Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hit me with your best shot

Where is CP when you need him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Doing the Sailor Math = 3.5

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bump 2011 Pt 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fact: We are doomed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bump 2011 Pt 2

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bump 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

On the verge of Bump

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The ship of Hud is scarcely manned

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


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

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

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

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