prize mop collection, and there needs to be elasticity as we’ve readjusted numbers to accommodate more Novices and fewer Veterans (not that it’s tiny, mind you, only that the balance has shifted slightly). JV got seconded over to Speech tab leaving me and O’C at the LD helm. O’C is also collecting judges (many more are still needed) while Steve S mans the waitlist and hires. Lots of backing and forthing, needless to say. The Tigs still haven’t posted an official schedule, which doesn’t bother me much because I just assume same as last year, but a lot of people can’t remember what they had for breakfast, so there have been a few annoying emails asking me about it, as if I were somehow to blame. Of course, the real pain is those people who didn’t get judge hires who are now imperiously demanding them, a claim warranted by their really really wanting them. When you wish upon a judge your dreams come true? What are these people thinking? It’s not as if they just got discovered under the proverbial forensic cabbage leaf. They’ve all been around the bend a few times already. The thing is, everybody wants a good tournament but not everyone wants to help make one, and the sense of entitlement some people have is rather astounding. Endless crappy judges drawn from the ranks of a college’s freshman class, none of whom ever did forensics in high school, period, much less the activity they’re judging, is one of the things CP and the TTT have worked strongest to eliminate at this sort of event. Bringing them back, and bringing back 50 novice LDers from one school? No thanks. Not happening. Deal with it.

Anyhow, most of the gory Ds should be settled today. We’re going to be using a Google Voice account for text results (rounds are scattered all over Princewegian creation), plus @DebateTab on Twitter for announcements. I’ll disseminate the speaker point parameters I sent out for Bump: maybe this time the coaches who receive this stuff will actually pass it along, but that might be asking too much. We’ll be busing down Friday morning with Scarsdale, which means a more pleasant jaunt than our usual school bus squeeze. All in all, it’s looking pretty good. Let the games begin.

And if you’re wondering, I had a very relaxing TG break. The Mark Twain exhibit at the Morgan Library was a high point. Went to Eataly near the Flatiron Building and had a lovely Italian lunch (at a restaurant not far from Eataly, which was packed to the gills). Slept. Read. Saw some movies. Ate turkey I didn’t cook. Overall, a nice batch of days.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Deals at Coachean Life!


No, wait, you weren't fast enough. We were giving away stuff, but you missed it. iPads. MacBook Pros. Nuclear warheads. New lamps for old. Sweatshirts with "What Wouldn't Cruz do."

Come back next year for similar savings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You've got to be kidding!

It's Thanksgiving, and you're reading this? Jeesh!

Enjoy the long weekend. Celebrate the good things. They're there, if you look for them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some debates

I can’t quite make out what was going on at Glenbrooks over the weekend. O’C sent me a text that he was playing dodgeball with Matt Dunay and the People’s Champion. Sticking with the Disney theme established at the DiDeAD in August, their name was either the Mighty Duckers or the Mighty Schmucks. Hard to tell.

It’s interesting to follow a weekend like this previous one. First, there’s the $ircuit tournament in Chicago, which garners a lot of attention and grabs a lot of bandwidth for those who think debate is like baseball, with teams they root for and for which they paint their faces and don the tee shirt. Given that these events are relatively narrowly focused, attended by the tiniest fraction of schools in the activity, and the tiniest fraction of the teams thereof, it’s rather remarkable. I’ve talked about this in the past, and just sort of given up on it. I used to charge WTF with the blame for pumping this stuff up and deifying (or at least hagiologizing) certain people and glorifying the events they attend, or vice versa, but that’s much less true these days. Still, the idea that the entire debate universe, a) wants a TOC bid, or 2) cares about TOC bids, is a curious one, considering the reality that the vast majority of people in the debate universe have absolutely no truck with TOC whatsoever. It’s not even a goal for them, much less a meaningful goal. The only analogy I can come up with is Little Leaguers who spend their free time watching the Majors, except here, there’s no objective proof that the latter is any more “grown up”—it’s only different. Oh, well.

Also on this weekend was the Villiger tournament, which is primarily an event for Northeast speech teams who bring along their LDers. I don’t mean to disparage it: the list of breakers looks like almost any Northeast event on a given weekend, give or take the odd $ircuit stalker. It’s not an easy tournament by any means, but it always strikes me as a little old-fashioned. I mean, from my perspective they operate on their own radar; I can’t recall the slightest push to get my school to attend, either via JOT or tabroom,com or the US mail or whatever. I have to admit I’ve lost touch with them: the last time I was there, easily ten years ago or more, they only had four prelims and broke to a “Big 32,” whatever the hell that is. I would imagine they’ve moved away from that kind of thing. Anyhow, you probably couldn’t be much more different from Glenbrooks with a varsity tournament than with Villiger, yet it thrives. More power to them.

And, of course, there was Wee Sma Lex, a very local business (which, of course, I traveled to for hours—go figure) for novices and, primarily, second-years, which I’ve already discussed at length.

In other words, something for everybody, from a Northeast perspective. I like that. If the goal of the activity is providing an educational opportunity different from the classroom, the job is being done. So I would advise you to take your hands out of your pockets for a minute as we head into Thanksgiving and pat yourself on the back. You’re doing a good job in all sorts of ways, les chefs de debater offering a varied menu of events from the startlingly rich and expensive to the purest of comfort foods. Good work. Definitely good work.

