Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In which we start taking steps toward change

Na’ah. I have no comment about TOC. I wasn’t there. So what do I know?

I just got a call yesterday about this year’s Pups. I had already been talking to Vigars about this and that for the Pups at NDCA, but I was surprised that they’re this early. They want to go live with their invite the end of this week! I’ve been putting off sending my thoughts, thinking I had all the time in the world. So much for that. I am asking them to do a couple of things. First, a version of the student advocate. Second, entries only from actual high schools. Third, waitlist only registration. Fourth, judge obligations for all through Octas.

I could write a million words on each of these.

As for the SA, I proposed this around and got either a response that it was a good idea, try it and see what happens, as it will mostly act to put judges on alert that they can't be assholes, which is what I was thinking, or else people thought that I was attempting to use the SA as a tool to adjudicate the content of rounds, which was not what I was thinking. I'm left with the choice of doing nothing, or dipping in the proverbial toe. CP recommended something along the lines of the APDA, and I'm proposing that. We'll see what happens.

As for entries from actual schools, there's a lot of discussion abroad about what makes a bona fide entry. In my experience, teams without real coaches, for whatever reason and in whatever combination, cause the biggest problems to a tournament, and also the biggest dangers if there's an emergency of any sort and a responsible adult is required. That one's fairly easy to address in a one-person situation, but a bit harder in two-person activities. Still, the dipped toe again can't be that bad an idea.

As for wait list, if you're going to worry about who's showing up, monitoring registrations makes sense. Plus this way you can flush out space-eaters who just grab TBA slots willy nilly. TBAs are okay, to a point, because let's face it, it is the beginning of August in the case of the Pups. But that excuse will only go so far, especially for long-distance teams. But of course, we take travelers off the WL first, so that shouldn't be a problem.

And finally, octas and obligations. In my experience octas is the hardest round to pair in MJP because you can lose a big portion of the pool between that and doubles. Given that it's a Sunday morning, and aside from church, no one has anywhere to be, hanging on for one more round won't hurt. Given that the result is way better preferences, and if you were in it, you'd want that for yourself, a Rawlsian solution shouldn't be hard to get by people.

Of course, it's up to the Pups to agree to these things, and work on my wordings as they see fit. We'll see how they take to them.

Monday, April 28, 2014

In which we plan some of the more mundane aspects of DisAd14

Ah, a nice quiet weekend. I hear the TOC was happening while I was puttering around the house. Presumably without incident, as always.

Sarcasm? Moi?

We made our DisAd14 arrangements with the same travel agent as with the DiDeAd. She did a great job for us then, and given our complications this time, with all sorts of different people and needs, there was no reason not to use her again. Our original plan, after much discussion, was to return to Port Orleans. The thing I most like about that resort is the boat ride to Downtown Disney (or whatever they’re calling it these days as it makes its latest transformation). It’s a nice way to travel, especially when the alternative is a bus. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Disney buses, but a boat ride is so much nicer. What Port Orleans doesn’t have that I like is small pools scattered around the complex, but you can’t have everything. We already had our reservations when the agent told us that we could pull down a substantial savings by switching to Coronado Springs, a comparable Latin American themed resort (with scattered pools). Switching was a no-brainer, and so we did. Let’s face it: you don’t spend a lot of time in your hotel at WDW. While the fanciest resorts are really nice, it’s hard to justify spending the money. At the same time, I’m a little reluctant to go for the cheapest resorts. I envision them being overrun with out-of-control kids screaming in the halls at all hours of the night (much like a debate tournament), and offering the fewest possible amenities. So I stick to the moderates.

I will point out, though, that in the earliest days, when there were no moderates, we stayed at the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian at one time or another, the latter two with a young Kate. With a kid, being on the monorail is very desirable. You go off-season, you visit some park until it’s nap time, you come back and nap, you dawdle in the pool, maybe you go back and visit some more park. Very civilized and kid-friendly. But also very expensive, and hard to support when there’s an alternative at half the price. I do like midday breaks, though, especially for the Magic Kingdom, which can run you ragged, even when it’s not packed, if you don’t pace yourself. A little break in the middle with the feet up never hurt anybody. I assure you that we have such a break planned for the DisAd. Recharging the batteries is a really good idea that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Another item we bought into was the Meal Plan. Last time we got this for free, and I doubt if that will happen again, but one nice thing about it is that it takes thinking about meals out of the equation. You get a counter service meal, a real meal, and a snack for each day, and you’ll use that easily enough, so why not? You just flash your credentials at the smiling waitstaff, and there you are.

