Monday, January 31, 2011

I remember...some of it

Ah, history.

This weekend the Panivore managed to tied the Sailor record for TOC bids in one year, which is seven. After a while the number of bids doesn’t really matter anymore. I mean, once you’re fully qualified, it’s nothing more than statistics. Which means, of course, that O’C’s ears immediately perked up. Statistics? Debate history? Awards? He thought he might have to go diving into the bilge water of Sailor legend to find out who exactly did what, but at least in what I guess we can safely refer to as the Menick Years, I know perfectly well. I haven’t forgotten all that much. Yet.

The daughter managed to scrape together five bids in her day in her senior year. Considering that she didn’t even go to the TOC, this was mostly of parenthetical interest at the time. That was the year the local state tournament was held the same weekend, and all her friends were going to be at that one, and she didn’t give the proverbial hoot about TOC by comparison. This was Kate through and through. Noah G managed to get seven bids as a senior, thus setting the modern team record. He started going to TOC as, if I remember correctly, a sophomore. I started going with him after a while, and there was a period there when Hen Hud had TOC types hanging from the rafters. We were lousy with bids, to put it mildly. We attracted them like fleas to a mutt. (Not that the Sailors were mutts, of course: the VCA knows well my inability to scrape together the two halves of a metaphor.) We just happened to have some good debaters, which I attribute to the water from the local nuclear power plant. If you had uranium enriching your daily bread, you’d get more bids too.

I have always believed that there is a combination of ingredients to $ircuit success, the first of which is the debater. You can’t make a silk purse, etc. Some people are just naturals at this business. It is possible for coaches to stymie that inherent ability, but if you don’t get in the way too much, it will blossom. Then, of course, there are coaches who obviously have ability that combines well with a source of good debaters. You couldn’t put, say, Bietz into the La Jolla Institute for the Criminally Insane and Sort of Dull Adolescent and expect his team to take home a national championship or two, but his record with solid raw material demonstrates that he must be doing something right again and again. In other words, bad coaching can inhibit good debaters and good coaching can develop better debaters. Neutral coaching—my specialty—at least won’t hurt them, but then again, my goal is to start them down the track. Where they go after that is up to them.

It all boils down to what you want to get out of the activity. I consider the competitive part of it important, but not at all as important as everything else. There’s all the learning that goes into understanding the topics, there’s all the maturity required to show up and get things done correctly and in a timely manner, there’s the opening up to new people and new ideas. Competition enables this stuff, which is why the competition is important. That this stuff enables the competition is beside the point, and isn’t at all why most coaches bother. Winning is great, but you can lose a lot of rounds and still get all the benefits of debate. Sure, some of us will remember who won what when, but most of us will remember more the students who grew and learned as a result of being team members; when you get together five years later, you probably won’t talk about that spike the aff ran in the third round. The trophies will be dusty in the basement (or the lack of trophies long forgotten). What will matter is having gone through the experiences. Debaters will be better for it than if they hadn’t gone through them. And they will know that, and remember those times fondly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like Abbott forgetting Costello?

I can see that you have a technical bent, which means you’ll be interested in last night’s TVFT. Bietz did some research and found undeniable statistical evidence of negs beating affs way too often for it to be kosher. We looked into this with more data, and I’m pretty ready to say that the prevalence of neg wins increases as the field gets better. In other words, at a novice or low-key regional tournament, things look fifty-fifty. But as you proceed to the bubble rounds and outrounds at a $ircuit tournament, things go dramatically neg.

On the podcast we analyze some possible reasons. Maybe it’s the judging. Obviously resolutions have something to do with it. And the structure of the round is certainly one of the usual suspects. We kicked around ways of testing new structures, although implementation is difficult. In any case, smart affs have no choice but to recognize this inherent neg bias, regardless of its cause, and prepare for it. The trouble is, we’re unclear how, as it depends on the individual case in hand. But think about that. It might be important to you real soon now. In the best of all possible worlds, it shouldn’t matter if you flip aff or neg. Unfortunately, we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.

In other news, I’ve ported the Twitter feed from the DJ over to the right hand column here (which means if you’re RSSing this you don’t give a rat’s hoot). It’s not filled to overflowing with new tweets, but there’s one or two a day about books, old and new, that you might find interesting, if you’ve ever read a book in your life or intend to do so at some time in the future. Looking at the old right hand column when I did this, I realized that it’s time for a little spring cleaning. Too bad it’s not spring. Soon.

And in the most shocking development of all, O’C forgot that we needed medals at the MHL this weekend. This is like Donald Trump forgetting that people need real estate. Like Tom Cruise forgetting his elevator shoes. Like Lindsay Lohan forgetting to do cocaine. Whoda thunkit?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Listening to Disney music is not a bad way to overcome the umpty-umpth drive to work in the snow. “Pretty good sure as you’re born…”


In my new office at the DJ we have The Two Guys Who Look Alike Who Don’t Look Alike, and The Guy Who Looks Just Like Them. When I mention that to anybody, they know exactly who I’m talking about.


The Sword in the Stone is quite the oddest book. I read it about a hundred years ago, and just finished listening to the audio version on my way home last night. It has the narrative drive of pinball machine, and what, exactly, is the intended age of the audience? Not that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s just…unique. Next up on the audiobook queue: The Eyre Affair. I absolutely love the Jack Sprat mysteries by the same author, and have never heard anything but praise for the Thursday Next novels. Hopes are high.


