Monday, October 31, 2011

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

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

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

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

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


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

Never underestimate the healing power of the ukulele!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wizard of OS

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

These were the options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is good.

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Debutante Ball

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

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

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

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

The fun never ends.

Bronx Funnies

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The novices are about to launch, etc.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Bronx Bites the Dust

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

I’m your man.

Consider this the list for improvements for next year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Big Bronx Schedule

(An oldie but a goodie.)

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

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

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

Bronx Funnies

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Customer is Always Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bronx Funnies - Special Round Robin Edition!

Bronx Funnies

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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

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

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

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

Bronx Funnies

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Big Change

No, I am not quitting LD.

I am simply adding PF.

It’s like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The new season

So where are the Sailors this year?

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

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

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

Bronx Funnies

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Star Wars, Episode Seven: The Rise of the MJP

I’ve always assumed that the word eponym was named after a guy named Epo.

Also, at the DJ, which is jumping lately, there are three people we refer to as the two guys who look alike who don’t look alike, and the other guy who looks just like them.

Okay, I got that out of my system.

Let’s look at PJ’s comment on MJP (which, of course, is merely an M and a twist away from him, which he hasn’t seemed to notice):

I was writing about how one or two schools are totally off from whatever everyone else ranks. From my tab perspective, this is an annoyance, but my tab perspective is narrowly dedicated to making the tournament run smoothly. It is pragmatic and selfish, not philosophical.

I'm uncertain if it would be 'better' or 'worse', but if it is only 1 or 2 schools maybe they simply suffer from innumeracy.

No, I think it's very deliberate. It's the same schools all the time, and it definitely reflects an opinion of who should judge. Some schools, of course, don't rank at all, which reflects an opinion of ranking (except for the couple of cases where it reflects ineptness at getting the rankings in on time) or a young team without interest in the vicissitudes of judge paradigms.

I am mildly curious if I did rank everyone backwards, at least for the students I ranked for. If I did it wasn't for the purposes of mucking up the system. And if I didn't it wasn't for the purposes of NOT mucking up the system. I've been open about my MJP views. I am not morally opposed to it, so we do engage in it more as form of defense than anything else. I don't think that other people's ones are automatically our 1s.

PJ's team, as I recollect, was fairly mainstream. (Which I hope doesn't cause him to pull his hair out. Oh. Wait a minute on that one...)

I am slightly surprised the 1-1 or 3-3 issue does happen more often. A round judged between schools of differing philosophies SHOULD have differences in rankings, and that it does not occur actually troubles me. It means debate IS becoming more specialized. As the near-great Robert Heinlein observed, 'specialization is for insects.'

Well, yes, and that's the interesting nub. Why has the universe at large gone so deliberately in lockstep in this? I know we all don't agree on whether the sun rises in the east, so why do we agree on MJP so much?

I think that the folks who are opposed to it—and therefore dismiss it—because it the judge pool might want to think again about this. I don't believe that the mechanism is hiding some intelligent design, that it must lead to some teleological predictable outcome (i.e., recent college grad judges who did well on the $ircuit). If everyone ranks according to their wants and needs, it would be quite different. The thing is, the ones doing the most ranking do want that special cadre of $ircuit judges. This pushes them up to 1 for a lot of people. People who don't rank get the other person's 1. End of lesson.

I will publicly say that I am prone to ranking recent graduates whom I don't personally know or have judged low, but that is because I have no particular reason to think that they are good judges until I see their ballots. I don't think that winning some TOC16 tournament means that one is a qualified judge, I actually tend to suspect that people who had to scrap just to get to the bid rounds -and did so often- might very well be better. will also low rank judges who have pedagogical practices I strongly disagree with (it is hard to take judges who like theory but won't vote on RVIs seriously, its kind of like taking Republicans seriously regarding criticisms about the national debt). I also tend to believe that debaters who did not flow much as competitors rarely magically become good flowers when judging. Debaters who debated for programs which don't do much of their own case writing I suspect are not that great at critical thinking, until they show otherwise.

And 'Oral critique' will usually be more than enough to get a '6' from me, or a '5' at best no matter how many tournaments one broke at has a HS debater. Though I may be open to visiting them in their capacity as a dental hygienist.

Which means, of course, that PJ is carefully choosing his judges based on his analysis of them. His analysis is conservative and, dare I say, smart. It is the kind of analysis that people who don't rank also ought to be doing.

In MJP at a big tournament, you'll get equals. My bet is that a large part of the field feels like PJ, but their scorn for this newfangled MJP thing, and therefore their refusal to use it, puts them in a position of being the most harmed by it. MJP, as I say, has no internal engine making it that way. The process of making MJP a machine to honor people who shouldn't be honored is propelled by people who refuse to honor someone else.

Let me put it another way. MJP is here to stay, at least for a while. Don't be put off by it. Use it. Use it your way. That's what it's all about.