Thursday, October 31, 2013


I installed Mavericks on my MacBook Pro, and I’m wondering about it. I am at the edge of compatibility, after all, and everything just seems slow all of a sudden. I’m seriously considering getting a Mac Mini for home and just using the rather aging laptop for travel, so it probably won’t matter in the long run, but still… It does run Windows under Fusion as before, although I haven’t upgraded Fusion in some time; I hate to tempt fate (and spend money). To be honest, in my reading on the new OS nothing jumped out at me as all that interesting, aside from the presumed improved efficiency which, as I say, I haven’t quite seen. Maybe it just needs a little rest. I haven’t turned it off, except to restart, since Regis. We all need a little down time now and then.

I realize that today is Halloween, but I never do much about it. We don’t get any trick-or-treaters because the chez is on a fairly busy street without any sidewalks, and I haven’t worn a costume since, well, as long as I can remember. I might have scuzzied myself up a bit to look piratical when I used to take my daughter out when she was little, but I don’t count that. There’s nothing like Manhattan’s Halloween parade in Hudville, needless to say. So I have to be satisfied with the vicarious thrill (right word?) of watching O’C get all duded (definitely not the right word) up. He’s been threatening Cruzerace for years now, but in fact going as not much more than a scuzzied up pirate. He did Roy Orbison once, but you if all you have to do is put on heavy framed glasses, well, that’s not exactly Vegas Elvis. Cruzerace, on the other hand, does do the job, although I’m a little disappointed that he opted out of the hot pants. (And I defy you not to compose a little rift on the idea of O’C opting out of his hot pants. I defy you!) I did buy some little Snickers bars, just in case the odd All Hallows refugee appears at the chez door. If the odd All Hallows refugee turns out to be Cruzerace, he can have a couple of little Snickers bars. He’s earned it.

I’ve finally gotten the rooms for Bump. We’ll go to 100 in novice in the grammar school, and 140 split between PF and LD in the high school, probably at about two to one. We’re finally in the drifting-off stage, where I get to clear the waitlist every now and then. There’s still schools shut out, but I’m sanguine about there being room for them in the long run. I might even be able to eke out a few extra entries for the more robust teams in the region. We’ll see. Last year, thanks to Sandy, we had space aplenty. Pent-up desires have worked their magic this year. So it goeth.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Transitioning to PF

For rather elusive reasons, a sophomore and a junior have been in and out of the newbie sailor group, but I gather that henceforth they are in. Including them, we’re planning a fairly preemptive move to PF by December, except for a couple of boneheads who didn’t show up last night. Whatever.

(I can call them that because the likelihood of them ever reading this is somewhere between nil and zero. About the same as getting them to look at the team calendar.)

My whole process has been thrown into disarray, simply because we haven’t had any numbers since back when I committed to PF. When it was only one team, I didn’t have to give it much thought, but now I have to think things out. My original premise was to start them in LD, and I’m still sort of thinking that’s the way to go, because it allows me to work with them on introductory philosophy/ethics, which would otherwise go by the board in favor of whatever topic is at hand. Another reason I like starting with LD is that there’s no partner issues, so you can learn how to build arguments and get your feet wet all on your own. This whole thing will keep evolving. It’s not as if I don’t have the materials to work with them on, simply that I keep juggling them.

The alternative, starting with the topic at hand and working top-down, so to speak, rather than bottom up, is certainly possible. It’s just that I haven’t chosen to do it. What I really want to do is try both ways simultaneously in the lab and see which works better. Unfortunately we don’t have that luxury.

On another note entirely, I’m pretty sure I’m going to try tabroom for tabbing part of Vassar next weekend. It’s hard to see a reason why not. I won’t get my feet wet by standing on the boardwalk.

And wait a minute. Bump is two weeks from this coming Friday? Really? I so don’t feel anywhere near ready for it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More mischief!

I am now on the board of the NDCA. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The NDCA doesn’t get a lot of traction in the northeast, which surprises me. After all, there is no other group concerning itself almost solely with providing services and resources to coaches. Presumably the NFL does some of this, but only behind a pay wall. (I find it hard to justify paying a fairly decent amount of money just so my kids can get stickers every few months while being virtually locked out of their tournament or at best treated as second-class citizens. Where’s our second-class citizen discount?) What the NDCA does is free for all; membership is optional and cheap. Plus they run a national tournament according to reasonable procedures, with agnostic apolitical qualification standards, unlike the TOC which, from my personal experience, is an oligarchy built more on personal politics than the realities of high school debate. (Anyone looking at the list of quals could figure that out easily enough.) Still, the TOC, at least in LD, is the ranking national tournament. So it goes.

I have some goals now that I’m part of the group. I would really like to see more coaches around here joining up, and also attending the tournament. My thought is that, if the NDCA communicated better, this might happen. The board splits itself into various responsibilities; I chose working on the website, with a minor in increasing membership. That seems to make sense, given the things I’m good at. I want to build a blog over there for discussion of issues that affect all of us, like MJP. CP, their tech guy, is helping me set that up. I also want to get their Twitter feed more vigorous. There’s not much to it now. And I think that their resources need punching up; some of that stuff is a little long in the tooth. As I said, this is stuff that I’m good at.

What I’m not good at is going to the tournaments that the rest of the board attend. We skyped with them during Big Bronx, and we’ll probably do the same during Glenbrooks. What can I say? I’m not exactly a circuit coach. Then again, I’m totally non-policy, which is also different from the rest of them, I think. A little PF/LD influence never hurt anybody.

Monday, October 28, 2013

And they're off!

The first of the first-timer events is now under our proverbial belt. From the Plebe point of view, it was fine. Everybody picked up at least one round—remember, our team has no varsity LD and no team LD memory to pass down—and one of the three brought home a lovely almost new mug taken directly from the back of a closet somewhere in Regis and dusted off handsomely before being dished out to our young stalwart. The trophies as a whole were, to put it in the softest terms, a mélange. But as I’ve said a bazillion times, novice debate isn’t about winning trophies, it’s about winning over nerves and intestines. Everything else is just gravy.

People are truly falling into the process of handling their own teams and checking in so that we can start things in a timely manner. We went up to tab at 9:05, to pair 7 divisions. Following opening remarks, distribution of schematics, and judge instructions (which, as always, were ignored by the judges most likely to flout them egregiously, thinking that they know so much better when, in fact, the air in their heads would power the Goodyear blimp), all the ballots were picked up by 10:05. Nifty-galifty, to put it in Mr. Rogers terms. Getting in 4 rounds was a piece of layer cake.

Problems? Well, always a few. Untrained judges, but we had enough overage to shuttle them from the back of the room to JV’s training sessions. Sophomore judges, which are not allowed? You betcha! Unchaperoned teams? Well, one, yes, which is the ultimate no-no. Just because you are being paid to judge by the school does not make you an adult in an emergency. Oh, well. On the back end, we had normal sizes in all the divisions except VPF, which I paired as a small RR, with 3 double-flighted rounds and 2 single-flighted rounds in the same time slot, the sort of thing that makes my brains fall out just thinking about it, but somehow it worked. As for the rest, a few same-school rounds, unavoidable when someone is half the field, but we’re used to them by now, and always provide neutral judging, which at least elevates them beyond a mere practice session.