These are interesting times. I have achieved, simultaneously, loathing and loving as a result of the exact same actions. There are people who want my head on a platter, and there are people offering me the world as my oyster. I prefer a more even keel, with neither platter nor pearl, and I don’t understand why things are so nutty at the moment. Maybe the moon is in Pisces. Or the swallows are coming back to Capistrano. Or maybe it’s sunspots.


There’s an MHL this weekend, which for me is like a weekend off. I need that. O’C had last weekend off, and he probably needed that. He showed up at the Gem, let a few people genuflect and kiss his ring, and then went back to his atelier to watch Howard the Duck again. I should have gone with him.


You really need to read this, about the Constitution. It reminded me about this, which I just downloaded. Her American Scripture is in my Top Ten. (Any wonder I like people to argue about resolutions?)


There seems to be a round robin every day of the week all of a sudden. Why don’t we just eliminate tournaments? Get the top ten or twenty debaters, lock them in a room for a month, and go back at the end and see who’s still standing. It will get them out of everyone else’s hair, and I’m sure they’ll be happy as clams hobnobbing exclusively with one another. (I’ve got five independent arguments to support this, plus a reverse framework, a theory shell, two spikes and enough acronyms to take over the U.S. Army, so don’t try to argue with me.)


What happens to football players who make a practice of missing practice? Something tells me they do not remain football players.


Why am I at fault for your ineptitude?


I am no doubt among the last people among whom you should demonstrate an attitude. I am notoriously patient with many things—stirring risotto, braising the shanks of various random beasts, starting up Windows on my old Dell—but not that. If we are two people on an equal footing trying to solve a problem, we will get together fine. If you perceive me as your problem, we probably will not get together quite so well, even if I am your problem, because by your treatment you have forced me to perceive you as my problem. Which, of course, does not solve any problems.


I am not perfect. Why do you expect that I should be? Do I exude such perfection from every pore? Have all my previous moves indicated to you that anything less than perfection on my part is incomprehensible? My claims of infallibility are mythical; my fallibility is legendary. You should know that by now.


Tonight I’ll get all of this out of my system on TVFT. And then we’ll return to normalcy, whatever that is.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Miracle of the Gem

Instead of two days of elims, give me one day, and I’ll give you six rounds and get you out in time for a nice civilized dinner. I like to think of this of the Miracle of the Gem of Harlem.

So many schools were closed Friday that there was no question that the Gem made the right choice in postponing the start. We hardly lost a soul by moving to Saturday if we had started on Friday, we would have been much more soulless. People were able to scrape together contingency plans that they would simply have scrapped if things had started as planned: no one wants to start a tournament with two forfeits under the old forensic belt, after all. I took the train down myself after lunch on Friday and found it surprisingly simple to negotiate all my traveling tab paraphernalia without a lackey hardware engineer to provide assistance. Once I arrived I started playing with rooms and schedules and the like, and JV was there shortly thereafter, and also Joe the Gem who has taken on the directorate role in place of CP (who spent the weekend in Massachusetts checking into fancy restaurants and earning all sorts of elite badges for his smart phone). Among ourselves and the Harlemaniacs, we managed to get to the end of phone registration with nary a scratch. I hardly wanted to strangle a single Harlemaniac all weekend, to tell you the truth*.

I had expected that Kaz and I would work together but the inherent logic of the novices all in one building, and one of us there to keep an eye on them, was too overwhelming. Of course, this meant that the poor woman ended up in a utility closet (don’t ask about that room list, but then again, rooms have always been a Gem issue), but she got the job done. We both had judges up the wazoo, which allowed us a little single-flighting, although I gather that some poor people were debating dangling from the fire escapes down there in noviceland during this period. Where I was I spent a lot of time carefully explaining how big rooms could be carefully subdivided, but I felt like God explaining to Moses how to part the Red Sea and then I turn around for two minutes and Moses has all the Israelites over at Nile instead because, well, he didn’t acquiesce to sterling wisdom**.

Having enough judges and the illusion of enough rooms, we single-flighted novice first and then varsity, and got all our rounds in, ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom. We told everybody in novice that we’d post down there and to wait for said postings, and all the novices who paid attention did wait, and all the novices who would never pass my (asterisked) admission qualifications to my imaginary ivy didn’t wait, leading to calls in the wee hours asking why they weren’t posted on line from, no doubt, the professors not getting tenure at my imaginary ivy. I always love when there’s hundreds of people who get the message and two that don’t, the two that don’t insist that there wasn’t any message and that they were right there and there was no way there was any message, etc., etc., etc.***

Somehow or other we had the rounds, and the whole thing ended, and no doubt from the outside it looked pretty efficient. All I know is that Saturday from about 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. I don’t think I took a breath and never even ran out to the Starbucks across the street for more caffeine. I did do a sushi run, also across the street (but not to Starbucks, obviously) and I got a paper and I did do the puzzle, so there was that, but otherwise… I fell asleep once in my chair but Brother K almost immediately walked behind me and knocked over enough of my stuff via my extension cord to get me back to consciousness again.

It was that kind of weekend.

