Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Proposed 2019-20 LD Resolutions

I can never resist commenting on the upcoming LD rezzes. 
Resolved: Predictive policing is unjust.
I have mixed feelings on this one. It’s about data analysis, making it wonky at best and not uninteresting, but I fear that in rounds it can be easily defined as a version of hi-tech racial profiling, veering away completely from an arguable issue. Flip neg at your own peril.
Resolved: The United States ought to grant legal personhood to natural ecosystems.
Sort of interesting, the more I think about it. Should require a lot of good educational research. But in the end, flip neg at your own peril.
Resolved: Japan ought to amend Article 9 of its constitution to allow for offensive military capabilities.
Here’s where the PF committee came into the room by mistake and someone forgot to erase their resolution from the board. I’m betting that for someone on the wording committee this was a pet idea that the rest could not shake. 
Resolved: The United States ought to legalize adult sex work.
Can I come on parents’ night when you explain to them why you’re doing this? This will be voted on only by the coaches who really want to discuss and direct research about adult sex work with non-adult high school students. Probably not the largest number of teachers out there… 
Resolved: The intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy.
If you’re judging this, your head will spin, but you will never actually get to hear whether or not the intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy, two ideas that are mental ships passing in the argumentation night.
Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.
Not only relevant and timely, but meaty and interesting. Solid!
Resolved: States ought to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
A classic, of course. With lots of modern issues to chew on. 
Resolved: The United States ought to act as the employer of last resort.
I like this. I always like questioning what the purpose of government is beyond the theoreticals of the social contract. What are the responsibilities of big government in the 21stCentury?
Resolved: A just nation ought not use offensive cyber operations to target civilian infrastructure.
This is no different from a rez saying the military should not attack civilians. Plus, as far as I understand things, it’s a completely wrongheaded approach to the very important subject of cyber warfare. A great subject, but this isn’t the resolution for it. 
Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
Sort of a bread-and-butter topic, if perhaps way better for policy than LD. People will probably vote for it, and then complain that they couldn’t keep their eyes open during the rounds. 
Order of preference:
Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.
Resolved: The United States ought to act as the employer of last resort.
Resolved: States ought to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. (I'm thinking of this as a Nationals topic.)
Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
Resolved: The United States ought to grant legal personhood to natural ecosystems.
Resolved: Predictive policing is unjust.
Resolved: The intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy.
Resolved: Japan ought to amend Article 9 of its constitution to allow for offensive military capabilities.
Resolved: A just nation ought not use offensive cyber operations to target civilian infrastructure.
Resolved: The United States ought to legalize adult sex work.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Student judging

I’ve always been a big proponent of student judging. I believe that, for debaters, seeing a round from the perspective of the back of the room is a good experience that will improve their own debating skills. I also always felt it important to train my student judges to be good at what they do. They needed to perform as educators pro tem, and they needed to make judgments on a round that transcended their own feelings on a resolution or an argument. They needed to be as objective in their judgments as we expect any judge to be objective, to decide a round based not on their personal preferences but on the actual debating that has taken place. 

For the most part, student judges are placed into novice or middle school pools. In my region, we also have JV divisions, where student judges are also acceptable, although I question their validity in college JV divisions, where you might have juniors judging sophomores in a fairly serious venue. I accept it more at our local one-dayers, where it is the norm, but only because it is the norm, and allows those divisions to exist in the first place. For that matter, the use of student judges often has to be seen in the light of making novice (and some JV) divisions happen in the first place. If we disallowed student judging, we’d lose an awful lot of debating opportunities for younger students.

I have seen serious abuses at all levels of judging. Novice judging is not unique in that. But lately I saw a team go so far in abuses that I was tempted to disqualify them as a group. A student who had never debated, but who had a younger sibling on the team, was entered as a judge in the novice division. The couple of (relatively illiterate) ballots this person wrote clearly demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the event, and probably a total lack of training on the part of that team. Worse, because this person was so at sea, one of the novices on the team who was competing at the tournament started not only shadowing this judge and providing advice when not debating themselves, but eventually writing that judge’s ballots. In other words, a competitor was judging their competition. Needless to say, once we found out about this, we put a stop to it and kicked out the judge (and brought in the team’s chaperone that day and explained in no uncertain terms our feelings on the subject), but because this person had now judged 4 double-flights, we had no choice but to double-bye all their decisions. For all practical purposes, this one person had made the division of the tournament almost a complete blowout.

I can’t do much about what happened, but I can offer a preventative for it happening again, to wit, a standard wording of what is required of a student judge. I offer this: Student judges in the novice division must be at least in their junior year with two years of debating experience. 

I could go on with all sorts of other requirements for judging in any and all divisions, but the further you get from the simplest measurement—either you’re a junior debater with two year’s experience or you’re not—the harder it is to enforce. This basic requirement can be easily adjusted for JV divisions and the like, if necessary. I will be proposing something like it as a rule clarification for our local CFL, where we regularly have novice and JV debate divisions. And I will be adding it as a rider to invitationals where we have novice and JV divisions. 

It is a shame that we have to belabor the obvious like this. But as long as there are teams that fail at the most basic level to provide judging for a tournament commensurate with the judging they expect for themselves, we have no choice. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

In which who are we to blow against the wind

I have finally outlined the whole too-many-emails business, with a document on perfecting the tournament email located on the Toolkit site:

I've also posted notice of it on the Toolkit Facebook page.

And now I can move on. I've got some emails to read.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In which we ramble

Is it only me, or is the MacOS Photos app totally crap?

I remembered over the weekend that I had a version of Civ on my Mac Mini. Best computer game ever? Yesterday I retired in infamy for the first time in ages. Ahhhh!

Come to think of it, maybe it's just my Mac Mini that's crapping out. Spotify plays, but it doesn't show the playlists. Or anything else. Time to upgrade? Meanwhile, I really like my light little MacBook. Sitting around waiting for a computer to do something? Not in 2019. Maybe I should just retire the mini to special projects. Like Civ.

I watched half an hour of the new Blade Runner movie in complete boredom. Overwrought nonsense. Turns out it's got nothing but great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Then again, I didn't like the original movie much either. What do I know?