The only other big early planning issue was transportation. Given the need to get to Universal first, then to WDW from there, and for at least one other out-of-the-parks excursion during the trip, I’m opting for a car for the 5 people including me on my side of the group. The others are probably sticking to cabs and resort-offered transportation. I don’t think we’ll use the car for park trips, but maybe for some evening things. We’ll see. In any case, when you think of it split 5 ways, it’s not very expensive and it is very convenient. The only thing to keep in mind—I haven’t actually rented it yet—is that it’s best to have a car to pick up at the airport rather than off somewhere in Timbuktu, as many of the services are.

Thus were the nitty gritty details seen to.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In which we consider Universal

The Universal experience is very different from the Disney experience, but it’s hard to pinpoint why. After all, often the attractions are designed by literally the same people; there’s only so many jobs for people who can list imagineer on their resume. And if you missed that memo, Disney bought Marvel not long ago, yet much of Universal is Marvel themed. There’s dinosaurs in both Disney attractions and Universal attractions, there’s themed lands, there’s Lucas here and Spielberg there, and the ultimate landing place of the Potter franchise could have been either one (the films being neither Universal nor Disney properties) and who would have questioned it? But still, there’s an underlying feeling about WDW that pulls it all together. They don’t necessarily do it better, so much as they have a unified history dating back to the silent film era, held together by themes and characters still very much in the public eye. Universal also goes back to silent films, but their hold on the American psyche isn’t the same as Disney’s. Maybe it’s a question of heart. In the formative years of each corporation’s growth in the 30s, one was creating Dracula and Frankenstein movies, and the other was creating Snow White and Pinocchio. The latter simply connect better to the child within us than the former, and we all connect to our inner child better than to our inner monsters. Arguments can be made, on a more immediate level, that the theming in WDW actually is deeper and more meaningful than the theming at Universal, and that may be true, but it’s not the real difference, if it is a difference. Disney coopted our dreams generations ago. Universal makes movies. Therein lies the difference.

The DisAdders have had extended discussions about things like where to start and how to build the arc of a trip. To that I will had that I have, in the past, jaunted over to Universal from WDW in the middle of a trip. Universal, when you do this, tends to pale by comparison because it is not as all-encompassing. Everything in Disney is of a piece; everything in Universal is standalone. But at the same time, much of Universal, as far as the attractions are concerned, is amazing. So my thought is that by starting at Universal, and only Universal, there will be no paling by comparison because the comparison doesn’t exist yet. On its own, it will be a great collection of attractions, and a lot of fun. It will be the hors d’oeuvres before the entrees at WDW. It will set things up, it will be the warm-up phase of the trip. And then we’ll head in for the main event.

The plan is to meet up Friday night for dinner at Emeril’s, which I’ve eaten at before and really liked. I had expected something hokey, and got really good food. As the DisAdders are really appreciate of really good food, it’s the way to start. Then, at the crack of the next dawn, we head to IOA and Hogwarts, beating the crowds because we’re staying on-site. Then we do the rest of IOA and a little of the main park, with a break in the middle, one of the perks of staying onsite. Then back for more, but at a fairly leisurely pace, since front-of-the-line privileges will remove the necessity of commando-style line planning. Dinner will be whatever; I’m thinking that we’ll want to see the Universal fireworks end-of-day extravaganza, so we won’t be eating our little butts off that night. We’ll have already done that the previous day and, for that matter, the next day. There’s no point in overdoing it.

As for Sunday, we head to Diagon Alley where there should be a roller coaster ride of sorts at Gringotts, just like the real (real?) Gringotts, taking you to your vault, presumably with a dragon on hand for excitement. Then the rest of the attractions not yet seen, then midday one packs up and heads over to WDW. And there you are.

Pulling Universal, a one-day experience, out of the middle of the DisAd and placing it as a one and a half day experience at the beginning made for lots of changes from the original, initial plans. A total day off, for instance, where those of the spa persuasion could get their nails polished and their butts massaged while the rest of us explored something other than our nails and our butts went off into the ether, but everything else pretty much remained intact. That’s one nice thing about planning days on an electronic calendar. You move this here and that there until everything fits just fine. Which, I hope, is what I did.

By the way, O’C is going down early for whatever he has to take care of, and Kaz is going down early to visit Sea World. Her reason for the earliness is saving money on transportation, as if you travel during the week it’s way cheaper than traveling on a weekend, as most of the rest of us are doing. Of course, even though she’s flying out of Newburgh, her first stop on the way to Florida is, I think, Butte, Montana, so I question exactly how great an idea that really is. Butte (or maybe it was Detroit) just isn’t on the way to Florida, last time I looked.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In which we start planning DisAd14

All right, enough of this debate nonsense.

