Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In which we pref

I have a tournament every weekend between next week and the middle of March. Every weekend. Most of them are big galumphing things, and all of them are unique. I mean, you can’t compare the single flights of e-balloted VLD at Newark to the it’s-our-first-trip-off-the-hog-farm mania of Columbia. Or the nuttiness of the MHL Blowout (which, for all I know, will blow out the MHL permanently) to the seriousness of Bigle X, or the switchback judging of Scarsdale to the Black Hole of Byram’s Academy Comeback (when Kaz will be in Pennsylvania, which apparently is as far away as she could get on such short notice). I’ll find someone to grab into tab there, but I’ll probably have to resort to very serious threats. “Your teams will never debate again at any tournament I tab!” That one works once in a while, although there have been coaches who have taken me at my word and used the threat as an excuse to quit altogether and get back all their weekends back, once and for all. Lucky bastids.

Newark is the first of this run. I’ve been working that one since the beginning of my tabbing days, fresh off the MHL conveyor belt. Newark used to have its two-day on a normal schedule, with an MHL joining them on Saturday. Depending on the size of the invitational, we had this weird venue back in the day. There was this school within walking distance of East Side, I think it was a grammar school, where everything was Lilliputian and we were tabbing in some sort of closet and you felt totally cut off from the real world, except that Jonathan brought in really good food for lunch. Since the move to the new Science building, Newark has been a joy, with a very nice tab room complete with microwave (the difference at any tournament between staring at the cold judges’ lounge food bleakly and grabbing it lustily for a little heating up and a fine feast—it’s all in the steam rising from the plate) and private bathroom. Jonathan backloads the LD division with enough judges to single flight, which moves things along admirably. This time—a first—we’ll be using MJP. JA has been vocally against this for a while, but seems to have either been won over or simply given in. He offers one wrinkle, though, which I’m surprised more folks haven’t taken me up on when I’ve offered it in the past. The priority will be 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 2-3, 1-2, 4-4, 5-5. That is, 2-3 prioritized over 1-2. As JA says, it’s a fairer match debating with your 3 in front of your opponent’s 2 than with your 2 in front of your opponent’s 1. As I say, I’ve offered this in the past, but no one raised their hand. Not that it happens all that often; we usually cover everything with mutual 1s and 2s, as I’ve explained in the past. But if you happen to be a school that has, shall we say, unique prefs, this may be more important to you. I mean, there are some schools that haven’t gotten a mutual 1 since the Carter Administration because they simply don’t have any 1s in common with anyone else in the field. Each of these unhappy families is unhappy in its own way, and it doesn’t seem to affect their success. Of course, people take mutuality way too seriously, as if the slightest shade off somehow guarantees a loss, which, again, I’ve discussed in the past as ridiculous. The best debaters win rounds in front of any judges, and the best coaches train their debaters to do so. Second-rate coaches spend their prep time complaining to tab. So be it.

I have heard tell, nevertheless, of folks who game the MJP system. Those who have tried to explain this to me have said that they mark some of their 1s as 2s or 3s or something like that, which might work if their round was the only one being scheduled, but honestly, with all the various restraints and priorities and whatnot, I think they’re living in the proverbial fool’s paradise. Or I am. Whatever. I only have one LDer left, a lone, lorn sophomore, and I do his prefs thus: people who I know hate me get struck. People who do a lot of judging get 1s and 2s. People whose first name is Mr. get 3-5 (because my LDer thinks he’s cutting edge, and no one name Mr. has ever noticed a spike on the flow since the beginning of time). That’s about it. My guy does okay. But, as has been pointed out to me often, what do I know?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In which we take advantage of the few minutes with nothing to do before we're off to see Top Five

I’m looking at a killer bunch of weekends beginning with Newark and ending with Penn. Each one has its own unique issues.

Newark is fairly straightforward, except for some reason there is an awful lot of detritus on the tabroom setup. I can’t really figure out why. Assuming that they simply cloned last year’s tournament, which we ran on tabroom, it should just bring in last year’s tournament. Instead, it seems to have brought in every tournament known to man, with myriad scheduling slots on the wrong day and none on the right day, plus a rather bizarre assortment of sites and rooms. Cleaning this up is just busy work, but it needs to be done. No big deal, just time consuming. Meanwhile Jonathan has thrown in the towel and is using MJP for the first time. Given that he’s doing single flights, he’s a bit worried how things will parse out, but my guess is that the large number of judges required will keep things the way they ought to be.

Then there’s Lexington. The good news here is that I’m not going to touch it. If CP can’t set up a tournament correctly, there’s no hope for the rest of us. And I’m curious to see how he sets up what. As a rule I should be doing what he does (I think), otherwise I get myself into trouble. Since for better or worse I’m probably Patient Zero, this can be an object lesson. (No, I’m not thinking what you think I’m thinking. I am not hoping for it not to work. I’m a better person than that. I’m hoping that not only does it not work, but it takes down all of Lexington HS, every ISP in a fifty mile surrounding radius, and either North Korea or Sony, whichever needs it most. And then I’ll turn to CP and say, “I didn’t touch it!”)

Following this is the Gem of Harlem. For which, at the moment, we have no rooms. No problem. We have days before this becomes an issue.

Last year’s Byram Hills Battle of the Five Wifi Armies has me shaking in my boots for this one. All I remember of that tournament is Kaz and I, lanterns in hand, stumbling in the dark as the winds and rain raged about us, searching for a room, any room, that had even marginal cell phone reception, given that the school turned off the internet for the weekend. I have been assured that in the interim they have installed wifi service to die for. Having almost died for lack of it last year, all I can do is hope.

Then there’s a breather at Scarsdale. We can let JV do the fire breathing and relax and enjoy one of our favorite events. Followed by the Quakers, who will be a whole ‘nuther story, but at the moment, are set up just fine.

And with that, a Merry Christmas to you too.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In which we rub its nasty little belly

I remember very clearly when I first started working in tab rooms how Richard Sodikow would run things from his clunky old Macintosh (clunky, that is, compared to the Macs of today). He sat on the closest thing in the given tab room to the throne therein, barking orders to his assembled myrmidons, typing away. Food would be brought in on silver trays from the judges’ lounge by a never ending parade of eunuchs, although I may be misremembering that last bit. But then every now and then there would be a stop in all activity when Soddie pressed the button to pair the next round. Everyone would hold their collective breath, waiting. And here was the thing. To make the round pair successfully—no certainty in those days of TR for the Mac—Soddie would slowly rotate his finger on the touchpad of the computer, making little continuous little circles until the program finally output the completed schematic. The collective breath of the room would exhale, Soddie would lift his finger, the parade of aphrodisiacs from the judges’ lounge would resume, the printer would start chugging away, and the tournament would continue apace until the next pairing.

I never questioned anyone about that circling finger, but I noticed that Soddie wasn’t the only one to do it. I just accepted it as part of the magic of making a tournament happen. Maybe it was a Mac thing. You had to rub the belly of the beast to make it purr, it seemed. When Jules and the Nostrumite wrote this up in Nostrum, they used the metaphor of sacrificing a goat to explain what happened in the sanctum sanctorum of the tab room. That seemed to be a reasonable comparison. The tab rooms were always closed, no one was allowed in and no one ever came out, information was sealed, and as often as not, things broke down and the sacrifices, so to speak, didn’t always satisfy the anger of the gods. So it went.

All of which is prelude to my oversight in not bringing a goat with me to the CFL tournament last Saturday, the legendary Regis Kristmas Klassik (AKA the Christmas Chlassich). A timely sacrifice could have been very helpful. The thing is, it turns out that tabroom.com needs its nasty little belly rubbed just as much as the old TR for the Mac. As I sauntered into the tab room Saturday after the registration closed (theoretically, as it seemed as if everyone who knew last week how to check in automatically had forgotten, and I had to pull teeth to find out who, exactly, had shown up that day) and confidently sat down at the computer, I encountered the first really disastrous inability to get things done correctly. The rounds that we were able to pair used rooms from the wrong pools. At least one round wouldn’t pair at all. According to CP, who, fortunately, was available, the former problem arose from my not rubbing the belly of the beast after making the room pools. I was supposed to save all the individual schedules again. Oh, yeah. That’s obvious. If you don’t do things in the right albeit secret order, they don’t get done. Which means if, for no particular reason, you’ve been doing it “correctly” in the past and this time you don’t, you have your friend James from Bro Tech manually enter the correct rooms (which, at least, you’ve learned to print out in advance for just such a contingency) while you try to figure out why this one particular division won’t double-flight. Well, in that case, a button I didn’t even know existed was clicked. Needless to say, CP would insist that I had pressed that button, and just as needless to say, I would insist that I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole dancer. Since I blog more than he does, even when I'm not blogging much, it is obvious that I am right and he is wrong.

A half hour later than our proposed start, we kicked things off. The good news is that we were only running three rounds, and until all the policy judges decided to go to one of the local gin mills before round 3—yes, seriously, they did all disappear for no reason whatsoever, given the fact that they were given a half hour break, minimum, for lunch—we never got more than that half hour off the mark. Curiously, aside from our starting friction, this event also became quickly identifiable as the Tournament of the Disappearing Maverick. First of all, we started out with mavericks up the wazoo. Then there would be more mavericks. Then there were mavericks who were turning into teams with two unique individuals, then they were one again, and then they were quitting the tournament, but then they wanted to come back, or leave again, or whatever. As a rule, I’m okay with mavericks at events like this, at it is better to debate with a handicap than to stay home and play Minecraft, but this time out, it seemed as if we had more lone motherless dogies than bona fide pairs, but in ever-recombining configurations. Go figure.

Anyhow, at the end of the day, the day ended (if there’s one mindless phrase I really hate, it’s “at the end of the day,” but here I'm using it literally, so the usage is excusable). Trophies were distributed, my little team of novices placed nicely, my judge picked up all her ballots, and I stuffed my pockets with the extra medals to give to Catholic Charlie next time I see him, if not before. Which meant that, for the next two weeks, I have no debates and, aside from a boatload of reading, no DJ.

