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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In which we put our feet up and relax for a while

I feel a lull in my life at the moment. The first big tournament of the year is over, the initial hump of new work at the DJ has been put behind me, I just finished an edit and am settling into some serious reading (the two of which are my job in a nutshell, if you throw in other nuts), and we’re probably going to start eating dinner in the dining room rather than on the sun porch. I even have a weekend with no debate coming up (the last until Thanksgiving). Life is quiet. I’ll try to take advantage of it.

I’m figuring on getting the smaller new iPhone. I like the idea of the bigger one, but I think I’d gravitate to it more if it were the only product I used. But since I’ll also have an iPad or a Mac nearby for almost everything I do, and when push comes to shove I just don’t use my phone that much, and I have no intentions of, say, paying attention to Facebook any more than I already do (and if anything, I’m paying less attention to it lately because it seems to, if this is possible, gotten more deathly dull than it was previously), and I know that as much as I like to think I play games, I really don’t (although I’ve been enjoying having the daily Times crossword electronically, but again, I’m more likely to play it on my iPad), my usage doesn’t justify the extra luggage, so to speak. Bigger good, way way bigger so you have to think about its bigness, not so good. I will go for the most memory, of course. I have learned that you can never have too much memory or speed, and that both will seem restrictive way before you upgrade whatever it is you have that requires memory and speed. I’ll wait until the machine is available at the Apple store next door to my office. I noticed that they’re available on Long Island, so they should creep up to Westchester in a week or so.

I’ve been listening to Flash Boys as my commute audiobook. Given our experience with latency issues at the Pups, listening to this book makes me wonder why CP has chosen to dedicate his skills to debate when instead he could be ripping off entire marketplaces and making billions of bucks. An unwise choice on his part. Speaking of which, I am now especially looking forward to working with him at Bronx. I want him to sit next to me with a pencil and write down how I use the system. His use of the system is predicated on his knowledge of the system: he knows where all the bodies are buried. It’s like the only time I ever indexed a book, the original Doubleday Cookbook back in the 70s. I then adopted that book as my go-to for basic recipes, because whenever I wanted to look something up in the index, I always found it right away because the index thought exactly the way I did (or vice versa). That’s why in the early days of tabroom we always liked to have O’C around: we claimed that he thought like CP, or more correctly, he knew what CP was thinking when he programmed a certain feature, so like CP, O’C could immediately put his finger on the right button. (If I’m not mistaken, when CP heard that O’C was able to read his mind, he went on a two-year sabbatical, trekking to various Nepalese monasteries until his mind was completely cleansed, with nothing left behind but “Keep Out! Cruz, This Means You!!!” signs.)

By the way, I went over the fines for the Pups, and saw virtually no real villains in the judges not showing up category. Well, I saw one, who will have a bit to answer for, but that’s it. Nice job on everyone else’s part. This was especially true on Sunday, when you need your top panels. Lose one person, and the 1-1, 1-1, 1-1 becomes a 1-1, 1-1, 3-5 at best, and there is murder in one’s eye. I don’t recall subbing more than one or two judges all day, and those were not because of no-shows but of bad info, and we always had a few 1-ish Pups available to fill in.

I should mention that our Student Advocate was indeed called on directly once, and indirectly more than that. Directly because of some shenanigans in a round that were apparently more bad manners than abuse, but still, that’s what she was there for. Indirectly, because I would solicit her opinion on various things that might come up, because she was closer to the debate experience than I, or at least the LD debate experience. When possible, I will want to continue having such a person around (and I will hope every time it is someone as good as the one we had at Yale).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In which we wish some of you a happy new year (in our own little way)

I get the impression that half the people at the Pups have come down with the Creeping Crud or some near cousin. The Sailors seemed to be in one piece when I saw them last night, and although my head was a little buzzy on Monday I’m fine now, but everyone on Facebook seems have suffered everything from night sweats to navel lint, so I guess we should consider ourselves lucky.

