Johnny Chung Lee is my favorite person of the day

So if you know me you know that I am a registered technophile (I actually have to inform the neighbors after a court order). It's also pretty obvious that I like debate. And if there's anything I like more that technology and debate separately, it's the ways that technology can influence and interact with debate.

Case in point: Mr. Lee, and his DIY project to turn any laptop into a multi-touch-screen laptop (Which don't exist right now, to my knowledge) with a 45 dollar video game controller.

That's right, a freaking video game controller.

(scroll to about 3 minutes in)

Johnny Chung Lee: 1
Heidegger: 0

a few musings from doubles at Blake

Wow, it was really cool to judge a Minnesota showdown in doubles at Blake. I mean, it does suck when two MN teams hit each other in doubles at Blake and can't both go on, but it was nice for me since doubles was the last round I was obligated for :)

Anyway, where the heck did this Nietzsche argument come from anyway. Apparently it's been around for a while, but I didn't encounter it once during my debate career so far. What makes an argument like that appear and disappear so suddenly? It's obviously not the topic, since Nietzsche links to everything, so what is it?

That brings me to my other weird feeling from Doubles... I don't think I've ever been on the "right" (in a debate sense) of a debate panel before. Part of that comes from judging in Texas, but there's really not very many arguments that I just "don't get." Honestly it's kind of a fun feeling trying to figure out arguments that are new (and or/batshit insane, not saying that the N fits under this category) to me. Maybe that's just me as a debate judge, but I actually kind of like the feeling that "this argument is confusing and/or stupid." Doesn't mean I'm going to vote for it, but I enjoy the whole experience.

Resolved: It is just for the United States to use military force to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations that pose a military threat

LDers have all the fun.

One thing though, doesn't any nation that possesses nuclear weapons pose a military threat... on account of they have big bomb go boom?

Ryan Judge 2.0: Dead Tree Edition

Since my laptop came down with a case of the gremlins, I was stuck flowing on paper this last weekend. Turned out not as bas as I was expecting. Obviously I got less detail on my flow than I did on a computer, and I still have to work way harder to get the damn columns straight than I should, but I didn't miss as much as I was worried about. I think I'm just a much better flow than I was in high school anyway.

I also realized that for novice debate (or bad upper level debate), flowing on paper is sooo much easier. When debaters go into "I am going to make arguments that may or may not apply to something" mode or jump all around the flow, paper makes it a whole lot easier to figure out what the heck is going on.

SO if you see me whip out the paper before I judge you... it's because my computer broke. Seriously.


So y'all know that during rounds I'm generally not seen without my DS. I don't get a lot of video game time these days, and I really do treasure those 16 minutes per round. However, this weekend I forgot to charge the thing, so I was left to find something else to do during prep.

The game I invented for myself was to try to make a silly anagram of every debater in the round's name.

Examples from yesterday:

Charles Stephens = Chest Harp Lenses
Taylor Bowen = Oye! Warn! Bolt!(kinda sounds like a road sign)
Paul Shipman = Haul in amps (a roadie, apparently)
David Webb = Web div bad (an old school web designer?)
Kevin Cabrera = Vince Are Bark (A 3-year old LOST fan)

I love talking nerdy

So Will asked me to settle a debate for him on whether debate helps you be a better programmer. Here's my thoughts:

First of all, I want to point out that Will is sort of asking the wrong question. You don't want to be just a "programmer." Programmers are the one's who get paid 10 bucks (or rupees!) an hour to code websites and other boring crap. Assuming you are someone who is smart and likes interesting challenges with complex systems, you want to be a hacker (and I don't mean the bastardized definition of hacker that means "someone who does illegal things with a computer, I'm talking about a real hacker.)

So how does debate help you become a hacker? Well, there's a lot of different ways. First you've got the practical stuff: Debate generally tends to give you skills that make you good at school. Debaters tend to get better grades and do better on standardized tests, so they get into better colleges (and might even get free ride scholarships to those colleges, perhaps just because they debate). College doesn't in itself make you a hacker, but it's a really good place to learn the art.

But that's just scratching the surface. Debate, above all, teaches you 'how to learn.' It teaches you how to process information quickly (ever tried reading someone else's code?) It teaches you to research and find information quickly, and not just the "google it" kind of research. I mean the kind of research skills where you can look at an article and decide whether it's worth reading in about 10 seconds. There might be places to learn that sort of thing outside of debate, but I haven't found any yet.

Debate teaches you to communicate with people. It teaches you how to write. It teaches you how to persuade. And if you think that none of those things matter to be a hacker (especially a hacker with a job!) then you need to talk to some more hackers.

