Monday, June 23, 2014

In which we feel, shall we say, a sort of longing

I was talking to CP and telling him that I felt kind of bittersweet watching NatNats from afar. It overwhelmed Twitter, if nothing else. The thing is, no matter how you slice it, NatNats is not for us. It conflicts with mandated exams and, for seniors, graduation and/or proms. Over the years I’ve qualified a bunch of people who’ve immediately backed out, and more often than not been unable to get people interested in the first place, given the hoops they have to jump through. (Not to mention that, for me, it’s fairly impossible to attend, as I don’t have the time off from the DJ, but that’s a personal issue that can be gotten around.) And of course, the Sailor situation is little different from everyone else around here. So I get this warm glow of a feeling emanating out of Kansas City of “The Best in the Nation” and so forth and so on, and not to take away anything from anyone who was there, but New York is not necessarily going to be able to send its best every year, or at least not all of its best. And with the school calendars being about the same for the entire northeast, nor is anyone else around here. In my eyes, it’s the Best in the Nation, but with an implied asterisk.

I would like to have a valedictory event like this one that we could attend. My brief against the organization was not anything that it did (aside from its heinous fees when I personally didn’t attend), nor even suggesting that it try to accommodate our small portion of its membership, but merely that they never acknowledged our reality. To them, it was as if we were deliberately trying to be non-participatory. Which is why I ultimately gave up. The thing is, when you have a menu of national events to choose from, including national finals, you choose the one(s) that make sense to your situation. This one never has, and probably never will. And, as I say, I miss that particular opportunity. I miss sharing in that warm glow.

So it goes.

Now everyone is toddling off to camps (although, yes, our school is still in session). Which makes me wonder, sometimes. How many camps are there, anyhow? How many people go? Are these $ircuit-specific businesses? Or does the vast majority of the teaming millions of forensicians attend one or the other? I have no idea, although I’ve always supposed that for the most part it’s for circuit hopefuls. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I wonder if everyone I know is just too circuity for me, given my marginal interest in traveling far and wide just for a high school debate tournament. I mean, at the point where you have to get on an airplane, I begin to wonder if we’re not overdoing it just a wee tiny bit (except for big national finals, which is a different thing altogether). But the VCA knows well my thoughts on all of this, which haven’t changed in ages. There’s probably no point in continuing to harp on it. There’s worse things than selling your soul to debate. I’ve just always thought that there were also better things.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In which we briefly respond to the proposed LD resolutions

I’ve managed to acquire some new responsibilities at the DJ, and my brain has been a little bit occupied learning what I need to learn from the folks who provide the money every week. Good timing, when you think about it. I’d hate this to be happening, say, the week of Bump. It’s all good, in any case, and removes from my mind the idea that they’re all behind closed doors plotting how to get rid of me before the end of the week. I won’t regress to that one for at least another month or two.

For those who didn’t see them, here’s a working list of the LD rezzes. These aren’t final; NSDA was soliciting opinions. They may have all the opinions they need at this point. I certainly know how I feel about these off the top of my head, but as I move into PF almost exclusively, my interest is academic at best. Still, a few brief comments.

In the United States, K-12 education ought to be compulsory for minors.
Hmmm. Should we argue that New Hampshire needs to provide kindergarten? Silly topic.

The United States federal government ought to define common K-12 educational standards.
Hot button in its way, although I wonder about its durability. Better in PF.

The United States federal government ought to defer to states’ marijuana laws.
States’ rights in 2014 is awfully inside baseball, if you ask me.

The “right to be forgotten” from internet searches ought to be a civil right.
Minor interest at best. PF might make a go of something like this.

The First Amendment’s protection of political speech ought to extend to financial contributions.
Probably okay.

Just governments ought to ensure food security for their citizens.
Either really interesting or totally deadly.

Nuclear power is a just means of energy production. Just? Not very exciting, in any case.

A just government ought to require that employers pay a living wage. I actually like this one, if it’s about the responsibilities of government past the old social contract ideas of rights.

Sin taxes are just. Probably okay, but term of art though sin tax may be, I’d prefer sumptuary.

In the United States patents ought not be granted for biological substances. Something tells me that the bad science being tossed around on this one will cause brains to explode. And aren’t some medications biological substances? Meaning removing patents on drugs? Way off the mark. I'm a big fan of discussing IP issues, but not this one.