Last night, watching our Not George go over the parts of a round, I realized I pretty much have to spend a day or so working on creating teaching stuff for PF. As I said, I used to wiggle into it from LD, but now we’ll be launching directly into it, which is a totally different business. As a paying member of NSDA (which I doubt I’ve mentioned yet, and which I’ll explain eventually), I assume I have access to all sorts of stuff on their site, but I’m as happy making it up myself as using theirs. I do like the idea of getting to watch Fr Michael’s PF lectures, though. The only one I ever saw was just the top of his head and his first name was Brother rather than Father, so I’m hoping via the promotion that he now gets full skull treatment. I read the potential PF topics to the Sailors at last night’s meeting. A couple of people moaned about GMOs, but I ascribe that to ignorance. I think it’s a strong topic with plenty of strong opinions on both sides. As I read the other topic, I had to allow people a ten minute recess in the middle because I lost them somewhere between “is preferable” and Needles, California. As anyone who has even consulted the book of rez rules can tell you, the longer it is, the worse it is. If it fills up your entire constructive, you might want to vote for the other one. Oh, yeah, the content is pretty uninteresting too. Unless we’re talking about some sort of agriculture from hell that should be stopped at all costs, it’s pretty hard to prioritize having a nice lawn over feeding the hungry masses. Then again, the Sailors tell me that, in the heat of battle, Sept-Oct wasn’t that bad after all. They liked the Pro, in other words. Go figure. I never really hated the topic, although it didn’t grab me as having any great merit as an issue that must be discussed. GMOs and water rights certainly have more intrinsic value as topics. I did put in my vote, for what it’s worth. We’ll find out soon enough.

This is pretty much a verbatim quote from a plebe last night: “Moby-Dick. Bleech! It’s got all this whale stuff in it.” Comden and Green went at it a different way: “It’s about this whale…” Both lines are pretty memorable. Anyhow, next week the plebes will read to us from a “favorite” book, a regular feature of the novitiate. Favorite books earn those quotes because over the years we’ve heard from everything from Dr. Seuss to Alex Comfort. The point is for me to get a fix on poise and voice, with a soupcon of mental status; the Alex Comfort reader, for instance, turned out predictably, uh, inappropriate, in many, many ways.

O’C is heading out tonight to spend Rosh Hoshanah with the NSDA board, which I’m pretty sure isn’t exactly a family tradition with him. I think he said it was in Iowa. So near and yet shofar. He promised to look at the agenda for the MHL Workshop on the way out. I’d like to put that baby to bed by the end of the weekend. That and the PF curriculum.

I hope it rains all day Sunday. I’ll light a fire in the hearth and plug away.

("So near and yet shofar"—Are you really letting me get away with that?)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In which we use the phrase "old titular fart"

At some point last week, before I went to the Pups (which did nothing to change my mind), I decided that I would no longer start Sailor debaters in LD, but would instead go directly to PF. I’ve already explained at length why I prefer PF to LD. I was only using LD as a vestigial tool to train kids on arguments, and to avoid having to create team pairs right away, which ranges from dicey to inevitable when dealing with a small team. This year, I realized that if we had the first-timers’ event on the last week of October use the Nov PF topic, we could then get a whole lot of bang out of the novice PF buck. I guess I could have alternately extended the Sept-Oct topic into November, but I don’t like it much and don’t see it as a great starting place for newbies, given its con bias. Did I mention, by the way, that our local CFL and the MHL will now no longer use coin flips? As for the former, it’s in line with their finals tournament, and most of our local rules are in aid of following the rules there, while for the MHL, if we really want to educate new students, it makes sense to put them on both sides of a topic (which is really the motivation for our local CFL as well). Anyhow, for me dumping LD entirely means revising my curriculum a wee bit off the top, but I still think that students who understand rights and morality and justice are better off than students who don’t, so it’s not terribly difficult for me to make the switch.

Of course, the Pups confirmed this decision. As I’ve said a million times, if TOC didn’t exist, I wouldn’t invent it. The idea of a national circuit strikes me as progressively more bizarre as time goes by. What other high school activity sends students traveling around the country every other week or so? And let’s face it, it’s not that many students that do such traveling, although I suspect that the people on the $ircuit think the $ircuit is bigger than it is, and that everyone who isn’t a part of it wants to be, and that whatever it does is the way things should be done. I suspect that the reason the same schools repeat year after year at TOC is that it is pretty much just these schools that are in the running. LD is obviously going the way of policy in becoming a limited activity with a de facto no-entry policy for new programs. That is, former LDers train new LDers, and without former LDers, you don’t have LD. Everyone in the universe seems to have a coach or two (or eight) still in college, plus one old titular fart who’s been around forever who hasn’t judged since the Carter Administration who buys the plane tickets and checks in at the motel and that’s about it. Not to mention the fact that the trend has moved from debating often interesting resolutions to the dreadfully dull idea of evaluating debate per se. How many judges are deciding on the basis of violations, critiques, off-case analyses, etc., versus the idea that one debater defended a particular side of a resolution better than the other debater defended the opposite side? Certainly a lot of the tournaments I work at also have a traveling bunch of PFers, but so far they haven’t cut themselves off from the real world. Maybe they will at some point. I don’t know. I’ll be long gone by then. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy to see my back.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In which we stare at a blank screen

Here’s a shocker for you. If you do something people don’t like, they storm the barricades and give you a stern talking to. (Like that ever really works.) If you do something they do like, they do not storm the barricades thanking you profusely and telling you what a great job you’re doing. Which means that it’s a good idea to take as one’s personal philosophy the idea that virtue is its own reward.