The DisAd14 is myself and spouse, my cousin (a veteran of the DiDeAd), my daughter and her recently acquired spouse (he’s first-time Disney), Kaz, O’C and JV. Eight people is quite a crowd, and it’s a pretty disparate group at that. I mean, I know that right now you’re trying to imagine JV with Mickey Mouse ears and for some reason failing to have the picture form in your mind. (Actually, none of us are of the mouse ears persuasion, but I’ll at least wear a WDW t-shirt. JV refuses to wear any writing of any sort on his clothes, so there you are.) We scheduled for August when everyone could make it and there was a reasonable hotel discount, as that counts as off-season for most people, as schools around the country are already back in session, and we don’t start until after Labor Day. Needless to say, in certain areas of the debate community, the existence of this trip is looked on with something akin to complete disbelief. I think the quick take is the unlikelihood of a bunch of debate coaches actually liking one another, and then secondly, the unlikelihood of a bunch of non debate coaches putting up for a week with a bunch of debate coaches. But yes, we do like each other, as witnessed by our enjoyment not only of our shared tab rooms but all the meals and whatnot surrounding them. We even occasionally get together when there isn’t a tournament anywhere near us. And we don’t talk about debate on the trip: it virtually never came up on the DiDeAd, nor will it on the DisAd. Why would it? It’s off season, and you’re in a totally set-off world, created to remove you from the daily woes and wiles. Give in to it, and enjoy it. If we wanted to talk about debate, we could argue with each other on the coaches’ listserver.

A cold shiver goes up my spine at the very idea.

A lot of thought went into the early planning, especially with me and Kate and O’C, as the seasoned veterans. One key thing this time was the need to go to Universal. Last time we didn’t, and only Kaz got to see the Harry Potter stuff. This time there’s not only Hogwarts but Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express, both presumably opening any minute. We’re ready for this stuff now. Plus there’s plenty of other new Universal stuff worth seeing, and plenty worth revisiting (e.g., is Spiderman still the best dark ride on the planet?). Originally we set aside a day for Universal in the middle of WDW, but giving it some thought, it seemed to make sense to actually stay at Universal for a couple of days. First of all, if you stay at one of their hotels, you get early access to the parks (and Harry), bypassing some serious line-age as a result. And second, you get instant back door access to everything else other than Harry, meaning for all practical purposes, no lines. I figure about a day and a half will do it, including two mornings, one starting at Hogwarts and the other at Gringotts.

After that, it was simply a matter of adjusting the days at WDW in a reasonable fashion, allowing sleep a couple of mornings (although, let’s face it, you don’t go to WDW to sleep). And then arguing over which meals where. Et cetera.

I know. Either you wish you were going, or you can’t imagine a worse fate, including the coaches’ listserver. There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t. And those who can’t wait for the DisAd, and those can’t wait long enough. So it goes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In which we catch our breath for a minute

I’m beavering away on a new website for NDCA. I’ve cracked most of the learning curve issues, or climbed them or whatever, and now it’s mostly just laying the bricks. And the coaches’ listserver has gone in the direction of creating a Council of Tournament Directors, which I am all in favor of, and having passed some of my documents along to others, I’m happy to let them all percolate as they wish. The idea precedes me; I just want it to come to fruition.

The listserver originated over discussions of the Student Advocate, which quickly veered into discussions of race and privilege and diversity. The SA sort of got lost in the shuffle, but I have some ideas about doing an end run of sorts. No one objects to safety at debate tournaments, but everybody’s got an opinion on everything, and it’s easy to stray into other territory. Threads get tangled. So it goes. Give me a little time on this, and I’ll figure it out. In any case, I really don’t have the energy needed to get involved in everything that’s discussed on the list; it’s a Day Job all its own, and I’ve already got one of those, plus a night job, plus a desire to beat 2048 (thanks for nothing, Bietz). The diversity issues, the more one studies them, become progressively more interesting. I in no way understand the full picture, but I’m plugging away. As are, I think, a lot of other people. But in my day, I'm still limited to a mere 24 hours. I can't do more than that, no matter how much I try.