* I ask that you don’t misread that statement. I actually wanted to strangle numerous of them, with a couple of exceptions. Note to other people who might ask me to help them run things: if you have never done this before, that is fine, but I have done this before, as have my tabbing colleagues, and while I will entertain your ideas with serious attention, when I prefer some other way, the idea is not that you continue to argue with me but that you simply acquiesce to my sterling wisdom gracefully. A lot of times I got the feeling that the Traveling Tabroom and the Harlemaniacs were simply not speaking the same language. But little blood was shed, at least on my part. A late text I received on the bus going home suggested that a few young Harlemaniac psyches were sent into a state of permanent withdrawal by someone else, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. Suffice it to say that, if I ever open an Ivy League school, the first requirement for admittance will be a firm understanding of the alphabet and its intended order.

** The second requirement for my Ivy will be, when I draw you a map, you follow it. I think I’ll draw a map to the admissions office. If you’re not there in five minutes, it turns into a Cosmetician School.

*** The third requirement: when we are all gathered in the admissions office I will announce on the loudspeaker that everyone should sit down. I will wait a minute, and take all the people still standing up and escort them out of the admissions office. If they tell me there was no announcement, I will send them back to judge novices. Forever. PF novices!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Sunday State of Mind

I know that as a general rule the VCA looks on Nostrum much in the same way Churchill looked on the man he always referred to as Herr Hitler, but nonetheless, this isn't the worst time to try it if you haven't, or if you've been taking a much deserved break from it. I would suggest listening to the latest episode, given that it is laden with state of the art effects that will live with you forever. If you've never Nostrumed, and wish to pursue a full course of this particular drug, you should start with Series 1, a classic much like War and Peace or the new Snooki novel. The whole shebang is accessible on the Nostrum Nation blog.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Called the doctor, woke him up

What was most remarkable about the whole 4 days of Lexwegia was the lack of a single Disney tune. How could that happen? Is a puzzlement. Anyhow, when you’ve finished listening to the Keith Richards autobiography, listen to the 3-disk set of the London Decca singles. This was our soundtrack on the way home from the RR; very illuminating. And if you can keep yourself from skipping the Satanic Majesty tunes, you’re a better man than I.

I realize that the whole publish-the-results movement that we’ve been pushing is the best solution to tab errors. At the Lex RR we were sort of namby-pamby about whether there was disclosure, hence we didn’t post (and didn’t get a chance to catch my error in a timely fashion). I have no idea why some RRs insist on non-disclosure, but I gather this is some sort of prophylaxis against the whole business turning into a grim blood competition. Of course, I hate the idea of grim blood competitions, which is why I inevitably blast out Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut” in all my tab rooms. So, screw that. Henceforth, if I’m in tab, the results are on the wall, period. Don’t like it, don’t ask me to tab. Put the lime in the coconut and drink a bowl up, I always say.

We had a repeat winner of Bean Trivia, btw. Jeff Merrill repeated because he knew Dudley Do-Right’s day job. I think it’s more interesting that there’s someone out there who doesn’t know Dudley Do-Right’s day job. What do they teach kids these days, anyhow? Nothing useful, apparently.

We were going to TVFT last night, but everybody pooped out. Buncha wimps!

So now we are at the edge of our seats wondering how the Gem of Harlem will play out. Predictions are for up to five inches of snow, which means that suburban schools are almost inevitably going to close down and not provide buses if that holds true. Various means of scrambling are possible, including starting on Saturday instead of Friday. As I write this, the call has not been made and everything is up in the air. #(*&$%# winter! So far, this has been one of the worst, and it’s barely started. My driveway is already covered with ice and I’ll be lucky if I don’t break my butt one of these mornings as I climb out to get the Times and put out the trash. Anyhow, I’ll be going into the city tomorrow come hell or high water, so there you are. That miserable figure hunched into the blizzard, pulling his printer behind him—that’s me. But at least I’ll have my iPod. I’ll be listening to “Coconut.”

I say, Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adventures in the Frigid North, continued

Since there was no final round on Saturday, things ended relatively early. JV was already gone, and Kaz was tied into her Policians, so CP and I headed down to Waltham alone for a late dinner. Let me tell you: Lexwegians handle snow the way some really good handler handles things really well, while Waltham simply doesn’t have a clue. You could drive a MacMansion down the streets of Lexington, but you’d have trouble getting an outhouse down Waltham’s roads. Which didn’t deter us from having good food though; nothing does. It was a tapas place, and for some reason CP thought he’d get the livers all to himself. Yeah, right.

No tournament worth its salt is without a visit from the po-lice. At about three in the morning, as I was busily dreaming away about whatever it is I dream away about busily, there came a pounding at my door that jarred me awake, and I mean a pounding. KA-CLACK! KA-CLACK! That will pull you out of bed pretty quickly. When I looked out through the peephole, there were all these people in uniforms. Normally this might surprise me, but half-asleep, I barely registered it. When I opened the door they asked me if anyone was in the room with me because someone they had caught rampaging in the woods had claimed my room as theirs. There was also something about this person wearing a cast on their arm. This made about as much sense to me as you would expect, and we quickly determined that I was a mere innocent bysleeper in this whole event. I would say that about two minutes later I was back asleep, busily dreaming away about whatever it is that I dream away about busily. It wasn’t until the next morning that it occurred to me to thank my lucky stars that I didn’t have any kids staying at the hotel. Can you imagine my response if we had all been housing there, and the cops came to my door about somebody rampaging in the woods? No going back to sleep after that. Visions of the People’s Champion tearing through the woods like a berserker, trees coming down in his wake, or the Panivore tearing the heads off of dear and sucking their blood, making up for all that lost nutritional time… Lexington is an interesting town, I guess, with all its rampaging woodsfolk. Not my cup of tea, exactly, but what can I say?

