Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pip the Wondercat

About seventeen years ago we decided that we needed to return to the world of the Siamese cat. We wanted a traditional, classic applehead. We found a breeder in Connecticut who, like most people in that business, was a bit loopy, with a full house of felines. She was as old as the hills, wearing a prominent heart monitor in case, I guess, she passed out in the middle of selling us a kitten. There was a new litter, and her theory was that you should play with them and one of them would pick you out. We did, and one of them picked us out. She immediately grabbed him and drew an X on his belly with a magic marker.

A few weeks later, for my birthday, we went back to pick him up. There was still a mark on his belly, but I swore that she had switched cats on us because the one we had liked was normal and this one was nuts. We called him Pip because we had great expectations for him.

He fulfilled those expectations.

The magic of the best cats is their ability to mitigate between humans and the world at large. If you’re feeling a little sick, or a little lonely, the best cats are there to take care of you. Pip liked to be held like a baby. You could toss him over your shoulder as if you were burping him, and he would nudge his head into you and just start purring. If you couldn’t sleep, you’d roll over and he’d snuggle up to you. If you were just sitting around, he was in your lap. He was always there. Always. He wanted to be with you. And you wanted to be with him.

About five years ago, he became diabetic. The prognosis for diabetic cats is not great, but Pip thrived. Once his insulin dose was worked out, he ate fine and became his old self. A creature of habit, he always told you when it was time to eat, when it was time to give him a fresh bowl of water (a bowl of water sitting around would never do), when it was time to brush him.

A week or so he began to fail. We let him go today.

Seventeen years. That is the lifetime of a cat. The lifetime of a companion. A part of your own life that is unimaginable any other way.

I love that we are able have cats in our lives. And I love that Pip was one of the cats in ours.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Breaking wind news from Lexington, Ky!

In order to resolve the issue of negative bias in Lincoln-Douglas debate, TOC 2011 is adjusting as follows:

1. All debaters will debate 8 rounds.

2. All debaters will debate negative in all 8 rounds.

3. Both sides will go second, using the traditional negative timings of 7 minute NC and 6 minute NR.

4. Negatives with constructives shorter than forty-three seconds will be penalized .5 speaker points.

5. Negatives with constructives shorter than eleven seconds will be penalized 1 speaker point.

6. Negatives with no position whatsoever will be the presumed winner, unless both sides declare no advocacy, in which case a PF judge will be brought in to flip a coin. If the flip is heads, the negative wins. If the flip is tails, the win will go to the negative.

7. All debaters with a winning record or a snazzy outfit will advance to a special run-off round to be held Sunday night, in which water will be poured on the debaters and the judges will watch it run off. This will be a flip round; the judges will award the win to the debater who was the most flip. Any judge who squirrels will be deemed nuts.

8. The top 16 debaters will proceed to the octofinals. In the octos all the debaters will defend the affirmative position, if they can find it on their computer.

9. Awards in the form of the traditional TOC pony will be given to all octofinalists and above. Please note that these are actual ponies, and those expecting to do well at the tournament should make arrangements for transporting their horses back home in the manner to which they are accustomed. These are Kaintuck’ ponies, people: none of your faux hay, please.

10. Anyone taking issue with any of the above should send an email to the LD advisory committee. Contact information is on the committee's official Geocities webpage.

(P.S. You knew I had to do something...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A kinder, gentler Menick

According to the TOC, there’s much more of a groundswell in favor of the 8 rounds than against it. The thing is, as the P points out, unless they’re going to handle this some way we don’t know about, they’ve added a double-octos round. I used to be a little ambivalent about the run-off when it only affected a couple of kids. At least, I said, those who didn’t win the run-off ought to be grandfathered in to the next year’s tournament. That doesn’t make sense when you’ve got an army, though. Trophies? Probably not. We’ll see how it plays out.

I’ll futz around a bit tonight with CP’s suggestion of adding one more round each to everyone to single-flight the Pfffters. I’m not quite sure why singles are more highly acclaimed in a doubles-sked environment. Whatever. As a general rule I believe whatever CP says, and I do whatever he tells me to do. This does not always work out for the best, but it seems to make him happy, and my goal in life is making everyone happy, isn’t it?

No, wait. That’s not me. I’ve got to get a grip on myself. Jeesh!

I can’t remember the last time I flew to a tournament. Come to think of it, I can’t remember what I had for lunch, either, but my point is that lately I’ve been a stay-at-home type. That has been deliberate, because I have just so much time away from the DJ for gallivanting, plus I like to work local tournaments whenever possible because I feel a commitment to the more homey turf and to the younger Sailors less likely to pack themselves off via air transport. But I would imagine that I would always go to TOC if I had a qualifier. Ambivalent though I may be to the concerns of the $ircuit, one has to appreciate that this is a unique event, and I enjoy being a part of it. Last time I was there I mostly hung around schmoozing, but there’s worse things. This time I’ll be hanging around schmoozing and also tabbing, so that’s an improvement. I just hope that there’s a decent restaurant near my hotel, which is not the tournament hotel (and also half the price thereof). Not much point to a tournament hotel that isn’t within walking distance of the events, if you have to pay a premium for it. I mean, we can drive there in five minutes if we have to. Speaking of restaurants, I’m trusting that JV and CP have that mostly under control. I mean, I’ll have the Panivore with me. She gets cranky if her cervelles aux beurre noir isn’t exactly perfect.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Putting it together

Sophie was right. I had assumed without looking closely that there would be a run-off of the down-three folks, and the victors would advance. When we do something analogous to this with partials, maybe one or two more secure people have to fight for advancement. With as many 5-3s as will be at TOC, though, they’re really going to sear up through the ranks of the 6-2s, which seems extremely counter to the approach of TOC in the past. I wonder if people, like me, have not thought it through completely. If they have, then this is really a literal double-octos. That just doesn’t compute for 77 entrants.

Things are so much saner in PF land. We have 72, and 7 rounds. The only wrinkle, which also affected NDCA, was the partial obligation of judges. One team = 4 rounds. Without having MJP this shouldn’t hurt too much, but it is something different I don’t normally think about. Still, there’s plenty of judges. If it wasn’t for this, I would have set it up with single flights, but I don’t want the hassle of fighting with people to explain that 4 rounds of judging would mean 8 single flights; debate judges are notoriously suspicious when it comes to accepting my math. It was bad enough at NDCA when we went to the 8th round and told everyone that their obligation was now their obligation +1. Making it their obligation (a perceived) X2 sounds really dicey.