But most importantly, and I seriously cannot stress this enough, Debate and Programming, at their very core, require the exact same skill: the ability to view complex systems at many levels of abstraction simultaneously. You've heard of "seeing the forest for the trees." Well being a hacker means seeing the forest, the trees, the leaves on the trees, the caterpillars on the leaves, and being able to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to understand how all these different levels interact. Succeeding in debate is all about this. Succeeding at programming is all about this. Seriously.

bad rap

This might become part of a greater series on games, but something has been bothering me lately:

Why is sportsmanship a good thing and gamesmanship a bad thing?

or, for that matter, what do you call it when someone behaves "sportsmanly" while they are playing a game.

A Few quick hits from this weekend

First of all, grats to Mahoney and company from St. Marks. y'all run a tight ship.

Second of all, grats to all the sophomores I saw at the hoedown. Lots of very good debate, especially given everyone's experience level. I've been to that tournament 3 years in a row now and I'm always impressed by the quality of debate.

I think I've got a new pet peeve now for kritik debates. I think that when it comes to "X is socially constructed," I think that the response of "X exists, dummy" is consistently under-utilized. Lots of K's rely on the idea that some facet of the other team's story is some sort of construction, and it seems like such an intuitive (and in most cases, winnable) answer that, no, it turns out that this thing is really real.

It seems like it's the new trend to try to answer the k by out-weirding it. Talking about fools and knaves and stuff. I like my kritik debates like I like my coffee: simple and a little bitter.

Threats exist? hell yeah they do
Suffering exists? all over the place
Mental illness? see it. believe it.

that's just a few examples. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm a tool of the system, but I'm far more likely to trust an expert in the field who publishes in peer reviewed journals than an academic who uses too many hyphens.


So I do a fair amount of complaining at debate tournaments, mostly about the way Texas debate tournaments are run. Instead of sounding like a broken record at tournaments, I am now just going to start a running list of all the things at local Texas tournaments that I see as either bad for debate or just plain irritating.

• No Strikes whatsoever
• Bad judges' lounges. I'll get to that later
• 4 prelim rounds instead of 5
• A four-and-then-quarters tournament that lasts till 11PM on saturday.
• A four round tournament with 3 presets and 1 powered round.
• Tournaments that break brackets (including the breaking of brackets at state. What the deuce?)
• Speech judges in varsity debate. this is unfortunate
• Speech judges in varsity debate elimination rounds. this is unacceptable.
• Absolutely no consideration for cleanliness of judges in out rounds.
• Ballot tables that say "no, you can't pick up your ballot. Tell me your name and I will hand it to you, so as to waste the most time"
• Ballot tables that say "no, you can't pick up your fiancee's ballot for her. She needs to come over so I can waste her time too"
(quick note: here's how to tell which ballots haven't been picked up: THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT ARE STILL SITTING THERE ON THE TABLE)

• Tournaments where round 1 doesn't come out on time. Seriously. how hard is it to pair round one on time?
• Nobody running ballots. Ever.
• Getting mad at me when I hand my ballot to a student to run it to the ballot table.
• No pairings available at the ballot table. They just have one for the table.
• No communication from the judges lounge to the ballot table. So I can't be "standing by" and "eating food" at the same time. And of course no pairings in the judges lounge.
• Sometimes, no pairings available at all. They post one copy on the wall for 30+ teams, judges, and coaches. Jerks.
• Pushing ballots 5 minutes after pairings come out. To whoever is nearby. Without any consideration about what events they are experienced in or whether they are clean. Bonus points when it happens for outrounds.
• Kids that ask me "What are your paradigms?" don't think about that one too long. It might make your eyebrows start to burn a little.
• Kids that are double entered between extemp and debate, delaying the entire tournament when they break in both
• Structuring the entire tournament around the need for kids to double enter in speech and debate, sacrificing timeliness and/or an appropriate number of rounds.
• Judges lounges that pack up all the food after speech is done, while there are still 3 debate outrounds remaining. I know I already mentioned bad judges lounges, but that one deserves special mention
• Bonus points when they pack up all the food for the kids, too.
• Coaches that bail before the first elim round, or bail as their kids are eliminated.
• Calling it CX instead of Policy. Pet peeve.
• No JV division, ever.
• No novice case limits.
• The rule that the kids can't enter the room without a judge present, so I get to watch everyone set up every round.
• Two bad tournaments every weekend instead of one good one.
• Trophies that say "3rd place" instead of "semifinalist." Ok, another pet peeve, but there can't be two teams in third place!