The Round Robin went off relatively well, although I learned yesterday that I did screw up one ballot and got the speakers wrong. No one to blame but myself, but I do have myself trained fairly well, and I double-checked everything and still missed it, so what can I say but that nobody’s perfect, and my apologies to Diana, whose placement was affected from first to second place. If I had screwed up any other ballot, of course, this wouldn’t have mattered. I guess I could blame her for being such a good speaker: if she had been at the bottom of the placements, nobody would have noticed. Or I could blame Ari for giving bizarre points that didn’t register well enough in my brain, all those 10s and 15s and 8s and the like. Oh, well. Since the top three speaker awards all said Top Speaker, at least they didn’t have to switch around the trophies. I’d like to say that next time I’ll get it right, but I’ve always found that RRs are the toughest things to keep straight, for reasons that elude me, and I always seem to screw them up at least a little bit. Go figure.

And, of course, there was Bean Trivia. We introduced a very popular lifeline, which was CP having 15 seconds to Google a “feeling lucky” answer. But some people wasted this on history questions, quite silly when PJ was in the room. We had PJ handwriting the answers to questions, but those answers were always things like “KKK,” so that wasn’t as baffling as I had hoped. O’C has been hanging his head in shame ever since he was unable to identify Seven Seas Lagoon at WDW. But the best of all was the following exchange, in the animals, real and fictional, category:
“What kind of animal is Rikki Tikki Tavi?”
Private discussion between student and judge. Judge says that the answer is parrot. Student foolishly agrees with judge and says, “Parrot.”
“No, the answer is mongoose.”
“Mongoose?” says the judge. “Well, at least I knew it was some kind of bird.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Adventures in the Frigid North

And so we bid a fond farewell to beautiful, barmy Lexington…

For a while now this has been one of my longest weekends of the year. I need a car, so I met with the Sailors early on Friday and pointed them and their bus toward Boston, then popped into the Menickmobile for a nice quiet trip alone, with no company aside from Keith Richards reading his autobiography. This was on an audiobook, to be perfectly clear. Keith did not come along with me in person. The Stones may be mostly over, but he doesn’t have that much free time on his hands. He would make a good PF judge, though. Then again, who wouldn’t?

I went straight to the hotel where the cool kids were staying, as Kaz quickly began referring to it. When I went to the desk and asked for my rooms, they looked at me as if I were Keith Richards picking up his PF ballot. They had never heard of me or my judge or my bus driver. But I made the reservations on Expedia, I cried. So talk to Expedia, they cried back. Which I did. The first person I talked to did not really speak English. I do not fault Expedia for this, because they do offer flights to India on their site, and maybe they just thought my room was in Mumbai and not Lexington, the two being so much alike in so many ways. After lots of me saying, “What are you saying, you non-American you?” I was switched to someone I could understand. Now there was a lot of back-and-forth of the iPhone to the desk clerk and blah blah blah, and a half hour into this the woman on the other end of the line discovered I was an Elite Expedia person, which is functionally the same as a Hoi Polloi Expedia person except that now she could dump my call to somebody else. We started from scratch again with Expediter (NOT!) Number 3. This took most of an hour, and it was not resolved when I left to go tab the tournament, although the hotel took pity on me and gave me some keys and told me it would all be better in the morning. As it turned out, it was all better in the morning, although it hadn’t looked promising at the point where Expedia said they’d fax the information to the hotel and the hotel said WTF, who faxes in 2011 anyhow?

Nice start.

Things were much more under control at the school. Kaz was already there and I gave her VLD and stayed with PF and NLD, and eventually JV and CP arrived and we got things off to a rousing start. JV and Kaz did the MJP honors, and although I looked over their shoulder once or twice, they had things well in hand. They couldn’t get the music of the matches we had at Bronx because of the smaller pool and some single-flighting, not to mention a couple of schools that had the preferences from hell. (Note: Want to make yourself a sworn enemy of the tab room? Run contrary prefs. You can go from walking on water to persona non grata in seconds flat. You know who you are, you p.n.g. you.) In other words, whereas at Bronx we had almost exclusively 1-1s with the odd 2-2, here they were all over the map. Still, it makes sense with a high-level pool like this to pref them. Some seriously competent $ircuit judges are a 1 or a 6, end of story, because they are well-known in their likes and dislikes. You love ‘em or hate ‘em, in other words, and MJP is the only way the tab room, which would otherwise assume that all of these puppies are A-1s, has no way of knowing that you think they suck eggs. Meanwhile, NLD and Pfffft were their usual selves, and not worth covering in excruciating detail.

One interesting MJP note, while we’re at it. Trying to pair the final round, with only a handful of judges still on the premises, was impossible playing by Hoyle. Using three judges would have meant an imbalance, because we had one mutual and two 1-2s. We then found another mutual, and to balance it off, threw in a 3-1 or a 4-2 (I forget which exactly). The problem with that, although the prefs added up right, is that one girl had two imbalances on her side, and the other had only one. Assuming (theoretically) that you would get the vote from your higher pref, this didn’t look fair. And you couldn’t just throw out the MJP altogether in a tournament based on MJP. So, we held off the round until the next day, when the two were hitting anyhow in the round robin. We wanted them to have the most fair round possible. It wasn’t going to happen Saturday night, unless a lot more judges had still been around. The lesson in this: never let judges leave the building. For anything. Ever. A panel of 2-2s and 3-3s would have still been a fair test of a final round at a major tournament according to the rules of engagement at that tournament. A panel strongly favored by one debater is not. Granted that sort of panel happens often in non-MJP situations, it should never happen with MJP—as I say, it’s against the rules of engagement. So, we took the high road. As I said parenthetically, this whole line of thought is predicated on the loose idea that your pref will vote for you every time, but the pref is the only measurement we’ve got, and you’ve got to use it.