Last night was the first time I entered data manually in a while. Normally I just upload from tabroom or the Goy, but here I used an old-fashioned spreadsheet. I dug up my old registration sheet that has the formula for taking the name of the school and the kids’ names and concatenating it into Bronx Science OC, and then just pasted in the results. Reminded me of Bump in the good old days (if there are ever good old days when one is running a tournament). Maybe we should do the whole thing on index cards. Speaking of which, I may indeed toss cards for the random rounds. TRPC, with its randomization, does things that are mildly suspect, like the Bietz effect I’ve talked about in the past where single entries from a school are always paired against other single entries (meaning that if you have a round robin and some lone $ircuit kids, they always end up meeting in Round 1). At NDCA we broke the LD division into 4 groups and mixed and matched so that you never hit more than one person from any of the groups, which you can do when every student entered has a certain number of points. I mean, random needs to be random, but it shouldn’t be random violence. We save random violence for when we need it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Next up, the TOC

I haven’t gone to the TOC for a while now, but I’ve always found it an enjoyable event. For one thing, it’s got the luxury of time, as did NDCA last week, among others, which makes attending something less than a crushing burden. Our normal life is two-day tournaments, usually of six prelims plus five elims, and that’s a lot of hoo-ha squeezed into a short amount of time. Success in debate relies as much on stamina as skill, in many cases. You have to win debates when you’re dead on your feet while the judges are dead on their butts, which is a radically different business than when one and all are fresh as the proverbial daisies. Drink lots of water, avoid fried foods, get as much sleep as possible and never forget that your judges would prefer being anywhere else: that’s pretty good advice on the average weekend. TOC-length events are different. Rounds are paced better, and no one is inherently exhausted (although some teams do succumb to the temptation to stay up to the wee hours prepping themselves into a coma, a process much like cramming for tests, with about the same chance of succeeding). There’s time to eat, and on top of that, it’s usually nice weather so you get the warm Kentucky sun when you’re not offering three RVIs, a response to the theory argument, then aff, then neg, then throw it into neutral and roll down a hill and see who runs out of the way. As a result, the debating tends to maintain a high level of concentration on all counts. But still, it is just a debate tournament. Those who will do the best will be the ones who look around and realize that. Just one more debate tournament. That’s all it is.

One thing that people will complain about is that they won’t judge much. There are so many judges that mathematically speaking even the most preferred adjudicators can take a nap or two (when they’re not judging). I’ve heard people complain about this as if it were aimed at them—“I’ve come all the way to Kentucky and only judged two rounds”—not realizing that everyone who came to Kentucky only judged about two rounds. Of course, I will point out that it is probably the same people who complain during the season that they had to judge every round, that they had to judge the first round in the morning and it was too early, etc., etc. Complaining, like pi, is a constant, not reliant on the circumstances in which it occurs.

The biggest news is that LD will be going to 8 rounds because of the perceived neg bias. I’ve talked about this bias a lot with the other professors on TVFT, and we talked about it endlessly at NDCA (where we actually did it), but I have to admit I’m still on the fence, not regarding the bias (which as far as I’m concerned is mathematically proven) but on the solution. Having 8 rounds at TOC means that most of the 5-3s will be tossed into a run-off, and as the Panivore points out, will flip a coin… O’C is pushing for side equalization and keeping 7 rounds at Jake, which sounds good on paper but I’ve never done it and haven’t thought it through yet. My biggest fear of TOC going to 8 is the runoff effect, that now all the large tournaments will go to 8, simply because that’s what the TOC did. At some point it behooves everyone, short of changing the structure of the LD round, to learn to pick up a few aff ballots, if you know what I mean. That is, the neg bias isn’t so strong that we can assume that you will always lose when you go neg so why bother to have the round. In other words, until a solution to the problem arises, work on your aff. Of course, that may be easier said than done. The P tells me that the announcement of the 8 rounds has raised a hue and cry throughout the land. Perhaps. As hues and cries go it’s more worthy than the other h&c that I have no interest in discussing. I’ll be curious to see if it stands.

Friday, April 22, 2011

And so we bid a fond farewell to Scranton, PA

The NDCA did have its moments.

First of all, it was half-price night at the pub where the Sailors and I had dinner on Friday. I was so impressed that I brought the Lexwegians there later, after we escaped the hotel because it was too loud. The pub was absolutely a tomb, at least for the five minutes before the DJ arrived (disk jockey, not day job). What? What? WHAT? I was half deaf before; I’m one and a half deaf now. We did better Saturday night eating at the hotel: very classy and peaceful, with a piano jazz band replacing the previous night’s gypsy guitar (think Django) band. Sunday night Bietz treated, which made whatever the food was, wherever it was, that much better. We’ve got to bring him along more often.

The tab room was, literally, dueling iPods. I’d put on something and Bietz would get antsy and he’d have to follow it up (he introduced me to Stephin Merritt), and then I’d have to follow that up, etc., etc. It wasn’t so much that we were trying to top one another as much as keeping the room humming with just the right sort of hum. Thank God Kaz didn’t have an iPod in the race. All we needed was yet another country heard from.

The tournament provided all of us with meal cards that bought two rather nice brunches at the cafeteria. All you could eat of eggs and waffles and endless strips of bacon and ice cream for desert. This was a nice touch. Go, Scranton!

The university is a Jesuit school, so there was a lot of inspirational etching on the buildings and various statues of saints and apostles on the grounds (you know, a lot of “Turn left at Mary Magdalene” stuff). The university pitched themselves to us with a couple of short videos during the award ceremony, and I have to admit I was sort of impressed by the atmosphere of the place. My experience of Jesuits back in my parochial school days was a good one, although I never actually attended a Jesuit school. They’re the educational bleeding edge of Catholicism; I was a tad more backwater, still sort of stuck in the Inquisition, I guess.

