Sunday, December 30, 2012

How I spent my Christmas vacation


We had all sorts of interesting plans for the Christmas holiday, many of which went awry on the morning of 12/20 when I got the message that my daughter had had a bike accident and perhaps broken her arm. She was brought to New York Presbyterian Hospital on 68th Street, about as far as you can get in Manhattan from Prince Street, site of the accident. But thanks to Sandy, the closer trauma centers are closed, and will be for the foreseeable future. Which means that Presbyterian’s ER is like Calcutta, only more crowded. After various tests and whatnot, it was determined that Kate had managed to break her scapula, which is really hard to do unless you’ve broken every other bone in your body by driving about a hundred miles an hour into a brick wall. She was going quite a bit slower than that, in traffic, when she hit a patch of ice; it being about 45 degress Fahrenheit, she wasn’t exactly expecting arctic conditions. It probably could have been a lot worse, all things considered.

She spent about a day and a half in the emergency room. First, she was lined up in the halls with everyone else lined up in the halls. You can just triage so many people, and there were only so many “rooms,” which in the ER are simply curtained off areas. Eventually she scored one of these areas, which she shared with another patient. Did I say it was crowded in there? My wife stayed with her overnight, and I heard stories of drunks and moaners and you-name-it. I came in the next day to take over, and I watched people spitting up blood and looking one minute away from death and generally being ER-worthy. Everyone had been there forever but no one was complaining much. It wasn’t as if it weren’t obvious what was going on and why it wasn’t going on all that quickly.

When Mike came by (Mike?) she asked him when the surgery would be and he said soon. Mike was her surgeon, or at least one of them, the one who talked to patients. With surgeons, talking to patients is low on the list of necessary skills, but this guy was young and good-looking and very presentable. You trusted him on sight, and would have given him a lead role if you were doing the casting. Anyhow, after an hour or two they did take her away, and I went from Calcutta to the Upper East Side, a special waiting room for families of patients in surgery. Very nice. A volunteer came and took all my information and promised to keep me posted, and when she went off duty another volunteer came and took all my information and promised to keep me posted, and after a few more hours I realized that the volunteers went home at 7:00 and there was a phone you could call to get information. “She’s still in surgery,” was the drift of it. Three and a half hours, and it was performed by the head of trauma, and it was rare enough that, I gather, it was rather a popular procedure for all and sundry. The general response when people would look at her and ask what the problem was, was a widening of the eyes and the response, “That’s really unusual.” What they ended up doing was framing her scapula with titanium, making a little metal triangle to hold it in place, and then screwing the frame to the bone.

She was in a lot of pain before, and after. She still can’t hold out her left arm much above her waist. Thank God she’s right-handed.

I was fidgeting in the waiting room when an old friend of Kate’s came by to visit. She said that she had been told that Kate was in Recovery. Oh. We talked for a while, and no one official came by, so we ventured out on our own. One truth always holds: if you look like you know where you’re going, you can go almost anywhere, no matter how many signs there are to the contrary. We found Recovery, and sure enough, there was Kate. I had expected her to be wrapped like a plaster-covered mummy, but she only had a large gauze patch over her left rear shoulder. Amazing. She was groggy and in a lot of pain, but she was with us. We talked to her, and the nurse, and eventually Mike, and they told us she’d be going to a room eventually (no more Calcutta) and I finally went home.

What a day. If you want to know how discombobulated I was, it was way late and I was starving and I stopped on the road to have a Burger King Whopper. You wouldn’t have recognized me.

The next couple of days were a slow climb back to normalcy so that she could leave the hospital, things like getting heart rate down and getting off the morphine and so forth. We brought her home on Christmas Eve Day.

The prognosis is for complete recovery. But there’s a lot of physical therapy involved, and we have no idea how long she’ll be staying with us. At some point we drove out to Brooklyn to collect vitals. For instance her cat, the Captain, is in our basement. Tik (pronounced tik) has demonstrated that this intrusion is one of those things up with which he will not put. When we tried to have them together, Tik cornered the Captain and hissed him into a paranoid fit. Now, when the spirit moves him, Tik sits outside the closed door of the basement making the sort of moaning sound we haven’t heard since we were in the ER last week. He’d make a good, albeit pathetic, patient. The Captain, on the other hand, sleeps like a cat. It's that Brooklyn background, I guess.

In the middle of all this, there was of course the poor spouse, who was still in England. He won’t be moving here until March. He was scheduled to arrive on Christmas night, just for a visit. Needless to say, he’s been with us too. Newlywed life can be…interesting. He’ll be going back New Year’s night, but it’s been great that he’s been here to help and to be with her.

So Kate has been doing fine, all things considered. She can go out, go for a walk, go to restaurants, go to the movies. She just has to rebuild her left side. Physio starts Friday. It will be a long haul, but in the end, she’s okay. Which is a lot to be thankful for.

And maybe now we can get back to normal.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You too can Bean

I'll post the questions on Twitter @jimmenick #HHBeans. We'll see how smart you really are, you spalpeen!

Debate: Think you're so smart, eh?

We ended up Beaning at the chez, as I said, because of those gas leaks. No one ate any of the beans, so there were no similar gas problems chez moi. It was a good turnout, with people squeezed in everywhere. We created balanced teams rather than sorting by vintage, and it worked pretty well.

