Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Full of beans

It must be Christmas: the Sailors and I had a bout of Bean Trivia last night.

It was a rough session. First of all, O’C was unavailable for Ask Cruz. As a substitute, we had a lifeline which was “Call anybody you know and have them Google the answer.” That worked about as well as asking Cruz, since it seemed as if about half the questions were Disney-oriented. But I think I need better Sailors. They thought that “The Legacy” was one of the original hotels on the WDW property. I mean, they were close, except for the fact that there is not now nor has there ever been a hotel called “The Legacy” on the WDW property. This is made stranger because Rafi-Q says he stayed there last time he went. Little Em’ly claimed that she couldn’t answer those questions because she’d never been there. Come to think of it, every question she was asked, that was her answer: “I’ve never been there.” If you ask me, she needs to go somewhere.

We never had any answers to match last year’s Muppet classic, Hermit the Crab. But the event, as always, was rollicking and fun. There’s always the one person who answers the questions regardless of who’s being asked because, lordy lordy, they actually know the answer to this one. This is from a team who decided Fats Waller had to be a jazz musician because all jazz musicians have one-word nicknames, and that he must have played the tuba because he was fat. So, their deductive powers were marginally successful. They thought Lightnin’ Hopkins played the saxophone. They thought that TV’s talking horse was Dr. Ed, which at least gives him a day job. They came relatively close to identifying the main ingredient in haggis—they knew it came from inside the sheep—but went a little overboard claiming that cabbage was a subsidiary ingredient; on the other hand, they’d never heard of saltimbocca. Needless to say, be wary if any of them invites you over for dinner.

We went through my entire batch of questions, which means that next time out, all new categories. I may steer clear of Disney questions for a while, since these people have trouble deciding if Bambi is the character whose foot fit into the glass slipper. I would have thought that kids knew Disney pretty well, but I would have thought wrong. They also don’t know Muppets or classic movies. I think I do a fine impersonation of Anthony Perkins carrying his mother to the fruit cellar. They thought otherwise. They also thought that the character who says the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was named Frank.

You don’t want to know what they thought the main ingredient was in spotted dick. Remind me never to ask that question again.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Them's the rules

I cleaned this up a little and took out some whining, but it's what I sent to the MHL membership this morning.


1. No partial judges allowed. If a judge cannot make all 4 rounds in the day, please find another judge. The only way all debaters can debate all the rounds is if all the judges judge them. This is a mathematical fact of life.

Note: Schools that provide an amazing overage of trained/experienced judges, that may wish to allow some of them to relieve one another, are not the issue here, and such generosity of judge pool on their part remains encouraged and will continue to be supported.

2. No children in the tab room. If a kid has a problem, they tell the coach, and the coach comes to tab. If the coach isn't at the tournament, there is a responsible adult in lieu. Kids go to their coaches with problems, not to tab. Tab staff will make every effort at the beginning of the tournament to get all the rounds started and to sort out any loose ends, however. This is not a rule to isolate tab from the tournament, but simply an attempt at keeping the communication of problems at the appropriate level.

3. Most importantly, all registration is entirely electronic. Coaches have until 9 on the morning of the day to correct their entries in tab room. (This might mean that teams might have to find web access at the last minute, but there is no question that, if there is no wireless, nonetheless someone on every team has brought either a smartphone or iPad with 3G). Registration closes at 9, tab takes down the data and prints up the schematics. End of story.

It works like this: registration officially closes at 9:00 p.m. the previous Thursdays. No additions are allowed after this point, period. (The chief reasons for this are that we need to assign and sort out rooms and organize the amount of food necessary). All students and judges must be entered on the Thursday deadline. However, we understand that kids get sick, and things come up. So, you have until 9:00 on the morning of the tournament to sort it out. If you are coming from some distance on a bus, you can make your changes en route. If you are meeting at the school at a city event, plan on doing so well in advance of the 9:00 deadline. Students "on their way (maybe)" do not count as entries, and a team's inability to arrive in plenty of time for coaches to take attendance will not be considered an excuse. The idea that round one is the taking of attendance penalizes the students who are there on time and wish to debate and learn. A bye due to a no-show is not a debate. At some point before 9:00, a coach or adult (college students are NOT considered adults for this purpose unless they are employees of the school they are representing, i.e., official assistant coaches) will come to the registration desk and report that their registration is final. At 9:00, any schools that haven't come to the desk will be assumed absent, and their entry will be erased from the tournament. If in fact some of these missing folk are around, they can be added for round two with forfeits for round one. This will penalize the students of the school not registered rather than the students at the schools that did register. Schools en route by bus can text by 9:00 that their entry is set; it is not unreasonable to assume that they could miss the deadline by a few minutes because of traffic, but since they've had all that time on the bus they've had ample opportunity to set things aright on

4. All reported changes after 9 are $25 each, payable at the making of the change. All unreported changes (e.g. teams that are registered that don't show up, missing judges) are $50. In the MHL, no teams will be allowed to participate in future events unless the fines are paid; they will be contributed to the Grameen org. In the CFL they will go toward the Fr Rippon scholarship.


Some comments (that I didn't send, but I share with the VCA):

Coaches who complain that they can't meet the 9 a.m. deadline need to be asked why. Since I'm closing registration at 9 anyhow, why can't they have their team organized by then? In fact, it actually allows them to conveniently and efficiently handle last minute changes. What it doesn't allow is for them to not be there, or to be in a situation where they might as well not be there. It does not allow them to foist the responsibility for a whole team on one assistant college coach who has no idea what's going on in the other divisions. It also forces them to have their kids and judges there in a timely manner. As I say, the ramifications of their not giving accurate registrations is that the good debate citizens, other kids from other teams who have shown up on time and ready to go, suffer. This is not acceptable, and there is nothing in what I am suggesting that is onerous (except the fines for their inefficiency, which need to be onerous).

I will point out that we try to run 4 rounds at CFLs and MHLs to give the kids a better tournament experience, and more experience. Additionally, most of these events have judge training conducted by the tab staff; if the tab staff is still taking attendance through round 3, this valuable training cannot take place.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore

Normally I am the soul of tolerance. I pride myself on my ability to fight off whatever the community tries to throw at me, like a Jedi waving my lightsaber here and there and everywhere, parrying the blasts from the warring clones or whatever is blasting at me and never batting an eye. But this last Saturday, I was O Kenobi sliced up by D Vader, and I doubt if I’ll come back stronger than ever.

No, wait a minute. It was O Kenobi who never really came back stronger than ever. He took his money and went home and counted it and aside from a couple of quick cameos, he never had to do anything else for Lucas other than cash his checks. I, on the other hand, bereft of residual checks, will indeed come back stronger than ever. You can lightsaber me into little pieces, but those little pieces will never die. So there.

The CFL event was a bloody mess, for a simple reason. Too many teams had too few people in charge. We have all sorts of rules about adults registering and the like, not only here but everywhere else, but in the crush of the event, we just want to get registration over with. And besides, we tend to believe people when they tell us their teams or judges are here. We should know better by now.

What happened was that, because the information we were given was bogus, the tournament was bogus. There were people who got byes in every round, not because they deserved them for some bizarre reason, but because they kept getting paired against yet another non-existent team. Some teams came and went. Judges seemed to think that this was a part-time gig, little realizing that when debaters wish to debate all the rounds, someone actually has to judge them. Startling, eh? By the end of the day I had reamed out every coach who had crossed me during the day. They know who they are.

But I rise from those little lightsabered pieces. I have new rules. I’m thinking to myself, why do we have everyone register electronically, then turn it off so that they have to do it manually? Why not just keep it electronic until the point where I’m going to download the data. Rather than them give me 50 changes (all of which, btw, are theoretically not acceptable, but I don’t want to screw the kids just because the coaches are disorganized), let them make 50 changes in tabroom. No wireless? Use a smartphone. It’s not a big deal. Then at 9:00, after a perfunctory check-in of the coaches at the table, I download the data and do it. That has to be better than screwing around trying to be accommodating to disorganized teams whose disorganization always inevitably penalizes the poor kids from the teams who were organized.

