Thursday, March 31, 2016

In which we make lame excuses

I think it has something to do with how the brain works. If you’re using up a certain piece of it all day, that piece can’t just keep going on and on without having a chance to replenish or recharge itself. There is one thing that goes on at the DJ, which is the first cut one does on a book, that takes pretty much every literate part of your brain and controls it completely. You have to make room for a whole book in the space between your ears, and carry it around for weeks as you keep cross-referencing it, and that doesn’t leave any room for any other books, or anything even like another book. Like blogging. It’s not that I’m cutting 24 hours a day, but the 8 hours a day I am cutting remove the ability of my brain to do anything else but eat, sleep, fight with the cat and watch an hour of mindless television every day.

In other words, I have not been suffering from the yaws, or famine, or Dutch elm disease. I just haven’t had the necessary energy to post, especially when there isn’t all that much going on in the debate world, which is the only thing you’re probably interested in (which is rather narrow on your part, but so be it; if you want articles on Child Stars Who Grew Up to be Axe Murderers, you probably wouldn’t come to me for them). That I am writing this, however, should be an indication that things are looking up. At the point when one finishes one of these all-engulfing assignments, one flips oneself upside down and lets the whole book flow out in a rush, to clear the decks and to resume course as before, at least until then next such assignment pops up. Which won’t be for a while, in my case. Thank goodness.

Then again, I’m not going to be around for a while, so it's not as if there is going to be a sudden rush of new posts. Next week I’m heading down to Florida for the NDCA Championships, with a little time set aside for WDWing. So don’t worry that I’ve finally succumbed to my advanced years or something. I’m just busy doing other things. Soon enough I’ll be back at the old stand doing the old standing.

I know you wouldn’t want it any other way.



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

At least some of us are doing their bit

Jules and the Nostrumite have posted a new episode of Nostrum over at Nostrum Nation. Me, I've just been working my little brains out at the DJ, and have nothing to add to the conversation.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Advice from a Life Coach 2

Advice: Do not discuss politics with your in-laws. They are the original people with whom discussing politics and/or religion is a bad idea. If you must discuss one of the two, go for religion, as people usually feel less strongly about it than about politics and are often better armed with facts, such as they are.
(Ancillary advice: If you do not have any in-laws, you are better off for it, and should do your best to keep it that way.)

Fact: Nothing grows faster than other people's children.

Commonly held misconception among people once they reach middle age: Everyone your age looks older than you do.
This is not true. If they all look like death eating a fig newton, then so do you.
Deal with it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In which we decide to GTT

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

NDCA is conducting a Coach Development Conference in May down in Dallas. I mentally hemmed and hawed about going for a while. I liked the idea, and I might learn a few things, and I might be able to add a little something to the conversation. But I’d have to pay for it out of pocket, and give up a couple of days off from the DJ. One of the modules will be about running tournaments, a subject I think I know more than a little about (although CP will no doubt disagree), so I finally bit the bullet and signed up. I found the cheapest flight ever to anywhere (under $200!) which leads me to believe that, if supply and demand is true, there is an enormous supply and not much demand for Texas in May, or else supply and demand works some other way altogether. (Actually, I’ve read that supply and demand in the real world is a myth. Since I know nothing about economics, I can believe it. Or not.) I also look forward to hearing some of the other presentations. I’ll report on them soon enough. And I’ll shortly be starting on my own presentation, and will keep you posted along the way on that. I know you’re dying to hear all the gory details. Or not.

Despite the lack of tournaments until September (excepting NDCA), I’m mightily busy for the next couple of months, at least on the weekends, and sometimes during the week. And the latest new pressures (all good) on the DJ are keeping me groundstone-directed nosewise. In other words, I’m heading into a busy period. I may be erratic in posting for a while. I know for a fact that my busyness is affecting Jules and the Nostrumite in their writing of Nostrum episodes, although why my being busy slows them down is beyond me. Cosmic synch, I guess.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, since NDCA is in Orlando, I am taking advantage of the opportunity for a little research time at WDW and Universal. I’m leaving in two weeks, so I’m finally starting to think about it for real. I’ll keep you posted on the details of that, because I know that, if you love Disney, you’re interested, and if you hate Disney, you’re happy that I’m going in your stead so that you don’t have to.

Am I a pip or what?

(BTW, GTT is a real thing. Look it up.) 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Jim Menick announces new career as Life Coach!

As I no longer coach high school debate, I have decided to take on coaching life itself, for everyone, covering everything. This may take some time; I will henceforth publish my life coaching wisdom here on Fridays in small, digestible pieces.