The immediate plan for the future is: 1) get the NDCA site ready for review, 2) start podcasting TVFTish stuff again, broadcast for live participation, at least via a chat room, 3) stopping debate for a little while to enjoy some other things, like DisAd14 and nice weather. The thing is, the debate season begins in August with the release of the new resolutions, and if you let it, it ends in August with debate camp. Sure, we’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid, but at some point you’ve got to give it a rest. It is, when all is said and done, the bloody high school debate team, for God’s sake! It is not the center of the known universe, or if it is, you should get out of the house and go know something else to go along with it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In which the Bronxwegians croon, "Come Fly With Me"

Although I traveled on my own heading west, I came back on the same flight as the Bronx team. This was, of course, a mistake any sane person would have avoided. Flying with the Bronx team is a leap of faith most people are unwilling to take. There are special apps for the iPhone that list all the flights the Bronx is potentially going to be on for any given day, so that everyone else can avoid them.

We were scheduled to take off at 5:15. Then 5:45. Then it was anybody’s guess as they announced mechanical difficulties, which is something you never want to hear in regards to getting a machine the size of an apartment building off the ground and keeping it off the ground for 2000 miles or so. With you in it. Then there was the other plane they were flying in, just in case this one was totally unflyable. Then they started serving pizza! From the looks of it (I had already eaten by now), it was crappy pizza, but what do you expect? Airline food is airline food, both on the ground and in the air. And if they start thinking that the passengers are all about to pass out from hunger any minute and start flinging free food at them, you know they’re not particularly sanguine about the chances of taking off any time soon.

Of course, the Bronx Scientologists had no difficulty putting away the pizza, they being adolescents and pizza being, well, pizza, no matter how you slice it. When they finally certified that the original busted airplane was busted no longer and dared us to board, we all sheepishly headed down the gangplank, fingers crossed, and squeezed ourselves on board. Mirabile dictu, the middle seat next to me—I was in the window seat—was vacant for the flight, allowing me to spread out a tiny bit. As it turned out, the flight was from that point uneventful, and aside from the fact that I got home at about 3:30 a.m., I can’t complain too much.

I’ve been sleeping ever since.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In which we judge PF in Utah and religion in general

Here’s the thing. If you’re in Utah in the morning, don’t count on being able to find coffee. You may, or you may not. At Weber, host of the NDCA, they served an elaborate breakfast on both days, entirely caffeine free. Nonetheless, there was a Starbucks open for a couple of hours in the student center, plus a secret location unbeknownst to the students for “judge coffee,” thus raising the question of how evil the Mormons think a grande skim milk latte really is. Maybe old Joe Smith just didn’t have a taste for coffee. Beats me. Of course, there’s also bans against alcohol (although I wasn't expecting them to serve alcohol for breakfast). The effects of demon rum seem a lot more manifest than the effects of demon cups of joe, and there probably is some balance where the two, taken together, average into normality, but I understand this one better. I gather that you can’t walk into a restaurant and order demon rum unless you also order some grub to go with it. That’s a state law. If I recollect correctly, SLC is a lot drier (on both the java and demon rum fronts) than the burbs like Ogden, forty-five minutes’ drive away. But I’m not casting aspersions at the Mormons. I did have a conversation with someone over the weekend who was talking about his fasting for lent, specifically Roman Catholic meatless Fridays. The night before he had gone out for a full course meal featuring what he claimed was excellent grilled shrimp. I’m fairly sure that when the Vatican came up with meatless Fridays, it wasn’t suggesting giving up pate de fois gras in favor of beluga caviar. I guess I could give Pope Frankie a ring and ask his opinion on all of this, but I can already predict his answer: “What do I know?” Jeesh. Anybody can be infallible if they never actually answer the question!

Oh, well. Enough religion for one entry.

I was at the tournament ostensibly to judge PF for Bronx Science, and judge PF I did. Not a lot, because there were a lot of judges, but enough to earn my keep. The speed was a little surprising, but nothing terrible, and after all, one ought to be able to go full-bore at a national championship. There were some odd arguments, but nothing crazy. Quite honestly, the only difficult thing was keeping everybody straight on the electronic ballot, not, I would suggest, a problem specific to the E version of the beast. No wonder so many poor parents are hopelessly confused about who they voted for. My recommendation for any PF team is to have some really memorable gimmick to make you stand out. I voted for the team with the mullets, or I voted for the team with the snoods, or I voted for the team in the plus fours—these are the kinds of statements that help certify that the correct decision was rendered. Other than that, I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know. If you want to win, pick the best arguments and weigh them against your opponents' arguments. Don’t pick every argument, because if each team has three voters based on different criteria, I have no choice but to decide for myself what was important. As a rule, you don’t want your judges in that position. Decide for them what’s important, if you want them to vote for you. Anyhow, I didn’t change my opinion of PF, aside from thinking that I need to rework my team materials just a bit, moving my advanced suggestions to the initial suggestions page. That’ll give me something to do to fill the empty hours of the summer.

