Friday, January 29, 2010

Anonymity, highways and gimcracks

To further answer Ryan, I guess when you boil it down I’m just not comfortable calling people out in public for being unprofessional. The endlessness of this issue of team ineptitude has led me mostly to believe that it can’t be stopped, but it can be punished, and that’s what I will do. Punishing people by naming them here doesn’t seem very harsh; people pay me good money to mention them here, and doing so for free is against my policy. I mean, you don’t think I talk about O’C all the time for nothing, do you? As for CP naming names in a different context, that’s between him and those names.

(Ryan: by the way, you can send the $200 for mentioning your name twice in this entry to my PayPal account.)

Meanwhile, tomorrow we’re heading down to Brooklyn Tech for an MHL that has to be the most jam-packed policyfest we’ve had in ages. Where did all these Policians come from, anyhow? More power to ‘em. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is traveling along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, commonly known as the BQE, which is to wheeled vehicles what garlic is to vampires. The parts of it that aren’t rutted so deep that you can see halfway to hell are lined with some of the most mesmerizing graveyards I’ve ever seen, long processions of gravestones leading to the grand landscape behind them of the Manhattan skyline. Bloody weird, let me tell you. This is why we usually meet the daughter on neutral ground.

SuperSquirrel and the Panivore, on the other hand, are lounging in the balmy sunlight of Atlanta with O’C and company at the Keys to the Kingdom Konfab. I’m seriously thinking of giving out something similar at Bump next year. Of course, keys are already taken, so what else is there? Mezuzahs? That would work, I guess. Instead of wearing them around your neck you’d nail them to your shoulder. I don’t know what I’d put in them, though. I wouldn’t want to be sacrilegious, so it would have to be something secular. Schematics? Ballots? You tell me. All I know is, if you want your tournament to be a hit these days, you’ve gotta have a gimmick…

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Naming names, listing names, and wondering if, in Bangkok, it's the iPad Thai

Ryan wants us to name names, to let the world at large know who the debate miscreants are. But I think that is mildly illegal and/or immoral, at the very least. My first amendment rights do not extend to pointing the finger at, say, O’C, and saying that I have positive evidence that he’s a poopy-head. He could easily take umbrage at the accusation. And it wouldn’t solve anything. (He is not one of my problem people, of course; I’m simply using him as an example of the inherent right of protection against slander. The fact that I’m even including this parenthetical statement shows how far I feel I need to go to protect people, even poopy-heads like O’C.) The problem people, for the most part, aren’t evil, they’re just inept. Their ineptitude need not be made public, nor do I think that making it public would reduce it. Nor, for that matter, do I think there’s any other real solution for it (although my ad hoc solution mentioned yesterday has the virtue of swift satisfaction in the tab room). People need to get their acts together in life in so many ways; debate is just one of them. I’m happy to advise the world at large on how to be better, but I can’t get the world at large to change. The best I can hope for is some impact on a small group of students; beyond them, I’m pretty helpless.

Last night the Three Bean Salads podcasted away, this time on our predictions for the future, at least for part of the show. (It will go up shortly.) We also (all right, I also) ranted a bit on MJP, while they apologized for not mentioning every great debater ever the last time we recorded. I thought they should have apologized for putting me to sleep while mentioning what felt like every great debater ever the last time we recorded. We have differing beliefs about debate history, obviously. I do agree that history is useful, but I’m not so interested in it myself that I care to listen to a few hours of it, or what seems like a few hours of it. This may be related to my inability to remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but that’s another subject entirely.

What we didn’t talk about in all our tech predictions for the future was the MaxiPad, which strikes me as a non-starter. I mean, if we already had the MaxiPad, and Jobs announced a version of it that would fit in your pocket, I’d be falling off my chair with techlust. But the idea of taking the Touch and making a version that won’t fit in my pocket? Well, I can see occasional uses for it, but not enough to warrant the expense yet. I’ll get the $100 version in a couple of years, but until then, I’ve got a computer in the office, some computers at home, plus a Touch, and why I need to augment them is beyond me. Do I believe the product will fail? Not necessarily. Do I think it will be a game-changer? Not really. It might find a niche, it might not, but for once I’m not staring into my wallet wondering how I’m going to afford it. I just don’t care. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The MHL Grand Championships

O’C and I have worked quite a bit toward creating a bang-up final MHL, which we’re planning for April 10 at Bronx Science. The invitation is here. I should have a tabroom database up and running soon. You’re seeing the invite before I send it to anyone else. (Ah, the joys of membership in the VCA!)

First of all, it’s open to anybody, at $10 a head. In other words, it’s not free (we’ve got to buy food and trophies), but anyone can come, even if we haven’t ever seen their hide nor hair in this or any previous life. We want to have 5 rounds in both the novice and jv divisions, so it will be a longer day than usual. We’ll be running Jan-Feb in LD. And we’ll have varsity LD and Policy, with as many rounds as we can fit, in a challenge format after an opening random round. There are some team limits; we want people to consider this as a special event. And, with O’C in charge of Pomp (and me in charge of Osity), this shouldn’t be a problem. To make it so, we will have a whole boatload of awards. First, there’s the People’s Champion award, which I forget completely what it is but it was something O’C was going to figure out so I’m sure he didn’t forget, because he hasn’t forgotten an award since Mickey Rooney took the Golden Globe for “Andy Hardy Gets a Wedgie” in 1943. Then there’s going to be what we’re calling the Modest Novice awards, which we’ll explain to any coach that signs up but not to you, you spalpeen! (Ah, the pain of membership in the VCA!) There’s a special award that O’C and I agreed on immediately, and you will too when you hear about it that day. And finally, there’s the establishment of an MHL hall of fame, which was guess who’s idea, but it’s not a bad one. Apparently the league was founded by Mickey Rooney in 1943 after getting a wedgie. Honoring those who came before us makes sense to me.

There will certainly be more to say as we get closer. But meanwhile, sharpen up your skates and get ready! It will be a tournament you won’t want to miss, unless, of course, you want to miss it, in which case you’ll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

Admiral's log, supplemental

A couple of things.

The idea of MJP at national tournaments may make a lot more sense than at local tournaments for the simple reason that many of the judges are totally unknown to debaters at national tournaments. The most avid supporter of judge adaptation can’t think that debaters must adapt to judges without any idea of how they should adapt. MJP at national tournaments reduces the mystery, so to speak. At Columbia, for instance, we in no way had what might be called a non-regional draw, aside from maybe one or two teams. In that case, MJP becomes a way to manipulate the pool to get judges who like you. But at, say, Big Jake, MJP would be a way to get judges who are familiar to you. Saying that all paradigms must be published some place is not really effective. Most written judge paradigms are the work of self-important sociopaths attempting to demonstrate their knowledge of debate strategies acquired through long hours of no other life whatsoever. Anything past a couple of sentences is TMI. The thing is, one can support MJP at national events for the simple reason that judge adaptation at those events is virtually impossible without it. One can dismiss MJP at local events for the same reason, that judge adaptation at those events is absolutely possible without it.