Awards (well, old junk from the Regis closet) started promptly at 6:30, right after I heard that the bus we were sharing with the Sailor Speecho-Americans was about to set sail from 5th Avenue and 16th Street to Park Avenue and 85th Street. We were out by 6:45, just in time to get picked up by our bus at 7:45. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the first time I heard from the bus after it launched was when they called to tell me that they had left Manhattan and headed over to Queens. This is an accomplishment. Not since the Bronx bus to Westchester (the suburb immediately adjacent to the Bronx) headed across the Hudson toward Pennsylvania has a bus gone so impossibly and inexplicably awry. Oh, well. What can you do? It’s debate, as in, “It’s Chinatown, Jake.” You just accept it and move on. The alternative is an aneurysm, and who needs that so early in the year?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Readin' and Writin' Friday

The latest Debate Etc.—Drones, drinking, discussions of LD and PF, and more.

The latest The Other Stuff—Archie horror comics, Vincent Price, Bill Watterson, the greatest Beatles performance of all time, and, of course, the proverbial more.

And if you haven't read The House on Summer Street for Halloween, there's simply no hope for you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Final words on SOTLSEGB

For all practical purposes, aside from our initial need to fix some of the prefs, SOTLSEGB went off without a hitch. We’d have a round, ballots would come back in a timely fashion, and we’d have another round. No real crises worth reporting. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Let’s not jinx it for the next time. (There was one interesting, shall we say, problem, that has come up before and which might be of interest. I’ll address that separately, as it’s really not specific to SOTLSEGB.)

CP and I returned this year to my tab cave, which was absolutely my choice for a workplace, based on previously working in Grand Central Station with a hundred other tabbers all talking at once when I wanted to be talking, and vice versa. I just couldn’t get any work done there. In the past we’ve been here, there and everywhere in the building, but I always prefer peace and quiet. However, somehow I missed the fact that O’C was re-divvying out tabroom spaces this year, so when I went to check in on PF, I discovered that, in essence, they were tabbing in the palace at Versailles, my own quarters being the Bastille by comparison. They were all port and cigars and leather chairs and big screen TVs watching college football games while their valets polished their shoes and straightened their cravats for them in the principal’s office, which hadn’t been open to us since the Soddie days, when he used to rule from the principal’s throne like the pharaoh overseeing the building of the pyramids. How did I miss out on this? I don’t begrudge it them, though. I don’t want to fall into their louche, sybaritic ways. On the other hand, I did decide I wanted to improve slightly, so next year we’ll be next door to Grand Central Station and policy tab, where, if we’re so inclined, we can take advantage of the couches, the microwave and pleasant conversation, otherwise we’ll keep to ourselves and listen to “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” over and over again.

Foods of the World Unite were pretty good this time out. Friday night we had “Tastes of the Via Veneto,” AKA debate ziti. Saturday lunch was a nice change, “L’apres-midi en Provence,” AKA debate ziti. “Festival of the Greeks” on Saturday night was especially interesting: they served debate ziti. We went to the Far East on Sunday with the imaginative “Foods Marco Polo Brought Back from China” buffet, which heavily featured debate ziti. The thing of it is, given that most of the judges are college students, they just wolfed this stuff down like vultures ripping open a fresh gazelle. There’s not enough debate ziti in all of Forensicia to hold them. Older people at a tournament like this have a glazed expression on their faces before they even arrive, so I think they don’t even notice, and let’s face it, debate ziti is easy to gum when your teeth are mostly replaced by crowns and bridges, and easy to digest after a lifetime of steaks, chops and raw oysters.

One doesn’t sleep much in one’s little hotel room during tournaments like this, so I’ll admit that I was happy to slip back to the chez for Sunday dinner (chicken, not debate ziti). Princeton opened Tuesday, the first-timers hit the deck this Saturday, and Bump is percolating on the back burner as our housing parent is making steady progress. In other words, the season is just about in full swing. When all is said and done, SOTLSEGB is just one not-quite-small part of it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


There’s nothing terribly SOTLSEGBian about my judge complaints yesterday. I had similar complaints about Yale. Short of using techniques that would make Dick Cheney shudder, I don’t know what we could do about it. At both these venues it wasn’t as if there was anywhere to wander off to, as one of them was in the wilds of New Haven and the other in the wilds of the Bronx, neither surrounded by anything even remotely seductive. No Starbucks (Starbuckses? Starbuxes?), no gin mills, penny arcades, pool halls, cock fights, abattoirs, etc., the things that usually draw away one’s judging pool. Just irresponsibility, which has no limits.

Meanwhile, as expected, the vast majority of the pool did pref. On the one hand, the tournament is more circuity than Yale, but there is little question in my mind that preffing is just becoming standard in LD. I did have a kick-off argument with one coach, telling him that I wasn’t going to strike 60% of the field for him; you know that argument, because I’ve already conducted it here. After that, there were a couple of verifications requested, that this particular crappy judge was, at least, mutually crappy. They were. One thing I noticed was that, even with the less-preferred judges, there were rounds for them—decent, top-bracket rounds—or at least more than there were at Yale. I’ll be watching this to see if it’s an accident or a function of pool size. Intuitively I would imagine that at a smaller tournament more judges would get less usage in top-bracket rounds, and vice versa at big tournaments, simply because a bigger field insures someone who sooner or later matches someone else, even with judges who are hard to place. Gather enough people, in other words, and even the saddest Joe McDoakes, the world’s most popular strike, will find some supporters.

While tabbing prefs in TRPC is very time-consuming, period, it’s hardest in the first three rounds where everyone is, theoretically, worthy of 1s. There’s nobody out of it, literally, and in the first two preset rounds, nobody even closer than anyone else to being out of it. Finding 1s for everyone all around is virtually impossible; 1s and 2s (keeping in mind that we’re divvying up the pool evenly) pretty doable, with the odd 3-3 here and there. One thing about presets is that you are less likely to get pairings where strong schools with odd prefs hit other strong schools with dissimilar odd prefs. That helps. As the tournament goes on, of course, there are fewer teams still in contention for prelims, and if we go by the Rawlsian just distribution of the best judges to the “in it” rounds, things get easier, or at least it’s easier to give all the in-its 1s, unless they have simply impossibly clashing paradigm analyses. There are always the paired teams who have literally no matches in the entire pool (there’s a button to press to see that), but usually they just have less-preferred matches. So it goes. Learn how to debate in front of a more diverse pool, and this shouldn’t bother you. (The success of the two debaters in the final round, both of whom can, if my understanding is correct, persuade a wide diversity of judges, may be indicative that learning how to do this would be wise for other debaters as well.)

As I said, regardless of the number of matches, tabbing prefs in TRPC is time-consuming. I’ll go over it in a separate post, but the bottom line is that it takes about a half hour of intense busywork to make it happen with a tournament the size of SOTLSEGB. Right before pairing the 7th round, we were listening to my iPod, which was on the table behind us out of reach, and which has lately been going through all my songs alphabetically. “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on, and CP remarked how he actually knew this show tune, a rarity indeed for him, and we talked about how easy it was to sing, and how even Marlon Brando had been able to conquer it. Then the last ballot came in, and we dove into the maelstrom. Meanwhile, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from the original production ended, and the Nathan Lane version of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on. “I’ve got a couple of these on my iPod,” I explained, and we went back to tabbing. The song ended, and then Frank Sinatra came on and sang “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.”

We kept tabbing, the Sinatra version ended, and the Sinatra live at the Sands version of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on.

The Tony Bennett version of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on.

The Michael Feinstein version of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on.

The John Pizzarelli version version “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” came on.