How dodgeball fits into this, however, is beyond me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Itsy Bitsy Lexwegia

I enjoy Wee Sma Lex for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s my first opportunity to socialize with the season’s novices. We’ve gone to MHL/CFL events by now, but that’s mostly drive down and drive home and debate in the middle. Or tab in the middle, if you’re me (which you’re not). But at WSL, we have a couple of meals, and you actually get to know one another beyond the limits of the debate paradigm. Who’s vegeterrible, who eats eyeballs, who forgot to bring money, etc. Vinny T's had recently become our Friday night venue after a mere ten years of the Chinese restaurant had convinced me that the Chinese restaurant sucked. I had been pulled in by the buffet aspect, which made splitting the check a breeze until the Panivore came and ate her own bagels, thus upsetting the dumpling cart. This year it turned out that Vinny Ts was replaced in substance if not in form by a joint called Boca somethingorother. Their shtick is family portions, which means that every dish feeds a couple of people, except the desert, which feeds everybody. This proved to be a lot of fun, especially the desert, which was a brownie sundae the size of a small OOer. Not bad. On the return trip, of course, we stopped at Reins, the deli outside of Hartford that everybody who ever passes through Hartford somehow knows to stop at. This year no records were set in the matzo ball soup competition, but after last year, maybe everyone has given up trying. And this year no one attempted to buy the barrel of pickles, as Alli did last year: I think she’s still living on them up there at that dump she calls her college. In any case, tradition is tradition, and Reins is a big part of the tradition. Even the Panivore can find things on the menu to enjoy (although this year she was at Glenbrooks).

Another reason I like WSL is that the kids get housed for the first time, which breaks them in on that. Also, I get to hang out with CP and Sara, and we may have come up with some scheduling changes for next year amid our gossiping about all and sundry. And as far as the debating is concerned, the Sailors get to compete against a whole ’nother universe removed from our normal rivals, which is always a good thing. So, a lot of benefits. The only down side is that WSL is in Lexington, and it takes a bunch of hours to get there. This year, because our number was small, we went in an SUV, which was a little odd but, admittedly more comfortable (at least for me in the front seat, where I kept falling asleep). My only real complaint was that the driver liked having the radio on, and she had an uncanny knack to adjust the volume so that, a) you couldn’t hear the music, and b) you couldn’t hear anyone talking. Whatever. Driver rules when it comes to things like that, and far be it from me to rock the boat. Or the bus. Or whatever. Notorious as I am for my own musical entertainments when I’m the driver, I don’t think I’ve earned the right to complain about others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hell's Bietzes, Cambridge awaits, whose pants are those, just a minute, man, and the resolutional reveal

I did a little bit of whining about Bump on TVFT last night, but mostly we talked about Brian Manuel’s ideas on a more regional approach to TOC. Bietz, having had his internet shut off at his office, called in for a while, but sounded like anyone would calling in from an L.A. freeway. At least he wasn’t on a motorcycle. I think I’ve solved my Darth Vader problem of heavy breathing, by the way, by lifting the microphone on the headset up above my nose, so none of my blowholes disrupt things. Seemed to work in the little bit I listened to.

The Cambridge Twins have sent me a new Nostrum to record; with luck I’ll get to that tonight. Depends on when I get home from dinner with my mother. (Yes, my mother. I do have one. Always have, for that matter.)

All the bills and receipts and checks for Bump are packed up and ready to be delivered, which I’ll do tomorrow on my way to Wee Sma Lex. The school tells me they have some Lost and Found crap to trade me for it. I’ll broadcast whatever they’ve found through Probably ties, pants, Underoos, the usual sort of stuff left over at the proverbial end of the day. If it’s yours, you’re welcome to it. Over the years there has been a lot of L&F that no one has ever claimed, including a suitcase full of clothes that we couldn’t track down. You’d think the owner would have noticed. You’d think the people sitting next to the naked owner would have noticed. You’d think the parents would have asked, “And whatever happened to the suitcase we gave you?” But such never happens in the land of debate. What can I say? I eventually threw the suitcase into the Goodwill bins. There’s a homeless person out there who looks a lot like a debater…

Ah, WSL. I get to travel without all my crap like printers and masking tape for just once. Of course, at some point Saturday CP has to instruct me in the fine art of roomage, which I’m handling for Princeton. Fortunately last year’s stuff is around, so mostly I’ll just figure it out and transpose it. Other than that, I enjoy breathing the Lexwegian air. It’s a pretty little town, fun to roam around if you have a minute (and nicer to roam around now than at Bigle X, when it’s usually buried under twenty feet of ice).

And then, two weeks off! With the Jan-Feb rez coming in fast on the heels of the break. An interesting few weeks will be at hand. (If there’s any problem with the rez, I do have a substitute ready: “Resolved: Religions we don’t like ought to go back where they came from.” I’ll pay you five hundred bucks to debate this, if you want. I can’t imagine why you would want to debate it if I didn’t pay you.)

Well I'll be hornsnoggled

You can now read Lingo on a Kindle (or its equivalent). What are you waiting for? Go here and buy the damned thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moving on

I remembered this morning to enter the TOC bids, and that was the last of Bump in my brain, I think. I have flushed it all away. Time to move on, although I’ll probably revisit my pissing and moaning tonight on TVFT. It’s the least I can do.

Last night we chezzed it up because of parent-teacher meetings at the school. We managed a good forty minutes of non-business before settling down a bit, which is a pretty good ratio of about 50-50 overall. We extracted a few good ideas on Nov-Dec, which the Plebes will start running at Princeton. The PC explained the Panivore’s cases to her, which was met with gleeful enthusiasm on the part of all and sundry. (In a word, contractualism is one more step in the attempt to come up with a one-size-fits-all structure for ethical issues. If only ethical issues were easily resolved, the world would be a better place.) As a capper, SamrowLand’s Number One Citizen, having taken an antihistamine to combat cat dander, slept through most of it. At one point, Pip the Wondercat grunted his way downstairs just to watch him doze. It was quite a meeting.

This weekend we’re heading up to Wee Sma Lex. As the VCA knows, I like this tournament for a number of reasons. It’s our first travel experience for newbies, for one thing, so they learn housing in a painless way. It’s got different competition that their usual diet of Ls (to wit, MH and CF). It’s got Reins Deli on the way home, and that really good ice cream place on the corner of Waltham when I run down during a break in tabbing. And I’ll get to hang out with CP, and we can talk about building judge requirements into tabroom and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. A fun event.

