Thursday, September 30, 2010

From the vault...

Sometimes an oldie but a goodie does the job. From 6/4/09:

We here at Coachean HQ have gotten an early copy of the Big Jake schedule for this year, and we’re happy to share it. Keep in mind that it is still tentative; don’t use it to organize your airplane ticket purchases.

1:00-3:00 Registration
3:30 Opening Assembly
3:45 Award Ceremony for Past Performance -- featuring awards not presented last year that have been moldering ever since in the basement
4:00 Round 1 (all divisions)
6:00 Random Draw Award Ceremony – Achievement awards for all those advancing from Round 1
6:30 Dinner in cafeteria (featuring foods of all nations not presently suffering from a famine)
7:00 Dinner Award Ceremony – Achievements in both eating and cooking will be honored
8:00 Round 2 (all divisions)
10:00 Housing in auditorium

7:30 Housing Award Ceremony (A) – Achievement in sleeping, showering and brushing of teeth (for those who traveled more than one hour to their housing)
8:00 Housing Award Ceremony (B) – Achievement in sleeping, showering and brushing of teeth (for those who traveled less than one hour to their housing)
8:30 Round 3 Flight A
9:15 Award Ceremony – Achievement in Round 3 Flight A
9:30 Round 3 Flight B
10:15 Award Ceremony – Achievement in Round 3 Flight B
10:30 Coffee break (featuring coffees of all nations that grow coffee humanely, if any)
11:00 Round 4
1:00 Lunch in cafeteria (featuring foods of all nations where the “Star Wars” films have grossed over a billion dollars)
1:30 Award Ceremony – Honoring those who put their napkins in their laps during the eating of lunch
2:00 Round 5
5:00 Non-Award Assembly – The auditorium is there, let’s all go into it for a few minutes and pretend something is happening. Anyone caught playing the piano at this assembly will be shot.
5:30 Early Bird Dinner in cafeteria (featuring foods of all nations that serve cheap evening meals to senior citizens when the rest of the world is still finishing off lunch)
6:00 Award Ceremony – Honoring those who respect Senior Citizens, unless the senior citizens are judging, in which case they throw parker house rolls at them
7:00 Bronx Achievement Award Ceremony – honoring those who have shown up at Big Jake more than just a couple of times, and whose registration checks haven’t bounced
8:00 Some Round (we’ve lost track)
10:00 Housing in the auditorium. Watch your step. There’s going to be a lot of awards scattered around and you don’t want to trip over any of them.

8:00 Round 7 or so
10:00 Award Ceremony to honor anyone who actually shows up at this award ceremony
10:30 Announcement of advancing debaters
10:45 Award Ceremony for advancing debaters
11:00 Announcement of non-advancing debaters
11:15 Award Ceremony for non-advancing debaters
11:30 Service Award Ceremony for custodial staff, food vendors, Big Jake Parents’ Association, Big Jake Alumni Association, Big Jake Former Felons Association, etc
12:00 Elimination Rounds begin. (Please note: in the interest of moving things along quickly, awards for the elimination rounds will be given in the rounds. It’s not that we don’t like awards ceremonies, but we do not wish to go overboard.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Some choice words from the mailbag

PJ writes in a comment: “I think if some schools elect to do MJP and others do not, that puts the non-prefers at a disadvantage.”

Not really. Or more specifically, not much, except in particular circumstances. But still, I’d recommend that if there’s MJP, schools should avail themselves of it.

As a rule, everyone ranks the field roughly the same. One person’s 1 is, more often than not, every other person’s 1 as well. Judges are perceived as good or bad by almost everyone identically. Which means that, for those teams who don’t rank and who thus get their opponents’ 1s, they’re getting someone they would probably consider a 1 themselves. It’s not as if people who ranked got all the good judges and people who didn’t rank got all the bad judges. The possible exception to this is when two teams that didn’t rank met, which would mean that for them every judge in the field was a 1. This could be potentially dangerous indeed, and reason enough to do rankings.

Not putting in strikes is certainly problematic in a different way. Not everybody strikes the same people, and in MJP, a strike is simply a ranking of 6 (or 9, if the tournament director chooses that option). We noticed that while most teams agree on 1s, there were a few teams that had struck the highest ranked 1s. As a matter of fact, I would say that in the blur of my memory, the highest ranked judges either got 1s or occasional 6s and not much else. I’m not quite sure why, but it may be the result of some bad past experiences teams have had with these folks on the circuit. In any case, if you are among those who would have struck the more likely 1, then you would be disadvantaged.

There are ways of attempting to work MJP to your advantage beyond just concentrating on ranking the judges you want as 1s and the judges you don’t want as 6s, but I don’t know how well they really work and, honestly, seeing how seldom we ever didn’t pair to 1-1s, they’re probably not worth the effort. As for the rest of the field, I would say rank them according to how well you know them (although one can always consult paradigms). It shouldn’t be hard to come up with a second tier of 2s, then spread the rest among the 3s, 4s and 5s knowing you’re unlikely to see any of them over the course of the weekend.

And B Taylor writes: “IMHO the optimal scenario is the run-off double-flighted with panels. Yes, I understand the time situation and the fatigue. But most of us have traveled and we are there, at the venue, for this purpose. We did not travel to see more of our hotel rooms, so another hour before a late New Haven dinner would have been fine with me.”

Well, this was the issue we confronted, and it is absolutely time and fatigue, with a different read at the end. Students had started debating at 8:00 in the morning. If we had run a double-flighted round as a simple round 7, it would have ended around 11:00 pm, and if we had had to find panels, it would have ended around 12:00. That just doesn’t seem right on face. Additionally, there were issues with the buses back to campus, not to mention that by the time folks would get back there, it would be either approaching or well after midnight, with that late New Haven dinner progressively less appetizing. (I won’t add that the hungry tab staff would have had another hour or so prepping the next round, which is true no matter when we end. As it was, JV and I did the pairing of doubles at around 1:00 at the motel, but I won’t factor in the stamina of the sterling tabfolk into the decision calculus.) We just figured enough is enough. And as I said, we ran it by both colleagues and tournament officials, and the agreement was solid. We’d be unlikely to make such a decision on our own.

I often used to speak out on the long tiresome hours run by some tournaments, where debaters and judges have gone way past a simple 360 swing on the clock dial. I’ve always felt that even if the debaters were up to it (which I doubted), the judges were way beyond it (which I didn’t doubt). Most tournaments don’t do this anymore, I’m happy to say. Poor old Pups has a history of rounds at one in the morning because of tab implosions; it’s probably in their best interest to steer as clear as possible from such wee hour rounds in the future. All I know is that we’re asking a lot of young people to work an awful lot of hours, and if this were a job, they’ve have us up on charges. I have a magic number in my head of no tournament ever going past 9:00 p.m. (if for no other reason than at my tournament, custodial fees swing into double time at the particular moment). That will usually cover enough debating and judging for most people.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Heart New Haven

Other things happened over the weekend Chez Pups.

First of all, it was like Okefenokee Swamp up there for most of the time. The usual nice autumn weather was replaced by a hot, sweltering fog that sucked the life out of you like something from a Stephen King novel. Some of the places one found oneself were all right, and some were pure hell, like, for instance, the cafeteria at the LD school on Saturday. Not much could be done about the weather, although we did talk about it a lot.

Didn’t see much of O’C over the weekend. He was apparently spreading Cruzian joy among all the fields, being that he had 50 or 60 kids in every event. Didn’t see much of CP either, for that matter, except at dinner. I guess he trusted us to do things right without him breathing down our necks the whole weekend. In aid of that we spent a lot of time scanning in the ballots for electronic posting. And I mean a lot of time, not that it mattered much, because the printer does most of the heavy lifting after all, but every time I turned around I was stuffing another batch of ballots into it. There was one kerfluffle over the Round 4 JV ballots. I scanned them in and posted them, and CP said they didn’t have them. Whatever. I scanned them in again and posted them again, and CP said they still didn’t have them. By now, I started to think that this was all part of some evil plan of his, but when we went back to scan them for a third time, they were gone. Piles of ballots taller than Burj Khalifa towered over the tab room, but JV Round 4 was not among them. No amount of scouring the territory turned them up. It wasn’t until I was alone during varsity finals on Sunday, packing up all the gear and lugging it to the car that, lo and behold, a pile of paper appeared in my briefcase that could only be them. Sure enough: JV Round 4. I immediately grabbed them, stormed over to the award ceremony, found CP, handed him the ballots and told him what he could do with them. Feh! CP is coming down next weekend for the MHL workshop, after which we plan on playing golf. Let’s see if I help him find any lost balls. Let’s see if he blames me when he loses them. Double feh!