I've been trying to put Lakeland together. I gather Kaz and I will handle LD and Policy in the high school, with everything else at the Middle School, but this is conjecture on our part. I have to admit, there's pretty good registration for a tournament with no invitation.

I've been working on a memo about sending emails for big tournaments, because everyone says I sent too many for Penn. Then again, two or three people seemed to find them entertaining. Can you get too much of a good thing? Define good thing, I guess.

Monday, February 18, 2019

In which we roam the green hills of Delbarton

The Delbarton JV tournament is a one-day affair with a bunch of speech events, congress, and PF and LD. It's on the same weekend as Harvard, and given the choice, who would pick Harvard? I mean, it does sound good saying that you're going to go to Harvard (although you're really not), and it sounds even better to say you won Harvard (although even that won't get you into the real Harvard), but actually having to endure the Harvard tournament, an exercise in capitalistic greed that no course at the university could begin to explain better, is something else. Just for starters, 386 VPF teams? Breaking to triples? After 6 rounds? According to my handy dandy pyramid program, there's 133 4-2s or better. Which means that roughly half the 4-2s don't break. At $150 per team, that's a gross of $57,900. Harvard has an endowment of $39,200,000,000.

I have always said that you have to be really good to do well at Harvard. But when fields have no limit, being really good doesn't mean you will do well. It just means you have a chance. Add to this 441 judges? This is why we used to run Penn against Harvard. (And to be honest, I never did understand why they moved to a week earlier, although it has worked out fine now a couple of times.)  Anyhow, I don't know why anyone would send teams to Harvard unless, because of the nature of the school, there is an expectation that the team compete at Ivies. I mean, if you send your spawn to a prep school that costs $50K a year, I guess that's part of the perceived package. Mostly it's just throwing away money to impress non-debate people. Who really believes that Harvard is a meaningful test of debate? Seriously now.

Getting back to Delbarton, it was a lot of work. The good news was that I didn't have to do much of it. Catholic Charlie spent a few hours placing the speech judges Friday night, and that was the real toil. I had to hit some buttons now and then on Saturday on the debate rounds, and enter speech results, and—oh, the horror—staple speech ballots before the rounds, but I managed to survive unscathed. Mostly it was a chance to hang out with the Paginator for the last time before he heads off into the land of politics. The good news is, given the nature of social media, I know we won't lose touch with him (unless he turns MAGA on us, in which case all bets are off). Unfortunately I wasn't able to convince him to join us this year at WDW, but, well, they don't give it away and he might not be employed, or he might be too employed. It depends. We'll miss having a Disney virgin with us. So it goes. Speaking of which, I just made the dinner rezzes this morning, 180 days out. I'll start packing any day now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ghost Debaters

This is sort of huge.

At Penn, there were two schools with changes that were reported after the tournament began. That in itself is no big deal, but then again, when it happens it’s usually because someone got sick and we’re now putting in a maverick or two. I’ve been known to create a mixed-school team when two debaters managed to get sick at the same time. In an event where the goal is getting rounds/experience, there’s little reason not to do this, and it has no affect on much of anything. 

In the case at hand, students had been subbed in before the tournament started, and it was oversight that it wasn’t corrected at the table (although, as you’ll see, that might have nevertheless created the same problem). Early on, seeing that their names were wrong, the teams went to the table and reported the problem.

And there’s the rub. As far as we can tell, instead of using the handy-dandy pulldown boxes on the bottom right of the page to switch teams, the table simply went to the top of the page and replaced the name of the missing debater with the name of the new debater. Predictably, chaos ensued. While the names of the debaters were correct on the ballots, the team codes had not been changed. More importantly, at the end of the tournament, the new debaters were not listed in the record of speaker points, presumably because they weren’t on their school’s rosters. That is, entering Joe McDoakes in the little box on the top did not connect to Joe McDoakes in the pull down menu of the team roster. They were, in some ways, invisible to the tournament. In one of these cases, with a team that went into elims, a speaker award was not noted. We also believe that these teams might now have an extra Joe McDoakes on each of their rosters, but this is just conjecture on our part. 

Obviously the solution is not to screw this up in the first place, and henceforth we’ll make sure that tables are better instructed. Whether there’s a bug in tabroom around this is arguable, but it has been brought to their attention. In any case, don’t let it happen to you. The last thing you want at your tournament is ghost debaters, which is what we ended up with. Schools that are careful about their NSDA points would not be happy about this. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

In which the actor's tombstone does not read: "Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia."

Another Penn is in the can. I would have written about it yesterday but I spent the day sort of zoned out. I watched Solo, a movie with nothing to zone in on. It’s nice to have a day off after a nonstop weekend. 

First of all, the staggered schedule worked like a charm. People knew that we were depending on them, and they rose to the occasion. 40 rooms, going to PF at 8:00, 21 and 19 going to Policy and LD at 10:00, then back to PF at 12:00, etc., etc., for the rest of the day. It was a gamble, but we pulled it off. My unspoken backup if things went south was flight one of the last PF on Sat and flight two on Sunday, but that didn’t have to happen. 


There were incidents, but not many. A couple of times people questioned decisions, and we got in touch with the judges who verified what they had written, and there you are. There was a suggestion that the judge in one case was wrong, a suggestion that makes one wonder A) how could a judge ever be wrong, and B) how can that particular genius kid ever lose. The answer is, ) did you ever hear of a 2-1 decision, and B) your particular genius kid isn’t quite the ball of fire you thought. So it goes.

Meanwhile, there were lots of emails from very few people. Almost all of the emails were dumb stuff that had already been answered. We had much discussion in tab about my 10K emails. The theory was that too many emails don’t get read, which countered my theory that too long emails don’t get read, which is why I wrote so many in the first place. I have some ideas on this that I’ll be parsing over the next few days. The goal is to get information to people. The best way to do it is the best way people absorb information. There’s a lot to think about in this. 

There was one tabroom mystery I’m still working on, where a student wasn’t correctly credited in the rounds. More on that TK. 

I did notice fewer issues with hitting Start. Are people finally getting the message? Given that if they don’t hit start we send endless messages to them, their coaches, their next of kin and their family lawyer, maybe they’re beginning to believe that we mean it, and they want those bugging messages to end. I assure you, we don’t send them to people who start their rounds in a timely manner. Maybe we really are evolving into an e-tournament universe. We did e-ballots in all divisions, including speech and congress. In a world where everyone is staring at their phones every waking hour, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that sooner or later they’d adapt. 