Although I wasn’t tabbing, I did mostly hang out with Kaz and Bietz in the tab room when I had free time. Good conversations about all sorts of things: I miss talking to Bietz since we let TVFT dwindle off, and I haven’t been in the same state with him since Bronx in 2012. CP was also marginally helping tab from Massachusetts, and when a minor problem or two arose, he was able to sort it out. This whole not-being-in-the-room-to-tab is rather amazing, possibly the best tabroom feature of them all. Now if CP could only get the program to serve coffee in certain states where it is otherwise unavailable, he could consider the job done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In which we begin to talk about NDCA

This last weekend was my first NDCA as a board member. The event remains dominated by policy, and for many circuit coaches it serves as their culminating event. There’s apparently no love lost between some folks and the TOC, but to be honest, I really don’t know much about the genesis of NDCA so I can’t go into any real detail. But I like the idea of an organization for coaches, first and foremost. And I like the idea of a traveling tournament. This year it was in Ogden, Utah, a gorgeous spot north of Salt Lake City surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The venue was Weber State College, which was a phenomenal host, which hosted NDA not long ago, proving their ability to put on a good show. The next couple of NDCA Championships are, first, Las Vegas, and then Orlando. I can’t get too wildly excited about the Orlando one, though. The tournament is around Easter break every year, which means wall-to-wall people at WDW, not really worth the battle. But then again, there’s enough fun venues of the non-Disney persuasion to keep things interesting.

I flew out early on Friday because I wanted to participate in the opening night reception. Good flight out into sunny, warm weather, looking out the window at those forbidding mountains and thinking when you reach SLC that, yep, if I were Brigham Young, I would have stopped here too. Found Ogden and the hotel easily enough, thanks to the aid of my trusty Google map GPS, found Kaz easily enough, thanks to the aid of my trusty text message service, and immediately headed out for a snack, knowing the evening was going to be something of a gastronomic bust. We found a nice place and secured a dinner reservation for the following night; we know a good thing when we see one.

There was a short board meeting at 6, at which we talked about this and that, nothing earth-shattering. I did get agreement to proceed with the website update. Then we headed off to the reception, which wasn’t very well attended—maybe the potential reception attendees, realizing what state the town was in, knew in advance that the Hawaiian Punch really was just Hawaiian Punch—but following that was an 8:00 panel discussion that drew a full house. The agenda subjects were women in debate, privilege and inclusion and the student advocate, and communications, but mostly we talked about inclusion and race. I have to admit that I was in some back pain and a bit zonked by the time change and the long day, so I contributed virtually nothing to the discussion. But I enjoyed hearing it. These are subjects about which there is a lot of controversy, not necessarily about people being excluded, but how to deal with it, and what is and isn’t appropriate for the high school community. Listening and exchanging opinions in person can be a lot more effective than sending emails, in which the tone and sense aren’t always clear. Also, in emails, it’s awfully easy to move away from one topic to another and lose some important areas off to the side. That’s one reason why I want to do broadcasting, where live interaction can take the place of written communication. Written is good, but finding the right medium for a subject at hand is important, if you want to get beyond just opining.

After the panel I had a short talk with J Alston about MJP (which I’ll explain eventually in some update notes about the subject as a whole), and then went off to bed to try to regain myself for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In which we ponder size

Final-editing Nostrum has been mostly fun. I’ve said this before, but I really had no idea that the original series was quite that long. When you put it all together it will easily be over two million words, quite outpacing War and Peace, the inevitable albeit perhaps tired length standard. It’s more like Game of Thrones length if you need a more modern comparison, and, sadly, just as incomplete. Except I make no pretense of ever adding new episodes. I might, but I doubt it. I don’t know enough about debate anymore to talk about it in such depth. There are also, unlike GOT, neither dragons nor naked people in Nostrum, a real oversight on my part, I admit, but they did not have those in debate back in my day. The last episode I was working on, 110 or so, was published in March of 1999. Which means that it was written before literally all of next year’s novices were born.

I’m nothing if not relevant and up-to-the-minute.

Anyhow, I’m still pushing to get it out by September as a free e-book. Whether anyone wants it or not is another question, but nobody writes that much and doesn’t take care to preserve it, if possible.

I’m mostly packed for NDCA. Needless to say, the three pairs of socks are the easy part; it’s the decision about which devices that challenges the mind. I noticed with a tear that CP had ported the LD and PF data over to tabroom, where I will not be working on it. Sigh. There seems to be a long stretch of restaurants behind the tournament hotel, which is a good thing. I do hope there’s an Indian restaurant, as I have a feeling all judging all those PF rounds is going to put me in the mood for some rogan josh. (No, not chicken tikka masala, a thoroughly English dish that’s never really appealed to me.)