Meanwhile, CP’s post is not unlike my own various rantings about the problem schools that plague us tournament after tournament. I do not see a cure, but I do see a palliative, at least in the tabroom. We always post a closing date for judges for tournaments. So why not simply fine every school that changes judges (or loses judges, or whatever) not only with whatever financial punishment makes sense, but also with the simple elimination of their rankings/strikes? One of the problem schools at Columbia had two judges that didn’t show. Another changed judges more than once after the deadline. Simply take their students and make all their judges A+. You say I’m punishing the students for their coaches’ sins? No, I’m publishing the team. Those of you running sanctions understand how they work: aim them at the populace to enforce change. Do they punish the innocent? Not necessarily in the debate universe. The schools whose judges are weasels usually have student weasels as well. While fish may rot from the head, they get rotten through and through pretty quickly. Anyhow, it’s just a suggestion, and if nothing else, we’d derive satisfaction from it in tab. I’ll probably institute it at Bump next year, if nowhere else.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gem of Harlem debriefing

What else happened during the Gem of Harlem? Other than MJP, that is?

For those of us in the Traveling Tabroom Circus, the Gem is one of the main events of the season. CP organizes his minions and we all obediently do what he tells us to do, and as a result, we pull off a tournament with many, many divisions, in many, many buildings, with many, many students. Anyone who has ever been to a college tournament that has imploded knows what a major feat not imploding can be. In the pre-CP days, imploding college tournaments were more the rule than the exception. Not so anymore. At least not the ones under his command.

JV and I had the campus to ourselves Friday night for two rounds, plus what La Coin was doing with novice and Pffft, which were broken out from varsity. Saturday we moved our division over to something called “The School,” which demonstrates a considerable lack of creativity on the part of the naming committee, but there you are. This was, yes, a school, a rabbit warren of a place built for grammar school sized bodies, but it didn’t take too long to get things sorted out. Fifteen minutes, to be precise, in that we were supposed to launch at 9 and had all the ballots out at 9:15. (Note to prospective runners of tournaments: always show up early, just in case. Note to college people: you’ve got to show up early too, just this one day a year—it won’t kill you.) There was no food allowed in most places in the building, which meant that the Gemmites were smuggling in the bagels for the judges, past the Peanut-Free-Zone placards. A renegade package of Oreos was, I assure you, much prized. Judges were attacking us left and right (to protest if they were overworked, to wonder why they had gotten up in the morning if they weren’t). Even though I strongly support giving people rounds off, the way to get them is not by whining to me about how overworked you are. Everyone is overworked. We all get wet when it rains. Stop whining! Hiding doesn’t work all that well either. JV can find a judge at 1000 yards with nothing but an ear trumpet and a BB gun. When all was said and done we lost about half an hour or so of schedule, which was not terrible, and which meant there was plenty of time for one and all to wonder off for a nice dinner. As did, I assure you, the Traveling Tabroom Circus.

Some other random notes. First, no one ever wants to hear you play the piano, so please don’t, even if you’re good, but you’re probably not. If you’re thinking “Fur Elise,” trust me, you’re definitely not. Second, don’t assume that everyone over the age of 21 can provide you with directions to anywhere on the face of the earth. When people who know me and know that I don’t live at the G of H came up and asked me where some random stuff was, the temptation to tell them to go out, turn right and keep going until old age sets in was, I assure you, quite strong. Third, please don’t send me your registration changes for tournaments that don’t have Bump in their name. Why do people think I’m interested in their changes? Why do they ignore the instructions on the invitation? Fourth, when I say that there will be announcements on @DebateTab that might answer some of your questions (like, where is “The School”?), why don’t you follow @DebateTab? Would you prefer to wander around the Upper West Side like the Spanish explorers seeking the Seven Cities of Gold and never finding them and having to resort instead to killing all the natives? I didn’t tweet much this weekend, but I did tweet time and location, including where The School was when I found it myself at the crack of Saturday’s dawn. Let’s see. Your excuse was lack of a cell phone? I don’t think so. Fifth, if you want to leave early, please don’t assume that any of us want to drop everything we’re doing during break rounds to wave palms at you as you make your exit. Ask someone else to pick up your ballots. Or, for once in your brutish life, have the courtesy to stay for an entire award ceremony. Yes, if you’re flying down to Rio, I understand, but I really don’t care. And if you’re hastening back to 112th Street from 114th Street to be the first one home, I promise you that your behavior is unacceptable, and I actually do care that you, as a coach, are demonstrating poor behavior in front of your students. Sit down, shut up and applaud your fellow competitors. You would want the same from us if you were doing well, wouldn’t you? Sixth, the answer to, “Did anyone find a [blank]?” is directly proportional to the value of the [blank]. An iPhone? A MacBook Pro? The Holy Grail? Unlikely. A tortoiseshell button? A Kleenex? Yep, right here. Eighth, that skunky smell is definitely not a skunk, but if it helps those around you believe that you've got one foot in the grave and therefore they treat you as extra brittle, just in case, I say go for it. You're only as young as everyone thinks you are.

And so, another one bites the dust. Onward this weekend to an MHL at Brooklyn Tech, a brand new venue for us. I just hope we don’t get lost and end up having to resort to killing all the natives. For those of you going to Atlanta, have fun. Wear your keys proudly. Try not to remember that it’s only a high school debate tournament…

Monday, January 25, 2010

MJP goes to bed and gets tucked in, for now.

Some things about MJP are open to discussion. One can have various opinions for or against the idea of students identifying their favorite judges, and I personally can’t say that I’ve been able to maintain a position for longer than about a week on either side, because there’s much good information to support many theories. There are practical issues, on the other hand, that are not open to discussion. There are certain facts about the process that must be considered. I have now tabbed or observed a month’s worth of MJP tournaments, pretty much one right after the other, of varying sizes and shapes. I do not propose my opinions here: I outline why, in some situations, it does not work well, and why, in others, it does work well. It is up to the tournament director, armed with this information, to make the determination whether to use it at a specific event.