Welcome to 2019.   

Thursday, February 07, 2019

In which we share our pain

Penn is shaping up as the most complicated tournament I’ve ever worked on.

First of all, there are well over a dozen buildings, many of which are only available part time, on different days. This means that I’ve had to create, in some instances, different room pools for single rounds in some divisions. A different room pool for every round, in other words. Before they toss people out (and, historically, they have tossed people out, so it’s not just empty blathering). The spreadsheet for this is mind-boggling.

Then we’re alternating all the varsity divisions in two hour slots in the same rooms on Saturday. That is, PF gets two hours, then LD and Policy get two hours, then back to PF again. That’ll be fun.

Of course, it would be helpful if every building A) didn’t have the same name, and B) was actually on the map. Or if registration didn't shift buildings at one point. 

Q. Where do we park? 
A. You know, I’ve tried parking at Penn. I recommend you walk to the tournament. 

Then there’s the dumb questions. The thing is, if you even just glanced at the headings of the two thousand emails I sent you’d have a hint about what you’re looking for. I don’t expect the dumbest clucks to actually read them—that’s how they achieved dumbcluckdom in the first place, and how they maintain their membership—but when there’s two that say THIS IS THE SCHEDULE, why wouldn’t you wonder to yourself, Hmmm, is this the schedule? Could it be? The problem with dumbcluckdom is that the members are persistent. They don’t send an email. They send multiple emails. Often they offer advice on how I could be running things better. I’m sure they’re right. I mean, just because there’s no rooms after 8 o’clock shouldn’t deter me from scheduling an 8 o’clock round. Then there was the person who was worried about the prediction for snow on Sunday; that email arrived three weeks ago. 

Then there’s all the changes. One team dropped about 20 people after the deadline and blamed me for it, because I had set a deadline. Same team originally lost all their entries back when TBAs were deleted. They made a stink then to get them back in, and another stink when they deleted them all after the deadline. They also claimed a medical emergency, I guess for all 20 people on the team. You’d think I would have read about that one in the papers. Then again, this team always has medical/compassionate emergencies. If their coach’s grandmother dies one more time, I’m going to ask to see the ashes. 

Speaking of which, one judge broke a foot and apparently the team’s coach, who merely wanted to insure that the judge wouldn’t have to walk much, wasn’t sure we’d believe her so she sent along the x-rays to prove it. That’s not a far step from sending the ashes! It does set the bar a little higher for future changes. No x-rays? No changes!

It’s going to be fun to make this tournament happen. Fortunately we’ve got top-drawer tabbers with a sense of humor. They’re all going to need it. 

Monday, February 04, 2019

In which small is beautiful

There is something to be said for the joy of tabbing a small tournament, like Baby Bump. With a big tournament, lots of things just take care of themselves. If you set everything up correctly, all the judges are used fairly, all the pairings are in the same bracket, all the rooms are available, all the schedule slots are correct, and while you may do some slight tinkering improving prefs or pullups, most of your work is getting people to start and end on time. Personnel management rather than tab management. The tab management is in the setups. If you set everything up right, it will mostly play out correctly. We’re not ready to eliminate tab staffs yet, at least not as long as I’m one of them and I want to hang out with my friends and go to nice dinners at the end of the day, but the work is way less labor intensive. At the point where you stop entering paper ballot results, and sorting paper ballots, you’re halfway home—literally. 

Smaller tournaments can present difficulties, however. What do you do when one school dominates a division? When there’s no one for that school to debate? In one case, LD, I had four 3-0s from the same school, and the next contestant was a 1-2. It might have been possible to pair everyone, maybe, but there wasn’t much question that the 4-0 school was going to win, and it made much more sense for the kids looking for rounds for them to have those rounds be competitive. So I byed the top 4. Stuck a fork in them, because they were done. 

Another division was larger, so I had more room to maneuver. Here I would have a lot of single pullups if I didn’t have side restraints. Well, in that case, I just eliminated the side restraints for the 4thround. You had to go on the same side again one too many times? Tough. But you got competition. And after all, a tournament for first and second years is all about getting rounds. The best way to get good is to get experience. If there’s some other way to get good, I’m not aware of it. 

Meanwhile, I had judge issues, as in, not enough for LD. Well, it’s young ‘uns, so any experienced PF judge ought to be able to handle them. I only had to do this for one round, and there wasn’t too much hoo-ha from the Peanut Gallery. The exigencies of making things work outweighed the “But I don’t know anything about LD” complaints. And after all, as far as LD in 2019 goes, who does know anything about it? At the highest levels it’s so fast and tediously arcane that whenever I read articles by active judges and coaches, I can’t make any sense out of them. Having been raised on debating the topic—talk about a dinosaur concept—I’m totally lost nowadays. So our poor poor pitiful PF judges can be similarly at sea for an hour or two. The world won’t end for anyone as a result. 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Friday Arts (on a Friday, no less)

Movies first, quickly.

The Greatest Showman — I like Hugh Jackman, but I also like movies where there's more than one song (or what sounds like one song) and more than one choreography for that (those) song(s). I also like dances where dancers move their feet. And CGI sets that are at least marginally believable. I can't imagine why this was a big hit.

The Favourite — Wonderful, start to finish.

Stan and Ollie — In a world where most young people don't know who Laurel and Hardy were (and for that matter, probably don't know anything about movies before 1980 except maybe Disney flicks), this is a sweet joy to watch. Sadly, most people won't watch it. The actors are spot on.

Then music. Here's the latest additions, or not, to the Tab Room playlist on Spotify.

Scotch and Soda, The Kingston Trio, eponymous album — There was a time when the Kingston Trio was all the rage, and I only threw this in for nostalgic reasons. I saw them perform live when I was a kid. Stuff like that sticks with you. I like others of their songs too, but one is enough in a rock playlist.

Grazing in the Grass, The Friends of Distinction, Grazin' — Another nostalgic goody from AM radio. Does anyone still listen to AM radio?