Historic preservation is a legitimate constraint on property rights.
Too narrow.

United States foreign policy ought to value women’s rights over the pursuit of its economic interests when the two conflict.
Yeah, that’ll make for interesting arguments.

The United States criminal justice system’s exclusionary rule is just.
Pretty good.

In the United States, collective bargaining ought to be a civil right. I don’t like this one at all, on a gut level.

Corporations ought to value their responsibility to society over the conflicting responsibility to their shareholders.

Justice requires reparations to African Americans.
Let fly the dogs of war. This is a great subject area, and we can argue important issues of discrimination that will actually be resolutional!

Inaction in the face of injustice makes an individual morally culpable. One of those perfect Nationals topics.

Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.
I don’t see it.

In the United States, Supreme Court justices should be subject to term limits. Interesting.

They will narrow this down, and maybe change some wording, and then there will be voting. Once again, a fine starting point. It will be up to the members at large to screw it up and vote for the wrong ones.

BREAKING NEWS: They did it.

1. The "right to be forgotten" from internet searches ought to be a civil right.
2. Just governments ought to ensure food security for their citizens.
3. Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage.
4. Sin taxes are just.
5. Historic preservation is a legitimate constraint on property rights.
6. United States foreign policy ought to value women’s rights over the pursuit of its economic interests when the two conflict.
7. Justice requires reparations to Black Americans.
8. Inaction in the face of injustice makes an individual morally culpable.
9. Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States should be subject to term limits.
10. Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

Compared to my analysis, I'd say we got the usual lineup of a good group of interesting ones, a couple that could go either way, and one outright stinker (adolescent medical choices). I'll go into detail shortly (and for all I know, I might think differently about things after I've thought about them more in depth).

Monday, June 16, 2014

In which we look at NatNats from afar

One of the regular features of not going to a national tournament is watching everyone report on Facebook how they’re having trouble getting to the national tournament. They should add a Schadenfreude button next to the Like button: I mean, it’s not that I want to see people’s flights cancelled or whatever, but when it happens, I get to savor that it isn’t me, as does everyone else whom it isn’t. Given my own debate flight history lately—a couple of NDCA trips going off the tracks one way or the other, thanks to the proximity of the Bronx team—I’ve been there with them in fact, as well as in spirit, so I know the pain. But I prefer someone else to be suffering it.

For a lot of people NatNats really is a culmination, but I still see it primarily as a Midwest speech event more than anything else. After all those frustrating years of arguing with them about the inability of the northeast to put together much of an entry, there was no love lost between us. Even though there are schools around the region who manage to put together good entries, they are still hamstrung by the undeniable fact of mandated exams, proms and graduations. So it goes, of course, and given that the dates of the event are pretty much set in stone, my desire was that some accommodation be made for our conflicts, but none were forthcoming. Even the final resolution, removing the stigma of Red Light District, was restrictive, limiting the numbers of qualifiers for purposes of following inviolable albeit arbitrary rules rather than looking at situation of the students themselves. Sigh.

Oh, well. Sour grapes on my part, and old news, and since I’ll be re-upping next season, I should put a lid on it. But my main point stands, that NatNats is a tournament with little personal relevancy for me. Given that you can only get yourself worked up for just so many national events, one needs to pick among them. I tell our Speecho-Americans that they’re working toward CatNats, a very big deal that is also well within their grasp. They are as able to qualify as anyone else, and they’ll get to go because it doesn’t conflict with anything like, say, their graduation ceremony. As for debaters, I’m obviously leaning toward NDCA as being the end-all be-all, especially after this year’s TOC fiasco. Unfortunately a lot of people are still locked into the TOC route, and I would be hard-pressed not to bring kids who qualify. But I’d rather not. I think the mechanisms for determining qualifications are problematic at best, the lack of neutral judging is inexcusable, and when you get down to it, the only reason the event has the power it has is because the community deliberately invests it with that power. Interestingly, the policy community has drifted a lot to NDCA, but LD and PF haven’t. Given the quality of the competitors in elims in those divisions, it’s hard to figure out why. Anyhow, I’ll certainly be pushing Sailors to NDCA as their culmination, and billing it as such, with TOC merely a diversion. After all, the choice the next couple of years is Las Vegas vs. Lexington, then Orlando vs. Lexington. And we’re talking about me, here.