I’m circulating these new rules now, and will publish them here once everyone has signed off on them. If you run tournaments and you pull out your hair over last minute changes, and worse, changes after the last minute, perhaps help is on the way. Then again, perhaps not, but the $25 fine per, payable immediately or you're disinvited from the league might have some effect. It’s worked at Bump. This year I banked a paltry $120 into Grameen, down about a third from last year. People don’t like paying fines, and they don’t like it when I demand the published fine now, in person, put the money in the box. They find that, when push comes to shove, it’s better to get their information right.

I was admittedly as pissed off as I get this last weekend. I really have had enough. Get your act together, people. I’m not going to do your job for you, and I’m not going to let you get away with not doing it yourself. It’s just not that hard.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And the prize for the biggest...

I just noticed on Amazon that you can buy a Justin Bieber karaoke album. I presume that this means you get a Justin Bieber album without Justin Bieber singing on it. How can this not be a good thing?

Someone responded to my post about hanging around for the whole tournament with the suggestion that there should be more sweepstakes awards. These are not my cup of tea. For the most part, sweepstakes are contests among the big schools with mega entries, vying for the bragging rights of being the biggest school with the mega-est entries. These awards bounce around between the same few schools again and again, and while I’m sure they’re all as happy as clamlarks about them, they’re pretty unengaging to the hoi and the polloi from all the other schools. O’C has tried to counter this with sweeps for big and for small schools, but that really doesn’t solve the problem. Wherever you set the distinction for size, it stands to reason that whoever has the most entries has an edge, and why should there be a reward for having a lot of entries? My understanding is that sweeps are very popular with Speecho-Americans and their breeders, or at the very least traditional amongst them. If you like that sort of thing, fine, but given that most of the early sneak-outs are not from the big programs, and most of the people in the running for these are big programs, even if I was in favor, it wouldn’t solve the problem.

I should point out that some tournaments do not traffic in award ceremonies, and I have nothing against that. These tournaments tend to want to run toward efficiency and minimal pomp(osity), and if that is what they want to do, it is their tournament and I’m happy to go with the flow. But if a tournament builds in awards as a part of the event, so be it. And I remain unconvinced by the idea that people have a long way to travel, hence they want to leave early, because I have yet to see anyone who has a long way to travel leave early when they’re still in the tournament. (Well, aside from my daughter, that is, who used to say enough is enough and, in or out, she would lead the charge to the nearest restaurant and to hell with the tournament. She hasn’t changed much since then.)

Of course, my thoughts on people who leave early is merely opinion and open to disagreement. My thoughts on people who blow off their judging obligation is something else altogether. These people are the scum of the debate earth. As I run more and more tournaments I begin to know more and more of them by first name. It isn’t many, but it’s enough, and it’s always the same ones. I haven’t forgotten a scurrying judge yet. That will be the sign that I’m getting Old-Timer’s Disease, when I forget that you left me hanging without a judge. But of course, scurrying judges don’t read this blog. Then again, as I start excluding them from tournaments, they will start having the time to do so. Maybe they’ll put two and two together. But I doubt it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Breaking wood

If you graduated from school about three hundred years ago, you still get this thing toward the end of August when you start thinking about buying new composition books and wondering what the new year will be like. I get something similar around Bump weekend, except now it’s Ridge weekend, and they’re welcome to it. I’ve been over for a month now, and there is no greater satisfaction than having this year’s tournament already in the history books.

Ridge was normal, as far as the tournament went. MJP really does work fine for smaller events. (Come to think of it, the very first time we tested it was a Ridge 2 years ago.) We did learn this time out that you have to isolate the MJP event, i.e., don’t load up two divisions of LD when one of them is MJP because TRPC will just look at you funny and wave its finger at you. Also, it pays to blank out the A+s that automatically come in when no ranking was done, to distinguish them from real A+s. Other than that, it’s becoming rote.

The Sailors went full-bore into PF with an astounding record that would make weaker teams pale, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and this was a learning experience. So, what was learned? We’ll find out tomorrow night at the meeting, but for one thing, don’t dress in your furry mules and look as if you’re one bowl of popcorn short of a Twilight home video marathon. There may be more, but that may be the most crucial.

On the coaching side, we learned never to go to that horrible place on Friday night again, because they’re so loud that the only way we could communicate was by texting. We ended up in CP’s room watching people break wood with their heads, which is about the only thing that happened that I can mention in polite company or, for that matter, impolite company. Some things you just can’t blog.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Tiggers

Princeton has come and gone. Some thoughts.

First of all, we made a conscious decision upfront that we would feature the PF division. It had the biggest TOC bid, and at colleges these days, it’s a big draw. This was absolutely the right decision, I think. We opened 160 slots, and never really had much of a falloff. The field was well-balanced, and geographically diverse, with a lot of Florida folk adding a little sunlight to the proceedings. Dario was handed the data and sent forth, and managed to run everything on time in the expected transparent fashion, and we realized once again that Florida’s gain was our loss, but he loves it down there so what can you do? One thing about transplanted northerners: they know better than to show up in New Jersey in December in short pants. This may be how you can separate the nuts from the coconuts, so to speak.

The second big decision was, rather than trimming the fields, running the LD divisions back to back. I think this went well too. We had to move into PF rooms on Saturday night and got slightly hung up, but not for more than 10 minutes in one or two cases, so that wasn’t a problem, and the word on the street was that having a couple of hours off between rounds makes the day a joy. I remember when Pton used to do that, and I was judging, and that’s exactly how I felt. Throwing in some nice weather (albeit not enough for short pants) didn’t hurt. Even if we can get the HS back next year for PF, I think I’d still stagger the LDs. It just makes for a nice weekend.

Inside LD tab, there were a few things I would change. I thought there would be more interplay between the divisions, so I put everything on one machine, but that proved to be unnecessary, and a bit of a burden in the crunch times. Also, watching O’C balance the tournament on two computers because one is at death’s door and the other must be kept clear from the evil influence of Windows, was like watching a drunk tightrope walker crossing Niagara in a hurricane. Also also, I forgot my new little speaker system, meaning there was a noticeable lack of hula music during the weekend, although Abdul did manfully try to fill in the gap with some of his more obscure material; problem is, computer speakers just don’t do the job, even when you turn them up to 11.

MJP went well, although we discovered that you have to doublecheck that all the prefs do travel from tabroom to trpc. Most do, some don’t. Go figure. We also offered strikes in PF, as it turns out to resounding disinterest. A couple of schools took advantage, but not many. One school that I know about objected. Dario’s conclusion was that they’re okay because those who wanted them, had them, and those who didn’t have them weren’t harmed. We had thought long and hard about this before the tournament, and I’d say that the results are that the jury is still out. I’m not going to do it again for a while, although I did strongly recommend that they do it at the PF snake pit TOC. We’ll see.

Anyhow, overall Princeton has, I think, kicked itself into the top ranks of college tournaments. The students running it are committed, and they’ve got a good system that keeps them in it over the years to oversee that it’s working well. They did a great job, and rule number one of any college tournament is that the host must be totally committed. They were, and the results were clear.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Hello I Must Be Going

In my gracious way, I admit that there is a great temptation to leave a tournament one is not in to get home early. But let’s face it: that’s only true if you’re not in it. Your original plans included being in it, so it’s not as if you haven’t accounted for staying for the whole thing. So ducking out and heading home is not the original plan, it’s the contingency plan, and as I said, I’m mostly against it. At a big tournament, and in the light of a long trip, I can understand it, of course, and make exceptions. I still believe that attending break rounds should be a mandatory part of any team’s participation in a tournament, but leaving a touch early, and even before awards, does make sense if you have to drive forever, and it’s the difference between getting home at 10 o’clock at night or 2 in the morning.

