Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No power

Also fewer trees. But nothing too bad. This weekend was cancelled, because nobody's had school and nobody's likely to have transportation. Oh, well. With luck, by the weekend my electricity will be back, and I'll be able to see what I was missing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Debate: The NYPFL

That's the New York Pagan Forensic League. We shake off the church and go to our roots for All Hallows at Regis. It's a tradition, and no one has yet to call me out on it. How can I stop?

For reasons that are too annoying to detail, I had no students, so I drove down straight with only one stop at Starbucks. Early, zipping along, listening to random stuff on the iPod, of course all of the East Side of Manhattan was blocked off so that people could warm up for the marathon. Warm up for the marathon? I have to get caught in traffic because you can't run in the park like you normally do? And I have to admit I've never been interested in marathons anyhow. Maybe if the Persians were invading, I'd think differently.

I did manage to arrive before 9:00, though, as did all the teams. All present and accounted for, I was told, and we came close to pulling it off without a hitch. Only two schools had judges that didn't show up. Fines were levied, irritation expressed. It really is hard getting pissed off at the same people for the same reasons over and over again, and nothing ever changes. You've got to wonder.

Regis set me up with a computer to do my printing, and it almost worked fine, except it wouldn't read my USB drive. As always, a PC set up to be a PC can't understand a Mac. I guess I could have reformatted it, but instead we used Kaz's panda; she'd left her chicken at home. I'll have to get a panda or a chicken for myself in the future. In any case, things worked fine. And we got all four rounds out and were at the awards before 6:30. We even managed four rounds of a tiny varsity division despite a judge who singlehandedly tried to bring the whole thing down. Where do they get these people from? I won't tire you with the details, but here's how judging is supposed to work: we put out the ballots, you pick them up and judge the rounds and bring them back. There's nothing else involved. Trust me on this.

Now I'm sitting around waiting for the electricity to go out. I'm trying to shake the loose leaves from Bump, the people without judges who are definitely going to drop but are taking their sweet time about it. I want to give those slots to others in a timely manner, but I can't do it if they're still holding on. I keep sending emails and they keep not dropping. I have to admit, the temptation to dump Bump arises every year, and going forward, with no LD alums, it's going to be even more tempting. But you just get so locked into things that it's hard to change them. O'C would probably come up that weekend anyhow for a couple of years before the reality set in. Then again, I'm not the one going to a wedding in the middle of it this year...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Riding off into the weekend

Woodies aren't what they used to be. In this post, a couple pair off and show what can be done that is very much state of the art these days. Watch them full screen!

The Voyage vs. El Toro

Debate: How to tab MJP

(Or at least, this is how I do it, after 2 or 3 years of learning.)

First, make sure all the prefs are correct. I’ve asked that they stay up on after they close, plus there’s already a way of printing them out of TRPC. Makes sense to me to let the teams themselves check things, and we can correct discrepancies. We're still working on this, but it will solve problems when people say they didn't get their prefs. We can either fix fast or demonstrate that it is not the case.

Next, if someone doesn’t pref, go in and blank out all their 1s. The default is a 1, not a blank, but when you’re tabbing, you can’t tell the difference between a real 1 and a didn’t pref 1, but a blank is a blank is a blank.

Do an automatic assignment of the judges. Nothing else. Then go down the pairing and erase (the E button) every judge that isn’t 1-1 or 1-blank.

Print out a list of judges, organized by judge. This will show you who only has one round.

Find a judge for each of the pairings that don’t have one. Try to use up the folks only judging one flight.

After everyone has a judge, auto assign rooms and then fix the flights (some will be AA or BB rather than AB).

In rounds where the brackets matter, start as above, erasing any non 1-1s. Then go to the brackets out of contention and erase the 1-1 judges that are highly preffed; it’s not that the out-of-contentions won’t get their 1s so much as, if there is any choice, they would go first to the in-contentions. (John Rawls would explain this as acceptable, needless to say.) Then start doing assignments by brackets, starting with the bubble and moving up to the undefeateds, then going to the out of contentions. Again, try to double up the judges as much as possible, but if you’ve been to an MJP tournament, you know that a lot of flights are split. This is why.

Hard-and-fast rule: TRPC always offers the prelim judges in a column. Always take the top judge from the column. You are not being paid to think. You are not trying to find the right judge that you think is the right judge, but a 1-1 pairing. That’s all.

Elims are a little different. You take the first judge and place wherever it has the first 1. That is, a judge automatically pops up, and the first pairing where it’s a mutual 1 is pairing 4, so you put the judge in 4. You try to fill up in order, going from pairing 1 to pairing 8 and then back down from 8 to 1 and finally back up again from 1 to 8. This removes any personalization of the pairing. Of course, you may run out of 1s before you run out of need, and you might move a highly preffed judge around when a less highly preffed judge can fill in, but as often as not this is a mug’s game of moving around people all over the map and getting nowhere. That’s why it’s mutual. We do a fair assignment, and when we run out of 1s, say hello to my little friends, the 2s. Still mutual. So are 3s. So is a 1-2, 2-1, 2-2. In the olden days, we put in anyone who hadn’t been struck. Which do you prefer?

Coachean Feed Single: Pinker on Red and Blue

I've never found anything Steven Pinker writes uninteresting. Here he looks at the odd problem of why states are so predictably blue or red, over and over again. His answer brings in history and philosophy, and while perhaps not definitive, it's fun and thoughtful.

Why Are States So Red and Blue?

John Sununu: What a schmuck!

Bronx Funnies!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Debate: Miscellania (which sounds like the name of Donald Trump's latest girlfriend)

Last year the Regis Halloween debate was the day of the killer snowstorm that knocked out the entire east coast. It took me about three hours to drive home through an obstacle course of downed trees and low hanging wires and wrecked vehicles. This year, we have a hurricane coming in. You’ve got to ask yourself, what is Regis doing wrong? Or maybe it’s just the NYCFL. You would think, with God on our side, this wouldn’t happen. Does the New York Scientology Forensic League have this problem? With L. Ron on their side?


I don’t think I mentioned that my debaters made a team Facebook page so that they would have something electronic that they actually looked at. Very proactive on their part, and Meh gave me admin access, and all of a sudden, if I want to post something, they see it within seconds. Emails? Not so soon. And you thought Facebook was just a lot of silly nonsense. Well, obviously, there’s a soupcon of unsilly nonsense as well. Seriously, it fits in nicely with the other communications venues. If that’s where people are, so be it. I don’t pay much attention to Fb as a general rule, but for this, I’ll make an exception. And if someone mentions my name, I get a message through email. Of course, I have to admit, it makes me feel older than usual to realize that not only am I nostalgic about snail mail, but now I’m nostalgic about email. (If I could only get all those damned kids off my lawn!)

I also don’t remember mentioning here, but then again, maybe I did and I just forget it in all the craziness with yelling at all those kids on my lawn. Check it out. It was fairly easy to throw together, and it looks good on PCs, mobiles and tablets. Now if I can just get people to use it. There’s also @nysdca, if you’re interested in keeping up with NY debate news.

Armageddon notwithstanding, Regis closes tonight, and then I’ll go through the rigamarole of changing the date so that people can make their changes online. As a dry run for online registration this season, the First-Timers was pretty good, and only one of the culprits there will be at Regis, but there’s always new culprits waiting in the wings. I want to run a hundred percent culprit-free. It could happen. Of course, for all that, at the FTers’ everything else went wrong, and it didn’t matter.

We try. Lord knows we try.

More links with little comment: Seventeen magazine, XKCD, the Museum of Natural History, ghosts and oddball museums

More good stuff that speaks for itself:

Donald Trump: What a Schmuck!

Presenting the second in our new, What a Schmuck! series.

