Friday, June 23, 2017

In which it is that time of year again: New LD topics!!!!

I never care so much about prognosticating the debatable aspects of topics so much as the educational aspects, although one or two here have, at least to me, no debate grist whatsoever. In any case, I find five good ones and five not good ones.

Resolved: In the United States, workers ought to have a civil right to unionize.

Don’t they, via the NLRB? Anyhow, the point would be whether they ought to, not if they already do. Given the service economy we’re heading into, it seems a little stale to me in terms of timeliness. Figures show unions are dying out, and about 11% of workers are still in them. Education time should be better spent elsewhere. Thumbs down.

Resolved: The non-therapeutic use of human enhancement technologies is immoral.

This would be fun, albeit a little silly. It will play to debaters’ worst instincts, but at least they’ll have to learn about what’s happening in the science. Thumbs slightly down.

Resolved: The United States ought to provide a universal basic income.

Yes. One of my favorites. I love the idea of imagining how far gov obs extend in the modern post-industrial age. Thumbs up.

Resolved: Plea bargaining ought to be abolished in the United States criminal justice system.

This one is crazy to me. Practically all cases are pled out, and my understanding is that this removes endless court time and costs. I understand the issue of innocent people pressured into pleading, but if that’s what we want to talk about, that’s hardly a general principle on which to build action. Thumbs down.

Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Interesting, and I think meaty. Thumbs up.

Resolved: A democracy ought to require the separation of church and state.

I like the idea of students studying the meaning of religion, and how it informs society. As a debate, people might think the neg has no ground because we’re all so liberal-biased, but there are plenty of people out there who strongly believe gov should be operated by religious principles. Thumbs up.

Resolved: In the United States, non-human animals ought to have legally protected rights.

Yeah, okay. Not to put too fine a point on it, this was the imaginary topic I came up with in the original Nostrum. I meant it as satire. Thumbs down.

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

Yes, please. Let’s study this one. Thumbs up.

Resolved: Privileged individuals ought not appropriate the culture of a marginalized group.

This could be the worse on the list. While we should be learning about privilege and appropriation and marginalization, they are not strong contenders for balanced debate. I mean, who in their right mind would want to flip neg, given that the neg says the privileged individuals ought to appropriate the culture of a marginalized group? Seriously? Thumbs down.

Resolved: The United States’ use of targeted killing in foreign countries is unjust.

Sure. Worth discussion, and probably ground for both sides. Thumbs up.

Once again the committee has come up with a diverse and interesting group of topics, and once again they have gone out into the world as they've deliberated and listened to the opinions of the community at large. That is the way it should be. Good work, all.


Monday, June 19, 2017

In which we admit we don't understand social media

I have no idea of the etiquette of liking. Not on Facebook, and not on Instagram. To me, liking something sends a signal of specialness, but I see people liking everything that isn’t nailed. For instance, pix of the granddaughter on Instagram. I take it for granted that my family takes it for granted that I like all of them. Is the default position that I don’t like any of them unless I specifically point it out? Who is that horrible infant and why is she in my face every day? Of course, there may be some measure of checking in with friends, but I don’t feel compelled to do so, maybe because as friends go, I really don’t number them in the Facebookian hundreds. A handful in real life, if I’m lucky. So I guess the point is that I really don’t understand social media, neither the friendships nor the communications. I post stuff as much to amuse myself as anyone else. I've found a fun performance worth sharing, say, or I have some updates on the debate side of things that I put on the Toolkit page. The latter may be of limited appeal, but for those in the business, I think I’m the only person trying to pass along any lore of running tournaments. And I don’t mean tabbing, because progressively this will get easier and easier, until it’s like automated cars and all you have to do is get in and tell it your destination. I mean everything: the full disaster, the whole shebang, the alpha and the omega, both the kit and the kaboodle. Within a few months there will be an up-to-date total package, which I means that tournaments can put me out to pasture, except we’re always looking for better ways to do things, so who knows?

Then again, I do understand that likes are the coin of the realm, the currency of social media. I’m now running a page for the DJ, still in beta, where we’re learning to get into the habit of regular posting. A bunch of people have stumbled onto it, but it won’t be publicized to our readership until a couple of weeks from now. At that point, admittedly, I’ll be looking for likes and follows. But that’s business. On the personal side, I’m obviously out of the like loop.  

All right. Enough of this. There’s some kids on my lawn I have to shoo away.


Friday, June 16, 2017

In which we list "The Best Parts About Not Attending NSDA Finals"

Following people on Facebook complaining about their airlines as they swear never again to travel on Delta / American / United / Flying-Dutchman/ Southwest / Northeast / Eastwest / etc.

Following people on Facebook complaining about their hotels as they swear never again to stay at a Marriott / Hilton / Motel 6 / Enchanted Hunters / Hunted Enchanters / Trump Swamp International / Ramada / Dazed and Confused Inn /etc.

No need to judge PF and pretend that the Trump government even knows that there is an East Africa.

Not having to figure out which of the 14 US “Magic Cities” listed in Wikipedia is the one with Nats. (Bogalusa, Louisiana would have gotten my vote.)

Ignoring the big question: What the hell is Big Questions?