For those of you who wish to play our game at home, I offer a sample challenge. Are you smarter than the average Sailor? Let’s try a few samples. Keep in mind that for some of these, it was only the group on the hot seat, not the entire bunch.

They were able to answer these questions:
  • Which first lady was a former actress?
  • What is Wonderland Center (category Lindsay Lohan)?
  • Fill in the Stones blank: Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m ___
  • Name the three Pixar features with no people in them.
  • Who is Mr. Dithers (comic strips)?
Presumably you can answer all of them too. On the other hand,
  • They were unable to name a Sondheim show (unless you count Fiddler on the Roof, which I was not prone to do).
  • The best they could come up with for the year 313 AD was that was the year Rome fell. Much like 2012 is the year the world ends, I guess.
  • They could not identify the composer, the name of the song, or any other lyrics from the the song in the Great American Songbook with the line: “The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, They’re only made of clay.” They spent a lot of time analyzing the fact that a lot of rocks were mentioned, presumably on the assumption that this represented the geological vein of the Songbook.
  • No one could figure out which one doesn’t belong and why in the group Cosmo, George, Archie and Jerry.
  • Nor did anyone know which Muppet plays the piano. (Actually, there’s more than one answer to that one.)
As for the lifelines, O’C had Gwyneth Paltrow starring in a movie that was never made, my daughter flunked miserably at comic strips and claimed it was because the particular strip sucks, and Spons, while knowing that birds gotta swim and fish gotta fry, thought that Showboat was written by Lerner and Loewe. No one ever went broke betting against the lifelines.

Two of the little Dec girls made it all the way to the finals, so as CP suggests, in the future I’ll keep my opinion of Dec to myself. It took a Yale student to actually win, but as usual, Meh was in there up to the finish.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Debate: Beans, Kinda and Dec

We were supposed to do Bean Trivia last night, but there was a gas leak at the school and the place was shut down. They opened it this morning, took a few whiffs and shut it down again. Given that there are no days left to have the event, we're chezzing it up.

A lot of little Dec girls may never recover.

Anyhow, as you’re reading this, I’m officially kicking off the Christmas version of Bean Trivia, and O’C and Kt are standing by as lifelines. The categories? First ladies, the Great American Songbook (or as Michael Feinstein calls it, the Rod Stewart Songbook), Comics in the local paper (because I know they’re not reading the news, but maybe Beetle Bailey will ring a bell), Transvestites, Lindsay Lohan (who would make a really good policy topic some year, because there’s new info every day), Famous Dogs, Universal (a no doubt welcome change from Disney), Famous Dates, Original Sources (e.g., the play from which Hello Dolly was derived) and maybe one or two others that I’m forgetting. Plus there’s Which One Doesn’t Belong and Why, and Name a Bunch Of, both of which allow for extra points. And on top of that, there’s side betting on the lifelines, who in addition to the above-mentioned includes our beloved speech coach. If you guess accurately whether or not they’ll guess accurately, you can win a few extra beans. And what is the prize for all of this? Well, there’s some serious crap, as usual, but at the very top, numero uno, king of the heap, A number one: the largest bag ever to be imprinted with Hello Kitty material. I mean, really large. You can fit two novice Speecho-Americans and a Fiat in there. I don’t know why I’m giving it away. There has to be some good use for it around the house.

Policy turnout for the Regis Kinda Kristmas Klassic this coming weekend is looking fairly bleak. Kaz will be on-hand, but if these numbers persist, we might suggest she be off-hand, which would make her life traveling to her Midwest family home that much easier. (Note that I don’t exactly specify where in the Midwest. I can’t keep that stuff straight. Wisconsin? Minneapolis? Newark? It’s all the same to me once you cross the Hudson.) As for myself, I wouldn’t mind a nice manageable tournament. I’ve got a full boat going down, though, so at least I have a reason for being there beyond wanting to run over to the fancy deli for last minute stocking stuffers. But an easy tournament is so much nicer than a hard one. Throwing a few cards would be fun though. Haven’t done that in a while. Anyhow, the other divisions look robust enough, considering the date.

The two months after the turn of the new year are, as always, packed to the gills. The odd Sailor has been signing up here and there, especially for UPenn, but there it’s mostly novice Speecho-Americans who don’t actually understand the concept of signing up for college tournaments. Then again, offering Dec? I guess it’s worth it at some level, even though I want to eliminate it going forward at the Gem to make more room for something else. UP is still building, and Dec probably brings in a lot of locals, so who can complain. It’s not going to bring in my yokels, though, unless they’re ready to double-enter and spend the hotel money premium. I posted a fish or get off the pot message to them; things should clear up by tomorrow, when I’m securing the hotel rooms.

And, going back to Bean Trivia, I leave you with this parting reminder of a Great Moment in Forensics.
Q. Name the Muppet beloved by Miss Piggy.
A. Hermit the Crab.

More articles we didn't finish reading

The internet never fails to provide material that need not be provided. These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

  • Slavoj Žižek Finally Weighs in on Santa Claus
  • Chamberpots: A Resurgence?
  • The Inuit Sport of Ear Pulling
  • Conditioner Gordon Added to the Batman Shampoo Series
  • How many frozen poodles can fit in a hallway linen closet?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Debate: Whoda thunkit

Tonight's bean trivia event was postponed because of a gas leak at the high school.