Then, next week, aside from nudging the noobs on Nov-Dec (I’ll provide some research for them so that they, 1: Get the idea that you can’t make this stuff up, and 2: They won’t have any excuses for not writing cases in a timely manner), it’ll be a forensics-free week or so. Meaning Harry Potter, Mark Twain at the Morgan Library, TG at Kate’s, a Michael Feinstein concert and who knows what-all else. Oh, yeah. Princeton planning (I’m doing rooms). Oh well, no week is perfect.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the positive side

Some people, on the other hand, showed up with the people they said they’d show up with, paid in full and were on time in getting to their rounds. Fewer than usual, but plenty enough. They know who they are, just like the miscreants know who they are. They are my favorite people in the world: responsible forensicians, young and old. The irresponsible ones? Feh!

As always, Bump is a laboratory for the study of Sailors under pressure. (Me, I’m terrible under pressure, but everybody knows that by now. I have a boiling point somewhere a degree or two above freezing.) I spend some time in advance prepping the Hudonauts before the event, and the rules are fairly simple. 1: Do what I tell you to do. 2: Don’t whine about it. 3: Don’t give it to someone else to do. 4: Look up “run” in the dictionary, then look up “saunter,” and do not confuse the two. If the Hudonauts do not perform up to speed, the tournament falters. Many is the tournament that has been torpedoed by bad running or, even worse, no running. Bietz hires off-duty KGB agents to run VB, and I wish I had the money for that. Still, after the usual fits and starts, the Plebes mostly came through, especially all those new Speechonauts, many of whom have never even been to a tournament, much less run at one. I was remarkably unsurprised by which of the debaternauts performed above and beyond. Anyhow, one sets one’s future work at Bump by one’s past work at Bump. I’ve got some clear ideas of who’s running the tables next year. And Kathy (the new speech coach) has ideas on who’s handling the concessions; she includes among the requirements for this job the ability to remain at the table during the tournament and not leaving: a) the concessions, and b) the money, lying around unattended. Also next year we’ll get water bottles that are actually big enough for water, although on the bright side, the little bottles got remarkably cold in a very short period of time: one of those good news, bad news deals.

In an interesting side note, someone lost a computer in its computer bag and, lo and behold, it was actually found. As a general rule, at Bump people lose stuff we don’t find and we find stuff people didn’t lose. This was a real miracle, if you ask me. (It must have been a crappy computer, I guess.)

There were other bright spots; the weekend wasn’t entirely hell in a cracker jack box. Although I missed Kaz, it was great having CP in the house. He and JV made a great team and did fine tabbing, plus they provided the necessary ballast in the back to keep things going through thick and thin in varsity land. CP also comes equipped with wireless, which makes him an almost essential player. Down in novice land, O’C managed to solve a mess of my own making in the first round, where we paired some teams that weren’t there (entirely my fault, aside from the fact that the teams should have been there). He had a great guy named Matt Hoyle working with him, an ex-Manchester debater: Welcome to the family. They were having a good time, and that kind of thing makes the tournament enjoyable for the kids who are down in the grammar school, probably all of them at their first invitational. There is some responsibility, running the first invitational for people. You want them to have a good experience. O’C is attuned to that, and makes it happen. Simply put, I can’t be in two places at once, so it’s good to know that in both buildings, no matter what happens, somebody is in charge who can handle whatever comes up.

And we did have a boatload of alums on board. I feel bad that a lot of them are not ranked as As, which means that they don’t get to judge absolutely every round, but Bump is community rankings, and the universe at large has a short memory. Next year I’ll set it up so that they are all in the PF field and at least get a workout there when we can’t find an LD round for them. In any case, the India House dinner was excellent, as always. If IH ever goes out of business, we’ll just have to put an end to the tournament.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bitter? Moi?

I read this morning about the separate Academy Award ceremony held over the weekend to recognize the special Oscars. A similar ceremony was held over the weekend in Montrose, New York, to recognize the special Bumps. This year, as always, the only special Bump was the Jon Cruz Award, which is given annually for no particular reason to Jon Cruz. This year’s winner, in a lack-of-surprise upset, was Jon Cruz. The award was a plastic bag filled with “I survived the Bump tournament” t-shirts circa 1995. He seemed thrilled to accept an award that was, for once, not some moldy old rat-eaten trophy that I managed to find under the golf debris in my basement, although most likely we will be returning to those next year. (He firmly believes he has gotten the last of the old Bump policy awards. How little he knows.) And why didn’t we award the JCA during the normal tournament? Well, the truth is, I forgot about it during the LD award ceremony until I was cleaning up and found the t-shirts. What can I say?

To tell you the truth, I’m lucky I didn’t forget the tournament was going on, it being that kind of weekend. You expect me to tell you about it here? Pull up a comfy chair. If you’re used to seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, you may wish to leave now and see what’s happening on Sarah Palin’s site…

I like tabbing tournaments for a number of reasons, and I just achieved clarity on one of those reasons this weekend. When somebody screws something up and I’m tabbing, I turn to the tournament director and tell him or her to get out there and fix it. I don’t have to deal with the people who are making a mess of things, all I have to do is solve the mess on the computer. This weekend every time somebody screwed something up, JV turned to me and told me to get out there and fix it. Confound it! I’d rather sit there telling him to fix it twelve times out of a dozen.

Registration for Bump begins for real when people board their mule carts and head toward Hudville on Friday morning. I ask them to text me changes so that we don’t waste time with them at the table, and most people do, except for the ones who actually call me for some reason, as if I am going to chat with them casually on the morning of a tournament. Text means text, I think, but I may be wrong there. Plus, try to understand a conversation with someone on a moving school bus. No, I can’t hear you now. Anyhow, these texts usually mean drops, but this year there were adds. Very unusual, to put it mildly. One school changed their registration three times, on the bus. The $25 fines were adding up. At the table, one school, represented by a parent, told me how the coach had set up all their changes during the week, insuring that their drops were accounted for and that they were getting housing, whereas in fact the coach had been incommunicado when specifically asked if he really really didn’t want housing and, of course, in the process of ignoring this, had indicated no drops. Other schools had no idea who their judges were, even if it was them, subbing in for someone else (“Oh, he’s not here now; I’m subbing in for him,” is the line we get about halfway through round two). The usual suspects at the table were, well, the usual. You’ll be happy to know that this year we made $405 for the Grameen Bank, beating last year’s $370. That’s the only redeeming grace of dealing with the screw-ups.