Now, there are some tournaments in Texas that actually do a wonderful job. But this only underscores the bad tournaments' liability. There are perfectly good examples of what to do nearby, why must we continually suck week after week? And I do mean week after week. I have seen all of these on multiple occasions.

Anyone who uses Texas debate as an example of a thriving debate community to be emulated needs to actually come down here. If this is what it takes to save policy debate, policy debate ain't worth saving.

yay texas scheduling

round one doesn't start tommorow until 6:30.

I love how texas finds ways to make a 4 round and then quarters tournament stretch into saturday at midnight.

every weekend.

In the eternal words of ian cero


Ok, I'll admit it

I realized something this weekend: LD debaters are really good at talking fast. Talking fast and being very very clear. This is sort of hard to quantify, but I think that in terms of "information per unit of time," the average high level LD debater kicks the stuffing out of the average high level policy debater.

Admit it, folks. We've been beat at our own game. You should be ashamed.

I've been working on a little theory here. It's still in it's infancy, but it goes a little something like this:

how to get fast and win rounds:
1. get very clear: Over enunciate every syllable, hit every consonant and stretch out the vowels a little
2. get dynamic: People are easier to understand when they use dynamics. Vary the volume, pitch, length of pauses. Better yet, use your dynamics to emphasize the important bits of what you are reading
3. get rhythm: this one is a little hard to quantify, but the best debaters have a natural rhythm while making arguments. You need to find your inner metronome
4. get fast: once you've got all that, then you can turn up the tempo knobs. But try to force the fast before you've got all the other stuff down and you just make yourself hard to hear (and by consequence actually convey less information per unit of time)

LD debaters seem to have this down. Policy debaters less so.

Terrible Terrible Arguments

So one of the realities of debate is that many terrible arguments get to see the light of day. some even end up winning rounds. At risk of being a voice in the wilderness, I'm going to go ahead and out a few common ones so maybe someone will read my list and take one of these off their blocks:

This week's theme is topicality, the place from which many terrible arguments emerge:

-Our interpretation is good, because it increases education. Education about our plan.
-You read some arguments in the 1NC, so clearly you weren't abused on Topicality.
-If we are "reasonably topical," you shouldn't vote on topicality. Oh, by the way. We are reasonably topical. Seriously.
-Topicality is a voter because of tradition
-Topicality is a voter because it's an 'a priori' issue
-Our interpretation is better because it gives the negative all sorts of link ground!
-Extra topicality is good because it gives the negative all sorts of link ground!
-Our case is predictable! I mean, there's ton of literature about it! Hell, we found enough literature to make a 1AC! Quit whining!
-Topicality is a voter because the judge is like a senator and the resolution is like the constitution and the judge can't think that something is a good idea if it's out of his jurisdiction

So yeah, if you are a debater and you are reading this and your T blocks are nearby, please take out your sharpie and violently exclude all of these arguments from the rhetorical space of debate.

And oh man am I glad that the word "establish" isn't in this year's policy resolution. Someone upstairs at the framers meeting likes me.

That's when rock and roll dreams come true

Hey, remember that time that I said that someone ought to make a wiki that explains a bunch of debate jargon? Well it seems as though Michigan State has beat me to the punch.

I'm excited to get 'mah edit on.

back to tay has

just looked at the schedule for this weekend.

Guess what time round 4 stats Saturday morning? 11AM. Boy howdy am I glad that our schedule gets hosed so kids can double enter in speech and debate.

Every. stinking. weekend.

Oh well, at least it'll give me a chance to hang out with my dad Saturday morning. And it'll give me a big pain in the ass finding someone to cover my job for my Saturday night. give and take.

Debate Camps are a scam

I know that there are a bunch of sites that sell debate evidence. Frankly, I think it's a little silly (and probably against the law), and I personally wouldn't ever make the decision to sell evidence, but it's a free country.

But selling camp evidence? I know that this has been going on for a while, but that's just ugly. Kids are pretty much required to go to debate camps to be successful in this day and age of debate. So they pay thousands of dollars to a college for the privilege. That college then takes their work, sells it for profit, and doesn't give the students back a dime. I mean I know you (hopefully) get more out of debate camp then a chance to cut cards, but that sucks.

End child exploitation. Boycott camp evidence.

Luckily, it looks like the fine folk at the NDCA are making this practice obsolete.

Holy Crap

Joy of Tournaments costs a buttload of money.

For those averse to link clicking. Just using their tabulation software for a single tournament costs $250.

Having them run the tournament website costs even more.

I mean don't get me wrong. The folks at Joy do a good job from what I can tell, their service is clearly worth something, and nobody's forcing tournament directors to pay that.

but sheesh, I bet Greenhill gave them over 500 bucks. I'm surprised nobody has tried to undercut them.