Advice: Do not whistle Stephen Sondheim songs when entering a public men's room. There is nothing to be gained by this, and much to lose.

Advice: Do not tell people that Rod Stewart was once really good back in the 60s and early 70s. No one will believe you, and both you and Rod Stewart will be none the better for it.

Advice: Do not chain-smoke cigars. (The quality of the cigars does not matter.)

Advice: There is no good reason to take off your shoes when you go to the bathroom, while there are so many good reasons to keep them on that I won't even list them. Act accordingly.



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Don't read this. It's too downbeat.

What a miserable day.

As usual, I started my morning by a quick fly at Facebook. Apparently everything that happened in the previous 24 hours was depressing, aside from Pajamas Wexler posting video of one of the greatest comic scenes in all cinema. But even that depressed me, when I realized that most people under the age of maybe 40 (and that’s giving most people the benefit of the doubt) wouldn’t know the Marx Brothers if they were thrown into a stateroom with them. (Which isn’t as funny as the mirror scene, but it comes close. “Is my Aunt Minnie in here?” Still, silent comedy trumps, if you pardon the usage.) Comedies nowadays are, well, mostly stupid, and certainly not very funny. When was the last time anyone went on the road to work out a routine on the stage first before filming it? Yeah, vaudeville is dead. Another depressing thought.

Do you realize that 40 times 15 equals 600? If we raise the minimum wage to $15, and you work 40 hours a week, you’ll make $600, before taxes (which, admittedly, won’t be much, if that's any consolation). And that’s what we want to raise the minimum wage to, not what it is now. What is the argument against paying workers wages that allow them to live decent lives? $600 * 52? $31,200. Average college tuition in the US? “According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015–2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.” Lots of room for advancement there...

Of course, my belief is that the most important thing in alleviating poverty (also known as establishing economic fairness), is education. Obviously poor people get poorer education than rich people. But you know the cycle. It’s not new. There are other benefits to education, though, other than better jobs. Mostly, we’ve have smarter people, and stupidity wouldn’t be quite as rampant in the country as it is now.

How did we get so stupid, anyhow? It seems like even the majority of what we would call the educated people are still as dumb as rocks. We don’t understand science, and we pick and choose what we wish to believe about the world for capricious and usually self-serving purposes. We’re so bigoted that it’s beginning to look instinctive/inherent/incurable.


That bout of Facebook this morning was mostly folks pushing causes in aid of making the world something different from what I just described. Their examples demonstrate the depths of our shared malady. People get more attuned to these things in an election year, but they can’t really expect them to change in a country where the legislature refuses to acknowledge the executive (e.g., appointing a supreme court justice). This is a deep, deep rift, and inertia is a powerful driver (or lack thereof). Objects don’t move unless force is applied, and they keep moving with the same speed and in the same direction when it is. Unless some other force is applied.

I don’t know what that other force is. I used to believe that we were moving, progressing, learning, growing. Experience has drawn me to believe that the margin teleology underlying this belief was total nonsense. We are going nowhere as a culture, despite our continuing creation of better tools.

I need to watch some cat videos.



Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday again already? Whoda thunkit?

I'm not quite sure why Jules and the Mite missed posting an episode last week, but they're back on track today over at Nostrum Nation. You should go on over and visit. They've limited themselves to one Donald Trump joke, which shows great restraint on their part.

I haven't had a chance to record it yet. I should get to it tonight, though. I hope it sounds better than the last couple. My ability to pronounce all my words clearly has clearly gone to hell. Must be because I've stopped coaching. My speaking skills are now simply shot. Attempting to revive them seems like the perfect way to celebrate National Speech and Debate Day, or whatever yesterday was. No touching encomium from me, unlike CP, who reminded us why we do this in the first place. Or at least why he does it. I'm only in it for the money. Which should start pouring in any day now.

Meanwhile, I'm gearing up for my new gig: Jim Menick — Life Coach. I've got some great things to share that will make your life ever so much better, and believe me, your life could use some improving. I'll be starting on Friday, which is usually a day off here at CL. I know you can't wait.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In which we fume