I rewarded myself for this by upgrading my Spotify. I’m typing this while listening to the UK cast of “She Loves Me.”

Life is good. Sometimes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In which we make an immodest proposal amidst a cascade of beans

Somebody at the DJ has been cleaning out their closets. Which means I’ve just acquired as many crappy prizes as I can carry at one time. Big boxes o’ junk appear in the break room, and people grab them up as if they’re hiding the Ebola virus; in other words, for reasons that are hard to explain, I’m about the only one around here who wants “Ukulele Ike Sings Again.” Then again, old Cliff (his real name) voiced a certain iconic cricket back in the day, so how can I resist? This is why you want to speak well at Bump. From the DJ to the C.P. Closet at the chez to the Bump tournament to your very own assigned space in your very own house, if you have one. (Some kids just get piled one on top of the other in the basement. At least, that’s what they do in Scarsdale. I can’t speak for other places.) These are the best crappy prizes money couldn’t buy if it wanted to.

“Crappy prizes chosen at random, especially for you.” Ah, yes…

The Regis Kristmas Klassik (AKA the Christmas Chlassich) seems to have filled up suitably. I’ll have to meld the JV and V LDers to make them happen, I think, but otherwise it’s quite robust. Novice PF especially is on the lively side. The northeast will be among the last to loosen the reins on LD, but even so, PF is making its move.

In related news, I understand that next year the NSDA, having adopted my idea for the modest novice topic, will be adopting my comparable idea for varsity LD. There will just be one LD topic from now on, and it will repeat at every tournament until the end of time: “Resolved: Some b.s. or other that doesn’t matter because you’re just going to argue what you feel like arguing anyhow.” I’m calling it the E.I.L.D.R., the Eternal Irrelevant LD Resolution. Given that this is de facto what we’re doing already, why not just cut to the chase?

The Sailor entry this weekend has shrunk to just my newbies. One of them, by the way, was this year’s winner in Winter Bean Trivia. We did it Tuesday night, limiting it to the three categories of food, Disney and 60s music. Before long I jettisoned the music category, since although Capt Jake had suggested it, it turns out that no one on the team knows anything about the 60s except that Beatles might have recorded a song or two in them. Of course, one of the teams could name only a single Disney mouse. Timothy. Given that you get a bean per mouse, and that, uh, the corporate gestalt is a certain mus musculus creature, this had to be the nadir of the evening’s intellectual prowess. It didn’t match the unforgettable answer from years ago that the lead Muppet character was Hermit the Crab, but it comes close.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In which we excoriate the adjudicators

Here’s my New Year’s resolution, the first one I’ve made since I was about eight years old: I will try to get myself back in the groove. The DJ has been sucking my precious bodily fluids and upsetting my purity of essence, leaving about 11 minutes a day for everything else. I do not begrudge them this, and in fact, I sort of like having a lot of new stuff to do to fill the empty hours, which weren’t all that empty to begin with. But I feel that I’m shortchanging the Night Job as a result. That is not a good thing. Of course, there are only so many hours in the day, so something has to give somewhere. I guess this means no more bear-baiting.


I am beginning to regret every good thing I’ve ever said about judges, except for a couple of them, and even they’re a bit suspect. The judge pool in general has always had various issues, including delusions of grandeur, the inability to count to one round past their teams’ participation, and an inability to tell time, but this year everything seems to have been ramped up beyond tolerance. Judges are flouting their obligations, disappearing at the first sign of ballots, whining about every round—you name it. My question is, if you’re judging at a tournament, what exactly are you doing when you’re not judging? I mean, is it that much fun to sit in the judges’ lounge (or, more accurately, hide in the bathroom until the all-clear and then go sit in the judges’ lounge)? I’ve already bemoaned the Tiggers, where people have two hours off between each judging gig on Saturday. This is hard work? Judging per se is hard work? I certainly agree that it is work, and it is challenging, but if you want hard work, try something both physical and mindless.

One of the latest maladies affecting judges is commitmentosis. Judges who know better tell us that they’re only committed for [fill in ridiculously low number here] rounds. To which we respond, Parisian airport*: “Oh, really?” I realize that some tournaments on the high school level do run judges by commitment, but these are few and far between. I gather that it is commonplace at college tournaments, but if you’re judging this weekend and you don’t know whether you’re judging high school or college debate, I’ve got to wonder how well you’re in control of your stuff, so to speak. Here’s a dead giveaway: if you see me coming out of tab, it’s a high school, and you’re judging till the cows come home.

And don’t get me started on yabbo coaches showing up at their first tournament beyond the cabbage patch. New to the big wide world ought to mean that you spent some time reading the invitation of the tournament you’re attending, wouldn’t you think? You’re going to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to an event, wrapped in nothing but your blissful ignorance? Baby, it’s cold outside, and my sympathy for people who want to argue with the terms of the invitation is rather on the low side.

Anyhow, on the agenda upcoming are the Gem of Harlem, Newark, Bigle X, Penn, Byram Hills and Scarsdale, not in that order. Among these, the happy ones are all alike and the unhappy ones are each unhappy in their own way. My Christmas holidays will be filled to overflowing with poring over the tabroom setups and finding new boxes to click or unclick. I’ll use the coal in my stocking to heat the chez while I’m working on all of this.

*(Remember, if you were smarter, I’d be funnier.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

In which we go into Tigger tab

One of the things we did at the Tiggers was get Dario into the tabroom.com world. He was slightly (and rightly) hesitant about using it for the first time at such a venue, but he prepped up on it in advance and played around and read my lovely manual, so he was rarin’ to go by the time he arrived back in his home state. (Why anyone would ever move out of New Jersey is beyond me.) Everything worked pretty well for him, although to be honest, someone else set everything up, i.e., me. I continue to maintain that the real work of tabroom is setting it up right, and the day someone sets it up completely right, including CP, is the day it comes out of beta. Still, in actual practice, it does work great. Ballots go in, rounds come out. With a big field, it’s a piece of cake. And changing (and fining) judges goes like a breeze. What’s not to like? With a small field, on the other hand, well, good luck, but that’s not a flaw of tabroom. Small fields force us to break the rules, or even more accurately, keep changing the rules on the fly. If HAL 9000 couldn’t do that, I don’t know why tabroom should.

Still, there were a couple of problems. At least one of them CP now understands; apparently I was unclear in my hundred previous complaints about it. There’s a way of adding text to a ballot by entering it into some boxes, and the text I was entering just wouldn’t take. Given that some of this text was the phone number to report results, this was problematic, and a lot of ballots went out without the number, so we didn’t get the electronic feedback we usually get at the Tiggers. Worse, before round 1 the ballots wouldn’t print at all, and it was just a lucky guess on my part to look on this page, where yet a different box was filled with junk data. I deleted it, and things started moving again. At some point during the weekend I began thinking that the problem might be browser based, so I switched from Chrome to Safari, but that did not fix the problem. Oh, well. At least now CP claims to know what I’m talking about.

We also had some room pool leakage. The 5 PF rounds on Saturday are in their own rooms, as are the simultaneous LD rounds. But during the last round, a few of the PF rooms snuck over to the other pool. They had not done this previously, and there was no reason for them to do it now, given that we had made no pool changes all day. In other words, data creep. Go figure. We had a few free spots so we were able to solve it quickly enough, but it was a bit scary, forcing me to go over all the rooms for the rest of the tournament. Next time I’ll print up a pool list and hang it around my neck for the duration, so if something goes wrong I’ll have a record of how it’s supposed to be.

But these were minor issues, in that they got solved quickly. More importantly, the MJP worked beautifully. We made occasional improvements, but most of our double-checking uncovered no way to make things better. A couple of the break rounds went out without us touching a thing. Since we were only once stormed by someone demanding a different judge (and in a most annoying, uninformed and prejudicial fashion), I guess the attendees at large were pleased with the results. There is no question that MJP with tabroom is, round by round, about half an hour faster than MJP on TRPC. You just can’t argue with that. And since virtually all LD these days is MJP, well, there you are.

Monday, December 08, 2014

In which we are back home from Tiggertown

I realize I’ve been off the grid—or maybe it’s on the grid—a lot lately, whichever phrase means not writing anything here. As I’ve been saying, the DJ has been seriously sapping my time way beyond the 9 to 5; actually doing the debatey things I usually talk about in the leftover time precludes commenting on it here. In other words, it’s not as if there haven’t been interesting things to talk about in our little universe, it’s just that I’ve been living them rather than talking about them. I’m sure the VCA will forgive me for a while as I get things evened out.

This last weekend was the Tiggers. For some reason this outing brings in more newbies to the tournament world than most other tournaments. It seems as if half the teams attending email me in advance every five minutes telling me how new they are and asking questions and whatnot. They’ve never been away from home before and this is the first time they’re sticking their team toe into the circuitry waters. I have no idea why Princeton and not some other tournament. Maybe it’s the whole New Jersey thing. People don’t want to visit Princeton, they want to visit New Jersey. It is the Garden State, after all. Maybe they’re coming to see if they can find the gardens. Then again, maybe other tournaments have the same number of newcomers, but at those events the noobs keep their mouths shut. Or maybe I’m just being too nice. (No. That can’t be it.)

Now that we’re conducting run-offs more often, the idea of judge obligation is becoming increasingly difficult for some people, usually the newer ones, to understand. Not only did the Tigger invitation clearly state that the obligation went to the first full elim after runoffs, it stated it in seriously bold type. This means that reason number one for not showing up to the first full elim was that “it wasn’t in the invitation.” Nice try. “No one emailed me about that” is also a good reason for screwing up, on this and other things, although since I have godlike powers, when you come to me with that I can easily determine your email status, and if you’ve turned off accepting tabroom.com emails, you probably don’t want to complain that you’re not getting any. Of course, it is much better to come to tab and argue that the judging requirement is ridiculous and therefore you shouldn’t have to do it. I mean, yes, I really want to have that conversation. Although this is my favorite: Them: I need a round off; I judged every round today. I am suffering from neurasthenia, I am battling the sickness unto death, etc. Us: The schedule is set up so that after every round you have two hours off. This is the most luxurious schedule this side of paradise. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I did love that. While I can sympathize at normal tournaments when judges do pretty much work every round, but then again, when I go to my job in my morning, I am expected to work the whole day! Imagine that! I even usually eat at my desk. So if I’m judging at a debate tournament I should get plenty of time off? Feh. Of course, I also believe that tournaments shouldn’t go on endlessly. I spent a lot of time paring down schedules when I first started having some clout. But I was more worried about debaters than judges. I’m not saying judging is easy, but as jobs go? I can think of worse.

