Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Judges' Handwriting That You Can Read

If you can't read that, join the club.
If you can, then, well, pfft. We don't want you in our club anyway.


Sometimes ballots are hard to read. If you're a judge and you're reading this, then you've probably read your kids' ballots unless you're an alumni since alumni usually don't have kids but they used to compete so they've read their own ballots, so basically either way, judges ought to know what's like. It's tough sometimes. Sometimes we can't read the wonderful, fabulous notes that judges give us because the handwriting is far too cramped. Why? Why, judges, why? I don't get it.

You know the feeling. The awards ceremony has just ended. You've received a large yellow envelope containing anywhere from 6-400 pieces of brightly colored paper, depending on how many events you have. You jump into the passenger seat of the car, or one of the back seats of your giant "homeschool bus," depending on how many siblings you have. You buckle your seatbelt and rip open the envelope, not necessarily in that order, depending on how much patience you have. Then, you begin to read.

Wait, no, not yet. First you organize the papers by event, then by the round, and then perhaps by rank or alphabetical order by the judge's last name, if you're particularly meticulous. Then you begin read. Except when you can't.

Maybe the parent judge was really in a hurry. Maybe the community judge forgot someone would be reading this and wasn't careful. Maybe the alumni judge had just consumed too much coffee and couldn't hold his hand straight. I don't know how it happens, but it does. Sometimes, you just cannot read that reason for ranking or for decision. It's depressing.

It's also awkward, if you have the type of mother that I do who insists you read your ballots aloud to her. Which I do.

"Umm, let's see, ok... Way good... periferation? Is that a word? Perforation?"
"Ohh, yea, yea. Ok. Way... no. I think that says 'very.' Very good presentation, but I... think, um, you can... be? No wait, it's 'do.' They just spelled it wrong, that's why I was confused. They spelled it like 'due, d-u-e.' Anyway. I think you can do better. You have a... failout?"
"Fail out?
"TALENT. Ok. They think I have a talent. Why didn't they just say that?"

Ballots like that one are why I very much appreciate legible notes. Thank you, legible judges. You have legibly saved the day. I'm the one making you watch my speech; the least I can do is pour over your notes. Plus, the idea is that I actually benefit from doing so. Thank you for making my life a little easier.

You're homeschooled. That much is clear.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Awards Ceremonies That Don't Last Ten Years

You're sitting an at Awards Ceremony in an uncomfortable chair in a very large building, and approximately 85 thoughts or so are going through your head.

First, you want results. Like, a lot. And you wish they would just hurry and get to your event already, but of course they still have to thank all of the directors, judges, parents, people who bring us food, photographers, orientation people, and all other staff members before listing off the top timers and anything else they can think of, all of whom receive flowers and/or gift cards. Second, you're tired. It's been a long couple of days. You really want to go home and sleep, but you refuse to do so. There is a ceremony to be held. Third, if you're anything like the people who sit near me at the awards ceremonies, you're probably so tired that you don't get whatever joke the guy at the mic just told. Fourth, your feet hurt, and you really want to put on non-tournament shoes. Fifth, you really want to see the ballots so you can know why you didn't break or go 6-0 when you clearly deserved to. Sixth, if you did break to finals in something, you're distracted by the fact that one of those shiny trophies will soon be yours. Seventh, you're trying to figure out who won sweeps, but sometimes that doesn't take very long to guess. Eighth, you're discussing with the people around you who will win various speech events and forms of debate. Ninth, you and a hundred other people are hoping you got a green checkmark in Impromptu if you didn't break. Tenth, you're attempting to locate yourself and your friends in the photo slideshows that always leave me convinced I didn't attend the tournament, judging by the lack of me.

I could go on, but quite frankly, everyone probably just skimmed over that paragraph, so I should just not.

By the time the Awards Ceremony rolls around, you're already exhausted. By the time they actually start announcing results once tab has them ready, you're somehow alert again. But it seems like it takes forever to get to that point, doesn't it? They never seem to announce the event you really care about first. Especially if you really care about TP. In my experience, that always go last. If you're a non-debater, then you'll probably be exhausted again by the time Policy and LD results come up. I always was. If you are a debater, then those just can't come fast enough.