I think it was during the Milli Vanilli version of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” that CP pulled out his light sabre and bisected my iPod.

For all of us in tab, this was the worst half hour of our lives, including the time spent getting dental surgery. In the future, if anyone wants to send me or Palmer into a state of permanent depression, you only have to hum a few bars of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and the job will be done.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SOTLSEGB continues

Then there was the actual tournament.

From the “into each life some rain must fall” category was a flaw in the transfer of prefs, which slowed us down a while. One of the things we need in the tabbing software is a failsafe so we can transfer to TRPC in the middle of a tournament. This means creating a particular XML file, which, in its present incarnation, gets the heebie-jeebies with prefs. So CP and I sat there manually checking all of them and fixing the handful that didn’t track, which is not problematic because it’s a pain in the butt so much as one always just wants to get things started because other problems—no-show judges especially—are more stupefying. This one was just busy work. (And, of course, there’s the time-consuming process of doing the judge assignments, about half an hour per prelim with a tournament the size of SOTLSEGB. There’s no way around that until CP unveils a version that’s better.) In any case, we did have ballots out on time, and that, of course, was when we learned that, oh, he’s not here until round 3, usually from people who had heard from the particular him when he texted from the New Jersey turnpike.

Here’s the thing. We gave you an A+ judge whose team did not bother to inform us that he or she was not on the premises. Your last-minute push sub is a 5 because everyone else is already in their rounds. Look at the schematic: you should easily be able to figure who to blame.

The problem with judges not showing up or picking up is not limited to any one tournament. And no, we’re not going to wait a couple of hours for the s.o.b. to show up. The s.o.b. is usually out front smoking, out back smoking, napping no one knows where, deliberately hiding, getting high (yes, indeed, we really like a doped-up judge in the back of the room, so glad you came to help out), getting drunk, getting anything but into the chair to begin a serious job of judging. It’s not just college kids, either. Adult judges, even those who won’t get many rounds, disappear the instant the skems come out. Is this the way they perform their non-debate jobs? Don’t want to judge? Fine. Don’t sign up to judge. Problem solved. You signed up to judge? Fine. Pick up your ballots and go to your room.

I had this conversation with one judge. His school is, lately, repeatedly breathing down my neck about their prefs. Why are they getting this kind of judge and not some other kind of judge? But at the same time, the judge I was having this conversation with is a repeat no-pick-up offender at multiple tournaments. As I told him—he’s relatively new—you have to choose now between being the judge who’s always there on-time and available to pick up an extra ballot if we need you, or you can be the judge who’s never there and who forces me to give the kids he’s supposed to be judging not the 1 that he is but the 4 that the sub is. Make the choice now, before I’ve marked you down as the latter. (He picked up all his ballots in a timely fashion for the rest of the tournament.)

But I can’t complain about the judges too much as a body, as for the most part they showed up and things worked okay. A couple of times there were communications issues, as noted above, but they tend to get settled as a tournament progresses. We only had to push one run-off ballot, and we had been sort of expecting that this particular goofball, who already has a history of goofballishness, might not show up early Sunday morning, so we were prepared with a solid backup.

One of the nice features of the software is that, when you replace a judge, instead of just doing it on the computer and going to the next one, while the clock is ticking and the start time has passed, it does it on the computer AND IMPOSES A FINE so that you don’t have to make a list that you ultimately lose. The record of missed ballots goes into the system, and there’s no doubt about it. I can’t wait for that. As the VCA certainly knows well, judges who do not respect their obligations get no respect from me, up to and including cutting them from tournaments (which I’m doing this year at Bump, as promised.)

Don’t be the judge I can’t find. You will pay for it, sooner or later.

Monday, October 21, 2013

On the roundess of the robin

The Sorta On The Largish Size El Grando Bronxo kicks off with a Round Robin. This year it was Gaulish, divided into three parts, one each for LD, PF and Policy. Now the first thing you have to understand is that, per the traditions of SOTLSEGB, these are referred to as Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, and Policy-I-Mean-Team Debate, or LDD, PFD and PIMTD. Let’s get that straight right away, because the last thing you want to do at SOTLSEGB is flout tradition (unless you’re me, where it’s the first thing, but that’s another story altogether).

The RR took place in downtown Manhattan, a couple of blocks from the Stock Exchange. Fancy digs all around, a very nice venue. CP was there, and not only did we tab the thing on, which for me was the first live one, and also my first time using the built-in RR program. On top of that, we used electronic balloting, except for one person who claimed to be a Luddite (although she texted us this information, so go figure). Our Luddite had one round, so at the end of the day there was a lot of time spent sorting the ballot, but so it goes.

Electronic ballots, on the tab side, means that, first, everyone gets an electronic notice to move their butts in the direction of their rooms. Then you can see whether the rounds have started, because there’s a check-in function. This means, of course, that you can go directly to the right places to hit the people over the head with a frying pan who haven’t started their rounds in a timely manner. And, of course, the results come in when the rounds are done, and there you are. In a Round Robin, this means that, for the most part, tab’s job is setting things up and keeping an eye on the judges. That last was the real work, especially in PF, because you can’t just put in a judge to hear the same team on the other side. But you knew that already.

To see how the other half lives, I picked up a ballot myself and went and heard a little PF. The round itself was fine, and I flowed it on paper. At the end, since all I had in the room was my phone, that’s how I sent in my results. Simple enough, but it was unlikely that anyone wishing to maintain their sanity would do any kind of RFD (there’s a box for one) plunking on a virtual iPhone keyboard. Not a problem at a Round Robin, where we gave critiques, but not good at, say, an MHL slash learning league tournament, where we want all the depth we can get, passed back to the coaches. CP is working on this, maybe allowing people to enter their comments after they’ve posted their ballots.

All in all, we were impressed, and worked out a possible scenario for implementation. (This sort of reminded me of our implementation of MJP a few years ago, which only now is really, in fact, implemented. Introductions of seriously new things, even seriously new beneficial things, take time and planning.) We’re sort of looking at Little Lex (very controlled environment), Ridge (very controlled environment), Newark (very controlled environment with mostly people who were at Ridge), Bigle X (not so controlled because of numbers) and maybe even The Gem of Harlem (about whom the word control has never actually been uttered in the same sentence). Only time will tell if this plays out along those lines. As I said, e-ballots are easy, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that they’re new, and they may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I remember back to when we were first trying to implement sliced bread, and everyone was very confused about it. I expect similar starting friction , but it will be worth it in the long run.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Updated 2013 Schedule for Fairly Large Bronx So-Called-Invitational Tournament, LD Division

Schedule for Lincoln-Douglas Debate

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

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

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM — Registration in the Fairly Large Bronx auditorium. As with everything else associated with the tournament, registration has a name: The New York City Invitational "Michael Dukakis Tournament Registration." (Corporations willing to fork over a suitable amount of moolah can purchase this registration, as the Dukakis name is merely a placeholder, unless the Democratic Gubernatorial legend wishes to fork over a suitable amount of moolah himself. Imagine it: The New York City Invitational Preparation H Tournament Registration, or The New York City Invitational Kentucky Fried Chicken Tournament Registration, or The New York City Invitational Kale Growers of America Tournament Registration! We’ll put the posters wherever you want them.)