Bronx Funnies!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Debate: Life with the young 'uns

The Sailors met again last night, and had something of a meeting mixed in with watching Meh regularly break out into the heebie-jeebies. Just another day in the debating life…

With so little debating under their novice belts (one kid, three rounds), there doesn’t seem to be much sense into going into tactics like, say, cross-x. They’re still at the level of showing up. The plan in any case was mostly to talk about Nov-Dec LD, which, since it’s a PF resolution, has the virtue of there being little or nothing LDish to say about it. Remember, we’re talking novices here, so they can look at the neg as a pure social contract play, which is easy enough, and aff as a pure morality play (no, you spalpeen, not that kind of morality play—jeesh!), provided they’re willing to defend supererogatory government “ought-to’s” at a point in their careers when they don’t know what the word supererogatory means. Doesn’t the government have a responsibility to its citizens to protect them as best it can from bad things? The problem is, I don’t want to construe it for them as a soc con argument on both sides, because that would actually either require both sides to know what they are talking about (i.e., the fungibility of soc con), which is highly unlikely when presumably no one in the field will have actually read anything on the subject much more in-depth than the Hillary Duff at this point in their careers. Then again, you could just go pure PF, and say that more people die on the other side, so I win. I don’t know. I’m thinking now about what the poor varsity will do to mangle this. At least novices will mangle it on a predictably simplistic level. What happens when you slice in all the latest LD bologna? The mind shudders at the thought. Have fun, people.

I spent a bunch of time yesterday looking at tournaments other than Jake. The Tiggers was leaking information from last year on a global level, with hundreds of dollars of fines charged against every single school. I erased the global data, but it had no effect on the prior leakage. CP was very helpful, if “It sucks to be you, fix it all by hand” is to be taken as solid help-desk advice. I clicked it all away, but for a little while a bunch of people were rather nuts. This is after I sent out a message saying that it was screwy and we were working on it. Here’s the deal. If I send you a message saying that X is screwed up and we’re working on fixing it, there is little or no percentage in your responding hysterically that X is screwed up, OMG OMG OMG. Please try to follow the narrative here.

And Bump is now less than three weeks away. How did that happen? I’ve tried getting a few of the ribbon clerks to cut themselves out, with some effect. And I campaigned to get extra judges (as in, you provide me more than your share, you will be rewarded on this earth and in heaven), but that’s only worked out slightly. In any case, I was able to accept all the housing requests, although at the limit, of course, so that’s all sewn up. Now all we need are families to house: my crack parents on that have now begun the thankless process.

This weekend is the Halloween Regis event. Last year this was the day of the killer snowstorm that I had to drive home through. Come to think of it, Regis after that in December was the site of the meltdown with numerous schools that had no idea of what their entries were and the legendary Kid With the Three Byes. Why do we keep going back to Regis again and again? Oh, that’s right. Grandma Julia and the food in the judges lounge. Got it!

Obviously there's a pent-up demand for Bronx Funnies

Picture of the day

From Awesome People Hanging Out Together.

Bronx Funnies!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debate: Thank you. And you. And you too. And even you, you spalpeen.

Please disregard any previous version of this blog post. Because we have a personal animosity toward bloody Congress Legislative Hoo-Ha, we decided to stiff it yet again.


You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States, and to report to—

Oops. Wrong “Greetings” letter.

Let’s try again.


I want to thank you all for making it through the New York City Invitational [note to self: fill in correct roman numeral here; double-check with Brother Kevin]. We were so pleased to host you this past weekend that our buttons burst, which is better than the year the urinals burst in second floor boys' room.

Ballots from the Individual Events and Legislative Hoo-Ha were available at the conclusion of competition in those events. Ballots from Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Policy Team Debate will be available online later this week, even though 60% of them merely say “oral,” and 30% of them don’t even say that. The remaining 10% are elaborate commentaries from adjudicators in direct contradiction of their paradigms, but you knew that already. Results from all events are either presently online or will be online by whenever the tab staff gets out of rehab. Thank you for your patience!

I would like to again thank those poor suckers who hosted the Saturday preliminary rounds in the Individual Events. Little did they know what they were getting into. And I would like to again thank the incredible students and parents of our Speech & Debate Team for their hard work this weekend, except for that one kid, he knows who he is, but we’ll take that out of this message and deal with him directly.

Congratulations to James Tiberius Kirk High School of California, the winners of the Andrew Lipton Chicken & Vegetable Cup-a-Soup. They were the overall champions of the tournament and thus won this delicious and highly nutritious traveling sweepstakes award.

Congratulations to this year's Underachievement Award winners, who have asked to remain anonymous so that they won’t have to wear that damned pin everywhere they go from now on.

Congratulations to Matt Dunay '09, the Alumnus of the Year, who unlike many other alums, actually went to the school.

Congratulations to the champion of Lincoln-Douglas Debate and the winner of Richard B. Sodikow, who will be shipped directly to her home in a plain brown wrapper. Congratulations as well to the reserve champion, who will step in if for any reason the champion is unable to complete her reign this year, and to the top speaker and winner of the Rocky Colavito AL Outfielder Award, which just goes to prove that this couldn’t have been typed up without ready access to Google.

Congratulations to the champions of Public Forum Debate and the winners of the After You No After You Trophy. One of them was also the top speaker—big surprise there, eh?—winning the Heisman Trophy and putting the noses of a lot of college football players out of joint. Congratulations as well to the reserve champions, who will be stored in a closet next to the debate room until their sell-by dates expire.

Congratulations to the finalists in Policy Team Debate, who will tussle over the The Rosie Ruiz Subway Series (yeah, you’re going to have to look that one up, probably) Championship Debate to be held this coming weekend. The winning team will receive whatever is left of Richard B. Sodikow after the LD champion is finished with him.

Congratulations to the champion of Legislative Hoo-Ha and the winner of the Indiana Jones Golden Gavel. Congratulations as well to yet another reserve champion; we’re still trying to find a place to store this one, but given the confusion at the awards assembly, I wouldn’t be expecting the Ritz, if you know what I mean.

Congratulations to the champion of Dramatic Interpretation Debate and the winner of the Justin Beiber Award. (At this point we’re going to stop congratulating reserve winners because we’ve run out of funny things to say about them.)

Congratulations to the champions of Duo Team Interpretation Debate and the winners of the Stuck With a Damned Partner Even Though I’m A Speecho-American Award.

Congratulations to the champion of Extemporaneous Speaking Debate and the winner of the I’ll Be Glad When This Election is Over Award.

Congratulations to the champion of Humorous Interpretation Debate and the winner of the Bronx Kneeslapper Award.

Congratulations to the champion of Original Oratory Debate and the winner of the It’s Tough to be a Bug Teenager Trophy.

Finally, congratulations the champion of Prose & Poetry and the winner of the Oh My God, Another One Is Doing “The Raven” Award.

The XLIIIrd (that just doesn’t look right—Kevin?) annual New York City Invitational will take place on October 18, 19, and 20 next year, or not, as the case may be. We hope to see all of you back again, which means a lot of you will have to forego college and do a fifth year of high school, but hey, nobody ever learns anything in college anyhow, so you won’t be missing anything, and thirty years from now you’ll look back at this experience and say to yourself, “Was that the weekend we went to the Bronx? Or was it Brooklyn? Whatever.”


Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate: On to XLIII

Probably the most important thing to come out of this last weekend was the origin story. It turns out that there was once a beloved Irish math teacher at Bronx Science who spent all his spare time doing inappropriate things with his cellphone. To honor his memory (he was kicked off the faculty after being tarred and feathered, and was last seen working on Todd Akin’s reelection campaign), they named the double-octos round after him. And now you know the true story of Sext O’Decimals.