But in my experience, the worst offenders for leaving a tournament, including CP’s own Lexington tournaments, are not the world travelers. It is not the schools who have a long distance home, for whom exceptions might be made. It is more often than not a school with virtually no commute whatsoever. I get this at Bump, too. Neighborhood schools are the first to disappear. They are also usually the first to get dropped out of the tournament. If they hung around a bit, they might learn something. And if they stayed for a ceremony, they might become a part of the community rather than just forensic remoras.

A commenter suggested having supplementary events, which I guess does pass the time, but I would prefer the time to pass observing others in the main events, for their own benefit in aid of improving their competitiveness. Also, as one winds down a tournament, one focuses on the big issues of breaking and pairing and whatnot with what’s left; finding time (and room, and staff) to organize a supplementary event would be difficult at most tournaments. I’m not necessarily against it, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

On the duality of the Ivy League tournament

My phone rings in the tab room. I answer it. “Hello?”

“Hi. I’m lost.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m not sure.”

“So what exactly do you think I can do for you?”

Part two.

The phone rings again. Same number. “Hello?”

“Hi. I’m in East Pyne. Where’s room 8?”

“That depends on where you are.”

“I’m in East Pyne.”

Part three.

The phone rings again. Same number.

I ignore it.

At a tournament like Princeton, in the debate divisions at least, there are actually two tournaments going on. One of these tournaments is populated by the usual suspects in the field and in the judging pool. The debaters go to their rounds and debate, and judges pick up their ballots and go to their rounds and adjudicate, and it’s just like every other tournament they go to. It could be Lexington or Bump or Jake or Glenbrooks or whatever. Everyone knows their role, and everyone performs according to the script. Things run pretty close to schedule, and a swell time is had by all.

And then there’s the other tournament, populated by debaters and judges who have crawled out from under their local forensic rocks who have never seen the sun before and don’t understand the concepts of light and heat. It is as if they have never attended a tournament before in their life, and that may not be far from the truth. I have known of schools with a debate team—they think—that only goes to one tournament a year, inevitably an Ivy Leaguer. That is the depth of their tournament commitment. These are the ones who can’t read a schedule (although to my understanding, debate tournaments aren’t the only things in the universe with a schedule, but I could be wrong about that). They can’t read a map. They don’t show up at general assemblies to hear announcements, and then when they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, which was clearly outlined in the announcements at the general assembly they didn’t attend, they complain to you that you’re not giving them the information they need. They are the first in line for the free food, if any, even if you’ve hidden the serving time in the footnotes of the schedule and hidden the location in the footnotes of the map, and only let it be known that there was any food by announcing it at the general assembly: some things they are good at. They can’t believe that you expect them to judge almost every round! The horror! (My comment to them when they make this complaint is that they don’t have to judge every round, but tell us which rounds you don’t want to judge so that we can also let your debaters have that round off too. They look at me strangely for a while until they figure out what I’m saying, and then they wander off.) They think that “I got here late” is an acceptable excuse for missing a round. (I didn’t get here late. I got up early and allowed plenty of time. You didn’t. This is my problem?)

That seems to be the thing about college tournaments, from an operational standpoint. The usual suspects go about their business admirably, and you spend the rest of your time explaining what a debate tournament is to the unusual suspects. Sometimes it’s sort of fun, because not all the unusual suspects are weasels (nor are all the usual suspects furry little kittens). But by the same token, if we’re trying to pair the next round with MJP, your standing there with a dumb question is, shall we say, ill-timed. Your coming into the tabroom at all is ill-conceived. For that matter, anyone’s coming into the tabroom is ill-conceived. Yes, the tabroom is quiet. We like it that way. It’s also ours. But there’s always tab leeches. The thing is, yes, you’re here to quietly grade papers, but then your phone rings and your team has vomited in the boys’ room or somesuch, and the rest of us are just trying to work on getting the tournament run. What is it about the sterling personalities of the tab staff that attracts people who want to hang out with them? It’s certainly not because we’re the cool kids (except maybe Abdul). I’ve met us. We raise boring to new heights. We think Sporcle is important. We generate more paper than the IRS. There has to be other places to hang out. There has to be cooler kids than us somewhere.

Anyhow, if you’re wondering, the Tiggers was a great tournament from my perspective. Phenomenally large PF field, solid LD and speech fields, great operational team amongst the Tigs—they couldn’t do much better. And I enjoyed watching the two simultaneous tournaments transpire around me. I don’t suggest that anything could change the duality. I just find it interesting. It is the curse of the college tournament.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Whatever happened to class?

If we are in this tournament, we’re in it to the bitter end, because that’s the kind of competitors we are. On the other hand, if we’re out of it, we’re out of there like a shot, because, well, that’s the kind of competitors we are.

I love the message that sends: We only compete to compete. There is nothing else about a debate tournament of value. And if we’re not competing, screw it. We’re taking our judges and going home.

As someone who values least the competitive aspect of debate compared to all the other aspects, this really annoys me. And I’m not even talking about people honoring their obligation to judge, which is an obvious ethical commitment which, if you don’t honor it, is a violation of the rules on your part. There’s not much to discuss there. At a big tournament like Princeton, at least in LD there was a satisfyingly small number of people who blew off their obligations, but there still was a number of people. This is not worth a lot of discussion here, because it’s too obvious. Going to a tournament implies a commitment to the rules of the tournament on your part; what else do we need to say?

“Why do we have to stay and judge if our kids aren’t competing?”

“Would you stay if your kids
were competing?”

“Of course.”

“And who would judge them if everyone was like you and left before fulfilling their obligation?”


But let’s look at the team that does fulfill its obligation and then immediately leaves. (Usually, this is after griping about the obligation, by the way, but what else do you expect from these people?) As I said above, they are sending the message to their team that the only thing that matters at a tournament is winning. As soon as you lose, go home. This means that you don’t watch break rounds, which is one of the great aspects of not advancing into them. If you love debate, you want to watch the good people just for entertainment. If you actually value competition, you’ll want to learn from them. And if you value education, you’ll want not only the learning of how better competitors compete, but seeing what they’re running. Maybe you’ll pick up some great evidence or some great approach you hadn’t thought of. Teams that don’t break learn to break by watching teams that do break. Did you ever notice that the teams that don’t break pretty much always don’t break, and the teams that do break pretty much always do break?

Also, the nature of break rounds is not the same as prelims. Any student who wants or expects to break, needs to learn how to handle that difference. Watching others handle it (or not) is how you learn.

So there is an obvious benefit to the teams that observe break rounds. They will learn something they can never learn in the comfort of their own debate room back home. That alone is sufficient reason to stay on at a tournament, for one’s own benefit.

But there is another reason, and in fact it is more related to competition per se. It is the idea of good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship means that you honor your competitors, whether you win or lose. This means going to the award ceremony not just to cheer the people from your team who won, but the people from other teams who beat you. So and so did the best DI or was the top LDer or was the PF top speaker: good sportsmanship demands that you, who were none of those things, honor those who were. The respect of one’s peers is one of the highest rewards for work well done, and that is what award ceremonies—and staying for them—is all about. My favorite schmucks? The ones whose activity is announced, and then, carrying their trophies, they march out of the auditorium passing in front of the podium while the remainder of the categories are announced. They couldn’t wait another ten minutes?

Does no one have manners any more?

Whatever happened to class?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hit me with your best shot

Where is CP when you need him?

I told the Tigs that I would CP for them this year. Last year we had no central clearing person, and we did fine, but off and on I felt the need of that person, hence the volunteering. It goes well, to tell you the truth, but even though I understood before why CP had had enough of doing this for everyone, just doing it for one is proof positive that he made the right choice. It’s just plain time-consuming.

First of all, there’s rooms. The Tigs dig around trying to find ever more and more, because we want nice numbers. There’s ways of getting around this—the old way at Tiggerville, essentially, staggering VLD and NLD—other than going straight up, but straight up is so much nicer and efficient. Then again, I used to love those two hour breaks when I was judging. I doubt if it will happen, but we’re still not out of the woods yet. The thing is, while there is always a big fall-off before registrations are locked, we haven’t reached that point yet. And meanwhile, there’s still big debate waitlists, and there’s no way they’ll ever get totally cleared. Therein lies the rub.