The most serious issue of the event, which I mentioned yesterday, was deep-sixing the 7th VLD round. As I said, there was certainly a timing issue. We were running later than we expected, although at any one point there was no particular delay. It just takes longer to do MJP. In any case, prior to publishing the tournament info, we had had some discussions on the number of rounds. It all focuses on breaking all the down-2s. Expensive major tournaments really can’t afford to leave them dangling because of a single speaker point somewhere. A run-off solves the problem, and in fact, 7 rounds might not solve it: a couple of 5-2s, if the math proves out, still might not break. Nevertheless, making a big change like this mid-tournament is not done lightly. Once JV and I agreed that it made sense, we first ran it by a couple of coaches, just to see what the consensus was. Then we ran it by the YDA, from the folks with us all the way up to Mark, and we also ran it by CP. In other words, it was not a decision made lightly. For a moment we had stupidly thought we could panel the round, but that would have required a double flight, bringing us back to the getting-out-at-eleven, fifteen-hour-day problem. And when you think about it, anyone who was down two after six rounds, if we had had the seventh round, would have had to have won it, in front of one judge, i.e., the same sudden-death situation. So it was not terrifically unfair, unless you were at the top of the run-off bracket and lost to the person at the bottom of the run-off bracket, but in that case, it was sort of your own fault. I would imagine we’ll stick to this format in the future.

Other than that, it was all the usual stuff. And here’s a hint: if a round is over and the next round hasn’t been posted yet, and you see that suddenly the two hundred and fifty people all around you are jumping up and running somewhere, chances are that the next round has been posted. If you are going to come to tab half an hour later and say that you didn’t know the round was out, implying that it is our fault for not providing you an engraved invitation, the least you can do is come up with a good excuse like, for instance, nobody distributed schematics in the judge lounge. If you were in the cafeteria, as I say with two hundred and fifty of your nearest and dearest friends, and they all got the message and you didn’t, do you think that you might need to turn the dial up on your consciousness just a tad? It is ever thus, with both debaters and judges. Normally I wouldn’t say this, but sometimes it pays to follow the herd. Trust me on this.

And, oh yeah, if you’re thinking of going to Yale some day, keep in mind that Pups don’t use the same alphabet as we do. Or at least, not in the same order. This will become important when it’s time to do something like, oh, laying out the ballots for the judges to pick up.

And if you’re running a tournament with elimination rounds, forget about using TRPC to select judges for a time slot. It just doesn’t work. Make everyone available for every slot, print up a list and then mark it with who’s really available, and go by that. Again, trust me. You’ll save an oodle or two of time if you do. Time you can use to play quizzes on At some point a Pup came by wide-eyed, startled that, as he put it, adults played on sporcle. The three of us in the tab room looked at each other and said that, as far as we knew, adults didn’t, and then we went back to our game.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mutual Judge Puppies

So here’s the deal. On the last TVFT we talked about MJP and raised a few questions. Here’s a few answers.

We agreed that we would simply go with best possible judges, rather than some hoo-ha about using less preferred judges in the randoms, which had been the intention (although apparently not the reality) of Greenhill. We would stick to even rankings at a lower level rather than using a 1-2. We would start assignments with the brackets on the brink with all 1-1s and then let the devil take the hindmost. Given the depth of the pool (I think the Pups did a fantastic job of providing hires, and I had a funny conversation with Marc Wallach, chief Pup of the event, who just didn’t seem to believe that this was the case—what was he going to do, bring John Marshall, John Jay, Thurgood Marshall, etc., back from the dead to make it even better?), we had the resources at hand to do what we needed to do.

So what happened?

First of all, because there are a few schools that don’t do preferences, for whatever reason, and because the field was big enough that one debater’s preference is another debater’s judge from hell, I noticed that a lot of judges who TRPC showed as the least preferred got bunches of rounds. Granted, their 1-1 status was illusory, but at least it solved the PJ Conundrum and gave rounds to those judges. Of course, they got fewer rounds than the highly preferreds, but they didn’t sit on their hands all weekend, and that’s good enough. By the same token, we did our best to give the highly preferreds all at least one round off, and we mostly did, unless they were hired by the tournament, which meant that we tried to give them a round off, but when push came to shove, they were the shovees. [Note to Microsoft: when I type shovees, I mean shovees. Curse you, autocorrect!] When it came to a situation of giving debaters 2-5 prefs or waking up a half-dead judge, the latter was the choice we were forced to make.

Secondly, in the entire set of prelims, as far as I can remember we had exactly one 3-3 pairing for a round out of contention, and no 2-2s at all. We learned early on that TRPC mostly gave us 1-1s but occasionally gave us 1-2s, and that you could wrestle your way out of some of the 1-2s but not all of them. The alternative to these slight imbalances, i.e., mutuality, always kicked in at 4-4 or 5-5. JV and I couldn’t imagine anyone preferring a 4-4 pairing to a 1-2 pairing, so after doing our best, we always had to leave a few 1-2s in the round. I would say, of the 80 or so pairings, 3 or 4 per round were 1-2s (or as TRPC generously puts it, A+ A). So, when you’re ranking next time, think of 1 and 2 as A+ and A and we’ll all be on the same page.

In other words, throughout prelims, you probably got the judge you wanted. I know that some coaches still think that MJP is the end of LD life as we know it, but I did notice that some of these coaches’s teams nevertheless do in fact do prefs. My feeling is that if you are against MJP, then going in and doing prefs is a bit of, shall we say, cognitive dissonance. (And, of course, as I’ve discussed here and on TVFT ad nauseum, the judges 90% of the time are exactly the same in my tab rooms without MJP because I always try to put experienced judges in the most meaningful rounds at invitationals. Short of totally random assignments, as at MHLs, it’s never going to be all that different, so at worst MJP is merely the beginning of the end of LD life as we know it.)

Things got a little dicier in the break rounds. First of all, we tried to release as many folks as we could: prelims ended Saturday night, and who wants to get up early to judge Sunday when their teams are out? Granted, everyone was obligated, but JV and I, in an uncharacteristic demonstration of bonhomie, decided to let some folks off the hook. Still, we had plenty of pickin’s for the doubles double-flighted round, very 1-1-ish throughout. As the day developed, however, and the pool thinned out, we had to settle for 1-2 2-1 1-1 type panels, with the numbers totally up equally for both sides. A 3-3 or two snuck in. Even a 5-5 at one point (and only one point); this was a curious ranking, as it turned out, for both debaters—the 5-5 was the squirrel.

Overall, I would say that everyone got judges they preferred, over and over again. On the technical side, it was not easy, although we get better as the tournament progressed. The thing was not so much that the software was not amenable to our optimizations, manual or automatic, insofar as the assignments were concerned, but that the number of single flights and splitting of rooms leads to a lot of tab busy work. At least we figured out early on not to assign rooms until after all the judges were optimized. But still, tabbing was much more time-consuming than when we don’t have MJP. Between the extra time to pair, and a couple of judges who were in a different time-space continuum than the rest of the tournament (all it takes is one judge with a blank ballot to stop a tournament dead in its tracks), we probably slipped an hour off the schedule we wanted to run by the time the sun set. In the end we decided to forego the seventh round in favor of a run-off for all 2-2s. Since the whole point of the seventh round was the breaking of all 2-2s, the original goal was still achieved, if not exactly in the same way. I gather that the spirit of the tournament was very much in favor of foregoing that seventh round: the cafeteria looked hell on a bad day, and felt worse temperature-wise, and we were asking, even if we were exactly on schedule, that the debaters put in a 14-hour workday.