Other issues included things like the schools who don’t bother training their judges. I’ve had enough of this crap from schools who attend tournaments where there is judge training every week, and then they dump these poor untrained adults on my competitors. Never again. I will be asking for qualifications for judging in the future, and if any school—and it’s the same damned schools time after time, and this is the last time I don’t name names—tries it again, they will be forever unwelcome at the tournament. Enough is enough! Your school has been put on warning. You know who you are if you go to one of those schools. I’m tired of dealing with you. I just don’t want you. Go away.

My favorite conversation? “You should have judge training for PF. It would be very helpful for new people.” “We did have judge training for PF. I announced it during the opening.” “Well, I missed it. And it would be very useful, so you should have it.” “But we did have it!” “Well, the tournament would be better if you had training.”
Whatever. Obviously I’m happy to take untrained PF judges because we do, in fact, train them a little. Different animal from LD, obviously. However, I’m not quite sure how to handle people who missed the training. A lot of people were telling me that the person in charge of the tournament—literally, once, “the guy running both buildings”—had told them to do something. I kept wondering who this mythical person was. I was told point blank by one person that it categorically wasn’t me, and I can believe that, because whoever told this person what to do had told them something totally idiotic, and I was only telling people to do things that were half idiotic. If anyone sees this other Bump tournament director, would you please have him call me? I’d like to talk to him.

And then, of course, I sent out speaker point guidelines. I put them on the table with the ballots. “No one told me about them,” was the plaintive cry. Hey, coach, I send you this stuff; it would kill you to pass it along? You’re that busy that you can’t advise your judges for this weekend’s invitational on the rules of the game (i.e., send them the email link)? Jeesh. I wish I was that busy. I was running the bloody tournament and I managed to send it to all my judges. I guess I had less on my mind than you did, you schnook.

I seemed to spend half this tournament banging my head against the wall. Everyone wants a good tournament, but not everyone is willing to do anything to make it happen. Many do, but not the vast majority. It’s more like about 60-40 being good debate citizens and behaving themselves versus the schnooks showing up late, showing up wrong and showing up so full of themselves that their little brains are figuratively bursting with misguided self-esteem. I don’t ask much. I ask you to: read the invitation and do what it says, tell me who you’re bringing and then bring them and, while you’re at it, know who you’re bringing, and pay at the door. Do that, and I’ll love you. Don’t do that, and, well, you have a lot of explaining why I should uphold my end of the bargain when you’re not upholding yours.

So, yeah, for me this was a tough weekend. Thank God for the alum dinner! All new specials at India House, arguing whether Ozu films would be better with a car chase or two, trying to figure out what that hair-like thing is on top of Paul’s head, watching way more people than I would have expected flashing valid IDs in aid of their Taj Mahals—I could do that every week. Bump, on the other hand? Once a year is already more than enough.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bump is afoot

In answer to the Tom Deal comment on student judges, I feel that you can adjust to a parent, even one who is not taking notes (and who was, therefore, not well trained, which, as I say, is not a good thing and indicates a coach who has failed or a parent who hasn’t listened). You go slow, and you walk them through it step by step. But how do you adjust to a student whose interpretation of the resolution—and debate—is unchangeable and perhaps totally absurd? That’s my brief against student judges, their belief in their infallibility, making the Pope look like a piker by comparison. Parent judges have no such belief; in fact most of them are totally cowed. Short of having a judge who can actually judge, I want a judge I can read and adapt to. Hence my preference for parents. Of course, most people disagree. That’s why I find it interesting to talk about it.

Anyhow, today is Bump, and if you’re reading this, you’re online and I’m kicking you out of the tournament. Unless you’re not at Bump, which means that you wish you were, which is somewhat akin to me being at Bump and wishing I weren’t. But I won’t belabor that.

So, seriously, what do I like about Bump? There must be something, right? Well, I talk a lot about tournaments and brands on TVFT and, I guess, here, so yes, I do see Bump as a Hen Hud team brand extension. So what should that be? It should be well run, for one thing. I mean, for God’s sake, I help run tournaments every week, so I ought to be able to make this one happen. I want it to be friendly because I want my team to be friendly with other teams. I have no control over this, but the camaraderie does seem to be there. Personally I like all the adults who come, but maybe that’s because the ones I don’t like send somebody else to chaperone. And of course we bring back lots of alums, which means that for the most part, you know what you’re getting in terms of judge paradigm. I love seeing all the graduates again, and that too is an extension of our raison d’etre, that it’s about the relationships among ourselves developing over those three or four years of traveling and arguing and eating and whatnot, and I think that spills over. We have very nice trophies (or at least very expensive ones) and we also have iCrappies, and if that’s not an extension of our existence, I don’t know what is. I’d work in a trivia contest if I could, but I haven’t figured out how yet. I give downright hilarious opening assembly and award ceremony speeches, but so quietly that no one ever gets to hear them. Boiling it down, then, what I like is that I think we run a pretty efficient yet friendly operation, where everybody knows everybody and has a good time, with reasonable rounds and edible food and a few laughs but with a serious underpinning of good competition. In other words, you have fun and you learn something, the perfect pair in the debate universe. There’s some other tournaments like this out there, and I enjoy them too. I enjoy all kinds of tournaments, frankly, because I can find fun in a lot of things. But most of all I want to feel welcome at the place. You can put up with a lot after that. A little Disney philosophy doesn’t hurt here. The people who come are our guests, and we treat them as such. So should you. After that, everything is gravy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A little over two days from now, Saag Gosh!