From a Sailor perspective, the high point of the weekend was Bump winning the tournament of the year award. Much as I hate almost every minute of the Bump experience, beginning with the purchase of the trophies in September, it is nice to know that others like it. Seriously, it is a tribute to our families and alumni, who are the ones who really put out beyond the call of duty. The award was a nice etched vase, which I passed along to our principal. (Now if we could only use the award to eliminate the custodial fees…) Before the awards O’C barked at me to get in there, but I thought he was just making sure on g.p. that I didn’t pull a Menick and sit them out and not that I was in line for something. This has been a big year for me picking up tin for one thing or another. Obviously the community at large thinks it’s time for me to retire and is showering me with accolades in the hope of accelerating the process. Good luck with that one, folks. I’m already making my plans for the NDCA in Vegas. Yee-ha!

And that is about all there is to say about NDCA. Until Vegas, of course.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Zip a dee don't do dat

Scranton is about two hours away from Sailorville, making it a pretty easy commute for a major tournament. The town itself seemed okay, but we never got more than ten feet away from the tournament hotel on one side and the main gathering area on the university campus on the other, aside from Sunday morning when I went driving around looking for a New York Times, a mug’s game if there ever was one. Oh, well. As far as the debating space was concerned, I always like tournaments where there’s a comfortable gathering place for everyone to convene in, aided and abetted by a food court, so people don’t go wandering off. We have one at UPenn, and this was certainly one. If you’re thinking of holding your own tournament in the future, first make sure there’s lots of comfy chairs, a Starbucks and at least one guy standing at a grill turning lard into lunch to assuage the hungry savages. These things make all the difference. I wouldn’t mind faster internet also, come to think of it, but you can’t have everything.

The Panivore did well for herself, making it all the way to finals; the PC fought the good fight but went down in the eighth round, so he couldn’t make it in through to our promise of all 5-3s breaking. As it turned out, we only had one run-off round. It could have been worse. The whole 8-rounds, 7-rounds neg bias thing probably has led O’C to side equalization at Jake. I think we’re all still in the middle of figuring this out.

Because of the prefs and the small pool, we tab bozos had to judge a couple of times. Normally this entertains me a lot, as at the Newark RR where I put in a full obligation and let my little brain weave amiably around the subject of juvenile justice. I’m not quite sure why the debaters there adjusted and the debaters at NDCA didn’t. I mean, the VCA is well aware that, A) I have nothing intrinsically against speed, and B) I can’t do it myself. If you judge a couple of rounds a year, you’re not going to be able to flow lightening. This is not surprising to me, but it does seem to be surprising to debaters, despite the fact that I am famous for the line, “The faster you go, the quicker you lose.” I didn’t invoke it this weekend, assuming that if I’m a 1 for you, you know that already. Anyhow, in my single prelim, one of the debaters didn’t heed this, despite three warnings in less ironic language, and didn’t get very far, although I marginally caught a bunch of what he was saying, and feel that if I had caught all of it I still would have had the same RFD for his opponent. The break round, on the other hand, was the most tedious 45 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. I mean, you can only stare at your flow for so long, and then you start doodling and checking your email and solving kenken puzzles. I didn’t bother critiquing the round, because my RFD was about as meaningful as knickers on a mackerel, but I did participate in a unanimous decision. Go figure. As one of my colleagues explained to the debaters in the round, it is not the best strategic choice to exclude one of the judges on your panel… Oh, well. As I say, if you want to do speed and your judge and opponent are up for it, be my guest. Otherwise, proceed at your own peril. And, oh yeah, if you are going to talk fast, try not to spend half of that time stuttering and repeating yourself. Seems a little counterproductive, if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He also had the iPhone 5, Avatar 2 on DVD and a photo with President Donald Trump

In any battle of boys with their toys between me and Bietz, I lose. He’s got the iPad 2. He’s got 2 11-inch Airs. He excretes printers and PC computers. So needless to say, we both want to drive when it comes to tabbing, but he beat me down there, and hence, he won. Tarnation! On the other hand, he is adept, so I didn’t want to cut off his hands at any point and feed them to my novices. And as I’ve said, there’s plenty of work to go around when it comes to MJP, enough to keep me and Kaz and Bietz more than busy when the time came for pairing.

The thing is, Tim Mahoney, who was the tournament director, tried to get judges, and just couldn’t. I know, because I worked with him on it. It was spring break or something everywhere we went. We addressed this for the future as best we could, but there is no blame on NDCA’s part for the small number of judges. We did our best; there was no lackadaisical attitude to LD while beating the bushes for Policy. It just was what it was. This means that MJP was hard. You can just go so many a+ judges in a small pool. Obviously we prioritized mutuality over anything else, which meant that in places where we could (NDCA has a clear set of rules for judge placement), a 3-3 judge might sneak in but not where damage could be done, while the rounds with damage potential got, as best we could, 1-1 prefs. However, it wasn’t completely possible, because of the usual divergence of one or two teams who pref opposite of everyone else, plus, of course, there was the small pool. What we did was start a running tally of screws. That is, if you were the winner in a 1-2, you got into the plus column while the person getting the 2 judge went into the minus column. Then, next time around (and given that there were 8 rounds, there were lots of next times around) we would try to rectify the imbalance. It didn’t come out perfect in the end, but at least we kept track of things so that no one got screwed over and over. More to the point, the results were not particularly screw-related. Just because it’s not your top pref doesn’t mean you lose, in other words. Presumably when you pref you put your guaranteed losses into your strikes. It just means that it’s not your first choice while it is your opponent’s first choice (or second, or whatever). You can still pick up, and the numbers proved that it didn’t matter much. Still, we didn’t want to overscrew anyone, as I said, because it just didn’t seem fair, regardless of the consequences. So, we kept track of it and did our best. People coming into the room and seeing the board didn’t know what to make of it, no doubt, but then again, no one asked aside from the coaches who wandered in. Kids looking at it simply assumed it was another example of “they,” as in, “They are up to something…”

Through all these rounds we posted things into the warm room, which is quite simple. You just run a little app and drag a file over into the Goy. End of story. But the Sailors asked me on the way home why we didn’t post speaker points. To which I responded, “Say what?” For some reason wins and losses went across but not speaks. I’ll look into this when I get a chance. If someone had said something we might have fixed it on the spot. But you know how “they” are…

Interestingly, though, we sort of fell off warming in the break rounds. Simply enough, we weren’t thinking of it, probably because all the people involved were right there, rarin’ to go. Our audiences at home—if any—would have suffered an info deficit, however. I know that when Sailors are on the road without me, I like having warm room updates. Now I know how they work, and why sometimes they don’t happen. Life is like that, I guess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You know, in Scranton they think "The Office" is reality. (In Scranton, maybe it is.)