A gas leak? Bean trivia?

Do the math.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Debate: Catching up

Take off one weekend, and you feel like you’ve never been to a tournament in your life. I communicated with O’C at Blake a couple of times, although it was hard to get his attention because he thought that Walter Mondale might walk by at any moment. Curiously enough, he (O’C, not Mondale) forgot to secure the medals for the Newark MHL, which is something like [fill in your own metaphor here; the best I could come up with was either the Pope not bringing the holy water or Queen Elizabeth II forgetting her underwear, neither of which makes a lot of sense]. But apparently the Jerseyites managed to soldier through. Since one of the Sailors earned his first piece of tin on Saturday, I’m rather disappointed that he couldn’t immediately don it and look like he just won the Croix de Guerre, but you can’t have everything. Curse you, O’C!

I’m going to TVFT on Wednesday if it kills me. Palmer claims last week he thought it was on a different day, and meanwhile he’s kicking and moaning because I didn’t save the data from Wee Sma’ Lex for the ages. Who knew it was of archival quality?

Just to keep my hand in, I set up the January MHL on tabroom today, which is the same weekend as Columbia. Still waiting to hear from the Gems to confirm room numbers. I’ll bug them shortly. This coming weekend is the Regis Kinda Christmas Klassic (or Regis Chinda Christmas Chlassic), which will probably be pretty small, given that there was the MHL last weekend plus it is after the break officially starts. More judge food for the rest of us, in that case.

Otherwise, not much going on. Nice restful weekend, with poker on Friday, NYC trip and show and nice dinner on Saturday, then tree decorating on Sunday. Gearing up for the holidays, which should be pretty busy, apparently kicking off with a bout of slot machines with O'C and Matt Dunay’s mother. One never knows where one is going to end up next.

More articles we didn't finish reading

The internet never fails to provide material that need not be provided. These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

  • Scientology and Me
  • Elephant-Poop Coffee Goes for $50 a Cup
  • Scrotum-Shaped Christmas Ornaments?
  • Joe Lieberman’s Farewell Speech
  • The $5,000 Toilet that You Control with Your Smartphone
  • Willow on Blu-ray: Finally, the Fish-Boy Deleted Scenes!
  • Take Our Breath Away...Please! The Top 5 'Top Gun' Scenes We Can't Wait To See In 3D

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Debate: Who doesn't remember the Oogs, eh?

Pajamas Wexler has reported to me that some poor misguided student from Lacking Pork, following a poorly aimed bolt of forensics inspiration to its logical conclusion, recently used an episode of Nostrum for a prose piece. Something to do with the Oog family. It rang no bells at all, so I went and read it, and it still rang no bells. It’s about the history of advertising, going back to prehistoric times, where apparently there was less advertising than there is now, although there were already plenty of people around who just watched the Superbowl for the commercials. Apparently the piece did pretty well. One never knows, does one…

There was no TVFT last night. I’m not quite sure why, but when I got to Skype, all was quiet. The only person I talked to was the British lady who tests to see if your connection is working. I need to get me a new batch of TVFTers.

On the plus (?) side, none of Tuesday's Sailor newbies responded with the mandatory signup email, not even the one who looked just like a debater, so maybe I won’t have to worry about that after all. Of course, it might just be the overwhelming burden of having to send an email. Kids these days… When I was their age, we sent emails all the time, and—by the way and Oh my God—spelled out every single word, and because there were no computers we carried them by hand five miles in the snow uphill in both directions. How did we get so quickly to a spot where sending an email is an archaic vestige of the stone age and an impossible burden beyond what a coach can reasonably expect of a student? It’s not like I’m asking them to click on the flashing gif on my Geocities account. Jeesh. What would these people do in a world of C. Colin Backslash, the original computist?

It seems strange not having to do a tournament this weekend. I look at the MHL registration longingly and my fingers get itchy wanting to scissor up some contestant cards. It’s a pretty good turnout, overall, although the JV divisions always shrink a bit as the year progresses. As ought to be obvious to anyone with the ability to read between the lines, I would like to apply some of the thinking of Academy to the MHL, to wit, tossing in some tutorials and the like. Maybe that’s where the idea will end up. Who knows? Byram, for all the hoo-ha, doesn’t look much different from last year in terms of numbers, which means that for all my bloviating I haven’t made much of a dent. My feeling is, if we can make just one noticeable difference in one venue, it’s a step in the right direction. I really do worry about small tournaments disappearing. The idea that someone will come and take over those weekends simply transfers the problem to a different venue, so unless that new venue has some intrinsic benefit over the former one, it’s all much of a muchness.

I'll probably slow down over the next couple of weeks as the holidays settle in, but I will continue to post the odd this and that. It's the least I can do, and I mean that with all my heart.

Video: Someone watched all of Atlas Shrugged so that you wouldn't have to

The funny thing is, even at 3 minutes and a few seconds, it's one of the most boring things you'll ever see.