The Pups was going swimmingly until we had server issues. Since tabroom is server-based, if you’re not connected for whatever reason, you get a blank screen, and there is literally nothing you can do. As people staring at the blank screen, our little team could only curse the gods and, of course, notify CP, who was apparently well aware of the problem, since it was affecting him too. I gather after the fact that he has fixed whatever the problem was, which is way above my pay grade.

As (presumably) a result of this glitch, we had some really interesting problems. As it turned out, I had an incorrect setting on where to focus prefs, which was clear enough after having to go in and manually reassign a bunch of judges. But standard operating procedure in any case is to go over a pairing and check all the judges and fix the assignments where the prefs don’t work, so the wrong setting, aside from making more work, caused no harm. But we did have to change a lot of judges. Whatever. There were three of us, and we had at it, and we ended up with a pairing where everyone had very nice 1s and 2s and, hither and yon, the odd 3. If I’m not mistaken, at the same time the ability of the program to distribute the rooms correctly was thrown off (although this might have been later). This meant a lot of checking and room reassigning, so that judges were not in two places at the same time.

We finally got everything right, with three people, as I said, beavering away at it. We released a pairing and took a breath. What happened next was pretty much impossible for us to understand. A coach came by and was disappointed that one of his down-2s got a 3-3 judge. I sort of naturally assumed that this meant there was nothing better, and dismissed it. But as the round was going on, I took a look to find out why this might have happened—maybe it was an error on our part rather than a lack of any better judges—and found a whole slew of 4s and 5s assigned to down-2s, on a pairing three of us had vetted to insure that there was not a single 4 or 5. That is, we had meticulously cleaned up the pairing, and somehow it had gotten all dirty again. We hypothesized on how this might have happened, and obviously it was related to the server problem, but of course all we could do was the blind guessing of the ignorant. It was hard to explain to CP, too, because since we had fixed it and then it wasn’t fixed anymore on our screens, he had nothing to work with. He does connect it to the server issue, and he has addressed that, so I have no lack of confidence in the system going forward (especially since he’ll be sitting next to me in a couple of weeks at Bronx).

Anyhow, I did feel that the tournament had promised the best judging for down-2s, and we had, for this round, not delivered on that important promise. So we double-byed those rounds. I could not in good faith eliminate folks from contention because we had failed to provide them with the judges they deserved in that situation. I think this was the right decision, and as far as I know, it was accepted as the right decision. Certainly no one was harmed by it, as compared to letting the decisions stand, which may or may not have caused harm. Who knows how a 1-1 would have judged the round compared to how the 5-5 judged it?

The system eventually got back to business, but it was still dinky for a while on the room side. One of the joys of tabroom has been its handling of rooms, compared to TRPC, and the thing is, when there’s even one assignment where a judge is in two places at once, you have no alternative but to check every assignment of room and judge, both ways, for hundreds of pairings. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Thanks to the outage, one way or the other we lost almost 2 hours. Which meant we had no choice but to single-flight the run-off round, which started around 9:00 rather than 7:00. We could, I guess, have put in a single judge rather than panels, but I don’t know how that would have been received. With the virtue of hindsight, it might have been received better than the tough panels that were created. Those tough panels did cause the aforementioned storming of the barricades. I certainly didn’t disagree that many of these panels were brutal, but I can’t say that I react well to being stormed. In any case, it was what it was, and there was nothing that was going to be done about it.

The system was fine after that. Sunday we delivered virtually nothing but 1-1-1 panels. Shockingly, not one of the usual suspect coaches came in to tell us they liked the assignments. We should have tossed a few 4-3s in there just to see if they were still breathing. My guess is that they will remember to their graves the run-off, and never even think anything of the doubles, octo (bid round), quarters or semis panels. (The final, while pretty damned good in my estimation, went off prefs for an all-Pup panel, which is the tradition.)