Last weekend was the NDCA. You shoulda been there.

I like the idea of a tournament where the entries must meet a certain objective criteria for admission over a broad span of other tournaments. There’s nothing terribly wrong with a one-time qualifier like Districts or CFL Grands, but it is a one-time thing, and if you’re having an off day, you’re outta there. Our state organizations predicate primarily on multiple tournament wins, with some exceptions for a team or two. Certainly TOC requires a couple of good days on one’s c.v. But NDCA goes for an even broader base. If you’ve demonstrated your skill, if you’ve beaten a lot of people, you’re in, and it doesn’t matter where you beat them. This is the distinguishing characteristic from TOC, where a select number of tournaments are chosen and leveled as qualifiers in a process that is, in a word, unfathomable. I have friends on the advisory committee, and I’ve even been on it myself, and none of us can explain the hows or whys other than that advice is given and actions are taken. This is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

We talked a lot about TOC over the weekend. I have long claimed that if TOC didn’t exist I wouldn’t invent it, but on the other hand, I can respect the idea of a circuit of debates that is self-limiting (which is why, in my mind, it’s the $ircuit). If you can afford to go, which means not only transportation and lodging and registrations but training and prepping and coaching—and a lot of other people can’t—should the fact that others cannot prevent you from doing it? This is a problem for Peter Singer. That there may be harms (philosophical and not sociological) from the existence of the $ircuit is moot. Some kids dream of winning TOC with barely the skills to put their pants on in the morning, while plenty of other kids have debate skills to burn and don’t give a goat’s whisker about the thing. As I say, moot point. (CP talks eloquently about the sociological aspects of exclusion and privilege on his blog, which you might want to read for a take on that side of the coin.) When all is said and done, if people want to have a TOC $ircuit, I say, let them. I can choose to pursue it or not with my own team. Nobody is forcing me to do anything one way or the other. Just as there are Division 1 schools and Division 3 schools in sports. So be it.

In light of this acceptance of TOC and the $ircuit, we can support at the same time NDCA, which occasionally intersects but stems from different roots and attempts a different result. There is plenty of overlap, of course, but there is also some things that are missing from TOC, especially transparency of process. Regardless of one’s opinions of the recent TOC hoo-ha, there is no question that the organization’s lack of transparency is not to its benefit. It is not an oligarchy but it looks like one. A couple of times this weekend we were trying to figure out things like whether or not to have 8 rounds, and someone would come in and report that the kids had heard that “they say” some ridiculous thing or other. The fact that we were they was mildly amusing, but the point is, people who don’t know what’s going on tend to believe that someone else in a better position does know what’s going on, and often ascribe evil means or ends to that mysterious “they.” When "they" haven’t got a clue about whether "they" are doing 7 or 8 rounds, as I say, "they" are mildly amused. But when there’s a secret committee perceived as making secret decisions, that’s another thing, and all that ascribing of evil ends occurs. Not a good thing. The more transparency you offer, the less “they” can do that will bother people, so people will be less bothered and will go off and worry something else over which they have no control.

I guess what I’m saying is what I’ve been saying for a while now, that transparency is good, especially in a community where some people are perceived as being more powerful than others, as in tab rooms. I’m in virtually all of them, but I’m not in them because I want to exercise power and hide that exercising from everyone. I’m in there because I like doing it and I do it pretty well. I’m happy to let people look over my shoulder while I'm at it (unless the tournament rules demand otherwise).

Anyhow, more on NDCA specifically tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It could call itself something worse...

Bean Trivia was sparsely attended last night, although we did get a late infusion of Speecho-Americans about halfway through. First of all, the team is small, but we also had competition at the school from Culture Night, whatever that is. I don’t begrudge Sailors getting more culture into their noggins; far from it. But if Bean Trivia isn’t culture, I don’t know what is. Anyhow, there were certainly enough players to have an enjoyable evening, with the People’s Champion triumphing and winning a chocolate bunny and an audiobook in Spanish. He can eat one and listen to the other, or vice versa, however he chooses.

It was also the last official meeting for the PC and the P. Tears flowed freely, albeit only metaphorically. It was something of a Circle of Life moment, watching them disappear into the sunset. And so we bid a fond farewell…

I spent a little time today updating the calendar. I think we know when most things will take place next year, except for the finals and whatnot in March and April. The only question marks are the locations of the various MHLs, whether Wee Sma will move or stay, and a convenient weekend for the MHL workshop. We already discussed here that Monticello is moving because of the Jewish holidays. Bill Cooper pointed out that the Sept 30-Oct 1 position raises the question of which PF topic they’ll use. I suggested using the September topic on Friday and the October topic on Saturday, but something tells me they won’t do that.

And tomorrow it’s off to Scranton. I’ve never been to the fine city, but I have to point out that whenever you tell anyone you’re going there, they inevitably repeat the word Scranton back to you with extreme linguistic distaste. There’s something about those two nasal syllables that hits the ear the wrong way. They call themselves the Electric City, by the way. It’s good to know that they have electricity, I must say, although it had never occurred to me that they wouldn’t. The things you learn from the internet…

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My life

A typical Wednesday:

3:00 a.m. Text message from O’C telling me he’s updated his Facebook page.

6:00 a.m. Stare into face of ever punctual alarm cat. Get out of bed and get some exercise while listening to podcasts (either Wait Wait, TWIT or WDW Radio).

6:45 a.m. Turn on telephone. Read text message from O’C about updating his Facebook page. Perform morning ablutions.

7:25 a.m. Breakfast. Read the Times and the comics (all on paper). Post rude comment on O’Cs Facebook page.

7:45 a.m. Morning commute to work. Listen to audiobook. (At the moment, First Lord’s Fury.)

8:30 a.m. Turn on DJ computer and sort through morning messages. Do some real work.

10:00 a.m. Check personal email. Contribute to correspondence with Bietz, O’C and CP about why we once again can’t do our regularly scheduled TVFT. Plan to resume discussion next Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

10:05 a.m. DJ continues.

10:43 a.m. Inadvertently interrupt spiel from boss’s boss, telling him that there’s no warrant to the claim he just made. Crawl under conference room table.