Some people think you’re discriminating against them personally. Now granted, there are people I am happy to discriminate against personally, but none of them are on the Tigger waitlist. I absolutely follow the CP rule of, first, take from afar (in order of signup), then everyone else (in order of signup), predicated on the idea that the further away you are, the harder it is to make last minute plans. In other words, get the plane people in first.

Then there’s the judges for hire. The way this works is, we acquire X number of judges. We sell X-.2X, which keeps some spares for tab. Then you sell the judges, again in order of preference, first come, first served, until they’re all gone. (Here, I don’t care much about flying people. If they can afford to fly, they can afford another seat on the plane.) And nobody gets to cover 48 entries. The judges are divvied up equally. When there’s no more judges, no more are sold. Just like iPhones. If they ain’t got, they ain’t got. End of story.

Of course, people know I’m pulling the levers, so they come to me with their reasons why they should get slots/judges rather than someone else. Some people just ask what the odds are, and they get a straightforward answer. I understand that. Other people tell me why they deserve the slots: they’ve been coming since the Tiggers were kittens, they’re very powerful in the NFL and will tell the Wunn and Only that I’m the dirt on the soles of debate’s rubber overshoes, their registration was done by the village idiot who happened to be sitting at their computer that night and they shouldn’t be held accountable, etc., etc., etc. To which the obvious replies should be, they’re not kittens anymore so don’t put your hand in the cage, he already thinks that, and don’t ask me to distinguish between you and the village idiot, etc., etc., etc. In fact, I just tell them I’m working on it, and they will be served by the number just like everyone else at the deli, except now I am less than excited about making their acquaintance in Jersey next week.

Then again, they don’t want to meet me either.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Doing the Sailor Math = 3.5

I’m not quite sure why there was so much Bumpitis this year, but I know O’C was suffering from it, as was I. I’m just starting to recover now. Maybe it was just a cold, but who needs a cold during debate season? It’s just not right. Feeling like death eating a fig newton has not helped in my resolve to blog more often…

Well, to sum up Bump, since I cut off writing in mid-tournament, it was like every other Bump in most respects, except for those where it was different. There was no wrap-up dinner at India House, which O’C had invited himself to, because apparently now he’s a Hen Hud alum. I missed that. The problem was that people had to head back to whence they came on the Sunday night. A few of us did hit a local gin mill on Saturday night, and that was nice (whatever happened to 21-Point Treinish, I wonder, who was going to meet us there). I value more than anything seeing all the old faces again. That is so what it’s all about.

Of course, I’m not adding many new old faces. One of my 2.5 novices quit on the way home from Itsy Bitsy Lex complaining that debate just wasn’t fun. This was a kid who gave it a good shot, not one of these pikers who show up a time or two and never debate. I approve of his retirement style: he gave it a good shot. Unfortunately, that means we have 0 seniors, .75 juniors, 1.25 sophomores and 1.5 freshmen. Not only can I fit them all in my car, I can fit them into the bag with my printer if I have to. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time discussing recruitment on the way back from IBL, but mostly Zip seemed intent on getting people on a more paradigm than a “got brains-will argue” paradigm. Whatever. In any case, with the season half over, it’s back to the drawing board for next year. We need the continuity!

Meanwhile, things have been heating up for the Tiggers. I’ve volunteered to help them run things, and we’re in pretty good shape with tabbers and judges and whatnot. We could use a few more rooms, though. Whatever. If we get them, good, if not, we adjust. The right number of rounds, good adjudication and efficient operation can ameliorate an odd schedule. As a good sign, O’C is in charge of their trophies. This is like putting the Pope in charge of the Catholics: regardless of what you think of Catholicism, you know that the whole bloody mess is in good hands. Ditto O’C and the trophies avec le pomp and circ.

But mostly I’m looking forward to a few days off. Sleep, blessed sleep. No DJ, no nothin’. And it’s just around the corner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bump 2011 Pt 3

All tournaments are more or less the same in that stuff happens, a lot like stuff that has happened before, and we muddle through it.

Fact: If judges can find a way to get out of judging, a surprising number of them will. Not all, of course. In fact, the majority are perfectly responsible, especially at a high school tournament in the middle of nowhere, where there’s nothing better to do. But there’s always more than you expect who will use any excuse to do that nothing better. Inevitably, they will blame you for their not showing up. Don’t bother to argue: you both know that you’re right and they’re lying, so why waste the breath?

Fact: If you don’t threaten student judges with death, dismemberment and dental surgery, and then don't keep an eye on them 24/7, they will do things they shouldn’t do in a classroom, like take the teacher’s stuff. Next year at Bump there will be one novice round fewer, and I’ll be patrolling the halls with the eye of the proverbial eagle. Considering that debaters tend, as a rule, to be fairly smart, one has to wonder where they get the stupid pills on tournament days.

Fact: A parent judge whose phone rings three times during a round will answer it on the fourth ring and leave the room in the middle of a speech. The good news is that this in no way impinges on that judge’s ability to make a decision, because the judge had no idea what she was going in the first place. Jeesh.

Fact: You are not going to get all of your ballots, no matter how careful we are. This is a debate tournament, and ballot-sorting is the dullest job in the place. The mind wanders. And you know, this isn’t the first time you didn’t get all your ballots, is it? Why do you looked so shocked? Do you really think we have a secret stash somewhere, and we're just hiding them on you out of spite?

Fact: In MJP, the judge most likely not to show up is the hardest to replace. How do they know?

Fact: In MJP, if you’re not judging every round, it’s because you are not mutually preferred, not because I want you in the judges’ lounge at all times.

Fact: Why do the makers of signs all agree that apostrophes are optional? Judges may lounge in the library, but the point is to have a judges’ lounge in the library. Of course, that’s still better than some schools where the sign has said Welcome Debators.

Fact: We are doomed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bump 2011 Pt 2

I made a big mistake, mostly because I hadn’t given it much thought. Registration was from 10:30 to 11:30, with the first round shortly thereafter. I had sort of assumed that people would grab something to eat in the interim from the various places around the school, but I had never articulated that they should, and there was nothing for sale from us, much less given away. This led to many hungry debaters, apparently, but if it’s any consolation, I didn’t get any lunch either. I ascribe this to the novelty of the whole Saturday-Sunday thing. If that ever happens again, I will be prepared.

I did kick off the event with a judge meeting in which my performance was comparable to Rick Perry debating Herman Cain about which cabinet department to abolish in Libya. I hadn’t prepared anything, and I kept losing the point of what I was saying in an attempt to say way too much. So much for that. Rule number one of public speaking: have something to say. Next time I’ll prepare my rambling remarks rather than extemping them without virtue of having picked a topic. In any case, the judges did go on and judge, so I guess I didn’t scare them too much. I’m sure half of them feared for my sanity, though. So did I. I still do, for that matter.

It was good to have worked Kaz into the proceedings, with her working down at the grammar school with O’C. Two people just makes more sense. They went on down first, and had an odd moment of two sorting out a couple of rooms with the custodians, but nothing horrible they couldn’t handle. And up at the high school, JV and CP attacked MJP and put out their rounds, and at both venues everything began pretty much as planned and on schedule.

One fly in the ointment was that the school refused to let us have the teachers’ lounge, so our judges’ lounge became two lounges, one the detention room with food and one the other the library with comfy chairs, with the judges asked not to meet the twain (i.e., don’t sleep in the food and don’t eat in the comfy chairs). Surprisingly enough, that worked out, especially once we remembered to bring up skems from the other school to chivvy out the novice judges who were stuffing their faces and/or snoozing. In fact, most judges hung out in the detention room, despite its understandable lack of comfy chairs (HHHS probably doesn’t want to encourage detentioneers by offering cozy accommodations). Judges want to eat more than sleep, apparently. Except in rounds, but that’s understandable, I guess.