Video: One good reason not to invite Yoko Ono to karaoke night

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Debate: Newbies, disease-ridden adolescents and the tragically inept

So that was weird. Last week there was an assembly on extracurricular activities at Sailorville, at which Zip apparently wowed the crowd, leading to three new plebes at the meeting last night. Who expects new faces at this stage of the game? Assuming that at least one of them was appalled enough at the night’s proceedings to disappear for all eternity, that still means that one or two will return. What in tarnation am I supposed to do with them starting in January? At the moment, the ad hoc plan is give them a special session or two on the basics, have them watch at Bryam, and point them to compete at Newark and Scarsdale. That, of course, assumes that they have some live coal in their intestinal boiler rooms. If they are more like the traditional Sailor, there will be much hemming and hawing on their part and much gnashing of teeth on my part, and they’ll sit out the year wondering if there wasn’t something on TV Tuesday night that would get them out of this. We’ll see.

We didn’t have our practice round because of illness. Why do teenagers always seem to be at death’s door? As a species they are shockingly unhealthy. On the way to Ridge, for example, Pickles complained that he almost didn’t come because he was sick, and I told him to give me ample warning if he was going to vomit, since I find vomiting in my car less than congenial. On the way back, George Whose Name is Robert told me he was so sick that he almost stopped competing, and I gave him my same vomit speech. Neither GWNIR nor Jiminy Cricket were at the meeting last night, but at least I didn’t have to give her the vomit speech. [Cue the off-my-lawn music.] Now when I was a kid, they hadn’t invented sickness yet. Not only did we have to walk the proverbial snow five miles both ways, but we did it with a raging fever, backwards and in heels. (I thought I’d throw a Ginger Rogers reference in there for the dance fans among the VCA.) We were made of sterner stuff back in my day.

I seem to have been bombarded lately with questions from people incapable of reading. I’ve mentioned this recently, but it just won’t stop. RTFM, or in this case, substitute website for manual. What is most irritating is stupid questions from people who have done it before about doing it again. It’s the same. It will ever be the same. Please, don’t email me about it. That’s why they invented O’C (who, by the way, has entered into a special twilight zone of wandering away that is profound even for him; whatever he’s up to, he’s really up to it). I do have a little more patience with newcomers, but even they ought to read the invitation sooner or later.


Coachean Feed: the 6th Amendment, indirect limits to freedom, what exactly is a person, economics and prison, anti-gay movements

More links of interest to the debate community.

The last Steve Buscemi video you'll ever want to see

Assuming, that is, that you wanted to see this one. Remind me not to look up Diana Krall videos again any time soon.

A nice little treat: great animation

12 Essential American Cartoons

Absolutely—a fine selection. If you haven't seen some of these, stop everything now.


Born on this date in 1915, as a young lad Frank had the guts to partner up on the dance floor with Gene Kelly. He pulls it off too. (Then again, Kelly had the guts to sing along with Sinatra. He doesn't do too badly either.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Debate: Planning this and that

I’m getting eager for the Academy Debate intro at Byram Hills. We put together an agenda at Ridge from earlier discussions, and sent it out into the world. We still need the seniors to fill the training slots, and I’m looking for volunteers, but there will be a Bronxwegian pool to draw from if all else fails. I want to lead some of this stuff myself. It might be a problem being in three places at once though. Still, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot. The thing is, our competition on this weekend is the Sunvitational, which is good insofar as it won’t draw the primary field from a local event, but bad insofar as a few key people like O’C, for reasons I can’t understand, think a well-run tournament in Florida in January is somehow attractive. What are these people thinking? Curse you and your climate, Schappaugh!

We’ve also been murmuring among ourselves about the Modest Novice and possibly expanding it through December. There are plusses and minuses to this. This conversation will no doubt extend shortly. And speaking of extending conversations, we’re definitely recording a new TVFT Wednesday. The vast TVFTean Army rejoices!

I’m just about through clearing off the first wave of Columbia. I was actually asked what my waitlist strategy was, and it turns out I do sort of have one. No more than 5, outliers first, then locals. I would imagine that, aside from the heavily subscribed debate categories, just about everybody will get in, but it’s no big deal for a school from down the street to fill slots a few weeks out, as compared to someone who needs hotel rooms in Manhattan. I’m rather surprised, by the way, that they offer Declamation. That seems so… naïve. I mean, it’s a college tournament. There are better things they could be doing other than wrangling in freshmen and sophomores. We’ll have to talk about that for next time.

As always, there are the few schools who are starting out in forensics that are attracted to a big college tournament when they really should be practicing their chops more locally. I can’t talk them out of coming, but I’ve got to wonder why anyone would plop their entire year’s budget on a college trip where they’ll get whipped as compared to half a dozen shorter, closer trips. It has been ever thus, though. People didn’t turn the Harvard tournament into what it is today (which I can’t really speak to, having not attended in ages) for any other reason than that it was held at Harvard and not at the Hendrick Hudson Mail Order University for the Criminally Insane and the Women Who Love Them. High school administrations, from the loftiest to the looniest, are impressed by big names. Come to think of it, so is my mother. I tell her I’m going to the Bronx and she looks at me like I really need a new night job. I tell her I’m going to Yale and she thinks that’s exactly where I belong and why has it taken me so long to realize it? As I say, it has been ever thus.