Speaking of judges, there does seem to be a belief among regular college-student judges that they are so valuable that they don’t really have to show up to pick up their ballots until the spirit moves them, if at all, thus doing their level indirect best to get the tournament off schedule. The last ballots picked up are always, inevitably, the highest preffed college student judges. Again, with a two-hour break, there’s no excuse for this. At the Tiggs, we stopped posting the judges and demanded everyone show up for judge assembly. This meant that ballots went out, straight or pushed, in about 5 minutes, compared to the half hour of phoning and hair-pulling that we started out with. The thing is, if you post the judges, people who aren’t on the posting stay at the saloon where they’re drowning their sorrows rather than hauling themselves over to judge assembly. Hence, no backup judges. This seems to be location dependent, and for some reason the Tiggers has it worse than anyone else, I think. At a tournament where there’s nowhere to go, like the Pups on Saturday, you don’t have to do this, because any judge who didn’t pick up is upstairs in the library. So one has to go with the flow of the geography, which is different every time. CP, of course, would say that e-ballots would solve, and I appreciate that argument to some degree, but not here. Half the judges weren’t linked, if you throw in the novice rounds sharing the same rooms as the varsity (hence the two hour up and down).

Still, working the Tiggers is fun. Like all the colleges we work, the hosts are great company and work hard, and the vast majority of the attendees get a good tournament and are appreciative of all that goes into that. So in a nutshell, it was a long, tiring but satisfying weekend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In which, amidst sniffles and hacks, we debrief Wee Sma and prepare for the Tiggers

I managed to catch weesmalexitis last weekend. I think this is a direct result of a conversation I was having with someone recently about not getting many colds in my dotage. This one is a doozy. My brain fell out Sunday night. Literally. (Okay, metaphorically.) I’m beginning to come around now, just in time for turkey.

Wee Sma was a breeze, mostly. The big divisions moved along with dispatch, allowing 5 rounds and a final in PF. (Does LD feel the hot breath on its neck yet?) We had hoped for e-balloting, but we had more people opting out than opting in. I will admit that using a phone is problematic, because you can’t use it to flow, but flowing on paper and then using the phone? Apparently this is beyond most people. Not a big deal, really, but coaches need to tell their judges, especially their parent judges, to bring a device that will work in 2014. Tabroom is in the modern age only to the degree that the users enable it to be there.

The smaller divisions required a little bit of card shuffling. Kaz had originally attempted some North Lex and South Lex stuff, but given that they’re all Lex as far as the system is concerned, that really didn’t get off the ground. Cards it was. Tabroom itself, aside from telling us early in the morning that it couldn’t pair the rounds it had just paired, was fine. Meanwhile Dario, who’s never used tabroom, is shaking in his boots over having to do it for PF at Pton. He’s playing with a dummy tournament to get the hang of it. I promised him that it’s easy as pie and has no problems ever and that the nightmare that was the Lost Round at the Pups was an anomaly. I hope that’s true.

In my deathly state, in any case, I’ve been doing the last busywork of Pton. The rooms are in, the schedule is correct, all the right buttons look to be pressed (which I’ll be checking and checking again and again as we get closer). Last year, thanks to the meningitis scare, we cut out all the ribbon clerks early and had enough room on campus to do some things that unfortunately we can’t do this time. We’ll be back to the two hours up, two hours off arrangement in LD. PF will go one after the other, as usual. In any case, this allowed me to scare up a few extra rooms, so now everyone who’s going to be in seems to be in. I’m not expecting much droppage, if the earlier tournaments this year are any indication. Even Kaz noticed it at Wee Sma. People who sign up are staying signed up. And I’m pleased with the way we handled the waitlists. Unlike the Pups, where it was first come, first served, we waited a while and then let everyone who was signed up in on an equal basis. No favorites, and certainly no favorites because you happened to be there first, the most suspect warrant for getting in I can imagine.

And there you are. Have a nice turkey.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In which we put Bump to bed

There isn’t much more to say about Bump. I get stressed out by it, but by now it’s a pretty well-oiled machine. This was the first year Fr. Michael was in tab, replacing CP, and he seemed to enjoy himself. (Michael being there, I mean, not Palmer not being there.) There was the issue of tab being in the noisy library. I think next year I’ll give them a classroom and then move them over to the library for elims. That should work better. In any case, they got us out earlier than last year, even with very tight judging, so there you are.

MJP with a small pool is dicey at best, plus we just barely managed to cover everyone. Not having alums to draw on is murder. I figure I need a good 5 extra judges, plus I need schools who bring highly preffed judges to go the distance. That might mean tinkering with the results, but who’s going to remember whether they won or lost the odd break round? Speaking of which, one of my newbies wanted to see what LD might be like, and I wish to thank our semifinalists for going so fast that she didn’t even realize they weren’t talking about the resolution. So she managed to get LD out of her system and is now firmly committed to PF. And I will be doing a lot more analysis on MJP as a whole, now that I’ve started. I’m really curious to see how it’s affecting things beyond just my one tournament. Will my initial hypotheses hold up? We’ll see. I’ll pass the data along to Bro Ryan as well, since that sort of thing is right up his alley.

And now, with Bump behind us, we coast into Thanksgiving with Wee Sma Lex, which I always enjoy, and which gives the Sailors a little Bump of their own. It allows novices to get their first housing under their belt, although I sorely wish they had a novice PF division. Given how many PFers they have overall, I can’t see why not. They have a novice policy division, and a novice LD division. Just sayin’. We’re going to be trying out a new restaurant Friday night. Fred the Lion, who is semi-Chinese, declared that the Chinese restaurant in Lexington is pretty lousy, but we didn’t need this level of authority to make this determination. We’re going to try an Italian place. I sorely miss the old Italian place, and the less old Italian place that succeeded it. Italian always works well with debaters. Those who are panivorous can always eat spaghetti alla niente while the rest of us our chomping down the real food. Of course, the trip home veers off to Reins’ Deli, where no one is ever disappointed.

And then there’s a week off, and some little Tigger event…

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In which we ponder what happens after meatballs

Things seemed better in hand for Bump 2014 than in some previous years. Everything ran smoothly and on schedule round-wise, as far as I could tell. The fact that we ended earlier than usual on Saturday night would seem to confirm that.

I always pass housing along to a parent. Now that we only handle out-of-staters, the number is much more manageable, although we certainly can’t handle the load just relying on the team. So the housing person does a lot of calling around, and brings in legacies, and the job gets done. The main confusion this year was one school that a) decided to forego its housing and b) didn’t bother to tell us. There were a few panicked moments when we thought they were being housed in an undisclosed location somewhere in the backwoods of Sailorville, and there was a bit of running through the halls plaintively calling their names. I finally got the coach on the horn who gave me the oops alert, and that was that. Oops this, if you know what I mean.

Food seemed to go well. There was enough of it for everyone, that is, and it was there when it was supposed to be there. The candy Speecho-Americans kept asking me questions like, could I give them change or would they get special service credits or somesuch, and I kept looking at them as if they just escaped from a lunatic asylum, but we’re used to those sorts of exchanges. Because there had been some thefts from the high school and lockdowns and whatnot a couple of weeks ago, all the doors were closed and there was only one point of access, but that proved to be no problem. As far as I know, the lost and found business operated once again with fully one hundred percent of the items lost completely unconnected to the items found. That is always one of the great Bump mysteries. If we ever found something someone actually lost, it would be a miracle.

We gave the varsity trophies out in the rounds, but I did do short ceremonies for the speaker awards for the two divisions, about 5 minutes each. I like talking about crappy prizes, and students like hearing about them and getting them. The Traveling Tray of PF returned this year—it’s the 2nd Place Bump Speech Award from 1981—as did the Traveling (Fruit) Cup for LD. The TT of PF now has a beautifully embossed nameplate, sort of, if pasting an index card on the back and attaching it with green tape and me scratching the name of the previous winners counts as beautiful embossing. There may be some dispute over that. The (Fruit) Cup winner, whose school doesn’t usually come to Bump, had the temerity (or foresight) to leave it behind after beautifully embossing his own name on it. Which means it will find its way into my basement where TK (pronounced teek) can use it as a scratching post when he’s down there chasing mice. By the way, O’C was saying how the retired can of soup that substituted for the fruit can during the wilderness years is looking pretty dicey on its perch at Bronx Science. He says when you shake it you can hear the meatballs still bouncing around in it. I had to break it to him that it was a can of chicken stock, sans meatballs, which made him start to worry about exactly what is bouncing around in there. We agreed that not shaking it again in the future would be the better part of valor.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In which we begin debriefing on Bump

Well, another Bump is in the history books.

We started up better than usual this year. At the point where we know everyone is on their way or here, pairings can start, and they did. Since people had either texted their information or simply checked themselves in from the road, we were golden. Registration table opened at 2:30, and my team crackheads the heads of my crack team collected the money while I hovered around feeling useless. Then I made the traditional opening remarks that easily half of the people in the cafeteria are able to hear, and there we were. I did a short briefing for the PF judges in the library, then went back out to get the novices started and on their way down the hill, and we were off and running. I gather that there were some issues when the novices arrived as the assembled Mothers Against Damned Debaters grabbed their innocent children and did their best to protect them from the clutches of the PF novices, but O’C and Kaz handled the day, and soon things were on an even keel. Luckily I wasn’t there for that. It’s probably not good form to open the tournament and start beating up on the MADD mothers. O’C and Kaz are much more politic than I am.

