Wednesday, January 30, 2013

THBT life goes on

I spent yesterday at an all-day seminar for the DJ, with marginal iPhone connectivity and no wireless. Granted, I was not supposed to be distracted from the business at hand, but when it comes time to brainstorm, I like to have the internet in front of me, especially if I’m brainstorming, uh, the internet. Oh, well. I do admit that I have the attention span of a flea these days, and I do spend a lot of time during the day checking my mail and keeping things as shipshape as possible for the next upcoming tournament. This week it’s Newark, both the invitational and the RR. I spent a lot of time last night trying to find my RR notes, which eventually turned up on my virtual Windows XP module. I know I also put them somewhere else more accessible, and I’ll find them after I’ve done the RR, but still, I wasted more time than I would have liked. So it goes. Anyhow, I’ve got it now and begun setting things up. I tabbed it long distance last year. With Newark tabbing, it’s mostly a question of judge wrangling. Each tournament/school has its own personality. Newark is dedicated and smart but not necessarily where you physically think they ought to be at any given time. I’ve gotten used to it. Given that Newark is one of my personal models in the chemistry of how the students remain attached to the school and the activity long after they graduate, I can mellow out on other stuff. That’s a key thing to me, and perhaps the best measure of the true success of a program. Are the alums active? If so, they’ve recognized what they gained from the activity, they established relationships that they still honor, and they keep their programs alive and thriving. Do the alums disappear five minutes after their last tournament as seniors? Something is sadly missing.

At Sailorville last night I wanted to talk about some technical stuff that was rendered pointless because the chief audience for the material was buried under too much homework and therefore didn't show up. So I dealt a joker from the bottom of the deck. I don’t claim to know much about Parliamentary debate, except that who doesn’t like the idea of voting for the judges. But I pulled some resolutions off a Snider posting, because I liked them as impromptu topics, and we spent last night arguing about them. Should MGM cast a woman as the next Bond? Should Bert and Ernie get married? Should Hip Hop classics be taught in schools? Rather than address the silly side of all of these, the HenHudonauts latched on to the serious underlying issues (but didn’t miss the fun either). Quite an evening of discussion. The thing is, we attract the kind of student that likes to sit around noodling about stuff like this, and as often as not, we direct them into RVIs and deep research on Chinese economics. How nice to just shoot the breeze but with serious intent, airing ideas and impacts and cultural issues freely. After all, the season is drawing to a close in another month or so, aside from the qualifiers at the end of the year. Why not relax a little bit, but exercise the brain at the same time?

They also do a mean Super Mario cover. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gemology, Part 2

I won’t try to replay everything in chronological order, or for that matter, replay literally everything. Some of it was just the normal nuttiness of tabbing. And I know you: you want the good stuff. The high points. The Great Moments in Debate History.

You want the dirt.

We tried our best to do 6 rounds of LD. Originally I posted there would be only 5 rounds, but with a bit of jiggering here and there and a bit of craziness in tab, we just might, I thought, be able to pull it off. A whole slew of rooms became available to us at 5:00 on Saturday afternoon, freed up from whatever else was happening with them that had nothing to do with the tournament. If we could start at exactly 5 and turn those ballots around like mad men and gotten the next round actually starting 1ARs at 8:00, we could do it. Keep in mind that at 10:00 the building would shut down. Security guards would literally throw people out of the place in mid-speech. On top of that, I’m not terribly fond of high school students debating past 10, if even that late, for reasons that ought to be obvious; if you do not find them obvious yourself, you may wish to question your values. Anyhow, we needed absolute precision to make this happen, but we were coming off a 2:00 round, so it should have been possible. This was, I’ll point out, even after a problematic start in the morning, which we were catching up on. We were barred from the central building until 8:00 am, and the building with the morning rounds wasn't opening until between 8:30 and 9:00. At 7:45 we were standing in the cold—me, Kaz, JV, the Gem staff—unable to do a thing but shiver. Still, with a little bit of luck and a bit of cleverness, we could still pull off that 6th round. Until a ballot went missing from round 4. What do you mean, missing, says we? We need that ballot. We were ready to serve the Gem staff up on a platter at this point. Why didn’t they collect the ballot? Well, it turns out that the ballot had been collected—by the coach of one of the teams, in the round, who pocketed it. The result was unavailable to us for about an hour, until we finally sorted out what had happened and managed to track it down. And here was the thing. Our hands were tied. It was a 3-1 round. Not only did it matter, it was unsolvable. If we double-byed it, that meant that a down-2 would be pushed up to the tougher down-1 bracket, and if they lost, they were out of the tournament. Hardly fair. If we double-forfeited it, they’d both be in the down-2 bracket, meaning that one of the teams, actually down 1, was unfairly pulling an easier draw in the down-2 bracket, which was unfair to whoever their opponent would be in that round. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In the event, the loss of that hour killed us. We were able to retrieve a single flight of a run-off for down-2s, which in reality is about the same as a 6th round actually happening (we’ve looked at this long and hard over the years), but still, you hate to lose a whole round.

Needless to say, now was the time when bad citizenship came to the fore. One school came and demanded that we have the full 6th round we had promised. This of course was despite the fact that we had never promised 6 rounds prior to the tournament, and despite the fact that this was one of those amateur schools that was making their first foray out of their little backwater and I had bent over backwards to enable their entry in the weeks before the tournament. The coach who pocketed the ballot was guilty of being woolen-headed, but not, I’m sure, intentionally malicious. The school that got their knickers in a twist over this? Something else. Remember that school yesterday who I know I’ll bend over backwards for every time in the future because of their good debate citizenship? Well, imagine how things will work for this other school…

Then there were the coaches who couldn’t understand why we were fining them for an LD judge on Saturday because they had to pull their entered judge for the day. They called on Friday and offered a different judge to fulfill the obligation, which we explained couldn’t be done because of MJP. Well, this was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard. Of course, I assumed that they just didn’t understand MJP (not that I hadn’t sent out my usual email), so I suggested they talk to their own students, who do pref, for an explanation. Well, they understood MJP perfectly well, hated it to its very core, blamed everything from international terrorism to the bubonic plague on it, and demanded that we not fine them because MJP is no way to run a tournament. But your own team uses MJP, says I. Yes, says they, and it’s such a terrible thing that they were able to game the system to their own advantage. So let me get this straight: your school games the system to their own advantage, but also wants to void the system when that is to their advantage? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, with me getting progressively more pissed and these people become progressively more obdurate and blaming me for being obdurate. I mean, I guess I could have written a message to everyone in the tournament that spent a lot of time working on their prefs that, oh, this school that doesn’t believe in prefs when it suits them to not do so would like you to accept a judge you haven’t preffed. Should I point out that their preffed Friday judge did not pick up his round 1 ballot and that to protect the tournament we didn’t give him one for round 2 because he had already proven untrustworthy? “He didn’t see his name on the schematic,” I was told. Oh. That explains it.

This exchange, of course, caused great amusement to the rest of the tab staff, which, since they’re all good debate citizens, are used to seeing me as relatively mellow. I was progressively less mellow as this discussion went on. All of this followed an email exchange the previous day which began with a note from this school that was unacceptably snide and led them to accusing me of sending nasty emails. I don’t know. Maybe I did. I was at dinner at 11 pm (our first opportunity to eat since 2:00) and I replied to their snide message on my iPhone saying, no, you can’t have what you want. And the bottom line was, apparently, that they were waiting for me to apologize for this whole horrible business, so they just wouldn’t leave. Okay, yeah. That’s happening. One of them, as far as I’m concerned, absolutely stepped over the border; the other was just impossible.