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

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

5:15 PM — The “Our Bus is on the Wrong Side of the Hudson But We’ll be There by Round Two” Round AKA The "The Bronx is on the Phone" Round(double-flighted)

6:00 PM — The “Ilene Dunay Foods of the World, Unite! (You have nothing to lose but your lunch)” Dinner Break, AKA the “I Say It’s Debate Ziti and I Say the Hell with It” round

8:00 PM — The “Bronx Benny NSFW Round” (private joke—pun intended—still funny after all these years—double-flighted)

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

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

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

11:00 AM — The “Roman Numerals Were on the Real Schedule if You Weren’t Sure of the Level of Pretentiousness” Round AKA the “You Call This Pretentious? Just Wait and See” Round (double-flighted)

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

5:00 PM — The “Holy Mother of Pearl, Yet Another Round” Round AKA The “Every Year We Tell Him Six is Enough and Every Year He Starts Singing About Tradition” AKA The “Fiddler on the Roof” Round (double-flighted)

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

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

Sunday, October 20, 2013

8:00 AM — Snooze-off Round (if necessary) Judges who don’t show up will be hanged in effigy. Debaters who don’t show up will be marveled at

9:15 AM — Heterosexual-decimo Round (double-flighted and highly dubious)

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

1:00 PM — The What Happened to Lunch? Round, AKA, The “Wait a Minute! More Ziti?” Round

2:15 PM — The “Will the Matt Dunay be Struck Again From the Semifinal Debate That Bears His Name” Round, AKA “The Eponymous Matt”

3:30 PM — The “Imperial Starship Championship Debate and Chowder Tasting”
immediately followed by the Presentation of Richard B. Sodikow to the winning debater

MJP: Quick one from Cruz

O'C writes:

I am in the midst of preparing for my tournament, so I won't weigh in on
this until after it's all done and I've had some more sleep, but I disagree
with essentially writing off down 2s when pairing the third round. What
about tough presets, etc.? I'd keep it down 2, down 1, down in round 3.

MJP cont'd: Stefan clarifies

Stefan's latest:

1 -- Sorry, R3 should be down 1, down 0, down 2. Some people would prefer down 2, down 1, down 0, but I think it is unlikely that people who start 0-2 will clear. There certainly will be exceptions, but as a general rule...

2/3 -- I think I can answer these two together --

I prefer more categories (9/ordinals) to fewer categories (6/3) because more categories makes it more likely that mutuality is protected. I also think it is why 1-2 can be a bit of a whine.

For example, in a 1/1 match on a 6 point scale, I may draw my top rated 1 and you may draw your lowest rated 1. In a 100 judge pool, that's a big spread. Similarly, in a 1/2 match, I may draw my lowest 1 and you may draw your top 2 -- basically, no difference. An ordinal ranking would make that obvious (it also creates many more placement gradations that you know are pretty close to mutual).

As for the percentage of the pool that people should debate in front of, I think each individual person/team should have to debate in front of up to half of the judges (until they are eliminated from clearing). What do to do with the others? (1) I assume everyone's preferences aren't the same, leaving the other 50% to judge other people (they would be in the top 1/2 of someone else's preference sheet). (2) They can judge people below the break (and possibly even those way above it). And 50% is just my own personal preference. I think tournament directors can decide on their own, but they should publish it before the tournament. Wake thinks it should be 95%.

[Side note: I also think elim panels of 5-7 judges are a good idea because they make more judges feel included with little harm to competitive fairness].

I also agree that if you have fewer categories, that makes it easier to give mutuals. That is simply true. The problem I see, however, is that that really just creates an illusion of mutuality. For example, if you make everyone rate 1/2 the judges as 1s, then it appears that you are giving most people 1s in most debates, but that randomly sacrifices mutuality and really just protects the appearance of both mutuality and preference. So, I think you should give as many categories as you can (within technical constraints), ask people to divide the judges evenly on their preference sheets, and place judges with the goal trying to protect as much preference and mutuality as you can until people are eliminated or far above the break.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Montwegia Redux!

In other news…

This previous weekend was the Kaiser, AKA Monticello. Compared to last year, pre-Academy (and pre-Menick browbeating), 23 in Policy (similar to last year), doubled numbers in LD and from 0 entries to 23 in PF. So, we pretty much doubled last year’s attendance, and so we shall live to debate—and run the tournament—another day. Or at least another year. One of the things that made it work was the whole seniors-can-judge thing, which allowed us to place the Montwegians all over the place as needed. Relying on graduates would have been a bust. (One of the few available graduates was late because she was on a Stud bus, but it later turned out that this was a misreading and that she was on a Stuck bus, but there wasn’t a person in the place who didn’t prefer the misreading.)

The Academy events were, I will concede, iffy. People just didn’t seem to know about them, so while one PF workshop that E Sanon and I ran was packed, the second one that I passed to Kaz was very small. One bus of policians preferred sustenance/digestive versus sustenance/intellectual, and blew off their idea session in favor of lunch. LD, according to the People’s Champion, actually went off well, probably because of the greater numbers of loose humans as compared to teams. The lesson here is, simply, better planning in advance and better publicity. We got screwed by late arrivals and the like, and there’s just so many work-arounds. Still, the idea of a Sophomore-Junior event judged by seniors seems to be working. We’ll do it again at Byram Hills in January (which I confirmed with their new coach).

For PF, the Chino Brigade was dominant, and closed down the elims straight out of the gate. Yep, they took all the quarters positions. (We had already had to bye in 4 of them from round 4 because there was no one for them to debate aside form double pull-ups.) In LD, The Chetanic Brigade was having trouble dropping rounds in prelims and almost repeated the Chino feat, but a Scarswegian runner broke off from the back of the back heading into the turn and made it just over the wire.. Policy was the most evenly spread of the fields, until the Mallian Brigade closed out in Finals. All in all it was quite entertaining. For the record, we did it all in TRPC; wasn’t reading our XML data, not to mention that the wireless was completely restrictive (if I remember correctly it even blocked tabroom, and certainly anything else you might want to access), so, well, there you are.

As always, Monticello held on to its nickname as the Venice of upstate New York, except without boats, water, or anything remotely Venetian. We did find a good gyro place for lunch on the way in, across the street from the local Wendy’s which—as I had learned in the past and which was reaffirmed by the Newark team this year—thinks that the term “fast food” means that you should have to fast for a really long time before you get anything to eat. The Montwegian Ritz, AKA the Sorta Good Western, was, as always, sorta good compared to anywhere else in town one might stay. I’m used to it by now, and even almost slept a couple of hours.

And up next, some tournament or other in the Bronx.

Bauschard responds on MJP

Stefan's post to the NDCA:

I think that the expectation of high (1/2) prefs is just part of the
growing pains. I know from running many tab rooms that policy debate went
through the same issue.

When tabbing tournaments using MPJ (which is almost every tournament I
tab), I distribute prefs that following way --

R1, R2 (Presets) Even distribution across all teams (I try to keep it to 4
or less (1, 2, 3). Sometimes a mutual 5 slips in.
R3 - priority -- down 1, down 0, down 2
R4 - priority -- down 2, down 1, down 0, down 3
R5 -- priority -- down 2, down 1, down 0, down 3, down 4
R6 -- priority -- down 2, down 1, down 0, down 3, down 4, down 5

Once teams are down 3, I don't pay much attention to prefs. I do try to
keep it at 7 or below (on a 9 point scale). I actually favor ordinals, but
not because ordinals can enhance preference but because ordinals can
increase mutuality, if used properly. I my ideal world, debaters would
debate for 50% of the pool, but on mutual basis.

