Dipshits & domains, this weekend

So a domain reseller has decided to spam me daily offering me the “preferred” azuen.com domain name to complement my azuen.net domain, because it’s better for marketing.   This all for the low low early buyer’s price of $560, which could go higher, because “he expects strong interest in this domain auction.”

Cha, right.   As if a word carved into a board by a drunk in Fitchburg is really going to set the marketing world afire.   The word doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me, and even to me it doesn’t truly have a meaning.   It was just something I found once, in a forest that’s no longer there, in this little shack with some empty vodka bottles that had been slapped together on an impossibly beautiful spot in the New England woods.   So this guy’s persistent efforts to turn his $10 registration into a $600 profit are really funny.   If I cared about marketing the name, I would have bought the .com version 9 years ago when I registered the .net version too.

This weekend is the Debacle on the Charles Invitational.   The schedule looks as unpleasant and unnecessarily difficult, as usual.   Why they can’t just cluster the IE events and give people half-days off, instead of these awkward four hour breaks is beyond me.   This year I only have extempers, a DI, and three PF teams going; the rest of the interp crew for the most part found better things to do than to pay $75 to lose a lot of sleep this weekend.   Can’t say as I blame them.   It does mean I don’t have to stay for the late round Saturday in IE.   That helps a lot.

The Monday schedule has changed a lot too; Extemp finals are now at 9:00 AM, which I’m sure will lead to sharp, clear analysis and great speeches, especially given that the semis will have been at 8:00 PM the night before.   I hope this also means they’re no longer going to wedge Extemp into the half-again too small room in the Science Center like usual, but I have my doubts.   It looks like all the other finals are in Sanders Theater, so I have to wonder why the Extemp final can’t be at a gentle noon hour in the Science Center rooms, which will by then be empty?

Between this kind of scheduling and the fees, it’s almost like they don’t want people to come to their tournament.   I can say they’re doing a damn fine job of it with me.   I find myself hoping the extemp kids tank and don’t make it to the final just to avoid that.   We are bringing a finalist from last year along (though not last year’s champion) so we’ll see how that works out.

The other odd thing about Harvard is the campus and the area is a huge part of my daily life.   I’m an alum, and I worked there for about six years or so.   I pass through there regularly today; it is a definite part of my non-forensics life.   For the most part, forensics lives in forensics-specific worlds; I will never be able to walk around Yale’s campus without thinking about Yale’s tournament; when someone mentions “Yale” to me, I take it to mean the tournament, not the college.   The same goes for the area high schools, Columbia, UPenn, etc.   Even my own Newton South’s building means “speech” to me, since I go there for no other reason.   But Harvard is my home territory; I know how it lives the other 362 days of the year, so the annual invasion of the forensics world makes this weekend stand out and jarringly so.   Coaches I know from the forensics world simply don’t “belong” in Harvard Square in my mind; that’s not their setting, it’s for other folks, my fabled private life.   So this weekend tends to be jarring, though being a native has its privileges: I know where to park, I know good places to eat that the kids won’t find, I sleep in my own bed each night.   If the weather changes, I have the clothes to adapt.


As you may divine from the increasingly sporadic bylines on this blog, I’ve been busy.   Sometimes you spend too much time doing an activity to reflect on it; never mind having sixty activities going at once like I do.   Currently I’ve got the dayjob, I’m on the LOPSA Board and spokesbeasting for them, and I’ve got five different classes of hats for forensics: I coach, I run the state league, I run and advise a bunch of tournaments, which is going to be bringing me to sunny Florida this weekend, I write and maintain tournament management software (which fact is largely responsible for the tournament advising), and I run a two week extemp camp in the summertime.     Phew.

Part of the trouble with such a schedule is I don’t get much time to sit down and do things properly.   I don’t get much chance to gently let an idea simmer and stew, and then prepare materials for it with care and precision.   No, it’s a bunch of just-in-time sallies that seem to be mostly sufficient, but not as terribly coordinated and careful as I would prefer.   Thus The Book for EXL consists of a mass of lecture notes that I have yet to collect into a discernable form; the tournament software manual is two years out of date, and I still haven’t gotten to the Columbia invitation.   Long term projects fall by the wayside in favor of gettin’ it done.