Did I mention that while we were running Columbia we were tabbing a three-division MHL long-distance, which I think entitles us to extra points due to the level of difficulty?

Next, “Why did we get a forfeit? We showed up for that round.” Hmmm. The judge literally called us up from the room and told us you weren’t there, and the judge heard the other flight, meaning that the judge was where he was supposed to be, and the other flight was there too, so at what point do we decide, oh, yes, you were there and the judge just didn’t notice you standing in the room, shuffling your papers? “No, we were there. We demand a bye.” Kaz was handling this one. The team was already guaranteed to break, and as she pointed out to them, this forfeit meant that they had gotten easier competition than they otherwise would have gotten throughout the entire tournament because they were in a lower bracket and they should be thankful for it. Et cetera, et cetera. I love watching Kaz ream people out. They’re trying to debate with the best; you wonder why they even bother. If I saw my name versus Kaz’s on the schematic, I’d simply walk into the round and concede. I know I’d lose anyhow; why pretend otherwise?

This next one is close to word-for-word accurate. “My judge wants a ballot.” “Good. I’ll make sure she gets one next round.” Time passes. The judge doesn’t pick up the ballot. “They”—that legendary, omnipresent, inevitably wrong they that appears at almost every tournament sooner or later—“told her the round was at 8:00, so she went out to dinner.” “But I posted the time on as 7:00 and it’s never changed. Why don’t you hook your judges up to tabroom so they’ll get access to all the correct information?” “Don’t you dare tell me how to run my team, you nasty man!”


Then there’s the judge who “doesn’t really understand how to judge” and makes sure that we know it when he picks up his ballot. Since this is his fourth—4, yes 4, count 'em—year judging, we are, a) well aware that he doesn’t really understand how to judge, and b) our last desperate person to push a ballot to when all else fails. This guy haunts my nightmares.

Of course, when I get to my hotel room at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, it is thirty degrees and I can see my breath. Oh, great.

Did I mention that we were using the Medieval Monk 110 as the tabroom printer? It was large enough to hold two monks, who as quickly as possible wrote out every ballot by hand while praying that some day someone would invent a better printer technology. imploded on us in LD when we lost the 6th round. PF had the good grace to wait until the next day to implode, but there was no question that results were not necessarily accurate (although, of course, they were accurate in TRPC). Too bad, because I really like the automated notification system (although, obviously, that coach mentioned above won’t be using it any time soon for that team’s entries, because I, for one, will not tell them how to run their team). It’s like any other complicated system in beta, though. It needs to be beat up, a lot, because it works when everything is perfect, but bizarro things like changing the number of rounds mid-tournament is the sort of thing that is impossible to predict until you’re in the field. But stuff like that does happen. The good news is that the folks relying on notifications at this point are our best debate citizens, and they don’t get on your case when things go screwy. They’ve been there and done that.

Speaking of which, on the LD side, if you want to know how truly weird this tournament was, we had to push virtually no break round ballots. Everyone was there Sunday (without notifications) and everyone picked up right away. We’d go up to the table to check things out, and Chris, our goto Gem guy all weekend (formerly from a high school that is the paradigm of good debate citizenship) was there with maybe two ballots still left, and we could see those judges heading our way. Good work, LD judges!!!

And finally, kudos to the Gem staff as a whole, which did a fantastic job again. They turned themselves around last year, and they kept focused this year with some new folks and many returnees. It was a joy to work with them. I think that from the perspective of the assembled multitudes, attendees were pretty satisfied. Speech ran without a hitch, and aside from the lost 6th round and a slightly late start on Saturday, debate for all its issues did pretty well too.

And next up I get to run something completely different: the Newark Invitational. It’ll be like a vacation.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gemology, Part 1

I have been to eventful tournaments in the past. None of them have ever come close to this one. There were earthquakes and lightnin’, hurricanes ablowin’. We wondered if maybe there was a full moon on the rise; when I drove home last night and saw that big yellow ball hanging low to the west, I gave credence to this particular analysis. Or Creedence, if you prefer the bad moon to the full one.

First of all, in the run up to the tournament, it was one thing after the other. I think one thing is true of most college tournaments: they attract a lot of amateurs. Schools that don’t get around much pick one university a year to descend upon, and for one reason or another make a bit of a mess of it. With the Gem, the first issue was that the tournament opened as waitlist only, primarily because of the annual room issue. Having worked with the team a number of years now, I sympathize with them. As far as I can tell, it is a battle royal to secure every single space, and rugs are pulled out regularly right up to the last minute. It’s as if the administration actively tries to make things difficult. Which is strange, because most universities use events like this as recruiting agents. Big university or small college, having a whole bunch of pretty smart high school students descend on you is an opportunity either to hawk your wares or sort through the candidates. The Powers That Gem feel otherwise.

Anyhow, we made it pretty clear that waitlist is defined as “we’ll let you know,” but pretty much everyone from far and wide made precipitate travel arrangements despite the lack of guarantee of entry. That necessitated a lot of back and forth, on top of which some of the local schools, who every year get virtually all their entries in at the last minute because, of course, they can handle the lack of a need for travel arrangements, all acted as if they had just emerged from the cabbage patch and were harassing me pretty early on for not only not immediately giving them all their entries, but also not accepting the vast detritus of extra entries above the divisions’ school limits. Last year we had a rogue school from one state far away that used the Gem as an excuse to finally get to Broadway to see “Abie’s Irish Rose” rather than to attend their rounds or judge them, and there was a lot of lingering hoo-ha over that, so it turns out that this year the rogue school decided to come from another state altogether. I can’t keep up. Is there some sort of Evil Alliance of Rogue Forensics Teams that organizes every year to decided which one gets to use the Gem as a vacation and which ones have to actually suffer through a speech and debate tournament? Then of course there’s the Usual Suspects who do not believe they need to cover an entire tournament with judges, especially the last day when it’s only break rounds, even if they’re still in it, because they have other commitments. Other commitments? During debate season, with an active team? That’s another sort of amateur, the coach that does it regularly and just doesn’t get it.

There are many good debate citizens out there, more than there are bad citizens by far. There are teams that it is a joy to deal with up and down the line, from the coach to the newest novice. The good debate citizen teams all probably think I’m a pretty decent kind of guy myself, and I’m always happy to accommodate their needs and concerns because they are always happy to pick up a pushed ballot—good debate citizens hover near the ballot table before every round; bad debate citizens occasionally to regularly don’t pick up their own ballots, much less other folks’—and keep you informed of any changes before it becomes an issue and they are easy to find when you need them and they don’t blame you for things that are beyond your control or, worse, for something you didn’t do. They are often teams that host tournaments themselves. They understand the game, and how to play on both sides of it.

Here’s one example. A team from faraway (not part of the Evil Alliance of Rogue Forensics Team) had some difficulties with their entry that I could not do anything about. They were in a parlous position of perhaps losing travel fees as a result. In conversation with the coach of this team, it came up that I was having issues finding someone to run congress. She put her own issues aside, rolled up her sleeves and helped me solve that problem. So is there any chance that, in any universe, I won’t try to give this team everything I can every time in the future whenever I can? Good debate citizenship (or speech citizenship, if you will): It’s what makes tournaments happen. It’s people doing their best to solve problems, help each other out, all that really good stuff. If you’re not one of those people, if you find yourself writing a lot of complaining emails, if you’re not pitching in when you can and accepting what you have to accept, please, go to another tournament.

