Friday, February 28, 2020

A Piece Of History Now In Hand

A delivery from across the Atlantic washed up on my door last night:

The Brexit 50 pence coin, dated the day of Brexit had arrived.

Peace, Prosperity and Friendship with All Nations.

A fitting proclamation for the restoration of British sovereignty.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Snow Day!

Another snow day was declared today at 6:23 am, unfortunately after Abby had already gotten up and ready for school at 6am.

Even with that late announcement, there was still much rejoicing.

Breakfast choice of the day is old-fashioned oatmeal from scratch.

Snow clearance from the Driveway of Doom™ continues apace, and I will have it completed timely and we will be to work on time.

On the upside, it's nice to get all the snow in one continuous storm rather than the annoying and typical daily 1/4" that is just a slippery mess that has to be cleared before the driveway can be safely used.

The real reason for the snow day today? Remember how I said it was very wet and heavy snow yesterday? Well, that wet snow has turned to solid ice under a layer of fresh snow, making the roads an icy, slide-y mess. Lots of fun.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Snowstorm Season

We're finally getting a decent winter storm.

Last night they decided to schedule a school snow day for today, which the ids certainly appreciated as there's been a distinct lack of snow days this winter season until now.

In the morning there was less than a quarter inch dusting of snow on the ground.

Well, it wasn't the morning they were worried about, but the afternoon school let-out. Turns out they got that part right.

It's been coming down steadily since 2pm. Roads have been a complete mess.

Lots of wet snow, so the snow blower doesn't blow, it just sucks.

I've done the driveway thrice by shovel already to keep up, and its still coming down at a good clip.

We may indeed hit the forecast 7-inch snowmageddon.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Yes, it's True - Old NFO Really Does Know Everybody!

Today I had a client I'm representing in a civil dispute up from Florida to participate in a court-ordered mediation to try and resolve the dispute short of continued litigation.

Mediation, is as the name suggests, facilitated by a mediator and after the parties initially meet and go over the dispute, we start having the mediator do some shuttle diplomacy with proposals to resolve it. In short, it's a way to let the parties try to resolve their differences and craft their own destiny.

This leads to some time to chat as the other side debates and thinks about our proposal, and then refuses it, or issues a counter or what-not.

Proposals turns into a back and forth negotiated number for settlement, which leads to time to talk while waiting for the next number to come by as the other side needs to figure out their next move.

My client is an Annapolis Grad, former surface warfare type and engineer and we're busy chatting about all sorts of stuff and his many interesting adventures.

So I decide to go for the Old NFO test: "Hey, do you know Old NFO {actual name}?"

His eyes get kinda wide and he goes "How the F do you know Old NFO {actual name}?"

So I explain how I know him and he says how he knows him, and yep, he really, really does.

Yep, they know each other quite well, although he notes he hasn't talked with Old NFO in a while, but we both have Old NFO's phone number in our phones.

Quite a small world out there.

Heck, it's like 3 degrees of Old NFO, which is much cooler than 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

So Old NFO, Brian out of Florida says "Hi".

How Many You Say?

This looks like its got the potential to get sporty, and not in a good way.

The Detroit Free Press: 325 Michiganders monitored for coronavirus as nation preps for 'likely' spread

How the heck did we get 350 potential cases in Michigan?

I may need to check in with my financial advisor

Monday, February 24, 2020

Wayne County: Where Certain Anti-Gay Racists and Racial Supremacists And Segregationists Are Celebratred

I was told that celebrating out and out racists and racial supremacists and segregationists, as well celebrating anti-gay people was a bad thing [Quick note to readers: In fact, it is].

Indeed, I was under the rather strong impression that it is rather bad for governments to praise such individuals and groups that promote hate.

Detroit, Wayne County and multiple local governments from Wayne County have decided otherwise.

In short, out and out racism, anti-gay bigotry is just fine so long as it comes from the head of the Nation of Islam:

The Detroit Free Press: Louis Farrakhan says billionaires 'paying off' black preachers, politicians

In attendance was the mayors of Eastpointe, Inkster, and Muskegon Heights, said Nuri Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, introducing them before Farrakhan's speech.