Needless to say, the interwebs are rife with impassioned pleas and condemnations and whatnot over who’s not getting into the national tournaments for whatever reason. I just happened to notice this by accident as I was trying to get some transportation data on the Utah trip. All the usual suspects are pretty much in place, bandying about half-truths and suppositions and serious concerns willy-nilly, which really doesn’t serve anybody in the long run (and, most likely, doesn’t get anyone into TOC in the short run). Although the means have changed, it has ever been thus. I think back to all the nonsense on the old ld-l (excluding, of course, the magnificent announcements about this week’s Nostrum), and how there were times you just had to turn it off or go bats. Probably before computers the airing of the grievances was conducted in hieroglyphs on papyrus scrolls. I have a little patience with the adolescents involved, blaming it on their youth; the adults, on the other hand, ought to know better, not necessarily to hold the opinions they hold, which may be correct, but to jump into the playground and declaim them as fervently as any 16-year-old. Seriously now. (Not to mention those with no portfolio whatsoever.) It’s a master class in internet trolling that repeats every year or so over some horror or other, real or perceived. I guess the folks in San Juan Capistrano feel this way every year around St. Joseph’s day. They expect the swallows, but sometimes they forget to wear a hat that day, with the inevitable results…

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

In which we stew

Because I’m involved in some serious discussions of case content, I thought I’d watch some LD rounds. And I tried, lord knows I tried, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t follow them. In a word, I’m am finished. I can’t analyze what’s right/wrong in LD if I can’t follow it from word one. [Sigh.]

In a way, this causes me to care a little less than I should. I hear the pleas of people who claim they are trampled on one way or the other, then I try to get an understanding of it and my only thought is that, if you can find yourself being trampled in this meaningless wash of words where as soon as someone finishes talking the other person grabs the flash drive to get a copy of their case to read it and find out what was said, you’re a more patient person than I am. I’ve always maintained that speed per se is not a bad thing, if you’re willing to isolate the tiniest of audiences for what you’re saying. In LD, where a lot of people are complaining about certain judges and certain ideas, and claiming that those judges and ideas are ruining debate, at the same time we’ve created an activity that is intelligible only to those judges. At the point where control has already been wrested from the coaches, the coaches have a job of work ahead of them getting that control back.

Talking about the problems in debate can be frustrating. Talking about anything with debate people can be frustrating, let’s face it, but as a general rule you can at least take them to account with not answering arguments. But in the discussions I’ve been having, the distrust and mistrust and general negative feelings have been enervating. But I guess this has been building over a long time. It will take a long time to fix, if it’s fixable.

Even the simple stuff seems to engender arguments. There isn’t much I’ve said about MJP that strikes me as particularly far out. CP has been helpful to me privately in differentiating my own experience from the policy universe, so I’m more than willing to limit my conclusions to the LD community. To wit, we’re already limiting the pool to the top third or so of the judges 93% of the time, or put another way, 7% of all rounds are 3-3 or worse (and that includes 1-2s). That 4% of rounds are 3-3s has, to my mind, rendered the idea of tossing 3-3s for 1-2s relatively moot: it’s virtually a statistical deviation not worth arguing about (especially when you realize that some of them don’t have 1-2s to fall back on). And when I made that statement publicly, I was excoriated for some sort of mathematical heartlessness. No one’s bothered to try to understand what I’ve been saying would be worthy of a best practice, to set whatever number of tiers makes sense if there’s 8 or 9 or so in each tier. 3 tiers? Fine. 11 tiers? Fine. No one’s bothered to understand that preffing isn’t limited to circuit teams, and certainly no one’s worried about the effect of preffing on teams that don’t pref, which tend to be traditional/conservative but who, by not preffing, get circuit judges unfriendly to their style, or at least more friendly to their opponent’s circuit style. Everybody immediately wants to try some other way, which will probably be no better or worse than what we have, before we’ve really looked at the way we have it. I daresay the first numbers I’ve seen on MJP were the ones I posted myself. This is new stuff, but there’s an awful lot of egos in the coaching room who have it all figured out how to do it better, based on... What? I don’t know. When I argue with CP about the math, for God’s sake, the man’s a freakin’ mathematician! He enlightens me. But when I hear from some other people who haven’t run 10 billion tournaments, much less written the software to run 10 billion tournaments, I’ve got to wonder.