Meanwhile, a high point of the festivities was, in fact, a festivity, the one where Lex bestowed their first Traveling Cruz Speaker Speaker Award, a loudspeaker (red) much like the one he uses to herd the wild beasts at his own tournament. Someone who cares about awards as much as O’C should have an award named after him at every school, if you ask me. At Emory it could be the Hasn’t Taken The Key Off Yet Cruz Award, for instance. Of course, the Sailors were the first with a Cruz Award, and it took years for all the rest of the riff and the raff to take note and follow the trend, but I am not bitter. No, not me (although next year the pressure is on, curse you Lexwegia!). Whether it makes sense that the NFL offer a supplemental event called Wandering Off in O’C’s honor remains to be seen, but I would suggest that everyone get on the Rude Bandwagon now while there’s still room.

That’s enough for now. Tomorrow, the police come to the door, and we run a Round Robin.

Normally I wouldn't bother

But this belongs to all of us.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are we there yet?

New York got a little banged up by yesterday’s snow, but I gather that Massachusetts got completely blown off the map. Storms are like that, often. We imagine that it’s the end of the world, but the Masswegians know it for a fact. I figure that all will be clear for the weekend for a pleasant Bigle X, however. They’re good at digging themselves out.

The one-day MHL the third weekend of December was the last tournament I went to, and while that one had its issues, it was nonetheless one day, and it was only me and Kaz while everyone else was off soaking up the balmy rays of Blake. Last weekend was cancelled up here, although some folks were down in Alabama or Florida freezing their buttoffskis, so this weekend will be something of a homecoming, a gang’s all here kind of session for the Traveling Tabroom. Some tournaments are like that, which is nice. What amazes me about Bigle X is the size of the PF field, which at the moment is at 67. Mes etoiles! They don’t have a novice PF, which may explain it a little bit, but still. Pffft in New England is on a roll, whereas Pffft in New York is lucky to get a schmear on a bagel. Go figure. CP explains it as N.E. Pffft stemming from speech rather than debate, and that may indeed pin it down. It’s hard to start a new debate wing on an already busy debate team, whereas with speech, it’s just one more event at a one-day tournament, at least starting out. In other words, it’s just one of those things, but one can see why. The VCA knows that I’ve wanted to do more Pffft, but where your incoming freshmen can be counted on the fingers of one hand and that one hand is Jerry Garcia’s, it’s not bloody likely. The other thing I want to do is extemp, but ditto yet again, as Yogi Berra might say.

Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Anyhow, tonight we pack up the long johns and the trivia questions, we charge up everything that plugs in, and then tomorrow bright and early we head for Lexington. I’ll honk as I drive by.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Go away

It's amazing how much more DJ work I can get done at home than actually at the DJ. No distractions, internal or external. Of course, suggesting to the overlords that this is the case is probably not a good idea unless your DJ is exceptionally enlightened. Most places just like to see your ugly mug where they're expecting it. What can I say? Thank you, snowstorm.

Meanwhile, I've spent the day eagerly awaiting revised cases. Talk about mugs! If that's not a mug's game, I don't know what is. Aaaarrgh!

I kiboshed last night's meeting, so there's nothing new to report on the sailor front. And I've been DJing. So, go amuse yourself, you yabbo! I'm not responsible for keeping you entertained. Go surf MySpace while you still can. Go buy a Verizon iPhone. Go pray that Sarah Palin will quit politics and start writing fantasy novels (which, in her case, would be much like her politics). Take the Ayn Rand walking tour of NYC. Take it with Sarah Palin, for all I care. I'm going to watch television.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pack the shovel, Ma, we're a' headin' north!

I managed to record a Nostrum last night. This whole thing is getting way too weird if you ask me.

A blizzard seems to be barking at our heels starting tonight, but the weather looks clear for Bigle X this weekend. A Bigle X without at least six inches of new snow at some point is hard to imagine, but I, for one, would be able to find a way to live with it.

MJP will open tonight. Of course, at Lex, JV and Kaz do the Varsity honors while CP and I will handle novice and PF. Still, we’ll be there to help them out. At Jake, need of three people in the crunch of MJP was pretty clearly demonstrated if you really wanted to give everybody the best rounds possible. And there’s no point to it otherwise, so expect a busy, preoccupied tab room this weekend. If you must interrupt us, please go directly to JV and start your question with the word “When.” I love when people do that.