First of all, it’s a pain in the patoot, period, tournament size notwithstanding, if any judges are changed/dropped/added after the moment that the MJP starts. Every time a judge is changed, if you’ve already ranked, you’ve got to rank again. This could be simple (replacing one A+ with another A+) or complicated (replacing one A+ with a strike), requiring a total reevaluation of your rankings. With every judge change, same issue. At least one solution to this is to have rankings open for one day only, but that merely lessens the pain. Once you get to the tournament, there’s more changes. (One solution would be for people to show up with the teams and judges they initially registered, but that would mean that our community is nothing but people in control of their teams, which is simply not true. 95% of the community is people who make 5% of the changes; 5% of the community is people who make 95% of the changes. We know who you are. We hide under the table when we see you coming.) These changes go in as supplementals, a dicey process at best, handled willy-nilly usually during the first round (rendering those supplemental judges useless until the rankings are collected). At the Gem of Harlem, one team went so far as to change a judge on the third day, going into octos. No one had ranked this judge, who was, for all practical purposes, a waste of time and energy on all counts. This is not to suggest that this school had ignored MJP, of course; at least if they hadn’t understood that it was happening, one could offer support for their behavior. The bottom line to this is that, love or hate MJP, instituting it at a tournament is a bumpy process no matter how you slice it.

Secondly, there is no question that, unless you have an incredible overage of judges, all your highly preferred judges work every round. As I’ve said, you can go through and give everyone a round off, but to do that you need to have an incredible surplus, and the only place I’ve personally seen that is at Big Jake. At no other tournament I’ve been to, with the possible exception of Yale (but I don’t recall exactly the size of our pool here), could I deliberately insure everyone a round off and still run a viable tournament. The numbers simply aren’t there. Which means that you have judges who are just worn out. Just one round off can make all the difference in spirit and energy, and we’re not allowing it. We barely allow them a minute to eat their debate ziti, for Pete’s sake. This is not good.

Third, there is no question that we are creating a group of judges that don’t do anything except sit around and hope. This underclass is, as often as not, perfectly good judges who are simply not around week after week, as compared to crappy judges who deserve not to judge. Meanwhile, MJP means that, in prelims, the judge should be equally ranked by both sides. We want to give a 1-1, but if you’re stuck with a 4-4, at least it’s a 4 in both preferences. 2-3? 4-1? Na’ah, that defeats the purpose. Needless to say, this underclass of judges, if utilized, could alleviate the problem above of no rounds off, but only at the expense of tossing a lot of the goals of MJP out the window, which makes no sense, or which only allows some of the opponents to get their preferences. I guess you could look at brackets and whatnot and re-pair the rounds in a certain way to accommodate some of this, but if you want the tournament to end and start in the same decade, this is probably not a good idea.

So here’s my conclusion. MJP is workable at a tournament with a really large pool of really good judges. Anywhere else, it threatens to undermine your judging structure via a combination of overuse and underuse. Further, if you have all those good judges, you’d better come up with something to cover the lower rated ones. Put in some clear qualification process in your invitation that eliminates less well-known people or something like that. Encourage them to buy out, or allow them to judge PF instead, if you can, while fulfilling a judging obligation. Something. Anything. Otherwise those judges will simply stop coming, and you will find yourself in a serious pickle. Further, keep the ranking process to one day. Fine people $200 for any judge changes after the MJP starts (seriously—we’ve got to stop putting up with nonsense from the same people week after week who make our lives running tournaments a total hell). Give all your judges one round off (at least) in prelims on the longest day (usually Saturday). If you do all of that, at least you’ll have a sort of manageable tournament.

Is MJP a good idea or a bad idea, if you iron out all the bugs? The jury is still out on that one. But with all the bugs? No, its not a good idea, for the reasons outlined above. Even accepting the issues that only make tabbing complicated, you’re still left with issues that cause damage to judging in both the short and long term. Disregard those at your own peril!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More balkanization

Let’s continue the balkanization discussion. See Ryan’s comment to the last post, which I’ll address here.

First of all, I’ll point out that his position is very reflective of Sara S’s, when we discussed MJP with her in general for Bigle X. She was solidly in favor of using it at her tournament, and one reason derived from her own experience as a debater. Simply put, a serious debater puts an awful lot of work hours into the activity to prepare for tournaments. While those work hours have intrinsic educational value, they are clearly pointed toward the direct result of doing well at competitions. At the point where we have hard-working students prepared up the wazoo, and judges who haven’t prepared at all and haven’t got a clue, we have a terrific disconnect at the tournament level. This also hearkens back tangentially to Bietz’s comment about spending a lot of money to send kids to tournaments that don’t have a reasonable break point. Debate is not all about the competition, which educationally is a means to an end aside from acquiring lots of trophies, but it does include the necessary evil of competition, and all that competing entails. It includes travel and hotels and judges and opponents, all of which need to be sorted in the most favorable mix possible. I’m not going to spend a lot of money and effort to meet unchallenging opponents, for instance, which is why I don’t send my novices to local one-day tournaments in Wyoming. All we have to do here is extend that logic to judges to see where this ends up. The point is, debaters (and their coaches) have a reasonable desire for good judging at tournaments. LD is not an activity people can walk in off the streets and perform well, with no training whatsoever, despite what some diehards might wish to believe. Hell, I love parent judges, but I train them thoroughly and start them in novice divisions (and have worked with the MHL and CFL to make adult and coach training an ongoing process). As the VCA well knows, I have often encountered judges in varsity divisions who don’t even know how to spell LD, much less judge it, and I have not been happy about it.

The idea of posting the paradigm at the ranking point is a good one, and I think can be done on, with one issue, which is that only registered coaches at the moment can access their team’s data. This can probably be addressed one way or the other. I would like the idea of limiting a paradigm to a hundred words or so, because, frankly, all I want to know is if you’re experienced and if you have some particular peccadillo (“I shoot debaters running theory” or “I shoot debaters who don’t run theory,” for example). I don’t need your life story or care about your grand theory of argumentation and why Socrates had this whole Q&A thing all wrong. You’re a damned college kid, for Pete’s sake. All I want is your ballot, not your brain on a silver platter. Anyhow, I’ll pursue this.

I am obviously onboard with the training aspect of new judges, but I’m a little dicey about throwing them into doubles. Then again, I do it at Bump, buffering them with As, so I can’t condemn the idea out of hand. As for throwing them into guaranteed-to-break rounds, my issue with that is that speaker points can be dicey with noobs, and your 5-0s are definitely looking to take home a gavel. I would be interested in allowing coaches an opportunity to buy their judges out of adjudication if they were willing to observe and learn. This would have to be a case-by-case situation, but I’d like to at least see it on the table. I mean, there is no better way to learn what happens in rounds than to watch rounds.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To the Balkans!

(I’ll just point this out, off topic: I learned over the weekend that, shockingly, I am a horrible person. Thank God this has been made known to me with great clarity. Or at least I think with great clarity, as I didn’t actually read the emails explaining at length the depth of my horrific nature, and blocked future emails from arriving in my inbox that might offer further elucidation. Obviously my critic is not a member of the VCA, which has always known that I am, by nature, a miserable human being. I hate having to bring these noobs up to speed on such obvious points.)