Otherwise, these are peaceful times, with me not doing anything forensical this upcoming weekend. Tonight we’ll have a practice round at Sailorville, our last business meeting of the year, unless maybe we get together to make up some lost time over the break. I’ll get to watch my debating novices (as compared to my show up and stare at Menick novices) in action. Should be interesting. I hope.

A little fun video

Monday, December 10, 2012

Debate: Ridge-a-Roni

I find it interesting that Ridge has moved about a half hour closer to my school than it used to be. Much closer than I remembered. That’s a good thing. I’d much rather have a short drive to Ridge than a long one.

It was nice to do a high school again. 5 prelims, endless elims. At first we were in a room with good comfy chairs, but it was way too many of us and we quickly drifted over to our normal venue in the Media Center. (You would call this the library, but that’s not a tony enough name for the folks in Basking Ridge.) You can fit kazoodles of tabbers in this place and not even notice them very often, except when the policy folk get overexcited, which does happen occasionally. LD and PF tab never get overexcited. We don’t know the meaning of the word.

Things went fine for the most part, except for confusion over who owned which judges. PF liked to think that they were theirs, while we liked to think that they were ours. PF was being run by people who had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. LD was being run by me and O’C. It was a bloodbath.

On the plus side, we had a “Jack.” Every tab room needs one, a major domo who is always there and who can solve every problem. Jack is a good name for such a person, and in this case, happened to actually be his name. We would just shout out “Jack!” when something was askew, and there was Jack, skewing it back up. Ridge happens to be slightly larger than the Pentagon, without the internal order of roomage, so it’s a major miracle to get from one area to another. I’ve been there enough now to have only gotten lost once, but it was for eleven hours, it being that kind of place. As I say, big and confusing.

I tried to keep CP around for various purposes, since I was using the notification system again (despite Ridge’s crappy wireless; I ended up plugging in my MiFi and paying the $5 for a day, which meant that when it ran out on the second day, it was either pay another $5 or let it go: I let it go). Unfortunately, he was the quality in the pool, probably ranked by everyone there as a 1, including the people who didn’t rank. So we didn’t see him much except at the short gathering Friday night at the motel, attended by everyone in the universe. I had brought nuts and cheese, which were quickly devoured. The other people were just nuts and cheesy. What can I say?

O’C didn’t wander off too often, although at those times when he insisted on blasting out “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” we were all wishing that he would wander off. JV was on burger patrol. There was one team that refused to use the other team’s coin for the PF flip because they had cursed it with negative energy. (Shouldn’t that be con energy?) The guys who had looked all professional last week running the Tiggers looked like normal human beings again judging PF this week.

And so it goes. This weekend I’m off. Yes, off. There had originally been no tournament on the schedule, so I made other plans. When a tournament came back on to the schedule, it was (thankfully) too late to change those plans. Whoopty damn do, as Clarence Thomas might put it.

More articles we didn't finish reading

The internet never fails to provide material that need not be provided. These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

  • Cheese Made From Armpit Bacteria?
  • Eat Dessert On Plates Featuring Real Human Tissues
  • Martin Van Buren Had a Really Nice Toilet
  • A Denny's in Las Vegas Has a Built-in Wedding Chapel
  • Mattel Releases ‘Twilight’ Bella And Edward Barbie Dolls
  • Can You Catch Live Fish For Dinner At Your Wal-Mart?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Debate: 'Tis the season

I remember from the old days Mad magazine’s snappy answers to stupid questions feature. One that sticks in my mind is a picture of a fish store with a big sign saying “Fresh Fish,” and a customer asking, “Is the fish fresh?” As for me, I will be instituting a new FASQ feature in my email. It will direct people to a web page that says simply, “The answer to your question can be found on the tournament website. You could look it up, or I could look it up for you. Let’s try option number one.”

Do you think that would work?

Why do people turn to me to give them directions, for instance? There’s Google maps, there’s MapQuest. There’s even Apple’s IOS map app, which works a lot better than anyone gives it credit for (every time I’ve used it, it worked fine). There is, however, no MenickMap app. Of course, the best use of a MenickMap app would be at tournaments, when people call the tabroom to tell us that they’re lost, and to ask how to get where they’re going. This happens way less rarely than you would expect. That it happens at all is remarkable, come to think of it. They really will call and say, “I can’t find the X building.” What do you say to that? “Well, they haven’t moved it, so the fault lies with you, not with them?” Sarcasm is probably wasted on anyone who calls to tell you they’re lost. And I’m talking adults here, not students. When students get lost, they tend to simply keep going until they’re so lost, they’re not heard from until an hour and a half after their scheduled start time. At least they have the courage of their (wandering) convictions: they don’t give up.

By the way, we didn’t level any fines in LD for not-picked-up rounds at the Tigs. Most people picked up right away, or showed up merely a minute late. Well done, all. One school didn’t pick up on Sunday morning, though. There is that other kind of fine, the non-fiscal one, the one that remembers who was there and who wasn’t when it’s time to clear the next waitlist. Didn’t pick up your ballots Sunday at Princeton? Why would I expect you to pick them up on Sunday at Columbia? Enjoy your weekend off.