Anyhow, what you really want are the details. I got there early on Friday. Parking was atrocious, and I drove around forever, and finally found a spot on Staten Island. So it goes. At least it wasn’t pouring out at that point, as it was later, forcing people to arrive looking like the proverbial wet dogs. I sat at the registration table, and I had two jobs. First, I told people to move along down the table to someone else and stop bothering me, and second, I took all the changes and either entered them into tabroom (IEs and Policy, which O’C repeatedly and confusingly refers to as Team Debate, as if PF doesn’t exist), piled them into a neat stack of papers (PF) or put them into tabroom (LD). Then I trucked up to my great new tabroom, which put Grand Central Terminal to shame with all the noise and confusion of twenty-seven other tabbers jabbering and runners runnering confusedly and Brx Sci teachers with thick accents looking belligerent and swearing at us under their breath in their native languages. Bietz and I found different digs pretty quickly, the room I will henceforth refer to as the Menick Cave, and which will be the LD home henceforth and forever. Occasionally people would pop by and eat their hearts out, so you know it was the right choice.

Before heading off to Pupsville for the weekend, CP showed me how to use the new automated online system in tabroom for postings and emailing and whatnot. Five minutes later I was trying to demo it to everyone else, with mixed results. It turned out that there was one serious bug in the system with flights, that if you were in one flight, your alert told you you were in the other flight. The postings were also backwards from TRPC, so there was a little confusion there, easily fixed when you just alerted everyone to the problem and told them to stay calm and carry on, which they did. CP looked at the data and came back with the sage response that it was all screwed up, blaming sunspots and the Curse of the Bambino. It should be cleared up for the next tournament, he said, whatever that means, given that there’s a tournament every weekend. Of course, for it to really work, people need to get themselves connected to tabroom, students and judges both, and that will take a little time. But it is a great system, and we used the Goy equivalent at NDCA in Vegas with great success. Of course, at Bronx, there was Wifi access granted to the hearty of spirit (getting access was about as easy as cloning three-headed sheep), but once it was there, it was there. A lot of other schools won’t be so easy, including Sailorville. So be it.

There seemed to be a new bug in the transfer of MJP from tabroom to TRPC, one that affected only schools with lots of conflicts. We had set up MJP for 6 categories, 5 of them real and 6 a strike, with conflicts on the side. I’m not sure exactly what the problem was, but it seems that if you had too many conflicts, some of your strikes got lost. We ran a check of 25% of the teams and found no discrepancies, at which point we accepted the reality of statistics, so it only affected a tiny number of teams, but still, you don’t want that sort of thing to happen. So, over to CP, who sounds sanguine about fixing it easily. I also asked him for pref screens to stay live in tabroom after closing so that people can easily look at their prefs after they’re entered; most of people telling me something was wrong over the weekend with their prefs was their bad memory of whom they had ranked what, not anything wrong with the system, and this would solve that. It would help tab too, as now I have to dive into a very unwieldy text file to pull the original information. Of course, the real problem with a pref not taking is that everyone suddenly becomes suspicious of the prefs. This being the third year I’ve been doing MJP, with absolutely no pref issues, I find this rather paranoid of people, but then again, paranoia plays much better than confidence, so there you are. If there was a problem, there must be a million problems screwing over me and my teams, is a much easier concept to go with then that, if there was a problem, it was probably some minor thing that is under control and won’t affect anyone. The trouble with human nature is that so many humans seem to fall in line with it.

After that, the chief issue seemed to be people’s inability to look up the word mutual in the dictionary. MJP does not mean you always get your 1s. MJP means that you and your opponent always get a judge you’ve preffed identically. This could mean a 5-5 round, but needless to say, aside from a handful of 3-3s in prelims for down-and-outs, it was all better than that and, in fact, overwhelmingly 1-1. But in elims, it gets dicier, because as a general rule the teams that make it into elims have complicated druidical structures for preffing the judges that inevitably never gel with their opponents’ complicated druidical structures, and more than once I had to show people that they weren’t getting their 1s because they and their opponent had no mutual 1s to get. And often no mutual 2s. You’ve got to do the math, people. I don’t have some cache of 1s that I’m holding back on, although that’s what people seem to think. It’s like with my wife, who is a real estate agent. New customers always think, when she shows them around the first few times, that she’s holding back on the good houses in their price range, the ones that they would buy immediately. Can you say counterintuitive?

There is a dicier side to MJP in elims, where you simply get things to add up. The way this works is that, when there is little mutuality (which happens usually in one or two of the pairings of any elim round), you’ll put in a mutual, like a 2-2, and then a 1-2 and and 2-1, or maybe it will be a 1-1, a 2-3 and a 3-2. Obviously this is not your dream panel, but if you want a dream panel of all 1s, sleep with your opponent prior to prefs and dream together of the same people. Short of that, the math talks.

What I don’t like is when the math is, say, 1-5, 3-1, 3-1 or something along those lines. It adds up to 7-7, but is obviously biased toward the 5-1-1. The only time this ever happened and was uncorrectable was one year at Lex, but we were able to postpone the final to the next day at the RR, where we were able to put in an even panel because we had a lot more judges back in play. We almost ended up with a scenario like that this weekend, but a saintly couple of volunteers allowed us to set up a final panel that had not necessarily high prefs but a balance of this way, that way and neutral. Since the tournament concluded with a 3-0, at some point you just throw up your hands and say, go in and win those judges.

Three years ago, there were no prefs, and people debated in front of the panels they were given, excluding their strikes. As possibly the biggest proponent of MJP on the planet, I will not long for the good old days, and will simply continue to explain and explain and explain until the realities take seed. I am not actively working against your teams. I do not care about your teams. I barely care about my own teams. What I care about is getting out as quickly as possible, and the only way to make that happen is with the best prefs possible for the tournament. But best prefs possible is not the same as you get all your 1s; it’s you get all your best mutual judge preferences. Which is why we call it Mutual Judge Preferences and not Pick Your Own Judge. There’s a big difference there.

So it goes.

Short film: Monster Roll

This is a proof of concept for a feature film. More details at Underwire.

Debate: The bubble

I've had this conversation with my students a number of times, and felt ramifications of it over the weekend when a bunch of us were gabbing about various political and social issues with a collection of the usual tree-hugging suspects and one staunch conservative. Point number one, the world is not the way you think it is, filled with two kinds of people: 1) smart people and 2) people who disagree with your politics. Secondly, religion is important, even if you profess not to believe in one. As a matter of fact, for believers, it is by its very nature preemptive of all other concerns. The presumption is for God.

In other words, we are living in a real place called America, and just happen to have a tiny bubble called debate. And even in that bubble, there are a lot of Americans. This Gallup poll underlines that broader distinction.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Coachean Feed: Gandhi, gay eagles, assisted suicide, and a pot pourri of the Middle East for November

More links of interest to the debate community.

And now for a little touch of November in the night:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Les Temps Perdu: A Teacher

I get the alumni bulletin from my high school, and I sort of breeze through it just to see if there’s any pictures of people I know who have aged dramatically while I have remained my winsome boyish self. When the latest edition arrived this week, I learned that the most influential teacher in my life had passed away. He was well along in years, and to be honest, when I learned not long ago that he was still alive I was quite surprised. Still, to now see him unequivocally gone stopped me in my tracks. I am here most likely because he was there.

I was always a reader, from as far back as I can remember. Like any reader, certain milestones and rituals stick out. The library loomed large, in an era before there was such a thing as young adult books, or perhaps more precisely, before there was such a thing as young adult books that you would want to read. Until a certain age, to wit, until the end of sixth grade, one was limited to the children’s section. However, if one could demonstrate otherwise, one was granted limited access to the adult section. You could only take out two books at a time, and the librarians studied them carefully to make sure you hadn’t snuck in a Fanny Hill or whatever (or at least I guess that’s what they were looking for). I gravitated first to mysteries and then to science fiction, because they were the easiest sections in the adult area to figure out. And the books, of course, were perfect, and I was on my way.

Book sections in department stores (imagine that!) also loomed large. My parents would go shopping and drop me off in the book section for as long as whatever they were doing took, and pick me up at the end of it. I didn’t necessarily buy books. As much as anything, these were exploratory sessions. One looked at the wealth of books available, and began to get a sense of which ones were classics and which ones were popular and who was who and what was what. It was a way to anchor oneself in that particular world, mixing new and old, getting a feel for all of it. A similar experience later on, during my high school years, was the occasional visit to the bookstores in Grand Central. Beyond the exterior lure of the latest bestsellers, these were mostly stocked with arty, intellectual books that befit Manhattan and a big city intelligentsia. You would see covers of so-called underground classics and City Lights poetry collections and the like. Another learning experience.