I think next time out with MJP—the Bronx, in my case—I’ll be as fast as is humanly possible now that we’ve worked out the kinks, but that’s not as fast as not doing MJP. We might have to ask O’C to eliminate four or five of his award ceremonies to squeeze in the tournament, however, which never sits well with him. I hear that he might just hold one random prelim and then immediately break to sexydeadchemicaldecimals. Works for me!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yin and yang visit Sailorland

We don’t seem to be able to get rid of the Speechonauts. Although most of them remain stolidly unsigned up, they persist in showing up at meetings. I would like to take anyone who believes that “kids nowadays are all about computers” and take them by the hand and introduce them to some kids nowadays. The youth of America, as I have maintained often, are no more adept at computers than the fogies of America. Computism is not a skill inborn since 1995 or so. On the other hand, they can text in their sleep, but part of being able to text is having someone to text to, and there are a lot of teenagers out there sleeping with their cell phones, just waiting for someone to send them a text message. Adults, on the other hand, just sit around cradling shotguns in their crooked arms, rocking on their porches and waiting for kids nowadays to appear on their lawns. Thus the difference between myth and reality.

What I do detect, however, is that we have reached the full swing of the nautical pendulum from debate back to speech. Historically the ship of Hud has had either a dynamic speech team or a dynamic debate team, but seldom both simultaneously. I maintain this has something to do with the particular brand of nuclear fuel they’re burning at nearby Indian Point during the moment of conception. At the moment, the Speechonauts are a young team, and there’s some real talent there. They’ll be fun to watch over the coming years. Too bad I won’t be staying with them, although I’m toying with some ways of keeping my hand in a little bit. We’re hoping for a new coach for them by mid-October. We’re starting the interviews this weekend.

I have a vision of a one-person debate team next year. That doesn’t seem right.

After last night’s meeting I managed to get the latest Nostrum recorded, and, of course, I monitored the Pups for a while, but all there seems to be going as smooth as the proverbial goat. I’ve recharged my little MiFi for the journey, I’ve recharged my Starbucks card, I’ve recharged the iPad, I’ve tested the printer, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, I’ve seen the elephant, I’ve said yes to the panda, I’ve caught up on OKGO videos, I’ve packed my galoshes—in short, I am ready for the weekend in New Haven.

Do I sound eager for the season to begin?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Permission to come aboard, sir!

So maybe we have a couple of new Sailors. It’s hard to say. Two impressive recruits showed up last night, but one of them was ambivalent, having some sort of other stuff comprising the semblance of a life, and the other one for all his natural desire to argue about everything hasn’t yet taken the magic step of sending me the starter email. I promised them the stars and the moon, audiences with the great crowned heads of Europe, free bus rides to Lexington and Monticello and Newark, but nothing seemed to work. It will be interesting to find out how many Speechonauts return tonight. Sanguine I’m not, as they say (whoever they are).

All is quiet on the Puppian front. Presumably MJP is going well; no one has complained that the rankings aren’t working. CP has suggested that we use Google Voice for collecting data from the judges, which we may do, but now it looks as if we’re going to be based in one building for all of Saturday and one other building for all of Sunday, so by the time we get people trained Friday night to text us results, we won’t need them to do it anymore. It’s nice not to have everyone scattered to the winds over a broad campus. One is so much more likely to get the results back in a timely manner. But certainly with the Tiggers, where far-flinging was the rule, having the Voice account was dramatically useful, and timeliness held. You’ve got to love all these modern conveniences.

The People’s Champion wants to tab a tournament. I can’t imagine why, but I’m happy to bring him in when an opportunity arises, maybe at an MHL, especially if we don’t have any novices for him to cover as a judge. Lord knows that at the MHLs we are often a hand or two short in the back room. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had to run out into the street and haul a homeless person into the building to help us out. A cup of coffee and a baloney with Velveeta sandwich and you’ve got a friend for life.

Jules and the Nostrumite have sent me the next episode of Nostrum. Recording it tomorrow will be tough, so I’ll have to try to get to it tonight after the Speechonaut session. Forgive me if my voice is a little scratchy after trying to convince the folks at the meeting that life isn’t half as miserable as they think it is. Unless, in fact, it is. We’ll just have to see who wins the convincing contest.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just call me Mary Sunshine

We TVFTed last night, talking about MJP in general, and specifically how we’d do it at Yale. Check it out, if you’re interested. JV joined us for the first time, using his iPhone. So, so moderne.

Speaking of which, the rankings at the Pups go live tonight at 7:00. No judges are double-entered. All the hireds are in a row. I’ve asked a couple of people to post philosophy wikis. I’ve marked up any conflicts I know about. There isn’t much left to do until we arrive there on Friday. I’ll be picking up the Sailors bright and early, so I’ll be there for all of registration, plenty of time to upload, prune and generally be prepared. And thus will the competitive season begin, at least for me. Lovely.

Tonight we try again to have a debate team at El Huddo. I’m trusting that new recruits have been found under the various nautical rocks in the place, otherwise the ship of Hud will officially be renamed the Flying Dutchman. (Cue the Wagner!) Maybe it’s me. Maybe the students at the school take umbrage at the cut of my jib. Confound it, I’ve tried cutting my jib other ways, but this is the only one that works. Maybe they don’t like my jokes. Actually, maybe they realize that I never joke. As members of the VCA know, nothing on this page is ever intended as humor. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I yam what I yam. Or maybe it’s just debate in general. Maybe the freshmen heard the latest Harvard-Westlake disad and didn’t want any part of it. Maybe the Hud freshmen simply don’t believe that nuclear weapons exist, although, remarkably, two thirds of them believe that we are visited regularly by extraterrestrials in interstellar vehicles because aliens wish they had Justin Bieber just like humans. I don’t know. I don’t try to analyze it. I just hope tonight is different. We’ll see. For that matter, although as I mentioned last week we reckoned Speecho-Americans by the dozens, only one of them has actually officially joined the team. My fallback position is always, well, maybe O’C will hire me as an assistant coach in charge of morale. I’d hate to give up now once I’ve finally become a member of the National Debate Coaches Association.

Meanwhile, as I read pieces from the Speechonauts, I wonder if I am dysfunctional enough to work with these people. These folks eat despair for breakfast. I gather they think that the more gloom they can instill in their judges, the higher their ranks. Even their HIs make you want to slash your wrists. I’m talking to some potential coaches over the next couple of weekends. Anyone with rose-colored glasses need not apply.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One begins to hear the Pups howling at the moon

Normally, I wouldn’t mind if things weren’t all peaches and cream over at But CP has upgraded it, and now every time anybody gets an error, he gets a message directly explaining the error. That is good. But because at some point over the summer he made me a junior executive on the site, I also get the messages. That is not good. My inbox these days is an endless combination of another-one-bites-the-dust error messages from tabroom, notes from O’C promising to do something real soon now, people wondering why I screwed up their Yale entry, spam that encourages me to spend only a little to gain a lot in more ways than one, and deals on all sorts of crap from Amazon. Mostly, I just read the latter two and let the rest take care of themselves.

Seriously, this is the moment when things start heating up for a tournament. Yale is pretty big, so things get pretty hot. There’s a lot of judges to sort out, and I spent some time over the weekend marking blocks and the like, plus trying to get some good judges into the JV pool where they’d get a real workout, and out of the VLD pool where they’d get low ranks and spend the weekend wishing that the Pups had a better way of heating up the lunch burritos. Everybody likes a round off; nobody likes all their rounds off. In a situation other than MJP I could manipulate people into rounds at my own discretion, but it’s really out of my hands with this system. My job is to deliver what people expect, not to keep people from getting bored and storming the barricades. I did manage a couple of nutty things in my sorting, including taking one competitor and making him a judge, but look on the bright side: he could rank himself a 1 and judge himself in a bubble round. The problem is, I think he’s a sincere, honest guy, which means he’d probably have to drop himself, and that just would not be a pretty sight. Other than that, I think I didn’t make a mess of things. I’ll know better next Monday.