The chief of staff of Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones read a resolution in support of the group: "Almost 700,000 Detroiters are with you ... love the Nation of Islam."

Wayne County honored the Nation of Islam's newspaper, The Final Call, with a resolution that was featured in the convention program.

Apparently, promotion of racism, anti-homosexual, segregationist, and supremacist advocacy is all just fine and worty of praise when it comes from an African-American Muslim.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Saturday 4N6

4N6 being the way Forensics is oft referred to by the participants. Saves space and makes for shorter URLs for accessing schematics and tabulation results.

Yesterday the competition was held at MSU. This made for a long day.

This was especially so as Abby returned from her winter break school Civil Rights History trip to Atlanta and various cities in Alabama at Detroit Metro Airport on Friday at Midnight.

So I picked her up then, then got to Okemos at 1:30 am, checked into a hotel and got a few hours sleep starting at 2am before getting to the tournament at Wells Hall at MSU at 7 am. The question is should I have been charged for a night's stay by the hotel considering we were only there during the morning from 2 am to 6:40 am? The things you think of on a lack of sleep.

Tired or not, Abby gamely pushed on, and I gamely judged the rounds I was assigned. I also helped a first time judge with the process for their first tournament and helped answer questions on scoring, judge preparations, etc. Scary that I actually am regarded as knowing what I'm doing enough to be training another judge and making sure they have their stuff ready to go.

But yet again, someone in judge scheduling hates me.

The tournament was held in Wells Hall with a secondary site at Berkey Hall. Check in and all main ops were in Wells. The MSU organizers assured us it wasn't too far away.

Well, "not too far" is a relative term. It's a solid 15 minute walk away, and wouldn't you know it, my judging schedule had me first in Berkey and then immediately back to Wells Hall. Why this always happens, I don't know. I need to figure out who to bribe or beg forgiveness for unintentionally slighting in scheduling office to get them to stop running me around from building to building for these tournaments.

It was bracingly cold, and I only had a sweater on as Abby didn't have a winter coat with her coming straight from Atlanta, so I had given her my winter coat. Suck it up and walk faster, right?

So I judged those two first rounds, impromptu and storytelling, and I was on standby for the third and not needed, and was scheduled to do extemporaneous for the semi finals.

Impromptu was interesting. The quote competitors received and for which they had to give a 5 minute speech with 1 minute or so of preparation after seeing the quote was from a famous MSU alumni. (All sections used MSU alumni quotes, never the same quote in a different section).

4 out of six competitors missed the main point of the quote. 2 competitors got it.

One of the two was an exchange student from Korea, competing in forensics for the first time, nervous as hell, and competing in her second language, and she got it. Talk about guts - you're in a foreign country, in a language you're not fully comfortable with, and you're competing by getting up to give a speech in that language based on analyzing a quote you just received and you have about one minute to develop. In short, she did amazing and made an excellent personal speech, not a canned response as many competitors do, but based on applying the quote to her own life. That kid should go far in life.

Since Abby's school placed 3 competitors in extemporaneous, and thus had competitors in both semi final sections, I was pulled off judging that category, as you can never judge your own school, which makes a lot of sense. I spent the time talking with some other judges that also had been unassigned those rounds and it was some decent conversation.

Then I wasn't scheduled for finals as all judging assignment except for Duo had come out. I was going to just take it easy and either find a place to nap or go watch a performance when one of the organizers asked if I could judge Dramatic Interpretation finals as they had just lost a judge for it and needed one stat. While I was tired, I was qualified to do it having not judged DI this tournament, had no competitors from my school in the finals, and they needed someone to step in, so I did it.

Glad I did.

The performances were amazing. Fantastic to see how really good these kids can be. Awesome and moving performances, great interpretation of the materials and really hard to say absolutely who was best as the performers really gave it their all.

In a not unusual result, the judges in finals were not in lockstep. It turns out the performer I chose as 1st had been first in all of his previous rounds and semis - he was just that good, and he did take first place at the tournament and deserved it. But, the other judges put him in 2nd and third respectively.