While this was all in my background, I was as a youth poised for something vaguely referred to as an engineering career, because I scored through the roof in math. It wasn’t that I was shabby on the language side, but when the balance tilted one way rather than the other in what was obviously pure instinctive aptitude, one went down the obvious path. In high school, where the curriculum inviolably split students into either the language path or the science path, I was set for life on the science path. I did continue to excel in math, but quite honestly, the various sciences courses were my worst. Whatever aptitude I had for numbers did not extend into plant cells, rock formations or the periodic table of the elements.

I had Bernie McMahon as a teacher twice. The first time, it was for my regular English class, if I remember correctly as a sophomore. He was smart and funny and all that, one of my favorite teachers, but that was it. I had other good teachers too, and he was just one of them. Then senior year came around. Back then there were not a lot of AP classes. Our school offered exactly two, math and English. Math was calculus, our first exposure to this precise math of imprecision, and it was the first time in my life math and I did not get along. After a month of proving definitively that there were certain sorts of logic that my brain did not find logical, I somehow managed without penalty to switch from AP Math to AP English. Father McMahon (he was a priest, Bernard McMahon, and the nickname Bernie was as unlikely and as perfect as can be) taught the AP class. And this was where he was not simply a good teacher, he was a magician. He turned me (and many others—he was a school legend) into something totally different from what I had been before. He helped me find my real calling in life, i.e., books. Writing. Publishing. The whole thing. I had only thought of books before this as entertainment on the side. Bernie McMahon turned them into my life.

He talked about books and writers with reverence, but more than that, he treated his students' interest in books and writers with reverence. He let us write ourselves, and, for instance, created dozens of little T.S. Eliots, first by teaching us about Eliot in such a way that we saw him as a god of literature, and then by encouraging us to stimulate our own inner Eliots. Never has so much bad poetry come from the pens of adolescents as when Bernie McMahon was standing behind them, encouraging them to explore and dream. He cracked novels in such a way that we didn’t look at them from some academic theme/plot paradigm, but as living, breathing organisms created by living, breathing organisms. We took from them whatever we could, not some set body of dull approved ideas. And then we were encouraged to look at books not in the curriculum the same way, and attempt to learn from them as well. I was on a real Lewis Carroll binge in those days, and Bernie McMahon encouraged me to go as far in that direction as I wanted, rather than telling me that Alice was not on the reading list and that I should stick instead to Sir Walter Scott, who was. (Someday I will read Scott, I promise. But only when I’m ready. That would be the Bernie McMahon way of handling it.)

Father McMahon also taught at the College of New Rochelle, but I’m not sure how much or what. When I knew him he was deeply into admiration of Anais Nin—now that’s my kind of priest! I loved being with this guy, talking informally about what I was reading, or what he was reading, or what any of a small coterie of his other followers (and this guy had followers, nay acolytes) was reading. No other teacher I had so encouraged our minds both to go their own way and yet to follow the ways of those who had gone before. In the end, in me, he made final the switch of track, so that when I went to college I did nothing but the humanities, with the barest minimum of math and science. In fact, the only math course I remember, I also remember never attending, showing up only for the final, on the assumption (correct) that I could pass it easily (it was not a calculus course). Interestingly enough, all those cut classes had an effect on me, and I do, and this is true, occasionally dream that I should be in that class and I’m not, and my world is about to end because of it. It is a classic nightmare, the last lingering vestiges of my life in the world of math.

So Father Bernard McMahon got me not into books but realizing that books were where I was supposed to be. Forty years plus of a career in publishing, with a couple of published books of my own under my belt, is the end result.

My most fervent wish is that everyone in high school find a teacher like that, a teacher who doesn’t just show you things you don’t know about the world, but things you don’t know about yourself. R.I.P. Father McMahon.

Debate: Updated Schedule for Fairly Large Bronx So-Called-Invitational Tournament, LD Division

Schedule for Lincoln-Douglas Debate
(Schedules for Legislative Debate, Public Forum Debate, Policy Debate, Humorous Interpretation Debate, Duo Interpretation Debate, and anything else you can put the word Debate after, are somewhere else, but you didn't care anyhow.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

6:00 AM — Wake up to Justin Bieber on clock radio alarm and realize that there’s another &$@*# tournament this weekend. Throw clock radio out the window, but still hear music, then realize that in fact you were sleeping with Justin Bieber, who is now propped up on his pillows strumming a ukulele. Pop out of bed immediately and hate yourself for the rest of your life.

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM — Registration (in-person registration is required; no masks, please, and leave the Beeb at home)

1:30 PM — Opening Remarks and Ceremony, including the Induction of New Hall of Foam Programs, Presentation of the Goombah of the Year Award, and Presentation of the Bronx Underachievement Awards. As this is just the first of many award ceremonies, moaning loudly throughout is mandatory. Please note that this year there will NOT be an award ceremony after every round. There will, however, be an award ceremony in every room DURING every round, probably around the 1AR in each flight. Extra time will be added to this speech to account for the interruption.

3:15 PM — The Anyone Who Works for the Bronx Now Gets to Pretend They Went There Round (double-flighted)

5:15 PM — The Our Bus is on the Wrong Side of the Hudson But We’ll be There by the Second Round (double-flighted)

6:00 PM — The Ilene Dunay Foods of the World, Unite! (You have nothing to lose but your lunch) Dinner Break

8:00 PM — The Bronx Benny NSFW Round (private joke—pun intended—double-flighted)

Students being housed by host families on Friday night will be picked up in the East Gym following Round III. Housing families will drive into the gym through the north entrance; we ask that students keep a weather eye pealed so as not to be run down by an SUV in front of the concession stand.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

8:00 AM — The Things Were a Lot Easier Back Before We Got this Bloody Octas Bid Round (double-flighted)

11:15 — The Coachean Life Tribute Bathroom Break. Debaters must wash hands after using. Judges must wash everything else.

11:00 AM — The Roman Numerals Were on the Real Schedule if You Weren’t Sure of the Level of Pretentiousness Round (double-flighted)

2:00 PM — The What? Another Round? Round (double-flighted)

5:00 PM — The Holy Mother of Pearl, Yet Another Round Round (double-flighted)

7:15 PM — Presentation of Superior Speaker Awards (the phrase Superior Speaker Awards is funnier than anything I could come up with) in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and of the Peter Colavito Award

Students who were housed Friday night who actually came back on Saturday morning will no doubt prefer to hide in the basement until the threat of housing again is over. Postings for the elimination rounds will be available online at on Saturday night, but only if Menick gets a decent meal somewhere, otherwise he’ll just grouch and post some stupid joke thing, because let’s face it, everybody already knows how they’re doing so what’s the big mystery?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

8:00 AM — Snooze-off Round (if necessary)

9:15 AM — Sext Your Decimo Round (double-flighted and highly illegal)

11:30 AM — The "This Space Vacant" Round, to be named after the most important debate dignitary to show up for the weekend

1:00 PM — The What Happened to Lunch? Round

2:15 PM — The Will the Eponymous Matt Dunay be Struck Again From the Semifinal Debates

3:30 PM — The Hee-Sun Hong Championship Debate and Chowder Tasting
immediately followed by the Presentation of Richard B. Sodikow to the winning debater

More articles we didn't finish reading

These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing. When we say we didn't read them, we mean it. They didn't exactly pull us in, for some reason...