Meanwhile, RJT is learning the ropes up at Monticello, and couldn’t figure out why judges were being ranked as useless. It’s not as if they weren’t useless, for the most part, but this seemed a bit cheeky of the software, to put it mildly. So I turned off the request for judge rankings for her and everything came out fine thenceforth. I love solving problems rather than creating problems, but on balance, both are pretty entertaining, provided nothing serious gets screwed up. Rule Number One: Don’t talk about Tabbing. No, wait a minute, that’s not Rule Number One. Rule Number One is Smile and the World Smiles With You. Seriously. Be a pain in the butt, and you’ll be fighting with everyone forever. Try to be nice, and you’ll only have to fight with them until the end of time. It’s an improvement, let me tell you.

I managed to get everything ready for the season bags-o’-crap-wise. Sorted out pens, tape, cords, plugs, lists, paper, forms, checks, etc. Took longer than I thought and even required a quick trip to Staples. But I’m ready now. All I have to do is throw it all into the trunk (from which I removed the golf clubs) and point myself toward New Haven. Since I just agreed to tab NDCA, I guess it will have to keep me going through April. All that’s missing is a hardware engineer. My present and (she hopes and prays) soon to be emeritus H.E. has acquitted herself quite well. I mean, her hardware engineering wasn’t anything special, but she took the prize for the most complaining about it, thus entering the Hen Hud Hardware Hall of Fame. (Too bad there's no way to spell fame with an H.) Maybe if she ate more vegetables it wouldn’t have weighed so heavily on her…

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Wednesday sort of Friday; these consarned kids nowadays; antici             pation

If this is Friday it must be Wednesday. Or, in other words, Nostrum is back. Granted I didn’t get to it in a timely manner, if a timely manner means a Wednesday publication, but anyone who has ever dealt with Jules and the Nostrumite knows that they are not exactly Old Reliable in a Can themselves, so having an episode arrive at my door in the first place is miracle enough, much less getting it recorded. Jules tells me he’ll try to be regular, and for what it’s worth I now pass that along to you. With my own schedule, I’m guessing that as a rule all Wednesdays will be Fridays in the future. So it goes. Gives you something to listen to on your way to tournaments.

The trickle in of emails from the Speechnonauts of tomorrow has begun, once again leading me to wonder why teenagers don’t have access to computers anymore. When I was a kid—oh, wait. When I was a kid we had Univac, and nobody had access to it. But nowadays I hear tell they got these thingummies they call personal computers, but apparently they’ve been banned in Sailorville. Or maybe my eyes deceived me at the inaugural meeting. Damned kids. Can’t get them to email you, can’t get them off your lawn…

I am starting to get excited about the Pups. It’s been so long since I’ve tabbed a tournament that my fingers are getting itchy. All that nifty MJP stuff, the chapel room that has no grounded three-prong sockets, getting to tell people who changed their judges after the deadline that they don’t get any strikes, praying that the bathrooms in the high school continue working for the entire day,, the rush of debaters when you post anything on the wall, even if it’s a notice not to rush you when you post things on the wall… Ah, smell of it is already in my nostrils. Especially those bathrooms.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

DiDeAd conclusion

The last day of the trip was at Epcot. We slept in this morning, agreeing to commence our adventure at 11:00 at the bus stop. It was nice to arise in a leisurely fashion for once, and to enjoy a leisurely Mickey breakfast waffle (although my recommendation for Mickey-shaped food is the ice cream sandwich from the loose vendors in the park, which are everywhere, or the tripe-on-a-bun treats, which are nowhere).

Day two of Epcot began with Spaceship Earth, which we all agreed was not its finest hour. They’ve dumbed down the narration, and eliminated the great ending. It’s not terrible, just not as good as it was. Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him? On the other hand, although we had seen Soarin’ yesterday, we popped on it again today, which made up for our reaction to Spaceship. On the last trip, the smell-o-vision seemed to be on full blast. Maybe they had cleaned out the blasters overnight or something. Whatever the reason, it was the best flight of all. Most of the day, though, was on World Showcase. A slow but excellent Japanese lunch, the various countries (despite O’C’s pooh-poohing of Norway), dropping in on shows and whatnot, shopping, movies (yes, Canada is great, and all the people who are any good in the USA are, in fact, born in Canada—we get the point, you damned furriners!), etc. I was amazed when I looked back and saw that among our travels we managed not to see the China movie, one of my favorites. It’s as it was with the other parks. We never felt rushed, never waited around much, enjoyed everything we saw, but didn’t see everything. I consider this a good thing. WDW is not a scavenger hunt where all the pieces have to be collected to win. It’s a great place to be and see and have fun, and that’s what we did.

It all culminated in Illuminations, the extravaganza over the lagoon, and it was a great way to end the trip, although to be honest, Fantasmic or Wishes would also have been great ways to end the trip. Go out with a bang, in other words. And that’s exactly what we did.

The next day we returned home. The immediate family hit Downtown Disney for a last bout of shopping (the final pins, the odd shirt), then off on the bus to the airport. And so we bade a fond farewell…

Overall take on it? It was a nutty thing to suggest in the first place, but I’m damned glad I did. It was fun, and we all enjoyed it, and mixing and matching friends and family was fine. There may be no other place on the planet where you can do this and have it work. It was fun to tweet the whole thing back, mostly to the Bronx team which hangs on O’C’s every utterance, although eventually my fingers got tired of reporting how much he was screaming in terror on Dumbo or whatever (or maybe it was vice versa) so he won the battle for the twittering hearts and minds. It did require a bit of planning and the help of a good travel agent, but it was not onerous for a WDW veteran commando, armed with experience and Unofficial Guide, to make it work. We had a good balance of parks and relaxation, big and small meals, and run to the next attraction vs amble for a while and meet up somewhere eventually. Having relatively empty parks and decent weather didn’t hurt either. In other words, you shoulda been there too. Really. You would have loved it.

The Plebes arrive at the academy

Recruiting paid off well in our initial turnout last night, although the sense is that most if not all of them came for speech. Whatever. Need I remind the VCA that I believe that all forensic activities are valuable, albeit in different ways? Of course, maybe there were some debaters hidden among the Speecho-Americans. One never knows. I’ve asked the People’s Champion and the Panivore to continue their work, with next week’s debate meeting yet another opportunity for new folks to drop in (as are all meetings, but after the beginning of the year, hardly anyone ever does). I would like to see at least a core of debaters from the class of ’14. Class of ’14? What a concept!

The way I do things, and have for quite a while, is to ask new people to email me so that I can put them onto the listserver. Once upon a time I used to suggest they get on the listserver on their lonesomes, but that proved way too difficult for some reason, sort of like suggesting to my mother that it would be nice if she had an answering machine on her telephone. Don’t even think about her using a cell phone! There’s a blank-brain barrier that suddenly rises out of nowhere that prevents a person from doing a perfectly simple action that requires no brainwork. Go figure. Signing up for our listservers raises such a barrier. So, I sign them up myself. As a rule, the excited new recruits immediately run home from the inaugural meeting, and, as one, do not email me. Which means that I have no idea how many people will survive to week two, but the usual attrition rate is about 50%. The second big attrition moment, at least in debate, is the jump from sophomore to junior. We lose another 50% then, usually because at that level one needs to really amp up one’s LDishness, or resign oneself to a lesser sense of participation. In the light of junior year, a tough one if not the toughest one, with its extra pressure of college breathing down the Sailor neck, I understand the issue. But it means that we need to start with the greatest number possible in order to end with a good number. So the burden remains on the heads of my crack team crackheads crack heads of my team to get out there and recruit like there’s no tomorrow!

On the TVFT front, there is internal discussion over the northeasterly aspect of it. Aside from Bietz, in other words, all of us know that the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. I don’t see this as a great limitation in our work, given that all of us send kids to tournaments across the country, but maybe I’m wrong. In any case, we actively promote the recruitment of other folks to join us. If you’re interested, let us know, especially if you think the Bronx is down and the Battery’s up. We have invited this sort of foreigner in the past, to great advantage to the podcast. We’ll try to keep doing it this year.

This weekend is the last before season ’10-’11 kicks in. I intend to make the most of it. If I were you, and in the same situation, I would do likewise.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DiDeDd Part 5

There are those who consider Animal Kingdom a half-day park. In our early planning, I had to convince O’C that he should even go at all. I realize that Disney likes to say that it is not a zoo, but realistically, AK is almost exactly a zoo that’s been disneyfied. This turns out to be a good thing.