Then again, there are some people out there whom I love. The judges who hang around the judge area and when you ask them to run down to another building to replace a judge who may or may not show up, their response is, “Hand me the ballot, boss,” as they disappear down to that other building, ready, willing and able. These are rare people, but they are there. And they’re there again and again. The good people. Come to think of it, most people are good people, but they don’t make for as interesting a blog. The ones who came to me and asked not to have to walk so much? Much more interesting. I told one person that we only had one room in this same building, sorry about that, and that one is reserved for a guy in a wheelchair. I offered to get him if she wanted to wrestle him for it; she failed to see the humor in that. No doubt she went to the other building, got lost, and called us to complain about it. At which I sent one of our saints down to replace her.

I can feel Festivus coming. Why else would I be airing all these grievances?

Books: Lee Child/Jack Reacher

Ira Gershwin

Ira was born on this date in 1896. He wrote songs with Harold Arlen and Kurt Weill and Jerome Kern. He also worked occasionally with his piano-playing brother. And if anyone has ever written better lyrics than these, I am unaware of it.

The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No, no, they can't take that away from me

The way your smile just beams
The way you sing off key
The way you haunt my dreams
No, no, they can't take that away from me

We may never, never meet again
On the bumpy road to love
Still, I'll always, always keep the memory of

The way you hold your knife
The way we danced till three
The way you changed my life
No, no, they can't take that away from me
No, they can't take that away from me

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Debate: In which we end up in the beans

It seems that one way to turn the notification feature in tabroom, and all the automatic posting features for that matter, from occasional niceties to normal life is to do them pretty much everywhere every time. CP concurs. Granted that in some venues (e.g., Scarsdale), the likelihood of getting cell service is virtually nil, except for that one spot next to the elevator on the third floor, and only if you’re standing on one leg and rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time and there happens to be an AT&T truck driving by at just that moment. It will spread as more people use it and pass the word along. At the Tiggers, we were complaining that it seemed difficult to set up, and then some kid walked along and demonstrated that you click here and here and that’s all there is to it.

)(*#^%^% kid!

Anyhow, that will be the mantra (using the automated features, not swearing at that wiseass kid at Princeton). We’ll start at Ridge.

Met with the Sailors last night. I think that the newbies were rather shocked that we’re onto a new topic (Jan-Feb) before they’ve debated the present topic (Nov-Dec). Downside of Modest Novice? Actually, I think it’s more like inattention on their part. Time moves quickly in the debate universe. If you’re not paying attention, half the year can go by and you’re lucky if you’ve gotten more than 4 rounds in. Not good. Fortunately, Jan-Feb at the novice level isn’t terribly off the orthodoxy scale, with all kinds of underpinnings of social contract and the like. Of course, I’m much more interested in the more serious issues of imprisonment, which I often allude to with posts in the Coachean Feed. The prison system, and criminal justice in general, is ludicrous in the US. There are an amazing number of approaches to the rez, if one wants. In my original post on this year's topics, I gave this a 7 out of 10. I like it, although I have some reservations about its durability for the Jan-TOC span. We’ll see, or more to the point, you’ll see. I’ll be in tab.

As for the Pffft topic, I think I like it. On the one hand it forces students to get a grasp of campaign spending in general, and the history of CU and McCain-F and so forth, and then it asks for very specific research on the effects. This can probably be combined with interesting analytics for pretty good arguments, and people will learn a lot. That’s good. More topics should be like this.

I did give a sneak preview of a couple of the topic areas for this Christmas season’s episode of Bean Trivia. No Disney categories? The look of astonishment on their little faces was startling. Of course, they never know the Disney answers, which means that they have to text O’C or the daughter as lifelines, and they know them all upside down, so what's the point? Anyhow, new areas include dogs, the American Songbook and fill in the Beatles blank only it isn’t the Beatles. Some other group, about the same vintage as the Fab Four. (Real tough, huh? Duh. I promise no classics from "Their Satanic Majesties Request.") Also introducing side bets on the lifelines, where everyone else can parlay a few extra beans into a bowl of chili by guessing if either of the above or our illustrious speech coach can answer the question correctly. Hmmm. Put your beans where your mouth is, I always say.

Happy Birthday, Walt

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Debate: Moving right along

First of all, I’m glad to see that the Pope will soon be tweeting. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything to say that isn’t irretrievably offensive, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

The thing about tournaments is that, an hour later, you’re ready for another one. Just as the Tiggers are finishing up, the Gem of Harlem kicks into gear. They’ve got plenty of people registered, although there seemed to be some inadvertent slippage off the waitlist. CP reset it back to zero for me. The Gems are meeting today to begin getting rooms, always a tough process for them. I should start pulling people off the waitlist by the end of the week, starting with the long-distance folk (but not the long-distance folk that last year blew us off in favor of doing the NY club scene or whatever, or the long-distance folk who didn’t pick up their Sunday morning ballots at the Tiggers, etc., etc.) and the reliable friends of the tournament. One big problem will be assembling the tab room. I was hoping to corral CP himself, but he’ll be doing sleepy time down south, and Catholic Charlie is going all Catholic on us with some CFL meeting (no doubt discussing the Pope’s tweets). Oh, well. I’m not worried. I just need to find out who’s going to be around.