This, as I said, was all just the run-up to the tournament. Realistically speaking, none of this was terribly out of the ordinary, although there were hints of extraordinary events to come. If I had been a better reader of the tea leaves, I mighta stood in bed. In fact, I probably shoulda. I could have gone to the movies this weekend. Maybe done some useful chores around the house. Maybe read a good book. But then again, by not choosing to do what it is I do, I would have missed it all. Thanks to debate, in the words of Stephen Sondheim, “I'll not have been dead when I die.”

Tomorrow, we get into some details.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Gem is almost there

The weekend blizzard of aught thirteen has gone from 8 inches to occasional snow showers with marginal accumulation. So much for worrying about that. Still, I’ve arranged to train it down tomorrow to Manhattan from Hudville. It’s easy enough to do so.

I love the final lead-up to a tournament. This is when all the chickens come home to roost. Let’s see. First, there’s all the extra judges that I loaded in accidentally back at Lex. Fortunately CP caught them before I assigned rounds to them. Oy. I’ve got one or two schools still pending fixes of that debacle. I only have myself to blame, which is why of course I blame Palmer. Just going with the flow on that one. Anyhow, then there’s the people who just drop for one reason or another, or at least the civilized ones who let us know early. I don’t know if the Gem will hold them accountable or not. They tend to be smallish iffy programs in the first place; it’s almost easier just to let it go, if you ask me. Then there’s the people who wonder, although they didn’t request a hired judge, why they didn’t get any hired judges. One is tempted to lay out one’s response in the form of a debate case—as in, start with the premise that you didn’t request hired judges, show how that links to your not getting hired judges, the impact being that you don’t have any hired judges—on the off chance that they might try for a link turn there somewhere (“I did request judges,” to which the response is, “There’s no request in tabroom”) or an impact turn (“Well, I need judges therefore make it so,” to which the response is, “Good luck with that one”). Need I add that, first of all, there’s a limit to the number of hired judges available, and second, if you're a sketchy school to begin with that has a history of ducking judge obligations then I am less than likely to try to move mountains? I love that the same people do the same things over and over again. For that matter, I get regular emails from people asking the same questions over and over, week in and week out, to which the answers have been clearly posted. Unfortunately their concerns are a little too parochial for Sigh.

Curiously enough, we are still at the exact number of debate entries for the rooms available. I had to let LD shrink a bit to make this happen in order to get in a 6th round, but the benefit of 6 rounds far outweighed the cost of 8 fewer entries (and, therefore, two fewer rooms). I was able to get everyone off the debate w/l though, eventually, which is a good thing. People do change plans toward the end, always, which opens things up. We are at the size we are supposed to be at.

Meanwhile, there’s an MHL down the road at Beacon on Saturday, which we have entrusted to other hands than usual, the coach from my favorite school name: the iSchool. Really. Apparently it’s a cleverly designed institution in the cloud that works well with all your other IOS devices. The only problem is finding a case that fits it. Then again, they probably hear this stuff all the time. But how can you resist?

More articles we [did not] [had to] finish reading

These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

First, the did-nots.

  • Arnold Schwazenegger Still In Love With Maria, Hopes For Reconciliation
  • Adam Sandler to Guard the Galaxy?
  • French Gourmet Restaurant Serves Up Full-Course Meal Made Of Dirt
  • Cannibal Cop's Online Friend Bragged of Eating a 'Black Woman and a White Child' and 'Roasting Whole Pelvises'
  • Horse Burgers About As Healthy As Regular Burgers

On the other hand, articles that had to read:
  • Mad Scientist Seeks Lady To Give Birth To Neanderthal Monster
  • France Smells Like Frenchman
  • Member of Royal Family does something worthwhile

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On writing

Oh, great. It’s going to snow. Must be the Gem weekend.

Last year we got hit on the Saturday morning. It wasn’t terrible, and most folks managed to get there roughly on time, but it was still a pain. At present the forecast is snow beginning Friday afternoon and over by Saturday morning, which may not present terrible problems. But who knows? And what can you do? It is a city tournament, and a university at that, so there’s little question that it will happen. But do we lose rounds or something? Only time will tell. And I figure, let’s wait at least until tomorrow before everybody panics.

Last night we met at the school, which I had been sort of shying away from because they’ve been locking it up tighter than some really tightly locked up thing, out of the current fear of craziness. Whatever. But I needed a board to write on, plus the chez is undergoing renovations and is in serious disarray, the worst part of which is that Tik (pronounced teek) is locked up all day (really tightly) and when he’s finally released he’s about ten times more feral than usual. It’s bad enough that he considers debaters to be nothing more than overlarge mice on a normal day. Stoke his furnace, and the blood will flow like some really bloody flowing thingie.

Today is a day off from metaphors.

Anyhow, I tried to deconstruct case-writing (again). Students get some gobbledygook idea of essay writing in class, which I guess suffices a little, but I’ve been working with writers of one stripe or another for a bazillion years now, and I think it’s a little different than that. Actually, it’s a little different for each writer. Some do things this way, some do things that way. One size does not fit all. And even before you get to that point, there’s the question of natural ability. I am of the belief that, for whatever reason, some people are just better writers than other people. They get it, so to speak, and they can do it without a lot of hidey-hay hidey-ho. As a corollary to this, some people are just not good writers, and no amount of hidey-hay hidey-ho will transform them. Good writers, with practice, become better good writers, while bad writers, with practice, become better bad writers. Crossing the bridge from one side to the other doesn’t happen often. I’ve been reading Ian Fleming lately, and he’s the perfect example of this. He’s pretty much a poor stylist although a good storyteller, and if you read his books in order you can clearly see a progression from loosely controlled hack to tightly controlled hack. He got better as he went along. He never got exactly good, but he did improve. Then do the same for Dickens. He was always good from the beginning, but the nature of Our Mutual Friend or Bleak House against even Copperfield? From a loosely controlled god to a tightly controlled god. The books are all the evidence you need.

So there are hack case writers and brilliant case writers, and I maintain that I can see if someone is a good writer from the first case they hand in as novices. They will only get better over time, but the student incapable of putting two words together to make a phrase will, over time, be able to make a phrase or two while the student whose writing naturally flows will be writing killer cases before you know it. The problem for me is, first, identifying which is which—easy enough—and then helping them along accordingly. It’s not hard to help the latter person: just read them closely and point out when they’re sloppy or they’ve missed something important. Helping the former is harder, because they don’t necessarily know what they don’t know, and their inherent inability to deal with words makes it difficult for them to understand what you’re saying to them since, of course, you’re using words, which they're not that good at.

I tried last night to explain the rather basic concept of having something to say. With no preparation whatsoever, given a core idea for a side in LD, you can develop a set of ideas around that core, and turn those ideas into arguments. That’s what I tried to show, and why I needed the board. It almost doesn’t matter what the core idea is, but until you have that idea, you can’t develop it. Everything flows from the core idea, which in LD is not the value or criterion but simply the thing you want to argue. Rehabilitation makes you into a better person, say. That leads to three or four very strong aff arguments, and if you’re paying attention, you’ve got a case. But the point is to demonstrate the process of how we get from rehab makes you a better person to better people improve safety to gov fulfills obs (now the crit) to fulfill V of F. You know what I mean.