There were some magical moments. We had a glitch with the room pool assignments, so JV quickly redid the pools. No biggie, except for the room SB-2, which is in an alcove off the main entrance of the grammar school. JV thought it was in the high school, however, so he put it in for VLD. When round one went out, the judge assigned to SB-2 in the high school, a room that doesn’t exist, picked up her ballot, announced that she knew where that was, grabbed a debater and disappeared.

Much time passed. Three other debaters who were supposed to be in SB-2 were in the tab room looking perplexed. Knowing as I did that there was no SB-2 in the high school, I was now perplexed too. Grabbing my pith helmet and elephant rifle, I went off in search of this mythical spot. I looked in the basement, but all those rooms were locked, with “Keep Out Bumpites” signs on all the doors. Back upstairs, the three debaters looked at me desperately, asking me to help them, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope. All right, sez I. This time in addition to pith helmet and elephant rifle I grabbed our major domo and the A flight debater and tried again.

This time we went down not one flight but two. There were no lights. There was merely the suggestion of a path through the dark. Down a few more steps. Up a few steps. Down a few steps. Up a few steps. Indiana Jones (to change gears on the Lucas comparisons) would have turned back long ago.

And there was the judge. In a room marked Brigadoon, chatting away with the one lone debater. The door was locked. We banged on it for an hour or so before they finally heard us. I threw in my debater and told them to have their flight and, if they could, try to get back before Christmas. Then the major domo and I hurried back the way we came, chased by a giant ball.

Who says nothing interesting happens at debate tournaments? If this wasn’t worthy of a Tale of Great Debate Adventure, I don’t know what is.

(More to come.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In which we learn something new about MJP - judges don't matter

I find the following fascinating. It is far from scientifically certain, but I would expect that further exploration along this line, if someone had the time and some really good Excel skills, would confirm these conclusions.

My hypothesis is simply that MJP, or more to the point, judges in general, don’t matter that much. I’ve sensed glimmers of this in the past (and reported on it), but the more I think about it, the more true it seems. Obviously there’s exceptions, but we’re talking the rule here. And I think I can safely say that as a rule, good debaters can pick up just about any judge. MJP is nice, but it may turn out to be a more important tool for lesser debaters in the long run.

People use MJP as a tool for determining their judges. That’s a good idea, and I’m in favor of it. But of course, there are some rules of engagement in the tab room. First and foremost, teams on the bubbles get first priority for their prefs, moving up the win/loss scale to the undefeateds and then going down to the out-of-contention folk. What this means is that the people who will get their highest preferences at a tournament are the ones who need them most. The opposite is also true: the people who don’t get their highest preferences at a tournament are the ones who need them the least.

The Bump tournament had a small judge pool, ranked across 5 levels + strikes. With 83 VLDers over 5 rounds, the average pref was 1.7. That seems about the way it should be.

Of course, I was not tabbing my own tournament, but I was in the tab room often enough to watch the sausage being made. One round in particular stood out, round 4, where 8 out of the 10 of the undefeateds got 3s or 4s. As explained above, this is because there were a lot of people ahead of them in the line for the most desired judges. Meanwhile, there were times in the day when people came by to query a placement of a judge that seemed low. This got the little grey cells a-glowing.

Today I looked at the top four debaters at Bump, the semifinalists, and poked around on a spreadsheet. In prelims, they won 19 of 20 rounds. The one loss was in front of a 4 judge. But here’s the interesting part. The average pref for the tournament overall in prelims was 1.7. For these four folks, their averages in prelims were 2, 2, 2.4 and 2.6. One of them, who did not drop a ballot all day, got judges preffed 1,3,3,3,3! Another one of them, also undefeated in prelims, got two 4s.

What’s the unifying factor here? I would suggest that it’s not prejudicially favorable judge placement, but damned good debating despite the judge. I know way too many coaches who question placements. I’ve already reported on my unhappy experiences on Yale when we were forced to put out less than desirable placements and people stormed the proverbial barricades. My response was that maybe you should spend more time teaching your debaters how to appeal to a broad base of judges rather than complaining that you’re not getting your preferred narrow base.

The four top debaters at Bump (and I promise you their elim rounds were no picnic either) demonstrate—if not with statistical certainty then at least with anecdotal evidence that suggests that statistical certainty is possible—that good debating, winning the ballots from the judges you get, is the key to success. Trust me: the tab room has already done its best for you, but tab can only do so much. It’s the debaters who win rounds, not the pref sheets.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In which we open the Bump help desk

This is just a mild sampling of what I've seen in the last 24 hours. It’s—almost—verbatim.

Q: Can you tell me what PF topic you’ll be using in November?
A: The November topic. From 2019. Why wait till the last minute?

Coach: Please note that one of my students is allergic to Coquilles St. Jacques.
Me: Damn. And we had already prepared Coquilles St. Jacques for 400 people. I’ll tell them to toss it out and find some leftover debate ziti from back when Newburgh had the Bump weekend.

Q: What happens if it snows?
A: Precipitation freezes before it hits the ground and turns the water into little crystals.

Q: Can I switch a lot of things around completely?
A: Ka-ching!

Q: Can I have another slot in everything, and then another one, you’re the best, please please, none of them are showing any symptoms of Ebola, much, and I wouldn’t ask except I always do.
A: No, O’C, you can’t.

Coach: Can you put another LDer in, please?
Me: We’re at the point where people are going to be debating in the bathroom.
Coach: That’s fine. She’ll like that. She’s meant to debate in the bathroom.

Parent helper: Can I have some kids to help out cleaning up Saturday? But they have to be really good ones.
Me: Have you actually ever met any of our kids?
Parent helper: I’ve given birth to some of them.
Me: I rest my case.

Q: Can you explain a lot of stuff to me that’s clearly answered in your invitation?
A: Of course. I only write the invitation to keep my hands busy during the early part of the season.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In which we Bump things up

Bump is full. More than full. All shut down, moving along nicely. There are more tables being used for rounds in the library than I would normally like, but that’s what happens when PF is double the size of previous years. Of course, I’m seeing that at every tournament I do. PF is growing and thriving. LD certainly seems to be holding its own, however, at least for the time being. There is the issue of it being a lot easier to run a squad of single entries versus a squad of team entries, for one thing. On the other hand, I continue to read a lot of articles about LD on the various sites and blogs, and I progressively find that I understand less and less of it. I’m happy to ascribe some of this to my increasing mental decrepitude, but at the point where people are arguing with a straight face whether there is a need to address a resolution, ever, I wonder if all those kids on my lawn aren’t suffering from their own decrepitudes. Good grief!

The other events on the docket are also marching along. The Tiggers is overbooked, which means that the people who signed up yesterday are expressing surprise at being waitlisted. Really? Every day I see new tournaments come up on tabroom, and if they’re tournaments I like, I grab some slots. Alternately, I could wait a month and wake up one morning thinking, I wonder whatever happened to the such-and-such tournament that usually runs this weekend that I need hotels, airplane tickets and Secret Service clearance to attend, much less slots at the tournament. Other surprises, from the Bumpish universe: I need to cover all my entries with judging? Can’t you just make this one exception for little old me? This is a skep sheep trigger: i.e., I respond by explaining to them the Tragedy of the Commons. Why are you charging me for late changes if I almost made the deadline, kind of, except I really didn’t because I’m not quite used to having set the clocks back a couple of weeks ago? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So once more unto the breach this weekend, the annual low point of my night job. Just think. It will all be over on Sunday. Ahhhhh….

Monday, November 10, 2014

In which we discuss the Universal Right to Debate

There is, apparently, a perception by some of a universal Right to Debate at the high school level. This RTD is warranted thus: Debate is a very good thing, therefore all students are entitled to it. As far as I know, but I may be wrong about this, there are no other such rights in the high school community. In the normal course of events, students take advantage of whatever program a school has to offer, and only what a school has to offer. There is no perceived right to football, or fencing, or annual musical theater performances, or chess, or any other extracurricular activity that might be a good thing. Schools are not obligated to offer a complete menu of activities beyond basic education (which, in many cases, is hard enough). If a school does not have a particular program, no matter how good that program might have been if it existed, the fact that it doesn’t exist would seem to preclude participating in it.

Not so with debate. The RTD overrides all other concerns.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t believe in the benefits of forensics. Twenty years in, weekend after weekend, on my own dime, ought to demonstrate that. (Remember, I already have a day job.) The benefits of forensics are not in question here. What is in question is access to those benefits.

There are those who give time and money to working and developing programs. The Soros Group has, for instance. Certainly the NSDA is built around developing and maintaining programs in schools. Plenty of local organizations do likewise. Meanwhile, we have a broad network of camps for training debaters, after school or during summer breaks. We also have people who sell materials to debaters to enhance their performance, including the NSDA, which is not free and which offers expensive packages beyond basic membership. There is nothing wrong with this. Plenty of non-profits take money in to support their projects, and for-profit in general is also perfectly acceptable. Offer something that people want and sell it for a price they are willing to pay? Sure. Cap Good. No problem.

A lot of people love debate and its benefits. A lot of people have built careers around it. So far, so good.

Over the years, a broad network of competition has developed around the country. One way or another, this competition is open to various kinds of participation. NSDA and CFL (and MHL and NDCA and NYSDCA and NYSFL and presumably plenty of others) impose limits on who can be a member and therefore compete. None of these is entirely open to everyone. And I’ll throw in general invitationals here as well. For the most part, all of these competitions are open only to their members. In the case of some of them, membership is determined by various rules and some sort of dues payment. High school invitationals have a more common law sense of membership, a presumption that the participants are high school students; a corollary to this is that they represent the high schools they attend, and that they are not simply random students who happen to be attending high schools. Any high school debate tournament, with perhaps hundreds of students attending, needs to proceed on generally accepted criteria. That those hundreds of students are attending with the knowledge of—and as far as the tournament is concerned, recourse to—their official administrations has always been a given. The reason for this is because of the unfortunate possibility of something going wrong. It can be accidents, illness, whatever. I have seen serious instances of both over the years. Official entries from schools are equipped (as well as anyone can be equipped) to handle these situations. Adults are in place, medical forms are viable, etc. Additionally, tournaments can only run effectively when the participants understand the obligations of attending tournaments, knowing who has to be where, and when. The fiascos resulting from being a bad guest can equal the fiascos of being a bad host.