Cosmic Thing and Love Shack, The B-52s, Nude on the Moon — I want to like the B-52s more than I do, but most of the time their songs are sort of bland and go on way too long. Still, these are a couple of hits that it won't hurt to hear now and then.

10 Rocks, Shelby Lynne, Identity Crisis — Lynne can pretty much be said to defy category, but if you had to place her anywhere, it would be modern Country. She did win Best New Artist in that genre with something like her 100th album. Anyhow, she does get a good one off now and then that fits here. My favorite work of hers is her Dusty Springfield tribute album.

I Can See Clearly Now and You Can Get it if You Really Want, Jimmy Cliff, We All Are One – I guess you could call these MOR standards. But that doesn't make them bad.

Crumblin' Down, Authority Song and Lovin' Mother For Ya, John Mellancamp, Uh-HUH! — Still introducing myself to JCM, and enjoying it. From some vantage point he's the poor man's Springsteen, but, then again, so is Springsteen. He can rock, though, when the situation calls for it.

Come to the Sunshine, Harpers Bizarre, Feelin' Groovy — This is the version of the song that sticks in my mind. To be honest, I'm not familiar with the original (which I just added to a different list to give it a listen), but I am a Van Dyke Parks fan, and will champion the album "Orange Crate Art" until the day I die.

Don't Let Go, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, We've Got a Live One Here — I just had this song going through my head, and tracked down my favorite version of it. The Commander has more live albums than, as my mother used to say, Carter has little liver pills, and all of them seem to be the same songs in performances of varying success levels. I first saw him in the 70s at the Bottom Line. And then I saw him a couple of years ago in a local club with his East Coast Airmen. Hell of a show. And lots of fun.

Western Union, The Five Americans, Best of... — Another single from the AM era.

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Not Fragile — A nice classic rock standard from a group I never paid any attention to. But I liked listening to this album.

Synchronicity I, Synchronicity II, and Every Breath You Take, The Police, Synchronicity — If you like the Police, you like these songs. I like the Police.

Maybelline, Foghat, eponymous — The name Foghat has always been familiar to me, but this is the first time I've given them a listen. They're quite good, and I look forward to listening to the rest of their albums. Very straightforward rock with lots of originality (although I seem to be refuting that by selecting a cover song).

Let the Wind Blow, Aren't You Glad and Wild Honey, The Beach Boys, 1967 Sunshine Tomorrow  — I guess this is supposed to be the collector's version of the Wild Honey album. There's more outtakes and alternates than real music, which is true of way too many Beach Boys albums. I really don't need to crawl into Brian's mind and never come back, or into the group's mind without Brian; I can never keep track of when he's with the group and when he isn't. Still, a fan can always find a good cut on any of their albums.

Just Like Paradise, David Lee Roth, Skyscraper — No, I refuse to apologize for adding this one. So sue me.

I Can See for Miles, Heinz Baked Beans, Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand and Tattoo, The Who, The Who Sell Out — In my opinion, this is one of the very best of the group's albums, tied with "Who's Next." The first time I saw them Townsend was still, albeit perfunctorily, destroying his guitar. The next time I saw them they played for hours, first doing all their hits and then, after a break, doing "Tommy." Watching Keith Moon play the drums was exhausting. Keith Moon died in the same apartment as Mama Cass. The apartment belonged to Harry Nilsson. That is my favorite piece of rock trivia.

And the albums that didn't make the cut:
Lucinda Williams, Ramblin' — Great stuff, but not for this playlist.
New Riders of the Purple Sage, Powerglide — Ditto. Way too country.
Paul McCartney, Egypt Station — I already grabbed "Come On to Me" when it was a single. The rest? OK, not memorable.
George Harrison, 33 & 1/3 — Again, OK, not memorable. George always sounds just like George.
Golden Earring, On the Double — Dreadful stuff. How did this get on my list?
Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, Born to Wander — The boys go the Dion/Darrin folk route. Not a good direction for any of them.
David Bowie, Tonight — I keep listening to Bowie in order. I know he'll get good eventually—I love the "Let's Dance" album—but God knows when.
Neil Young, Tonight's the Night — Well, no it isn't. Whiny Neil, not rocky Neil.
Stray Cats, Blast Off — Better title would be Running Out of Steam.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In which the room spreadsheet resembles the pink elephants on parade sequence in Dumbo

Putting together the room pools for Penn is quite a chore. There are more buildings than you can shake a stick at, and not all of them are for the full days. There’s overlap, with VLD and Policy alternating with VPF in the same spaces on Saturday, with, I feel, a special need to keep them as closely supervised as possible so that policy people, and LDers for that matter, don’t decide to go off into critiques longer than the rounds. Each day is different, with different buildings and different time availabilities. I’ve already had people whining about the odd schedule, which allows the most people the most debates in the spaces available. The alternative would be to drop a division or two. Which ones would you drop?

Anyhow, I did Friday night yesterday. Today it will be the Saturday rounds. Catholic Charlie has already marked up the speech rooms. Kid’s stuff. All in roughly one place, no time limits. CC’s cat could have done that. 

I continue to pull people off the waitlists. We’re getting maybe 2 drops a day. At this rate, the debate waitlists should be cleared by Memorial Day. People keep asking, I keep saying I don’t know. I am sort of expecting a few schools to go off in a huff when they don’t get their full contingent, which should open up more slots for the more stalwart. We’ll see. I’ve already had people in a huff complaining that they didn’t get in in the first place. Needless to say, they’re the ones who registered last week, for a tournament that opened registration 12/1. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

In which we come up with our word for the day

There is some joy, when a person complains about a certain aspect of a tournament, to be able to point out the email they ignored that, in fact, negated that aspect of the tournament. I do write a lot of emails before a tournament, but this is not because I like to hear myself type. An invitation is posted months in advance. Shockingly, life can intervene between that posting and the tournament itself. We know that most people do not thoroughly read the invitations. We also know that a lot of people don’t really pay attention to emails either, especially judges. And then they wonder why there were in the wrong place at the wrong time and why are they paying $100 as a fine as a result. When you can point to the date of your email—and maybe even the date of your second confirming email—that they ignored, well, it is a pleasant feeling. 