Here’s the thing. I’m obviously a big supporter of MJP. Anyone who has read my writing knows that. But I’m also a big supporter of things like coaching your students to handle any judges, as compared to using your coaching time to go into tab to complain every time you don’t like the assigned judges. Instead of trying to teach how to persuade a diverse audience, we teach that it is better to persuade tab to deliver a different audience. I doubt if most LD circuit debaters today are capable of winning over any more than a tiny segment of particularly predisosed adjudicators. We are, at best, teaching them to preach to the choir. So it goes, and the train has left the station on this (wow—two clich├ęs in a row), but that doesn’t mean I like it. I’ll give you all the highest prefs I can whenever I tab, because that’s why I earn the nonexistent big bucks. However, if you solicit my opinion on all of this (and perhaps even if you don’t), I’ll be happy to provide it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In which we don't say much

So today was the final setting up for the Pups. All the hired judges are in and their conflicts marked. I doublechecked the rooms and there seem to be enough of them. I’ve checked the weather and it looks great. I’ve sent out instructions on this and that to the soon-to-be-assembled multitudes, including how we’ll handle judge assignments. (I followed my thoughts from my analysis a while ago over at NDCA, i.e., mutual through 3-3 then whatevah, due to the tiny number of whatevahs that actually come up.)

I also sent out a message to the hordes of the MHL, telling them to join NDCA. Speaking of which, I cast my ballot today for the board openings. And sometime over the weekend I have to get my act together on the MHL Workshop.

Meanwhile, JV is reserving rooms for Princeton. And come to think of it, I’ve already touched based with them, Columbia and Penn about their tournaments. Good grief! The season’s practically over already.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In which we use a word for the first time

We seemed to have cut out all the nautical ribbon clerks early this year. Usually we drift down to the hard core in drips and drabs, but last night there were only a handful of plebes left. The good news is that 3 of them had already signed up, and the other 2 are seniors in it for a lark, which I always like, but I did think we’d pull a few more. I wasn’t that horrible on opening night, I don’t think. I told El Capitano to keep those announcements coming.

We had a practice round last night. I was a little perturbed over a seeming lack of accessible blocks. Maybe I never explained that to them? Jeesh. Given that a topic has a bunch of things that are probably going to be said, debaters should have a bunch of responses ready for those things. Of course, one can go too far, and have blocks locked and loaded but because the contention was more subtle, or really doesn’t fit that particular A/T, the block doesn’t work, but often the debater uses it anyhow. Then again, there’s always the debater who goes first, tells me what the opponent is going so say, and then refutes it before the opponent even opens the old mouth. This solo dance never fails to entertain when the opponent runs something else. Who would have expected that?

Oh, well. At the Pups I’m more worried that everyone show up when and where they’re supposed to than anything else, given that the ship of Hud will sail without me. Usually I drive up the debaters but there’s too many of them to fit in my car, and I have to get there early, yadda yadda yadda, so there’s a parent on the bus with both the debaters and the Speecho-Americans. Oh, well. I was that parent once. She’ll survive.

I’ll be sending out my last marching orders to the Pup field tonight or tomorrow morning. Lots of fun announcements about the student advocate, obligations, how we’ll handle MJP (and no, we won’t be handling it by calling it MPJ), etc. I will do my best to hold a civil tongue in my head, given that no one has done anything shenaniganian yet, and everyone should be preemptively upbraided for the sins of a few.

(You know, I can’t ever remember typing the word upbraided before. Who would have thought…)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In which we kvetch (which we've probably never done before)

We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo would say. In other words, Pup prefs have opened. Thousands cheer.

There are three things I can’t talk about. The first one is that X is going to Z. The second is that Y is going to Q. Those I promised to keep my mouth shut about, and you’ll hear for yourself shortly. The third is that, even though it is horrible and everyone involved should be banned for life, I will no say no more, forever. You may or may not agree on that last one, but in my opinion, well, so it goes.

There. I know you like the fact that I keep you up-to-date on everything.