No contest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In which we provide the punchline here to help you out: "Mr. Schwartzkopf."

I just got two pieces of junk mail, the first with the subject line Anti-Aging, and the second with the subject line Burial Insurance. Tough choice which one to open first.

Also Feedly is down, suffering a DDoS attack. Sigh. RSS is my lifeblood, or at least it’s the blood I chew on (that doesn’t sound right) when I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, like working. And work is sucky because I have not read anything usable all week, which is very frustrating. At least one of the books was good, just not for us. Not that I can spend much time with such an animal, but it does help a little. Add to this that today was the second of three in a series of root canal sessions, and you’ve pretty much got my life in a nutshell.

I went to the school yesterday because of some new finance system everyone has to learn, and in a shocker of shockers, it turns out that 95% of the whole thing is irrelevant. We will have to handle candy table sales differently in the future, though, I think, because the school has to pay sales tax to the state. Yeah, I know. There may be a loophole, if we only sell certain things. I’ll see. Anyhow, the people running the meeting were imports from some company that has nothing to do with the Sailors specifically, so when I talked to them about what I do, they looked at me as if I had just landed from Mars. Which, being in Speech and Debate, is a look I have long ago gotten used to. I did get the chance to catch up with Kathy S, our speech coach. Neither of us is sanguine about getting access to the Middle School for recruiting purposes in the next couple of last school weeks, but that’s par for the course. And kids who have joined the team over the years regularly report that, if there was MS recruiting, it was never the reason they had showed up. So though one wants it, one can live without it.

For those who were wondering, the Lexwegian job comes with the Palmer curse. This is good news, of course. He clarified it on FB. And if you don’t know what I mean by the Palmer curse, remind me not to swap old jokes with you any time soon.

I ran into my Nostrum fan at Jake on Saturday, by the way. There may be more than just the one, but he’s the only one I’m aware of at the moment. For those who are wondering, other than him, that is, I’m up to about 120 of the 170 or so in Series 1. I’m still targeting September, although admittedly, I need to get on the stick a little bit. The thing is, when I read an episode that depends entirely on, say, the vagaries of dial-up, I get distracted by, first, how old all this stuff is, and second, how it doesn’t really seem all that long ago. Last night I heard some techies prognosticating that 5 years from now we won’t recognize today, tech-wise. Probably true. 15 years ago? We had barely emerged from the primordial tech ooze.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In which another one bites the dust

Sara Sanchez is leaving Lexington for Chicago. I understand she’s doing it to get away from the cold Massachusetts winters. I think perhaps she misread the Glenbrooks job description…

There always seems to be one big change every season. While some programs’ personnel seem to have a barnacle’s ability to hang on no matter what, other programs have new faces practically every year. Lexington, actually, has been one of the busier venues for whatever reason. Given that I trundle up there twice a year, the old fingers are crossed that they’ll acquire another good egg for the spot.

There will probably be other changes among the local dramatis personae, but nothing as big as this one. Of course, in a way I’m used to a rotating cast, given all the colleges I work at. I have to admit there is great joy in seeing repeat faces at any of these, because it’s usually someone who has earned their stripes the previous year who can help guide the present leadership. The idea that colleges put their sophomores in direct charge at their invitationals is a very good one. They may be rookies, but they’ve got a deep bench behind them.

In my scouring of the universe for NDCA tweets, I’ve been inundated with NSDA reminders. Apparently they’re having a shindig of some sort next week. Good old NatNats. I really should go someday, just because. Otherwise it’s like being a cardinal who refuses to visit the Vatican. Then again, I’m more of a defrocked cardinal, or more accurately a self-defrocked cardinal. And I hate to admit it, but I’ll most certainly be refrocking next season. The argument that it’s good for students to have lots of points on their CV for college is a winning one. Add to that the fact that tabroom will be subsumed by the evil empire organization, and I don’t want to be sidelined there. Oh, well. I made my point, back in the day. I wonder if I’m up for another diamond or something?