Put that in my "good ideas" folder.

Mutual Judge Paininthebutt

I'll admit it, I'm not a fan of Mutual Judge Preference.

Everyone else seems to loooove MJP. It's a standard for any circuity tournament, and I hear all the time at tournaments about how nice it is. But man is it a pain in the ass. I'm pretty new at this coaching thing, but oh let me count the crap we have to put up with for MJP.

-Going through the list of judges, most of which we don't know
-Trying to find philosophies for judges online, many of which aren't there despite the perennial requirement for judges to post their philosophy
-Trying to discern something useful out of judge philosophies in the first place. What does it mean to "default to a policy maker?" is someone who "likes to see the evolution of debate" going to be ok with a performance aff?
-Calling around to ask about judges that we don't know anything about, wasting more time.
-Figuring out when the pref sheet needs to be done by, and who to turn it in to. At registration? The day before at 9AM? it's just one more thing to keep track of.

Also, in addition to being irritating, I really think that it's bad for debate. The idea of MJP is to make sure that each round has a judge that both teams equally prefer. But what if you are new to debate and know absolutely nobody? Who do you prefer? Or what if you have 10 As that you can come up with but need to mark at least 20? The whole system seems to assume that everyone has reliable, useful information about every judge.

That ain't true. And since it's the established, big programs that have more information, it's the established, big programs that get the real benefit of MJP.

I also think there's an argument to be made about how MJP eliminates the need for judge adaptation. Now, let me qualify that statement. There are a lot of really crappy policies that are justified by touting the benefits of "judge adaptation," so let me say that it's not like being required to adapt more is always a good thing. I think that lay judges are bad in varsity divisions. I also think that debaters should be able to avoid judges that have a specific agenda to eliminate from debate the style of arguments that they prefer. But there's an amount of education that comes from, say, having to slow down a bit to debate for a judge who's been out of the game for a while, or having to carry a few disads along with your representations kritik.

It's a balance. I think that strikes do a decent job of preserving that balance. I also think that MJP tips it a bit too far in the "I don't have to adapt" direction. It also tips the balance in that direction specifically for the big programs, and I think that's bad.

A little language kritik

Debate is a silly thing. This activity is ostensibly designed around logic and reason, but we have so many names for things that are relics of tradition and habit.

I'm pretty big on names for things. I really love a good name - something that is witty, maybe helps in understanding some concept. I think everyone does. But when something has a bad name, a name that obscures meaning or is just plain silly, most people tend to ignore it. I mean sure, we don't have racist names for disads anymore, but with all the talk about how to make debate a more accessible place to the outside world, why is there no discussion about making our jargon a little more user-friendly?

Let me get to some examples:

"Intrinsicness perm"
- this one is a straight up relic. It comes (as I understand) from an era in which disadvantages needed to be "intrinsic" to plan. If the affirmative could think up something else that a policy maker could do to avoid the disadvantage - an "intrinsicness answer" - the disad would not be considered a reason to reject the plan. If plan causes a drop in business confidence but is otherwise a good idea, well then we'll do plan and then do something about the business confidence. Frankly, I have no idea how a negative team ever won a round in that world.

Anyway, the kernel of this concept - an addition of something else to plan - carried over into the world of counterplan theory, and the name has stuck around today. This sucks. If someone asks me what an intrinsicness perm is, I can simply explain what it is - a perm that includes some action neither in plan nor counterplan - but then that person has to manually connect the word "intrinsicness" (which isn't even a word) to that concept to be able to use it in a round. Really nasty. Why don't we just call them "addition perms" or "add-on perms" or "rider perms" or "staple perms" or something?

"Double Bind" - This one is just silly. The idea is that you set up a system of arguments that puts your opponents between the ol' rock and a hard place - the more they link-out of one argument the more they link into the other. Running a topicality violation on the word "public" along with a marxist kritik of the public/private dichotomy, for instance. This is generally a pretty good strategic move, so it deserves a good name. A hell of a lot better name than "double bind." There's nothing "double" about it. It's just a bind! They are in a bind between one argument or another. The word "double" is there just to make it sound harder to get out of. You'd be just as well off calling it a "XXTREME Bind" or something. silly.

I'll probably have a bunch more as time goes on and I get reminded of them, that's why I'm using a label just for silly debate words.

Really I think it'd be awesome if we made something like the Jargon File for debate. Like a wiki or something that a non-debater could read and understand this silly thing we call debate.

One more thing on the to do list :)


This is my new blog. I plan on ranting about debate-related stuff.