I continue to be amazed at some of the shenanigans we’ve been seeing, with people creating schools or teams out of thin air. Here’s a tip, if that’s your cup of tea. Don’t register using the email of one of the teams. That’s a real beginner’s mistake. You think we’re not going to look there first? Don’t register using the email of someone we know doesn’t work at the place you’re registering. Don’t attempt to hire a hundred judges; we check every request, and if you’ve got lots of kids and no adults, we’ll probably scratch our heads a bit. Don’t register using a variant of your school’s name, and think we won’t notice. Don’t have one person register 20 different schools. The name will ring a bell, Pavlov. Don’t put in a bogus entry for one tournament and expect that we won’t remember when the next tournament comes up. For that matter, don’t pull anything unwise, period, if you want to register for other tournaments. For example, continually not showing up is an offense punishable by not being accepted in the first place. Seriously now, people. It’s the same personnel in every northeast tab room. You think we forget, or don’t talk to one another? Didn’t pay your registration to one tournament? Just try to get into another one. Judges skipped out on breaks? Farewell, my lovely.

It might come as a shock, but schools get a rep. We know who we can count on, and who we can’t count on. We know who will be pulling fast ones, because they pull fast ones every time. We know who will make ridiculous demands, and we know who will come by and offer help and extra judging and a kind word. We know who thinks we’re trying to screw them when we tab (even though, sorry, you’re not worth the effort, no matter how important you think you are), and we know who believes that we’re impartial because, well, we just don’t give a honk which team gets which judge. We know who’s new and comes asking questions and accepts the answers and learns and grows and becomes an old-time pro pretty quickly, and we know who’s arrogant and who knows way more than we do. And this is all universal. That little mafia of tabbers has been there and done that so many times, we’re inured to it. This is not to suggest that most people are asshats; this is far from true. The people I consider rapscallions and bad debate citizens are the ones who are always emailing or breaking down the door to tab. That's a relatively small number. The vast majority of good debate citizens are judging their rounds and organizing their troops and trusting us to do our best while we trust them to do their best. Win/win for those people.

I love that there’s a shenanigans function in tabroom. That is CP all over. I only wish he were able to identify even more shenanigans than he does.

Okay, I’ve got the bitter out. Now I’ll start getting ready to smile at everybody when the weekend rolls around. Oh. Good to see you. Have you lost weight? That tiara looks wonderful on you! Have you gotten a new psychotherapist? It shows, dahling.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In which we are collegiate (with no apologies to Fred Waring)

I went to the Collegiate Round Robin this weekend. Aside from a drop-off of a trophy last year, I haven’t been since it was the Vassar Round Robin. One thing I noticed right away was that it wasn’t in Poughkeepsie, which meant schlepping down by train rather than driving up by car. Honestly, I prefer the train. It’s much easier to sleep than while driving, for one thing. And my last visit to Vassar, for the MHL and Invitational last year, was sort of traumatic. The sight of all those hot dogs…

Anyhow, for those who have never been there, Collegiate, which is older than any school you can think of and apparently once had Socrates as a teacher until they sent him out once to make a coffee run and he never returned, is a real warren of a building, or actually a number of buildings. You are greeted in the cafeteria by a handwritten menu left over from Per Se down the road, offering a fine selection of entrees that don’t even come close to debate ziti, mystery meat or sloppy joes. Apparently the wine list is a bit light on Bordeaux, but you can’t have everything. Sometimes you just have to settle for a Californian cabernet. Sigh. From this one might get an idea that the place is just too too, until you read the sign on the ladies room door explaining what ladies are and why they get to use this bathroom and you don’t. Normally I don’t read the signs on the ladies room door, and I assure you I wasn’t considering availing myself of that particular facility, but sometimes you’ve got to stop and smell the roses.

I had helped Aracelis set things up on tabroom, and I was there pretty much just to hang out after that. RRs are pretty straightforward, after all. Judges were a tad tight, and tabroom couldn’t really assign them after the first couple of rounds, but it was easy enough to do manually, starting with the hardest to place and working outwards. We hit a wall at one point, but a reboot and a slice or patience seemed to do the trick. CP claimed that there was no system outage, so I guess there must have been a system outage. (Not that I don’t believe everything CP tells me…) He was out in Chicago introducing more suckers disciples to the glory that is his program. One new feature that didn’t work was a notification of when all the ballots were in, which is nifty for an all e-ballot situation, and he seemed to get that working by the end of the day. Nice. Of course, we won’t be doing e-ballots in the depths of Hell House this weekend at Yale. I was considering doing them on the campus on Friday, but going on and off and on again seemed like too much of a reach at this point in the life of tabroom. Maybe next time.