Monday, June 09, 2014

In which we dabble in various arcana debatia

Saturday Bronx Science held a memorial for Richard Sodikow. It was very well attended, and all sorts of people shared memories from various perspectives—alums, family, colleagues. It was a good send-off, for a man who would have enjoyed a good send-off. Most people spoke with warmth and humor, and there was no question that many, many lives had been not simply touched but changed thanks to Soddie and the team that he built and supported for many years. The program lasted for a long time, but although my butt got a little worn out from sitting on those hard wooden Brx Sci auditorium seats, my mind seldom wandered. Strong praise indeed for all the speakers.

Then I went home and watched California Chrome not win the Triple Crown. Of all the horses coming close since Affirmed (although, as I’ve always said, I found Alydar even more impressive, because it takes heart to never give up and win every time but it takes heart and something else to lose every time and still never give up), this was the first one I was seriously rooting for. I didn’t bet anything (I lost all my discretionary gambling money betting the farm last year on Fred Robertson’s guaranteed Preakness pick), but that never matters for followers of the Sport of Kings. It’s all about the beauty of the thing.

Meanwhile the crowned heads of the NDCA, or as many as could get to it, were huddled down in Miami trying to rewrite the bylaws for the modern age. I would have loved to have been there, but alas, DJs and money are somewhat restrictive: there’s only so much of either to go around. There has been a steady flow of emails, though, and I’ve been trying to pitch in as much as possible. I wish I could iron out some of the website issues on my own—some of the data is well-buried beyond my reach and the listserver is temporarily moribund—but I trust CP will shortly pull us out of that. Meanwhile, don’t get me started on MJP, but of course, they did. Ugh. I know I can’t win, but I keep butting my head against it. It’s the first thing I want to talk about when I get the new podcast/broadcast off the ground, although the board may want to start elsewhere. We’ll see.

Next up, I need to read the latest Pup invite, and see that we’re all on the same page, and then I’ll look at the actual setup in tabroom.

September is almost here!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

In which we see that 2014-2015 probably will happen

It’s about two and a half months till the DisAd. Time to shake away the cobwebs and nail everything down that isn’t already nailed. Not that there’s all that much that isn’t nailed, except for a few odds and ends and, on the important side, the FastPasses. I’ve gone over the tools in to figure out what passes to get, and now it’s just a matter of getting them. Of course, our best hope is that the parks aren’t too too crowded, which they shouldn’t be at that time of year. Except for Universal, which will probably be drowning in locals drawn to Diagon Alley. Negotiating Harry Potter is going to be the biggest deal of the entire trip, from the looks of it. I’m listening to the books, and am up to #3. I read them all, needless to say, and have seen all the movies, but I figured a refresher course wouldn’t hurt. And Stephen Fry doing the reading makes it slightly less than onerous.

Lots of planning going on in the debate world also. Nailing down the Pups, for one thing. That’s the problem with early tournaments—you have to plan early. Also there’s been the movement on the NYCFL front that I’ve already mentioned because of the national CFL meeting early in the season, and given that Catholic Charlie is now the Grand Imperial Poobah, he can’t exactly skip it, nor should his local regent, Mr. Beck. Where what will land I can’t quite say at the moment. And then we need to pin down the MHL workshop, but I’ll wait on that until O’C gets past the Soddie memorial this weekend.

It’s not only early tournaments getting the once over. There may be some big weekend switches in the new year, although no one’s committed yet. And God knows where the qualifiers will end up, since I know that JV and Catholic C want to move Districts, and there was a general shuffling of feet over the Last Chance, Even More Last Chance, Last Chance This Time We Really Mean It, and Last Chance This Time We Really Mean It More Than Last Time. Bump, on the other hand, will be where it has been in the middle of November, so don’t even think about it wandering off.

And speaking of Sailors, Capt Jake tells me he’s working on recruiting. This is good. It is also usually futile. Last year we get team members because the present team browbeat likely novices, prodding them personally to show up. That’s the Sailor way!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

In which we launch the NDCA blog

I spent some time today putting together the inaugural post for the NDCA blog. It is about as vanilla as a post can be, but the goal was to set up the blog, try out comments and tags, and generally see how things might work and how they would look. I’ve learned that you can do a lot with SquareSpace, but you do have to dig around a bit to find out how. What I’m not sure of is the comments, which look as if they’re set up to be moderated, but since I’m the moderator, it doesn’t ask to moderate when I make a comment. I’ll test that from a different machine that doesn’t know me when it sees me.