There are attractions at the park, and one kicks off the day with Dinosaur (the same ride system as Disneyland’s Indiana Jones attraction), a silly little wild-mouse coaster, and the great Expedition Everest. By this time our little adventurers were ready for any roller coaster we threw at them, and we told them Everest was the best themed of all, and it didn’t go upside down, and it was very smooth and they’d love it. We did neglect to mention that it runs out of track and starts careering backwards, but one hates to give away too many spoilers… This coaster is the most narrative of the bunch, unquestionably, as one is progressively more menaced by the Yeti during the trip. It’s one more pinnacle of Imagineering if you ask me.

After that, it is indeed animals. There’s walk-throughs and ride-throughs and sit-throughs, birds and bats and mammals and reptiles, pachyderms and ungulates, lions and tigers, hidden Mickeys (although, after some discussion, we agreed that the naughty bits on the bat were indeed not a hidden M). This was why I brought along my long lens for the SLR, and I did get a few good pictures. They’ve designed the place so that you can really get up close without bothering the animals. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

There’s also entertainments, live-action versions of Lion King and Nemo and a 3-D Bug's Life movie. One did sneak in an extra trip or two to Everest in there along the way (gotta love them Fastpasses). That evening there were extra hours, but we were done about park closing, and we headed over to the Animal Kingdom Resort for dinner, for the African buffet at Boma, which was quite the crowd pleaser. Of course, we started with these wonderfully sweet cocktails in the lounge first, so they could have fed us sawdust and gotten away with it, but the food is quite good and unusual. And because it was Liz’s and my anniversary, which I had made known all those months ago when I made the reservation, they gave us a special desert from the other restaurant in the hotel, the fancier one across the way. Keep that in mind. If you have a celebration of some sort, let them know. It will pay off.

And then, back to our hotel, via Downtown Disney, which meant we took a nice little boat ride back. Very nice. This was the day Kaz had gone back home, but she got a good dose of AK first, so she didn’t miss anything except the drinks. Then again, she probably got polluted on the plane (provided she had a credit card), so she was covered. And I’m sure she was glad to get off of her sore feet. She was a great trooper through it all, even though her pedal extremities were not cooperating.

At the end, O'C made the pronouncement about AK that he gave it the O'C Seal of Approval, rescinding his original demurral that the park wasn't up to snuff. Absolutely. It is totally up to and, perhaps, even above snuff. Those who skip it miss out on a lot of snuff.

Not the DiDeAd, for which the VCA breathes a sigh of relief

The discussion of case disclosure is not completely ended by any means, but I think that it has been dealt with fairly definitively for the time being, if you take the last TVFT into consideration. Much of the discussion has been an education process, at least for me. I absolutely began with an idea that case disclosure was X, and it turns out that case disclosure is actually Y. The reasons for my misconceptions don’t matter, because it seems other people have/had other misconceptions. While the idea is not set in stone at this point, and it is unclear where it will be or how it will affect the activity five years hence, we can make some general statements now. First, it is not onerous. I grabbed some instructions from Bill Batterman that I put into the Feed, if you need them. Provided that you have wireless at the venue, you’re fine. Second, it is not working as a wedge for big schools to trump little schools, but by the same token, it is not working as a shield for little schools against the prodigious abilities of big schools. It just changes things a little. Why? Because: three, it is disclosure of what you’ve done, not what you’re necessarily going to do. It captures for the record the case that is in the so-called public domain after you’ve run it. Which means that, four, it is really more a collection of strategically useful data than a tool of tactical useful data. In the real world, it is not turning debaters into the puppets of their aggressive assistant coaches, making them little preset response machines to preset cases. And to protect ourselves and our students from what we might call the misappropriation or at best the misunderstanding of this data, five, we will in the future lock it down from the outside world. The best thing we can do now is watch the experiment as it continues at Big Jake. It is another potential change in an activity that is constantly changing, another piece of the dialectic. Where it will go, no one knows. It might improve things, it might not, it might not even be much of an issue as time passes. As Jedi Master Bietz advises, one must wait and see.

Of course, over the last few days I’ve been debriefing the VCA on the DiDeAd more than addressing any debate issues, but then again, there haven’t been that many debate issues. Or in my case these days, speech and debate issues, until we get a new speech coach in. As is my wont, I’ve written up some elementary how-to material for my Speecho-Americans that I’m still polishing, but I would like to see them up the ante a bit on their choice of material. Also I’d like to see a little less death and destruction. What a gloomy bunch! Anyhow, I had hoped for inauguration of all of this year’s Plebes last night, but it turned out it was Open House at the Naval Academy, so tonight is the night. Which is not a bad thing actually, because it gives the Sailors another day to recruit after last week’s one-day-in two-days-out shortie. I love inauguration night. Sometimes we get newbies that we reckon by the dozens and sometimes we get two poor schlubs with dazed expressions that are never heard from again. Only time will tell.

Things will heat up next week for the Pups, none of whom read this blog, which means that only CP will be annoyed when I once again whine about their not entering judge names yet. The rest of you don’t have to read that previous sentence, but I guess it’s too late for that now. More importantly to all and sundry is the issue of judge rank assignments at the Pups in the world of MJP. If you haven’t done so already, read the take from Greenhill on the TVFT blog to see what they said they were going to do (which I presume they did). There’s lots of issues there, and we’ll be discussing it next week on the podcast. I think JV, who will be tabbing with me there as usual, will be joining us in the discussion. Needless to say, he brings a great numbers mind to the whole proceedings; he does teach physics after all.

So, wish us luck tonight at the inaugural. I wish you luck with your inaugurals too. May we all have more novices than we know what to do with!

And in a minute, a new DiDeAd posting. You didn’t think you’d get out of it that easily, did you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DiDeAd Part 4

I find it remarkable that even though we spent full days in MK and DHS, we didn’t do everything. Nor did we mosey and just absorb things. Not that we were total commando—we stopped and smelled plenty of roses, and given the small crowds we didn’t spend much time in any lines—but there’s just so much to do that you can’t do it all in one day and still have any fun doing it. Before we left there had been much discussion about which might be one- and which two-day parks. I insisted the Epcot was the latter, and got everyone’s agreement after the fact. Epcot absolutely requires moseying if you really wish to enjoy the countries. You’ve got to stop and watch whatever entertainments come your way. You’ve got to enjoy the food. (You’ve got to search for hidden Mickeys.)
Our first Epcot day was the third day of the trip.

To a degree, the two-day plan is mostly Future World on day one and countries on day two (or vice versa in Kaz’s case, seeing that she had already done our day two as her day one). So you ramble into the park at the usual half hour in advance (although this time O’C wandered off big time: putting together a round robin the day you get back from vacation sort of does require a little phone time; even I’ll admit that) and head for the big E tickets on the near side of the park. (For that matter, the World Showcase doesn’t even open until 11:00.) That means Test Track, Mission Space, Soarin’ (via Fastpass), etc. Mission Space, of course, is the attraction where, last time, O’C’s brain got loose in his skull and he ended up in the Disney World infirmary with Doctor Mickey trying to intubate him. As the VCA knows, his brain never did settle back correctly, which explains a lot of things, so he skipped the opportunity to shake it even more loose this time around. Of course, what he was really polishing himself up for was Captain EO. Or, maybe better, Captain Oy. Oy. Why does the man so like this? I guess it must be the Lucas connection, but there’s also a soupcon of Michael Jackson fandom as well. I can’t say I ever cared much about MJ one way or another; he was after my time, so to speak, although I do like the way he imitates Bob Fosse. Then again, I was getting pretty tired of Honey I Shrunk the Audience (and don’t ask about Journey into the Imagination, which seems to get worse every time I see it). Anyhow, our attendance at Captain EO was marked by many strange squawks and squeals that I can neither comprehend nor imitate. I’m surprised they didn’t throw us out. The worst thing was, the squawks and squeals were contagious, and kindred spirits in the audience started squawking and squealing along with him. That was one weird half hour marked, of course, by the purchase of a U-Haul of Captain EO merchandise. I have to admit, I bought a hat, more because I like the hat than I liked Captain EO. I’ll wear it to tournaments whenever O’C needs cheering up. I just ask the VCA to remember that’s why I’m doing it. Please. I’ve got a sick friend.