For a lot of people, writing is a tortuous process. For others, it’s fun and easy as pie. (Hey. A metaphor! Oh, wait. It’s a cliché. Sorry about that.) My basic belief in writers versus non-writers sort of assumes that non-writers will always find it torturous and natural writers won’t, but that may not be true. Whichever, writing cases is a very specific writing chore, and it only happens successfully when the case is based on a clear premise that is ultimately elaborated into the structures that the case requires (LD being different from PF, in other words). I don’t know if I’m getting anything across to people, but last night at least they didn’t fall asleep and they seemed to be with me all the way. Maybe the mechanics of what I was doing will only take intuitively. I don’t know. But if I do nothing with my little team of nauticians over time, if I can somehow make them even marginally better writers, I’ll have accomplished something.

Coachean Feed: Arendt, incarceration/mental health, hate speech, racial imbalance in prisons, cosmopolitanism/globalism

More links of interest to the debate community.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bigle X: Debate Babylon!

Of course, you want the raw underbelly of Bigle X, the stuff you won’t read in the Facebook comments.

You’ve come to the right place.

First of all, the traffic was ridiculous, as in, no one was on the road, in either direction. Danbury was dead. Hartford was virtually deserted. The Mass Pike didn’t have a single vehicle between our bus and Scarsdale’s van twenty minutes back. It was as if the entire northeast was getting out of the way of the tournament. I thank them for that.

CP had the tournament all prepped and ready for copying into TRPC, which removed a lot of the aches and pains of startup. We ran everything in the registration auditorium and printed up the ballots, and the only thing that held us up was waiting for Mizz Beal to park so she could (deservedly) get the Michael Bacon Award. There was a look in CP’s eyes that he was willing at any moment to renege on it, weighing in his mind her dedication to forensics against her ability for find a parking space, but the former won out. And then the games began.

I would like to say that PF was a veritable nightmare (that’s what I was doing, with Sarah D), but it went as smooth as a goat. We put out ballots, people picked them up, we entered the data, and there you were. The notifications were working fine, and every time I pressed the button to publish on my computer my phone lit up for my guys, so I assume others were in the same situation. We managed to pull off a few single flights (most dramatically a single-flighted doubles round), and finished nice and early on both days.

Not so LD. There was a glitch in the prefs that forced CP to pull the second round and have them re-pair it. On the negative side, that slowed things down a bit, but on the positive side, the glitch was discovered and everybody went on to have their prefs reinstalled. I’d like to say there was a tabbing lesson in there somewhere, but I gather there isn’t. The system isn’t perfect and it can’t be programmed around. The moral of the story is, check your prefs coming and going. Then again, how long ago was it when you got the damned judge we gave you and you ate it and went on? There weren’t too many complaints about this, as far as I could tell, but I did hear some grumbling. Get over it. The system failed on its own, and as soon as it was discovered, great effort went into fixing it. Maybe a half hour was lost. This is a tragedy? Especially when the judges went into single-flight mode the next day, which for all practical purposes is like forensics staycation? Jeesh.

Anyhow, they set up a mattress in a corner of tab, but as far as I can tell, no one used it for anything much. Maybe if they had handed each of us slippers and a nightgown and a sleeping cap, things might have been different. Then again, Chavez brought his legendary salsa and about 50 bags of chips, which is worth staying awake for. We managed to get a walk in on Saturday to get an ice cream, and it wasn’t 50 degrees below zero, not that that would deter me from getting an ice cream, but when the weather at Bigle X isn't apocalyptic, you remark upon it. This ice cream break helped me overcome my deep depression at not coming close to completing the Friday puzzle. I barely started it. Saturday was okay but not perfect in that regard. I’m not quite sure where my brain was all weekend, but it wasn’t with Will Shortz & co. And finally, we noticed that policy tab is much like PF or LD tab, except that they have two additional people whose job it is to play first-person shooters on their PCs while everyone else is tabbing. We haven’t had to resort to that on our side of the aisle yet. Maybe it’s coming and I’m just not aware of it.

As always, we stopped at Reins on the way home, and I was lounging at the chez before 11:00. Not bad, all in all.

And thus another Bigle X goes into the history books.

More articles we [did not] [had to] finish reading

These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

First, the did-nots.

  • Who Wants To Read 120,000 Pages Of Boy Scout Sex Abuse Documents?
  • Skrillex Accidentally Sets Hair on Fire
  • Modeling Agency Specializes in Ugly People
  • When Humanities Professors Watch Sex And The City
  • How To Be Swedish
  • Farts: A Spotter's Guide

On the other hand, articles that had to read:
  • Audio: Samuel L. Jackson Sings Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together’
  • House Republicans Meet at a Former Slave Plantation to Practice Talking to Black People
  • Cross-Dressing, Show-Tunes-Loving Connecticut Priest Busted for Selling Meth and Laundering Money Through His Sex Shop

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In which nothing happens

Suddenly nothing seems to be going on. That’s odd. (As I type this there’s a rotating ad in my email demonstrating that it’s a lot cheaper to stay overnight in Newark than at Disney World. Who knew?)

Let’s see. I looked at some Sailor cases and decided that my work here is not done, which needs to be balanced against the fact that no one ever listens to me. I feel like Mr. Debate Rogers. “Can you say ‘evidence’?” Maybe my blahs will be erased by the presence of endless alums on the bus to Lexington. We can play Spades and recall a time in the distant past when—wait a minute. They never listened to me either. Sigh.

I’m throwing things out into the universe and have no idea if anyone is watching them fly by.

All right. Sundry and various business. First of all, I booked flights for my spring vacation, and am happily to report that neither of them is on the NightmareDreamliner. I’ve never believed in heavier-than-air flight in the first place, much less in planes that leak out of every seam. As I have endeavored to explain to people, the idea that an object that weighs more than an apartment building can fly if you get it moving fast enough does not sit well with me. I mean, I have yet to see an apartment building fly, which as far as I'm concerned is QED. I’m an instant convert to TripTik, however, which allows the family (coming or simply observing) to know what’s what, where and when. We will be down and out in Paris and Londor for a couple of weeks, possibly at the time you are in Birmingham, Alabama. Okay, at least I’m the winner in that celebrity deathmatch.

Then again, come to think about it, I actually am staying overnight in Newark soon. The tournament got a special rate for a block of rooms that is only a few dollars over the Expedia price. This seems to be the rule, lately. No one’s blocks are any better, and occasionally they’re worse, than the published prices. Of course, schools that fill their blocks get benefits like extra rooms for their tournament judges and the like, so I’m not suggesting that people don’t go through channels, but it is slightly dispiriting that hotels don’t really give anybody anything, which is fine except that they’re pretending that they are giving somebody something. They were doing “Cat” this morning on NPR, from which I simply remember the one word they were talking about, mendacity. Mendacity! (Meanwhile, those hotels are still popping up. Good rates at the Dolphin at WDW. Same as Newark!)

I’m going to a banjo music summit tonight. Humph.

CP said he’d prep the data for me for Bigle X. Obviously doesn’t trust me. The feeling is mutual. I don't trust me either.

O’C is busily adding hired judges to the pool for the Gem. I’ll sell them out tomorrow, after people pare down their needs correctly. A lot of folks don’t understand the difference between buying to cover slots and buying a judge in general, which isn’t a particularly complicated distinction. Then again, whenever I send out a general message to the effect “X,” I immediately get a couple of responses asking, “So, in other words, X?”

Stay calm and carry on.

More articles we [did not] [had to] finish reading

These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

First, the did-nots.