Until recently this has all been a given, an unspoken expectation. Today, however, we have RTD debaters who feel they are inherently entitled to debate.

There are two general universes of RTD debater. The first is the maverick, the lone wolf student from a school that doesn’t offer debate. Sometimes the school knows about this maverick, and supports the student’s endeavors. Sometimes not. The mavericks might arrive at a tournament alone, or with a college student who is not legally an adult, or with a parent who is acting merely as chaperone but who is often tossed into a judging pool with no understanding of the activity whatsoever (and, often, with little understanding of the English language). The only acceptable maverick, I would say, is the one traveling with the endorsement of the student’s school, in the company of an empowered adult. This adult can judge, or not, but only if the judge is up to the task (and as a former parent judge myself, I’m pretty liberal about this, and as a tab director, I’m usually happy to enable it by putting parent judges into PF rather than VLD). Unfortunately, the acceptable maverick is being outnumbered by those pulling shenanigans. False school names. False student names. The aforementioned English-as-a-non-existing-language parent in the VLD pool (getting no rounds, of course, and then asking me what to do about lodging for the night at 10 o’clock and I’m heading out to my own warm blanket). Nevertheless, the interwebs are bustling with pleas to let mavericks debate, regardless of (and sometimes in spite of) their shenanigans. After all, debate is good, and there is a universal RTD! Yes, it is, and no, there isn’t. If your school doesn’t offer a debate program, that is not the problem of the schools that do, nor the tournaments you wish to attend. If as much time and energy were spent within the school working with the administration to start teams, to provide debate—the good thing—to as many people as possible for the longest term possible, as is spent flying lone wolves from one circuit tournament to another, we’d have wall-to-wall novices every weekend.

The other general universe of the RTD debater is the club member. Until recently I think most folks have been accepting of club debaters, mostly because they hadn’t given them much thought. The club premise is simple: you pay them money, and they train you to debate. Straightforward enough on face. But because debate is a good thing, and there is a universal RTD, the clubs feel that they should be able to debate against high schools, representing the clubs. Which has led, in (my) recent memory to a series of shenanigans and mendacity and irresponsibility that has left no club untainted. Not paying registration fees? Oh, that must be some sort of miscommunication. Fines for not meeting obligations? Oh, you never send me that email (all five times). Club debaters from schools that actually have teams ending up facing each other in rounds, and going to tab to ask for new assignments? Or club debaters pretending to be representing a school only one of them attends? No adult responsible for the club at the tournament? Oh, I don’t know anything about that, even though I’m the only grownup here. One judge covering entries from multiple (most likely unofficial) schools and weaseling out of judge fees? You mean that’s unacceptable? How can that be? We’re wonderful people who really want as many people as possible to debate.

No, you’re not. You’re in the business of selling a service, and not doing a particularly good job of delivering that service, otherwise most tournaments I work at wouldn’t have banned you, for cause, from returning. The trail is clear. The reason clubs are being pushed out is not because we won’t “give them a chance” (as one article I saw put it), but because we have given them many chances and they’ve repeatedly screwed us over. Telling me that you’re really wonderful and things will be different this time isn’t going to hack it. The lack of responsibility on the other end seals it. If we have a problem with a school (and we have had such problems), we go to the administration of that school, which takes responsibility for it. If we have a problem with a club, we go to the administration of that club, and they disavow any knowledge of any wrongdoing, and tell us how wonderful they are and how much good they’re doing for debate, then they accuse us of discrimination, or being anti-education, or whatever else occurs to them to distract from their own shortcomings.

The clubs, as profit generators, can easily solve their problem by going to the schools of their clients and working toward official entry as those schools. As for the lone wolves, they can stop thinking about their own attendance at TOC and start thinking about how they can bring the benefits of debate—which they claim is a universal right—to others. You think these efforts won’t be rewarded? You think wrong. But you think ignoring making these efforts won’t be noticed? You think really wrong. Those of us who have given their souls to debate want nothing more than everyone possible debating, not because there’s a universal right to debate, but because there’s a universal value derived from debating. But the non-school community, clubs and independents, have brought down the wrath of the school community on themselves, making a hard thing—running tournaments—into something even harder, turning registration into an adversarial process, and making people like me get progressively more angry.

C’est tout.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

In which we send a tournament into oblivion, among other things

We did it. We canceled the Montwegian MHL. As far as I can recall, this is the first time ever that this has happened. It’s as if a blanket of befuddlement fell on the debate community, disconnecting everyone from their normal pursuit and making them all forget how they spend their weekends. And meanwhile they’re breaking down the doors at Sailorville to get into Bump.

Weird craziness.

I sent out the 2 minute warning on Bump TBAs last night. I’ll drop them tomorrow, if any. I don’t think anyone really doesn’t know who they are bringing, so I’m more interested in getting them to get rid of who they’re not bringing. I’m still waiting for final room count from the grammar school, where the novices will be. I’m hoping to squeeze a little more blood from that particular turnip, but who knows? Part of the problem of modern life that prevents me from having the information I need to operate is the number of people I deal with who do not consider email an acceptable form of communication. I do realize that in the younger circles mail of any sort is an alien beast, but I also notice that at the DJ, if I want to communicate with someone, I use mail for mail-like things, IMs for instant-like things, and talking on the phone for talk-like things. A medium for everything and everything in its medium. All communication is not a text, in other words. A text implies immediacy. Read this immediately! Now! An email implies, read this when you can and act accordingly, and it will be in your inbox so you’ll be able to find it now and again later. It has always been among my goals to civilize the savages who venture onto my team. The ability to communicate like an adult is, I think, a part of that civilizing. The reward to them is participation on the team, which one presumes is of value to them. Then again, I wonder how they can avoid email so easily. They all have smart phones, all of which notify you when you get mail. Sharper than serpents’ teeth, these kids these days who are mucking up my lawn.

Of course, I’m also plagued by people who don’t use email because they’re, they claim, not computer savvy. In 2014? Jeesh. I got my first office computer in 1991. Where have these people been since the Papa Bush administration? Yeah, maybe you’re not proficient in Perl 5.20, but reading your mail?

[This is where I put down the computer, so to speak, stand up and bang my head against the wall. Again. That’s why I have no hair. The wall wore it off.]

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

In which we are earnest

For reasons that defy analysis, we are teetering on the brink of cancelling the Monti MHL In a word, no one is signing up. Granted, it’s always been a smallish event, but it is nevertheless always been a useful one. (Then again, I haven’t got any Sailors going to it, so who am I to complain? I think in our case it’s because people are taking this opportunity to pursue their other extracurricular activities. There are other extracurricular activities? Who knew?)

I was disappointed this morning to see that O’C will be doing Oscar Wilde for next Halloween, rather than my choice, which was Chester Bea Arthur, which would have allowed him to reuse most of this year’s costume. Then again, I am thinking of going with him next year, wearing boxing gloves. (True Wildeans will get that reference, which is pretty nasty. The rest of you can Google it. And I am a true Wildean. Always have been. There’s even a character called Bunbury in Nostrum. And to be honest, I’m probably a bigger fan of Wilde than I am of Bea Arthur, so there you are.) Anyhow, prepare for sunflowers. I do hope O’C brings along someone to portray the wife and kiddies. And Bosie. (And even more parens: the wag who coined “If you were smarter, I’d be funnier,” use to work with me at the DJ, where, he once claimed, when it comes to editing our books, “the love that dare not speak its name can take a number.”)

Meanwhile, I’m really threatening the Fates with Bump division sizes, which are way too big for the sites. I won’t say I’m rooting for Ebola to hit the region, but a little dengue fever wouldn’t be so bad. Or the yaws. Whatever. I’m just hoping there’s a sudden whoosh of registrants toward the exit when things close next Monday. I don’t think many of them will be replaced.

Monday, November 03, 2014

In which we drive through Scarsdale with our noses pressed up against the bus windows, watching all the well-to-do puttin' on the ritz

Walt Disney World has been trying to keep it hushed up, but apparently someone stole the audio animatronic Chester A. Arthur from the Hall of Presidents last week. Fortunately, there was a duplicate CAA being used as one of the cavemen in Spaceship Earth because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many people riding the attraction who look at the caveman and say, You know, that Neanderthal looks suspiciously like our nation’s 21st President, or vice versa. So the caveman is now in the Hall of Presidents in place of CAA; he’s the one wearing a bearskin. What role WDW suspects that O’C played in all of this has yet to be published.

While himself was giving out antique flags to people and telling them, “Chester A. Arthur, you spalpeen, not Rutherford B. Hayes”—and for those of you who have trouble with this, you can tell that Hayes preceded Arthur in office if you go by their middle initials but turn them around, a handy guide indeed—the rest of us were resting up for the Scarswegian CFL. As I walked into the building Saturday morning, JV promised me that we would get in a full four rounds because we could single flight, as he had more extra people on his team than he could shake the proverbial stick at, and sure enough, that’s what we did. Everything went swimmingly on the nuts and bolts side, except somewhere along the line the PF event description disappeared, and tabroom was unwilling to put it back. Likewise with another tournament Catholic Charlie was working on (we were together in tab). I told him to photograph it and send it to CP as proof that 1) there was a problem and 2) I wasn’t causing it. Normally I would do a screenshot rather than a tabroom selfie, but I have no idea how to do screenshots on a PC, and we were working on Scarswegian machines that were all of the Windows persuasion. We were also working in the lovely library, a space way more conducive to good tabbing than the usual spot JV gives us in the science wing surrounded by all sorts of, well, science. Not that I have anything against science, mind you—if it wasn’t for science, we wouldn’t have Velcro—but this was bright and airy with a soupcon of cell service. What more could you ask for? And they do have an invitational coming up...