Anyhow, the tournament ended, as most do, and it was a Lake Highland closeout, so I got to take a nice walk from the upper west side down to GCT, and then a nice nap on the ride home, and a pleasant time was had by all. Aracelis managed to cop a couple of tons of leftover meat and potatoes from Saturday night, so look for barbecue sauce stains on her fingers for the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In which we gratuitously mention Big Bronx in passing in order to increase page views

Apple has discontinued the classic iPod. I personally have purchased about 2 CDs this year (although I will allow that one of them was a multidisc set). The idea of physically owning music media, which has been dying for a while as people migrate to mp3s, is virtually over, aside from a few diehards. I actually thought I was one of those diehards until I found that Spotify had more albums than I do. While arguments can be made against the sound quality of the average song file, my old-age hearing loss is beneficial as far as that’s concerned. Maybe there will always be people buying vinyl (I recently threw most of my old scratched-up unlistenable vinyl away—beware of needles!), there is also still a market for Edison-era cylinders. The times move, and we move with them.

Still, I’m not giving up my big ol’ iPod anytime soon, much to the dismay/comfort of my companions in tab rooms. I have gotten off the kick of going through those bazillion songs alphabetically—the loop of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” at last year’s Big Bronx still haunts those of us who suffered through it—but I still like serendipity, so now I just go on random play of songs, and the devil take the hindmost. I’ve got some really good music on there. I’ve also got some real crap. And some stuff I can’t imagine how it got there. With luck, that little machine will last for quite a few more years. (Side note: I do have a playlist now of nothing but different versions of “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”: I call it my “Torture Palmer Till He Does Everything I Want in Tabroom” playlist and I’ve got it set for endless repeat. [Evil laugh here. Big Bronx is coming.])

I was able to scare up some slots in JVLD at the Pups, now that VLD has settled down. I feel good about that. There’s a couple of programs I’d still like to let in, but we’re getting close. The shutdown tomorrow could have an impact, although I’m not sure. Things have been so static. There’s still 99 people on the PF waitlist, for instance. Not much I can do there, due to limitations of space. Still, I wonder if a division ought to be bigger than 200. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of prospective craziness. Even if a division has the space to expand to accommodate everyone, is that a good idea? Tab management gets crazy (especially in PF, which is hard to tab no matter how you slice it, with its floating sides in every round). Division quality can’t possibly be that high throughout, which is only a problem insofar as, in a big division, if there’s not enough rounds, teams can break that ordinarily wouldn’t. (Witness CatNats.) And there’s absolutely no control of judging. I mean, random is fine, but at some point, even in PF, don’t we want judges we trust judging important rounds? Maybe not. I know there are some people still reeling from the very idea that all judges aren’t randomly assigned, much less the trend to MJP. Oh, well. It’s a complicated question.

Meanwhile, Saturday it’s on to Collegiate. I’ll pack my backpack tonight (I’m out tomorrow). I’ve already looked everywhere for my really nice debate pens, which seem to be nowhere to be found. Hmmm. It wasn’t that long ago that O’C stayed over and took all the Disney shampoo containers. I wonder if he’s been over again lately? Well, at least I'll be in the City. There's got to be pen stores around there somewhere.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In which we thank our lucky stars for our popularity during debate season

I think I do this because, when I don’t do it, I don’t get much mail. Nobody asks me questions that are answered in the invitation. No one yells at me for losing their ballots last year with a warning not to do it again, you spalpeen! Nobody wonders why they didn’t get any hired judges, even though they didn’t request any hired judges. Nobody complains how hard it is to change motel arrangements, even though I’ve had to change my own motel arrangements and all I had to do was send an email to the nice people at the Hampden Inn and they were most accommodating. Let’s face it; 50% of being a coach is being a travel agent. Speaking of which, I just made my Montwegian reservation today. Must have taken me whole minutes. Oh, the humanity.

Last night the plebes appeared, in rather goodly numbers, meaning that next week I’ll have half a goodly number which is, in this case, still a goodly number. I look for 4 or 5 to make it for the long haul. If we start with 10, that’s where we end up. That’s right for Sailordom. We didn’t pick up many Speecho-Americans, though. They’ll just have to keep on recruiting. We can’t set sail without any Sailors.

Anyhow, back to the Pups. The number of VLD has settled. What I’m looking for next is filling in some of the JVLD slots. I had switched the totals to accommodate more of the former, but now that we’re down to loose or extra entries, it’s time to see to the young ‘uns again. How many remains to be seen, since that division has barely moved a muscle since the beginning. The thing is, a lot of people look to Yale, with what is the last of the JV divisions, as an important event. But the number of rooms is the number of rooms, and it does make sense to prioritize VLD for the sake of the tournament. It’s tough, and people are going to get blocked out. Not much we can do about that.