For dessert this weekend we have the RR. What makes this one special is that Day One ends with a bout of Bean Trivia. The rules are slightly different than the Sailor edition, or more to the point, the lifelines are different. First of all, there’s Ask Cruz with O’C right on the premises. This time out there are no bizarre debate trivia questions, but on the other hand, I think he can handle most of the Disney questions. Then there’s a new lifeline called Are You Feeling Lucky, Punk? You get CP to enter a Google query to bring up exactly one site to find the answer to the question. Can he do it first time out? Are you feeling lucky, punk? Should prove interesting. And last night I bagged up a load of crappy prizes, so all is ready.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything debaterly, so I’m looking forward to this weekend. Immediately following is the Gem of Harlem, to which we opened a lot of slots yesterday after some schedule jiggling, and to which I am also looking forward (especially now that we have that nice bistro across the street). Then a nice peaceful MHL while the rest of the world is shoveling the Georgia snow, then Newark and Scarsdale and UPenn, bing, bang boom. Bring ‘em on. I love winter!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let 'em eat pie!

Yesterday was Bietz’s birthday. If I had known, I would have had some cake. Instead, I did what anyone would do to cap off an unexpected debate-free weekend: I discovered a fly in the iPhone ointment, pissed and moaned and then stumbled onto a solution, all the while misprinting endless 8x10 photos until finally giving up completely, and meanwhile making some travel arrangements for the next vacation.

I could have used some cake.

Apparently the OS upgrade to the iPhone disconnects it from iCal on one’s Mac. Nice. That means that, for all practical purposes, I would be maintaining either rogue calendars on every device (iPad, iPhone and Mac) or not using one at all (after gelding it) or simply never doing anything anymore out of lack of focus. This bug is real. You can apparently erase your entire iPhone calendar and take a shot overwriting it with the Mac’s iCal, but that is a true mug’s game. The thing is, for the longest time I’ve wished I had a totally synced setup of calendars for all the devices everywhere, including the DJ Mac with is so rogue it makes Sarah Palin look like—eh, forget it; some analogies aren’t worth even asking you to fill them in for me. Anyhow, it turns out that I was already, albeit inadvertently, syncing from the iPhone to Yahoo, home of my email account. Yahoo calendars was activated to replicate all calendar entries on my iPhone. Really? With the tiniest bit of waking up and smelling the coffee, I realized that I could link everything everywhere to Yahoo and turn off attempts to sync between devices. In other words, let Yahoo do the heavy lifting. I gather you can also do this with Google, but I tend to use Google calendars for other things (Disney Debate Adventures and Tournaments and the like), so Yahoo had the virtue of being clean. And now I sit happy and contented, with my Yahoo calendar syncing like some wonderfully little syncing thing to every device known to man Menick. That is good.

On the photography front, on the other hand, things are in disarray. I want to print some pictures to hang on the wall. I’ve had trouble sorting out the borders using my little home color printer, which, no matter how hard I try, are never symmetric. This is frustrating, especially as you plunge into the fray spewing expensive photo papers and inks in all directions. I tried getting a print from Apple out of iPhoto, but predictably they went for the overall color balance, meaning that the backlit object that dominates the picture was now a black hole, but then again, sending that kind of photo was the sort of test that was needed. I went back in and reworked the balance, which is a bit deep into it, if you ask me, but I could probably get it fixed in a new print, but an automatic darkroom is an automatic darkroom and you takes your chances and it’s not my favorite solution. Meanwhile, all the printing I tried either gave me half a picture (saying that the size of the paper was wrong—baffling) or one of those screwy asymmetric border situations. Solution? Very white normal paper and handmade mattes. I mean, it’s not necessary to get archival museum quality, after all. Ansel Adams I ain’t. Still, this was one bothersome timesuck yesterday, and I can’t imagine how the printer/photo business survives so well among amateurs as I have never, on any machine, ever gotten consistently acceptable results. Don’t even ask about printing on some special canvas papers I wanted to use…

Finally, on the other other hand, making travel arrangements for the main trip this year was as peachy as pie. I now have hotels in 4 cities in 3 countries, plus plane tickets. Next up is getting some theater and railway tix. London, Bruges, Brussels and Paris. More details later, but the original plan had been northeastern Italy, and I’m sure you can see how easy it was for that plan to morph into this one! Whatever. Of course, if we don’t debate anymore because of all the snow, I probably won’t even need a vacation. So it goes.

In other words, happy belated birthday, Bietz!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Here comes the weekend (not)

We had another speech workshop last night. This is where we go in-depth with people, commenting on just about everything. It was a mixed bag. A plebe introduced a new DI piece that is, well, too good for this year. Better she should work at it long and hard to have it as a winner for the next full season. It’s great material, but it needs a very special voice to put it across, and it’s going to take a while to find that character. That’s exciting. Then we had an old salt breaking in a new DI for the rest of this season for his double entries. The issue here is bringing to life unique surroundings, to make the audience see what he sees. And finally Panivore Junior (yes, the whole family lives on bread alone) worked on some fine tuning of his DI, which I first saw I think over the summer. It’s great fun to watch someone develop a piece from scratch up through solid competitiveness.

I like this speech stuff. In another life…

Anyhow, they’re all heading down to Long Island tomorrow to Chaminade, and I’ve heard from our bus folk that the wheels will roll, so at least somebody will get some forensics in this weekend.

So what else is new? I think I mentioned that the Mark Twain autobiography weighs about two hundred pounds, while the type is so small I have to use binoculars. I haven’t read enough to offer any criticism, other than that I can pretty much read any Mark Twain any time, and that earlier (and according to this volume, scurrilous) versions of the autobio were always on my top MT list. As is Life on the Mississippi, for what it’s worth. If you’re looking for something to do because you too didn’t go to Byram, you could do worse.