By the way, we didn’t collect much in fines this year, at least at the registration table. That’s a good thing in many ways, but it means less money for charity. There was some, though, which is all we ask.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bump 2011

You know your tournament is over when you get a notice on Foursquare that O’C has checked into Japonica…

It was weird not starting on Friday. I took that afternoon off to get the trophies and set up the data. The trophy guy just wanted to complain to me how he had to buy a generator when the electricity went out. I found this about as interesting as you think I found it, but since I want my trophies on time next year I figured I would hear him out. Then I packed up my car with the new ones, headed home, and added the leftover ones from last year. At this point there was an awful lot of tin in the chariot; we give out a lot of trophies at this shindig. Maybe not Jakian numbers, but enough.

After that, it was uploading the data and entering the rooms and whatnot. MJP closed late in the day, so I added that the next morning, but by the end of the afternoon I had TRPC ready to go in both novice and varsity land, plus I had a nap, a carful of trophies, and a fervent wish for it all to end.

Kt came up Friday, and CP stayed over, and we went to my favorite local restaurant where JV joined us, and a lot of duck confit was consumed by a grateful nation. Best Friday night at Bump ever, but, alas, Bump wasn’t half over yet. Still, it was nice to sleep in on Saturday, as much as anyone can when they’re running a tournament that day. Scared up a nice platter of pancakes and sausage and lattes and grapefruit and Beatle music in the background, which made this the best Saturday morning of Bump ever.

Then I went to the school. I mean, I had to go sooner or later...

Friday, November 11, 2011

On the verge of Bump

I keep thinking I should do this more often, and then I can’t find the time. Having that other blog just absorbs what went into this one. I will try to stop whining and figure out either a way to get this one back up to speed or else I’ll put it into hibernation or redefine it or something. I owe the VCA that.

Bump is this weekend, but I can’t say I’ve been agonizing about it much. Having the Saturday-Sunday thing has forced a few changes, but something changes every year anyhow, so more changes don’t matter terribly. The thing is, after you’ve done this for a while, it’s just not that big a deal. I don’t want to suggest that complacency has set in, because I’m doing some new things in the novice divisions (no breaks unless it looks like a demo round makes sense, which I won’t know until it happens), and we’re trying MJP in VLD, an interesting continuing experiment with a tournament this size. And there’s some new schools in the mix, so it’s not entirely the same old same old. It’s more that, honestly, after you’ve done it for over a decade, the machine works pretty well. takes the registrations and handles housing (although nobody seems to be able to figure out how to change a name and keep housing, which is probably an interface issue), parents get the same food for the same meals, the housing list is the same folks over and over, we get the same classrooms, yadda yadda yadda. What else is there? Not to suggest that all of this isn’t a lot of work, but it’s work on well trodden paths. The way is clear.

Then again, last year we didn’t give the Jon Cruz Award, so one can screw up on the ground, but that is neither here nor there. (Actually, the truth about last year’s award, which people thought I had forgotten, was that we couldn’t find a worthy recipient. Which just goes to show that The Jon Cruz Award, “which is given to Jon Cruz every year for no particular reason whatsoever,” isn’t quite the no-brainer people thought it was.)

I’m happy to report that people at the DJ have been throwing away the most godawful DVDs, which I’ve managed to intercept on the way to the toxic waste dump, thus insuring that at least one tradition—crappy prizes—will stand. And presumably O’C will remember to bring the traveling (fruit) cup (if he has it, unless someone else has it, in which case you can kiss that sucker goodbye), and also to pack the new medals, moving in to replace the rather sad sack mugs that I still have a million of. And somewhere in the chez is the box of t-shirts that I have to figure out what to do with.

So, Bump goes on. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe you’ll even be this year’s winner of the Jon Cruz Award. It could happen.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Oh, yeah. We start reading Nietzsche in pre-school.

The Monticello MHL was an oddball, in that instead of having four rounds we had three plus a workshop session. Kaz handled policy, talking about 5 different technical apsects of debate. O’C had a PF demo. I talked morality for LD.

It seemed to go well. My goal was to present the basic lines of thinking about morality, and eventually to tie them into Nov-Dec. So I started with the question of whether there even was such a thing as right and wrong, one someone went off into multi-culturism, and someone else cited Nietzsche’s belief that there is no truth. Did I say that I love debaters? I heavily leaned on x phi stuff, the scientific bases of morality (if any). That the trolley examples travel cross-culturally undermines a lot of cultural morality analysis, and for that matter, just because someone believes something, even if a whole culture believes something, doesn’t make that thing right/moral. It’s a nice belief though, having respect for other cultures. It may not stand if there are inherent evils that a given culture perpetrates. In any case, all of this leads to explaining consequentialism and deontology, then into Hauser and Haidt and Singer, and by then, you’ve given them some decent stuff to start the new topic on (the northeast Modest Novices debate civil disobedience through the end of this month, and get only one month on the supererogatory topic which I continue to believe is among the worse ever for anyone other than novices struggling with morality research).

So I sped along for about and hour and then ran out of gas, which was pretty good. I asked them about the modnov topic, and they were iffy about it. One kid said he would have preferred animal rights because all you had to do was ask if the judge had a pet and then you always won on the aff. Cute: you gotta love novices. This kid needs to read more of that Nietzsche his colleague was digging into.

Then on the way home I had one of those magical moments that makes debate so interesting to me. In the back seat a heated conversation was unfolding comparing the merits of the various LOTR movies. I was asked which one was my favorite, and I said the one with Snooki. “Snooki was in a LOTR movie?” I was asked. “Yes,” says I, “the one with the elves.” “Oh, that must be the second one. That’s your favorite, then?” “Sure,” says I, hopeful that I will somehow be instrumental in starting an urban myth that Snooki played an elf in the second LOTR movie. This stuff has to come from somewhere, after all. Why not me?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The ship of Hud is scarcely manned

It’s hard to say if the number of plebes (and for that matter, Sailors as a whole) is ridiculously diminished in general or if we’re just going through fits and starts, including the Regiscopalypse storm that still had people cut off from the world through Tuesday’s meeting. Only my most reliable plebes showed up, plus Zip, and we did some work and about as much schmoozing, but three people doesn’t make for much momentum. It’s sort of disheartening, because momentum is what carries a team along. An individual can proceed on his or her own momentum, because an individual doesn't look to a team for support of any kind. But a team makes arrangements and argues different topic approaches and plays cards and does all sorts of things that, at the moment, the Sailors aren’t doing much of. My vision of encompassing both LD and PF suffers if I can barely find a one-person team to do LD.


We also didn’t TVFT last night. I admit being personally pooped lately (too much DJ, mostly, for extracurriculars beyond my normal extracurriculars), but I think part of it was that we couldn’t agree on a topic, and if we have nothing much to talk about, schmoozing publicly doesn’t make a lot of sense. The shows should at least attempt to be about something if we really want anyone to listen to them. We did commit to next week, sort of, in the way we have of committing to things. We’ll see what happens.

This weekend is the Monticello MHL. We’re going to try to squeeze a little workshop into that, with me on morality, O’C on PF and Kaz on policy, but at the moment, there isn’t much of a PF signup. Maybe that will change as we near the deadline.

Monticello was also going to host another two-day event, in the place of the suspended Scranton event, but apparently they couldn’t get the numbers high enough. It is hard to add a new tournament or switch gears too much in this business. Schools are not what we would call flexible, and making arrangements is hard enough without having to make rearrangements. Anyone who doubts that bureaucracy is alive and well has nothing to do with school administration…

And meanwhile, Bump cometh. It’s fully subscribed, and now we should get the last-week dropoff. And we’ve cleared off the top of the Princeton waitlists in debate, and sorted out the rooms, so we’re in good shape there. We made the fields a little bigger. People traveling from kingdom come are now all off the list; next up will be the locals. Unlikely anyone will get any extra slots, given the numbers. We’ll see.

Monday, October 31, 2011

This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a CFL tournament

The Regiscopalypse was last Saturday. Normally this is a cheerful little event around Halloween, with four joyful rounds and every now and then I pop out for a latte, and Grandma Julia—Regis’s resident bubbe, so to speak—lays out a judge spread that demonstrates clearly that all the money amassed by the Vatican has not been going to waste. This year they had meatloaf, mac and cheese and sliced Virginia ham in addition to the usual sandwiches and salads.