Sometimes, the tournament people understand. They get you. They feel you. They're tired too, and they want to go home too, and they want to get to their kids' results almost as badly as you want them to get to yours. Sometimes, those people don't take their time at the ceremony, and you walk out of the building feeling somehow like that ceremony flew by. And then the tournament is over. And then you're sad.

And then you go home and go to bed and it all works out.
And then you start planning for the next tournament.

You're homeschooled. See you there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Obsessing Over What to Wear for Tournaments- Carey Vandewalle

(Carey is attempting to commandeer my blog. This is evident by the numerous guest posts. But her posts are so funny that I have no motivation to foil her devious plot.)

Hey guys.
Guess what.
There’s a tournament tomorrow.
I know.
It’s crazy.
I hope you’re ready. I hope you’re excited. I hope I’ll see you there, and I hope I’ll see you onstage at awards.
Onstage at awards?! In front of all Stoa?! Yep! Relax. Because you have your suits all planned out, to look your schnazzy best all four, long days.
It’s very important to take a break from frantically scouring the internet to make sure your case did not go inherent LAST NIGHT, and distractedly printing every brief you can find against Death Tax, and calmly and collectedly putting the finishing touches on your case explaining why personal freedom ought to be valued above economic security. Heh. No bias here.
But that break must be taken to open your closet and consider your options.
Maybe it’s just me. But I suspect that we all spend quite a while pondering the important question: which blouse looks best with which skirt? What shirt color would best set off this tie?
Me: “Mom, does this work?”
Mom: “Hmm, because that shirt is cream-colored, it doesn’t go with the white in the skirt”
(4 outfits later, I think she’s just telling me ‘yes’ so that I stop asking her).
Friend who does debate: “So, I’ve been wanting to experiment with some new shirt/tie color combinations. Do you have any suggestions before my mom takes me shopping?”
Some girls are lucky. They have a guy for their duo or debate partner that they get to advise on what to wear. I am without either. So I leapt at the chance to give my friend all my great ideas I’d be saving without a person to give them too.
Deciding what to wear for the tournament is very important. Maybe this is your first year and your suit is already perfectly pressed, ready for you to rock. Maybe you just have to decide which of your two suits to start the every-other-alternation with. Maybe you’ve been doing this forever and have an entire closet of options. But whatever it is, you have spent a good amount of time pondering how to look your best. If you’re like me, that is.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s important.
First, suits are just plain awesome! One of my favorite parts of tournaments is looking around at everyone looking so pro in their suits. Really. It’s great. And you are awesome, so you deserve to look great, too.
Second, your appearance really does matter. There’s a little box on your ballot for ‘professional appearance’ and here I could tell lots of horror stories of very particular judges with high expectations. It pays to look good, trust me. Judges have been known to vote on which guy’s tie they liked better. I’m pretty sure my partner and I only won a few of our rounds because of his tie. Almost every mom judge we had made some kind of comment like “Wow! You looked great! Wonderful tie/shirt combo with your coloring!” Maybe once every five ballots someone would say “pretty pin!” to me. It was funny. You can laugh. I don’t mind.
You’ve worked so hard on your AI (Awesome Interpretation) and practiced your impromptu so many times. Now it’s time to brush your hair, don your suit, straighten your tie, add a pretty pin, and take on this thing. You’re going to be amazing.
You’re homeschooled. I like your suit/blouse/shoes/tie.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Throwing Your Partner Under The Argument Bus

(in Cross-Ex): 
"Did you respond to our _____ argument?"
"Ummm, I believe my partner will be addressing that in her next speech."

To "throw someone under the bus" is a phrase that is rarely taken literally and generally refers to an act of "[sacrificing] another person (often a friend or ally), who is usually not deserving of such treatment, out of malice or for personal gain." To "throw someone under the argument bus" is essentially to do the same thing, but to your debate partner in-round.