This was the day we headed off to Fantasia Gardens for miniature golf, the video of which I’ve posted here. The video is self-explanatory. I have to admit I was struck dumb by O’C’s display of athletic prowess. I mean, it’s not like I expected the secret PGA pro to emerge or anything, but all those years of watching Howard the Duck over and over again have wreaked their havoc. See for yourself.

We capped that night off with a visit to the Biergarten, with those enormous steins of beer. Then we went back to the motel early, all except Kaz who stayed for Illuminations, seeing that she’d be leaving the next day.

The trip remained solidly enjoyable. Let me tell you, it was hot out there playing miniature golf. I’d do it again in a minute. Let me know if there’s a mini course near your tournament, and I’ll be there with the proverbial bells on.

Disclosure on the airwaves

I think we sort of buried the whole case disclosure thing last night at TVFT. Yes, disclosure is what you did, not what you're going to do. And yes, we can lock down the data to prevent potential privacy issues with no harm to the system. Check it out, if you're not already a subscriber via iTunes. And yes, we're now back for the duration. Next week we'll talk about MJP, also a la Greenhill. Check out the document on the TVFT blog for details.

Monday, September 13, 2010

DiDeAd Part 3

Disney Hollywood Studios kicks things up a notch in terms of thrill rides, compared to MK. And it’s a more focused experience than MK, concentrating as it does on movies and entertainment. It was originally built to trump Universal Studios down the road. I am personally not one to knock Universal; after all, much of it was built by Disney alums. But it does lack the underlying Disney Disneyness, whatever that is. It’s ineffable, but it’s there. Frankly, I think there used to be a little more of it in the olden days. Maybe new management will bring some of that back.

Be that as it may, again our day started at 8:00 am, heading for the bus to the park. Liz and I started with breakfast, as did Denise. Old people eat breakfast: it gives them strength to get those kids off their lawns later in the day. By now I’d sort of gotten into the swing of dealing with the meal plan that was added to the trip, Disney’s come-on to the park during the off-season. (And it was the off-season; we never waited much for anything.) The plan is a combination of sit-down meals, counter service and snacks. The people working in the restaurants seem to spend half their working day explaining it to everyone. Wise Disney Dining management requires that, when you spend your credits, you get the most for them. Management of free Disney Dining means that, well, it’s free anyhow, so you don’t get your knickers into too much of a twist over it. A Dole Whip is a snack. So is a bottle of water. So is an apple or a cup of coffee. Choose accordingly.

I found it remarkable that we all actually did meet up each morning at 8:00. I chide O’C for moseying, but this is unfair. Every day he was a minute earlier, until one day he was a minute earlier than me. I should have photographed that.

Again, I won’t catalog everything we did in the park. Toy Story Mania was down, but everything else was up and running. We kicked off with Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, which is a really fun, smooth ride, and we got almost everyone in it, although do I recall correctly that O’C passed on this one? My cousin passed on Twilight Zone, as she finds the idea of falling down an elevator shaft about as entertaining as jumping off a cliff, which it closely resembles. We managed to find this out-of-the-way coffee shop for cappuccino and these wonderful carrot cake cookies as our morning break. And we followed the Guide again, as I say, never waiting for much of anything.

Of course, Star Tours, closing a couple of weeks after our trip, was high on O’C’s list. He rode it a few times, and Kate and I joined him for a couple of those. He bought himself an engraved medal honoring his 40th ride. He tried to get Disney management to schedule an award ceremony for it, but they were not interested. In the shop attached to the ride (and please note, there’s a shop attached to virtually every ride) he discovered some goodies previous unknown to him, and he started piling on packages like Dagwood Bumstead accompanying Blondie for their Christmas shopping. An eagle-eyed clerk recognized a sucker fan in the mix and pounced, and the next thing you knew, O’C and the clerk were comparing notes, trying to figure which one was the biggest Lucas fanboy. O’C ultimately claimed victory by naming the key grip on the Willow set, at which point the clerk committed ritual suicide with one of those plastic light sabers. It was not a pretty sight: that plastic hurts. On the other hand, he had now collected the equivalent of a year’s salary in commissions from O’C’s purchases (mostly of action characters of people who work in the shop attached to the ride—the cashier, the custodian, the clerk he had been talking to—twenty sets of these, if I remember correctly).

Our lunch was at the Sci-Fi diner, and I have to admit, anyone who challenges O’C’s knowledge of obscure or bad movies in the genre is bound to go down in flames. It’s not so much that O’C knows all this stuff, but that when we see a clip from an Ed Wood film, O’C has not only seen the film, he’s seen it twenty times, he owns it, and he threatens to make me watch it in a tabroom eventually. No doubt he also owns the action figures. I find the thought frightening. I kept my head down for the most part, eating my lunch (the Oreo shake was a marvel, the ribs were okay but it was so dark—the restaurant is themed like a drive-in movie, and you eat in convertibles while you watch coming attractions of B movies—that I couldn’t tell the bones from the meat from the napkin except for the damage any given bite caused my bicuspids).

There are a lot of shows at DHS, stunt shows like Indian Jones and a motor show (that’s not episode 5, btw, Indian Jones and the Motor Show, that’s two separate shows), and most importantly, Fantasia, the extravaganza that closes the place for the night. This is a great show. At Disneyland they work it into the middle of the park, which is pretty amazing, while at DHS they have a special amphitheater built for it. There’s lots of storm and fury and sound and light and effects and fireworks and Disney characters battling it out for the soul of Mickey Mouse (really). It’s a great way to end the day, but you have to get there way earlier than I had planned. We got SRO, which was okay because there’s an area where everyone sat until the show started, then it didn’t matter that we were on our feet.

As I mentioned before, I do miss the underlying Disneyness a bit. It used to be there were shops that sold items that were unique to that shop, which meant that in the Studios, you could find niftly little Hollywood thingies. Not so true anymore. Now it’s just the same merchandise pretty much in all the shops, and for that matter the same merchandise in the shops across all the parks. Occasionally there’s a ride-specific tee shirt, but that’s about it, aside from Star Wars merchandise. Years ago I bought a wonderful Bates Motel ashtray. That’s the sort of thing I miss, and that sort of thing was everywhere. Not that I don’t like Disney shirts and stuff, but the serendipity has been minimized. They’re missing a bet, if you ask me, but at least they’ve incorporated some retro stuff into the mix, which is a step in the right direction.

So, another great day was in the can.

DiDeAd Part 2.5

Due to unpopular demand, from Kate's pictures, first we show the entire group at the Biergarten in Germany. Considering that there are minors in the audience, that is actually faux beer. Tastes like chicken.

And this is the full golf group. Liz sat this one out.

Yes, Kaz really did ride the carrousel.

And here's Cruz buying souvenirs (about which more in the next post).

Friday, September 10, 2010

DiDeAd Part 2

After all the discussion of which order to attack the parks, O’C’s original opinion that MK is the place to go first proved out. While I reserve the idea that, with kids, it might be best to work up to it, to avoid the perception that the other parks somehow don’t match up, there is no question that, as adults, we all arrived full of anticipation and energy, more than capable of attacking the MK in one physically grueling day. The hours of the park were from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. We were at the bus stop at the hotel at 8:00 am exactly. (O’C was almost there at 8:00 am exactly, which is close enough, for him.) We traveled as a group to gates of the Magic Kingdom.

Once upon a time, opening the park meant slowly leading the assembled multitudes in through a series of steps leading to multiple rope drops in the directions of the various E-ticket attractions, in aid of minimizing the inevitable stampede. Now they have a little opening show up at the train station, and the early risers get to watch some Disney dancers sing and high-step to some gleefully peppy music, and then the Mayor of Main Street comes out and welcomes us. I understand that when hizzoner is unavailable, it will be the Vice Mayor of Main Street, or the Speaker of the House of Main Street, etc., doing the honors. Then the train comes steaming into the station and various Disney characters and a family chosen at random for their gleeful peppy appearance all wave at us and they shoot off the metaphoric starter’s pistol and we all go storming into the park for our promised magical day.