If I had known what was coming, I would have taken a doggy bag. A couple of them.

I was, as the saying goes, busier than a one-armed paperhanger. First we got round one out, then I did PF judge training, then I got round two out, then I did LD judge training, then I got round 3 out and read the texts from my wife telling me that the world was ending and did I want to be at Regis when Gabriel blew his trumpet, to which I guess I would have to answer that if I had to be anywhere, this was a fairly good choice. Fortunately Catholic Charlie was around to help me with the ballots. Since all the divisions were about as balanced as some really imbalanced thing [fill in your own metaphor here; I’m too cold and exhausted], we had to use cards every time, the only fun in that being that I can show off being able to use cards. Yeah, I know. Big deal.

At one point in the day I got a text from JV down at Whitman telling me that O’C had wandered off from their tab room, asking if I had seen him. Then I started getting texts from O’C about some stuff or other about the Tiggers or something, all of which was interesting enough but, honestly, I was doing that one-armed p.h. thing. The funny thing is, after training the PF parents, having to train the LD parents was like sending off your troops into a suicide mission. You know that their efforts will be futile and that they will never survive, but you need them as a momentary distraction as the enemy mounts an offensive on the Marne or something. The best I could do is promise the survivors that we will look out for them in the future and keep them away from the beast of VLD.


Anyhow, after shutting down, we headed north. I had two plebes in my car, both of whom fell asleep as I played music from WDW to distract me from the fact that it looked like a scene from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as directed by Jean-Luc Godard, in 3-D and Smellovision. One drove at a handful of miles per hour through pure white, on ice, surrounded by fallen and falling trees, the sky ever darkening, occasionally going nowhere in a line of traffic extending forever, watching roads expand and contract from three lanes to half a lane and back again. After finally reaching home, the power was out, the house was cold, and the silence was maddening. Fortunately there was juice in my portable speakers so we listened to Hawaiian music.

Never underestimate the healing power of the ukulele!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wizard of OS

I’ve been mulling this for a while. Since I have an iPad and an iPhone, both now nattily upgraded to IOS 5, the question was, what about the computer? The beauties of the cloud are sort of lost if you don’t throw all your hardware into it. But I’ve got Velvet Elvis so nicely honed through years of experience, including the running of tournaments using VMWare Fusion, that I was loath to mess around with it. Since the DJ is within walking distance of an Apple store, I started cruising the mall with techlust in my heart.

These were the options:

1. Status quo, and no computer connection to the IOS 5 devices. But this is like buying a convertible and never putting the top down.
2. A new computer. Either I bought a Mac Mini and set up a new desktop, which would be the cheaper alternative, or I bought an Air, which has the virtue of inherent sexiness. I played with the Air a bit (the little one). Since in Lion you can expand the window to screen size, it was just about the same as Velvet Elvis, all things considered. But then the question is, does this tiny sucker become my home computer? That didn’t make sense. And the problem was an anchor computer, not an extra travel companion; VV already travels fine.
3. Bite the proverbial bullet and upgrade.

I knew that, one way or another, I could upgrade VV and still have TRPC somewhere. Worst case scenario is my Dell. So, I bit the bullet and visited the Mac App Store for the very first time on Monday night. Two minutes later I was downloading Lion.

Installing a new operating system is the sort of thing you do in your sleep. I mean, you start the installation, and then you go to bed, because it takes forever. And sure enough, yesterday morning as I was heading out the door to the DJ, I checked VV and there was a little welcome message explaining the brave new world of gestures to me. I gestured to the machine to be patient and went off to work.

Last night, after meeting with the Sailors, I attacked the Windows issue. I had realized at some point during the day that I hadn’t backed up my Windows stuff, which was no great loss, but would mean finding my Round Robin schema and reinstalling Word and Excel. By the way, the versions of Word and Excel that I run (this is XP, folks) are so old that in Word the alphabet only has 24 letters (Q and W weren’t invented yet) and Excel thinks that infinity is somewhere in the neighborhood of 42. Whatever. When I clicked on the icon to run my old version of Fusion, I was told about the difference between 32 and 64 bits in no uncertain terms, and that was that. So, I got the latest version of Fusion for Lion, and downloaded that. By now I was realizing that even though once upon a time I had set up Fusion like a house a’fire, I had forgotten how I had done it and would be faced with the daunting challenge of doing it again. Oh joy. Oh rapture.

And of course, I couldn’t install Fusion as an upgrade. I tried to install it as a second version of the software, keeping the first, having some dream that I could figure out how to port over stuff, but I couldn’t do that either. Sigh. So, I replaced the old Fusion with the new Fusion.

And all my Windows stuff was there! All my apps! My various versions of TRPC, including the one that does tenths of a point for judges who can tell the difference between a 27.3 performance and a 27.4. Word, Excel, RRs, pictures of O'C getting Cinderella's autograph—everything!

Life is good.

So, everything seems to be running well. I purchased some iTunes music, and sure enough afterwards it was in the cloud for every device. The calendar and contacts are humming. My version of iPhoto is too old to be clouded, but the comments in the App store say that this really isn’t working yet, so I can wait.

Tonight I check the printer drivers; they’re the sort of thing that almost inevitably require upgrades with a new OS, and the last thing I want to do is arrive at Regis Saturday unable to print a schematic. But the bottom line is, as with every other OS 10 upgrade I’ve done, and I’ve done them all, it was relatively painless. Next up is looking at the new features, which may or may not appeal (I’ve already sort of bought into the inverse scrolling).

And think of all the money I saved! Now maybe I can buy that Jambox…

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Debutante Ball

The 2011 First-Timers’ (and Some Old-Timers’) event now joins a billion other tournaments in the annals of forgotten history, except by O’C, who memorizes all the results just in case there’s a pop quiz some day. Somehow we didn’t get the policy results posted; Kaz gave me empty files, so she’s poking around her computer and should come up with something shortly. Perish the thought that the results not enter history. It’s small things like this that send the O’Cs of life over the edge.

We had not one but two schools trying to put sophomores in as judges. This has never been allowed, and it’s clear on the website, and now I’ve asked CP to help us incorporate something into as well. Meanwhile I’ll have to choice but to check all the judges against team rosters: quelle pain, as they say in France (although when they do, they’re probably talking about bread, which is a comment that proves that, once again, if you were smarter, I’d be funnier). I tend to take a mean view of shenanigans, as the VCA well knows. I have no compunctions about tossing people out of tournaments, and I intend to continue that practice. The good news is that the violators are always the same people, over and over again. Recidivism runs high in debate circles. Go figure.

We had the tournament at Bronx Scientology, which looks exactly the same as it did last week for Big Jake. Even the postings and announcements were still taped to the various walls. I would suggest that if the custodians expect to get trophies for cleaning up after the tournament, they might want to get on the stick.

The tournament itself was nonstop busy work. JV and Abdul did some training while Kaz and I data’d it up, then Abdul came by to help enter and JV went to California to try to break into the movies or something. O’C was shocked that I managed to pull off a 6:30 award ceremony and four rounds. Actually it was 6:35 but You Know Who was, as always, the last ballot in. (Yeah, we had Voldemort in the PF pool.) A splendid time was had by all, and then, wonder of wonders, we announced that we would roughly do it again this coming week at Regis.

The fun never ends.

Bronx Funnies

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The novices are about to launch, etc.

We TVFTed last night, for the first time since August. This abundance of infrequency is not from lack of trying. Early in the year there’s a lot of traveling and setups, and then this, that and the other thing arise, and the next thing you know, it’s the end of October. We should settle into a reasonable regularity going forward.

The abundance of infrequency with this blog, on the other hand, will probably continue. There are just so many hours in the day, and writing that other blog makes this one harder to fit in. I do try, though.