11:13 a.m. Read tweet from daughter proving yet again that her life is much more interesting than mine.

11:24 a.m. Read text from O’C proving yet again that his life is [fill in blank].

11:45 a.m. Sandwich at desk. Check personal email. Read registration changes to tournament this coming weekend. Fail to record any of them.

12:02 p.m. Scour internet for articles for Coachean Feed, DJ blog, annoyance of O’C, etc. Wonder for the millionth time who exactly Snooki is.

12:30 p.m. DJ resumes.

2:00 p.m. Walk next door for grande nonfat latte. Ogle latest technology at the Apple store.

2:10 p.m. Read private email while drinking latte. 3 people can’t figure out and have requested technical help. 7 people can figure out and have requested psychological help. Speecho-American Sailor signs up for tournament conducted three months ago. Ayn Rand fan club doesn’t care if I join them or not. Ayn Rand fans in Nigeria and elsewhere tell me that I have money, women and rejuvenated body parts awaiting me.

2:15 p.m. DJ resumes.

2:48 p.m. Turn around in chair so that if I fall asleep reading romance novel no one will notice.

2:51 p.m. Fall asleep in chair reading romance novel.

2:53 p.m. Wake up wondering if the ballots are in from round 4.

2:54 p.m. DJ resumes. Reject boring romance novel.

5:00 p.m. Check private email. O’C has ordered the trophies for the next 425 tournaments and says I know I love them. I know no such thing.

5:15 p.m. Evening commute. More audiobook.

6:00 p.m. Visit Aged P. Tell her I would be a better person if she had been a better mother. She tells me that if I had more schools, all my troubles would go away. Wonder when Aged P joined the NFL.

6:35 p.m. Arrive home. Turn on music. Prepare dinner. Eat dinner. Discuss the day’s events worthy of discussion, if any, with spouse.

8:00 p.m. Watch episode from Season 6 of E.R.

9:00 p.m. Turn on computer. Update podcasts, audiobooks and music. Scour RSS again.

10:00 p.m. Carry cat alarm up the stairs to the bedroom. Turn off phone in case there’s more messages from O’C. Brush cat alarm. Give cat alarm fresh water. Perform evening ablutions while trying not to trip over cat alarm.

10:15 p.m. Read.

10:16 p.m. Fall asleep.

A typical Thursday:



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A few fries short of a Happy Meal?

NDCA has to have generated more mail among staff and board than any twenty other tournaments. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just a curiosity. Usually we stumble into tournaments and hope for the best, praying that at least some of the contingencies have been prepared for. Here, if something hasn’t been prepared for, I’d be shocked. I think our hosts are even providing kielbasa. What else could anyone possibly want (Other than the Panivore)?

Going back to the subject of MJP, one of the issues that has to be realized is that, without it, and short of going totally random, decisions are still going to be made by someone about who gets to judge what. We have tried community ranking and found that it is pretty much exactly the same as what the traveling tab room would rank the judges. Our overall perception is the same as the community’s overall perception, in other words. We tend to go by experience more than anything else, unless a judge has demonstrated consistently inane ballots with useless commentary and baffling RFDs (we do try to see who’s doing what, as much as time permits). The sense is that most coaches and most ex-debaters provide reasonable adjudication, and thus we want them in the most competitive rounds. MJP presumably does the same thing, although it does eliminate the judge who always drops you. (So do simple strikes, come to think of it, but a couple of people—obviously not PJ—who have griped to me about MJP also have griped that their own crappy judges all got struck, and that this was all some sort of commie plot or something.) In my busy judging years, there were people who simply could not pick up my ballot, not because of malice on my part, or many times even recognition. I’d go into a round, judge somebody for the fifteenth time without recognizing them, and drop them for the fifteenth time. For them, it was epic. For me, it was one more round. For that matter, there were people I almost always picked up, and it’s commonplace that at any juncture in the activity there are people everyone is always picking up. These were not biases on my part, at least not consciously. Some people consistently lost and some consistently won. What can I say? I was involved in one epic stretch quite knowingly (albeit not maliciously), dropping one particular debater pretty much week after week for three years until I started picking her up all the time when she was a senior. What happened? I have my opinion, but the thing is, wouldn’t she have been justified in striking me as much as possible? From either of our positions, it was uncomfortable. So why not just move along? Everybody has a judge or two they can’t pick up come hell or high water, and it’s not a matter of adapting or getting better, it just is what it is. Why does a debater have to face that judge? What possible benefit can that be for anyone? Anyhow, I think that MJP isn’t all that different from tab rankings, and it does eliminate the perceived stinkers, or at least, if strikes would otherwise still be available, allows for some distinctions (keeping in mind that in MJP, a 3-3 or 4-4 is considered mutual, if not necessarily the priority).

I will point out that people who debate well tend to win at tournaments regardless of the judging structure. They win with MJP, they win parent judges, they win every damned thing. As I say, I’m not convinced that much of it makes that much difference, aside from judges whose incompetence is broadly manifest, i.e., the ones who obdurately refuse to listen and pay attention, the ones who don’t speak English, and the ones whose elevator doesn’t reach the top floor…

Extra! Lifeline needed!

Tomorrow night the Sailors attack their final Bean Trivia of the season. Both O'C and Kt are unavailable. Any volunteers?

Monday, April 11, 2011

In which various bits and pieces are reviewed, including the rearing of golf's ugly little head

PJ is someone to be listened to on the other side of the MJP coin; you should read his comments on what I wrote last week. The jury is very much still out on whether MJP would shut down innovation (or, for that matter, shut down change that isn’t innovative). One thing that should be pointed out is that, for the most part, a debater’s first couple of years are at the hands of random judges, a virtual bootcamp of learning to adapt, so MJP only affects seasoned pros. And for that matter, all highly preferred judges are not the same: each is highly preferred in his or her own way, hence all those paradigms. And all prefs are not 1-1, heaven knows…

This last weekend was without debate for me, and I don’t think I missed it. Saturday I played my first round of golf of the season, and wasn’t even terrible, although I wasn’t exactly good, and I couldn’t move my back for the ensuing twenty-four hours. Then yesterday we went into NYC for lunch with Kate, which was quite good. I did get bulletins along the way from the Sailor Speecho-American contingent at the NYSFL annual hoo-ha; not all of us had the weekend off, in other words. We broke one and got an honorable mention for the others, so nothing shabby there, I’m happy to say.