Right off the bat, cast members were waving people away from Space Mountain, which wasn’t running at the opening, or, for that matter, distributing fast passes. We took this in our stride and went on to #2 on the Unofficial Guide touring plan, which is Buzz Lightyear, where you shoot at aliens and rack up a very impressive score that makes the rest of your group look like inept invalids. Oh, wait. It was only me who racked up a very impressive score. A word to the wise: study the literature before your trip to learn how to improve your score, and you too can lord it over your friends and relatives for the rest of the vacation, or at least for the two minutes subsequent to the ride, after which you mosey on to the next attraction.

I won’t list them all, but, for the most part, we did them all. “it’s a small world” was under rehab, which was probably a good thing, because it is the attraction that has sent the most guests into rehab, babbling the music while drooling into their pillows, lying on their hospital beds in their straightjackets. Space Mountain came back up fairly early and we grabbed fast passes; one benefit of O’C’s iPhone was access to information on wait times and the like. For many of the group, SM was something of a maiden event, their first SM or, in some cases, first roller coaster ever, or first roller coaster since seventh grade. Everyone survived admirably, although I have to admit, when you look at the official photos they take on the rides, in virtually all of them Katie and I look as if we’re enjoying ourselves and the rest of the DiDeAd look as if they rather be in rehab wearing straightjackets drooling onto their pillows. These are the only pictures from the trip where O’C isn’t on his iPhone. After SM, we did the other coasters in turn over the vacation. Everyone loved Thunder Mountain, which is something of the anti-SM, being out in the light and all, although in the evening Kate and I rode it again, going for the dark of night approach, and it was great fun then too, and quite different. Speaking of night, we also waited until dark for the Jungle Cruise, and I have to admit, this made a big, positive difference. I’ll never ride it during the day again.

There were many high points of the day. We discovered Dole Whips, for one thing, which are only available at two venues on property, and are not to be missed. I ran into Lou Mongello, a podcaster I’ve followed for years via whom we found our travel agent. We took a midday break to strut with the swells over at the Polynesian resort, which was much classier (and more expensive) than our hotel, but it is nice to get away to recharge for an hour or so. And don’t forget, when it first arrived, the monorail at Disneyland was an E-ticket. Since for our trip to the Polynesian we got on the wrong one first, for us it was sort of an F-ticket, but you can’t win them all. Despite some drizzle that started at night, the Mainstreet Electrical Parade and the Wishes fireworks both went off to the great satisfaction of all and sundry. I was especially awed by the fireworks, which are incredibly choreographed to the accompanying music to the point that it’s almost unbelievable. During the day at some point O’C and Kaz got to ride the Carrousel, which is admittedly an old classic but it was a bit much watching them push little kids aside to get to the best horses. Thank God they also didn’t want to do Dumbo, or were at least too ashamed to admit it. This is the first time we’ve seen the Haunted Mansion since it’s last refurb, and it is spectacular. It was always top five, but now it’s even more top five. (We spent a lot of time discussing top fives and top tens, both extant and extinct.) Kaz felt that the Hall of the Presidents made a good lesson plan, while Kate felt that it made a good nap. I’ve never gotten past the absolute surrealism of the proceedings, all these robot chief executives nodding and scratching and whatnot. O’C even got his updated Cinderella autograph, although admittedly, since he was the only adult on the line (alone at the time since the rest of us were doing something else), park security was keeping a close eye on him from that point on. By the way, character actors at Disney must keep their hands visible at all times when encountering guests. Cinderella, interviewed after her meeting with O'C, claimed she did not find this to be a problem in his case.

All if all, a swell time was had, and it was a great start to the proceedings. One park down, three to go.

DiDeAd Part 1.5

Here's my pictures. I'll put up some of the other folks soon.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

DiDeAd Part 1

We arrived on Friday at various times, except for Kaz whose various Friday arrival time was Wednesday. She spent Thursday at Universal, very much enjoying TWWOHP, et alia, and Friday at Epcot, doing what we would do on our last day after she had left. Our meeting place was on Prairie Dog City Paradise City Pleasure Island.

Orlando’s airport is pretty big, thanks to WDW’s development of the area. The WDW site was originally chosen because it was on a main highway, with the assumption being that there would be a lot of automobile traffic with East Coast folk all driving in. Nowdays that’s probably still true, but the number one accent one hears is unquestionably British, and there’s no question that people are flying in from all over creation. A monorail takes you from the gate to the main terminal, which is a nice albeit accidental theme park touch: you get your first ride before you even leave the airport. We availed ourselves of what they call Disney’s Magical Express. You would probably call it glorified bus service, but it is pretty nifty. When you check in your bags at your home airport, that’s the last you see of them until they turn up in your room a couple of hours after you check in. WDW picks ‘em up and delivers ‘em, and you don’t have to think about it. Just make sure you have the bear [sic] necessities of life with you in your carry-on, and you’re in like Flynn.

The bus area at the airport was virtually empty aside from the three of us (my cousin traveled down on our flight) and about eight thousand WDW employees wishing there were more than just the three of us. This leads, of course, to pretty quick service, and we were on a bus and on our way, as they say, momentarily. (Am I the only person in the world who mourns the loss of the correct meaning of that word?) It’s about a half hour ride to the Disney property, and they play an orientation video to fill up the time. (I was thinking that maybe I’d try an orientation video for Bump this year, that people could watch on the bus as they drive in…) When they run out of information they screen an old Donald Duck cartoon. The Disneyfication has begun. Resistance is futile.

We stayed at the French Quarter at Riverside, one of their so-called moderate hotels. A few amenities, perfectly nice rooms, a Mardi Gras theme. One treat unique to Riverside is a boat to Downtown Disney, which we caught after we got freshened up. You pass things like the famous Mickey-shaped golf sand trap as you toodle along, and I noticed that the captain of our vessel did a lot of tooting along to boot, and I can just imagine getting up on the tee box and beginning my backstroke on the fourteenth hole and just as I’m about to punch it out 300 yards straight down the middle there’s this blast of TTTTOOOOOOOOTTTTT and I’m dribbling off 3 yards in reverse. There are pluses and minuses to ubiquitous theming.

Pleasure Island, which is in the middle of the Downtown Disney shopping area, was once a themed destination of its own, with a comedy club and the amazing Adventurers’ Club and various music venues. You paid one price to get in, then you roamed around with a drink in your hand until midnight, when, every day, they celebrated New Year’s Eve with a fireworks display for those guests who were still sober enough to be able to see anything that far up in the air. Now it’s in the process of re-grooving, probably for not much of anything other than more restaurants. Anyhow, we met up at the Paradiso 37 (or maybe it was 57—whatever), which is sort of Caribbean themed (because there’s 37 or 57 Caribbean islands?). The fancy drinks began with a nice passion fruit caipirinha. We were all there except for O’C, who had preemptively wandered off. In fact, he had been visiting Soddie that day before joining us, young Skywalker touching base with Obi-Wan or however you want to look at it. He kept us informed of his progress, as is his wont: O’C is nothing if not wedded to his iPhone (which, of course, is what the Scalias of life are most afraid of with things like Prop 8, but that’s another story entirely). It started raining, and by the time he showed up at our table, he was slightly drenched. But we were all met! The festivities began with a nice dinner, especially the cheesy corn thingies. After which, Kt and O’C and I went to the shop to buy the mandatory new cap while the others drifted back to the rooms (which, as it turned out, were contiguous, a nice touch from our travel agent).

If you don’t believe that the starting gun had been fired, and the games begun, consider this. At some point on his journey from Soddie to DiDeAd, as O’C texted us his every move, I received the following text from him, quoted in its entirety: “I am turning the corner.”