Tonight is when I get all the data organized. There are the usual last minute problems with teams falling off the roof or needing assurances that they will be housed in the manner to which they have become accustomed, including the masseuse, the night nurse and the sommelier, and that’s always fun. Things had been going smoothly for a while, and I think I was getting sucked into the calm. So much for that. Yesterday was one damned thing after the other.

On the day itself, I use the JV patented “If You Want It Done Right” approach to registration. The thing is, I work a lot of tab rooms (who knew?) and that means I work with a lot of registration tables, and I’ve got to say this, people: most of your registration tables suck. Yeah, yours. Here’s the thing about registration. To begin with, everything nowadays is online, either with JOT or, which means that all the guests have entered their data to the best of their abilities. This does not mean that they’ve done it correctly; some schools don’t know their students/judges/coaches all that well, so their online registrations are sometimes more an approximation of their realities than any sort of reflection of reality. Still, this is better than the days before online registrations.

Then there’s the registration in person, at which point we ought to achieve reality. At the table, discrepancies are caught and fixed. But there’s the rub. They really aren’t.

First of all, often the attendees simply breeze over the registration paperwork, missing problems. You’ve got to make sure they really, really read it and double-check it. Secondly, any changes have to get to tab. But half the registration tables I see, run by students, don’t understand that their getting the changes themselves isn’t enough, and that they must be passed along. In a timely manner. All of them. Before the tournament is over.

On the other end, even some of the people running tournaments don’t understand the relationship between the data from registration and the data in TRPC. After the data is in TRPC, changing it on or JOT is rather pointless, eh? Any wonder why at some tournaments Round One is also known as Attendance? We need to train people in the one basic rule: “Listen When Menick Tells You Something.” I’ve never seen anyone fail who has been thoroughly trained in this. Seriously.

Anyhow, if you do it yourself JV style as I intend to do, you either get everything straight the first time or have no one to blame but yourself (or, I guess, JV). “Hi. Welcome to Bump. It’s so nice to see you. Have you lost weight? Give me a check. Changes? What do you mean, no changes? Look again, you schmegeggie. Aha! Okay, give me cash. Thank you. And have a magical tournament.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paeans for the peons (and other vocabulary words)

It’s quiet out there.

Too quiet.

There is this lacuna between the shutting down of registration and the shutting down of ranking, where there isn’t much to do aside from wondering if you’re using the word lacuna correctly, this being the very first time and all. Everything is working on, and I’ve checked it to see if it’s registering the strikes, and it is, and there isn’t much else for it until 9:00 tonight when I can port everything over to TRPC and get it running. I’ve got the chez to myself tonight, so I’ll get everything packed up. I’ve got trophies left from last year, WWMD tee shirts, reams of paper, mugs (probably the last year for these suckers), oxygen tanks, hazmat suits, rubber duckies, boxes of iCrappies (formerly crappy prizes), the Jon Cruz Award, etc., all waiting to be organized. That’ll kill a minute or two. I haven’t gotten many changes after the deadline, hence not many fines; presumably the real action will be on Friday at the table, where the money goes directly to Grameen. I’ve passed along the housing list and warned everyone that if they’re allergic to horny toads, now is the time to tell us before they get lodged at the House o’ Horny Toads or its equivalent. I’ve still got speaker point parameters to publish, and I’ll get them out at some point, probably by the time you read this, especially if you wait to read this for a month or two.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual. We Sailored last night, going over ballots from Montwegia for a while, for a start. There really is nothing like a ballot to find things to work on with Plebes. Even if you find the ballot incomprensibly weird, there’s probably something useful on it. I argued with the Panivore a bit (there’s a new one for you), this time on who the worst judges are. I always maintain that it’s high school students, who may believe too much in their own interpretation of resolutions and whatnot. This is not to say all high school students are bad—far from it—but there’s more bad ones of these than anything else. I posit that parent judges are better because they have learned orthodoxy (especially if they’ve come through our MHL/CFL training) and don’t have any horses in the race themselves. I’m not saying that you have to be a good high school debater to be a good judge, but you do have to be a good judge to be a good judge, if you don’t mind my putting it that way. Anyhow, no debate meeting is complete without a debate with the Panivore, so nothing new there. Anyhow, she also regaled us with tales of Minneapolis and what folks on drugs were running folks were running on drugs, uncovering little stockishness at this point. Some of it proved what I had been saying, but we managed to elide that. (God, it’s tough being right all the time, but somehow I bear the burden.) And, of course, we discussed Bump. Mostly I’ll put the P and the PC in charge of training all the noobs on ballots and running, rather than trying to do it myself, plus I have them doing everything else I usually have a dozen different people do.

Seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to do next year without these two. They’re doing most of my job for me, and probably better. [Sigh.]

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bump countdown = -3 days

Bump shut down last night, and after the odd fit and start, judge ranking began. Having CP rank his own judges and, hence, discover that odd fit or start, is a nice plus: now that he’s working with the Lexwegian LDers, you don’t have to tell him something’s wrong because he finds out for himself. I like that. Did I mention he’ll be working with JV in VLD and VPF tab? Kaz, who’s usually in there with Joe, is off to Scranton in aid of supporting her Policians, meaning that down there she can get rounds for the whole team and not just half. Understandable, although I would have loved to have her with us. I mean, it is the old NFA tournament, after all, transposed to Hen Hud. With PF instead of Policy, though. Big difference, I guess, when you think about it. I must say, running a PF division or two is a lot easier than running Policy, when you aren’t in the Policy universe. Can’t say as I miss the headaches…