  • Cobra Sculpted out of 800 Pounds of Frozen Cow Dung
  • Report: Ann Romney says no to ‘Dancing With the Stars’
  • Glenn Beck’s ‘visionary’ two-billion dollar Ayn Rand-inspired survivalist amusement park commune!
  • Housing Super Gets 6 Years for Sex with Tenants' Dog (via @ktmenick)
  • Toilet Talk, Part 2
  • Metallica Set Release Date for 3-D Film
  • 38 Weird Varieties of Poutine
On the other hand, articles that had to read:
  • Pimpkachu [Pic]
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Trekkie!
  • Short Penis No Obstacle for 'Spermcasting' Barnacles

I want the 60s back. Or maybe not.

Who knew that the Batman could sing? Or more to the point, who knew that the Batman couldn't sing?

Beatle Break

Watch John play the piano with his elbows.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Also, if I"m wearing sandals, I'll need to go to O'C's toenail polishing place

Finally got the rooms for the Gem of Harlem and cleared what I could of the LD and PF waitlists. 100 of each, leaving exactly 44 of each hanging on the cliff. (Actually 101, since the extra kid doesn’t need a room, and plenty of them will come down with dengue fever, the yaws and potato famine on the day of the event). JV will clear the Speecho-Americans. It’s awfully late in the game, but then again, it usually is, so there you are.

We had a big group of Sailors at the chez last night, including one plebe who, so far, has sent me an email but not responded to my request for personal information. Maybe he has no personal information. He does seem interested in debate though, even if he did just start showing up a week ago. I’ve come to learn over time that an hour and a half meeting means a little over an hour of content. There’s starting friction, of course, but I’m as culpable in that as anyone, catching up on this and that and settling in, sorting out business like who’s going where and when, explaining to Pickles the need to understand French but that French-English dictionaries don’t actually define the words, which really seemed to fly right over his tete. When he asked if we spoke any other languages, we replied “Nyet,” and he seemed satisfied.

We spent a good amount of time hashing over Jan Pfffft. It’s quite hashable. A big problem seems to be a real link to harms for the Pro. Plenty of Pros were winning at Byram, so it’s not insurmountable, but the word is that people were flipping Con. It was a good discussion, though, and my Pfffters at least now know what they don’t know. We then went on to LD, where I think my novice, provisionally known as Sergeant Tomorrow, is on unsure ground with the basic premises of rehab vs retrib, so I tried to sum that up as best I could. I really think that the best way for a novice to handle this is a pure ethical/philosophical play, as it draws so much on the initial readings of Locke and so forth. In the la-la land that is Varsity LD, I would imagine things are much more creative. There is so much literature on prisons and incarceration and special groups therein and so forth that you ought to be able to run a new case every flight until you settle into the really good stuff, whatever that is. Meaty, in other words, although honestly, listening to what Ari and company were talking about on their podcast, they all seemed to like all this basic util stuff that seems to me like one of the standard issue blades on the contemporary LD Swiss army knife. Not that I grasped it, necessarily (although I’ve read up on utilitarian analyses of retributive justice, which are something else altogether, I think). It’s just that it sounded familiar, the jargon tossed around in the handful of rounds I’ve observed recently. Oh, well. Whatever. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, as Bob Dylan once wrote.

Somewhere in my email is a list of rooms for Bigle X, and I’m ready for it. The weather looks promising (50 degress on Saturday), which is something I don’t associate with this tournament. We’ve been iced in, snowed in, sleeted in, blizzarded in—walking around in our Hawaiian shirts and sandals with iced beverages in our hands? Hard to imagine. (Hey, CP! Where’s my iced beverage? Where’s my Hawaiian shirt?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The usual nonsense

Mostly it seems as if publishing results on tabroom requires a lot of banging around at random until something marvelous happens, or not, as the case may be. CP no doubt sees it otherwise, but that’s the difference between users and programmers. He wants me to do what I’m supposed to do. I want to do what makes sense to me. These two may or may not intersect. So it goes.

I’ve got a lot of people getting antsy about Gem rooms, including me. And then there’s judges… Oy.

Last week, it was difficult to get into Sailorville. They have new rules of access, which is all well and good during the day when people are around, but not so good at night when half the time we’re lucky if we can find a custodian to unlock our classroom. So for the f.f., we’ll move to the chez. I still feel strange about this year, with so few meetings and people still joining the team (one new plebe audited a round or two at Byram) and the debaters on the team not exactly giving their all for forensics. Core how-to material that I would have covered months ago for LDers remains untouched and, more sadly, above the heads of the intended audience. Sigh. The thing is, there are many ways of learning debate, but underlying all of them is the need to actually get out there and debate in the first place. People can tell you stuff, but it doesn’t register until you have experience to measure it against. “What to do in CX” is only marginally meaningful until you’ve some CXing in the first place.

I should have been the speech coach. They’re going great guns working on their Dec pieces. Oh, wait a minute. Dec pieces. Maybe not.

At least Bigle X will be normal, or what substitutes for normal nowadays. I have one whole PF team and one whole novice LDer scheduled (two thirds of whom were sick last weekend), plus a triumphant return of OK to the judge pool, and fellow travelers People’s Champion and the Panivore. I hesitate to refer to them as alums, in that both work for different schools and one of them is listed as an alum of that school. (I won’t mention any names, but it’s Struver.) I applaud their mercenary instincts, however, and it will be nice to have a familiar face on the bus other than Jake the Stolid, my sophomore who has been through thick and thin as my PF bastion, weathering more partners than Spinal Tap had drummers. As for the tournament itself, it is refreshingly straightforward, especially since I’ll be doing PF again. We usually somehow manage to roll out a single flight or two, which nicely speeds things up, plus there’s that good ice cream place a short walk away and Reins deli on the way home. And nobody complaining to me about anything, because I’m simply not in charge. Yo! Palmer! Fix this! That's what I like to hear.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Academy in action

It worked.

I can only speak to the PF side of things, from personal experience. As intended, we had two sessions. The first was before the rounds began. O’C provided us with Danny M, a former NDCA finalist, and Joe Gazzola, who has been the coach of the Bronx Science team. I had a bunch of pretty elementary questions about how to do stuff, from when to start researching to who writes the cases—very inside baseball material—and Danny was most forthcoming, and interesting. Of course, how a big squad like Bronx does some things may never be the way the Sailors might do them, but still, ideas are ideas. The session in LD was set up the same way. I know our session went well because when I turned to the audience for their questions, a lot of hands came up. Everyone was engaged, and seemed to be getting something out of it. Abhi, leader of the LD session, reported likewise.

The second session for PF was brainstorming on the China topic. Here, Matt Malia, policy coach at Edgemont, joined us, which is sort of like the Pope dropping by for a discussion of the Vatican. Wow! We did this during the off flights, so the groups were small and manageable, and everyone got a chance to speak, be it questions or observations. The only problem I had was that, doing it twice in succession, it took a little while to get our edge again the second time. It might make sense, doing this again in the future, not to go back to back, for just that reason. In any case, I don’t know about anyone else, but I learned a lot. MM helped focus the resolution into two distinct possibilities. Either the growth of a new power is a zero sum game or it isn’t. Either there is a limited amount of power, the acquisition and exercise of which will naturally become China’s goal at the US’s expense, or the equation is open, and everyone can gain on all sides via implicit partnerships. Conservative vs liberal. Hawk vs Dove. Very nice, indeed. One can go at it other ways, but the starting points from this discussion will help people immensely, I’m sure. LD, according to moderator Ari, was, again, a success. I’m not sure how the Policy side went; I’ll get that info this coming weekend, but two out of three ain’t bad, and I’m betting it was three out of three.