I will be going down to Vassaregiate this weekend to provide moral support, if nothing else. I love the fact that tabroom never forgets coaches’ notes, which means that, among other things, a couple of our judges are unavailable on Friday for a tournament that starts on Saturday. As long as the notes are eternal, they are, essentially, useless. Apparently the problem is that in Massachusetts, notes are indeed eternal, and the mobs that dumped the tea into the bay would rise again and dump CP into the bay, or something, if the notes went away. As I’ve said to him about a million times, feh! Even if the reason for keeping the notes were a good one, the fact that the reason comes from Massachusetts would render it misguided. I mean, these are the people who elected Romney and Dukakis! Seriously now…

Monday, September 08, 2014

In which we mostly kick the season into gear

Things seem to be locking down at the Pups. The TBAs are gone, the judges are all sold, and there isn’t much movement except the tiniest trickle. I’m still expecting one last little splash when registrations are fixed on Friday, but the way things are going, it won’t make that much of a difference.

Saturday was the NYCFL meeting, which is like the beginning of the season without anything actually happening. It was at Iona, although Catholic Charlie has moved up to directing the entire national league, and toward the end of the meeting, when we had the annual elections, we put Tommy B in his place. This is a big change. No more Genesis. Sondheim 24/7. Wowza! Otherwise not too much to report. We did agree to remove the flip from all PF rounds, which is pretty big. This is in keeping with NCFL, of course, but honestly, as long as there’s big imbalances in resolutions, where the only advice I can give my students is to flip the side that will always win, it makes sense. We know of cases where people flip into winning trophies. We also know of cases where people never debate one of the two sides. Strategically I kind of like the flip, but it only works if all other things are equal, and I don’t think they ever will be. We’re going to institute it at the MHL, too, in aid of it being a better learning scenario.

There is lots of movement of people and programs. Kaz, of course, abandoning the Hudson River for the Mighty [there must be some river or something in Lexington]. Some speech people have moved on. There’s all sorts of calendar changes. You name it. Students of my Hen Hud calendar are advised to take a new look at it, especially for MHL/CFL stuff. We put JV into Kaz’s MHL advisory position, which makes sense. He needs something to do to fill up his empty hours, after all. Anyhow, I’ll send out a message to the MHL troops at some point soon, to provide an update.

Tomorrow night is the first meeting with the new recruits, if any. I trust the Sailors have been driving in the sheep, but one never knows until one gets there. Pray for plebes!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In which we wring our hands over bogus entries

The freebooters may be getting out of hand.

I do not feel a terribly great need to defend the idea that attendance at high school debate tournaments ought to be confined to official entries from actual high schools. This is about as radical as suggesting that attendance at high school tennis tournaments ought to be confined to official entries from actual high schools. Clubs like to claim that they’re doing all this great stuff for debate, and maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but that’s not the point. Independent debaters like to claim that they are the stuff that dreams are made of, TOC-quality talent that the tournament needs to make it legit, but again, that’s not the point. Every event I attend is a high school event, with all the various sanctions and expectations in place, backed by and answerable to school administrations, for the benefit of the students in those schools. That’s the way that it is, and it doesn’t strike me as some horribly restrictive system that needs to be changed. Like many folks in the activity, I would like to see more debate in more places, but to me that means more debate in more schools, with recognition within those schools of the educational benefits of the activity. It does not mean more debate in unregulated and/or maverick situations outside of the basic educational context.

As I say, I feel no great need to defend this. Most people I know, from the administration of various national organizations to tournament directors to tab staff feel the same way, so this is hardly heretical. (And as for the latter, the tab staffs, given our experience with non-school entities, independent or otherwise, we have more than merely orthodoxy informing our opinions on this subject.)

I offer all this prelude to the fact that, regardless of the policies of most tournaments which restrict entry to official registrants from bona fide schools, we are now seeing what I would call a boomlet in bogus entries. People pretend to be their coach and sign up, even when their coach has specifically determined that their school will not be attending the tournament. People register under false names marginally similar to their own (in case they acquire a bid and want to claim it later). People simply register as their school slash independent, with no one at their school in fact endorsing their entry even as independents. People don’t even bother pretending to be a coach, but simply register as if they’re the school, creating a completely bogus account under the school name.

We’ve been weeding our way through these at the Pups, but they’re not alone in having this problem. I’m curious to what the warrant is for such deception/mendacity: since you’re not allowed at this tournament for one reason or another, it’s okay for you to lie your way in? This is the lesson of morality and ethics that we are teaching students today?