I do always use 9 categories because it enhances mutuality (though it does
make it appear that people are getting lower numbers).

I do think that MPJ is the best system that we have come up with. I'm
opposed to random judging because

(a) Empirically, it is not implemented "randomly"
(b) Some judges are better at judging than others (as people vary in the
skill of anything that we do) and it is a competitive event

I do think that random is better than "tab room decides who the best judges

And my response:

Responding to Stefan:

That the rising tide of people storming the tab room wondering where all these 3s came from is a part of the growing pains is no doubt correct. As MJP settles in and becomes both the norm and virtually universal, people will learn that it does not always automatically mean 1-1 matches. But at the same time, a lot of that storming was accompanied by the request to put in a 2-1 if possible, even if the team making the request was “disadvantaged” by it. As I said originally, at the point where we allow this to happen, aren’t we effecting striking about 60% of the pool? This doesn’t seem right to me.

(I put disadvantaged in quotes because, at some level, I find it hard to believe that all the time and effort put into preffing is really that productive, but that’s a discussion for later down the road. My point it that, beside simply listing the judges in the order of preference, I know there are teams that have complex ranking systems that they believe are to their advantage. There’s a certain whatever-ness to this in my mind, in that any mathematical system will result in people trying to apply elaborate solutions that may or may not work, so an argument that people can game the system—which I’ve heard as a knock against MJP in general—is, in the end, non-unique. More to the point, I question how big a disadvantage a one-off pairing actually is, in a universe where the debaters can see the name of the judge, go read a paradigm, and prep accordingly. It wasn’t that long ago that teams got whatever judge was thrown at them; isn’t MJP just a better way of throwing judges at them?)

Question to Stefan: Your round 3 order is down 2, down 0, down 1? Always assuming down 2 is the bubble, why this way? I’ve always gone down 2, down 1, down 0 based on the premise of trying to keep people away from the bubble. Of course, the first 3 rounds of any tournament are hard, because realistically speaking no one is out of competition yet, so for all practical purposes you’re trying to preserve everyone’s chances.

Second question: 9 rounds doesn’t work for flighted debates in TRPC. But I think that if it did (we can simply assume that it’s a technical issue, and TRPC is only one tabbing system, albeit a fairly common one), it does not solve the problem of ghettoizing a substantial portion of the pool. If you ask me, it would just make it harder to find matches. And more importantly, you claim that in your ideal world debaters would debate for 50% of the pool. In my ideal world, debaters would debate in front of most of the pool. Why would I want to render half the judges useless? Granted that any pool has a handful of judges who have, indeed, been dropped on their heads as infants a few times too many, for the most part the pool ought to be used on a scale of proficiency for competitive needs that somehow includes the vast majority of them. Otherwise why are we asking them to show up?

Third question: I think the underlying issue that may illuminate a lot of things, is that, with your preference toward 9 tiers, why 9 versus 6, since you could presumably do either one? I would like to understand the thought processes behind the preference. My intuitive thoughts are toward fewer tiers because the fewest number means the easiest divvying up (but I think I may wrong about that). For argument’s sake, I think we should envision two different kinds of tournament, one with over a hundred entrants and a lot of judges, and one with, say, 60 or so entrants and a fairly tight number of judges. I can easily imagine that in a big tournament, 6 makes sense, while in a smaller tournament, maybe only 3 or 4 tiers make sense. In any case, the rationale for the difference between 6 and 9 should apply to some extent.

And, of course, thanks for responding in the first place. I really think that tournament procedures need to be clear and open, and I can’t imagine a better place to discuss them than here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Updating "Debate Etc" and "The Other Stuff"

New in Debate Etc: Scalia interviewed, the benefits of the NSA, the Founders and Islam, Machiavelli...and more.

New in The Other Stuff: Gaiman and Palmer "Makin' Whoopee", Fry on opera, how to write like Lee Child...and more.

Toward a meaningful discussion of MJP

I have posted the following to the NDCA discussion group. I will keep you apprised of the situation here.


The note Stefan posted about Wake Forest is not the only piece published recently about MJP, although it’s certainly the most disturbing. [The issue was racism in college level debate.] But even setting aside those disturbing aspects, there is no question that MJP, in and of itself, is also having meaningful effects on tournaments at the high school level. These effects need to be discussed. I will be speaking here directly to how MJP has affected LD, but I would imagine that there are comparable issues in Policy.

First of all, we should understand the philosophy of preffing. The purpose of ranking judges, regardless of who does the ranking, is to be able to designate which are the strongest judges to put into the most important rounds. This makes sense when a competition is at stake. The alternative to this would be totally random judging, which is incongruent with the competitive nature of debate.

When I started tabbing well over a decade ago, the judges were ranked by the tab room; this meant that the sorting of who were the strongest judges was in the hands of tournament staff. The problem here is that the tab room’s idea of the strongest judges might not be the same as everyone at the tournament. Nor does everyone at the tournament agree. MJP moved the determination of the strongest judges from the tab room to the individual teams themselves. This seems to make sense. If you want your toughest rounds to be adjudicated by the best possible judges, you no doubt have your own idea who those best possible judges are.

Originally when we began implementing MJP, only a handful of circuit schools preffed, which meant that they almost always got their 1s, and their opponents who hadn’t preffed were judged by default by the 1s of those who did. The advantage to the preffing schools was obvious: they inevitably got their most favored judges. In an ongoing process, I’ve been educating the non-preffing schools at tournaments I tab, explaining the benefits of their preffing and the harms of their not doing so. I “sell” MJP to the non-preffers before every tournament with a letter of explanation ( Additionally, I usually have coaches rank their judges as Circuit, Traditional or New when they enter their names into the system, to alleviate the need for non-circuit teams to comb over the paradigms, which many find onerous. As time has gone by, more and more teams are using prefs at tournaments. I can imagine a time shortly in the future when virtually all teams will pref.

In a world where everyone prefs, things will be much different from when only some schools pref, and we’re already beginning to see this happening. The pairings that put the 1 of the preffing school vs the blank of the non-preffing school will disappear. And, of course, it is likely that non-circuit schools will not rank similarly to circuit schools; all the circuit schools already don’t rank exactly the same, although they do in general prefer a certain sort of judge. In other words, as everyone prefs, it’s going to harder to find enough 1-1s to go around, and perhaps even 2-2s.

There seems to be a belief on the part of many teams that MJP means that they will get 1-1 mutuality in all rounds, or at worst, 2-2, in pools where they’ve ranked from 1 to 5 plus strikes. The idea that they would get less than a 2-2 is, to them, unacceptable. At the point where a judge is less than 2-2, these teams want to throw mutuality out of the window and ask for 1-2s, even if they’re against their side. And here’s why that is a bad belief: If prefs were set up evenly across 5 levels, plus a few strikes, the resistance to anything less than a 2 means that teams are effectively striking 60% of the field. Is that really our goal with MJP? Our problems in the high school community are not the same as college debate (at least I hope not), but unquestionably this attitude of refusing anything less than a 2, if allowed to prevail, will have unacceptable results. Throwing mutuality out the window the minute the choice is not one of the top choices is an attempt to manipulate judge pools that seems, on face, far from educational. If more people pref, the likelihood is that fewer 1-1s and 2-2s will be available. If we toss mutuality at that point, we are virtually guaranteeing a ghettoization of a sizeable portion of the judge pool. Prefs already have begun to work this way, resulting in some judges almost never getting rounds. Given that the average judge pool comprises people we need to have around, the idea that we would put them in the pool and never use them under almost any circumstances, almost certainly eventually results in their no longer showing up, be they young coaches from unknown programs who will go back to the unknown, or older coaches who can spend just so much time in a judge lounge grading papers, or parents acting as chaperones who would be fine with low-pressure rounds below the bubble but who never judge, ever! Excluding these people from rounds insures their continued exclusion as they never learn by doing. Sticking to mutuality does not completely alleviate this ghettoization, but as more people pref, sticking to mutuality does bring a greater number of people into the rounds. Yes, this will force debaters to adapt to judges who may not be the ones they prefer to debate in front of, but a debater who can only pick up rounds from a severely limited pool is a severely limited debater, and one we to whom have not successfully taught the skills of public speaking. And, of course, their opponent, in a world of mutuality, is in the same boat.