Next weekend will be roughly the opposite in terms of debate intensity, with the NDCA tournament running from Friday night registration to breaks on Monday. There’s been some discussion of the number of rounds; Bietz, with his anti-neg bias (so to speak), requested the eight rounds to even everyone’s opportunity to debate the dreaded aff. I think we’re even changing the name of the side from the Affirmative to the Dreaded Affirmative, complete with DAC, 1DAR and 2DAR. My research on this subject, as discussed on TVFT, supported Bietz’s position when addressing the strongest debaters. The problem is that there’s an immovable awards ceremony after our seventh round. One solution was to break 24, including lots of 4-3s, allowing folks on the bubble one last chance to debate neg. I’m not sure how this has been adjudicated; it’s up to the board of the organization. Either way, it’s a lot of rounds…

Also, I was comparing notes this morning with Tim Averill, with whom I’ll be tabbing PF at TOC. I think he was worried that I might not be up to the task, but I assured him that I’ve been down that road a time or two. I mean, with no MJP and no side restraints it will be the proverbial walk in the park. The only problem with that is that, historically, TOC weekend is also the weekend that the university fertilizes the grounds, thus making a walk in the park a little less…floral?

Friday, April 08, 2011


In more immediate news, next week is NDCA, which I’ll be doing with Kaz and Bietz. It looks interesting. We’re going to be doing e-ballots, and the Warm Room, for one thing, or, I guess, two things, both of which are new to me. Followers of TVFT know well that the idea of e-ballots intrigues all of us. We’ll see how it works out.

Last week at State, we had a strong but small field of VLD: 21. Still, we used MJP. In my various ramblings I have more and more come to believe that MJP is preferable to any other system, and this was a good test of how it would work on a small field. The answer? It worked fine. Almost all the rounds got 1-1s. If not, at least all the rounds on the bubble got them, and one or two other folk got the best we could do. If you can do it with this small a number, anything bigger has to work too. Part of it is that we get more proficient at it with each tournament. The only theoretical factor mitigating against MJP at this point, then, since we know it works in the tab room, is the idea that the judging of all rounds should be entirely random. I guess someone could defend that approach to the activity, but their arguments would have to be both that somehow MJP is bad and that occasionally judges who are totally inept (and there are way too many of these) should be deciding competitive success. My original fear of MJP was that it was allowing students to pick their own judges and that this somehow would benefit them unfairly, but that is silly because both students are picking, making the choice fair between them. That students might gravitate to a certain kind of judge and away from other kinds of judges can be portrayed as a bad thing, but only if you believe that the activity must remain static. Also, as I say, if one prefers randomness one has to accept judges who are, as I say, inept. I don’t make this up. There are some schools that send judges who are thoroughly unprepared, and in some cases linguistically incapable (they really can’t follow the English language). Curiously, in many cases the coaches protesting against MJP are the ones providing these unusable judges (who, in practice, end up in novice rounds since the rules of engagement don’t allow me to cut off their heads). Curiouser still, the students from these schools have no compunctions about using MJP themselves. Consistency is not a ruling factor, in other words.

But absent bad judges—and there are many schools who, while providing “lay” judges, do a good job of training them, and there are plenty of parent judges who I personally would rank as a 1 because they are both smart and experienced, so I do not revile the breed as a group (it spawned me, after all), any more than I believe that all former $ircuit debaters are automatically good—the question can probably be debated, is MJP a good thing, since it allows participants in the activity to, however indirectly, determine the direction of the activity. I think that the benefit of time helps us answer this question. A number of years ago, LD was going to hell in a handbasket because of then fashionable pomo “philosophy” and critical theory. This material, most of it cultural studies analysis at best (and incoherent nonsense at worst) offered little or no ethical framework for application to LD discussions, and threatened to derail any meaningful discourse. Now this material has mostly gone away except for the parts that have withstood the heat of the forge: some 20th Century philosophy is useful, including some critical theory. Is every resolution tainted due to race/feminism/LGBT issues? No. Are there valid uses of Foucault or (shudder) Nietzsche? Sure. LD was not derailed when this material was de rigeur. Everyone did a lot of new reading, we all learned a lot, and we moved on. Is theory the death of LD now? I don’t think so. We will learn better how to handle goofy positions that in the past we had no tools for, but every round won’t be a theory debate. Is everyone going too fast? Only if their adjudicators can’t follow them. The good debaters continue to adjust their speed for totally lay audiences (e.g., at the Newark RR final, where two of the fastest debaters around never got out of first gear), but why should they have to pretend that some judges can’t handle it? Judge adaptation, my old number one rule for success, is still up there in my book.

So, over the years, LD can be seen as going here, going there, going somewhere else. MJP can, conceivably, move it along quicker. Is it a dialectic of improvement? Not necessarily. Some of the changes are merely stylistic. Some are bad and they go away. Some are good and they stay. And probably some are bad and they stay and some are good and they go away. But this is a natural evolution, one way or the other. And let’s face it: doesn’t totally random judging also act as a determinant, albeit a negative one? If the pool is lightly experienced and not necessarily adroit with the technical or strategic background of the activity, don’t we end up missing out on a lot of benefits? Don’t we miss out on the use of new and interesting ideas (even those which may not prove out) if we force the students to always rechurn the same old ideas? If judges are trained that only certain philosophies are acceptable, isn’t that bad for education? I wonder if science teachers, sure of their fields the day they start teaching, don’t allow any new scientific ideas to enter their classrooms in the ensuing years? Do English teachers believe a book published today cannot have value? Do social studies classes not include ideas from people in today’s political arena?

Oh, well. I can appreciate conservatism. But I do suggest that it be clearly explained, and that it needs to keep up with the realities. Conservative coaches who proselytize against change simply for the sake of preventing change are doing a disservice to all of us. Proselytizing against change because of perceived harms, on the other hand, is fine. But then we must examine those harms, and the risks entailed, and make our decisions accordingly. Over time, I have found myself more and more on the side of the non-conservatives. What can I say? Live and learn. Or at least try.

Regarding a message from Mike Bietz

A few days ago I spoke briefly, albeit reluctantly, about the discussion regarding TOC, because I felt it needed to be addressed but at the same time, I was repelled by it and didn't want to contribute to it. I still am and still don't, but a message my friend Mike Bietz has sent out to the NDCA indicates that despite the fact that the public venues for the discussion have temporarily shut down, there is still venom being spread through other channels.