  • The First-Ever World Champion Squirrel Cook Off
  • Jennifer Aniston Launches Hair Care Line
  • How to Make Corn Dog Brownies
  • Review: 'Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike' is blandly mediocre
  • Americans Are Getting Drunker and Fatter
  • Honey Boo Boo endorses Barack Obama on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'

BIrthday: Chuck Berry

Charles Edward Anderson Berry, who as every knows borrowed his unique style of playing from Marty McFly in Back to the Future, was born on this date in 1926. Here's some really sharp old footage:

Berry notoriously spent his career with various pickup bands. Occasionally those bands would amount to something on their own.

I don't know which is more awesome, Keith in the suit or Chuck doing the dance.

This one especially captures the span of Chuck's appeal.

Hail, hail, rock and roll. Hail, hail, Chuck Berry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debate: We meet, therefore we are, but we really aren't

Starting friction is greater than moving friction. This seems to especially hold true with the Sailors’ latest plebes. So far one of them has debated, at the appropriately named First Timers’ event, and that seems to conclude our program for the season. No one is signed up for anything else, because of a variety of life events ranging from christenings to confirmations to bar mitzvahs to pon farrs. I absolutely do not recall any group of novices being so bloodily busy doing something else other than being novices. My fear is that the great train of debate, which has already left the station, may be moving too fast for them by the time they decide to hop on.


Last night, in addition to covering the fact that there are tournaments and debaters, and the latter sort of need the former to maintain their distinction as the latter, we talked about justice, which wraps up the basic novice curriculum of Big Ideas (the others being rights, social contract and morality). I’ve simplified and organized the BIs nicely, I think, and cut out a lot of the unnecessary or hifalutin stuff that one tends to accrue over time. Stick to the basics when training plebes on stuff for the first time. We’ll get more into debate per se going forward, although that’s hard to do if none of them have ever even seen a debate!

Regarding that sigh above: Rinse. Repeat.

We also talked about the November PF topic. This is a poser because of its breadth. It’s easy enough to conquer the idea of US foreign policy: just go to the White House site and read it, given that that’s what the executive branch mostly does for a living. Threatening national security can be very broadly defined down to a single individual in jeopardy, but honestly, the links from Middle East – Instability – Terrorists – Threat to NS is pretty straightforward and unquestionably strong, especially insofar as much of our FP is in aid of maintaining stability. The real question is, how to argue it, thanks to the impossibly broadness of Middle East, regardless of how narrow one attempts to define that term. One could take a philosophical high ground approach and skip examples, but that’s not terribly convincing. Yet when one picks examples, they can be quickly mooted by counterexamples demonstrating the exact opposite, not in a line that will lead to debate clash, but in parallel lines leading to debate ships passing in the night. Once again, the wording of a resolution, where the bottom line is solid, derails the possibility of many good rounds. If it were any one country, rather than Middle East, it would be improved dramatically. By making it so broad (even if one uses the narrowest definition of Middle East), it is, literally and figuratively, all over the map.

Here’s my proposal. Let whoever comes up with resolutions come up with resolutions. Then lock them into a room with 10 high school sophomores and have them brainstorm for an hour. Then unlock the room and have them rewrite the resolution so that people can actually argue it well on both sides. Too often, the resolutions are about good topic areas, but written in a way that causes them to self-destruct.

Back to that sigh: Rinse and repeat yet again. And again. And again…

How come this never happens when I'm around?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate: Mostly Jake

We had the first Speech Workshop of the season at the chez last night. As always, this was a very useful event. I watched two of our seniors, our Coca Ptains, do their DIs, and was very impressed. The point of these sessions is, of course, to break down what they’re doing point by point, but they didn’t need a lot from us. A little strategy here, a little nudge there, that sort of thing. We’ll have another in a couple of weeks to help out some more people. While we were at it, we discussed Speecho-Americanism as practiced by the Sailors in general. It was all good.

Big Jake opened prefs and strikes last night. O’C and Bietz and I spent a lot of time discussing this over the weekend. My thing is, you have 6 categories, from most preferred to strike. You can adjust them in tab as you see fit. The traditional thing to do is to have 1 through 4, then 5 is conflicts and 6 is strikes. Which means that everybody gets the chance to strike, say, 10% of the field and then conflict another 10%, which ultimately adds up to striking 20% of the field. But the tournament is giving you only 10% strikes, plus a what you need as conflicts. Using the normal system, you can turn that 10% strikes into 20%, conflicts or no conflicts. I don’t buy it. That means you just get way too many strikes. As I see it, every tournament allows you a few strikes to eliminate judges you know are toxic to you. That’s fine, although MJP almost removes that necessity. In any case, the more options you give somebody to eliminate judges, the more they will take you up on that option. This is where tournaments start catering to people who can only debate a certain way. As the VCA knows, I believe that MJP works against that, if everyone uses it. But MJP, plus 20% or so strikes, is effectively a true corralling of the judge pool the way you want it. And that’s too much. At some point you have to win over judges who are inimical to your style or position. If Romney and Obama only had to convince their constituencies, we wouldn’t have to hold the election, and we certainly wouldn’t have to have them debate. They have to win over the so-called undecideds. So should high school debaters, if they’re any good. If a high school debater is only good in front of some judges, that is fine, but it’s a limit that should be acknowledged. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s less competitive than the debater who is good in front of all judges. You’ll never convince me otherwise if we’re talking about the benefits of debate for high schoolers.

Anyhow, we worked it out at Jake that the rankings of 1-5 are real, and could happen. The ones down at the bottom probably won’t, but they could. At Yale, with a smaller pool, we had 4 categories plus strikes, which worked fine with that smaller pool. I think I had one 4-4 in a down-and-out round. As for conflicts, you go in and mark them in tabroom separately from everything else. This should mean that people just go in and conflict people who they really have a conflict with. This is as it should be. We’ll also give conflict sheets to the judges on arrival, but everyone knows that the judges never pay attention to those until after they’ve been assigned a round judging someone with whom they have a conflict. Given that most of the judges are supersmart college kids, the inability to plan the obvious five minutes ahead of time is fairly set in the genes. We’re used to it by now. Sigh.

More Lego creations

Continuing our public service of providing one-stop shopping for all lovers of little blocks.
Real Large LEGO: Concrete Bridge Turned to Colorful Brick Is there some good reason we don't build real-life stuff out of these things?

There's two sides to every story (via BoingBoing):

This machine, which I first saw on BoingBoing, was all over the interwebs.

9 Mildly Disturbing Scenes Discovered At Legoland For instance, these "hot fireman."
  • There are complete instructions for making your own Lego Bento box, if you're inspired to do so.

  • Monday, October 15, 2012

    Debate: The First-Timer's MHL

    So, sez you, what was the First-Timers’ like?

    Oy, sez I.

    First of all, we did use the DIY registrations, and that worked really well once I just gave up and rescheduled the tournament for 2018. doesn’t like my keeping registration open on the day of a tournament, and I have to sneak up behind it when it is otherwise engaged or else it simply clams up and that’s the end of it. But I did mange to beat it into submission (although it seemed to wreak its vengeance later). Only two schools didn’t comply completely with the DIY, and I will deal with them separately. One was new to the game, the other a serial offender, so each in its own way.

    So 9:00 crept up on the clock, and we looked out and saw a virtually packed auditorium, and we hightailed it out to the tabroom, planning on having everything paired by 9:30 and the rounds started by 10:00. As it turned out, we had about as much chance of that as Miss America simultaneously solving world hunger, ending all wars and putting an iPhone in every pot. We were met with the proverbial perfect storm, a serial attack of one damned thing after another, the likes of which none of us had ever seen before.