The tournament itself was, unfortunately, small. But then again, one of the goals of Academy is to preserve small tournaments. If Byram Hills wishes their tournament to remain on the docket, if I were them I’d embrace the concept, as I know the buzz will be strong on the modules. It could help grow the event, if that’s their goal. I would also, if I were them, work on building up the policy side of things. They’re one of the few regional policy invitationals around, but their costs are high. If they could figure out a way of attracting the NYC policy schools, they’d really be doing a service to the debate community.

Another unfortunate aspect of BH is the severe lack of internet. Even logging in via Ari’s connection didn’t get me email. And there’s literally no phone service except outside the building. I didn’t get a chance to export the data from TRPC to tabroom until I got home Saturday night. And, for some reason, it didn’t seem to work. Tabroom seems to know a bit of what happened, but is not showing full results or pairings. I sent it all to CP for him to sort out. Maybe I was doing something wrong; I don’t claim complete comfort with the system yet. But if not, then a fix is needed, given how many of our venues still have limitations of one sort or another. The thing is, though, if you do use this system, it means that your team results are all available for all tournaments in one place. Not a bad thing at all. [Update: CP pointed to what I have to do. Will do it shortly.]

Throughout the weekend I got various messages from OC down in Florida, where things went swimmingly. He seemed to want to rub it in that he was in the Sunshine State and we were in a thick New York miasma where, driving home, I couldn’t even see the steering wheel, much less the road ahead. This balanced out in the end when his airline explained that the New York miasma was interfering with their flight plans. Nyaah, nyaah! There isn't a lot of bloom left on the rose where the only place you can check into on Foursquare is the men's room of the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Coachean Feed: college degree$, human organ sales, rights, the rise of Africa, guns in Japan

More links of interest to the debate community.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Riding off into the weekend

If there's anything spookier than an abandoned amusement park, it's an abandoned amusement park with plaintive music and a light, wispy breeze blowing through it.

More articles we [did not] [had to] finish reading

These headlines are all real, directly copied from our RSS feed without editing.

First, the did-nots.

  • Tolkien family not impressed with Peter Jackson
  • Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie
  • Justin Timberlake to finally release new music?
  • iPotty Aims To Entertain Toddlers During Toilet Training
  • Waste Cooking: A Reality TV Show about Cooking Food Found in Trash Cans
  • Henry Kissinger picks his nose…

On the other hand, articles that had to read:
  • Kooky Christian ‘prophet’ Cindy Jacobs says God supernaturally multiplied her spaghetti
  • Topless Protesters, Tortured by KGB, Plan World Domination
  • Smurfs Arrested for Assault

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All systems Go for Academy

We’ve ended up with a triple play in Academy at Byram Hills, with modules in all three events, PF, LD and Policy. Which means that we’re inaugurating this idea firing on all burners. No one can say the problem, if any, was lack of actual academy content. Frankly, I’m predicting a runaway success, but then again, I’ve been pushing for this since the beginning. One thing that really intrigues me is how we’re going to try to fold in sessions during the off-flights. If this works, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t, that means we could easily pull this off at MHLs, where this sort of thing would even be more desirable. As I know I’ve said earlier, I’ve had the idea of rolling this over to the MHLs for a while now. Why not? MHL is intended as a learning league. Why not offer not only rounds, which are the best way to learn many things, but also brainstorms and lectures and drills, which are the best way to learn many other things?

Of course, the real bottom line of academy is the creation of a reasonable JV division, without the relatively illegitimate status that JV debate now holds around here. The point of high school forensics is rounding off the education of students, providing experiences and knowledge beyond the classroom. I’m really hoping that we can use academy to provide a stratum of debate that is beyond the just giving it a try but not as far as the selling of the soul for TOC bids. The thing about the northeast is that for all practical purposes, forensics is entirely extracurricular. There’s no infrastructure for anything but weekend tournaments, meaning that there’s no gentle way of, say, heading over to the school down the road for a little scrimmage. We’re either at each other’s throats, or not debating. How many sophomores do we have to lose from the activity before we realize that we’re not providing what we claim to be providing? Academy is a move toward a gentler style of debate in an otherwise grueling environment. I have heard plenty of people bemoan the present state of LD, but it’s sort of natural that styles would gravitate to $ircuit in a region where virtually every tournament is indeed pointed at qualifying for the national circuit. If a debater is not dedicated enough to commit to the intensity of circuit styles, on top of actually going to school and preparing for college, that debater is sort of doomed, which doesn’t seem right to me. Plenty of sports allow play at different levels, and if you move up, you move up, and if you don’t, you don’t. Why should debate be any different?

Anyhow, I’ve written about this stuff ad nauseum. Now actions are being taken, and we can look at the results of those actions and see what happens. I still feel there is a general disinterest abroad in appealing to the mid-level students, though. All the sexiness is where the bids are, and virtually every gleam in a prospective tournament director’s eye is enflamed by the hope of earning TOC bids as some sort of imprimatur for the event, as if the presence or lack of bids is the only way to evaluate a tournament. Coaches only aim their students, all of them, regardless how unlikely they are to succeed at the national level, at events pointing to national-level competition. The alternatives are the little one-day events which are fine in their way, but don’t offer the full buffet of experiences offered by invitationals: the travel, the breaking away from one’s comfort zone and meeting new people, the excitement (and the boredom)—the whole package. I will go to my grave believing that the most valuable lessons of high school forensics are those that have little to do with the skills of high school forensics. Sure, pure forensics skills are valuable too, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not that hard to learn. Throwing yourself into a bus for a couple of tournaments a month, far from home, surrounded by strangers, building a team, showing up on time, taking and demonstrating responsibility, working with younger students and helping them along—all of those things are the real lessons we have to offer. Yeah, we’ll make you a good public speaker too, and a good researcher, or whatever. So will a debate class elective for a couple of months. There’s a big world out there, and for an awful lot of students, forensics is their first real introduction to it, their chance to play a role in it. Let’s offer this to as many students as we can.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

New noobs? Anchors aweigh, my boys!

Crikies! Two of the late addition plebes returned to the scene of the crime last night! One of them is a new bona fide member, signed onto the listserver. Will wonders never cease?

(I had an author once, a nonfiction sports writer, who in his text described someone as bonified. I assumed, first, that this meant the person had some osteoporotic issue in addition to his legitimate credentials, and second, that my nonfiction sports writer author had a limited understanding of Latin. And yes, I did edit sports books once upon a time, a couple anyhow. This is how I have come to maintain my edge of knowledge of sports over O’C, who may be the only person in the universe who knows less about the subject that I do. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that a good editor can edit anything, but probably shouldn’t.)

Newark finally found this year’s tournament hotel, in the middle of downtown. Traffic around there is abysmal if there’s a game going on, so one hopes that the Newark Bulldogs (or whoever plays in the Prudential Center; given the name of the venue, I would hope for something like the Newark Risk-Averse, but that doesn’t sound likely) have the night off. Usually they find a hotel at the airport, which always takes me about three hours to find, in the middle of the night, after endless driving around in circles. Downtown Newark I can find. Nice pick. I’ll be tabbing again, of course. I’ve also volunteered to help on the RR, but long distance, since I really can’t take the time off from the DJ. That’s always fun; Newark always maintains, shall we say, a certain fluency when it comes to judges…

Speaking of fluency, the use of student judges at Byram allows for incredible movement between divisions. There’s a number of seniors (and above) in the novice divisions. Being able to move people around is always a good thing, especially with smaller fields. This one is not going to be hard to do at all, which means that fitting in the modules will be that much easier. One big problem for them will be finding good big spaces for the Friday events. I don’t think I mentioned that O’C finally came up with an NDCA finalist for the PF module. These are going to be very strong. Plus the whole idea of making this a soph-juniors tournament rather than pretending it’s a varsity tournament has, I think, really made it good and useful, even without the modules. The fields will be level, and that’s a good thing for rising students. They actually have a chance to win something, which always helps solidify one’s forensics career, as compared to losing everything, which has the opposite effect.

