A Tale of Two States

A fast and furious weekend in forensics usually involves at least six nervous breakdowns; I’m happy to have gotten away with two.

The weekend began, in the way of many long weekends, on Thursday. I pulled myself into a bus at South Station after seeing a Hasidic man walking through the terminal carrying a bright yellow Easter basket. I spent three hours on the bus to Albany answering frantic emails about the new company’s website, and programming together a viable room master that I’ve been wanting for ages. It’s not quite ready for prime time, since it only shows the first day of a tournament, which worked OK for both New York and Massachusetts states, but won’t work for Nationals or Yale or further along.

Then I arrived in lovely Albany, caught up on the latest Catholic gossip from Catherine, and fended off the Mary Louis girls’ hopefully joking requests for a glass of wine. Kieran had done most of the gruntwork of paneling and selecting Congress judges, which was marvelous. I adjusted and tweaked and showed him a few more features. I got a good night’s sleep, listened as the New York regional directors bitched about room abuse by Policy Debaters, ran registration, and got everything running.

The New York states is a funny beast. The leadership of the organization has totally signed onto the idea of computerization; Kieran constantly thanks me, often on behalf of his wife and family, for all the time the software saves him. The tournament does seem to run faster even when things go wrong. However, the tab operation has only adapted somewhat; it reminds me of the early days of the MFL’s computer effort, when we were essentially trying to hand tab using computers. Things go easier on the computer if you do things like the computer wants you to, but it takes time to adjust folks’ comfort levels around that.

We adapted pretty easily in the MFL, but we run tournaments together all the time. The NYSFL does so once a year, and so I’m a little worried that it’s going to be like this for a while; a six tournament adjustment period takes us three months, but it takes them six years. And with all due respect to the New Yorkers of the Roman persuasion, their computer competence is somewhat….lesser than ours, collectively. I think the average age of the tab staff is cut in half whenever I walk in the room. We in MA have at this point about a dozen folks who can run a tournament OK on the computer system, while really only Charlie Sloat and some of the Brooklyn folks are adept among the NYSFL tab.

Back home after a delayed trip home on the Greyhound, I ran our own tournament. It went easily, even though it was difficult to panel, due to the small size. I terrified a kid from one school with fire and brimstone because they were going to drop a judge.

But the day was smooth; the panels were small, the school very well set up, and everything got off without a hitch. I also came up with the method of speeding the day by just starting things. We tend to not begin things until everything is perfect and ready. But you really don’t need the ballots to start the judge briefing; chances are you’ll finish them during it, and even if you don’t, they can wait just as well after the breifing. So just standing there and saying “Start!” helps a lot.

Meanwhile, back in New York, I kept getting messages from Charlie that said things like “Very Screwed!!! Please call!!!”. He somehow decided that the semifinal of DI had to happen about sixteen times, because he kept on breaking it, in more than one sense. There was a tiebreaker doing funny things, that I fixed on the fly, promptly disabling their sweepstakes, but then I fixed that too. No one has bitched yet about the results being wrong, and so it all worked out in the end.

So New York’s Rome is done, and State Speech is done. Next week all the problems belong to Rich Edwards, as we do our State Debate tournament, and the New Yorkers of the Avignon persuasion run their inaugural event.