No, I don’t have the day off

I’m not bitching about it, though, given that I was ready to come in and put in a day’s effort anyway.  I like getting things done while no one else is around, since it actually happens when no one else is around.

This weekend was the Gracia Burkill Memorial, a nice tournament at Natick that happens once a year in memory of the coach at David Prouty, who coached herself Dick Gaudette among others.  So it goes way back, in other words.  Sarah was very pleased that the tournament is now a “real” tournament, when before it was just a small unserious afterschool affair.  The MFL doesn’t have afterschool tournaments anymore; the overhead is perhaps too great, and our weekends are all full up, so it’s not like we lack for opportunities to spend far too much time in high school cafeterias.

Sarah also foolishly volunteered to take part in efforts in judge training, which is something of a tilting at windmills task, but at least we can standardize our ineffective efforts.  Judge training is a game of trying to prevent the least common denominator.  We react to funny stories of judges screwing up elementary aspects of tournaments, such as the judge who thinks extemp time signals mean she should start signaling with 5 seconds left in the speech.   We hear the horror stories of the day, and tut tut about the unfairness of it all, and try to legislate away the story.

That’s really no way to run a league; chasing down the corner cases and random moments of appalling idiocy is really not productive, as our efforts are finite and the potential domain of stupidity vastly unlimited.  And the bulk of our judges are good, honest, thoughtful and intelligent souls who dedicate themselves to doing what’s best for the students.  So I wonder if we shouldn’t just standardize our judge training process, make sure the major bases are covered, and then inspire an attitude among the coaches and students that when a random judge does do random things, it’s part of what we roll with, not a tragic end of the world.

Kids care about trophies and the competition aspect of things far too much, and most of the coaches do too.  Most coaches think that the worst possible outcome of a tournament day is one where results are screwed up and rules are applied incorrectly and the wrong person wins.  Personally I have a hard time with that, since it’s such an unsatisfying standard; it cannot get me up in the morning at 5 AM to go to a high school, knowing full well I’m not getting home until 7 at the earliest.  I care about running fair and accurate tournaments, but it’s not the highest value for me; I’d sacrifice both those things for the educational value and overall health of the activity.  I think that attitude of mine pisses people off in the MFL sometimes.

Ah well.  Screw them all, I’m president and none of them ran.


So I’m a debate coach again, which is funny, since that’s where I began with this whole mess about 15 years ago now. Which is great, since I missed this facet of forensics, and it’s fun to teach kids what overviews and claims and warrants are.

On the other hand it does mean that I have students coming to Little Lex and Big Lex and the other debate only tournaments that I’ve gone to for a little while now. I enjoyed them partly because I don’t have any horses in the race, kids to take care of, reasons not to swear in public, and the like. It’s kind of fun to be the only guy in the room who speaks debater language, and that’s probably going to end at some point soon on my team. Ah well, I guess I have to rejoin society.

But the latest PF topic is somewhat interesting to me. I seriously wonder if the topic can be handled by a typical debate team well. It’s seated around Keynesian economics, and asks students to weigh the relative merits of different approaches to public finance. That’s a rather esoteric argument, and far from the usual run of the mill LD social contract disputes. It’s also a pretty complex and second-order topic to attack for only a month. I wonder if in the end folks will just oversimplify it a bunch, and debate the wrong resolution. That’s something debaters in particular are careful not to do, usually, but with this topic, something much more familiar to extempers, it might just happen.

I like Public Forum so far, though part of me still misses the established routine of LD, that PF has yet to acquire. But I do find myself disliking this new topic per month deal; just as the kids start to sink their teeth into a topic and see how things are really working, boom! Next topic. I also am curious as to how the topics are formed; I don’t know if they do the whole LD write & vote thing; I suspect they do. If so I have to figure out how to get a ballot.


So my sister wrote to me today.

An ordinary statement, usually, except this wasn’t Cassandra, the sister I know. In the wake of my great uncle Kenny’s death in August, when things were unsettled, it caused me to think of siblings and strangers. Uncle Kenny was a stranger to us for years; he let a spat with my grandmother go on for 15 years, and stayed remote until his wife passed away. He healed it somewhat at the end, but it wasn’t enough time for me to know him again, until he passed.

So that reminded me I have two half sisters through my deceased natural father. I never cared to meet the man himself, as he never cared to meet me. But the thoughts of other family, of blameless sisters and uncles and aunts, always interested me. His death freed me to meet them without encountering him; and Uncle Kenny’s spurred me to do it, lest I lose the chance.

And what a chance; I got a 20 page letter, a photo album, and just for the fun of it, a whole bunch of music today from the older sister. The younger I wasn’t able to trace, but the older’s name and hometown was in the father’s obituary, and that was enough to find her.

I like her. She’s like me in ways that never made sense in the context of my own family. She’s verbose, she’s creative, she’s caring, and she looks at her past with the same approach I do mine. It felt right in a lot of ways. It’s something worth pursuing, but it became more so now.

I have another sister, who it so happens lives in the same entryway as Josh at Yale. Small world that; I’ll take this one sister at a time for now, but we’ll see how this goes.

Best Halloween Costume

The best Halloween costume for 2007 was an 11 year old boy dressed up as Alex Rodriguez in a Red Sox uniform.

“It was the scariest thing I could think of.”