I suffer from another curious affliction, in that my time is at odds with the time that most coaches spend on the activity.     I can dedicate non-work hours to this show; I do my email and work on nights and weekends, and occasionally can sneak a minute or ten out of my day schedule to respond to something particularly urgent, but for the most part I am adamant that my employer be treated fairly due to my forensics involvement; they give me lots of leeway to travel around to tournaments, and they get their due out of me in return.   But that means often I’ll send a wave of emails out on a holiday or a nighttime and the rest of the forensics world isn’t around to hear it.   That’s fine, but a friction all the same.

So perhaps I should give something up, and make it easier.   If only it were that easy; it’d be difficult to give up any chunk of what I do.   Forensics is underfunded and underdue; the very fact that someone like me has so much responsibility even though this Isn’t My Job is telling about the state of debate education in the land.   However, maybe someday I’ll get to take a vacation without ten screaming teenagers along for the ride.

What I’m basically saying is, if you sent me email in the last two weeks, you’re going to get a reply today at the earliest.


Work took me to Ithaca, NY, where I spent most of today struggling against the network setup there.   I want a relatively simple thing; a network that joins up with Cambridge’s.   But I don’t have quite the right mix of what I need.   I have a server that should be able to operate with only sporadic contact with the home base in Cambridge, but apparently doesn’t.   Ticks me off, it does, and leads me to spend one of those days rolling a sisyphean rock up the hill.   Nothing is more frustrating and terrible than that, in this line of work: the thing that doesn’t work, and you don’t know how to make it work given the tools you have.

But last night I drove from Syracuse, where my flight landed, to Ithaca.   Along the way, I drove through Syracuse, a middling sized city of lit, empty streets.   I passed through Cortland, which looked like any other collection of neon and red plastic signs drawing attention to the inevitable chain stores.   The strip malls blend in with the next; town boundaries blur, and identities blur.   What separates Cortland really from Syracuse, or Syracuse from Utica, or Schenectady, or Pittsfield, or Fitchburg?   Their city centers are distinct, but barren; their outskirts lively, but so much the same; bright red and blue overlit signs, parking lots, and commercial monotony.

Ithaca has a sunburst of character, but it’s unsustainable without the weight of Cornell to draw that critical mass here.   That’s how Ann Arbor works, and Madison.   Large cities manage it too, through sheer numbers; though we have Detroit to offset Boston, and Newark looks over New York’s shoulder.   San Francisco is lovely, but Phoenix is just depressing, and in exactly the same way that Syracuse is depressing.   Places with such august names should live up to them; Syracuse should be a city of hills and Greek columns and libraries, while Phoenix should spread oranges and reds and yellows so the very ground seems to burn with it.

Not so much.   Instead corporate branding ply their psychological games.   Supposedly, whenever I see the blue and yellow sign I immediately think Best Buy and am seized with the urge to buy a $4,000 television.

Talent flows from places like Syracuse to places like Ithaca.   It flows from places like Fitchburg to places like Boston.   And that’s sad, since there’s nothing saying that a place like Fitchburg couldn’t be the center and source of civic pride that once it was, where someone with talent could stay and build and make it a little bit better, except that we’ve had choices made for us in the country and economy that say it’s efficient for our entire country to be the same strip mall, repeated over and over.   I immediately know where I can buy a certain thing, but I never know quite where I am.


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.

The last nice day

So it’s days like today that sometimes fill me with somewhat morbid thoughts; it’s a beautiful, blustery day, the kind of warm day that punctuates October and gives us those quiet moments of respite.   I love sitting as I am now, in the sunroom with the windows wide open.   I like staring out on the world, and wondering where my friends are right now, what they’re doing, whether they’re happy or not.

I wonder too, because I’m a morbid sort sometimes, if this is the last nice day of 2007.   It could well be; all from here forward might descend into drizzle, cold, sleet and snow.   And because my mind is harmfully expansive sometimes, sooner or later it strikes me that someday, maybe not today (but maybe so!) we’ll have the very last nice day, the day after which the world turns dark and cold, a cinder in the empty swim of space.

Well, bummer.

It’s amazing how a beautiful day in October can make me need a hug, but it can sometimes. I’m finding as I age that I’m less content and less stable alone that I used to be.   I was a really self sufficient little antisocial bastard in high school, possibly because high school social interactions are always painful, and some of us have low thresholds.   Now, I’m not.   The consequences of that are probably dire.

But for now the wind is warm and the crickets are singing.