One can believe whatever one wants about the situation itself, but the nature of the discussion has been detrimental to our activity as a whole. I have often refused to participate in discussions I have found wanting for one reason or another, but I have never suggested that others should not participate in them. But this time I do. I ask you, if you are among those continuing to carry on this conversation, please stop. The issues, such as they are, have been raised. That is what speech, per se, is about. Actions will or will not be taken, and everyone is free to regard those actions or lack thereof as they wish. But we are beyond the point where speech will have any effect short of inflicting even more personal harm. If you number yourself among the people who respect my opinion on things, please respect my opinion on this. Enough is enough.

To those who have already been harmed by this discussion, I extend my concern and my support. I am a member of this community because of the good that it does both educationally and socially. Please do not judge the community or undervalue that good on the basis of the last week or so. We have failed, but we are human. With luck, we will learn from this too.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Why we don’t change ballots

The following comes up now and then—I’m recalling a policy contretemps last weekend, which is why I bring it up now—and our stance in tab should be explained: A judge will come in and want to change a ballot after it’s been handed in and recorded, and we won’t do it (although we could). Why not?

Let me start first with an analogy. Imagine a jury trial. Both sides present their cases, after which the jury deliberates for as long as it takes to arrive at a decision. Once that decision is reached, it is handed down to the court. But what happens if a juror goes home that night and changes his or her mind? If something suddenly occurs to that person that turns their thinking upside down? The answer is, nothing. It is too late. The decision has been handed down. This is similarly true in non-jury situations. With SCOTUS, for example, cases are presented. The judges deliberate, then they announce their decision. The lawyers in the case do not, as the decision is read, start interrupting the judge and arguing further to advance their positions. It’s over. The decision has been reached.

We operate similarly in tab rooms. The belief is that the round is a certain length of time, beginning with the 1AR and ending with the 2AR. Once the last words of the 2AR are spoken, the debaters should shut their traps. Practically speaking, a judge should listen to the round, think, write a ballot and then critique. Most judges do operate this way. From tab’s point of view, what matters is the decision that is officially handed down. Once we have that ballot, that is the law.

What happens once in a while is that the judge has a change of heart, in effect going home after the jury deliberation and seeing things differently. They want to change their ballot. Sure, this sounds okay in some regards, but why do they want to change their ballot? Have they talked about the case to some other people, been further persuaded by a debater from the round in a conversation in the cafeteria, or do they now simply see things differently? We don’t know, which is why we say, when the ballot it handed in, that’s it. (We’re not talking about actual ballot-signing mistakes, of course, where low point wins are incorrectly marked or not marked, which we do doublecheck with the judges.) The thing is, there has to be some point where it’s official, and this is that logical point. If a line is not drawn, then no round is ever over. A week from now a judge can have a change of heart: what do we do then?

Do judges make adjudication mistakes? Of course. Good judges and bad make bad decisions. It is far from unusual for both debaters to be startled by a decision, even from a panel, even when the judges are highly preferred. It happens. The good news is, it’s a debate round, not a life imprisonment term for a crime you didn’t commit. Most debaters are equally on both ends of bad decisions over the stretch of their careers, winning about the same number of rounds they shouldn’t as they lost ones they should have won. But the point is, from the tab room point of view, we give out a ballot and trust that everything is fair and aboveboard in the round. The judge has a certain amount of time to make a decision, and once that ballot it handed in, the decision is official. We have seen ballots where judges have changed their minds before handing in the ballot, and we don’t question that (although we do hope it is not because of out-of-round arguing*, but simply a result of deeper thinking on the judge’s part during the deliberation process). It is what is submitted to us as final that we consider final. If not at that point, then how do you bracket future rounds? How do you ever conclude the tournament?

Fair? Probably. Unfortunate? Occasionally. Would you do it any differently? Unlikely.

* There is no 3NR or 3AR, and no rules concerning such. If a judge were to ask a question of a debater after the conclusion of the round, and the debater starts furthering a position, this would be outside the boundaries of the round, in that no-rules area. A judge must not be swayed by out-of-round arguments, and it is considered worse than bad form for a debater to attempt to make such arguments. When a debater is attempting to sway a judge after a decision is made, and a judge allows that to happen, it is a bad business that is often reported to tab as just that. Our hands are tied by the official ballot submitted, but that judge and that debater will usually be reprimanded.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Thousands (all right, seventy-two) cheer!

I am, of course, going to TOC with the Panivore. While she has traveled with others often during the year as she has bounced around on the $ircuit, I have stayed at home running my normal local course of events, thankful that we have such good friends in the region who are willing to add Sailors to their travel list (and, in the P’s case, suffer through watching her eat bagel after bagel after bagel, interrupted only occasionally by toast, baguettes and the odd Parker House roll). Nowadays the TOC has more judges than the Panivore has gluten, but one still gets put into the pool, and in my case, no doubt ranked about as low as the numbers will allow, not because I’m inherently terrible (although I may be) but because I am startlingly out of practice, and while some debaters will cagily rank me high knowing that they can pick up my ballot without batting the proverbial eye, most will prefer someone who is, shall we say, a little more au courant. I don’t blame them for that. But it would mean a pretty boring couple of days for me (as it is most judges who are not at the top of the preference scale). I’d judge a round or two at most, and one of them would only be because the first choice got run over by a bus on the way to the room. There’s nothing worse than walking into a round with a ballot in your hand and having the contestants fall to the ground to beat their breasts in despair. Then of course I’d be in an octos round, the ballot no one bothers to pick up as they speed along merrily and I do my best to keep up without toppling off the bed as I do so. There is no worse RFD in the world than, “I was able to flow more of you than the other one so you win.”

But here’s the good news. I’ll be tabbing PF. I will be much happier (and busier) as a result, but I’ll still have plenty of time to schmooze and enjoy the event. I do always like TOC, which I haven’t been to in a while. It’s civilized, with rounds ending for dinner, and Kentucky is pretty that time of year. I have always resented not being able to watch the Derby, but this year the tournament is the week before the race, which is nice for an old railbird like myself. And since I’ll be tabbing, I’ll feel productive for a change. Needless to say, my exit from the LD judging pool improves that pool quite a bit, which I guess makes this a win-win situation.