Meanwhile, back in the jungle…

We had a most illuminating debriefing on MJP after the sun had set on Bigle X. I had been otherwise engaged during the tournament, playing with novices and the RR, but I certainly audited everything Kaz and JV were doing, watching closing as they did the pairings, seeing where the issues might arise. From a tab room perspective, obviously, the clear goal is to provide the highest ranked judges possible as often as possible, i.e., to give the people what they want to the best of tab’s ability. This meant that, almost without fail, people were getting their mutual ones or, occasionally, their mutual twos. Once in a while the ranking went down, but still, the nature of MJP is such that, even if you’re both getting, say, a four, it’s a mutual four. But as I say, that was quite rare.

But there are problems. (And I want to hash this out publicly with the great minds of TVFT within the next few weeks.) And I think the problems are inherent in an MJP tournament, and maybe any tournament that isn’t strikes and dice. One of them is solvable. The other is disturbing. Let’s take them one at a time.

First of all, for the most part all the people in the field rank the same judges highly. In a way, MJP is a bit of a subterfuge. There is very little difference, if any, between the way the community as a whole ranks judges and individual rankings. But, of course, when there is a difference, the debaters would prefer their rankings to the group rankings. So while for the most part it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, occasionally it does matter, and people get what they want. Still, the end result is that about 25 to 50 percent of the pool is highly ranked by everyone. This means that 25 to 50 percent of the pool get to judge every round. Every flight. Every everything. We are working our highest ranked judges into the grave. A few judges might enjoy this, but it’s not a great idea. Even with hireds, who the tournament might claim are getting paid and can therefore judge over and over again, deserve a bit of a break. The thing is, in tab, we’re not doing this. We’re just grabbing the judges by their preferred status and plopping them into one round after another. (I’m not citing this as a bad practice by JV and Kaz last weekend, but as a general practice of which I am more than guilty. And it’s also true in many non-MJP situations.) I think we need to set out a commitment to giving each judge at least one round off. We did this at Big Jake, where we had a ton of judges. Our solution was to go through the pool in advance and mark everyone for a specific round off, starting with round 1 for judge #1, round 2 for judge #2, and so forth, repeating the sequence after we got to round seven for the next batch of judges. This gave everyone at least one round where their names simply would not pop up, so they could go off and catch a nap or something. And it distributed the off rounds off fairly through the population. For the handful of judges already marked for a round off, we just went by them as they were already accounted for. We didn’t make any big deal out of this, but I don’t recall anyone stampeding tab and threatening our lives with a railway share due to overwork. I think that, in almost every tournament, we can perform this same sort of judge-benefit system. If we’ve got the numbers, we should treat them kindly.

The other issue is more difficult. The thing is, all this preferencing of judges is creating what can only be seen as an underclass of judges, or maybe more precisely, a balkanization of certain judges in any given pool into an underclass. Strikes are one thing, and often strikes are handed out to another person’s A+, although usually strikes go mostly to people whose first name is either Mr. or Mrs. Beyond that, the unfamiliar names, and there are always some, get the bottom rating. These unfamiliar names comprise, I think, two groups. First, there are the parents, the chaperones, whatever, who may have been carefully trained and are all worried and ready, and they spend the whole weekend in the judges’ lounge, trying to determine if that black stuff in their cups really is coffee. As PJ pointed out, these people can just as easily stay home for all the use that is made of them. Secondly, there are the perfectly competent judges who are simply unfamiliar because they’ve been doing something else for a while. There are plenty of ex-debaters or former coaches or whatever who could judge just about anything, perhaps with the exception of extreme speed, but because their names ring no bells, they are marginalized at tournaments. Again, they could have stood in bed, for all the use that is made of them.

I don’t have a lot of solution to this problem. Of course, if there is a novice division, that does take care of it. On the other hand, putting these folks into PF looks like it takes care of it, but especially parents, eager to do their bit after having read the training materials or watched practice rounds or whatever, are usually thrown into a tizzy when they learn that, all of a sudden, they’re in the pool for some other activity altogether. Explaining to them that their newness is somehow a plus in PF seldom convinces them, even though it is (at the moment) true.

I’m curious about what folks think about these issues, especially the balkanized judges. As I said, I hope to hash some of it out with Bietz and O’C on TVFT. We don’t really do ourselves or the activity a favor by making people do nothing for a whole weekend. If we really don’t want certain judges, then we should do something about it, although I question if that is really the case. At the point where we create a completely exclusive class of A judges, we are on the road to terminating the activity because, as anyone doing the math can tell you, there will be an every decreasing number of them. (See also this thing called Policy for further information on how to get fewer rounds for your team year after year.) And let’s face it, good judges don’t all start out that way. New coaches have to learn. The activity and the content changes from season to season. Last year’s A judge who doesn’t understand theory is this year’s strike. Some of this is the nature of the beast, but some of it could be the beast getting out of control. Whichever it is, it is something to be concerned about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From the department of irreproducible results (I hope)

I remain befuddled by Round Robins.

I thought I was sooooo clever. An RR needs two judges per debate. 16 debaters = 8 rounds = 16 judges. We had 16 and 14. First reaction? Go with one judge. The problem with that is that it makes the RR look mostly like a very small batch of set prelims. Given the frequency with which judges split rounds at most RRs, 2 judges makes a big difference. Ballot count is a lot different from wins. Anyhow, in my remarkable cleverness, I figured, how about 1.5 judges per round? That is, sometimes you’d get one judge and sometimes you’d get two. It wasn’t perfectly fair in some respects, but given that I did it at random, it had the inherent fairness of being decided by pure chance. I simply set the computer to 2 judges, and put in 1 or 2, depending on the round. Worked like a charm.

I will point out that much of the RR tabbing process is by hand. I did all the pairings by hand, matching them against my spreadsheets, then I did all the judging by hand, because with this small number, often people are judged by the same judges but on the opposite side. That requires total override of TRPC. But what I count on TRPC for is managing the data once its entered, i.e., ballot count, speaker points and the like.

And then it snowed. While back in NY, people were strolling the boulevards in their bathing suits, up in Massachusetts the preferred means of strolling was behind a team of huskies. As a matter of fact, when we drove home, there was a very clear demarcation on the Massachusetts border where the snow ended and the sunbathing began. I blame Sarah Palin for this, but I’m not sure why. So one of the Round Robinskis was snowed in for a while. Which meant giving a bye. An easy ballot for one person, needless to say. But life is what it is.

But here’s what happened. Since TRPC was set for two judges, the bye meant two ballots, not one. Which never occurred to me, since there were already plenty of missing ballots because of the 1.5. Nor did the inherent disruption of speaker points occur to me. Maybe I was in a daze, but mostly it was so off the radar that it wasn’t until someone looked closely at the printouts that it made a difference. The good news was that the debater had won not by the one phantom bye ballot but by two ballots, including the phantom ballot. Which meant that it actually was a legitimate win. As far as speaker points were concerned, if one were to spend the next six years trying to solve it, there is a possibility that the skew was enough to change the top 3 results slightly. However, since the tournament mistakenly ordered 3 “Top Speaker” awards instead of first, second and third, each of the top 3 was, indeed, a top speaker. The announced order may be questionable, but not the underlying status of topness.