I think we need a set of best practices in MJP. We need to look at the following:

1 Do we truly enforce it in every pairing, and what are the results either way?

2 How should prefs be set up? Should there be different numbers of ranks for different-sized tournaments, for instance a set of 3 for a small tournament and a set of 5 for a big tournament? Should there also be strikes when there’s prefs? Should the allowed percentages of each rank be identical, with a default of unlimited 1s? A shrinking scale?

3 In tab, what’s the best way to use prefs? Always try for highest in each round, working up from the bubble and then down from it in bracketed rounds? Should lower prefs be used in presets to preserve higher prefs in later rounds? Should standards be set up in break rounds that assure mutuality beyond merely adding numbers (i.e., where a 1-3, a 4-1 and a 1-2, which adds up equally to 6 but seems to give strong preference to the side with two 1s)?

4 At most HS tournaments there are 5 or 6 prelims. The same mathematical pressures that ghettoize the least preferred judges put the most preferred judges in literally every one of those rounds. Should we give every judge regardless of preference a designated round off? The impact on getting the most preferred judges would be a strong one. This raises the question of whether, indeed, judges need rounds off? Are we overworking some of the judges? Or is spending the day doing the job of judging without a round off an acceptable burden?

5 A possible idea might be to stop following prefs when a team is out of contention for elims. This allows tab to find the underused judges in later rounds and give them something to do, but on the one hand, it insures that the least preferred judges always get the least desirable rounds, and second, the worst debater in the field paid exactly the same fees as the best debater and therefore might be due an equal access to the best judges throughout the tournament. (Then again, from a Rawlsian perspective, all debaters might agree in advance from behind a V of I that the exigencies of the competition warrant using the highly preffed judges only for in-the-running teams, and if using the least preferred judges in non-in-the-running teams provides an overall benefit, this would be acceptable.)

6 Comparable to dealing with teams out of competition, there is also the issue of dealing with teams beyond the competition, i.e., the 5-0 debaters going into round 6. Teams need to realize that by the time we get to that bracket, we have probably run out of your best match (and the word “match” is a good one to remember, because the goal of MJP is to give you your best match). But there’s other things to think about. Would we be better off to give the down-3s their top match, in aid of the educational goals of the activity, and go up to the undefeateds later? Maybe this helps us understand that underlying question: are we in it for the winning of as many competitions as possible at any cost?

At the point where every tournament is different, expectations are confused at best. If the teams get to toss MJP at the moment it no longer appeals to them, it really isn’t MJP anymore. If we wish to toss MJP altogether in favor of some other process, fine. But at the moment, MJP is going to be the standard at more and more high school LD tournaments, and is preferable to tab rooms doing the preffing. We need to polish MJP so that it is working as best it can. Teams that have been getting their way with endless 1s will have to learn that that won’t happen anymore. Teams that always seem to get unsympathetic judges because they weren’t preffing will find, maybe not sympathy but an equal portion of dis-sympathy as their opponent. In any case, a standardized approach to running tournaments has to be to everyone’s benefit. Discussion among this group seems to be a good way of achieving that standardization.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You can't make this stuff up. (Well, maybe you can.)

We’ve had Barbie on Ice, the Flintstones on Ice, Ewoks, Snorks—whatever the hell they are—and Nintendo on Ice, but by the mid-90s the magic of family entertainment at the rink seemed to vanish from the American scene. Oh, sure, every now and then the odd Disney princess dons some skates and slides out to entertain the four-year-old girl audience (ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the biggest dispensers of discretionary income in the country, and also the nastiest), or some guy in skin-tight Liberace drag escapes from some Soviet compound during the Olympics to perform at Madison Square Garden when the Knicks have the night off, but otherwise, the Ice Capades are a thing of the past.

Or so we thought.

Yesterday, October 9th, a date that will live in Frigid Forensic infamy, the legendary (or perhaps mythical) Jon Cruz has announced that this year’s IE component of the Rather-on-the-Large-Side Bronx Tournament will, for the very first time, be performed at I.C.E. on Ice! Yes, indeed, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girl, for the very first time, O’C and his Bronx Army present: The Speechcapades!!!

I can see it all now.

“The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” performed entirely by freshman declamation skaters.

“Poetry in Motion” performed by the Binder Ice-Capets, AKA the OIers. (There will be no prose OI component at the tournament, as “Prose in Motion” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

“The Old Smoothies” performed by the Duo competitors. You know how hard it is to perform a throw triple axel when you can’t touch your partner?

“Sweethearts of the Silver Blades” featuring the female Original Orators whining about how miserable their privileged little lives really are, accompanied by their male component, “Youth—Life and Dash!” who, no matter how fast they skate, or how dangerous their moves, never allow the you-know-what-eating grins to leave their faces!

“The Royal Canadian Northwest Mounties” featuring Extempers who must skate for ten minutes while carrying a tub to collect their research, followed by ten minutes of getting their speeches on a single index card while skating backwards, followed by ten minutes aimlessly staring at nothing practicing their speeches, leading to their grand finales of seven minutes giving a speech they actually memorized two years ago, having simply changed their opening anecdote from the one about the marigolds to the one about the glass houses.

“Hay, Hay, Pansy, She’s Back Again" Our Dramatic Interpers put on their tutus and tights and hit the ice one at a time, bringing tears to the eyes and a lift to the heart as they perform theatrical classics like, I guess, “Hay, Hay Pansy, She’s Back Again.” (I have no idea what that means and I can’t wait to find out. I think.)

“Johnny Walker ‘Stilted’ ” And then our Humorous Interpers take to the ice, each one performing their nonsense on stilts, which is a reference only the LDers will get, and even they probably won’t get it in this day and age.

“East Indian Idol” is the grand finale, where everyone including O’C hits the ice for the award ceremony, followed by the elephants, the wild horses, the trained seals, Herpes the Wondermutt and, last but not least, the Zamboni.

It all makes me wish I was a Speecho-American.

(All of these names were taken directly from a 1945 Ice Capades program. I never make anything up if there’s better stuff already out there. I mean, seriously: "Hay, Hay, Pansy, She’s Back Again"?)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Smutty innuendo

Actually, this post is certified totally free of smutty innuendo, but I do like the sound of those two words.


One of our Speecho-Americans asked me some questions for an article she’s writing for the school paper. Why do I do this? Same reason as every other coach, I answered. We’re only in it for the money.