And that will be the end of the year. Looking forward, there’s this weekend off, NDCA, Easter, TOC, golf. Ahhh.

(By the way, I am happy to report that the Aged P situation has improved quite a bit. She is thriving as a result of the monitoring of meals and medications and regular physical therapy. We are looking for a nice assisted living place in the area, where she can maintain both independence and security. All’s well that ends well, in other words. There is still work to be done, but the stress is much less. Once again, Ahhh.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A serious note

I have begun writing about the present controversy a number of times, but I never get very far, because I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

I posted an article on the feed today about that idiot in Florida who burned a Koran. The message of the article was that, yes, free speech allows a lot of things, but with the freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use that freedom well. I have to wonder how the debate community, which is heavily engaged in studying the subject of free speech, has so lost the ability to handle it responsibly. Incautious speech causes harms, and those harms can be deep. Further, racist speech, however covert, is among the most harmful, as its very utterance is painful. It points to what is the worst of the human animal, and the most animal part of our humanness. It is a sad thing.

It is also a sad thing—and often an illegal thing—to say or write bad things about people. Freedom of speech does not protect the speaker from the results of the personal harms that are caused. The debate community should know better than that. Name-calling in situations portrayed as evil-doing is socially and legally unacceptable. Why so many people seem to feel that they can do so freely, again with the education of debate behind them, is a disturbing thing.

There are real people being maligned, abused and hurt on all sides of this controversy. People are being accused of all sorts of things, and the remarks are cutting on a deep level, all of it over a debate tournament. Yes, for many its an important debate tournament, but is it as important as the feelings of any one person involved, be they a student or a coach?

My guess is that eventually some of the parties central to this controversy will speak their piece, there will be a flutter of responses both positive and negative, and then it will die down in the public arena. But for a couple of people, it will never die down. They will always have the memory of the public vituperation and excoriation that has occurred.

We can not be proud of ourselves for this. As I say, I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I like to think better of us. I like to think we can discuss differences honestly and openly without resorting to character assassination.

I am disappointed.

In which some tournaments are dragged and dropped on the calendar

One nice unexpected benefit of the State tournament was getting a chance to talk to Monticello’s RJT. Since her retirement from the field of forensics (but not from her teaching job) I’ve really only seen her on her home turf. This was a good opportunity to look at next year’s schedule and sort out a few things, namely, the positioning of the Monti MHL where it’s always been, followed by our taking a look at the Monti invitational. This has, since the beginning of time and perhaps even before, always occurred on Columbus Day weekend. But this year that weekend is right in the middle of the Jewish holidays, so an executive decision was made to move the invitational to the previous weekend, which is of course the earlier Jewish holiday, but the impact seemed less, and the day off on Friday would allow us to get an early start, so there you are. The best of a bad situation, simply put. As I’ve discussed with O’C in the past when the Vassar RR could have potentially fallen on the holidays, there is always the prospect of a special “Goyim Only” event, but no one has ever taken me up on that for some reason. Go figure.

Speaking of the VassaRR, I think O’C also declared what weekend that would fall on. (All of this is posted on my various schedules.) He’s been talking about holding it in NYC, but still under the Vassar auspices, to make it easier for people to get there from far afield. Makes sense to me. I have to admit, though, that I’m a little RRed out. I mean, there seems to be a round robin nowadays with almost every tournament. I can understand why it’s done, as an attempt to attract stronger competition, but that does tend to be the usual suspects week after week, and it does turn weekend tournaments into endless affairs and one wonders about regular old school after a while. The good news for me is that next year I’ll not be in the thrall of any usual suspect, so at least my calendar will be clear. I’ll miss Bean Trivia at Lexington, though.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Art of the State

We did it.

This weekend, after years of frustration with our state organization (about which the VCA has been informed ad nauseum), the debate coaches from almost all the policy schools and a seriously strong representation of the LD schools in the state got together and threw their own shindig in the style of the rest of the tournaments we attend throughout the year. (We also had PF, but that’s already still so small around here that it’s hard to claim much traction one way or the other.) It was a hit. Everybody had a good time, the rounds went off neatly, the judging was super, and anyone who didn’t collapse of heart failure going up and down the six flights of stairs went away well satisfied.

This first venture was down at Brooklyn Tech, where we had an MHL last year. I liked the building a lot then, which was why I was glad we had it for this event, although I don’t think it registered on me how many stairs there were. Coming in early Saturday morning and mounting to the heights carrying all my gear is going in the book as my physical achievement of the year, and I’m in fairly decent shape for a fossil. By the end of the day it probably looked like Mt. Everest, with a string of abandoned gear surrounding the climbers who whispered to their colleagues, “Just go on without me.” At one point I was heading up and an unaccompanied policy tub was heading down, and there were people in hysterics (positive or negative I couldn’t tell you) at the top. For most of the participants it was the last debate of the season, so how much could they miss this year’s folders?

Needless to say, putting O’C in charge of the trophies meant that we had not trophies but Trophies. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t speak to the food at the event, because Friday the Sailors and I met up with JV for some nice Italian near our hotel (we got out fairly early), and Saturday JV and I went to this great burger place for lunch, and between the two, the job was done (not to mention a pile of bacon at the hotel buffet that even Kaz would have been satisfied with). JV and I were tabbing PF and LD, while Kaz and Lakeland’s SB were handling all the policy divisions (including what Kaz described as a middle school group as cute as the dickens).

As for the competition and judging, they speak for themselves. The Sailors acquitted themselves admirably, with the PC making it all the way to semis, and Liana making non-advancing octos (we wanted to acknowledge the top 12, but had to be out of the building by 8:00 Saturday night). Both also picked up speaker awards, so it has been a good year for the team in general, especially when you add in our Speecho-American folks (who go to the other State tournament this coming weekend). The PC even finally got his plaque from O’C acknowledging him as, well, the PC. Pretty cool, especially since it doesn’t say People’s Champion of what. Could be anything. That’s a plaque he can hang in any room he’s in for the rest of his life.

So, a great start for a new organization and a new tournament. It was great to have all those UDL schools there, and the middle-schoolers. While a lot of us worked hard to make this happen, top credit goes to Jon Cruz (note use of whole name) who, as the head of the organization and tournament director, put it all together. Kudos.