My brain is fried a little from creating the new questions for Lexwegian RR Bean Trivia. Some categories are easier than others. I may have to retire a couple, like Distorted Disney and Movie Quotes, but I’ve put in a couple of new ones (e.g. the revived B&W movies category) to cover. I still need to populate science/tech, war and wizards, but they shouldn’t be too hard. Favorite category these days? Royalty, because lots of the answers are of the chicken a la king persuasion. Anyhow, I do a handful a day, and I still have another week. We’re getting there. Of course, with both CP and O’C on hand, the rules will need to change, but who wants to play a game where the rules are static. Maybe I won’t even tell people what the rules are! And then we can change the name of the game to Lincoln-Douglas…

Speaking of which, I think I now understand the removal-of-punishment idea. I think it’s inane, but there’s a certain logic to it. Whatever. You’d think by now that I’d be used to not debating the resolution. The last time a debater debated the resolution was at NatNats in 1953, and he had to get an executive order from Eisenhower to be able to proceed unchallenged. Those were the days.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Curiouser and curiouser

The first local tournament of the year, the Bobcat at Byram Hills, has been canceled because of incoming snow. It was fun while it lasted.

I have been there and done that. A number of years ago, when we ran Bump in December, we had a forecast of an enormous amount of snow arriving that Friday. On Thursday I bit the bullet and canceled. On Friday there was over a foot of snow on the ground. And, as the VCA well knows, when the opportunity came to move to November and the old NFA weekend, I was on it like a shot and I’ve never looked back. I do not miss looking at the weather report obsessively every two minutes. It’s bad enough wondering if I’m going to somebody else’s tournament, but wondering if I’m going to me own? Untenable.

What happens when an event is canceled at this point is that the trophies go into storage and that’s about it; if you were smart, you didn’t print a year on them. All the energy expended is wasted, but there’s nothing you can do about that, but at least you won’t have put the debate ziti on the burner to cook or anything like that, so you won’t be out the couple of thousand bucks yet for feeding the multitudes. When I lost mine, I recall I sold my concessions, which I had purchased in advance, to Scarsdale for their tournament a month or so later, meaning that I didn’t have to store the Snickers bars for twelve months and risk sending the entire tournament to the emergency room suffering from butulism picked up in the moldy basements of Sailor High.

But the key here is that frustration. Putting together a tournament is a lot of work. Once you’ve done that putting together, not having it is beyond anticlimactic. I mean, it’s climax-free. All that angst for nothing. My sympathies go out to the Byregians, up and down the line. Better luck next year.

Meanwhile, if you too were going to the Bobberoo and now have all that time on your hands, you might want to listen to the new TVFT which we recorded last night. We only mentioned in passing the idea, which seems to be holding, that you can argue Jan-Feb as if the consequences don’t matter. Curious world, this debate universe. We can turn inherent logic on its head and then claim that it’s the theoretic norm. As Lewis Carroll would have it:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

In other words, to say that the choice of road somehow is exclusive of the destination is a bit…illogical. Oh, well. One argues what one can argue. According to Bietz, the affs were losing so much that it probably doesn’t matter what they were losing on. Still, if you design different systems of punishments, to say that all that matters is the road to the punishment rather than the punishment itself seems peculiar. Then again, what do I know? I only work here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

And since we've nowhere to go?

This is the time of year when you spend most of your time worrying about the weather. One little hint of flakes and you can lose your buses just like that! Worse, you can get snowed in at some godforsaken site for who knows how long, at great fiscal and mental expense. Not to mention the very real dangers of driving one’s own car through the frozen muck and mire. So at the moment I’m fretting over the immediate weekend, then every subsequent weekend on which I have motel rooms (usually non-refundable). Last year I got stymied at least twice that I can recall. I’d hate to see it happen again.

This was why I jumped on the chance to move Bump to the earlier date. Too bad there aren’t enough earlier dates for everyone. Or we don’t all live in Boca Raton.

Last night’s Sailor meeting was rather sparsely attended, for reasons unknown. We talked about general strategies, mostly, and avoiding the temptation to concoct the weirdest scenario possible for your case and making that the cornerstone. With juveniles au jus, there is so much normal debatable material, digging under the stones isn’t really necessary. But that doesn’t stop the digging. I blame “Law and Order.” Everybody thinks they’re a lawyer nowadays. No one stops to realize that the normal business of jurisprudence never makes it into the dramas because it's, well, not dramatic. Look at sitcom families. In sitcoms everybody always does stuff and things happen and everybody is funny. Now look at real families. Everybody always watches TV. See the difference? Anyhow, I think we did our best to stem the tide on this one.

Other than that, I’m still up to my eyeballs in everything non-forensical. Maybe in a day or two…

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Once upon a time, I used to play with the boxes the stuff came in...

All right, I’m still a little behind the curve on doing things I’m supposed to be doing, but there’s a meeting tonight and that should kick me back into gear. And then we’ll be TVFTing on Wednesday, which should help, if we can come up with an agenda. There’s also a speech workshop at the chez on Thursday, which should ignite the last of the rockets. And finally, if all else fails, tabbing with O’C at the Bobcat ought to do the trick. Otherwise I’ll just retire and take up fly fishing, although why people would want to fish for flies is beyond me. (As a matter of fact, over the break I had a whole conversation about why fish ought not be attracted to worms, given that there are no worms in the water naturally to give them a taste for the things, at which point we engaged in heated argument about whether fish could see colors. Since all one has to do is look it up on your handy dandy internet, we quickly got an answer. Who knew?)