Another fine mess, in other words. In the past I’ve managed to make mistakes, which these days makes me incredibly scrupulous before and during and occasionally after, but seriously now, how many of us have ever given a bye in a 1.5 judge RR? All of this is, of course, O’C’s fault. While we were digging our vans out from the ice and snow with nothing but our fingernails and our true grit, he was lounging about in Las Vegas drinking champagne cocktails with Bette Midler. Next year, I’m going out to Vegas for the champagne cocktails, and we’ll let him cope with the never ending series of mishaps that plague the average winter debate tournament.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The old shell game

Last night at a sparsely attended Sailor’s meeting—our plebes have apparently all gone on shore leave, except for Zip—the Panivore gave a little lecture on theory, at my request. The thing is, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what theory is all about, but if you try to suss it from reading what most people write about it, it’s totally inaccessible. The writers assume you already know what they’re talking about, so it’s all abbreviations and jargon, not to mention just basic incoherent presentation. I’m reminded a little of the old pomo days, where the problem often wasn’t as much the content (although that was a problem) as the presenters’ ability to make sense of the content. There are clear analyses and there are befuddled analyses. The difference between the two does not necessarily mark the understanding of the analyst (although it may), but it sure as hell marks the ability of the analyst to explain it to someone else. If I were to go by most of what I’ve read on theory, with a couple of exceptions, I would have no choice but to dismiss it. There are some good sources aimed primarily at policy—as always, policy was there first—but these fail for me at the point where the substance of the argumentation is policy- rather than values-based.

So the Panivore grabbed the bull by the horns last night and gave us a most clear and understandable breakdown of a theory shell. (Right off the bat, I have to say that the word shell is confusing, in that a shell suggests that the whole case will be inside it, rather than a standalone argument. Which, by the way, is the only thing I knew independently about the subject before Sophie’s lesson, i.e., the definition of the word shell.) By the time she was done, I felt a hell of a lot smarter than when she had begun. I realize that my innate antipathy to theory may have been misplaced. If theory is an attempt to rein in bad argumentation, and it provides the tools to do so, that’s a good thing. There has to be some way of answering arguments that are unanswerable because of their innate abusiveness, and theory seems to be that way. It provides debaters with a structural understanding of what they are doing (complete with nicknames and jargons and abbreviations) that was not a part of the activity a decade ago. Of course, abuse of theory, or at least misuse of theory, will be as rife as abuse/misuse of everything in the activity, at least for a while. If arguments are reasonable and within normative concepts of the rules of LD (which I’ve discussed here at great length in the past), theory doesn’t have a play, although that may not stop a lot of people from tossing it around If arguments are not reasonable and within normative concepts of the rules of LD, on the other hand, then it does.

Of course, the Panivore’s examples were reasonable and introductory ones where theory made sense, hence my acquiescence to the concept. Still, it’s a foot in the door. I do not like being apart from what is going on in LD. And whether I favor something or not is beside the point. If the train is going to Manhattan, my desire to go to Chicago instead should not be so stubborn that I refuse to look at a map of NYC. The train is going to go where the train is going to go. As with the old pomo stuff that is now mostly ashes on the campfire of forensics (now there’s a crappy metaphor), some still survives. Derrida may have retreated into the mists of his original incoherent babblings, but Foucault has become, rightly, canonical. Theory is now enjoying its initial wide explosion. It too will no doubt find its way into the canon. If it actually does have the result, as it claims, of limiting argumentation to educational and fair ends, that would actually be a good thing.

Moral of the story: you learn something every day.

Other moral of the story: if I ever start an institute, I’m making the Panivore top instructor.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The pirates of pen spinning (you'll get it eventually)

As you know, most of the time at tournaments I’m in the tab room. There are a couple of reasons for this. I can tab pretty well, for one thing, having done it the odd million times or so, and it also keeps me from causing too much damage in the judge pool. I think it’s true that to be a good judge you’ve got to do it pretty regularly. If for nothing else, you lose your ability to flow speed if you don’t do it all the time. And, of course, it helps you keep up on the latest arguments. I don’t wish this to be construed as a belief that all judges should be able to flow speed or know all the latest arguments—a good debater has to be able to adapt—but, let’s face it, if you want to have any serious cred as a judge you’ve got to be able to do it at the level of the highly regarded adjudicators. It’s one thing to bring an old-fashioned love of resolutional arguing to a round, and another thing altogether to miss everything that was said because, even at slow speed, you couldn’t follow it.

Anyhow, there may be a perception that tabbing is somehow less work than judging. I would say that, rather, it’s different. First of all, we usually start way before a tournament begins, often by writing up the tournament for and advising the tournament director on this and that. Plus, the events need to be monitored throughout registration, checking judges and waitlists and hires and whatnot. Sometimes this is rather onerous, although usually it’s just keeping an eye on things. Then there’s getting the data into TRPC (an ever-changing adventure) and running through it all and making sure everything is in working order. Often the starting friction at tournaments is because people haven’t pre-tweaked TRPC. In my case, it’s usually because the data in, transferred to TRPC, is not quite the same as the reality. It is unfortunate that about 25% of all teams registering are incapable of reporting changes from the registration sheet that they are asked to check at the table. They tell you people are there who aren’t, and vice versa. Judges are unavailable for round one with no warning. At ALJ, one team that will remain nameless changed its judges both days (after rounds started), in addition to its endless string of competitor changes. These sort of things have an impact that resonates throughout a tournament. A judge is on the schematic because we think the judge is there because no one has told us otherwise. Ditto the competitors. We casually refer to round one at many tournaments at taking attendance. I wonder if it’s too much to ask if people actually look at their registrations and inform us of changes at the table.

Then again, there are those schools who, to avoid fines, don’t report changes. There are chaperones who didn’t take attendance on their bus in the first place (very responsible on their part) but allowed some kid to say that everyone was there, but that kid is the policy captain and doesn’t know the LDers from a hole in the ground. There are coaches who don’t realize that the list they typed up themselves a week ago is not the list we have, because we’re going by what they entered into tabroom, which may not be identical to their original list, but they’re too dumb to check. There are coaches who can’t spell the names of their kids or their judges; I love when judges keep respelling their names on the ballots. I want to write back, don’t tell me, tell the person who’s paying you. There are judges who didn’t know the round was starting: what did they think we were doing here, playing pinochle? It’s a debate tournament. Rounds follow one another like elephants on parade. You should know that by now.