Coming up this weekend is Ridge. Nice and compact after sending people far and wide last weekend, although the numbers are pretty high. I’ve been going to Ridge for a while, perhaps from when it first started, and always liked it. I remember in the beginning when Dario was still there and the computers would turn off automatically at 10:00 pm and we’d unexpectedly lose all the data; this was before we all had more laptops than we know what to do with. I remember the year we tried the Indigo hotel, with smell-o-vision or whatever it was, and no one could find the place. I’ve always enjoyed the look on Y’s face when any of the tabbers slipped out to grab a latte or something down the road, as if we were abandoning him to the wolves. As far as tournament management is concerned, it’s a Machine, with Ridge kids everywhere doing what they’re supposed to do (or else, I guess, Y feeds them to the wolves). And one high point is this hidden little burger and shake place downtown. I’d highly recommend it, but if I told you about it, it would be even more crowded, so you’re on your own.

Tonight we’ll meet at Sailorville (last week was cancelled for yet more bad weather—we have not had a good run this season) and talk about the new topics. I like the subjects, but I’m not yet sure one way or the other on the PF wording. As for LD, it’s so old it’s got a beard, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s as solid as the day is long for the endless stretch that is theoretically Jan-Feb. On the home front, we’re also champing at the bit to do a new TVFT, where I want to talk about Academy. We had thought of doing it on the fly at the Tiggers, but as always, there really wasn’t any fly to do it on. Oh, well. We’ll get to it, probably next week.

How to be a good debate citizen

Or, 25 steps to a better you.

1. Don’t ask questions because you’re too lazy to look something up. Especially don’t ask questions that would make someone else have to look it up for you.

2. Show up and stay showed up until you’re no longer needed. Then go away.

3. Be the first one to pick up your ballots.

4. Be the first one to get your ballots back to tab.

5. If you have friends in the tab room, they will have had dinner with you the night before. If they didn’t have dinner with you the night before, you do not have friends in the tab room, and you should go hang out somewhere else.

6. Cover all your judging, and if you’re a big school, bring a couple extra. Be a giver, not a taker. If none of your alums are willing to come back to judge, you’re doing something wrong. If none of your upperclassmen will judge underclassmen, you’re doing something really wrong.

7. Do not use foul language with the students you are judging. You may have been brought up in a manure pile, but some of them do not like to find themselves awash in your vulgarities. Also, "You effed up, dude," is not exactly a constructive criticism.

8. Do not expect anyone to read your paradigm past the sentences that say a) that you are fine with speed and b) that you will vote on theory. The rest is just nonsense.

9. If you are asked to text your decision, you might want to text your decision; it’s so much easier than coming up with an excuse for not texting your decision. And if you don’t know how to text, how can you possibly know how to judge?

10. If you do something really stupid, join the club. Admit it, and move on. Just don’t do it again. And again. And again.

11. Do not imbibe alcoholic beverages if there is a possibility that you will have to judge within the next six hours. You’re not that wonderful to begin with. You intoxicated is even less wonderful.

12. Ear buds should be in your pocket, not in your ears, when you are judging.

13. Double thirties in a round, while acting as proof positive that you do not have a clue how to judge, do not give any real indication of how well the debaters did. Don’t do it.

14. The tab room does not have your missing ballots. The tab room does not have anyone’s missing ballots, including its own. We haven't gotten a complete set of all of our ballots in our packets since that one time back in 1997. Why should you be any different?

15. Since it is never all right for you not to fulfill your judging obligation, don’t bother to ask if you really have to come back tomorrow morning. You do.

16. It’s Mutual Judge Preference, not Most Preferred Judging. If your debater got a 4 judge, so did their opponent. That was the best we could do. It’s called an even playing field. If you want more 1s, rank more people as 1s.

17. If you think there’s a ballot error, act quickly. Depending on the error, the further away we are from its occurrence, the harder it is to fix. The tab room does not think it is perfect; far from it. We’ll take accuracy however we can get it.

18. Smoke when you’re not obligated to do anything else, not instead of being where we can find you when we need you. Better yet, quit smoking. With the cost of cigarettes what it is these days, you could be saving enough money to buy a new iPad. Every week.

19. Don’t complain to the tab room that you’re too tired to judge. We’re too tired to tab, and we were here before you arrived today and we’re going to be here after you’re gone tonight, so if you’ve ever wondered what the expression “falling on deaf ears” is all about, this is it.

20. Don’t complain to tab that you’ve had to judge every round. Your debaters have had to debate every round, haven’t they? You haven’t heard them complaining. Not to mention that we’ve had to tab every round. Besides, what else are you going to do in a high school on a Saturday afternoon? This isn’t Disneyland, you know.

21. Ascertain beyond all doubt who you have with you on the team and judging when you arrive at registration, and even more important, relay that information to the proper authorities. Why else do you think we’re asking you to check over your registration?

22. Pay for the tournament when the tournament requests payment. Nobody wants to have to remember that you were too discombobulated to come up with the check you’ve known you needed for the last two months.

23. Do not ask when the next round is. Every time someone asks this question, it postpones the next round by the length of time it takes to listen to the question, curse inwardly, and then explain that we’re working on it.

24. Do not complain that you never get any ballots. In MJP, it is the students who have determined that they don’t want you to judge, not the tab room. To alleviate this situation, learn to judge better, at which point you can proceed to refraining from complaining that you’ve had to judge every round (see 20, above).