    First of all, we couldn’t get the data to download out of tabroom. It turns out that we had a bad setting, and our immediate reaction, looking at the list of events and not seeing all of them, was to call CP and beg for mercy. Unfortunately, CP sleeps with his phone in the freezer, so by the time we heard from him, we had already gone to plan B and entered the missing data by hand. That was the first half hour we’d never get back. And then the printer went rogue on us. For a while it was pumping out so much paper we had to send an emergency call to Staples and have them rush in a few thousand reams just to keep up with the flow. JV was completely buried under it, with nothing showing but a piece of cowlick. By the time we got this stopped—we found a Dutch boy and had him stick his finger in it—we met with a complete jam, where roughly 728 pieces of paper were lodged in the printer in spaces where no paper had ever been before. This required about fifteen minutes of disassembly and re-greasing the skids, not to mention removing the Dutch boy’s finger, and then for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, the Mac side of my machine starting sending work to my printer back home while the PC side decided that if it was set for pdfs it would print on the Brother, and if it was set for the Brother, it would create pdfs. It was about 10:30 that we got this all sorted out, as compared to 9:30, at which time the collected masses were sent off to their rounds, except apparently one whole floor of the building was locked and the custodian was nowhere to be found, and the only way out of this was to acquire the master key, kept in a jar on the principal’s office. (I may be getting some of this wrong, as I only overheard the details as I was feverishly trying to sort out a whole ‘nother issue of room double-booking.) With no other resort, O’C was forced to break into the sacred office, and the only way to do this was to break the window by tossing a Bronx novice through it, Bronx novices being in abundance and, well, if they lost a couple, they’d none of them be missed. At least, that's the story as I heard it. In any case, as a result, a hefty number of round ones didn’t happen.

    Needless to say, we were running far enough behind that foregoing the fourth round was never much in doubt. Of course, four is a goal, not a promise. And to be honest, at a first-timers’ event, it’s not about the number of rounds, so much as it is about showing up, standing up and getting through the damned thing. Who knew that the same would apply both to the first-time debaters and to the tab room? In the immortal words of CP, repeated at least once at every tournament, “Are you sure you’ve ever done this before?”

    What was very pleasing was not just the number of new schools but the success of those schools. I always worry that new programs will get discouraged, but not this batch. I think every single one of them had teams that took medals, and a couple managed to get first place! We’ll be seeing them again, I’m sure. And along the way, the Fordham coach came to me and pointed to the calendar and said that there’s a big bleeping hole in December and that he was willing to offer up his school to fill it. Which suggestion was immediately taken to heart by the assembled 3 out of 4 MHL directors, which means we’ll have an extra event in December for novices and JV. Excellent or what?

    And now, back to Bronx again this weekend. I do hope we’ve got the bugs out of the system. (O’C: if you’re reading this, just put it out of your mind. It was all a one-off. Seriously. Maybe. I hope.)

    Music: Jobim

    I saw this video, and just needed to share:

    Antonio Carlos Jobim, and often Tom Jobim, and most often simply Jobim. He is something of a Brazilian god; around the world, just a god, period. I want to have his baby, except he's no longer with us, and I'm not quite built that way.

    Eliane Elias (another CL favorite) doesn't do a bad job, starting with Aguas and moving on from there.

    Here's an English language version of the song. John Pizzarelli reports that he was warned by Rosemary Clooney never to perform it without the lyrics in front of him.

    And a little goodbye from Jobim himself, with a different number.

    More links with little comment: Early Spielberg, boys' outfits, 2 kinds of people, the Beatles and the Bard, Pentatonix

    More good stuff that speaks for itself:

    • Watch Steven Spielberg’s Debut: Two Films He Directed as a Teenager That about says it all. Remarkably unamateurish, for some reason.

    • I feel like I'm looking at something from another universe with this stuff: The Best Dressed Boys of 1930. Think knickerbockers will be coming back any time soon? Oh. Wait a minute. Now we call them below-the-knee shorts. I call them homey pants. Whatever.
    • There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't. (That's a sign posted in the classroom where we hold debate meetings.) I say that in the spirit of the following clip collection.

    • I remember seeing this when it was made, and hadn't seen it since. Gotta love the interwebs for keeping everything alive forever.

    • Plenty of these guys' stuff is popular enough that you probably know them already. My take is that I love a cappella so much that I even like covers of songs I don't like. Then again, I like this original. So I'm posting this for the Boomers who also remember the original, and have no idea who Pentatonix is. (Are?)

    Legos: The Jump


    Windsor McKay

    We would be remiss if we didn't point you today to the Google doodle.

    Thanks, Daughter!

    P. G. Wodehouse

    There are some people in the world who think that the character name Gussie Fink-Nottle is about as good as it gets. And that's just one of the folks created, of course, by Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in his legendary series of Bertie and Jeeves stories. Needless to say, one ought to read Wodehouse, who was a master of language, and for that matter, listening to him via audiobooks is highly recommended, but no one ever went wrong watching Fry and Laurie take on the roles.

    Others have also played the parts, with various levels of success, and there was an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, your opinion of which may depend on your love, or lack thereof, for Andrew Lloyd Webber.

    Old Plum, as he was known, got into a bit of trouble with the Nazis, raising the question of whether he was, in fact, a sympathizer or merely a naive dupe. Who knows? I have a sense from what I've read that he was pretty much just so wrapped up in his work that he was rather stupidly ignorant, but he's not the first artist to fall into that category. Anyhow, in addition to his books and stories, he did a lot of theater work, including the songs from this little ditty. Talk about a more innocent age...

    In the hall of fame it will be Jeeves and Bertie who last the longest. Which is only right. Today is also Michel Foucault's birthday, but I have found that his work is seldom as comic as Wodehouse's, hence I have chosen to profile the one rather than the other.

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Riding off into the weekend: Epcot's birthday

    They used to call it EPCOT Center. It began as Walt Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it was not a theme park but a planned city. Disney, a dedicated futurist, wanted to expand beyond what he had already done into solving major problems of urban life. His idea was, in a way, one of the last of the great futurist projects, a category that stretched back almost over the entire 20th Century. The underlying problem with the futurist vision is that it's cold and clean and it eliminates all the messiness of human life that it just so happens that humans like and cities apparently need to thrive. Cities that work are organic, with accruals over time of homes and buildings and shops in different fashions for different ages. Planned communities, on the other hand, might conceivably work for a small group of people looking to fence their homes off from other people, but that's not a working premise for commerce. That's a cave. And cities are not caves.

    Of course, for Walt, a man of his times, EPCOT was a potential solution to the problems of urbanization. He wasn't trying to lead us down the path of sterile ruin, he was trying to eliminate slums and tiresome commutes and economic unsteadiness. It just turned out that history has proven that his solution wasn't the right one. When he died in 1966, it was EPCOT that he left behind as his next step forward. The Florida Project was already a go. The Magic Kingdom would be built first, and then the city. But it was not to be.

    I don't know whether Disney's successors came to believe that a city like EPCOT wouldn't work, or if they just weren't up to the task of attempting to create it. In any case, what they did come up with was a plan that united two different parks into one, a standing world's fair at least in its inception. On the one hand, corporations would show their ideas for the future, and on the other, countries would exhibit themselves and their people. It wasn't exactly a world's fair (usually countries want to show off their futures, not their pasts), but it was close enough.

    It opened 30 years ago, in October of 1982.

    It's changed a lot since the early days. Some of the changes are improvements, some are losses, but as with all of the Disney parks, they can't be envisioned as museums, and they move along with the times as the Disney corporation perceives of those times. I would kill to get Horizons back, as would most folks who remember it. Then again, who doesn't love Soarin'? Things come and go.

    To celebrate the anniversary, some Epcot (now lower-cased) links:

    The Epcot that never was: Walt's original proposal.

    World Showcase original artwork I love concept art!

    An Horizons tribute. Sigh...

    The Universe of Energy original art.

    And finally, original art from The Land.

    All of this is from the Disney and More blog, which, needless to say, I highly recommend.

    Let us get this out of our system, and we'll never have to mention it again

    More articles we didn't finish reading

    These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing. When we say we didn't read them, we mean it. They didn't exactly pull us in, for some reason...