Pondering the mind-numbing idea of 16 rounds. 16 rounds? And you thought that hell is other people?

Your debate year is already over. You can put your feet up, close your eyes and dream about Tahiti and the Galapagos Islands and Waikiki, until you remember that you're the lab leader for rising sixth graders for the Middle School division of your debate Summer camp gig, and you have to be there by Friday, and you think it's in Bogalusa, Louisiana, but you're not quite sure, but, Hey, you'll find out when you get there. Maybe.

And if you're the former Worst District Chair Ever, you get to breathe easy, knowing that you got out in one piece and never have to worry about going back, not that you ever went in the first place, but, well, you were the Worst District Chair Ever, after all. 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

I've had it!

I may be coming to the end of my string on Twitter. Making jokes about Trump gets old after a while, if for no other reason than he never changes. It’s the same thing over and over again. You can’t be clever swinging at the same softballs over and over again.

Add to that, Twitter is beginning to wear me out. I’ve been around a long time, and lived through some difficult periods, but I don’t think I’m wrong in thinking that this one is the worse. We have terrorists active around the world, and little likelihood of shutting them down any time soon, if ever. We have leadership in our country that is vile in so many ways, deliberately spending its efforts limiting people’s rights and willfully destroying the environment for financial gain, doing everything possible to avoid cross-aisle rapprochement to get anything positive done for the country, whose entire vision is to undo everything that’s already done because, apparently, it was done by a Black guy. We have an accidental minority president with apparently no political sense, a selfish boor who hides his questionable finances, publicly maligns anyone he perceives as an enemy, has no sense of international responsibility and no understanding that the world is more complicated than the latest conspiracy theory on Fox News. He will never be anything but our worst president. A president any worse would be our last.

Our country, built on principles of democracy and freedom, a city upon a hill with a Statue of Liberty in its harbor welcoming tempest-tost immigrants, turns out to be populated primarily by myopic xenophobes, while armed lunatics strike with mind-numbing regularity for no other result than to encourage the NRA to claim that arming lunatics is not the problem. Our population is incapable of recognizing the difference between facts and fiction, and does not have the equipment to seek truth when the recognition might not be that simple. Science, which is nothing more than the tools, mental and otherwise, to understand reality, is disdained as hucksterism, and the results of scientific method, which by definition is the proof against hucksterism, are discounted as opinion rather than fact. The issues of racism and sexism, brought to the forefront of the country’s consciousness during the 1960s, are issues only marginally addressed in the fifty years since, and ingrained prejudices of previous generations are only slightly less ingrained in the generations of today, if that.

Other countries around the world are hit and miss. The Middle East is a mess, and Europe reels from the repercussions. China seems to be doing okay, but their unfettered growth has created cesspool cities that shut down because of fatal pollution levels and their human rights record is hardly better than under strict Communism. Countries like Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons, and in the former case shaky leadership that could give rise to putting those weapons into terrorist hands, and in the latter case, bizarre leadership that has already demonstrated no unwillingness to use them. The UK is about as culturally schizophrenic as the US, Russia’s oligarchs are bringing that country back to its swaggering power-hungry heyday, and how many states in Africa are calm and comfortable and citizen-run?

Has it even been thus? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. Which brings me to my point. Do I have to keep facing this? Do I have to obsess over it? Am I morally lacking if I turn my back and just concentrate on my own little world? I certainly would be happier turning away from it. I just don’t think I can. Will I keep obsessing over Twitter, checking the latest horrors every time I blink away from whatever else I’m doing?

I don’t know. Probably, because I know myself pretty well now, I’ll just take the odd breather every now and then, close my eyes, think lovely thoughts, putter around doing the nice things I like to do, and then shake myself and start all over again. But I want to make it clear. I am not a happy camper. I am disappointed in the world I live in. I grew up believing that we would improve things, and make the world a better place.

But I don’t think we’ve done squat.  


Monday, June 12, 2017

In which we check in with a brief update

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve been up to my eyeballs in this and that for the DJ, and there isn’t that much going on that you’d be terribly interested in, so there we are. I haven’t stopped blogging, it’s just that I don’t have much to say and not much free time to say it. 

One thing you might have missed is that my daughter and her husband are now raising a daughter. I am fascinated by her. I just like looking at her (and holding her, knowing that if she raises a ruckus she has a parent nearby to take over). There’s all sorts of clichéd things I could say, but you can figure them out for yourself. One thing I’ve started doing is putting together a family history for her. This is a good writing project for me. In fact, I’ve made abortive attempts at doing it in the past, but having Rowan (that’s her name) is a real motivator. My daughter has all sorts of genealogical info on the clan; I’m looking to add some narrative.

I’m also in the process of working up all the parts of the Tournament Toolkit, those I’ve written, those I’ve thought about, and those I will think about. I would like to have it complete by the end of the summer, and progress is being made. Whether anyone will ever consult these pages is an open question, but their existence is their own reward. Once we kick into next season I expect there will be more activity on the Fb page. It’s not as if I can’t find things to complain about regularly.

I’ll also be doing my annual cleanup of my website. It shouldn’t be too major, but there will be something, I’m sure. I keep threatening myself to do a total redesign with some of the tools from my site host, but that does seem like a lot of work, and who has the time?