25. Feel free to leave cash gratuities in the little jar next to the computer in the tab room.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Debate: After the Tiggers

What is interesting is that, with the passage of time, while some things remain constant, enough others do not that the whole rigmarole continues to be novel.

I’ve been going to the Tiggers since the 90s. In the beginning, it was as a judge with the team, and of course lately in tab. There was a period in the middle when I didn’t go because of issues with the way the tournament was run. The Tigs really thought they knew all about LD, but they didn’t, and their judging was terrible, and although I liked their schedule of 2 up and 2 off, that wasn’t reason enough to go. Hence the MHL on that weekend got built up. You wouldn’t want me to have a weekend off, would you?

Under CP’s tutelage, the tournament got good, and now I’ve followed his lead on the last two as a guiding spirit, and I enjoy it quite a bit. The constants are the various times the traveling tab room gets together for coffee or dinner or whatever, the trip back and forth and JV handling the hotel, the general expectation of reasonable weather (although last year it was bitter cold, which we kept remarking on this year when it wasn’t). There are some other constants as well, with the usual suspects. Every tournament has its own unique USes, that is, the people that you only see there and maybe one or two other places. Looking out over the crowd at the Tigs from the podium, it’s virtually the same year after year. We could have teleported from 2011, or 2008. Same people. Same foibles. We’ve come to expect them. Some of them are irritating, some of them are endearing. It’s part of what makes the Tiggers the Tiggers.

This year though, while the tournament ran swimmingly, with my slow learning of the new features of tabroom and so forth apparently beginning to bear fruit (I only cursed CP a handful of times, and on his side, likewise I’m sure), it had some rather original moments. Everyone, it seemed, was in fine form when it came to filing complaints. I cannot remember a tournament where more people came to us with issues of one sort of another, issues that had nothing to do with the tournament itself or the Tigs, but just…stuff. Registration had barely opened when the first person came to me to informally gripe about something. I replied that I could only pursue formal gripes. Later the informality fell away and the formal attire was put onto this gripe, and I handled it. That’s the first thing, if you’re of the griping persuasion. If you just want to whine about something, you might as well talk to the wall, because you’re going to get exactly the same response as you will from me. But if you want to formally complain, especially about another team, that’s a big deal, because I will do what has to be done. Sometimes that’s not what you want, but it’s what has been deemed right. And in those situations, it’s not me that deems, it’s the tournament as a whole. If an unusual issue arises beyond the scope of what we’re used to in tab, it will be discussed with the hosts. I am not the autocrat of the debate world, even if occasionally I act that way. Keep in mind that I live in the same debate world as, for instance, JV. How many autocrats can there be in that small universe?

So there were a number of formal complaints over the weekend. And here’s the thing. They were handled well by the people bringing them to us. That’s really important. There was one problem where a round didn’t happen, for reasons that were, after all was said and done, extremely unclear, although each side certainly thought that they were as clear as day. The coaches in this situation came to tab with cool tempers, and we talked to a few people, and we figured out a way to hold a makeup round. Everyone left the room happy. We like that. We do want schools who make the effort to go to a tournament and pay all that money, to have a good tournament. Even when a kid does something royally dumb, they shouldn’t have to suffer too too much for it. Just a little. We do want people to have rounds. Why wouldn’t we? We’ll do what we can to make them happen.

There was an unfortunate incident that I don’t want to discuss in specifics, revolving around student behavior. Here’s the deal on that. I feel very strongly, and I know we’ve discussed this on TVFT and that the rest of us in the traveling tab room feel likewise, that modes of behavior during competition must be kept to the highest standards. Part of the forensics experience is that adolescents are maturing rapidly, and forensics focuses that maturation in a good way, with all the travel and so forth. It doesn’t always take, though. At some point, idiots are idiots. Idiots who cause harm, however, should not be exempt from paying the price of that harm, even if the idiots are teenagers. If a situation perceived as harmful arises at a tournament, any tournament, talk to your coach. Come to me, or have your coach come to me. I will find someone to help. I promise.

On another note entirely, and obviously much less sympathetic, I reamed out three judges who, for reasons that defy my understanding, felt that we should all hang around an extra forty-five minutes on Saturday night while they did whatever it was they were doing that wasn’t texting their results to us in a timely manner. If you were one of those three, find some comfort in that I was an equal opportunity reamer, although by the time I got to the third one I simply told him to consider himself reamed out, as I was tired of reaming by this point. So, another thing to keep in mind. The tab staff leaves the tournament about a half hour after the last ballot is handed in. If the members of that staff have a team with them, likewise the team leaves a half hour after that last ballot. We are the last to get home, and the last to get to sleep. We are waiting, impatiently, for you. You do not want to be one of the people we have to wait for, because we have it within our power to assign you to 0-5 rounds for the rest of your debate career. And we will. Trust me on that.

Music: Don't try this at home

The problem with YouTube is all those other videos on the right. The curious thing is that this string started with a bad Hawaiian song.

I forgive this one the lack of video in light of the abundance of meat.

I like to thing that these folks will look back one day and shake their heads in wonderment at their crazy youth.

But my favorite is the Twinnies, who lip-synch and accordion-synch, on skates.