It may not be out of malice. It may not be for personal gain. It may be that your partner just forgot to address the Aff's Topicality responses, but since it's the Neg block, throwing you under the bus is apparently warranted and acceptable. But it's going to feel like it's out of malice and for personal gain when you're staring at your flowpad wondering how the heck you're going to be able to fit that into your next speech. Thanks, partner.

It doesn't always have to be for forgotten arguments, though. Often someone just hits a tough question in CX and doesn't know how to answer, so they chuck the responsibility onto their partner, reminiscent of a particularly violent game of Hot Potato. 

"Now, you claim our Disadvantage of 'Every American Citizen Goes Broke and Becomes Homeless and Dies In The Street' doesn't stand because they'll get more money from your plan, correct?"
"That's correct."
"Where is that money coming from?"
"Uhh... My partner will be getting back to you on that in a later speech."

Now the partner has the hot potato. But he probably doesn't want it either. He'll either take one for the team and respond to the argument like the good debate partner he never had, or assume that since the point was raised in Cross-Ex and few people flow Cross-Ex, it's not a real argument so you can let it go. If things turn out ok, the second guy wins. If things go bad, I would just blame the partner who threw the other guy under the bus. I would never do something like that. Except sometimes. And I would never not fulfill my burden when I am informed that I will be responding to something later. Unless I don't want to respond to it. Especially if it's an argument about the criteria or something. Who cares? Not the judge. Let it go.

Don't be a jerk partner. Unless you have to be. Or you have a partner who just loves it when you tell him what to argue in your next speech when you realize you didn't or can't respond in Cross-Ex. Then, by all means, sacrifice your partner.

You're homeschooled. Watch out for buses.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Using All Of Your Prep Time

In my entire history of debate (about 5 months), I have only once not used all of the prep time. Maybe it has something the do with the fact that I've only been debating for about 5 months and really, really need all of that prep time and more. Regardless, I have always been extremely impressed by people who can stand up from the prep table for the 2AR with more than 0 seconds left on the clock.

Now, what kind of a person would not use all available prep time, you might say? I'm glad you asked. There are several kinds of people who would do such a thing. Whether leaving prep time on the clock is bravery or stupidity, well, that is yet to be decided. But anyway:

First off, you've got the one who's probably a hero for it. I'm not sure how, but he at least seems to think he is. Picture this: a fine, young debater is preparing for the last speech of the round, sitting at the prep table/group of awkward desks, with a pen in hand that is flying across the paper. You're not sure how he has managed to not rip the paper, he's writing so fast. Probably he is filling the yellow lined parchment with so much brilliance that it wouldn't dare to tear. Suddenly, he looks up at the timer. "How much prep time is remaining?" he asks. Concern never crosses his face. "Four minutes and 50 seconds," comes the timer's reply. He abruptly stands. The chair crashes to the ground behind him. He turns to his right, or left, whichever direction is required to face the nearest window. "Please stop prep time," he calls out dramatically, still looking out the window because it is more heroic that way. Then he flips his dramatic hair and dramatically walks over to the dramatic lectern where he begins his speech. Dramatically. You can't help but be impressed by someone like that. Or extremely weirded out, but this is how I view people who don't use all of their prep time when it's actually semi-admirable. Sure, no one is a hero for not using prep time, but sometimes it kind of seems that way.

Of course, though it sounds hypocritical and/or contradictory considering the nature and/or title of this blog and/or post, it is not always a good thing to not use all of your prep time. For example, say a 2A stands up to speak with 2 minutes left on the clock. He chooses to ignore it, and probably thinks he is heroic and/or impressing at least one chick for it. Poor guy. He's gonna wish he used that prep time. Or even if he doesn't, you will. I mean, seriously? Seriously? You had 2 minutes remaining, but you only have one voting issue and dropped Topicality and the Neg's DA/Voter of "2,984,223.7 People Die?" Really? Use prep time, sir. That is all I have to say.