My food parent told me yesterday that our judges’ lounge is under construction and hence out of commission. Not good, of course. We will find a place to set up the grub and coffee, but if it’s a classroom, it just isn’t the same. Judges need comfy chairs. Even if there aren’t enough to go around, the knowledge that they could get one if they timed it right makes all the difference. I have to admit I’ve been to some great judges’ lounges in my day. Yale in the olden days had one where I think they held the Pagan Party Nights that was pretty snazzy. Villiger’s was nice and heavily couched, if I remember correctly. O’C tells of storied judges’s lounges hither and yon where Swedes come in and give you full body massages and iced Aquavit and iPods, or something like that. I may be confusing this with something Bietz said about USC giving people iPads and iPods instead of trophies and tab thank-you’s. Holy cannoli, as they say in Paris, but only in the Italian restaurants. If CP and JV and OC think I’m giving them iPods or iPads, they’re nuts, much less giving them to the debaters. At Hen Hud it’s crappy prizes all the way. Maybe I’ll make ‘em iCrappy prizes, to punch ‘em up a bit. And the Jon Cruz award will be the iCruz award. I like that, actually. I don’t know what the iCruz is, but I’ll bet when Apple starts selling them, they’ll be flying out the door. Me, I’ll wait for the iCruz 2. You know it’s going to be a much better model in every way.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The last un-snowy day in Monticello

Saturday was the tournament we affectionately referred to as the Matt Thomas Pizza Toss IV, since O’C was there and he’s good with things like which roman numeral we’re at. Of course, this was the Monticello MHL, which I have to admit ran with a smoothness uncharacteristic of the breed. For some reason we were done with our four rounds much earlier than usual, and we even had to wait around a tad for the Policians to catch up. And we still got out of there by around six. Not bad. If helps when most of the problems are your own team. My judge was, to some, in a mode of disappearance, whereas in fact I had simply put her elsewhere because another judge, the Late Mr. C (who is always the last ballot in any division he’s judging), was, well, running late. And then a kid didn’t show up for a round, but it was my kid, who showed up for another kid’s round which is, I’m afraid, a forfeitable offense. It’s one thing to be confused about assignments, but when the school named isn’t yours, it’s a bit of a stretch of the not-paying-attention rubric. And a lesson learned, one hopes. Of course, other teams did cause some problems, like providing untrained judges and not checking their registrations and providing unacknowledged drops. Jeesh. For some reason, through it all there was a loose woman’s dress shoe in front of the ballot table. Presumably there was a loose woman’s foot somewhere in the cafeteria, but we never did find it. Also through it all, JT, as the students call her, kept us apprised of all the football scores. I have to say that O’C and I found this a less than vital addition to tab life, but ever since Mr. Favre went bananas and left Wisconsin or wherever he was, JT has not been the same. Neither have I, but I don’t think it’s related to Brett Favre. Then again, who knows. Stranger things have happened.

I took yesterday off from computing again, aside from checking my email over breakfast, responding to a friend request on Facebook from Queen Elizabeth, and filling the empty time before lunch with recording a new Nostrum. I’m getting to like this day-off-the-grid business. It clears the mind. I relaxed and read the Imagineering 2 book and made meatballs and generally charged up the batteries. They’ll need charging, with Bump coming up.

I find it curious that, no matter how we start, Bump always ends up looking roughly the same, with the same numbers year in and year out. Ol’ Reliable, in that regard. There are a few more souls courtesy of the novice PF division, but not many. I’ve managed to cover most housing, but not all, which is also roughly the same as always. Next year I may establish limits for per-team entries and housing, but no limits to the overall events. Less forbidding that way. In any case, it shuts down tonight, and then the judge rankings begin and I can shoot the housing list off to the appropriate authorities. Then on Wednesday, judge ranking shuts down and I start massaging the data in TRPC, with an eagle eye on the strikes.

And then it will all be over, and it will be your turn. Good luck and good night.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The fleet's in at the end of the day watching movies and studying up on Bumpiana

Kathy, the new Speech Admiral, came over last night to learn this and that. For those of us who’ve been doing this awhile, it’s easy to forget how much of this and that there is. Sign up on this, access to that, buses, custodians, organizations—and somewhere in there, work with students on their pieces. If it were only the latter, this would be a piece of cake. I guess that’s why, as they say, we earn the big bucks.

(And speaking of what they say, I just want to point this out, as a bulletin from the DJ. At some point it will, in fact, be the end of the day. What phrase will you then use over and over again to drive me crazy? Is “at the end of the day” the methadone to the heroin of PowerPoint? You’ve got to wonder. Or maybe teenagers who say “like” every other word grow up to say “at the end of the day” every other sentence. Could be.)

The Panivore is skying out to Minneapolis with the Scarswegians today, while locally we’re prepping for an MHL tomorrow. It’s much smaller than the last couple of adventures. Monticello is about as far away from civilization as you can get, and the idea of driving up there from civilization on a Saturday morning is pretty daunting for most people. The passport control alone is enough to slow them down. At least the weather forecast doesn’t include snow. The Montwegians usually shut down the city early in November and don’t reopen till the Fourth of July. I don’t envy them their weather. The bright side of this is, amazingly, an absolutely free Friday night, the first I’ve had (counting non-debate obligations) since Labor Day. A movie, definitely. Wow. What a thought!

I got the room list for Bump today. It is surprisingly similar to the room lists from 1996-2009. Ain’t life grand?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My congratulations to all those who got elected yesterday and intend to do nothing until their term is over except complain about the opposition

I hate Bump. (That’s enough of that.)

We chezzed it up last night. My JV has apparently totally disappeared, so it was just the captains and the three new little navy beans. Whatever. We talked mostly general stuff, like trying to determine if they really understood rights and social contract and whatnot. At one point the PC and Panivore and I got into a serious tiff over legal positivism and the source of morality, which I think made the young ‘uns heads hurt a little, but that’s the price of being a young ‘un. One of them asked when it would happen that they would magically turn into varsity people doing all the stuff the captains did, with their intensity. Eventually, I replied. If you’re lucky, I implied. Although Tik (pronounced teek) wasn’t downstairs to torture them, apparently he’d left enough of his spoor behind to send the allergic plebe into paroxysms of sneezing and fidgeting. In other words, Tik works both remotely and in person. I admire him for that.