While most of us are headed off to balmy Byram Hills this weekend, the Panivore is heading to frigid Florida. This is not right, but what are you going to do?

Meanwhile, you might be wondering how the addition of an iPhone to the life has changed things. A lot, as it turns out. First of all, since the iPhone is always in one’s pocket, it immediately becomes the central device for calendars and to-do notes and the like. Evernote allows those to to-do notes to spread among all the devices, which is important, because all the other devices save one are still all in play. As a result, the iPad retains all its uses except its calendar centrality. I’ve finally found myself digging into some games on it, especially since so many were on sale during the holidays. I’m sort of hooked on Chaos Rings, for some reason, although I did get some new games to keep my iPhone happy while I was at it. (It is worth remarking that, when all is said and done, it is Tetris that remains the undisputed timesucker for the ages. Pure elegance, pure addiction. All those Tetris-like games? They’re all not Tetris, when push comes to shove.) The camera in iPhone was kept happy with the Camera+ app, which includes all sorts of filters and whatnot for playing around; I’ve posted a bunch of these on Facebook if you’re interested. I do like having a camera in my pocket at all times. Flipbook on the iPad is improving, becoming a fun place to follow Twitter and Facebook in a browsing mode. Of course, internet access on the larger screen is the way to go, given a choice. So, iPhone changes things with the iPad, but hardly diminishes the thing’s usefulness and entertainment value. Meanwhile, the old Touch has been completely redefined into a single-functioned talk machine, i.e., audiobooks and podcasts. This means I don’t have to fill up the iPhone, which does have limits, which a lot of this extra stuff. I like to have, say, half a dozen audiobooks on deck, and a like number of podcasts, to soothe whatever taste arises at the moment. Perfect for the Touch, which can also add new episodes or books on the fly. Very neat. In the last six months my longer commute to the DJ has made me an audiobook addict, instead of just a social user. Podcasts remain the drug of choice for the exercise regimen (such as it is). Then there’s the 5th Gen, which remains the music machine for tournaments, where you want the most variety possible for two or three days of data entry. Which means that my original 2-gig Nano is, at long last, out of work. It has the virtue of incredible portability (it’s the size of two very skinny fingers) but not much versatility. It was, until recently, the dedicated podcast machine. Maybe I will eventually think of something to do with it. Maybe I’ll give it to the poor starving children in China. Hard to say. In any case, all of this ultimately demonstrates what can only be called an orgy of conspicuous (or occasionally inconspicuous) consumption of Apple products, and a pretty straightforward belying of any pretences on my part not to be an Apple fanboy, but it is what it is. On the bright side, I have no need for an Air (Vegas Elvis remains my main work machine) or an Apple TV (the Roku is enough, thank you very much). Thank God. If I had to figure out how to introduce even more toys into the toybox, I might actually run dry.

The moral of this enormously pretentious story is, do all your homework and eat your vegetables, and you too can grow up and get a DJ that pays you enough to buy all the crap your heart desires. Sometimes, yes, life is good, and toys are just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Back to it, I guess. There is something to be said for a little time off, however, both from debate and the DJ. Visits to a couple of museums, a real movie theater, some nice dinners out where the topic of juvenile justice is never raised, no hiring judges or encumbering debate funds or the like. I didn’t even bother updating the Bean Trivia questions after depleting them at the last Sailor meeting of the year. I just went with the flow and relaxed. But now that’s over, and as I say, we’re back to it.

I’ve begun reading cases for Jan-Feb, being quickly reminded that the issues have really not changed since the last time. I’m reminded why I like the topic: there’s a lot of there there. One thing that came up was the idea that one can isolate a part of the whole and not merely ignore the rest but dismiss it, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. The JJ system exists to distinguish the young from the old, following an idea that for some reason the young deserve a different flavor or retributive justice than the adult. Retributive justice has nothing to do with the literal “charging” of someone with an offense. The decision to charge as an adult or a juvenile is based on how one wants to deal with the offense both in trial (asserting that the offense was committed) and in punishment (payback for the offense). You can’t pretend that the difference in punishment is inconsequential because punishment is, de facto, the consequence of a guilty verdict. You don’t have to argue about the punishment, as there’s plenty of other meat on these bones, but you can’t pretend it doesn’t matter because, ultimately, it does. Anyhow, that’s just one little wrinkle, and certainly not a trend (I hope). We’ll see. As I’ve said here and earlier, to me it’s the need to prove or dismiss that difference between young and old when serious offences are committed. It’s a great real-world, and debate-world, question.

And yes, O’C did join us for Christmas. I always enjoy lining up the odd person of the Jewish persuasion for a nice dinner of roast ham, and if O’C isn’t an odd person of the Jewish persuasion, I don’t know who is. There was the presentation of the DiDeAd pins, a couple of games of Catan, some creative play with Legos (in which we learned that the mechanical O’C thinks that making flags of all nations is somehow the point of all those moving parts, whereas others in the group were being seasonal and making mangers or Santa Clauses—I would have at least expected an X-wing fighter or something)—in short, all the usual holiday pastimes. Kate had a friend from S.F. who had to leave Monday morning and who spent a lot of time waiting on the phone for airline reps to tell him that he was living in a dream world (this was during the blizzard working its way up the coast), but mostly it was fun and games.

But the fun and games are now over. Cases are due. Tournaments are happening. The second half of the season is officially here.