On the Sailor front, it looks as if we have 4 solid plebes and a couple more translucent ones. NPR is dithering between speech and debate and has asked me to choose for him, earning a predictably Yoda like response. I can’t tell people what’s right for them; high school is all about answering that question for yourself. At this week’s meeting the Cannibal stood up to the plate on some training (shades of the Panivore), which bodes well for the future. But the future remains clouded because the juniors were out on the bounding main visiting Ellis Island, my first thoughts on hearing which were that they were leaving the country and going back where they came from. With the abundance of their absence at this week's meeting, we were unable to discuss PF. Next week.

This weekend is the annual First-Timer’s event. I’ve gotten a couple of people complaining about the rules of the MHL, specifically in regards to the fact that a middle school debater is not a novice. Our experience has been that former middle schoolers are way beyond the average novice; after all, Robbie and HoraceMan won novice Scarsdale as 8th graders, and granted they were exceptional, they weren’t all that exceptional. People tell me that their middle schoolers only debated a little bit, though, and I am a little torn. We’ll have to talk about this among ourselves over the weekend. Maybe we can do better than an absolute elevation to JV. Anyhow, the point of first time debate is that it’s a person’s first time; in the past we’ve had a not-first division, and we’ll try that again this time and see if the numbers support it. We want everyone to come and have rounds, one way or another. The goal of the league is inclusiveness. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone.

I have talked a bit about Big Jake last weekend, and there isn’t a lot to say. Each happy family is the same: a well run tournament mostly does all the things a tournament should do the same as every other well run tournament. The problem is that well run tournaments are not guaranteed at any level. But I have to admit that, if nothing else, the reliability of the software these days, combined with the experience of the folks behind the wheel (Bietz and I worked like telepaths—it was spooky) means that things will probably go okay at that end at least. As I said to O’C, running a tournament, i.e., being the tournament director, means you don’t do anything yourself but manage everybody else doing things. He’s gotten there now. And he’s appreciative, as a manager, of the roles everyone else plays. If he thanks the little people (like me) one more time, I’m going to have to poison his dragon roll. On the other hand, he did claim that the entire Bronx team (there’s 2837 novice LDers just for a start) have all come down with Big Bronxitis. There’s a price to pay, apparently.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Bronx Bites the Dust

O’C wants me to review Big Jake, on the assumption that I’ll say all sorts of wonderful things about it and how he should be carried on the backs of forensicians everywhere and whatnot. Yeah, right. I mean, the tournament was fine and things went well, but if you were there you know that, and if you weren’t, you either don’t care or you do care for reasons I hesitate to guess at. What I know the VCA wants to hear is all the bad stuff.

I’m your man.

Consider this the list for improvements for next year:

1. There was no Sporcle in the tab room. This is like having no air in the space suit. The Jake authorities apparently think that Sporcle will ruin the youth of America. So what? Tab rooms need it. Jeesh.

2. There wasn’t a Starbucks within a hundred miles. You want me to be pleasant to you at eight o’clock in the morning without a triple venti nonfat latte? Dream on.

3. The conspiracy theory du jour from Bietz, that Steve Jobs died weeks ago but they were keeping him on ice because they didn’t have the iPhone 5 and wanted to distract everyone, was the worst conspiracy du jour in tab room history.

4. Ryan Hamilton snores. In the tab room. Regularly. How could I sleep with that racket going on?

5. This tournament cost me about $400. First, the ice cream from Mr. Softee was so softee that it ruined my sneakers and I had to order a new pair. Second, Bietz had this little portable Bluetooth speaker that I am now going to have to buy. I can’t afford this kind of tabbing. I am not made of money.

6. Carrying a walkie-talkie into the tab room is a hanging offense.

7. I am a firm believer that the tab room should have an open door policy. However, it should also lock from the inside, and the windows should be covered so that it looks like no one is home.

8. Debaters: Problems that arise in round one should be addressed some time before semis. Our Wayback Machine ain't what it used to be.

9. If O’C is going to eat a sandwich in the tab room, there should be sandwiches in the judges’ lounge when I look at what O’C is eating and decide I want one too and walk all the way down there—it's halfway to Brooklyn—to find nothing but pasta salads. Pasta salads, even good pasta salads, are not the sandwich that O’C was eating.

10. If you ask me what time it is, please do not do so when I am standing under a clock.

11. People who think Yo-Yo Ma is the antichrist know nothing about music. People who, after announcing that Yo-Yo Ma is the antichrist, make disparaging Yo-Yo Ma gestures for the rest of the day should be put to sleep, although while trying not to start snoring again.

12. If I invite you to a steak house, try not to be a vegetarian.

13. If I’m going to wear my Mickey Mouse Bronx Booster Pin, people ought to bow down as I walk past. I didn’t get one salaam all weekend.

14. Having Panivores at your tournament does not warrant a dozen trays of macaroni and cheese. It just encourages them.

As I say, other than that, it went fine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Big Bronx Schedule

(An oldie but a goodie.)

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.)

Bronx Funnies

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Customer is Always Wrong

I hate putting together my own tournament, but I love watching other people put together theirs. At the moment I’m in various stages of involvement with various events. I’m tabbing for O’C starting tomorrow. (It's a unique tournament: The awards ceremony begins Friday afternoon and ends around lunchtime on Sunday. Then there’s a single round of debate—the round is named after Japhod Beeblebrox, a Bronx Science alum, and is called the Davy Crockett—and everyone goes home.) So there’s that one. There’s the Tiggers, registration for which opens Saturday, in which I am acting in loco palmeris to help them with general coordination. Then there’s the MHL first-timers’ next weekend, followed by a bunch o’ single days, followed by Bump.

And here’s the thing: people are really a pain in the butt.

There’s the inevitable people who, rather than signing up for a tournament, reinvent the tournament. As CP roughly puts it, you know your tournament has arrived when somebody does this. I personally deleted three requests on to create the New York City Invitational, and there were more than that deleted by other folks. I’ve already deleted one for Princeton. You know, sometimes you really do have to RTFM. There is a big difference between registering for a tournament and creating a tournament. Jeesh.

Then there’s invitations. While tournaments operate to some extent under common law systems of obligation and procedure, each individual tournament has its quirks. All happy tournaments are alike; each unhappy tournament is unhappy in its own way, in other words. (Are we literary today or what?) The problem is, no one ever reads the invitation. RTFI? Tournaments have rules about signing up, payments, fines and the like. I’ve simplied it at Bump so that registration closes and you pay me the money, and if you screw up you put more money into the contribution box and we send it to someplace where life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death, using the respectability of charitable contribution to add to the shame of people screwing up. The thing is, when people screw up, they inevitably claim they didn't. I mean, they swear to God, the furies and Dick Cheney that they’re right and you’re wrong. Hence my poorbox. It’s hard to argue in the face of all those starving suckers.

I do hate to argue with people though. I am, shockingly, rather mellow most of the time. I do need to be pushed. But people have, on occasion, pushed me. I am especially ired by bad judges, which tend to always come from the same schools, and I have begun taking action beyond bloviation. This action is usually met with stunned demurrals or slinking into the sunset mutterings about that @*&$^% Menick without actually confronting me because, well, the customer is always wrong. When you’ve entered non-English speaking judges that you haven’t trained into a tournament, it’s not easy for them to tell me that they in fact do speak English and are trained when they can only do so in a pig latin gumbo of Prakrit and Esperanto**. Jeesh, as I am wont to say.

I can’t wait to see what arises at Big Jake. Mostly it tends to run well on the customer side because people have traveled a long way and spent a lot of money and tend to be professional debate programs, as compared to pikers and stumblers and ne’er-do-wells. And besides, Ryan Hamilton, the tournament's official greeter, enforcer, bouncer and Sporcle referee, will whip people into shape if they don’t watch their step. There are a lot of things that strike fear into the hearts of debate people, e.g, the wrath of JV. But nothing can hold a candle to the threat of exile to Hamiltonia. Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair!***

* I’ve been listening to a certain audiobook lately, read by Stephen Fry, that is a perfect 10.

