Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Menickies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My work here is far from done

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Whining? Moi? C'est impossible!

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

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

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

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

Ain’t debate great?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Robert Frost said it better

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

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

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

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rant

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T DO IT. YOU’RE ENCOURAGING THEM. THEY’LL DO IT AGAIN THE NEXT TIME, AND THE NEXT TIME, AND THE NEXT TIME.

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

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

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

Enough is enough.

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Huxley, Disney and Alice in Wonderland

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

This is all I remember, to tell you the truth

All right. Just some random notes from the Tiggers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 06, 2010

Important announcement? Who cares.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 02, 2010

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

Okay, just a couple of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Still tied up

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

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