What I didn’t put in was the right-hand column. There you should be able to see past posts and search and find tags. All in the works, but one step at a time. As I said, I’ve got to dig around a bit to find each of them.

One of the value-added parts of CP staying at the Chez last weekend was that he detected interloping on my wifi, which I’ve never bothered to password protect because I figured if someone was stealing my signal, I’d sort of notice them sitting in my driveway. But apparently signal theft is no longer limited to the immediate vicinity if one has the right tools, so if you’re the person who’s been downloading GoT episodes before they’re broadcast, or worse, Rush Limbaugh episodes, your time is up. For the rest of you, the password is—No. Wait a minute. I don’t think that’s how that is supposed to work.

Of course, on the value-subtracted side, when we sat down last night to enjoy a little House of Cards, my Roku turned to me and asked why I had a password all of a sudden, and suggested I go online to figure out how to jump this particular fence. Hadn’t thought about that, but very little hoo-ha was required to settle down and start watching. And come to think of it, for years now people have toodled over to the chez and logged on to the legendary MenickNet wifi, and now they’ll have to know the secret code. Good luck getting it out of me. You can threaten my life with a railroad share, but once I go underground, I stay there.

And you might find it interesting that when the CFL was arranging its next calendar, it didn’t seem to notice that Yom Kippur fell on a particular Saturday. This is the down side of using the calendar in the rectory, guys, the one handed out by the Jesuits. There’s other calendars out there, with all the holidays, not to mention pictures of bathing beauties and firemen and kittehs or whatever else happens to press your particular buttons. Sigh.

Monday, June 02, 2014

In which we get together on the weekend

So I’ve been nursing an ailing tooth for a week now, waiting to get into the dentist’s today to finally have a root canal. Oh joy, oh rapture. Oh, well. At least my head won’t explode anymore every time I take a sip of coffee.

Caught up with the Usual Suspects over the weekend. CP came down, and we talked about his future as surf bum, among other things. I have this vision of him changing his name to Moon Doggy and wearing his baggies and waiting on the beach for the perfect wave, but he may have other ideas in mind. Met up with Kaz and JV and O’C and Kate and Richard and ate wonderful Italian food and gabbed like crazy. A lot of it was debate-oriented, but I promised Richard this would not be the case during the DisAd. After all, there is no debate in the summer for people to gossip about, and we’re certainly not still going to be talking about what happened at CatNats. (I know what you’re thinking. Something happened at CatNats? That’s what they said, and I’m going out on a limb and I’m going to believe them.) They were all also planning various hoo-ha-ishness over the upcoming NSDA powwow in Las Vegas, a venue worthy of planning various hoo-has. Aside from the NSDA part, I wouldn’t mind going…

Which does bring up the NSDA. Apparently it is now marginally public knowledge (since the Wunn and Only actually announced it somewhere) that is being subsumed by the Evil Empire NSDA, which actually is a good thing for all and sundry, insuring the endurance of a great system for managing tournaments, plus bringing the NSDA into something other than some Midwest operation that runs a tournament I can never go to. On the down side, this means that I’ll probably have to re-up, but I think I’ve made my point by now (especially since my local committee successors kissed and made up with Rippin’, pretty much entirely on the bases that I and so many others have been proclaiming since the Hundred Years War). So come the new school year, I will put my tail between my legs and shell out the Sailors’ money and get us back into the fold. And thus another great story ends with the proverbial whimper. Unfortunately, this time it’s me doing the whimpering.

For our weekend entertainment, we mounted a safari to Brooklyn, where we pretty much had to abandon Kaz in the Brooklyn Museum after she discovered their Egyptian collection. She mostly spends her free time acquiring information and photos and whatnot to inform her work teaching social studies, so this is as up her alley as you can get. She seems in fine fettle after acquiring a new school board and a lot of support from colleagues and grads to keeping the NFA debate program alive and well. Which of course always seems like such a no-brainer to those of us in the activity. That you have to hard-sell such a broad-based, empirically provable beneficial academic activity seems pretty counterintuitive, but somehow forensics remains the great underrated and often unknown educational tool that can do so much good in any school. Go figure.