** Unfortunately, the way I wrote this paragraph allows me no way to work in a joke about someone having a thick Esperanto accent. Too bad.

*** Have we set the allusion record this time out? Close, I’ll say. Damned close.

Bronx Funnies - Special Round Robin Edition!

Bronx Funnies

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's in their pipes and now they're smoking it

So I walk into the meeting last night, and the room is packed with newbies. Instead of the three I was sort of getting used to, there were maybe a dozen fresh-faced little freshman staring up at me. Apparently there was a general recruitment for all the teams/clubs, and we got some people answering the call. Very nice. Of course, this meant that I had to start at the beginning again, which I really can’t do, but I managed to cover Debate Philosophy 101 in about 20 minutes, and then we went on from there. Whether any of these people will return is questionable, but I talked nonstop for 90 minutes and occasionally someone got one of the jokes and either they will come back or leave the district immediately for gentler shores. I’ll find out next week.

Okay and the Cannibal weren’t there for the PF announcement, but my entire slate of Juniors (two, count ‘em, two) were, and at least one of them was quite happy with this, he being of the persuasion of former LDers who weren’t all that excited about VLD. The plebes probably couldn’t make heads nor tails of any of it; the first-timers probably even less so. Whatever. I’m thinking that the best thing to do is get on the train for December rather than just the one time at most in November. This will allow me to continue concentrating on the Modest Novice and then Nov-Dec through October, which is only two more meetings, while setting up the infrastructure for PF (viz team research).

In private conversations I have had, no one is surprised by the switch. It’s not absolute, which helps. People can LD their little hearts out for four years if they are so inclined, as I’ve said. That’s a good thing, but only for some people. For other people, and I think a majority, PF will be a good thing. As I seek to spread the benefits of debate as I see them to the greatest number, it is, as they say on Vulcan, the logical thing to do.

Bronx Funnies

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Big Change

No, I am not quitting LD.

I am simply adding PF.

It’s like this:

Historically, there has always been a drop-off between sophomore and junior years, or wherever the line is drawn between varsity and whatever leads up to it. We have a fairly healthy JV experience regionally, although I have to plead guilty to removing most of the JV divisions from the colleges and replacing them with novice divisions. This was done to provide more experiences for novices, with the assumption that the other kids going to college tournaments ought to kick themselves up a notch and go varsity. Also, the JV divisions were confused amalgams of debaters with anywhere from one week to three years of experience, which made them a little less than competitive, or a little too competitive, depending on your point of view.

In any case, the drop-off in LD is not new. I’ve seen it since the beginning of my tenure at Sailorville. Whatever the nature of LD over the years, the jump to varsity has meant a much bigger commitment than some debaters were already making. The kid who wanted to derive benefits from debate without giving it the commitment of one’s total soul was left out. That kid could continue with the activity, but only to face a career of relentless losing and confusion. Today’s LD is probably more confusing than ever. At least in the past, while the material might be over one’s head, at least one could follow what was going on. Now speed makes that difficult, unless one has already sold one’s soul to do that speed oneself (no easy trick). As I have said many times, I have nothing against speed intrinsically, but I personally can’t follow it (although I used to, when I judged every week, although now it’s even faster so I’m not so sure I could do it if I tried). Those who believe that speed leads to only judges who can do speed who are, by definition, college students, could be right, but I don’t think that this is exclusively the case at any tournament except, maybe, TOC. Still, speed is almost everywhere, at every tournament, if not in every round.

Another aspect of today’s debate that requires that soul-selling is theory. Again, I have nothing against theory and see it as a useful tool against abusive positions, but given the prevalence of theory in rounds, one has to assume that virtually all debaters are being abusive in the first place, requiring these tools in almost every round to combat them. Also, of course, there are the sort of positions that I’m sure will be used in Nov-Dec, where the argument whether one is morally obligated to help those in need (which, I would suggest, is emphatically negative) will never touch on the moral obligations of helping others in need, but will simply argue the wording of the topic or the intrinsic unfairness of the topic. Again, there’s nothing wrong with arguing at that level, but to be honest, I don’t really care about it. It’s game-playing, and while I love playing games, I also love the content of resolutions, and I’m a little saddened to see the content relegated to a minor position in the discourse, if it holds any position at all. The content of LD is rich, but lately, it’s all but forgotten.

Mostly my concern is not with LD, but with student drop-off. My core belief—the reason I do this in the first place—is that forensics is good for students. All students. Anyone doing literally any forensics activity will be better off as a result. The benefits of debate are learning to write and research and think a certain way, and to speak on one’s feet. All good stuff. I don’t want to limit that good stuff to freshmen and sophomores, who then go off to become mall rats.

So, the program at Hen Hud will henceforth work thus. All novices will do LD all year. Starting second year, everyone will switch to PF, unless they wish to stay in LD. That is, PF will be the default position, and LD with be an option. Practically speaking, it’s the other way around now.

What will the results of this be? Well, I hope it will keep students longer. LD in the first year will train them on basic debate strategy: after all, debate is debate and an argument is an argument (and those members of the VCA who have followed my thoughts on PF know that I believe that a virtual LD structure underlying a PF case is a good idea). I will be able to work with students more thoroughly throughout their career because, honestly, lots of the specifics of LD are lost on me these days, and that is not true of PF. Also, I will be able to rope in more parents to help out. And I think that the average Sailor will have a better debate experience overall. They still can do LD if, for instance, they’re of the Panivorous persuasion—I’m not stopping anyone from doing it, and I will encourage those who want to. But most kids, facing the circuit mentality, tend to fade away, and I want to put a stop to that.

Again, this is nothing against LD. Nor have I ever had anything against PF that I’m suddenly changing my tune about. I love all forensics. I’m just changing focus a little bit.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The new season

So where are the Sailors this year?

Turnout at the first general meeting was spotty at best, although on the bright side most of the people there were potential debaters. Speecho-Americans, who operate on S-A time, started showing up at later meetings. Subsequently, after a little mix and match, we’ve got three debate plebes. This is about average for the course. One of them is already rebeling against his nickname, NPR, which is a hell of a lot better than some other nicknames I’ve come up with over the years. The other two have no nicknames. Come to think of it, the team is fairly free of this curse at the moment, although the Cannibal is arriving next Tuesday (I’m sure much to her chagrin, but as I always say, wipe that chagrin off your face!). Two of the three are on the listserver, the official measure of enlistment. NPR is on the fence. We’ll see. If he hits the road, I’ll give the nickname to someone else. I like the sound of it. It’s no Panivore or Wheat Germ or Termite, but it will do.

Last night we had the parent meeting, where first I tell everyone what we do, and second, I lock everyone in until I have the requisite number of volunteers to run Bump. By now I have my spiel down pretty well, including the timing of all the jokes, although I can never resist tossing in a few ad libs, and they worked pretty well. I mean, I’ve got some good material, people. I’m wasted on forensics. I always promise a half hour meeting, and it always comes in at exactly a half hour, and then maybe another half hour and some change. And we did get Bump parceled out. Food, housing, judges’ lounge. That’s their job.

My job is registration. This year we’ve about doubled PF, which really doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is how long it’s been taking for PF to get any traction in the region. But maybe that’s ending. In any case, we’re roughly at waitlist in every division, and a hundred over in housing (so for most of those folks, it isn’t going to happen, although I’ve asked the parents to do their best, and last year they found 20 or so extra slots, to the thanks of a grateful debate nation). This is the point at which I keep an eye on it, looking for shenanigans (and in some cases, heading shenanigans off at the pass), worrying it as deadlines approach. The most important thing maybe be that I got Kathy S, the S-A coach, to promise to sell water this year in bottles bigger than one ounce. I mean, I like ripping off debate children as much as the next guy, but those bottles last year were ridiculous. On the other hand, Mrs. Panivore explained how, at housing, she gives kids bottles of water to bring with them to the school. Which, of course, undermines my ability to rip off debate children. We did have a talk about that. She’ll just hand them bagels in the future. Lord knows, the Panivore household has more bagels than it knows what to do with.