Meanwhile, on other fronts, the DJ remains nutty, which is why I haven’t been posting much because my free time has gone elsewhere as a result. I expect this to keep up for a while, and I apologize to the VCA for it in advance. There are only so many hours in the day, but I understand that CP is working on that for the next release of tabroom. I’ll report back then, no doubt whining about it mercilessly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

In which we ponder the Newark MHL

We only got 3 rounds out at the First-Timers’ MHL. Why I continue to think every year that we’ll be able to get 4 out is the proverbial triumph of hope over experience. Oh, well. It’s always worth a try.

First of all, there was the team that ate the tournament for breakfast. We shall never see them or their director again. I got to enjoy watching O’C ream out said director. In the past we have ranked me as passive-aggressive, Kaz as educational-aggressive, and JV as aggressive-aggressive. We’ve never ranked O’C on this scale, because he is slow to explode. But when he does? Nuclear aggressive! No living thing could possibly survive it.


Then there were all the usual problems with a borrowed building, like locked rooms. That can eat up half an hour without batting an eye.

And finally there were computer problems. First of all, we couldn’t log in, and worse, I didn’t get decent reception on my mifi. So there was that to contend with. And then we had what I can only refer to as latency problems. Some school networks simply don’t have the ability to manage what we do on tabroom. I talked to CP about this, and he claims it’s either latency and proxies or we’re doing something wrong and hitting a wrong button. But I don’t know what button to press that gives different results of the same data on different devices. That’s a server issue, somehow. And when I think about it, we hardly ever run on high school servers, and the two biggest meltdowns this year, at Yale and Newark, were on high school servers, and they both failed because of latency issues.

This problem can be solved. Don’t use unreliable servers. How do you know if a server is unreliable? For me, if it’s in a high school, which all sorts of controls of what can and can’t be accessed, it can’t be trusted. I have a mifi, and I’ve ordered a better one to come later in the fall. I’ll use that, or I’ll use Kaz’s phone if she’s around. If we’re on a college network, we’re pretty safe, I think. We had no problems at Princeton, Columbia or Penn. And if you must use an unreliable server, just have one station pairing rounds and printing/pushing. At least that way, what you get is what you get, as compared to what you get is one thing and what Joe gets is another thing and what Jon gets is another thing and when you send it to CP, he gets yet another thing.

The bind moggles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In which we ramble

I’ve fallen behind in just about everything, or as we put it while we’re eating the haggis, it’s all ganged agley. I blame it on the DJ. I’ve essentially doubled my workload without doubling the hours in the day. Something’s got to give, and the extracurricular stuff in debate (albeit not the core stuff) suffers, things like updating my how-to docs and the like. Oh, well. The ship of Hud sails on, but the Menickean dinghies are not being launched with their usual rapidity.

CP copped to the finals problem at Jake. He was tinkering with something over here, and while he wasn’t looking something over there squeezed out of the tube. Or something like that. Good. Better him than me.

We had a practice round last night for our new novices. Always entertaining to see how people get started. Of course, that’s why we have events solely for starting novices. If stomachs are going to heave and brains implode as the adrenaline erupts, at least everyone else is in the same boat. But the plebes did quite well, and they don’t have to worry about embarrassing themselves this weekend.

This year at the first-timers MHL, because it is first timers, it made sense that they not debate the Oct topic on 10/25, which would mean exactly one shot for them at that topic and then a switch. Normally they’d get two shots at Sept-Oct, but this year the calendar didn’t like that. So they’re debating Nov's GMFs. Which means that at this tournament, f-t PF is Nov topic, non f-t pf is Sept-Oct topic, novice LD is modest novice, jv LD is Sept-Oct LD, and policy is the 1862 Abolish the Whig party topic. Can you say Yikes? I’ve been getting a steady stream of questions about this, but realistically, in terms of who’s debating what, it makes sense. In terms of running a tournament, it’s absolutely nuts. Oh, well. It will all be over on Sunday, and it won’t be the first time we’ve run a nutty tournament.

Not much movement on the Bump front, meanwhile. There’s been the tiniest bit of attrition, but not enough to matter. People are still potentially debating in the janitor’s closet, the water closet and the Great Pit of Carkoon, which is not so wonderful a situation. The tiny number of available judges for hire, which I broadcast today, may sweep out some of the hoi and the polloi. We’ll see. We still have three weeks. (Three weeks? Great googly moogly!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In which we pretty much wrap up Jake

One does get to see all sorts of people one hasn’t seen for a while at Big Jake, which is a good thing for the most part. The truth be told, I’m more likely to be ducking bumping into locals rather than avoiding far-flungs, as the locals are more likely to have annoyed me recently while the far-flungs annoyed me long enough ago that I’ve probably forgotten about it. Then again, I’ve forgotten what I had for breakfast this morning, so maybe it’s a wash.

Throughout all of this, O’C is like a stereotypical Japanese tourist who has to have his picture taken in front of all the sights. He did it on the DisAd, and he did it at Jake. Check out his FB pix. O’C standing in front of this alum or that alum. O’C standing in front of this coach or that coach. O’C standing in front of the Foods of the World Unite. O’C standing in front of the trophies (which, given that some of them are as big as the Ritz, make him look teeny weeny indeed). O’C standing in front of the urinal. O’C standing in front of the Mr. Softee truck. Actually, that last one was with a purpose, as Mr. Softee has now been officially awarded a Bronx Achievement Award. Personally, given that Mr. S never has chocolate dipping sauce to make what I used to call a Brown Bonnet, I think the award was unearned. But you try to stop O’C from giving an award: I don’t have the stamina.

Then again, I can’t say I saw much of himself over the weekend. CP and I were ensconced in the principal’s conference room, a quite comfortable space that is small enough to discourage tab leeches. We had a good team of major and minor domos, and when we needed to find out why someone hadn’t pressed the right button a mile away, they went and got the button pressed. Then again, one of them kept slurping bubbles at the bottom of his empty iced tea glass. Hmmmmm. That’s a hanging offense. Unfortunately we had blocked internet access, so CP had to do some of his magic to connect us to Sporcle, but once he had done so, even bubble-slurping couldn’t bother us.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this there was an NDCA board meeting, which didn’t move the needle much. I couldn’t get my computer to Skype, presumably because of the blocks, so eventually I did it on my phone, which worked fine. But there were no revolutions, counterrevolutions, or even blips on the screen. Then again, I wasn’t expecting any, so there you are.

Since there were no major explosions of irate pitchfork-carrying coaches into LD tab, I have to believe that we did a pretty decent job. If I never see another mob of irate pitchfork-carrying coaches exploding into LD tab, I will die happy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

In which we debrief on the events of the previous weekend

Seriously, I don’t have much to say about Big Jake.

I guess the issue of electronic balloting is a big deal, but it went over so well that we barely noticed it in tab. We did have one judge without usable electronics, so for a few rounds we had to remember to print out the ballot and, later, to sort the ballot, but that was it. Of course, this was LD. I gather things were dicier in the PF universe, where many of the judges are unaware that electricity has been harnessed for the home, but Father M seemed to be functioning okay despite this. Policy, needless to say, had no issues with e-ballots, they all being old hands at it.

Speaking of electricity, we did have one yabbo who came by to claim that he couldn’t debate because he had no access to electricity in his room. As we were rolling on the floor in hysterics, he mumbled something about running a electrical socket critique and I think he thought that this threat would sober us up. I will point out that he did not accept our offer to print his cases for him, since he couldn’t read them off his dead computer. He sniffed at this unlikely scenario and was never heard from again. The only other interesting confrontation was when we were going to forfeit students who hadn’t shown up for their round, after, I might add, determining that there could have been no confusion about where to go. We were operating under the assumption that, if the judge is in the room and a runner comes in and the judge says there are no kids, and the runner goes down to tab and reports it and then goes back to the judge and then back to tab again, and the kids still haven’t shown up, the argument from the coach that the judge wasn’t there is, well, not very strong. We rescheduled the round because, well, we’re wonderful human beings that way, but people, here’s the thing. Go to your room. If something is amiss, and there are 1000 runners within Ebola contagion distance, tell one of them that something is amiss. Do not shrug and wander off, or sit down and read a book and discontinue paying attention to the situation that you thought was amiss. In other words, stay where you’re supposed to be and report the situation. This is not contradictory advice, since most debate rounds have at least 2 people involved in them and often more; one can report the problem while the other holds the fort. And don’t wait an hour before reporting the amiss-ness, especially if you are all alone. The thing is, if you are all alone, you are probably in the wrong place. The longer you remain there, the less likely we can set amisses aright. Too bad common sense is on the endangered species list.

It was fun to work with CP. I’m thinking this is the first time we’ve sat together using tabroom, and I have to admit, I learned a few things. There is something to be said for having the creator of the application in the chair next to you. At some point he was beavering away fixing a bug, but to be honest, I didn’t notice the bug at the time and for all I know it was in answer to an online problem submission, of which there are many throughout the day. A bit of advice: if you have a problem, be specific. Help requests along the lines of, say, “I find your program generally confusing,” don’t really suggest avenues of pursuit to solve the problem, although they do provide some welcome comic relief. Also, comments like, “My school doesn’t have a program and I want to create a phony school so my daughter can attend tournaments,” aren’t really advisable if I’m reading them (and I am). Then again, I got an email this morning from someone who wants to send their kid to the upcoming MHL in policy, and asked if we could provide a partner since the kid has none, and ended by asking what the topic is. That’ll work.