We’ll be TVFTing tonight. I’m interested (favorably) in Brian M’s Rostrum article about re-envisioning TOC, plus we’re planning on talking rebuilding tournaments, or keeping tournaments fresh and moving with the times, things like that. Should be fun. I think we’re definitely settling into an every other week release. That seems like plenty to me. Most likely it feels like plenty to you, too.

And I’ve been polishing up registrations hither and yon. We’re pretty much set through this year for the invitationals, and of course we’re signed, sealed and delivered for Bigle X, but there’s still some gaps. And I need to look at some hotels. And there’s buses to order. And back end stuff on some of the tournaments I’m working with. And, needless to say, the DJ has been murder lately.

And, oh yeah. I still hate Bump.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Convalescing, chezzing, chatting, aging

Tik (pronounced teek) is doing well. He appreciates all the cards and flowers and fish from the VCA. The vet said that he is healing very quickly; the stitches have been removed, the collar is a thing of the past, and he is allowed to jump up on the bed. He still needs to remain relatively quiet, in Tikish terms. No chasing mice through the chez at all hours, no jumping on the counter to see what I’m cooking for dinner, etc. So he’s still quarantined to the bedroom for the foreseeable future. But soon enough he’ll be back to terrorizing Sailors. I can tell he’s looking forward to it. I’m not quite sure about the Sailors, however.

Speaking of which, tonight is the first chez of the year, with this year’s plebes. Not being attacked by the cat will limit the authenticity of the event, but otherwise, they’ll get to see how the other half lives. It is election day, if you’re wondering, which is why the change of venue. The Panivore and the People’s Champion (aka Vegas Struve, for those of you who have seen his yearbook picture) have been doing an excellent job of doing my job, but maybe I can pitch in just a little? I mean, I must know something about debate, right?

I think I’ve decided to get an iPhone if it really comes out on Verizon. JV made fun of my cheap VirginMobile phone over the weekend. I bought it originally to replace a clunky old phone. Now it has become a clunky old phone on its own. I’ll have to cut back on some expenses elsewhere to make it happen, though. Fewer Netflix disks at the same time, for one thing. And cutting back to absolutely essential-only cable service. I spend bunches of money on old useless stuff; this needs to stop, so that I can spend bunches of money on new useless stuff. Time marches on, as they say.

The Monticello MHL is still small at the moment, but plenty of folks haven’t signed up yet. We may have some discussion of Middle School vs High School in terms of experience, i.e., what makes you a novice? There are two universes to consider, the people who were in middle school, and the persons who weren’t. We don’t want to unfairly disadvantage either group. Going as I do on a premise of wanting to push my debaters into higher levels, I would always want them to debate up. But there is a point where debating up is a bad idea: I don’t put novices into rounds against TOC qual’d varsity, after all. I’ve seen both sides of the debate represented, so we can discuss it at length Saturday and have done with it. Should be fun.

Cluster whats?

Teal queries: “Why are name changes problematic for the tabroom staff? I mean, if the offending team does them online (isn't it just changing a digital A somewhere for a digital B and doesn't really affect anything)? I ask with genuine curiosity and admitted large ignorance.”

First of all, when a tournament registration is open online, people are free to do whatever they want, and can change name, sex, religion, date of birth, mother’s maiden name—no problem. When the registration closes, as in, fees are set and it’s the last stretch before the tournament, tournament directors are doing things like passing along the housing list, buying enough food, setting up enough rooms, etc. Some of these things, like the housing, require a name and sex to be fixed; and in general, one’s time these last few days is spent doing important things. If a team is going to a tournament that has been announced ages ago, that the school attends on the same weekend year after year, it is not much to ask that the team sort itself out by a reasonable deadline. I honestly have other things to do. The fines for changes between the deadline and the tournament exist to get people to stop making these annoying changes rather than to collect any money from them. As I say, I’ve got other things to do, as does anyone running a tournament with three or four hundred people on the way.

As for any change at the table or during the tournament, this actually becomes very counterproductive. At registration, I have to move the entire tournament from out of their buses and into the computer in half an hour. Name changes slow down the entire tournament, resulting in housing assemblies shifting from 10 to 10:30 or later, people getting to their hotels at 11:00, etc. The effect is exponential, and must be avoided. After registration at the table is closed down, I want my tab staff concentrating on pairing correctly with the right judges, and doing so quickly. They do not need the distraction of changing names when they are learning that a strike didn’t get entered or that a judge is unavailable for round 3. Tabbing may look easy to those who don’t do it. I do it every week. It’s fun, but it’s not easy, otherwise it wouldn’t take two or sometimes three of us to do it correctly.

All we are asking is that people respond accurately with their information by a reasonable deadline. In return, we will provide an efficient, well run tournament. Without that accurate information, on competitors and judges both, that efficient, well run tournament becomes extremely elusive. Having attended both efficient, well run tournaments and clusterfarts (nice turn of phrase there), I can assure you that the former are definitely preferable.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Pick a card, any card!

JV and I spent Saturday at Regis running the Almost All Hollows Debate CFL. It wasn’t quite as big as the first-timers last week, and there were a couple of divisions that were simply unrunnable, if one were to use TRPC, either because they were too small or too overrun with one school (both Regis and Bronx had mega contingents). This meant that we had to call out the cards, which truth to tell we love to do because 1) we can, and 2) it’s fun. The law of this brand of tournament is that teams must occasionally debate their own schools, but we do our best to spread this around. One wants the dominating school to have some rounds beyond itself. And one also must do one’s best to prevent the people who aren’t from the dominating school always debating the dominating school. And one wants to make sure all the judges who showed up from the big school get to see some service elsewhere. And one wants to finish the Saturday puzzle somewhere in there… We were up to the task. Catholic Charlie, instead of seeing to our needs and keeping the Diet Coke flowing like wine, was at a wedding somewhere, presumably keeping the wine flowing like Diet Coke. The guy has no sense of priorities.