Anyhow, getting back to last night’s meeting. We talked at length about China. Rule number one for February: flip con.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tournament management

I do think we should give prizes to people who, instead of asking me to read the invitation for them, can read it for themselves. I wonder how these people would have fared not too long ago, when everything was handled by the US mail, which meant that getting invitations was luck of the draw, especially if you were new on the scene, and changes were made in-camera, and maybe you had to fax things if you were all state-of-the-art and technological. There’s a reason RTFM is an instantly recognizable acronym. RTFI should be too.

Then there’s the whole, I’ll register the minute it opens deal. This is a down side of the present technology, insofar as if you don’t get in that first day, there’s a very good chance you won’t get in at all, depending on the venue. I’ve got as many people on the waitlist for the Gem as I actually have in, at least in the debate divisions. That separation of fair, as in, first come first served, versus need to make arrangements, as in planes and hotels, is tough. Then there’s all the people who think they are owed slots, or people who precipitously made reservations based on waitlisted entries which somehow becomes my problem rather than theirs, or people who just generally think they should get everything they want, period. I’ve tried to be helpful to people who came to me early claiming newness, and I’ve tried to be fair in clearing the decks, but it’s a toughie. At least I feel as if I’m earning my keep, such as it is, in pulling the various levers while the Gemmers do whatever it is they’re doing.

This is the side of tournament management that often doesn’t arise, certainly not at small local tournaments. Most events I run never have to deal with waitlists. But there’s more to it than that. Running a good tournament means managing everything, including the judge pool and the fields. You need certain balances. As one gets closer to the event, you need to be at the pilot’s station, navigating every shoal. This may be why a lot of tournaments sort of suck. They get people, and they get judges, but it’s all sort of random. I look, for contrast, at the Schappaughtational. I’ve been following Steve as he’s meticulously put this together, with his eye on everything, keeping everyone informed every step of the way, pulling all the gears and levers. No wonder the event became so popular so quickly: he’s working it like a pro. We’ve talked a lot about tournament management on TVFT, and if you ever think you want to run one yourself, you should have a listen. There’s more to it than opening a file on tabroom and downloading TRPC. Lots more. As I say, I think I’m earning my keep, doing my thing backstage, however much it looks as if nothing is going on. It should be so easy.

Then again, I was doing a little too much on the Byram Hills event, which is really Ari’s headache, aside from my wedging in the Academy stuff. I had stupidly put myself in as the contact, which I changed this morning when people started, uh, contacting me. The only tournament I feel that I can wheel and deal on is Bump. For everything else, access though I may have, it is the tournament director who has to make the calls. Start callin’, AP. One disappointment about the tournament is its diabolical lack of cell service, which means that we can’t really do much about notifications via tabroom. I’ll set it up, just to keep my hand in, but no one will get anything until they get home that night. The thing is, if you do it all the time, you build the mental muscle memory. Just do it occasionally and every time it’s all new again with a whole new learning curve. Not the best way to handle things.

I haven't been to a tournament in about a month, now. I think I'm going crazy. I need to get back into the swim of things. Tally-ho!

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.

  • Photographer Captures Owners Wearing Sweaters Made From Their Dogs’ Fur
  • ‘The Ladies of Manure 2013 Calendar’ hopes to make composting sexy… fails
  • Slavoj Žižek Demystifies the Gangnam Style Phenomenon
  • Karaoke singer gets dunked in a tank of snakes
  • Richard Nixon eBooks Available for the First Time

On the other hand, articles that have to read: One-armed man arrested in Belarus for clapping, Al Roker Sharted In The White House, and Official Reprimand for Flatulence.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Return to normalcies

The chez is back to normal. The Captain, my daughter’s cat, was installed in the family room, with Tik (pronounced teek) often installed at the closed door thereto, howling like a banshee. The Captain had been billed as a moderate, relaxed sort of feline, perhaps a result of his having only one eye, but I’d be sitting at the computer doing whatever it is I do and he’d be lounging on my comfy chair and the next thing I knew he’d be bouncing off the walls for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Weird cat. He managed to lose my computer mouse and an Ernie Kovacs disk in his rampages. He also, unlike Mr. Toad, doesn’t like motorcars, if one can judge my his desire to defecate in them. He seemed happy as all get-out to be back in Brooklyn, when he arrived there Saturday, as did Kate, who is much more well behaved than her pet. She is recovering well, her next step being the commitment to therapy to get her arm back over her head (whcn she lifts it, not as a regular thing). Tik (pronounced teek) also seems to be his old vicious self again. All is well with the world.

I’m pretty happy with the way Academy is coming together at Byram Hills. I do wish we were able to come up with the odd PF star for a How-I-Do-It session, but instead I’ll be interviewing Gazzola about the practices of the Bronx Science team, which is almost as good, considering their results overall. The problem is that a lot of people are going down to sunny Florida for the Schappaughtational. (I’m not sure why, given that it’s going to be—seriously—about 60 degrees in sunny Byram Hills.) Of course, the point is to provide debate for people who don’t/can’t travel, or aren’t at the level yet where travel makes sense. We’re still not booked for anything Academic on the Policy side, unfortunately, so that may have to wait till next time. Still, a pretty good start, all things considered, and the numbers remain good at the tournament. If we pull it off well, it could be the beginning of a nice new brand of service tournament.

And then there’s the Gem of Harlem. They’re battling room issues even as we speak, including the likelihood of not having the auditorium on Saturday, thus requiring folks to venture far afield for their lounging about. Not much we can do about it. I’m more worried about event rooms and clearing as much as we can of the rest of the waitlist. There’s too many people who aren’t in yet for my taste. Most of them are of the Speecho-American persuasion; I’ll be passing the remaining WL duties there to JV as soon as it’s feasible, hopefully in a day or two.

And, after a ridiculously long hiatus, I meet with the Sailors again tomorrow night, barring any unforeseen passing of gas/typhoon/volcano/rift in the fabric of time and space. What were the topics again?

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.

  • This Is the Best Soda Drinking Simulator You’ll Play All Week
  • Meet Larry, the Vomiting Robot
  • Why can't Kate Winslet stop getting married?
  • Germans Still Weird
On the other hand, articles that have to read: Cat Caught Smuggling Contraband Into Brazilian Prison (via @ktmenick), and Sigourney Weaver Explains What Not to Do With a Hedgehog.

The scariest thing I've ever seen

Now that's a ride!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Riding off into the weekend

It's been a long time since we've ridden off into the weekend. It seems a propos to link to this abondoned dinosaur park in East Berlin that apparently fell when the wall did. These dinos look much like the prospective attendees of the abandoned DisAd13.

Today's dancing instructor: James Brown

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Debate: What do Polish people polish?

I’ve officially announced the first committed sessions of Academy at Byram. Still waiting for confirmation of policy and the leader(s) of the Friday PF. Getting very close.