I’ve been waiting for him to turn the corner for years now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Deep in the heart of MJP

Conflicting commitments conspired to kibosh last night’s TVFT recording. We will begin instead next Monday, the good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. I can’t say I was terribly disappointed. I had just spent two hours working with the Speechonauts (which seems like the best thing I can come up with as a name for the Speecho-American Sailors), and I was sort of drained. They certainly are a radically different business from debaters. I’m going to be sad when I pass them along to a new coach; I’ll probably keep my hand in a little just because it’s fun, especially at the level of piece-selection and preparation. Dare I suggest I know a little about reading and writing and especially cutting, given the good old day job?

I was, naturally, intrigued by the notes accompanying the MJP opening at Greenhill. Two issues are addressed that we’ve discussed a lot in our own MJP use, both literally in tab and here at CL. First off, there is the question of pairing when a natural fit (1-1) is unavailable. That is, it would seem that among the goals of MJP, giving everyone their most preferred judge comes in as a pretty high priority. At the same time, by its very nature, giving everyone equality (judges rated equally by both parties) is also a high priority. But there may be reasonable spiritual differences, where some people hold that they’d rather be on the wrong end of a 1-2 pairing than in a mutual 3-3 or 4-4. How tab handles things when no high 1-1 or 2-2 is available becomes problematic. Greenhill is leaving it to the masses, allowing coaches to state a preference for either the equal match or the higher ranked but unequal match (although I’m not sure if they said what they’d do if the coaches for the two sides were not in agreement). My feeling on this is a little mixed, but given a large judging pool, that is, if I’m not hemmed in my restraints of sheer numbers, I sort of tend to think that the equal numbers are what should be done from the tab perspective. I mean, it’s called “mutual” for a reason. But as I say, there might be reasonable spiritual differences on this.

The second thing that struck me was that the random rounds started preffing at 3-3s rather than 1-1s. At least that’s the way I think they have it set up. I like this a lot, as it helps solve the PJ Conundrum we’ve discussed off and on, which is the lack of use of lesser ranked judges (short of total strikeouts). It also forces debaters to win some rounds in front of judges they may not like as much as their 1s, which has always been one of the main complaints about MJP from those totally against it. While I think the underlying logic of MJP at national events far outweighs the concerns of those who want to keep LD available to less committed audiences, I still like the idea that a good debater can pick up almost any ballot.

I’ll be doing MJP at the Pups and Jake. I’ve asked the Powers that Be to think about what Greenhill is doing, in aid of informing what we’re doing. I’ll keep you posted one way or that other. Obviously, at first blush, I’m against the first idea and in favor of the second. We’ll let the Ps that B speak for themselves.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Like a cicada, seventeen years later

I feel about one step away from being back in the middle of things. The Sailors start school tomorrow. Then, they have Thursday and Friday off. Not like when I was a kid. Then again, I went to Catholic schools, few of which observed the Jewish holidays. It was shortsighted on their part, granted, but not unexpected. These kids nowadays, however—bah! Get off my lawn!

Although many schools have been in operation for weeks now, the northeast is only just emerging. But I am not alone in my feeling that things are about to settle in. I’ve gotten emails from CP showing that he’s back at the helm of, keeping an eye on things. O’C has his finger on the trigger of some NYSDCA stuff, and I too want to dig in a little more there after an abortive early start on the website with WordPress, which did not play nicely with me. Catholic Charlie has scheduled the annual NYCFL directors’ meeting for this Saturday. I’ve sent out a tentative curriculum for the MHL workshop to the usual suspects, and we should finalize it over the next week or so, filling in the names of instructors. Where new coaches are starting, connections have been made, but there’s always a surprise or two that pops up early in the season. The Panivore’s already been to a tournament, the Vassar Babycakes RR, which ran much earlier than usual this year because, for some reason, O’C did not appreciate my idea that he run it on Yom Kippur and call it the Non-Jewish Vassar Babycakes RR. (The guy has no creativity!)

I updated some of our signup sheets, and while the Panivore and the People’s Champion seem to be gallivanting across the country for the next six months nonstop, already registered for just about everything up through graduation, the rest of the schedule seemed rather light. But putting in the MHL events filled in the gaps. And, after the meeting with the NYCFL folks this Saturday, adding in the local CFL events as well will seal the deal, eliminating any free weekend between now and kingdom come.

Tonight I meet with the Speecho-Americans again. Last time all I did was yak at them about various pieces/authors/ideas floating around in my own mind; tonight they perform their Pups pieces for me for the first time. So different from LD, sitting there watching someone not speak entirely in acronyms… Speaking of the Pups, they’re booked up the wazoo, a very large tournament, although I’m still waiting for them to add in the VLD judges, which of course need to be entered by the same deadline as the participants. I always fret about colleges and their judges. It’s just the way I am. Shockingly enough, the Tigers have already reached out to ensure that JV and I are on hand to do our usual in December. Of course, we responded. We’ve already got our meals all planned out! I suffer at Princeton from the proximity of Starbucks, where I start buying a series of triple-shot lattes one after the other with seemingly no effect other than the diminishing of my wallet. Go figure.

As I write this, the plan is tonight to start TVFT up again for the new season. Right after the speech meeting, to be precise. I’m looking forward to it. We had a lot of fun last year, and I think this year we’ll be adding a lot more independent voices to the mix. Skype makes it pretty easy for anyone to chime in; let us know if you wish to be among them. Anyhow, as I’ve mentioned before, the topic will be case disclosure here on the eve of Greenhill. And on the other podcast front, Jules has sent me an email saying that he wants to get started going again, but the Nostrumite is sort of busy with the opening of school so it may be another week or two. Whatever. It’s not as if I need something to do to fill the empty hours.

Friday, September 03, 2010

And so we (sort of) bid a fond farewell to #DiDeAd

Interestingly enough, in the rush of all the disclosure mania, someone complained in a comment about my musings concerning the DiDeAd. Obviously the memo on the nature of this blog was not as widely disseminated as I had thought. The VCA knows full well that, in a blog about me, me gets to be the subject, in all me’s glory, in whatever me considers fit for public consumption. That me occasionally gets serious does not mean that me also doesn’t occasionally not get serious. Life is not all debate. Really. Trust me on this.

(BTW, by what logic do we capitalize I but we don't capitalize me? It's the same person, after all.)

If you followed #DiDeAd on Twitter, you probably got a sense, first, that we had a good time, and second, O’C was never once seen without his iPhone in his hand. I tweeted when I remembered to, or when my battery wasn’t dead, the occasional bon mot, shall we say. That seemed to be enough, given O’C’s blanket coverage of events. I’ll probably expand on details in the coming days, but suffice it to say that the idea proved to be a good one. There aren’t that many places you can travel with extended family and friends successfully, because everybody likes to travel the way they like to travel. The trips I usually take would confound many people, and vice versa. For instance, the idea of going on a vacation to relax is incomprehensible to me: I go on vacation to explore. Not that I’m the world’s greatest traveler by any means, but I’m a pretty decent tourist, relatively low maintenance and thoroughly interested. I also tend to prefer urban destinations. I could never spend a week on the beach reading, for instance. First of all, I already read enough beach lit at the DJ, plus I couldn’t care less about the sun and while I like getting wet on a hot day, if God had wanted me to swim he would have given me gills. (By the same token, if God had wanted us to fly, he would have given us tickets.) However, going to Disney World erases all the differences of personal preference. Provided your plan is to attack the parks, aside from maybe you don’t like this or that particular attraction, what you want to do is see as much as possible, as stress-free as possible, and everybody wants the exact same thing. So you can, indeed, assemble friends and extended family and have it work because you all have the same goal in mind. I recommend it. The key is deciding to give it a go in the first place, floating the idea to your friends and extended family to see if they bite. The DiDeAd group bit. A splendid time was had by all.

I’ll post some pix soon enough, and try to get Kaz’s and O’C’s and Kt’s as well for a “best of.” I also made a short video that I’ll see if it’s worth passing along. Meanwhile, we gear up for business again with next week’s TVFT on disclosure (don’t forget to submit questions it you have any), Vassar RR this weekend (although I’ll only be there in spirit), tucking into Yale for real (where are the Pup judges?!?), the NYCFL directors’ meeting, working with the Speecho-American Sailors on their pieces, working on NYSDCA, prepping for the MHL Workshop, and, oh, some other stuff.

Welcome back, me.