Anyhow, I learned some new tricks from CP, who promises to find a new host for the program, given that the present host is occasionally slower than some metaphorically really slow thing. There were only a couple of big tournaments running over the weekend (Jake and HOT), and combined they shouldn’t have been able to stop things quite so dead in their tracks as they did. The only problem we had, and I suspect it was (my) user error (although I can’t imagine why), was pairing the final round. Fortunately, in this particular final round there were only about 2 debaters, and we had plenty of judges to choose from. We all suspected that reentering data from the previous round or two would fix the problem; JV did exactly that, and yes, it did the job. In any case, it wasn’t particularly a disaster, just an annoyance. The trains continued to roll on time, which is all that anyone can ask.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In which we preview this year's BB Opening Award Ceremony

I read in the Times this morning that the Dutch Army—all of it—has checked into the tournament hotel, so they’ll be ready for the opening ceremony on Friday. They’ll be marching into the auditorium in full battle regalia, acting as an honor guard for this year’s winners of the Bronx Disillusion Awards, given annually to former debate people who have demonstrated a firm resolve to get as far away from the activity as possible until Jon Cruz set a trap for them in their backyards and hauled them in bodily, torturing them by repeated forced viewings of the Bea Arthur segment of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Show until they finally capitulated and agreed to show up, just make it stop, just make it stop, JUST MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!

After the induction of the new honorees, there will be a musical interlude during which Stephen Sondheim ’47 (well, not really, he went to the George School in Pennsylvania, but he probably wishes he went to Bronx Science, so we’ll just fudge it) will conduct the Sumerian Philharmonic Orchestra in a rousing rendition of the Bronx Fight Song (“Pick up your pencils, put down your pencils, hand in your papers, try not to drop the ball this time you schmegeggie”) followed by the original cast of “Oh Calcutta” performing a medley of their hit from the show. It is unclear whether or not they will be wearing their costumes from the show.

Next up, Jon Cruz will descend from the rafters in a hot air balloon. Given the amount of hot air at the average Bronx opening ceremony, this is probably not going to be as impressive as it sounds. Once his feet hit the ground, followed presumably by the rest of him, Cruz will make the preliminary announcements, telling the assembled multitudes the amount of prep time for Declamation Debate, that the official name for Policy at the Bronx is Polic-I-Mean-Team Debate, that the bathrooms will be closed for the duration of the weekend in honor of preserving the oceans (this year’s Polic-I-Mean-Team Debate resolution), and that those people you saw at the entrance to the building in hazmat suits are purely coincidental and you shouldn’t pay the least bit of attention to them.

At around this time, as everyone in the auditorium is about ten minutes into streaming the latest episode of NCIS: Ripon and paying no attention whatsoever to what’s happening on the stage, the curtain will pull back to reveal the Bolshoi ballet performing the Ballbuster Nutcracker Suite accompanied by some guy with GarageBand hacked onto an Apple 2GS. Seven of the people in the auditorium will look up momentarily and then go back to their television show.

In the Grand Finale of the ceremony, following a brief demonstration of the Glorious Dancing Fountains Water Vaganza (all other vaganzas are, of course, extra), this year's travelling awards will travel on their own power from whoever had them last year down to the stage, where they will take pride of place among the 3,283,291 other awards already on the stage waiting to be presented. A fifteen minute firework display, a short prayer for the repose of the immobile and the release of 1500 pigeons of the world into the auditorium will mark the end of the event.

(NOTE: all participants at the award ceremony will be given an umbrella in advance of the pigeon release.)

(ALSO NOTE: the serving of squab internationale for lunch on Saturday as part of the Foods of the World Unite is entirely unrelated to the pigeon release. However, a bounty of a buck a pidge will be paid out immediately following the closing of the opening ceremony. How many other tournaments can you think of that offer you a chance to earn back your entry fee?)

Monday, October 13, 2014

In which we return from the frigid north

Another Monticello Kaiser tournament goes into the record books.

This was one of our “Academy” tournaments, aimed at younger students who might get shut out from events like Big Bronx. So can someone explain to me why people aren’t breaking down the doors? An awful lot of schools didn’t sign up, and they are the schools who would seem to benefit most from such an event. Are they too hoity-toity for such things? “TOC bids only, please, before we wear out any of our precious shoe leather.” Whatever. A few schools blew off their entry and dropped after the fee deadline. This could be problematic for their entry at, say, Bump. Why do people forget that the handful of people in tab are the same people week after week? Do they just think that we’ll forget they stuck a school with extra food and extra trophies that proved unnecessary? Oh, well. There’s good debate citizenry and bad debate citizenry, and the usual suspects always seem to be the usual suspects, and what can you do? I support the good citizens as I become progressively less interested in the bad ones. Do what you want, folks. But don’t be surprised when I do what I want on my end.

We did have some tabbing problems. One of them, a soupcon of mis-flighting, CP says he was able to correct. The other one, the wrong people advancing, was entirely my fault, because of a bad setting that I put in. The problem is that when something like that happens, after about a minute of panic, one sets about moving the tournament along come hell or high water, which we did (I was working with Kaz), first by hand and then by recalling a workaround for this from past experience. We never did realize the root cause until CP pointed it out after the fact. As I told him, thank God it was user error. That I can learn from and fix. I just worry about people who aren’t us, using this program week after week. I’ve been wondering if it would make sense to put out a default set of tournaments that people can copy and work from, rather than always starting from scratch (or from what’s input from the last iteration of the tournament, which is moot if there was none in tabroom). Isn’t it better to adjust defaults than to have to always fill in everything? Anyhow, I’ve often said that most of tabroom success is based on setting things up right, because there’s so bloody much to set up. That has proven true once again.

Still, I got home for dinner, and on the bright side, our PFers managed to get a winning record and break to octos. Very nice. I’ve got to remember to put in their NSDA points. (There’s a new one for the Sailors!)

And finally, prefs opened today for Big Jake. Things seems to be working fine, aside from the fact that there were two Ryan Hamiltons listed as LD judges, and popular opinion is that one Ryan Hamilton is more than enough to do the job. I fixed that, and then I went in and conflicted The People’s Champion and my daughter, neither of which should probably judge Hen Hud. As for PF strikes and LD prefs, I’ve set it up so that the Sailors can handle that themselves, another nice feature of tabroom.

Meanwhile, O’C is floating on an uncharacteristic sea of calm for these last few days before the event. Obviously he’s in denial.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

In which we leak the instructions to the PF judges

As we were able to discover the guidelines to the LD judges on speaker points at the upcoming NYC Invitational, we have also discovered an early version of the overall instructions to the PF judges that will be printed on the ballots. Whether these instructions will be final remains to be seen.

TOPIC: It is better for professional sports teams to play in stadiums than on the streets, but if we hear about just one more pro athlete behaving badly we should stop professional sports altogether and go back to reading Thoreau, which is almost as exciting as, say, the World Series or the Superbowl, provided you have a really low threshold for defining the concept of exciting.
• Judges should decide the round as it is debated, not based on their personal beliefs. In other words, the debaters are not here to change your mind, but to convince you as if you had no mind at all, which I assure you is what they will believe if you don't vote for them.
• Written ballots are important to the coaches to understand what happened in the round. This could require the judge to actually pay attention during the round, and we apologize in advance if this is an inconvenience.
• We understand that this may be the first time some of you have been exposed to spoken English, so when it comes time to write your ballot, don’t get carried away. “The Pro Teem Was Moor Serpuasive” is about as much as you need to say, especially if you think the Con won.
• We are hoping to have total adoption of electronic ballots. To enable this process, you can use either a computer, a tablet or a smart phone to access our wireless. If this last sentence was a total mystery to you, tab will be happy to provide you with paper ballots completely filled out, including the winners and losers and the RFD, “The Pro Teem Was Moor Serpuasive.”
• Debaters should advocate or reject the resolution in manner clear to a non-specialist citizen judge. That’s you. Clash of ideas is essential to debate. Clash of fists, on the other hand, is taking things a little too far. If fisticuffs do break out during a round you are adjudicating, the prudent course for you to take is to let them duke it out. Each debater should be assigned speaker points in the opposite order of hitting the canvas.
• Debaters should display logic and reasoning, advocate a position, use evidence, and communicate clear ideas using professional decorum. Like that’s gonna happen…
• Neither the pro nor con should offer a plan or counterplan, defined as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. Rather, they should offer reasoning to support a position of advocacy. Debaters may offer generalized, practical solutions. The funny thing is, despite the fact that all this doesn’t make much sense and there’s virtually no way to address most resolutions without evaluating implementation, we stick by it. Worse, half the time debaters in the round who are offering a plan or counterplan immediately cry foul when the opponents offer a plan or counterplan and demand an immediate victory for their side. Judges who can work their way through this conundrum are to be congratulated.
• Crossfire should be dedicated to questions and answers rather than reading evidence. Evidence may be referenced. There are probably other things we could say about crossfire, like for instance it may or may not be important, it may or may not be counted into your decision calculus, and it may or may not be clear who is asking whom what, but those are beside the point. The important thing for the judge is to somehow survive the Grande Crossfire, where all four debaters are talking at once and no one is making any sense. Meanwhile, you can thank your lucky stars that we are not using Venti Crossfire, where the judge also has to participate. If you have noise-cancelling headphones, Grande Crossfire is the time to use them.
• No new arguments may be introduced in the Final Focus; however, debaters may include new evidence to support prior arguments. The reason for this is, of course, that you can’t start something new to which your opponents will not be able to reply. However, once the round is over and the decision is announced, the losing debaters are encouraged to take on an attitude of high dudgeon and explain to the judge how idiotic this decision is and to attempt to convince the judge to change the decision. Judges are encouraged to entertain such suggestions, and run into the tab room and explain how they didn’t know what they were doing until these helpful debaters explained it more clearly. That way the tab room will have a good laugh while surreptitiously marking you as a C judge for the next round.
• Debaters must supply evidence on request to the judge or their opponents. Evidence is, surprisingly, not the sentence in their case where they said that 34% of all dentists recommend Viagra to their patients who chew gum. Evidence is a copy of the original article in Dental-Marital Arts Magazine where the dentists themselves said that 34% of all dentists recommend Viagra to their patients who chew gum. Don’t be fooled by substitutes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

In which we succumb to the annual October tempation

The following was leaked from this year’s Fairly Large Bronx tournament. I’m not sure if it represents what they’ll actually print on the LD ballots.