Yes, I know this is sanctimonious. Number it among my many flaws. 

Baby Bump is now closed. It’s small but viable. And I can practically walk there. Sadly I won’t have Marty Meat, JV or Catholic Charlie there, as each has other obligations. We’ve often said that BB has be best tab room staff in the country, when all it really needs is a few index cards. Oh, well. We’ll (mostly, excluding JV) be together again at the BenF. Speaking of which, when CC and I were working on the rooms Saturday, I went to the school’s website to track down campus maps. There is a rich supply of them, including specialized maps of the school’s historical sites, its statues, and its lactation stations. How the world has changed: They didn’t have lactation when I went to college. 

My next chore is shoring up the Penn judging. The BenFers have been hiring away, and now they need to go into tabroom. Mindless work, of course, except that lately tabroom has been showing its exceptions as Friday, Sunday and Saturday, in that order. I challenge anyone not to get the Sundays and Saturdays mixed up at least once. I wish more people handled this on their end, rather than writing a note like “No Friday rounds” and expecting us to do it. This is especially true when the note is vestigial from a tournament here years ago, and there are no Friday rounds at the tournament you’re running. 

Ah, sanctimony!

Monday, January 28, 2019

In which we report on the Gem of Harlem

And another Columbia is in the record books.

There wasn’t a lot of hoo-ha with the tabbing. The only issue over the weekend was that PF didn’t pair up as well as usual. There were a lot of pullups, perhaps because of the imbalance of the topic (hint: Go con). For whatever reason, we would get maybe 10 pullups, and the thing was, way too many of them were double pullups that didn’t have to happen. Catholic Charlie and I were able to make them all go away, or more to the point, make them all single pullups (we did have no-flip side restraints). Why tabroom let them happen in the first place is a puzzlement. 

The most interesting moment was when someone came to us to plead the case for a team that had gotten a forfeit. The round was across the street from the building in which they were hanging out. I had sent a message to all coaches earlier in the week with a link to campus maps. This team was notified of the round location a half hour before start time. They arrived twenty minutes after start time. In other words, it took them fifty minutes to walk across the street. I was accused of not being lenient. I have to admit being somewhat flummoxed that this conversation was even taking place. How many hours would have to pass between notification and their arrival before they merited a forfeit? God only knows.

I did gently suggest to one judge—a highly preffed experienced ex-debater—who was avoiding starting on time and ending on time that I would eat his spleen with fava beans and chianti if he didn’t perhaps speed things up a bit on his end. Throw in a couple of 0-4 flights, and apparently he managed to find religion for the rest of the tournament. And those 0-4s got a 1 in a late round. Everybody won, sort of.

I also gently suggested to a couple of young guys who came into tab while Charlie and I were plugging away on those weird pairings that, since they refused to go away after I told them that we were busy now and we’d address their issue as soon as possible, and they refused to stop talking, and persisted and persisted—well, I just got up and pointed to my chair and told the talkative one, Please, you finish tabbing, and I’ll go take care of your insignificant problem instead of running the tournament, as the needs of the one far outweighed the needs of the many. He finally slunk away. At the first opportunity, I called the judge in question and asked about the round. “Oh, no,” the judge said. “I entered the decision correctly. The girls won hands down.” As it had said clearly on the ballot. I texted my interlopers and gave them the good news; I mean, well, good to me. At least they accepted it graciously. 

Then there’s the flip-phone judge who back in December had moved into tab at Princeton for a couple of hours to write a single ballot. At Columbia, we had to lift this person out of the tab room with a backhoe. The underlying problem, aside from the tech, was that the Barnard guest wifi was dicey at best. Usually people just go to their phones if that's the case. But when your phone was handmade by Alexander Graham Bell, that’s not so easy. 

Speaking of tech, Catholic Charlie and Jeremy the Congress Capo both had PCs the size of Cleveland. I got a hernia just looking at them. 

Otherwise, not much to report. CC and I got a lot of work done on the Penn rooms, which was really good. I managed to get a little more space, and that tournament is as good as it’s going to get. Although I will admit that I have subsequently been in communication with one person who wants me to readjust the schedule completely because that person finds it inconvenient. Needless to say, I intend to comply one thousand percent. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

In which the rug pulls the room together

Well, that was fun.

I got the list of rooms from the Gem kids who got it from their administration in plenty of time. I mean, we had until tomorrow. I worked on it this morning. The fun part is that some of the Friday night rooms aren’t available until 7:00. Which means that we can’t start with PF and then go to LD as planned, with one round of each that night. I had to switch them around.


Seriously, it’s not that big a deal. Almost all the schools have teams in both events, and all it really does is readjust peoples’ dinner plans. I just posted the change to the registrants. I can predict a couple of nasty responses from the usual suspects, none of whom, by the way, run college tournaments with ditzy administrations who keep the room info to themselves until a day or two before the tournament. Fortunately, I have thick skin. I can appreciate the privileged position of those who think they’re entitled to a perfect tournament according to their definition of perfect. I can abide. I mean, yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, their opinion, man. 

Otherwise we’re all set. I also polished up the tabroom setup for a little event at the Bronx, what they call their Winter Local, during Penn weekent. This is the same kind of tournament I tabbed for them while I was at Wee Sma Lex. Catholic Charlie, who will no doubt have nothing to do with it, given that he’ll be up to his coconut in Penn Speech tab, was quick to volunteer me to do the honors. We only have a hundred debate events to handle at the BenF. 

This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

In which we say, I mean, seriously people

1. First of all, don't tell me you signed up on December 1. I can see you signed up on Jan 15th.

2. When I say there's no room, that means, shockingly enough, that there's no room. It does not mean that if you keep asking, suddenly rooms will appear out of the ether. Would you like to look at my room spreadsheet? It has sent stronger folks than you into a state of permanent depression.

3. You think that you might not be obligated on Sunday? For round 6? I'm sure your teams suck, but still...

4. How dare I delete your TBAs after only 3 messages warning you that I was going to delete your TBAs? Oh, wait a minute. Your school is expensive. My mistake.