Yesterday I did all the puzzles, went grocery shopping, got a fire going in the hearth, napped, read some of the Imagineering Part 2 book, roasted a chicken and watched the Harry Nilsson documentary, in that order. A rich and full day. I made a deal with myself to not consult the outside world via email, Twitter or Facebook, and in fact never turned on the computer except to download a Harry Nilsson album that recently became available. I might make that my official Sunday from now on. No digital life. I won’t miss anything, and it won’t miss me. If it’s really urgent, ring me on the Ameche. That, I’ll attend to. Otherwise, fuhgeddaboudit.

I sort of expected Bigle X to be up for registration this morning, but I gather the new world order from CP is that tournaments now open at 1:00 pm. This is so that that Samoans get a chance to register, I guess. Whatever. I did sign up for Ridge and the Monti MHL, just to keep my chops up.

Bump is now grinding down to the final moments. This year we’re only closing registration once. In the past I’ve closed it, and then I’ve really closed it. This time, it closes Monday before the tournament, fees are set, and a minute later you can enter your strikes. Done. Fines go to charity. Last year a school that will remain nameless didn’t tell us name changes at the table in order to avoid those fines. Try that again this year and we’ll toss you. I know that school well, and don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. You wouldn’t either, if you were me. And there’s a few others whom I wouldn’t put this past, so the eagle eye is now officially open. Anyhow, we’ve got as much housing as is humanly possible given the size of our team, and I wish some people would drop so that I can free up better rooms for all the rounds, but I won’t know about that until that magical closing moment. (God, I hate Bump.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "controversy" that would not die

One benefit to being alone for a few hours in the chez, after one tends to the feline invalids (or, I guess, the felinvalids), is being able to find the time to record a Nostrum, which I did last night. I pointed out to Jules that he was getting a lot of the information wrong, changing the names of things all over the place, and he finally admitted that maybe he and the Mite weren’t exactly concentrating as much on Series 2 as they had on Series 1. Not that anybody actually pays all that much attention, but it would help me, at least, as the one person who has no choice but to pay attention. But what can I do? They’ll both be at Bump, so maybe then I can sit them down and drill some sense into them. Although back in the day when they were on the team that never worked, so why I think it would work now is a mystery. Then again, what isn’t?

I noticed that somebody in one of my debate feeds was launching a series of debates on the November PF topic, in aid of the belief that issues like these are exactly what students ought to be discussing. It’s interesting how this one won’t die, and how people either think it’s an actual issue with two sides or an absolute travesty of an issue that is beyond sides. The VCA knows my opinion on this by now. Just because people in the world are arguing something stupid doesn’t raise the level of their argument beyond its native stupidity. Granted that turning the volume up on crap makes it noisier, but it doesn’t make it any less crappy. It was George W. Bush who thought that there ought to be public debates over whether evolution was a scientific fact in order to air “the controversy.” But it’s not a controversy. Scientists do not argue the fact of evolution. If they did, that would mean that it is controversial and, presumably, unproven, otherwise they wouldn’t bother arguing about it, the nature of science being what it is. The so-called Bushian controversy would pit people who don’t believe in science against people who don’t hold whatever religious belief is guiding those people who don’t believe in science. Where’s the debate in that? Similarly, where’s the debate in people who believe in the free practice of religion in this country against those who don’t? (If you call visiting a cultural center practicing your religion, but I’ll grant you this one.) I guess you could argue that for whatever reason we shouldn’t allow certain religions to exist or to practice their faiths, but I vaguely recollect that this country was built on the ideal, among others, of the free practice of religion. At the point where it’s the free practice of some religions, the ideal becomes a little tarnished. Not to cheapen the so-called debate over the November topic, but as I think I’ve asked before, how far away is the nearest sushi joint from the Pearl Harbor memorial? Shouldn’t we ban Germans from visiting Normandy Beach? And then, hell, the Jews killed Jesus, so we ought to be doing something about limiting them… As I say, the VCA knows my opinion on this by now. If adults want to waste their breath arguing this, let them. I can turn it off, and it’s not as if my entire life there haven’t been people in this country whose beliefs deeply disturbed me. (Notice, by the way, that I haven’t tried to shut them up, I’ve just turned them off personally.) Students we’re trying to educate? With them, I think we should be making the points I’m making here, explaining to them why this is not a good debate, rather than making them debate it.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Well aren't we the busy one?

First of all, not doing speech, while not as much fun as doing it, is a lot less hard on the calendar. Not having the weekly meeting and the daily angst is nice. On the other hand, I went home to an empty house last night while Liz was off taking some classes, meaning, first, I was an hour later than usual due to some hoo-ha at the dj, followed by a greeting from one elderly diabetic cat who will bite your arm off if you don’t feed him immediately and prodigiously but not too fast because he’ll throw up, and then you have to give him his insulin, plus there’s the lunatic in the cage in the other room who is way too energetic for all of this and wants to jump on everything the minute his collar is off (and no, I’m not going to make that joke), and I’m back and forth between them, opening and closing doors and cat food cans and wine bottles and microwaving soup and a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on for very little reward. I did, on the positive side, advance a few levels of Angry Birds while waiting for Tik (pronounced teek) to use his box. I was very happy eventually to settle down and watch a DVD on Imagineering after all of this that I had picked up during the DiDeAd. Did you ever notice, Disney fans, how much more the audioanimatronic Jack Sparrow looks like Jack Sparrow than the audioanimatronic Barack Obama looks like Barack Obama? The president obviously needs more eye makeup.

Speaking of Jack Sparrow, did I hear correctly that Disney is not going to hire Keith Richards to reprise his role in the next film installment because of revelations in his new autobiography? I mean, this is Keith Richards. What didn’t Disney know, and when didn’t they know it?

And through all of this, Jules and the Nostrumite are bugging me about the next episode. Like I’ve got time for all of this?