There is, however, one person who would actually prefer that each debater not use all of their prep time. Ok, I lied. There are four. Unless you're in LD, then there are 3. One or two are the other team. (Unless one LDer has multiple personalities and/or is an interper, in which case you may be able to count more people.) Another person is the timer. Depending on how good you are at it, calling out time signals every 30 seconds can either be terribly tiresome or terribly stressful. Either way, give the kid a break and don't use all of your prep time. The last person is, of course, the judge. Do you know how boring it is to watch a debater look over her flowpad for the 12th time just to make sure she's covered everything because she still has prep time left? Me neither. But it probably is not that fun. Help a judge out.

So there it is. Take what you will from it.

Have you ever not used all of your prep time? Why, or why not?

You're homeschooled. Three minutes remaining. Until the world explodes. Or at least the timer. Metaphorically speaking.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fixing "Wrong" Formatting on Evidence

I have never actually enforced any specific requirements when it comes to my fellow debate clubmates submitting to me. And when I say they submit to me, I mean they send me files. They don't bow down me or anything. I'm new, that will come later. Anyway. Ah yes, files. Well, basically I don't ask anything special of the evidence and whatnot which is occasionally sent to me. That just means I get to go and fix all of their formatting "mistakes" myself.

Here's how it's done, people: The tag lines are bold and in 13 point Times New Roman. It does not have to be Times New Roman, but for the sake of tradition, it should be. Any formal font will do, but it must be a serif font to allow for ease of reading. The evidence must be in 12 point, normal type. Everything I need to read is underlined, anything I don't is not and is in 9 pt type. The author's name comes immediately below the tag line. If I read the credentials, they are underlined as well and must come before a parenthetical set of the name of the article I'm quoting as well as an italicized link to it, in that order, and, if possible, the name of the website, newspaper, or magazine and a specific date. I'll only be reading the month and year the evidence is from, because what matters is that it's from July 2010, not July 24th. No one cares. If I don't read the credentials, they are first in the parenthesis. I'm sorry, but this is all important to me. It's how I learned. Any thing else is just wrong.

We all have our preferences. We all have our rules. We all have our own requirements for the exact formatting of our 1ACs, disadvantages, and various other typed debate-y paper-y things. The reals nerds inside of us often go so far as to make sure any and all evidence that reaches our computer screens and pass through our printers are properly formatted according to our specificities. Otherwise, we'll be thrown off and the whole entire round will go awry. It's just better for everyone's sake that we fix wrong formatting.

What about you? Are you super strict too? What are your ground rules?

You're homeschooled, and you know how it's done.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When You Don't Have To Pay Attention In Debate Rounds Anymore

There are multiple reasons why I am the 1A in my debate partnership. One of them is that delivering the 1AC is basically like delivering a platform speech that isn't memorized. No thinking is required at the podium, and I like it that way. What can I say, I'm an interper.
Another really great reason is that the 1A is the first one done. Once I give my 1AR, I am free to pass out the prep table. I don't literally pass out, but I could if I wanted to and it really wouldn't matter except that I am trying to uphold an illusion of professionalism. Which is why, in addition to not passing out, I make it a point to flow the two remaining speeches. The good news is, however, I don't have to. If I miss an entire argument, who cares? That's my partner's job, not mine.

There inevitably comes a point in every debate round where everyone except the 2AR is done. There are a number of ways you can fill your time:

1. Doodle
You, sir, are sitting at a table with access to multiple variously colored pens and 5,000 pieces of paper. You've got anywhere from 5-15 minutes to burn, and that does not include prep time. Time to get your doodle on. 
2. Come up with blog post ideas
Maybe I'm the only one that does this, but I came up with this post and two others during a 1NR recently. There's more where those came from, people. I hope.
3. Play Bingo
My friend Erin sent this page to me, and it is legitimately amazing. Seriously. It's called 2AR Bingo, and it's an excellent way to pass the time once the round is coming to a close.
4. Tell your partner what to say
There is a 50% chance that you will finish your role in a round before your partner does. There is a .095% chance that you will still feel like debating at that point. If you do, feel free to furiously write down responses on sticky notes and shove them onto your partner's flowpad. He will love that. My partner sure does. Actually, wait, no he doesn't. He threatens to run horrible Counter-Plans instead of what I tell him. It's not good. Maybe you shouldn't tell your partner what to say after all, though perhaps helpful "suggestions" may be warranted.