5. If I ask you to tell me X, do not tell my Y - Z, as X does not extrapolate from this. In other words, when I ask you a direct question, please answer that question. Or, after a long, fruitless email exchange, go to the TDs with yet another dialogue that even Beckett would have thought was absurd on top of the one we've already had, making things even more confusing. Should I wonder which of us is the debate coach working with children to make them effective communicators?

6. I am running or tabbing 6 tournaments over the course of 7 weeks. So what you might want to do is, when you send me an email, tell me which tournament you're talking about and, if I wouldn't know you from Job's turkey, what school you represent. You may not believe this, but I have not kept up my dues in the Make America Psychic Again association.

7. Do not ask me if you will get off the waitlist. Ask the people ahead of you if they're planning to drop their entries. They know better than I do.

8. Does the fact that this is a high school tournament have any bearing on your decision to register your middle school?

9. Yes, the fact that instead of registering as your school you registered as some made-up organization that, when I googled it (which, yes, I do when a registration looks bogus), I found nothing, is why I didn't accept your registration.

10. Oh. You're a "concierge coach" who's taken on the job of registering people as if they're representing their schools when in fact the school hasn't the foggiest notion that little Kermit is on the road that weekend. Of course I put you on the top of my list. Of course.

11. Send me a nasty email and make a whole bunch of demands. That always works.

12. I am now going out to the movies after 6 hours of tournament work. I've earned a little time off.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

In which the weekend is looking fine

Coming up is Columbia, the Gem of Harlem. What a long strange trip it's been.

To begin with, the team told us that they weren't getting their usual rooms. The Gem has been notorious for getting rooms at the last minute over the years, but this time that wasn't the case. No rooms at the inn, period. After much discussion, we all agreed that the best thing to do was eliminate the IE events. This was a major deal. After all, the tournament has for years acted as an easily accessible Big League event for the locals. It was like flying to a tournament without having to get on an airplane. So much for that. Fortunately, Ridge is holding its annual one-day speech contest that day, so for those willing to trek out to the wilds of New Jersey, all was not lost, at least on the contender side. On the Columbia side, it was a big deal. Colleges around here conduct their tournaments usually as fund-raisers for their own teams (except for Penn, which contributes their earnings to local school forensics programs). I see our role in this, i.e., the Traveling Tab Room's, as moderators to keep them honest, making sure that their tournaments are value for the money. After all, those who have been reading this blog for a while know that I would never choose a college tournament over a high school tournament back when I was coaching. One must have one's priorities straight. College tournaments aren't intrinsically evil, but head-to-head against a high school tournament, you've got to be kidding. I know that everyone doesn't feel this way, but that's because they're wrong and I'm right. But the VCA is well aware of that, as it applies to, well, everything.

Meanwhile, we narrowed the Gem down to PF, LD and Congress. The numbers are good, and in the debate events, eminently bid-worthy. I will admit that I still don't have all the rooms, but they've been promised to arrive tomorrow. Catholic Charlie and I will be doing the honors in person, with Marty Meat handling Congress from afar. (Which reminds me: I need to remind Marty Meat that he's handling Congress from afar.) Kaz, our usual co-conspirator, will be braving the elements down in Georgia.

So, for the most part, all systems are go. The weather should be okay, and we'll be on our way. I'll let you know how it works out.

Monday, January 21, 2019

In which we duck out at the first opportunity

Bigle was, well, different.

Friday night we had a nice dinner: myself, Catholic Charlie, Kaz and CP. Charlie being of the not-drinking-much persuasion, I had a designated driver, something I am always fond of. Good food and wine and friends—what's better?

Kaz had spent a lot of time paring down the tournament to a one-dayer. It mostly went off without a glitch. Unfortunately, the room pools were a bit off in round one, but that was on the back end, and by this point, I can room whisper till the cows come home. (Yes, I've even gotten out of the habit of sending out pairings without any rooms at all, although I think CP might have written code that keeps that from happening just to protect me from myself). We got it all sorted out quickly enough, and things went fine. The key thing was getting rounds started and ended without any hoo-ha. This happened, and that's because the participants were behaving nicely. Of course, I do harangue them with endless pokes, which I'm sure is annoying, but if you haven't started your round, you are unable to cast the Defense Against Annoyances spell.

There were all kinds of novice and varsity debates. Catholic C and I did the LD ones. Novice just had as many rounds as could fit. Varsity had 5 breaking to octs, to accommodate a quarters bid. When all was said and done, the numbers still warranted that bid, as did the competition. We lost some strong local schools, but all the distance travelers had flights that bracketed the storm, so they were not deterred.

We had originally planned to come back on Sunday, but the forecast was pretty icy for driving. I kept looking at the weather, and eventually found a gap in the precipitation from around 6 to 10, so Charlie and I made a run for it. We would have liked to join the Saturday night party at the Marriott but sleeping in one's own bed, and not having to attach skates to the car on Sunday morning after chipping off the iceberg surrounding it was even more likable. For most of our trip it wasn't doing anything and the roads were clear. Near the end the snow started, but the traffic was light and we made it without incident. Along the way we listened to Audible's Bob Newhart talk show, and since we're both fans (although, unlike CC, I haven't memorized all the albums and TV shows and movies), it made the time pass easily.

In the end, I don't think Sunday was all that terrible, but Kaz made the right call. And, probably, all the local schools that would have come probably made the right call based on the info that they had at the time.

And thus another Bigle X goes into the books.

Friday, January 18, 2019

In which we prepare for the Icepocalytic Bigle X

What a mess.

The forecast is for hell freezing over on Sunday, which is not good news for a tournament that runs from Saturday morning to Monday afternoon. As the entrants were dropping like flies, Kaz made a decision to run an abbreviated one-day tournament with lots of strange scheduling. I'm a little unclear how she plans to do it, but I'll let you know. It should be interesting. Catholic Charlie and I are driving up after lunch and will catch up with her in the early evening to go over the details. I have to admit, while there is nothing like a well-oiled, perfectly run ginormous college tournament, it is much more exciting to pull off an event where everything is conspiring against you, there's not enough time, not enough space and not enough coffee, although it's a fairly short trip to the nearest Starbucks from the high school so at least that won't be a problem. The good news is that in addition to me and Charlie, Marty Meat and Pennsylvania Jeff will both be there, so we have a good staff, although I'll miss working with JV, as this is our only LD gig together during the year. Anyhow, as I say, I'll let you know.