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

In which we watch the season commence

Things start up pretty quickly, once they start up. All of a sudden I’m getting a million emails, about this, that and the other. I’d almost forgotten what it was like.

This morning I sent out the first of what will no doubt be regular Pups emails on this and that. The waitlist remains ridiculous, although there should be some falloff over the next week. Still, there’s no way everyone who wants to get in will. Not a good situation. Needless to say, sending an email saying there’s nothing you can do immediately brings responses from people demanding that you do something. Oh, well. We’ll clear the TBAs Friday, although honestly I don’t think it will help all that much. The whole process is more aimed at getting people to be realistic rather than a general purge. As CP says, you can always put in one name and then change it to another later. But that says that you’re really coming, as compared to thinking you might be marshaling your troops at some point. I mean, it’s in a little over two week’s time. People should have a handle on it by now.

This weekend there’s the NYCFL meeting, followed by a NYSDCA lunch. The former is the same old same old, where we argue about the rules for Congress and poke at the schedule and reelect one another and eat bagels. As for the latter, this is a good idea, an opportunity for coaches to get together without a tournament breathing down their necks to talk about whatever concerns them. The only problem is transportation from one to the other means that I’ll need to drive into Manhattan. I don’t mind that so much, but I’ve gotten used to taking the train and sleeping. You really can’t do that while you’re driving. Then again, I can make more progress on my endless audiobook pursuit of the Harry Potter titles. Ms. R does slow down a bit after the first four books.

Tonight is the last chez before moving back to the high school next week. We’ll gnaw a bit at the topics and talk about recruiting. And then the game will be afoot.

Can Bump be far behind?

Monday, September 01, 2014

In which we put DisAd14 to bed

I want to finish up this DisAd business and get back to the forensics universe.

There isn’t much to say about Animal Kingdom. We rode the rides, we saw the animals, we ate lunch in the shade. That night we stuck to the theme and went to Boma’s for dinner. Disappointingly, the cocktail lounge there no longer has its own drinks as it did last time; there had been some great ones there. Not that this stopped us, but when Disney cuts back on something unique, well, I can’t ever think that’s a good thing. Like there’s no more literal rope drop in MK, for instance, and no Mickey-hand waving on the way in. That’s small stuff, but the details are what make Disney Disney. Anyhow, as we were drinking away, Kaz returned, and our merry little band was whole again.

Friday was Hollywood Studios. Again, we did all there was to do, pretty much. O’C started out spending a lot of time going on Star Tours, which is new since our last visit, and which now mixes and matches possible experiences. He was wearing his Darth Mickey Ears, and by about the hundredth trip the ride operators were pretty much convinced that his guy was Nerd Numero Uno without a friend in the world. So when we all showed up with him later in the day, needless so say, we pretended we didn’t know him. (Not true, of course; in fact, even I stocked up on merch at Tatooine Traders.) In fact, because of the variations, the whole load of us rode ST twice, and it was indeed different. Another very nice upgrade. Another fun thing was watching the paduwan training. Little kids who could barely hold their little sabers in battle with Darth Vader. Highly entertaining and cute. Later in the day O’C got picked to be color in the Indy stunt show, which made his day on face, until he was there in the hot sun in a caftan for an hour waving his arms around; it always adds a pall to the day when they carry the extras out on a stretcher. After a longish day, Liz and I slipped out and met up with JV back at the hotel lounge. A nice glass of wine and a little salad instead of Fantasmic? Just this once, you betcha!

Saturday was our valediction, a bit of a sleep in and later start on Epcot. Liz and I tried the Behind the Seeds walking tour of The Land, a really interesting change of pace. OC and I agreed that next time (???) we’d do backstage at MK. Doing Seeds meant skipping Captain EO. Thank God! Then we did all the countries we hadn’t already done, snacking, eating, watching movies, shopping, etc., wrapping it all up with the now traditional (except next time I want to go somewhere else) dinner at Germany and, of course, Illuminations.

After the DiDeAd four years ago, it seemed as if the stars had come together just right, and that the fun would never happen again. That was not true. The stars were in whatever was the right conjunction, and the proverbial lightning did strike twice. 8 people, many but not all of them of the forensician persuasion, can come together for four days of peace and love and rock and roll—wait a minute. Wrong event. And it’s more like ten days of fun in the sun under Disney skies, provided a little planning to avoid lines and to secure good food is spent ahead of time.

In other words, as far as I could tell, a splendid time was had by all.