Last weekend we had our annual workshop at Bronx Scientology. I can safely say that this one was twice as large as last year’s, which is quite heartening. The whole workshop thing came when I heard that some other folks were offering this sort of free instruction, and I figured that there was no reason why we couldn’t do it too. We have tried to come up with stuff for people across the board, but realistically it makes sense to limit it to novices, which we’ll do henceforth, as that is the real draw. We cover LD, PF and Policy, with brainstorming topics, understanding underlying philosophies, strategy and tactics—the whole magoo. We also have a forum for coaches to meet and talk, training for parents, demo rounds and the annual Board meeting for the NYSDCA. And lunch. I will admit to total exhaustion by the end of the day. There was no rest for the weary or the wicked. Personally I did parents twice, plus 5 big ideas for LD and brainstorming Modest Novice. The latter was a little hindered by some adult who wanted to argue with me, which was really not what I was there for. The students were so up on their CD that we went right past Rosa Parks into legal positivism and Kantian analysis of duty as morality. Whoa, says I. This is going to be one mean batch of LDers! Meanwhile JV, Kaz, the Brother Formerly Known as Kevin, Chetan H and B Adams from Poly (last year’s MHL Program of the Year) were all doing their bits as well at the front of the rooms. Pretty good cast of characters, if you ask me. The Sailors had 5 kids and 1 parent in attendance, which I thought was pretty good. We’re really getting into gear, one way or the other.

So what happened at the NYSDCA meeting in the middle of it all? Aside from the eating of the pizza? Well, for a while we just stared at each other happy that there was nothing to discuss, but then, following last year’s problems, I suggested that we make judging obligations last through the entire tournament. Given that this is standard practice at many finals-type events, and we didn’t want to repeat last year’s scramble, it was adapted with little discussion.

Last night was our parents’ meeting, which had been postponed from Monday because of light drizzle with a chance of tornadoes. Whatever. A good turnout, although no new Speecho-Americans have been sighted this year. I got to explain to all the new folks why their children would be traveling hither and yon and learning to love sleeping on floors with strangers, and more importantly, got everybody lined up for Bump, as in Food Maven (a repeater!) and Housing Maven (new but ready).

Sailor Guerillas: Roll in!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Bump takes shape—and it's a bumpy shape

We still have a pretty large group of newbies, for us. I don’t think we’ve acquired any new Speecho-Americans yet, which is odd, as they usually just fall into our lap, and all our recent team successes have been on that side of the road, but so it goes. But I’m predicting that, when the dust settles, I’ll have 5 or 6 new debaters, a bumper crop indeed.

I opened Bump registration last week, and got caught in a unfortunate program bug. My goal was to make it all waitlist, but the bug let in all the TBA entries and waitlisted anyone else. This was hardly what I wanted. My reason for all-waitlist was simple management of the field, keeping out a teams that had repeatedly ignored my warnings about blowing off judging obligations and giving me time for evaluating independent entries. Also, I’m getting less and less happy with the whole the-tournament-is-to-the-swift-to-register nonsense. The idea that some school with no intentions of using up all its potential slots can deter a regular supporter of the tournament is unacceptable not only at Bump, but everywhere. I’ve begun my meditations on this, and hope to get some changes made with other tournament directors. But meanwhile, I had the silliness of getting the data sorted out, which it is now. And, of course, it was at the waitlist point for real, once I got it organized. I hope to accommodate everyone eventually (except for the evil-doers), so now we’re settling into the long wilderness period every tournament goes through. (I wonder if I just opened registration a week before the tournament if that would solve things?)

I’m getting scared about judges, though. I sent out a message today telling people not to rely on us for VLD, or even much else. Let’s face it: I’ve only graduated one occasional PFer in the last two years. And meanwhile the People’s Champion works for O’C, and the Panivore has exams that weekend. It reminds me of when I first started Bumping and I had to deal with policy. Back then I came up with a bizarre obligation pattern that did work, but meant that everyone judged just about every round. So it goes. If LD wants to become a very specialized business that can be judged only by a specialized group, it’s going to have to bring that specialized group along with it.

Can you say death spiral?

The other thing I’m thinking about is MJP. I’m seriously considering 3 levels and no strikes. No strikes!!! Are you crazy??? Well, maybe, but think about it. With three levels, you’ll get mostly 1s and occasionally 2s in the important rounds. The 3rd level is a de facto strike already. With about 40 or so judges, if we’re lucky, I can either set it up so that you can effectively strike 20 of them, or that you can effectively strike 12 of them. I’m going with the latter. You’re unlikely to get one of these in the presets, so unless you can explain to me why you should be able to strike half the field, this is what it’s probably going to be. If your debaters can’t pick up ballots from anyone other than a small select group, you might want to consider working with them a little bit on judge adaptation.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Pups in depth

I saw the headline for this and had to read it. Gary Larson, Father of Mutual Preference Judging, Calls into Question its Impact on Policy Debate Larsen's analysis revolves around committed rounds of judging, but his reasoning leads him where my reasoning led me, but from a different starting point. If you're interested in the subject, you should read that article. Its bottom line is that people are not going to continue to exclude boatloads of the judge pool in the MJP universe. So be it.

Meanwhile, I've been so wrapped up in MJP thoughts that I haven't talked about anything else here for ages. I guess the first thing of interest that has passed is the Pups as a whole.

I have to admit that at the Pups I am more a functionary than anything else. Whereas at the Tiggers and the Gem of Harlem I am, for lack of a better designation, the Palmer, at the Pups I just keep my mouth shut and enter the data. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are times when I’m quite happy for someone else to handle the nutty stuff that always tend to arise. And there was nutty stuff, and I was happy not to handle it. I did, however, absorb it, and will be advising other tournaments accordingly. Every time out we learn a little something that we need to make very clear in the posted invitation. So be it.

One thing that bothered me that I had nothing to do with but that I heard about offhandedly was some sort of complaint that there was a third-year debater in the JV field. Having originally written the description of the JV field, which urged coaches to keep it to second-years but ultimately leaving that decision up to the coach, I was rather surprised to hear that people were now somehow interpreting JV as either freshmen or sophomores. Freshmen? That was certainly never my intention. But as I say, I'm just in the tab room these days, so I heard about this without being a part of it. I'll keep an eye on it for next year, though. Occasionally somebody may indeed want to put a third-year person in there, presumably because they're less seasoned than the average third year. Nobody's trying to hijack the tournament. I mean, what is this? PF, where everybody's at each other's throats? LD is the civilized the debate activity. Or so I thought....

We seem to have settled in to Wil-burrrrr as the LD school for Friday and Saturday. (That’s a Mr. Ed reference, which you have to be about a hundred years old to understand.) It’s a perfectly good venue with a lot of space to run the two divisions virtually simultaneously, although in practice we do VLD first then JVLD. The Pups team as always was very strong, keeping us fed, watered, wired and balloted. We did have some issues with judges, though, which I think can be easily solved by putting the judges in judges' lounge with a ballot table right outside it and the tabroom right next door to it. Judges, especially college judges, can disappear faster than some thing that’s really good at disappearing very fast [put in your own metaphor; I didn’t get that much sleep last night.] If we almost literally block the door, we have a better chance of finding the slip-aways because they can’t slip away in the first place. I mean, Wil-burrrrr is in the middle of nowhere, so it’s not like they’re heading anywhere other than not where we want them. And we can also go with a “you’re released” scenario, which the Pups used to do back in the dark ages. Unfortunately, back then they also handed out a couple of hundred ballots one at a time by hand, which ate up all the time they were otherwise saving by having the judges all on hand. In any case, as I think I pointed out, we did pretty well keeping prefs mutual, but when a judge doesn’t show up, mutual gets redefined as “not a strike and apparently still breathing.” A more controlled environment is the only way we can attempt to handle that. Fines are pointless, because money can’t judge rounds. So it goes.