Columbia freezes fees today. The waitlists have pretty much evaporated, probably because those unaccepteds were throwing off the judge obligations in tabroom. Anyhow, the numbers are nice, and we should have a straightforward event, barring any unforeseens.

Penn TBAs disappear today. I've posted a schedule (a bit of a wonder, I must say), and topped off all the lists as best I could. More slots should open today, and when there's a chance tomorrow, I'll have at them.

And finally, Baby Bump seems to have settled well. 80 teams spread around in different divisions. That's about what's expected in a region where a whole bunch of schools seem to ignore their young students in favor of—what? Who is the god of shortsightedness, anyhow?

Oh, well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In which joy is jumped for

We got rooms at Penn. Not as many as I would like, but enough. I can start clearing the waitlists and, most importantly, open up the JV divisions. To make everything kosher, what I need to do, and will do as soon as I finish typing this, is start working on the room whispering. I have a list of what we have. Now it's time to apply rounds to them.


Did I mention that the Benfers applied for the spaces back in October? In other words, no feet were dragged on their end. What is it with these universities, anyhow? If they're not stonewalling on rooms, they're stonewalling on something else. Sigh. There isn't much we can do about it, except piss and moan. And that doesn't really get us anywhere.

Meanwhile, I've been closely following the weather forecasts for this weekend for Bigle X. It looks like we'll get there okay, but we may never leave. In any case, it wouldn't be the first time that, after our arrival in Massachusetts, the snow decided to fall. As often as not the first thing in the morning one is out there shoveling off the car, and there was one year when my car froze up so badly that we were only able to barely open the back hatch, and had to send in a scout to turn on the engine and warm things up for the rest of us. Keep in mind that the buildings at Lex are on the California Plan, i.e., separate, with a need for students to walk outside during the day to get to different classes. Why the California Plan? Apparently the town founders weren't quite sure of their geography. After all, there is, or more to the point was, a Lexington in the Golden State. Quoting from Wikipedia, "Lexington, California, is a ghost town in Santa Clara County, now submerged by the Lexington Reservoir."

Could the same thing happen in Massachusetts? Maybe. I'll be bringing my galoshes, just in case. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

In which we continue moaning

The soap opera that is BenF Rooms continues. 

Last week I managed to figure a schedule that works, albeit sort of weirdly, with the fewest number of spaces that I had been advised we might have. I was all ready to go Friday, letting in a few more folks and opening the gates to a small but lively pair of JV divisions. But the BenFers demurred, still not sure they’ll even get their minimum roomage. 


Needless to say, I’ve been regularly needled by registrants who apparently think that I’m deliberately holding back on letting their little angels into the tournament. As if this were a possibility. I want happy customers, not grumps. I want to create good tournament experiences. That’s why I do this. Unless I have a personal vendetta against you (and that’s very few schools, only a couple dozen at most*), I want you in, I want you competing, and I want you to think happy thoughts so that you’ll return next year. Also, I don’t want a lot of emails that I always wish to respond to by telling them how to run their team: has no one ever heard of reserving rooms at a hotel and cancelling them within a reasonable timeframe, has no one ever heard of not making unrefundable reservations before getting off the waitlist, or not purchasing plane tickets months in advance and then, for some reason, not signing up for the tournament until a month after registration opened? Sigh.

Anyhow, we’ve set the bell to go off on Wednesday, at which point we’ll know better about roomage. Last Friday, in an attempt to stave off further questions, I sent out a very nice email telling people to hold their horses a few more days. At least one person read this as meaning they got all their entries in. Do they teach reading comprehension to high school teachers these days? Or is it too late? I mean, I may have my failings, but writing unclear prose isn’t one of them. 

Meanwhile, it’s looking like clear sailing for Bigle X this week. What’s not to like about a tournament where all I have to do is sit in the tab room and press a lot of buttons? 

*That's a joke. At the moment, there are no schools on my vendetta list. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Wednesday Arts (it's like Friday Arts only on Wednesday, but I guess you figured that out)

Not having been around for much of December, I haven't made a lot of additions to the Menick Tab Room playlist. BTW, the playlist is perfectly acceptable for road trips as well as round pairing. Perhaps more so. (

Tumbling Dice, Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams — I have a friend who was a big Ronstadt fan, who played for this for me at top volume when it first came, daring me to dislike it. I don't know. I never actually took to her, but this one recently popped up at random and I have to admit it's a goody. I've added the whole album for future consideration. Meanwhile, I will admit to liking her work with Parton and Harris, but I'm a sucker for harmony. Still, there's something about her voice that bugs me. I especially don't like her Nelson Riddle stuff. I just don't believe her when she sings those songs.

Like to Get to Know You, Spanky & Our Gang, Greatest Hits — Well, this is pure bubblegum, but I have a nostalgic liking for it. Spanky was, apparently, not the real Spanky's daughter. McFarland vs. McFarlane. Anyhow, once again, harmony. Nothing wrong with that. I didn't actually listen to the whole Greatest Hits album. I guess I should, if I want to be a 60s completist.

Route 66, Glenn Frey, After Hours — Can anyone ruin this song? It probably doesn't belong in the playlist as it's constructed, but it's a nice break from, I don't know, three Blue Cheer songs in a row (and no, there's no Blue Cheer in the list, after "Summertime Blues" somehow snuck in but then got caught and summarily expelled). Again, this just came up at random. Go fig.

New Orleans, Gary U.S. Bonds, Birth of a Legend — Another random popup. Thank God for random popups.

Half a dozen or so Crowbar and King Biscuit Boy songs from various albums — I just went on a jag with these guys. So sue me. They were never popular in the States, as far as I can remember, and I just happened to acquire an album at a secondhand record shop (that I happened to manage, giving me droit de seigneur over the used bin). Anyhow, if you can drive your car to their music and not get pulled over for speeding, you have one level head, my friend.

It Ain't the Meat It's the Motion, Maria Muldaur, Waitress in a Donut Shop — I've been late putting Muldaur songs on the list, but I'm a big fan. She is one of the great music archivists, and seems to always have been. She knows her roots, in other words. The role call of contributors to this album is pretty remarkable. Even Linda Ronstadt (see above) showed up. And Dr. John, among many many others, but there was a period (the last 50 years) where old Mac R seemed to show up on every album released in the US. This was a good thing.