I matched my second choice with the judge that put my number one in third, and matched my third place with the judge that had put him second. Interestingly enough, while we all had different rankings for the fourth, fifth and sixth place all of use had the same performers ranked 4, 5, or 6 by all three of us. Since you're not allowed to discuss the performances with the other judges, it's neat to look over the final rankings when they come out and see how you differ.

Abby made it to Semis but missed making it to finals. Not a bad performance for having about 4 hours of sleep and coming off a week of travel with lack of sleep while having fun and learning, and no time to practice her performance. Proud of her for committing to show up regardless and compete. She refused to let her team down and was there with them the whole day and celebrated a lot of her teammates placing in finals in their respective divisions.

We got home at 8:30 pm, ate dinner, and both passed out at about 9:30 last night after another full day of competition.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Endorsement For Bloomberg Or Endorsement For Hire?

One may indeed question the timing:

The Detroit Free Press: Report: Michael Bloomberg hired Warren Evans' wife before endorsement

It's an amazing coincidence of timing, I'm sure - right after his wife is hired by the Bloomberg campaign, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans comes out and endorses Bloomberg for President.

Quid Pro Quo anyone?

Why does the endorsement matter? Wayne County, which contains Detroit, is the Democrat's main stronghold in Michigan, and Evan's endorsement matters.

On the upside, Bloomberg clearly has clearly established that he's got the corruption chops to run as a Democrat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

That May Be Yours, But It's A Mine

Amazing what you can buy on the Internet these days.

The Detroit News: Bloomfield Township man finds out novelty land mine could have been real

After receiving what he thought was an inert gag landmine, the buyer got an email from the company that sold it that it may instead be live.

Whether the item or the email or both was the gag is an open question. The State Police secured it and likely in a preventative manner blew it up. No reports as to whether it was actually a live mine, but in any case, it's no longer his.

Monday, February 17, 2020

9-1-1 Lone Star - A Show More Woke Than Watchable

I don't watch a lot of TV being busy doing other things. When I do, I want to be entertained with quality story lines.

9-1-1 Lone Star threw out the storytelling part and replaced it with a focus on wokeness, making a rather unwatchable mess.

The TV show 9-1-1, from which 9-1-1 Lone Star sprang, does have a fair bit of PC to it, considering it's set in LA that's to be expected. Of course, it had its Black Lives Matter moment and other stuff, but it typically wasn't in your face and did not replace the story of the show itself and was generally more subtle and in the background rather than in your face.

9-1-1 Lone Star flips the script on that, being woke as all heck, and real short on story-line.

The story begins: A disaster at a Austin, Texas storage facility wipes out all but one member of a firehouse in a rather earth-shattering kaboom. A promising start that swiftly goes downhill.

The Austin Fire Department then heads to New York to hire Rob Lowe, their only hope (who has early stage lung cancer from 9/11 of course), to diversify the department (because Austin, Texas is just a backwater in fly-over country and obviously only has white good ol' boy firefighters, amirite?) and rebuild the empty station.

Lowe, in between being very concerned about his hair and moisturizing (no, not making that up), goes forth and totally ignoring any existing civil service and firefighting hiring protocols assembles a crack woke team of:

- A devout Muslim female daredevil acrobatic firefighter from Miami;

- A trans from female-to-male firefighter from another city (Chicago?), who happens to be a magically talented crack investigator;

- A Hispanic who has continually failed the written test for the fire department but, because he is detail oriented at cleaning the Fire Chief's car, Lowe feels he'll be a great firefighter so no need to actually pass the academy;

- Lowe's fictional son, who is not just very, very gay, but also has an opioid addiction problem and is just recovering from trying to commit suicide after his prior lover broke up with him; and

-The Texan lone survivor who is present as a PTSD suffering, stubborn, somewhat conservative good ol' boy, and not depicted as overly smart. But, thankfully, he does at least have a redeeming feature by having an African-American wife who is depicted as very wise, sensible, and able to order him around.

Yep, you can just imagine the hiring board, the Austin firefighter's union, and not to mention the City's liability insurance company absolutely losing their stuffing over such a hiring process.