Sunday we were back on campus, in HLS (I think that’s the abbreviation). There was a eureka moment there for me, in that after 20 years of attending this tournament and being in that building one way or the other, I finally found the men’s room. For five bucks a pop, I’ll be happy to share that information with people next year.

My team comprised Eponymous Matt and Catholic Charlie, and we made an interesting trio, to put it mildly. But we didn’t have to listen to any Genesis music, and both of them are numbers people, so the assembling of panels was about as fast as it could get. Panels in MJP are way harder than prelims. One judge, you just find who you have that’s mutual. It’s mostly just a matter of seeing who only has one flight and going through the tedious navigation process to give a second flight. With panels, it doesn’t take long to exhaust the 1-1s. For the record, we start at the top and work down until everyone has a 1-1, then we go down and work up, and then we go up and work down again. Of course, it doesn’t take long before it’s no longer all 1-1s. But a panel of a 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 can happen, or a 2-2, a 1-2 and a 2-1—anything so that one side adds up the the other side. But not this one or its close relatives: 1-3, 4-1, 1-2. In this sort of pairing, whoever has those two 1s has a serious preferential advantage over the 3-1-2 person. Balance doesn’t just mean adding up the numbers. I remembered this distinctly from a final round years ago between Diana and the Panivore at Bigle X. I wasn’t tabbing, but obviously I was in the room. With the judges that were on hand, this was the best that could be done (in the Panivore’s favor, if you’re wondering). I suggested that, since both of them would be there the next day in the Round Robin, and there were going to be more judges to chose from, they could run the final as one of the Round Robin rounds. A much fairer adjudication panel resulted, and I’ve kept that in mind ever since. Sometimes it’s not just the numbers.

At our hotel, I gather that O’C was given the Emirates Suite, with eight Jacuzzis, a private DJ, 24/7 mani-pedis, and a brief live set by Elton John, flown in especially for the occasion. Bronx army roll out indeed. But make sure you send in the hundred flower girls to pave the way for the general.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Readin' & Writin' Friday

Nothing like a day off from debate. I still have a lot to talk about going back to the Pups, and Bump, and the MHL workshop this weekend, and the NDCA, but we'll get to all or some of that eventually, unless I suddenly collapse from brain rot. (I've known it to happen.)

It occurred to my rotting brain this morning, while listening to a podcast about Halloween at WDW, that someone I was born with (me) has written the perfect Halloween book, i.e., a ghost story. It's also sort of aimed at a younger reader, although I think an older reader will enjoy it, and a really really old reader might simply be happy to be alive at such an advanced age and ecstatic to be reading anything. I say that because if you haven't yet gotten your copy of The House on Summer Street, then you're simply not getting into the Halloween holiday spirit. In aid of moving you into that spirit, perhaps a little free sample? Text, not audio. Like Chapter One? Be my guest. And if you want more, click on that link over there on the right and buy the damned thing.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Other Stuff 10/2

And then there's the instantly legendary butt pudding, Rene Magritte and the art that doesn't grow up, a recipe for monkey brain cake, a hint or two of Mark Twain, the story behind the Dead Parrot sketch—and so much more! The Other Stuff

Debate, Etc 10/2

Check out Debate Etc for new articles: cutting nukes, comparing constitutions around the world, plenty of banned books, and Furedi in defense of privacy (Nov PF anyone?), among other delicacies.

Team reading list

Somewhere in my various updatings of my forensics stuff, I seem to have set aside the old reading list created by Marc Matsen, a student at the time, and later updated, revised and generally set upon my me. Meanwhile, I’m recommending reading to my novices right and left. Probably time to put things in writing. This is how I’ll phrase it to my team, so the comments below are for them, not you. But you know what I mean.

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
LD novices, start here. If you’re going to debate CD, you might as well read the core source document. HDT can sound a little over-the-top at times, but his influence on Gandhi and King is not to be ignored. Also, it’s short, and available free online (e.g., as a Kindle book).

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do by Michael Sandel
This is a very readable overview of things like rights and morality. Sandel covers the classical thinking, but he’s not dense or confusing, and almost everything in here is relevant philosophy for most LD resolutions, and useful philosophy to keep in the back of the mind for PF.

Second Treatise of Government by John Locke
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
These are the classic original texts, the former on rights and the social contract, the latter on freedom and its limits. Both relatively short and free online. They are not only useful for debate, but for many other subjects that will arise in one’s high school career, one’s college career, and perhaps even one’s life in general. Knowing what is in these books, and being able to quote them appropriately, will serve you well.

Nigel Warburton
Warburton is another great explainer. He’s not essential, but you may like him. For instance, his A Little History of Philosophy, which is just that, is a great start for learning things beyond the ethicists we usually cover, going back to the beginning and the hifalutin Greeks. Among other works, he’s also got a chapbook Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction, and a very absorbing podcast, Philosophy Bites. He’s a good go-to person if for starter materials.

These next two are for after you've absorbed all the others, and are primarily for LDers.

A Theory of Justice by John Rawls
Modern philosopher Rawls developed ideas of distributive rights, including the famous veil of ignorance. If you read this book right up to the first mathematical proof, around page 75, you’ll have read all you need. If you can read past page 75 and still understand it, you’re a better man than me.

Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick
The yin to Rawls’s yang (or is it the yang to his yin?). Rawls is liberal, Nozick is conservative. Take it from there.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

We will forever refer back to Nov-Dec 2013 as "the Wilderness Months"

The Lord (or the assembled multitudes of the NFL) giveth: the November PF topic is Resolved: The benefits of domestic surveillance by the NSA outweigh the harms.

Well, let me see. Simple phrasing, what looks to be at first blush equal burdens, and perhaps the most important privacy issue of the moment. Also, it's a quite a bit philosophical, since I doubt if there's much literal data to support either side. A PF coach with an LD bent can't help but be happy with this one.

And the Lord (or the assembled multitudes of the NFL) taketh away. I will reprint what I wrote when the LD topics were originally announced.

5. In the United States criminal justice system, truth-seeking ought to take precedence over attorney-client privilege.


At the point where my legal advocate is no longer my legal advocate, I have no legal advocate. At best there is an opportunity for learning here about the point of the justice system, but the legal system is what it is, and to suggest that we change it by eliminating privilege is to, essentially, kill all the lawyers, which is only a good idea if you happen not to need one. Look for 80% neg wins if this one passes (the 20% going into the random rounds where the top seeds hit first-years and eat them for breakfast).

Rating out of a high of ten: 1.

I guess one could compare the US system to the UK system, but I sort of think that, at heart, they both have the same purpose, protection of individual rights. At the point where individual rights are deprioritized in favor of prosecutorial imperatives, then I would imagine that we throw most legal safeguards out the window. If a lawyer's job is not to do what is best for the client, but to determine the guilt or innocence of the client, then the lawyer is working for the state, not the client. Needless to say, with all those neg wins I'm predicting, for once they'll all be because debaters are running the topic. You won't need any sleight-of-hand on the negative side of this one.

I'd be curious to hear why anyone thinks this stinker is a good topic. Obviously a lot of people voted for it. Feel free to be anonymous. If I were you, I would also want to keep my name out of the papers.