Somehow I have found myself judging PF for Lexington at the upcoming NDCA. Being a conscientious sort, I went over to NSDA and read the April resolution. It only took half an hour, which may be a personal record. I had to take a cold shower when I was finished.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it, well, more than once: the best resolutions are the shortest. The more words they throw at a topic in order to limit it, the more likely they are to screw it up. For that matter, even when it’s only a few words, getting cute (like, in my opinion, limiting March to Okinawa rather than Japan), is problematic. Plain and simple is best, because then debaters can just debate it instead of trying to explain it, or worse, understand it in the first place. Then again, my DJ work is entirely in aid of terseness, of getting to the point, of eliminating excess verbiage, and generally making text as clear as possible. We don’t literally simplify things, we just make them shorter. When my writing gets most concise is when I write a blurb, where I have one sentence to describe an entire book. And not a famous book (“Moby-Dick: It’s about this whale…” as Comden and Green would have it) but a book you may not have even heard of that I want you to read and enjoy. I also have 4-sentence jacket blurbs. They’re a little easier, but they still have to do a lot of work, setting up a story, making you want to read it and not giving anything away. Anyhow, the point is, wordsmiths probably all cringe at prolix and/or unclear resolutions for platonic reasons, but one imagines that debaters cringe for practical reasons. So it goes. So, for that matter, has it always gone.

Just to put things into focus, keep in mind that just thinking about the last two sentences of Charlotte’s Web have made me tear up ever since I first read the book to my daughter.

Oh, well. It will only be a couple of rounds. I’ll bring some pens and paper with me—I prefer flowing on paper since I don’t judge enough to have good proficiency doing it with a keyboard—and I’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit, since there’s nothing quite like a good debate round. With luck, there will be an evidence indictment, and I’ll have to DQ a team (or not) and then go defend the decision to the Star Chamber that is usually me and the usual suspects but this time will be… God only knows. Aaron Hardy? Hmmmm.



Monday, March 14, 2016

In which we consider the Catholics

Yet again things heat up at the DJ. When this happens, everything else suffers. It’s a good thing they pay the bills, or I wouldn’t put up with it. Then again, one does enjoy being used to the fullest extent. The alternative is to dry up and blow away, or to play golf, both of which are equally bleak prospects for most people. (I know. I used to play golf. I hated it 80% of the time, which is a bad percentage. Now I just watch my bag of clubs collecting dust while I’m on the treadmill in the mornings. It is as good a use for them as my swinging them around blindly on our local golf courses.)

Saturday was our local qualifier for CatNats. Kaz always joins us for this, even if it means driving down from Lexwegia. The attraction is twofold. First, there’s the fun of doing this unique tournament, and second, there’s lunch down in lower Manhattan. So it’s myself, JV and Sheryl, and we have at it in what is, for me and (I think) JV, the last tabbing of the season, and close to it for SK. It’s nice that our valediction is a pleasant one.

CFL has all sorts of rules, and we adhere to them as best we can. Schools should not hit other schools too much, sides are sacred and assigned in PF as well as LD (but would be the first thing to go if we had to do it), judges go in 2 to a round, single-flighted for all but the tab lunch third round, and can judge the same people on the opposite side, but we try to keep this from happening in the presets. JV worked out a nice matrix for this which, sadly, was kiboshed by a desire for tabroom to put people on the sides it wanted to put them on unless you pressed the right button, which we discovered too late. I vaguely remember seeing this button in the past. I’m hoping that my recent reacquaintance with it will bode better for the future. We got ourselves into a little mischief because of this, but nothing horrible, except for JV’s disappointment that he had to rewrite his matrix. The best laid plans…

We do the pairings on cards, then enter the pairings and throw in the judges on the computer. Lots of reading out who judged whom and did they pick them up and all that sort of thing. So despite the small size of the event, there’s a lot of work, and given that the results are meaningful—entry into a big national finals—it’s important to get it right. This year we added an extra audit, so that rightness was better assured. As far as we know, right it was. Curiously, of 14 entries in LD, 8 girls and 6 boys, the first 8 slots in order were all girls and the next 6 were not. The judge pool was relatively evenly split genderwise. Which says to me that, at least around here, we’ve got an awful lot of people who don’t buy into the idea that girls can’t do well in this event, and an awful lot of good girl debaters. Congrats to the qualifiers.

While all of this was going on, we were conducting a text conversation with CP who claims that, despite my protestations to the contrary last week, tabroom fairly distributes PF judges so that everyone gets rounds (with some preference to hireds and schools with larger teams, the latter being irrelevant at the Gem). Since we hand-placed all the judges in round 5 because so many had not been used even once all weekend, we were able to point to that round when he said we were filled with bologna on white bread. Bologna on white bread yourself, bub! I mean, if it were just me saying it, he wouldn’t believe me. When Kaz also says it? And it’s clear as day on the schematic? Well, in that case it’s obviously user error, it’s just that it takes him longer to find a user error that might apply. This is why, when I ran a systems department back in the day, I wouldn’t let the tech people talk to the users. Too many fist fights broke out. How could they not?