    • Hulk Hogan sex tape: The wrestler shares his side of the story
    • Hooray for Men's Underwear Sales!
    • Sarah Palin revealed by dad, brother in “Our Sarah: Made in Alaska” memoir
    • Mitt Romney Takes Some Tax Deductions Off the Table
    • Taylor Swift on Her Messy Love Life

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Debate: AD, and some tournaments

    Chrome, or more to the point, my DJ version of Chrome, has gone rogue. For reasons that elude me, it now spits out unfathomable fonts in place of, say, Courier, which for all its dullness, has never been accused of unfathomability. And I like Chrome so much… Oh, well, back to Firefox and Safari.

    I’m very pleased with the look of the NYSDCA website. Having listened to SquareSpace being hawked on TWIT for the last millennium, I figured I’d give it a whirl, and while occasionally I have problems lugging things from one part of a page to another, it looks fine and is mostly easy. A nicety not immediately apparent is that a site that looks good on the computer screen also looks good on the mobile or tablet screen, with no effort on my part. We also moved the url over from the old WordPress site, which I never liked. Now I need to get traction with people actually using the site, providing resources and pictures and whatnot. It will happen.

    The discussion of Academy Debate with the NYSDCA board (I sent it to them because I want the organization to officially support it) was, at the first volley, mostly about things unrelated to the concept, e.g., costs of tournaments. While I have nothing against discussing ways to reduce costs (and AD has one way, albeit a limited one, reducing the need to hire judges), it’s a separate argument, as were the other unrelated issues. The nice thing about discussing stuff with debate coaches is that they immediately recognize the concept of sticking to the framework and debating the pros and cons of the subject at hand. We seem to be working toward a practical application of the idea as the best forge for its development, and I’ll start on that this weekend. One thing that came up is that we might not allow students who have gone to debate camps to participate at this level. Maybe it’s better that we merely recommend they not participate. I don’t know. After all, in my mind we would only be doing this a few times a year, primarily because the tournaments we’d be doing it are already not attracting circuit types. We’ll see.

    The First-Timers’ is this weekend, and on face looks to be pretty fantastic, with about 350 students (this includes small JV divisions). We’re also officially offering parent judge training; God knows how many poor fish parents we’ll attract, but I know I’ve got 3 from Sailorville (1 ½ for each debating student). Lots of new schools this year, too. The thing about new schools is that they usually disappear quickly enough, but the more that start, the more that survive. Here’s hoping we can keep them committed.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, O’C is no doubt nearing the point of insanity on Jake, although he claims to be as calm as a cauliflower in a frozen tar pit. I’ve said this before: If Jake doesn’t drive him crazy, it’s only because he’s already crazy to attempt to do it pretty much on his own. The things people do…

    And speaking of tournaments, Princeton is about to come to the plate, opening registration next week. This year we’re back to having PF off-campus, which is a boon to LD, but we’ll stick to the two hours on and off approach, as I don’t think anybody didn’t love it. You can plan your down time, and when it’s time to judge again, you don’t feel battered. Best, most timely ballot pickups in recent memory, as I recall it.

    And Bump is plodding along. This is the point at which it’s wildly over capacity, and nothing is happening. I’m trying to acquire more judges (and if you’re one, let me know), but I’m not sanguine. It’ll be a BYOJ tournament, for the most part. Sigh. On the other hand, that’ll knock out a few of the ribbon clerks and clear up slots before long. But it’s too far away for people to be thinking about it seriously yet. After Jake, though, it’ll start looming in the public eye.

    Some more handsome devils

    Another set of folks you ought to recognize.

    We're looking for the name of the guy in this first one:

    Nice dress:

    We're looking for the young lady on the right:

    Imagine her as a little girl.

    Just change the mustache a little bit...

    Answers: #1
    #3 (the 7th picture down: her married name was the same as her maiden name)

    Movie pot pourri: Chaplin, Miles, Zisek, Cinerama, Welles

    A collection of movies to watch, and postings about movies.

    • Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (Full Film) Arguably Chaplin's best feature. Note that it was made during the sound era; Chaplin was nothing if not dedicated to his own beliefs.

    • GENIUS, HUSTLER, SUPERSTAR: ‘THE MILES DAVIS STORY’ Lots of good music, lots of Miles, who was probably the coolest guy in the room (in the true meaning of cool) his entire life.

    • This is Slavoj Zisek on Vertigo. The Vast Coachean Army already knows my opinion of this movie lording it over all the rest at the top of the 50, but that doesn't make it, in my estimation, a bad movie. In any case, watch it (elsewhere) and judge for yourself, then listen to what SZ has to say

    • The wayward charms of Cinerama Once upon a time, Cinerama was a big thing (no pun intended). As this article says, it was something of a precursor to IMAX, but the concept was much more surrounding and horizontal. To be honest, it really didn't work all that well, but there is something to be said for seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in this format, which I did the first time I saw it. Anyhow, it's one for the history books now, but movie technology buffs will enjoy this.

    • There is lively debate over whether Chimes at Midnight is, well, any good. It is, at times, wildly creative, and at times, a little dull. Here's the whole thing. At the very least, watch them fight in the mud, starting at about 54:00.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Academy Debate

    The idea we are considering to invigorate the middle level of participation in debate is called Academy Debate. In a way, this is little more than a rejiggering of JV, but if implemented at invitationals, it could change those events dramatically. On the one hand, it creates a new division with a different judging structure. On the other hand, it restructures tournaments to offer not just rounds of debate, but also debate education.

    Here is the message I sent to the board of the NYSDCA to get the discussion kicked off:

    We need a division of debate that recognizes that while every student can benefit from forensics, not every student wishes to make it their life’s work. Additionally, we need to provide a better link from beginner to varsity, regardless of a student’s commitment to the activity. And finally, we need to insure that all our regional tournaments provide the community with appropriate levels of competition and engagement, so that our rich competitive calendar continues to thrive.

    I offer the solution tentatively titled Academy Debate.

    Academy Debate is, essentially, a level of competition that can be applied to any division of policy, LD or PF. Academy Debate is primarily intended for sophomores and juniors, and is open to anyone except seniors and students past their third year of debate (i.e., juniors who debated in middle school now in their fourth year would not be eligible to participate at the Academy Debate level).

    Additionally, Academy Debate can be judged by seniors in their fourth year of debate. In fact, seniors in their fourth year are urged to judge, and will be considered not only judges but instructors, especially at tournaments that embrace the full Academy Debate designation.

    We have a number of students at the senior level who have a lot to give to the community beyond their ability to adjudicate rounds less expensively than college students (although one reason for creating the Academy level is to remove the need to hire judges for local tournaments). This proposal intends to use those other skills of our upperclassmen. The idea is that if a tournament wishes to adopt an Academy Debate structure, we (the NYSDCA) will work with the tournament to develop a program beyond the rounds that will be interwoven into the tournament. Beyond-­‐ the-­‐Rounds activities will include lectures and brainstorms on new resolutions, demo rounds by TOC-­‐level seniors with commentary, stop rounds (coaches judging a round can break in at any time with advice and questions), background lectures by coaches and student instructors (e.g., a unit on sovereignty or due process or whatever). The hope is to work maybe three of these special events into a tournament, during down time and even in lieu of a round.

    Our belief is that this will invigorate tournaments that do not have TOC bids by making them appealing to younger students, who can come and actually learn something, and to older students, who can come and, quite frankly, show off their skills.

    Any tournaments in the region could find material that would be of great interest in the Academy Debate model, depending on the time of year. There are always new resolutions to explore and new techniques to learn. For instance, look at January in the northeast. On Martin Luther King weekend we have Big Lex, a triple-­‐threat TOC-­‐ level tournament with heavy competition in each division. Additionally, for most LDers this is the first TOC-­‐level shot at the Jan-­‐Feb resolution that will also be the TOC resolution and, probably, the NYSDCA resolution. In our present system:

    • Seniors and TOC hopefuls are working hard on their cases, and have little interest in “prepping for Lex” at a tournament with competition not at their own level.

    • Younger students are preparing to have their heads handed to them at Lexington, starting for some what might be the inglorious end of their careers because they are not interested in continuing with high stakes TOC level competition.