Battle is Over But the War Goes On, Levon Helm, The Midnight Ramble Music Sessions Vol 2 — If I have to explain why Levon gets onto the playlist, you need to ask yourself if there isn't some Barry Manilow playlist you could be listening to.

(The New Way of) Grievin' and Smokin', The Gourds, Ghosts of Hallelujah — I went back to the beginning with these guys. This is their second album. When I'm creating the lists of things to audit for the playlist, it's sort of by name association. So after a Levon album, of course one would think of the Gourds. No, they're not The Band, but they're pretty good. This is mostly a country album, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Nothing from the "Stay Awake" album of odd Disney interpretations (e.g., Sun Ra does "Pink Elephants on Parade"), mostly because they're all medleys. Nothing from Collective Soul (eponymous) because they're pretty boring; "Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down" is more than enough, I guess.

Finally, I've been listening to The Beatles, AKA the White Album, remixed, with scads of extras. The music sounds great, and the extras (many of which are new to me) are very entertaining. I probably won't replace any White Album songs already on the playlist, but when I'm in a mood for this album in the future, this is the version I'll be listening to, either the original or the alternate comprising the extra cuts.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

In which we go into IT mode

Photos sucks. The Mac app, that is. I've done all sorts of things to get it back to fighting trim on my Mac Mini, and the best I can say is that it now takes about a minute to delete a single photo as compared to freezing at the thought of deleting a photo. I come from the school that film is cheap and its cost should not limit your profligacy in taking as many varied shots as it takes to get one good one. The arrival of digital photography and the end of film (I used to travel on a week vacation with dozens of film cartridges) has been a joy. But at the point where you can't really work with them, not so much. I've cleaned the library, deleted the recently deleted, and most lately, launch in Safe Mode. Sooner or later, something will work. Curiously, I have no problems with my MacBook or, for that matter, my iPhone. Could the release of the new Mini have somehow triggered problems with the old one? As a rule, all appliances die roughly one day to one week after they're out of warranty. Why should Macs be any different.

Not that you care about any of this. But I want you to know where I've been wasting most of my time. That and cleaning up the home office. To begin with, I brought home tons of crap from the DJ office, despite the fact that even there I was tossing stuff with great abandon. But I should have greatly abandoned more than I did, I think. Oh, well. A box went out to the garbagemen this morning. They can look forward to more boxes, I'm sure. Good stuff will go to the Vets. Really good stuff (if any, other than a Nikon DSLR that both my daughter and I thought were with her but turned out to be anything but) will be adjudicated in an appropriate manor.

Tomorrow I delete Gem TBAs, We've got some more rooms for Saturday, but only from 8-4, which is sort of punk, if you know what I mean. That gives me maybe three rounds. Better than nothing, but not perfect. I've asked if they can make that 4 a 9. That would be ideal.


Monday, January 07, 2019

In which we make excuses

I don't think I've figured out this whole retirement thing yet. I was all ready to start blogging again last week, and I did a lot of stuff worth discussing, and yet...

Time management. That's my problem. I need to set up a daily schedule. So far I've been working on big issues unrelated to the interesting side of things (like why Photos on my Mini is practically dead in the water—very time consuming). But I've also addressed some debate issues as well. And haven't reported on them. My bad.

The big issue is two tournaments, the Gem of Harlem and the BenF, which are sadly lacking in that little thing called rooms. With Columbia, we've already cut the thing to shreds by removing the speech events, and we're still not where I would like to be. At one point I was considering triple-flighting on Friday due to lack of space. Kaz thinks that's the worst idea since I suggested eliminating Policy at Bigle X, but one does what one has to do. Anyhow, I'm hoping not to have to do it (and no, I really didn't suggest eliminating Policy at the Bigle, but I did intimate that we might not miss it at Penn, to a stern bout of Kazsplaining me out of the idea).

Penn, on the other hand, has all its events still intact, except JV LD and JV PF, neither of which I've even pretended will happen vis-a-vis the waitlist. But over the weekend I went to Catholic Charlie and he worked out a Vaughan-approved plan that gave me about 15 more rooms, so now I'm pretty sanguine that we can pull the damned thing off. It's up to the Penn folks now to make it happen. A word of advice to them: in the future, get all your rooms squared away in September. At the latest.

Finally, I stoked the ashes a bit and got Bump off the schneid. I emptied all but one of the waitlists in a reasonable fashion, and can get even more reasonable when Bronx puts in its entries. How, you may ask, do I guarantee attendance at the home stadium? Well, first of all, I think a one-dayer for the kiddies is a good idea, and secondly, you don't come to my tournament, I don't tab yours. Extortion? I don't know. After all, if I do tab your tournament, there's a chance I might delete the odd round here and there. You just have to weigh the pros and cons of the thing yourself. I can't do that for you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

In which we return

I've been away since the day following the Regis Sinvitational (AKA the Kristmas Klassik, AKA the Christmas Chlassic, AKA the Xmas Xic), visiting the family in the UK. For all intents and purposes, I disconnected from everything except for Instagram, where I posted a bunch of pix, and that was about it. But, now I'm back. And making lists of things to do, while not exactly doing anything.

Upcoming tournament todos: Columbia. Bump. Penn. These are the ones for which I have some responsibility. I will sort all by the end of the week. (I just got back yesterday, for Pete's sake. Give me a minute.)

I am also now embarking on fairly full unemployment, having officially retired from the DJ as of yesterday, my theoretical last day. I have no intentions of cutting back tournament work, and in fact, I've told Kathy S that next year I wouldn't mind working a little bit with her PFers, although I draw the line at taking them to tournaments or anything requiring that I assume official responsibility for them. I mean, that's why I retired from coaching in the first place. But I miss working on topics and cases, and now that the DJ won't be (justifiably) sucking all my juice, I'll be able to give it the time it deserves.

But that is in the future. For the time being, it's a question of getting over jet lag and sorting out all sorts of todos that have nothing to do with debate.

First thing I've noticed: it is nice not hearing an alarm the first thing on a weekday morning.