I have to admit that I’m especially bereft at the thought of DisAd13 becoming DisAd14. 589 days to go, according to my countdown applet. That’s longer than the Iranian hostage crisis back in the 80s! In other words, this is becoming the DisAd Hostage Crisis. No wonder O’C seems to have wandered off permanently, after having announced on Facebook that he wants more people to follow him on Foursquare so that they can join the teeming masses in learning every time he stops for a meatball parmesan at Subway or gets his toenails polished or, shock of shocks, has dinner at Japonica. He was looking forward to WDW just as much as I was. My cousin Denise was stoic in her evaluation that we could use this time to polish our mini-golf skills. Maybe that’s where O’C wandered off to. His mini-golf certainly needed the most polishing. That and his toenails.

Speaking of TMI via social media, I’ve decided to catalog my reading on Twitter, for no particular reason other than to see how it adds up. Of course, I don’t necessarily finish every book I start at the DJ: I get paid to select books, not to read them, so once I’ve decided that I don’t want to use one, I put it aside. And for that matter, I don’t finish every book I start at home, although there I’m more likely to because I’m picking them myself, and they’re not just arriving randomly on my desk. Anyhow, I’m sort of curious to see what sort of things I stuff into my brain over the course of time. I’ll also add my toenail updates, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for those if I were you. I’ve gone all these years without polishing them so far, but I was thinking of having them painted with the faces of Great Debaters of the 90s. If I do, I’ll show them to you next time I see you.

Speaking of the DJ, why do people, sitting alone in their offices, feel the need to use a speakerphone so that everyone within a hundred yard radius gets to share in the call?

This coming weekend will be the last free one for a while. Ari suggested I take that next free one, coming in March, and join him at the Beltway. Needless to say, this was an idea that I jumped on. Jumped on, stomped on, held it underwater for five minutes until it stopped breathing, and then put it into the shredder, lit fire to it and sold it back to the Irish. Yeah, I really want to drive a thousand miles down 95 on my one weekend off in the season to, wonder of wonders, tab a tournament. How novel. Oh, well. Ari is still one of our younger Jedi. He will learn.

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.

  • Man Cuddles With Pythons To Celebrate The New Year
  • Getting a Vasectomy Has Never Been Easier!
  • How much does it cost for Malcolm McDowell to go to the toilet?: A rare interview from 1976
  • Did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie secretly marry on Christmas Day?
  • A Wine Made From Feces Gets Good Reviews From Unsuspecting Tasters
On the other hand, I had no choice but to read Oompa-Loompas Sought in Assault Case and Blood Found in a Dried Squash Belongs to Louis XVI.

Mission Space, for real

I found this completely absorbing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Debate: Academy unfolds

I’m looking at Byram and Academy thus:

The first session, in both LD and PF, will be called “How We Do It.” It will cover everything from hearing about a new topic, research, writing cases, preffing judges (in LD), rewriting cases, working with a partner in PF, how teams as a whole handle research storage—all sorts of stuff. I’m still waiting on who the PFer will be; Danny DeB, JoshA from BH and Bronx alum Abhi will run the LD side.

The second session in LD will be “What I'm Running for Jan-Feb, and What I Wouldn't Run if You Paid Me” with DDeB, JoshA and AdamH from Lexington, with Ari moderating. The second session in PF will be brainstorming February/China with me and Aracelis, much as Kaz and I did the brainstorming at the MHL workshop on civil disobedience.

I’m working on the details of the policy side with Kaz. Presumably Peter C will lead those sessions. Ari is going to have to get us some big rooms, at least for Friday, when everybody will be there in the LD and PF sessions. I find this all pretty exciting. Let’s just hope that it isn’t the blizzard of the century (again) and that it isn’t all canceled. It is the middle of January, after all, and possibly the worst weekend of the year in terms in inclement weather. Would the debate gods be so cruel to us?

Meanwhile, I was back at the DJ today after the long break, and it felt of course as if I had never left. I was getting used to sleeping late in the mornings, though. One recollects one’s dreams so much better when the alarm isn't going off and they’re playing music guaranteed to make you run screaming from the room, which is the whole point of an alarm in the first place. The s-in-l has decamped, just as we were starting to get used to him. His travel arrangements inspired us to complete our own plans for the Spring trip. Holy Hopping Hegemonies! The price of an intercontinental ticket is half ticket price and half extra fees, thus doubling the posted cost. Where did that come from? Paris and London better be damned entertaining this time out. Oh, well. It’s done now, although we’ve had the Paris digs reserved for some time, since it’s one of those places that rent by the week and you need to grab it about a year in advance. Now I’ve got to start practicing my French. Sacre bleu, Monsieur le Dentiste! (That doesn’t sound right. What I’m trying to say is Please pass the pork chops. Oh well. There’s still time.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Debate: DisAd14 and so forth

It was not easy, but we had to bow out of the DisAd13, which I assume will become the DisAd14 if those other people don’t want to end up spending all their time waiting on line. Although I did give O’C a copy of the Unofficial Guide for Christmas… The thing is, with Richard (the spouse) moving to the US of A in March to begin seeking gainful employment, it could get very dicey immediately taking a week off (assuming he’s lucky enough to get hired that quickly). Also, with Kate out of commission for a while in her new job thanks to her accident, and uncertainty about when she’s going back, it seemed to make sense to play it safe. It was a family decision. I am now trusting that we will proceed according to plan 365 days later. I regret getting everyone all excited about it, but then again, as I told the prospective travellers, look at all that extra anticipation they have to look forward to! This also means that I’ll get a week more of vacation days to fold into my debate operations, which translates into things like taking full days off instead of halves, when appropriate. Things were sort of cut close otherwise; I get umpty-ump days off from the DJ, but even umpty-ump are often not enough with multiple vacations (there’s a European trip already planned in the Spring) and endless three day forensic weekends.


Meanwhile, O’C seems to be especially impressed that, at various points in my life, I was not the age I am today, and is posting a bunch of old pictures on Facebook as a result. Some people are easy to impress, I guess. I have more pictures around here somewhere. There’s me smoking my first cigarette, drinking my first neat Jack Daniels, buying my first brick of cocaine from my partners in the Colombian cartel, giving an audience to Paul Pius XII, tearing down the Berlin Wall, marching with Mao, etc. My favorite is rather young, which is me as a sperm. I’ll get that one to O’C ASAP. I have even more hair in that one, which seems to be the major attraction.


It has been time to get down to some business. There’s actually a speech tournament this weekend, with a boatload of Sailors all prepped and ready with their Dec speeches all burned into their hot little brains. On the one hand I’m glad to see that we’re using Dec to train our noobs, but on the other hand, all that Dec can turn the brain to molasses. Oh, well. They’ll be doing something more useful before long. A few of them are heading to the Gem of Harlem, for instance, where they have to double-enter. From little sprouts do big interpers grow.

Still waiting on Gem rooms, by the way, although we should have them by the beginning of next week. At that point we can get the first final wave off the wait list. It’s been a long haul. Now we’re in the process of acquiring judges. It tends to be a tough-ish weekend, but it’ll happen.

And then there’s Byram Hills and Academy Debate, which is shaping up nicely. I’m waiting on O’C to provide us with our PF keynote person, but the rest is about ready to go. At the moment, registration is about 50% up from the previous year. Even with the inevitable paring down that always occurs, that’s a good sign.

And so 2013 begins.

Coachean feed: A new theory of retributive justice, prisons for veterans, and the feminist battle is not quite over

More links of interest to the debate community.