    • Nobody knows what other schools are going to be running, and everybody finds out during the competition. And if you happen to be running something totally illogical that sounded really good back home, well, it’s too late now. 

    These apply fairly equally across the divisions, but of course with different ramifications. January in PF, for instance, is rich with opportunities, but again, is it best to dive into a TOC bid tournament with a new case filled with untested ideas? 
Well, what if there were an Academy Debate tournament the week before Big Lex?

    • Seniors who are working hard on their cases would not have to present a 
finished case, but as judges they could hear what other folks are running and 
maybe get some ideas therefrom.

    • Seniors who have been working hard will get a chance to lecture and 
brainstorm their ideas

    • A coach or two might do a half hour unit on background for both the PF and 
LD divisions

    • A “lab” might do a training session on CX for all divisions 
You get the picture.

    To pull this off requires commitment from everyone. There is a fear that some tournaments, primarily those without TOC bids, are not getting the attendance they deserve. (The likelihood that any new tournament will somehow work its way up to attaining bids is, honestly, about nil, given the politics of TOC.) At the same time, there is a big issue that we want younger students to remain in the activity if at all possible without becoming dispirited. Additionally, the removal of the need to provide hired judges seriously reduces the cost of debate in the region. And for large programs, there becomes a logical way to split the squad between events. 
There are other things that venues, and the NYSDCA, can do to improve to improve tournaments, but they are outside the range of the Academy Debate concept, and will be presented elsewhere.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2012

    Debate: Ten to one my weekend was more event-filled than yours

    Very unusual weekend:
    • Tabbed Monticello? Check.
    • Mistakenly upgraded iPhone to IOS 6? Check.
    • Daughter married? Check.
    • Website for NYSDCA? Check.
    • Academy Debate defined? Check.
    Where to begin. Let me take the one that sort of sticks out the most. She met him on her librarian bike trip to the Baltic. He’s a Brit, and a fine fellow, and he’s back to the UK today, wrapping up things over there before moving here permanently. If you’re interested in further details, you can deal with her directly. (Because of the obvious complications of geography and the like, as she said, the Disney Princess wedding wasn’t possible, so I’ll have to wait until O’C gets hitched for that.)

    And you thought I didn’t have a private life. Pshaw! I have to admit, though, that the speed of this rather took me aback, which is probably why, when I plugged in my iPhone Saturday night to grab a couple of new books from Audible (I prefer using iTunes to the Audible app), when I was asked if I wanted to upgrade, I said yes. I forgot completely that I wanted to wait for IOS 6 until a couple of advancements on the following decimal, but what are you going to do? I had already gotten MapQuest to solve the major problem of turning left in Albuquerque to get to the Hindu Kush. As for the rest, we’ll see.

    As for Monticello, well, it was small, which meant a lot of hand-pairing, since TRPC refused to have anything to do with it. But by the same token, I had plenty of time on my hands to, first of all, advance the idea of what I’m calling Academy Debate, which in some ways is a revitalization of JV, but a lot more, as it calls on the resources of the NYSDCA to work with tournaments to insure their continued prosperity. I’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

    And I also went to SquareSpace and threw together a new NYSDCA website, which went live today. And also there’s a @nysdca Twitter account and a gmail account. And O'C has pointed me to our Facebook account. We’re cooking with the proverbial gas, in other words. Again, more on these things shortly. The most important is Academy Debate, which, as I say, we’ll go into tomorrow.

    More articles we didn't finish reading

    These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing. When we say we didn't read them, we mean it. They didn't exactly pull us in, for some reason...

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    Friday, October 05, 2012

    Riding off into the weekend

    I've shown videos before. This one is narrated. has had a long running podcast, first with a fairly large cast, and then off for a while, and then back with a duo. It's a lot of fun, and if you're into this sort of thing, why not give it a try? After all, you didn't go to Monticello this weekend, so what else do you have to do with the holiday?

    More articles we didn't finish reading

    These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing. When we say we didn't read them, we mean it. They didn't exactly pull us in, for some reason...

    • Meet the ‘invisible people’ who pick up the trash at Mitt’s $12 million beachfront mansion
    • Here Is A Cautionary Illustration Of Why You Should Not Stick Your Head In A Trash Can
    • Things You Need to Know about Memory Foam Mattresses
    • Pass Me That Bowl of Maggots, Will You?
    • And Here Is a Wookiee Belly-Dancing to a Four-Piece Klingon Band

    Thursday, October 04, 2012

    Debate: And God said, let there be another God

    There comes a time in the life of every programmer when programming one more line of code will put him or her over the edge. Have you ever looked at computer code? Have you ever programmed the stuff? I've done it, years ago, in Basic, and I've watched CP zip away in Perl like a house afire. It's all really intricate stuff that requires you to maintain a line of thought from the beginning to the end of the logic you're trying to effect, and any distraction will send you immediately back to the beginning, and the slightest syntax error could set off bombs everywhere. It takes a certain kind of mind to do this, but even that kind of mind has its limits.

    And that's where things go a little nutty.

    CP is, of course, the proud parent of For the longest time he maintained the system alone, which means that not only was he always keeping the pipes fitted and the steam rising, he also had to deal with user issues. Like any systems person, the idea of dealing with users is a virtual nightmare. It's not that they don't like people—CP is rather a friendly fellow, in his overly tall way—but they don't like dealing with the laity about computer issues. It's like the Pope not wanting to explain to a Unitarian where they keep the Vatican's sacred monkeys. They just don't want to get involved in that conversation out of fear of losing their sanity. In CP's case, he enlisted a couple of us to work with the outside world, AKA the users, as his interlocutors. He called this admin status "godlike powers." It means mostly that we can go into the system and help people fix their tournaments or get logged in correctly or whatever. It's logical for me to have those powers because I tab every week, and it makes life easier for not only me but the tournament directors I deal with. And CP doesn't have to get involved in any of it.

    Meanwhile, there's O'C. There has never been a person on the face of the earth who is more interested in the minutia of debate than Jon Cruz. He has all his ballots from his novice LD year. Come to think of it, he has all of everyone's ballots from their novice LD year. He tracks every tournament in the country obsessively. He knows who signs up, he knows who drops, he knows how well they do. He knows when they are sleeping, he knows when they're awake, he knows if they've been bad or good, and I wouldn't be surprised if he breaks into their homes on Christmas Eve to check up on them, which is why a lot of debaters leave cookies and milk out at night, just in case.

    The fact that I had godlike powers on tabroom and that O'C did not just drove him crazy. If he asked Palmer once, he asked him a million times, to give him these powers too. And every time, Palmer said no.

    And then one night, when Palmer hit that time in the life of every programmer when programming one more line of code will put him over the edge, he was reminded of O'C wanting godlike powers. And he decided to do something about it.

    One day shortly thereafter, I saw Palmer, for whatever reason, and he took me aside and told me that because I have godlike powers on tabroom, it is within my abilities to give someone else those same godlike powers. I could even give them to Cruz. According to Palmer, he didn't want to do it himself, because if I did it, he could claim plausible deniability. If I did it, sub rosa, everybody would be happy. Just don't do it when Palmer was around: that was the only limitation.

    During the MHL Workshop last week, when we had some downtime, I remembered this exchange with Palmer, and when we had a break, I took Cruz aside and told him I had a present for him. We went into a small room with a computer, and I explained that I was going to give him godlike powers on tabroom, but that he had to be very careful with them, and promise not to screw anything up, but that it was all right with Chris as long as O'C used his powers wisely. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that. For Cruz, this was Christmas, Hannukah, the lottery, American Idol and the Lost Ark all wrapped into one. His brain was about to explode at the mere the thought of it.

    So I logged into tabroom and turned on my godlike powers. I went over to O'C's account and brought it onto the screen. Right there, as big as day, was the button to grant him godlike powers.

    With Cruz sitting right next to me, his eyes aglow knowing that perhaps his greatest dream since becoming a debate coach was about to come true, I clicked the button.

    And now you can too:
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