There are myriad other issues to be addressed as rounds come and go. There is the simple entry of data that can take forever at big tournaments, which is why we try to get ballots in after flights. There’s a lot of pressure to get the data entry right, for obvious reasons, so there’s a high level of concentration and tempers tend to flare. If we’re trying to figure out if it’s a 6 or an 8 and why it’s not marked as a low point win, or how can we get this judge out of that room into this other flight in the down-one bracket, we’re probably not interested in answering any of the following questions:
“When is the next round coming out?”
"Do you know where the men's room is?"
“Can I use your printer?”
“When can I pick up my ballots and go home?”

Of course, while we’re working furiously, you’re probably eating debate ziti. Then it switches off, and you’re judging and debating, and for an hour or so we get to eat the debate ziti (or, if it’s me and O’C or JV, we get to wander off for Starbucks or something). So we look unbusy when you’re at your busiest, and vice versa. Then again, we got there earlier in the morning than you, and stay later in the evenings.

In other words, a tabber’s lot is not a happy one. But then again…

When debaters aren’t engaged in their employment (their employment)
Of maturing their felonious counterplans (counterplans)
Their capacity for eating debate ziti (debate ziti)
Is just as great as any honest man's (honest man’s)

A judge can be a poor young newbie’s mother (newbie’s mother)
Or a hot shot college kid who thinks he’s Kant (thinks he’s Kant)
Ah, take one consideration with another (with another)
A filled-up flow pad’s all the kiddies want (kiddies want)

When adjudication duty's to be done, to be done,
A judge’s lot is not a happy one (happy one).

When the enterprising theorist’s out a’theorying (out a’theorying)
When the harms disad is turned at ev’ry link (ev’ry link)
Kids love to hear the A-ranked judge a’flowing (judge a’flowing)
And listen to the merry timer clink (timer clink)

When the kritik runner’s finished spreading Zisek (spreading Zisek)
He loves to read “On Liberty” by Mill (-y by Mill)
Ah, take one consideration with another (with another)
A T shell is an argument from hell (-ment from hell).

When adjudication duty's to be done, to be done,
A judge’s lot is not a happy one (happy one).

Thank you, Gilbert. You too, Sullivan.

Monday, January 11, 2010

All Together Now

“All Together Now” is O’C’s favorite Beatle song, or close thereto. We listened to it 33 times in a row at ALJ. I have to admit to liking it myself, at least the first 20 times or so. After that, it does get a little old.

ALJ was much as expected. Members of the VCA know well that O’C and I are strong supporters of local debate, and ALJ is a classic local tournament. Back in the Dark Ages I used to judge the woman who is now coaching the team (and you thought I already felt old, although at least the good news is that she’s still comparatively young, so I don’t need the walker just yet). She’s an old Bronx Scientology alum, as O’C points out every time he speaks to or about her. (“Hey, Kristin, Bronx Science 2002, which direction is the cafeteria?”) She has taken over at ALJ for Bill Cooper, who is now trying to figure out where Tim Averill hid the Manchwegian Sacred Lobster. The tournament was inaugurated by Cooper last year, so it’s still brand spanking new by any criteria. We got a very nice sized field with a good mix of schools, all of whom, with the exception of the usual suspects up in the frigid folds of Monticello, braved the non-existent snow to participate. A nice judge pool, including a bunch of Kristin’s former college debater friends (my favorite adjudicators, because they understand debate and have no particular connections to high schoolers or their peccadilloes), balanced things out. Capping things off, having O’C tell me Great Tales of Debate Adventure that brought tears to my eyes didn’t hurt either. (Hmmm… Tales of Great Debate Adventure. That’s probably what I should do with that material!)

The one problem that I would suggest anyone running a tournament think about was that tab and ballots were very far away from judges and competitors. We’ll fix that next year. Given that the number one priority at any tournament is making the rounds happen, bridging great distances in aid of that priority is not good. Often there’s nothing to be done about it, for instance, at Big Jake, where the combination of numbers and physical plant is prohibitive, or at the college tournaments, where everyone is flung far out into all of creation in different buildings entirely. But as I say, at ALJ we’ll be able to solve the problem, and will. I did note that one judge was complaining that his slice of pizza was not heated to his liking, which somehow conflicted with his valiant effort to redeem the tournament from the brink of disaster into which tab had been threatening to sink it, but I’m happy to report that, in fact, there were no particular tabbing issues (except my usual inability to get the rooms straight in breaks) and, as far as the food was concerned, never once did the Panivore come to me demanding more aspic in the foie gras, so I’m not quite sure what that was all about, nor, I must admit, do I actually care. I only point it out in case you were wondering.

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to Kristin building the tournament in the coming years. If she can keep the blizzards from happening as she establishes it (after all, it is the first week of January), it will become a standard event. There’s a nice picture of her and Cooper that O’C took in tab. It’s good to see a program stay alive after a coach moves on, with amity on all sides. It should be ever thus.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Oh, no, he’s at it again.

Yeah, I’m afraid so.

While I remain a dedicated believer in RSS, the rest of the world has not followed my lead on this. Then again, the rest of the world wasn’t born in the editor patch. I get the sense that the bleeding edge have moved on from RSS readers, and the bloody middle never moved to them. So it goes.

The VCA knows well that, one way or the other, I have been trying to establish my feed of relevant articles for debate. It is easily accessible as a blog, which is its basic format. Occasionally I read an article and tag it without any comment, which means that it doesn’t go into my blog first but goes directly into the feed, meaning that these don’t get seen by the blog reader. I may have to change that in the future, even though some articles don’t need me to say anything about them, especially when they’re reposts of other debate blogs, as they occasionally are. Anyhow, that’s for me to worry about.

Meanwhile, there is the @jimmenick Twitter feed. I use this for some general stuff, but realistically it is 99% debate directed, so I was thinking that, for me personally, Twitter might be a good way to broadcast feed postings. So, using Twitterfeed, I’ll be doing just that (until I decide to do something else). Every time I put an entry into Coachean Feed, it will be subsequently and automatically tweeted via @jimmenick. (I’ll keep @debatetab clean for running tournaments.)

I’m debating whether to also run this blog into @jimmenick. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what else I use the account for as I play around over the next few weeks with this new process.

Anyhow, that explains, if you follow @jimmenick, what I’ve been up to with it. If you follow an RSS of Coachean Feed already, that will not change, and if you just go to that blog once in a while to check it out, that won’t change either. The only thing that changes is my use of Twitter as an announcement tool.

Sometimes I think, if technology didn’t exist, I would have to invent it myself.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

CPs galore, panivorous esteem-building, Debatie Bingo and today's trivia question

We’re moving at the DJ, lock, stock and barrel. The estimate at the moment is that the move will be some time around June. That means that there will be a lot of people throwing things away over the next few months as they guerilla themselves up for the revolution. As a result, the crappy prize vault at the chez should soon be bursting at the seams. A couple of days ago I picked up a collection of ceramic tiles. When I gave one of them out at the recent Sailors’ meeting, a newbie whined that, well, it was a ceramic tile. Obviously the plebes haven’t gotten the message yet that crappy prizes don’t include iPods, Nikons, Wiis or all-expense paid trips to Disney World. An official reminder about this will be issued soon from the Department of the Obvious, which has been out of commission ever since the world discovered Sarah Palin. (I don’t get the link, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere.)