Oh, well. I needed to get this out of my system. I’m going to Utah with a goal of coming out with some avenues for better communication among coaches. I needed to put this rant aside before somebody hits me over the head with a frying pan.


Monday, April 07, 2014

In which we plan to head West

I’m getting ready for NDCA next weekend in Ogden, Utah.

First, there’s a tentative website switch from the present WordPress site. I ported that site over to this weekend, and most of it came over fine, if not exactly where I wanted it. That’s a good start. Mostly all I have to do is convince the board to spend $8 a month where now they’re spending $0 a month. Honestly, I think most of them would kill to get my cockamamie blog off the front page, which a switch would do, so $8 should seem well worth it to them.

There’s also a panel on Friday night, ostensibly about communication. I have a feeling it will devolve into a discussion of what anyone wants to discuss. Nothing wrong with that.

There’s also a Council of Tournament Directors kicking around, and I’d like to get in on that. Having put together the Toolkit makes me at the very least an interested party.

And then, of course, there’s the job I’m going there to do, which is to cover some PF judging from the Bronx HS of Scientology. Having been basically barred from tab because I’m on the board, aside from hanging out with Kaz, I think I’ll actually see some rounds. This is good, because it means I will marginally know what I’m doing next year when I start up coaching the event again. O’C has asked me to rent a van so that I can transport some of his judge thugs around, so I guess I’ll be doing that too. And breathing that clean Utah air blowing off the mountains. And, I hope, getting together with some people I’ve been talking to online about some very serious issues to discuss them in person.

After that, I am officially done for the season, although I think I’ll have my hands filled with the results of all the various discussions. But I will be switching here mostly to DisAd14 mode. If there’s one thing I know about the VCA, they may be forensicians at heart, but when the tournament is over, they really want to go to Disney World.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

In which we end the season with blank stares

As always, we ended the season in a trivial fashion. It was debaters vs. Speecho-Americans all the way, and I’d guess I’d have to say that the S-As won it in the end. It was a bleak, albeit entertaining evening. Apparently today’s adolescents have not seen a movie older than Expendables III (coming out this coming August), read a book not written by J.K. Rowling, or seen a TV show without a character named Spongebob. They’ve never traveled further than the outskirts of town, think Michelangelo is French, thereby assuming that someone else wallpapered the Sistine Chapel, cannot identify a single Rolling Stone, much less the dead one, and think every name they don’t recognize must be a character in Oliver Twist. My “expert” on James Bond films wasn’t able to identify correctly the star of any of them. Amanda Wingfield should have roused at least one S-A, you would think? Blank stares all around. Good luck with your own gentleman callers, ladies.

Try a test:

I am the monarch of the sea
The ruler of the queen’s navy
Whose praise Great Britan loudly chants—

What comes next? If you are not ear-wormed immediately with sisters and cousins (whom he reckons by the dozens) and his aunts, woe is you. Granted, I don’t expect teenagers to get this, but to suggest that it is somehow relevant to a certain Major General put my fellow coach on my little list, needless to say. Still, there were no answers Tuesday to rival the former Bean Trivia all-time classic, identifying a certain green Muppet as Hermit the Crab.

Next time out it’s going to be all Disney. Maybe they can identify which Disney princess doesn’t have a leg to stand on, for instance. I dunno. It’s a tough group.

In which we publish a random list of policy teams from 1999

Philomena Pettigrew and Voluptinia Boynken - Head Trip, CA
Cloakus McGuirker and Bella Bellbell - Peatmoss, NM

Barnabus Blusternoph and Rogan Josh - Lexluthor, MA

Dirk L. Pernicious and Tippitoes Malaprop - Barber College Prep, CA

Baskin and Robbins - George Bernard Shaw, IL

Erhardt Luftwaffemachen and Julio Joop - George Bernard Shaw, IL

Pap Spinachspoon and Leung Ago - Collage Prep, IL

Mordecai de Chevre and Sven Oleo - East Linens, MI

Horrowfonken Bloot and Straussen Waltzen - East Linens, MI

Mick and Ernie McInerney - Old Giveitup, IL

Thronk Fallow and his chorus and orchestra - Pants, TX

Thegre Atgat Sby and Tende Risth Enight - Bellaryourown, CA

Penumbra Brightonian and Salman Spawnin - George Bernard Shaw, IL

Oop Brzsynkfmskwi and Joe a la King - Brophy, AZ

Dermis Pffinchster and Auld Ascii - El Burrito, CA
Flit Zinger and Mano Amano - Head Cold, CA
Ian Out and Peechy Keen—Jesuit Inquisitor Prepatory , TX
Tuckenin Shirtails and Brimly Ornfartor—Uppada Creek High School, CO

(From episode 97 of Nostrum TOS)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In which we analyze MJP with some serious number crunching

Facts may be helpful in making decisions.