Judges: Please use the following guidelines for assigning speaker points.
30: avoid at all costs, unless you want Vaughan to come out of tab and hit you over the head with a frying pan
29: debater paid a boatload of money for private coaches
28: lone LDer on all-Speech squad hoping to last long enough to have to find private transportation home to avoid the singing of show tunes on the bus
27: may break to runoff round, but will then immediately be torn into limp Froot Loops by the top seed
26: unlikely to break to runoff round at this tournament, the next tournament, or for that matter any tournament ever, and should have joined the 43-man Squamish team when he had the chance
25: ran an RBI vs an SUV while misquoting the TMI card, creating a violation of the DMV for the IRS and not responding to repeated cries of “Hey, you, wake up!” (Or something like that. I mean, it's LD. Who knows what the hell anyone is talking about anymore?)
24 and below: use only for exceptionally poor fashion/grooming choices including rampant nose hair, Doctor Who bowties and VPBs (visible plumber's butts). Wearing Chester A. Arthur costume is unlikely to sway anyone but the tournament director, and who cares what he thinks?

We will be using tenths of points despite our belief that the likelihood of any judge objectively being able to assign a range of 50-60 different designations between 24 and 30 is about as likely as any judge being able to identify chemical elements from their atomic number. (Quick: What’s 105?) Keep in mind that when a round is 28.6 v 27.2, the tab room will inevitably fall on the floor laughing while the judge nevertheless maintains that he/she knows exactly what those points mean. [Snort!]

Because we are using a scale that defies everything we know about the human ability to choose between more than a handful of alternatives, no tied points will be allowed, as that would make things too easy. Untied points will also not be allowed.

Low point wins are acceptable, but meaningless if it’s only a tenth of a point. If you’re going to assign a LPW, make it a humdinger, like 29.9 v 21.2. Now that’s the kind of low point win you can take to the bank.

(Fans of this sort of thing are advised to check out http://coachean.blogspot.com/2011/10/big-bronx-schedule.html)

Monday, October 06, 2014

In which we marginally debrief on the MHL-W

Yesterday was this year’s iteration of the MHL Workshop. Quite a healthy turnout, given that it was a Sunday, and the day after Yom Kippur. The timing was nice because the PFers got to talk about GMOs, plus there were demo rounds in PF and LD, A couple of Sailors were in the PF demo, plus one of our novices came along for the ride. She didn’t run out of the car screaming when we got back to Hudville, which I guess is a good sign.

A question was asked during our new-coach meeting about whether debate is growing. Who knows, but it certainly feels that way, especially in PF. I mean, think about it. Very little starting friction, in that virtually any teacher with the time can try coaching it; minimal buy-in for students, as compared to Policy or LD, which now both have a special Sell-Your-Soul signup page on the NSDA site; plenty of tournaments within spitting distance (at least in the northeast, and at all levels). I don’t think it’s much of a leap to say that PF in 2014 is much like LD in 1994 in its growing popularity and its easy accessibility. I won’t offer thoughts on where it will be in 20 years, but it’s certainly thriving now. If it can maintain its accessibility, it will probably still be doing fine. If I suggest using MJP at a PF, please hit me over the head with a frying pan at the first opportunity.

Bump is filled up and then some. O’C claims he knows a way to make “rooms” appear out of thin air. I certainly hope so.

One thing O’C and I did yesterday was go over Lotsa Bronksa. (O'C and JV did likewise for Speech.) LD is now completely set up, and I gave Kaz a buzz to set up Polic—Team Debate (that’s the official name of the activity) likewise. Next up, I’ll talk to Fr M about setting up PF. Quelle fun! While there are plenty of functions that O’C is exciting about in tabroom.com, the ability to name each round individually ranks highest among these. It’s not just heterosexualdecimals anymore. Each round can be named after an individual. I also understand that the Republican Party has bought round 2 of Polic—Team Debate, in honor of O’C’s C.A. Arthur Halloween costume. Whatever. I’ve put a bid in to buy the naming rights to the bathroom break after round 5, but I’m still waiting to hear if I was outbid by McDonalds.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

In which we talk about independent entries

There's been lots of bad craziness in certain quarters having nothing to do with forensics, so I won’t bother you with that. We'll just get down to our own craziness.

I have to admit that I’m amused by the so-called arguments in favor of independent entries. I mean, we’ve had independent entries for as long as I can remember, starting back usually with an eager LDer accompanied by a long-suffering parent. Some of our favorite judges (and people) were those parents, because they were usually pretty smart people who understood the activity and listened to the arguments and made relatively clear decisions based on easy to understand criteria. One wishes one could say that about all judges. Anyhow, as far as I know, no one is trying to eliminate such entries from the field. There are certain aspects of such entries, for instance, a presumed privilege set, given that it’s their own money, but they carry the benign agreement of their schools that they do what they’re doing. I’ve seen some arguments about liability and such with parents, but at the core I wonder if anyone is really worried about that. I guess when something horrible happens, that attitude will change, but at the moment, that’s all really beside the point.

The other independent entries I have experience of is paid-for programs that teach debate. Without exception, every one of these I have dealt with has caused unacceptable problems. They've lied, created bogus schools, flouted judge obligations, and turned all sorts of tricks wreaking amazing havoc in the tab room when their shenanigans are eventually uncovered. The idea that these folks are white knights fighting for a universal right to debate who deserve a chance runs counter to the experiences we’ve had in the time that we have given them the chance. They have uniformly behaved badly. To suggest that some of what they do is non-unique does not address the fact that, if a school does it, I have recourse to that school’s administration (recourse which we have taken) but when one of these programs does it, and you go to find the adult supervisor and there isn’t one, and when you fall back on email and the registrant was actually the student with a secondary email, well, you’ve gotten nowhere.

I’m certainly in favor of more debate for more people. I’m in favor of schools doing a lot of good things for more people. I also understand that education dollars are limited (which I feel is one of the great failings of our society). But let’s face it. Families are spending a lot of money to get their kids independent debate training. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if they want to participate in organized high school debate, they need to be part of the high school debate organization. They obviously have the money to put into that effort, and the paid-for programs have the incentive to funnel their protégés into organized programs, so let them do that. But meanwhile, I hate to say it, but years of unacceptable behavior are pretty hard to ignore, and are also not worth arguing about, which is why I haven’t gotten involved in any “forums” on the subject. All of these programs have given me good reasons not to have anything to do with them: a lot of talk about how wonderful they are is extremely unlikely to make me forget those bad experiences.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In which we open registration

Oh joy. Oh rapture. Bump registration is now open.


I’ve sent out the Pretty Final agenda for the workshop Sunday. There’s an assumption of two groups each of PF and LD and one group of Policy. Someone sent me an email asking about why there’s no policy demo, the answer to which is, sure, let’s have one. Need debaters, though. It’s being worked on.

After that, we’re on to the Kaiser. Numbers so far are good, and I think there’s a couple of schools not signed up yet, so we’re on course. This tournament has been one I’ve worried about, for reasons I’ve often discussed, and I think we’ve succeeded in bringing it back from the brink. Unfortunately nowadays everybody on earth thinks they’re a TOC debater and only wants to be a part of the $ircuit, which is just silly. By me, the existence of an invitational tournament for mid-level students, like what the Kaiser has become, is a great thing. It spreads debate to way more people than limited access and bids and all that, not to mention the nature of this tournament is way more accessible to students who haven’t sold their souls to the debate satans. I mean, it’s high school debate, which ought to be available to many many people, including those who do not have TOC or anything like it on their radar. More debate for more people? Good. Very specialized debate for very specialized people? Good, but only for those people. You know where my commitment is.

Anyhow, now I’ve got to hire Bump judges. If you’re of that persuasion, get in touch.

Monday, September 29, 2014

In which we point out where the next 6 weeks are headed

I spent a very productive weekend working on the curriculum. There’s a big difference between doing LD for 3 months and switching to PF and just starting out doing PF. Before, for instance, we’d work on the parts of a round, and then just adjust from LD to PF, but now that we’re starting with PF, the parts of a round need a full and different explanation from what I was using. And prioritization of subjects is different. I’d ease into research a bit later for LD, where it’s an important concern, than I will for PF, where it’s a paramount concern. Remember, I was raised on an LD where you could get by entirely on case analytics, and research was something one dabbled in. This was predicated on resolutions that had no real-world connection. I’m not saying that LD today is concerned with the real world—although the resolutions are—whereas in PF, the real world is all there is. Anyhow, lots of rearranging and rewriting and rethinking, including the tossing overboard of the whole concept of value/criterion (which, I maintain, still needs to inform case thinking, albeit implicitly rather than explicitly). And we’ve got all of 4 meetings to get it into the plebe head in readiness for the first tournament. Oh, well. Starting one’s debate career is more about getting over the stomach butterflies and learning to eat debate ziti and to dress like a little lawyer than actually debating. That will come with experience. We don’t start theoretical life saver instruction by teaching swimming; we start by showing them what water is.

I also think I’ve got the MHL Workshop agenda polished up. I sent it out today to the instructors, and then it will go on to the assembled multitudes. O’C and I managed to weasel out of doing too much, but then again, I have a lot of things I want to go over with him on El Largo Bronco which is, after all, only a couple of weeks away, not to mention the RR. Oh, yeah, and at some point I need to post the First Timers’ on tabroom. We’re definitely back at Central High School. Last time I got lost 1) coming and 2) going, so I have a bit of past performance that needs improving on. I figure that this time I’ll have a bus and be able to spend my time navigating rather than avoiding being run down by Jersey drivers, who are like Boston drivers without the Red Sox bumper stickers.

I’ve also just filed the paperwork for getting the buildings for Bump. And next Monday is parent night, which among other things means locking the door and letting no one out until all the volunteer slots are filled. Jeesh. Bump already. I hope you’re ready for about 6 weeks of monotonous whining.