Speaking of Sailors, this week’s meeting was devoted, one way or the other, to team-building, under the guise of drills. Not that they weren’t drills, with all the inherent value therein. I had people running faux rounds and the like, but with our leaky ship these days of non-debating novices, we haven’t had the opportunity to bond at any debate tournaments, which would be the normal way of doing things. So other measures take on added weight. Then again, as the Panivore reassuringly pointed out, when she got started, she didn’t debate much in the beginning either, which in PanivoreSpeak translates, as we quickly learned, into, she didn’t go to one tournament but she did go to all the others. Twice. This was, as I said, meant to reassure people. I know my mind was set at ease on hearing it.

Last night we recorded the latest TVFT, wrapping up our reminiscence of the decade past. Mostly Bietz and O’C talked about Great Debaters in History, which allowed me some serious nap time, but I guess some people like this sort of thing, so have at it. You might want to use it to play Debatie Bingo: you get a point every time they mention a name of someone you actually have heard of. Two points if you know the person. Three points if you ever debated them. That should make the time pass more quickly for you.

This weekend O’C and I will be together again in a tabroom for the first time since Ridge (I was dumped from the Regis CFL due to snow, leaving the honor to himself, as you may recall.) We have our work cut out for us. The Lex RR is coming up, and we need a good batch of Bean Trivia questions. One of my new categories is Fill in the Beatle Blank. Among the Sailors, including the lifeline, only dedicated fan Termite could finish this one: “You’ll have to have them all pulled out after ___.” Either you know it or you don’t. Anyhow, more to come. Which makes me wonder when O’C will post the attendees of said RR. He might be waiting till after the event. Much easier to get it right that way.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Blogging vs blogging theory

I’ve said this before but I’m going to say it again. In the unlikely event that I am judging a round that you are in, please try to actually debate at least as much as you talk about debating. The last I heard, this activity was called “Lincoln-Douglas Debate,” not “Lincoln-Douglas Describe What You Have to Do and Then What Your Opponent Has to Do, And if There’s Any Time Left Over, Do It.”


Debate theory, whatever that is (it’s handed down by tribal lore for the most part, making it difficult to understand if you happen to either not be a member of the tribe or didn’t happen to be sitting with your little drum by the campfire that night), has a nasty habit of pushing debating off the page entirely. A debater thinks, before writing a case: this is what I have to do to win. After thinking about this, the debater mentally adds: this is what my opponent has to do to win. In other words, consciously or unconsciously, our debater has laid out the theory of the round at hand. But here comes the problem. Rather than doing what it is that the debater thinks needs to be done, instead the debater writes up what would need to be done if a debate were to ensue along the links of the thinking so far. The debater writes up what the debater’s side has to do, and what the opponent’s side has to do, and six minutes of content later, the case is written. There’s only one thing wrong with this scenario: the debater never actually does the doing of it. He or she merely talks about doing it.

Jeesh again.

The delineation of burdens for the sides is hardly a new business, but somewhere over the last couple of years it has gone from a clear-cut, well-defined statement of a sentence or two into the entire body of the case. In defending or attacking economic sanctions, sides might elect not to discuss the harms and benefits of economic sanctions, preferring instead to spend their entire constructive time discussing how, if there were any harms or benefits of economic sanctions, their side would, by default, have to win. Huh? At the point where no argument is made that strongly proves that there are, indeed, the harms or benefits, all the talking about who wins or loses predicated on the existence of harms and benefits disappears. You’re not debating sanctions anymore. Frankly, I don’t know what you’re debating. So the question becomes, how can you win a debate on economic sanctions if you never actually spend any time arguing for or against economic sanctions? In a word, you really can’t. You end up relying on the exegesis of the structure of a hypothetical case about sanctions to convince a judge to vote for you, spending all your time on discussing that hypothetical case rather than presenting a real case. All the judge can do is marvel at your understanding of what the debate would have been, if you had ever done it. But you didn’t. At which point, no matter how you slice it, the judge flips a mental coin, if he or she is even marginally buying what you’re selling, or votes for the opposite side, if that side did, by some quirk of forensic recidivism, actually present a strong position for or against sanctions.

Try this: My burden in writing this blog entry is to convince you that something bad is happening, explain as best I can why and how it’s happening, and show why it’s results are bad. My burden is to provide a clear analysis of the thing as best I can, with examples, and demonstrate the impacts of that thing. Okay, those two sentences are, in essence, the theory of this entry. I could go on at much greater length discussing how I have to convince you, how examples work, how impacts work, etc., but I’ve taken a more classic approach. Look at the entry from the beginning. I started with, I hope, an eye-catching opening. Then I go into an explanation of exactly what I’m talking about, capping it with a prediction of what will happen vis-à-vis the judging when it does occur. A classic essay, if I do say so myself, as compared to this paragraph, with is the discussion of an essay. This paragraph has no content relative to debate: all its content is relative to essay-writing, and to the success or failure of my essay writing away from the body of the essay itself. This is the same as theory, which has no content relative to the resolution: it’s all about debating, not economic sanctions. And here’s the crux of it: My ability to convince you that I am right or wrong is not affected one way or another by this paragraph, because it contains no real arguments.

Theory has its place, of course. But its place is not front and center, every round. Have all LD judges lost the ability to follow a discussion of content in favor of a discussion of discussion? Maybe the thing is that theory arguments, removed from the need to pay attention to contentions, make the judge’s job a lot easier. Who would win if there were a debate is a lot easier to adjudicate than a lot of facts and arguments juxtaposed against one another. Maybe theory isn’t some grand development of LD after all. Maybe it’s just lazy debating and lazy judging.

That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It’s not easy defending or attacking economic sanctions, and the topic was no doubt selected because of its richness. Defending or attacking how one’s opponent looks at a debate round, on the other hand, is virtually rote and almost inevitably topic-agnostic.

Give me the old-fashioned resolution any day of the week.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Post #1300 (despite having run out of things to say back at post #17)

We’ll be doing MJP at both Bigle X and the Gem of Harlem. I find it hard to believe that not long ago I was thoroughly in the anti-MJP camp. So what happened?

I think the process was evolutionary. My initial feeling was that debaters choosing their judges would lead to a balkanization of the activity, where debaters engaging in questionable practices would select judges who approved of those practices, thus effectively making those questionable practices the winning practices. Since MJP was mostly at the $ircuit level, including TOC, this would mean that those questionable practices would not only win their rounds, but would be seen as paradigmatic for other debaters wishing to win rounds at national events. MJP was the perceived mechanism for ruining LD.