5. Take a nap
The key is to not get caught. I have not yet determined how this can be accomplished.

I generally spend more time thinking about what I'm going to do when I'm supposed to be debating rather than when I'm not, but hey, that time is important too.

You're homeschooled. Relax.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When People Think You Did Better Than You Actually Did At Competitions

Some people, like me, are freakish speechranks stalkers who can recite the 8 Open Interp quarter finalists at the first NITOC off the top of their heads. (I was one of them. Gotta know your competition, so you can glare at them afterwards. Unless you beat them.) On the other side of the spectrum are the people who have lives. These are the sort of people who say things to me like:

"You broke to finals, right?"
"So you qualified in all of your events?"
"Didn't you win Humorous?"
"Didn't you win every event at your first tournament, including LD and Policy debate, even though you had a cold and could barely speak?"

Honesty is kind of irksome sometimes. Especially when it comes to tournaments when you don't win every event, which for most of us is always, and you want to pretend like you did but darn speechranks begs to differ. Oh, and for the sake of honesty, I should probably tell you that no one has actually said anything that even resembled that last quote. But people have asked me the others, and I often have to reply: "no."

It's terribly sad.

And not fun.

At all.

But, this blog is virtually nothing but light-hearted, amusing, and optimistic exaggeration. So you know there's got to be a "bright side" somewhere. Well, friend, it so happens there is. See, even if you didn't do as well as your non-creeper friends and acquaintances think you did, they think you did. This means several things:

1) You are conceivably capable of doing as well as they mistakenly think you did.
2) Your friends think highly of you.
3) You have friends.
4) Your friends have lives.
5) You also have ears to hear them.

And if those aren't reasons to smile, I don't know what is. Even if you don't do as well as you maybe could have, they think you could have. You should think so too, but instead of being depressed and feeling like an epic failure, just go out there and do it next time. Whatever "it" is. If you don't know, ask your friends.

You're homeschooled, and I think you're awesome.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Talking To Famous People As If You Are Actually Friends With Them

I noticed pretty early on in my speech and debate career that our little league has a sort of unofficial hierarchy. See, you probably think that all homeschoolers and/or all speech and debate kids are dorks, and you would be right, but that doesn't change the fact that some dorks are slightly cooler than other dorks. And that's what I noticed.

I'm the type that really enjoys watching really talented people speak and debate. So I love the famous people, who tend to be the best at it. It's weird that I know all their names, and it's weird that I see them and think, "Oh, hey, I was just stalking you on speechranks this morning. You're number one in (some event or two). Cool." I don't tell them that, though. I don't want them to think I'm crazy.

The thing about famous people is that they're almost always really super nice and humble and friendly. Those are other reasons people like them. It's fun to be friends with them. Except sometimes, you're not actually friends like them. That's why we like to pretend (and interpers like me are good at pretending). You can just talk to all your favorite debaters or speech-ers as if you actually know them and you're not just some fan. You can pretend to be famous too. Of course, they're so nice, they make it easy.

Here are some tips: you can complement their speech, but don't go crazy with it. You can ask them what they broke in, but act all casual when you hear they broke in 14 IEs and debate. You can say hi and give a high-five, but don't make it about you wanting to be famous. And don't look desperate. Or nervous or shy or over-excited. Talking to famous people as if you are actually friends with them is a difficult art, but it is one worth mastering, because let's face it: the famous people are awesome.

Here is the most important tip of all that I tell myself all the time: Talk to the novices too. Remember their names too. Ask them about their speeches, rounds, and life in general, because these people are really great. And honestly, they might even think you're famous and be a fan of you. And how cool is that?

You're homeschooled. Let's talk.