I am a strict constructionist when it comes to MJP. I am the Scalia of mutuality. I will always put in a mutual pairing before a non-mutual pairing. Further, I concentrate entirely on teams still in competition, working up from the bubble. The more in danger you are of not advancing into elims, the more I concentrate on getting you your best match. When it comes to getting a 1-1 for a team in competition vs a team that cannot break, the 1-1 goes to the in-competition team. I have, of course, written about this at great length here and on the NDCA site.

Among the tournaments I tabbed this year with MJP, using first TRPC and then (which does a better job with mutuality), are Yale, Bronx, Princeton and Columbia. These 4 tournaments add up to 2928 prelim rounds of Varsity LD. All were divvied up into 6 tiers, 18% each of the first 5 and 8% strikes. They were all large to very large fields, with pools hovering around 50% of the size of the field.

Remember: strict construction. Mutuality first.

Of the 2928 rounds:
2538 were 1-1. That is, 87%.
132 were 2-2. 5%.

This means that 93% were 1-1 or 2-2.

4% were 3-3. This means that 97% were 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3.

2% were 4-4; 1% were 5-5; 2% were 1-offs (usually 1-2, maybe lower); 1% were 2-offs (or worse). The percentages are rounded up, so in fact, this last 6% is probably more like 5%.

Important note: Easily half of the “bad” pairings (3-3 or worse) are the result of teams’ being out of competition. The most egregious pairings are desperation ballot pushes, for which no system can be held accountable.

Minor note: Making it 6 equal tiers (more strikes) would have little statistical impact.

Bottom line: going by strict mutuality and 6 traditionally divided tiers, MJP delivers better than 93% 1s and 2s in all in-competition rounds.

The raw data are at .

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

In which tabroom is put to bed, and I am not far behind it

For the first time since August, I don’t have any reason to look at I have exactly zero tournaments to manage.

Overall, this has been an interesting year. We tossed TRPC early on and dove headfirst into tabroom, with generally good results. Like TRPC, the program works best when you have one nice big field to work with and a nice big pool of judges to go with it. Actually, it works better, because there’s the whole collaborative thing where a team can attack different pieces of the process, plus the management of MJP is far superior to TRPC’s. First of all, it provides better matches, and second, fine tuning is a comparative breeze. For smaller fields and problematic events, it has some quirks that have had to be sorted out. The inability to print room lists is a serious flaw: there’s no one way to see what’s happening at a given time, and if there’s a problem, you find out about it because multiple rounds are scheduled in the same place, or no place. It has hard-to-track flaws with calculating speaker points if there’s been a bye. As a matter of fact, it has a hard time with byes, period. Putting a bye team into a round can be as complicated as the Normandy invasion. And sometimes it doesn’t advance all the advancing teams. The thing is, we knew going into it that there would be a period of beating it up, and since I’ve beat up a lot of systems over the years at the DJ, I know what that’s like. You get the benefits of an improved system, but also the inadequacies of a new system. No programmer can foresee every quirk. Or actually more to the point, users can find quirks better than programmers once you reach the last 5% of the programming process. Go live, beta, and let the chips fall where they may, and if you’re a beta tester, you know what you’re getting into.

At least I’ve managed to leave a trail of crumbs for other users. Let’s face it, there aren’t many people who tab as much as our little traveling tab room does. Anyone using this system a couple of times a year, or a tournament director setting it up once a year, is going to be daunted. I wrote the manual to help those folks, and while the manual can be as daunting as the program, if you just start at the beginning it will walk you through anything that might be unclear.

Anyhow, it’s behind me now, for the time being. Tonight is Bean Trivia, the semi-official end of the Sailor season. There are a couple of Speecho-Americans with some more rounds on their plates, but debate is over. I will be going to Utah for NDCA next weekend, but I’m not tabbing there because board members are generally barred from doing so, presumably because of the endless disputes. (Endless disputes? Not in my tab room. You come in and start a dispute and we’ll end it right then and there. Get off my lawn!) I’ll be judging PF, which I like to do. A good weekend in the back of the room will get me up to speed to see what’s new that’s been going on lately, if anything. I wish the topic weren’t so deadly, though. I’d much rather listen to gender equality than extracting ink from India or whatever they’re arguing. For once I might be wishing that people don’t stick to the resolution.