There is a modicum of truth in this, but underlying the existence of hip college judges who like arcane practices and who cast a strong influence on the activity is the fact that after a couple of years there’s a whole new tribe of hip college judges who like different arcane practices, and what we thought would be the establishment of certain bad practices is replaced by a never-ending flow of different bad practices because, well, hip is one of those things that changes with the wind. Today’s hip is tomorrow’s You’ve Got to be Kidding. The kids in high school today have annual events where they dress in funny clothes that were worn by their predecessors four years ago who are now in college. Welcome to Nostalgia Night. Nothing gets dull so quickly as the cutting edge…

In other words, the influence of college judges is something of a constant, albeit a constant that is always changing. The idea that MJP would intensify the effect of dubious college judges/coaches in the activity proved not to be true because those effects were constantly in motion, and one of the strongest arguments against MJP then fell.

Meanwhile, in our tab rooms we were certainly ranking the judges based on our own knowledge of them, and assigning the experienced judges to the bubble rounds and the less experienced judges to the less meaningful rounds (competitively). An A judge goes to the down-2 while any judge can adjudicate a 4-0 or an 0-4, insofar as no decision will affect the chances of any debater in those rounds advancing. So at least to some extent, we were enforcing our own concept of “good” judge onto things, although honestly, we didn’t split the hairs too finely. We didn’t say, so-and-so was good because we knew how so-and-so judged, we simply went by, this person has been around a while, or this person writes detailed ballots with clear RFDs, or this person was an active debater not long ago, and that was enough. We were hardly “placing” judges. But, still, we were obviously basing our assignments on their having some sense of knowledge of the activity versus their just falling off the cabbage truck.

The idea of community rankings, of which I was a strong proponent, where the people attending the tournament decided the rankings rather than the tab room, replaced the above, but, to be honest, usually with the same results. Very seldom have community rankings been much different from our own perceptions, but there was now the buy-in from the community that they were involved in the decision-making process. And so they were.

At this point Bietz commented that, while in a known community, community rankings made sense, if you were an outsider to that community, you were a bit at a loss. This does, of course, include that paradigms are available to all, but most paradigms are pretty useless, especially compared to firsthand experience of the judge in question. My counter was that, if you were an outsider to the $ircuit, you were in the same situation with MJP. But the difference is, at least in MJP you can find some kindred spirits, and everybody, however new to the $ircuit, probably knows some other people they can ask for ranking help, whereas this might not be as true with a regional community.

On top of this, since MJP forces you to rank a large percentage of judges highly (the default is A+), you are, in effect, opening yourself to a fairly wide range of the judge pool. MJP, rather than limiting who judges you to a select few, probably throws you to the wolves of about half the pool, which is more than we’d usually rate as As in the tabroom if we were on our own. Compared to the strikes-and-dice approach, where any judge can judge you at any time except for a handful you know hate your very existence, MJP is, in fact, pretty close to that same picture. Plus, the people who pay the money to attend the tournament get to control, to some extent, the judging their money is buying, which is a crass but not inappropriate way of looking at it. The worst-case scenario, getting a judge you think sucks big time, means that your opponent is also getting a judge they think sucks big time: that is, you are both, with foresight, facing the same crappy judge. (Hint: slow down and toss all that theory malarkey.)

So, I seem to have drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid on this. Given that no system is perfect for the activity, and no system is perfectly fair, at least this one is equally unfair. And the activity itself will not, I think, suffer as a result.

Welcome to 2010. The next thing you know, I’ll be writing T-shells and selling them on eBay.

Monday, January 04, 2010

THX2010 is here. Grab a shovel and start climbing!

All right. Back to business. And stop whining about having to go back to school. There’s a lot worse things in life. Think of this as a golden opportunity to learn everything there is to know, including what that special someone says about you when you’re not around to hear it. We here at CL don’t make annual resolutions (or, for that matter, honor very many other dumb holidays/traditions—in other words, don’t wait up nights longing for a Valentine card, a corsage for Great-grandfather Day, or a trip to the office on Take your Annoying Kid to Work Day), but if we did, we would resolve never to say anything behind one’s back that we wouldn’t say in front of their back, unless we never talk to them in the first place. Which is why we don’t make resolutions, because right away we’d be in the hole, and who needs that so early in January?

We’re now well into the season where tournament planning includes worrying about being snowed out. And forecasts aren’t particularly reliable until maybe a couple of days before an event, so you usually don’t even have an inkling of what’s coming up on you until it actually does. But we just gird our loins and hope for the best. And thank our lucky stars that our own tournament is back in early November. Whew!

Coming up on the agenda are A. L. Johnson (a local event down in NJ), Bigle X and the Lex RR, and then the Gem of Harlem. Those last two are 4 and 3 days of the old coachean life respectively, so expect to hear a lot about them. ALJ, on the other hand, is a nice easing back into the business, with about 70 VLD and 60 NLD, with the odd Pffter thrown in to spice things up. They’re running a novice PF division, which I like, given that it’s quite a rarity, and it allows first-years to compete against other first-years straight up, as compared to the occasional round of JV PF (a NY thing) open to first- and second-years. I’m a firm believer that novices need novice events, which is why I’ve worked so hard to replace almost all the JV divisions around here with novice divisions. JVers need to learn to play like the big kids, but novices need to learn how not to pick their nose during cross-ex. Different business altogether.

Of course, we may not be going anywhere, thanks to my crack Hardware Engineer, who suspects that she might not have submitted the bus forms. If repercussions result, I will be punishing her by putting her on a diet of bread and water. No, wait a minute. That wouldn’t work. I’m putting her on a diet of fruits and vegetables. Let’s see how she likes that!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Savoring the last of the hiatus

In order to keep myself amused (no easy task), I post polls on the TVFT blog site. These are important pulse-readings of the debate community: I suggest that you take a look.

We just got back from visiting relatives in NH, and there's still a couple of days before life resumes as normal. (Bietz, on the other hand, is fighting through 9 levels of hell MJP at the VB tournament in Los Angeles.) I can't remember having this much free time that has been put to such good use. I've organized, set up, fixed, cleaned, learned, etc, all manner of things. I feel caught up, in other words. Given that the upcoming stretch of tournaments is pretty demanding, that's a good thing. My next weekend off is at the end of March. Not that I want to suggest that I'm wearing myself out or anything; I do this voluntarily, and I much prefer the busy, useful weekend to the empty, nappy weekend. But those latter do have their place, once in a while, and make the former that much more manageable.

So, today, I'll doodle a bit on the MHL blowout (O'C and I need to nail this), look over the cur and get ready for the next few weeks, play a round of golf on the Wii, and maybe watch a movie, among other things. Then there's tomorrow, and more of the same, and then...