On top of that, you have Liv Tyler, who is horribly miscast as a top paramedic. Liv, when not working, is busy searching for her sister's killer, and is busy handing out medications and performing off-book medical procedures for illegals. The illegals in thanks for her medical services then give her a clue to the disappearance of her sister three years before. Yes, really.

Of course, the average white Texan represented on the show are depicted as overly conservative in a stupid backwards way, or being benightedly Christian-religious (which is bad, unlike a devout Muslim praying on a prayer rug in the station, which is good), or racist. They often score a perfect trifecta of all three in the show.

In short, the show decided to put maximum wokeness way ahead of the story line and replace an actual plot with actual disasters/emergencies at the forefront with PC pablum and it really shows. I got through the first episode just to see if they could actually stop this from turning into a PC-train wreck, and then threw in the towel mid-way through the second episode.

Basically, the show is designed to gut the standard heroic Emergency!/Rescue show and bend it to the progressive zeitgeist and let the cognoscenti tea-bag on their imagined stereotypical denizens of a red state. Meanwhile, the show producers are apparently too ignorant to realize that Austin is a rather solidly blue dot in Texas.

In short, there's much better stuff on TV to watch today and 9-1-1 Lone Star is not worth your time.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Flying - Removing Winter Rust From My Wings

Today the weather was finally favorable with clouds lifting and weather described as severe clear along with only light winds.

Pete had the plane checked out from 12-4, so I grabbed it from 4-7.

As it turns out, while Pontiac and immediate area was all sorts of clear by noon, areas farther out were pretty marginal so Pete just did some local flying and pattern work and was back by 2, and he let me know so I headed to the airport then.

Pete had filled the plane up with gas when he was done, and we chatted for a bit, then I did my preflight and then got ready to head out.

Having not flown for over 90 days (Ugh!), it was time to get current again. Everyone else had the same idea and the pattern was pretty full.

Clouds were absent and winds were from 8-11 knots variable from 260-290 degrees, which was nice.

First takeoff was quite nice and and the plane took off like a homesick angel. It was good to get into the air again.

I had to fly the runway heading out a good distance for spacing before turning crosswind - it was a very, very, far crosswind, with a resulting super-lengthy downwind. Then following a twin Engine Seneca we did an extended downwind for traffic and the approach was from miles out.

The snow made it all look rather pretty on the downwind leg.

Not a perfect approach, but still, I managed to put her down right on the numbers and was turning off at Juliet taxiway with no problem. Impressively, the landing was rather smooth and soft for not flying for so long. No bounce, no smack, just a nice shift from flying to rolling without much of a bump at all. This was happy-making. So do it again to prove it's not a fluke.

Then 3 more times around the pattern and it was good, with nice smooth landings. I also did some takeoffs without putting in 10 degrees of flaps for a change of pace, (DCT tends to insist on 10 degrees for takeoff, the POH says no flaps needed so there's some interesting debate there) and they were quite smooth.

Tower got so busy they switched everyone after landing to Ground just to taxi back to the runway. Typically Tower would have you stay with them and just taxi back to the runway, but they were getting a bit busier than usual. I put in a request for a northeast departure which was passed along to the tower and approved. They were likely just glad to get someone out of the rather packed pattern!.

So, off I flew towards Romeo and headed to the GM Proving Grounds for some maneuver practice, and climbed up to 6,500 for some maneuvering room.

Steep turns were, well, steep, and do need some work. Stalls were to full stall (past the horn, through the buffet to the nose drop) and I had decent recoveries. I have a flight review coming up and I could use some more practice to get it all up to spec.

Then, back to Pontiac where it was not quite as busy, but still a fair bit of traffic going on. Reporting in from 12 miles out to the northeast, I was told to do a report on a 2 mile right base entry to 27R. Which was pretty typicaly and expected.

Then a Van RV came along moving faster than me, and they slotted him in before me on 27R and had me divert to a straight in approach for 27L.

This was fun - the big runway on a straight in approach from about 8 miles out.

A nice, super-smooth landing to finish it off, and they let me roll on to Kilo taxiway and then cross 27R to get back to the hangar row where the plane is hangared. The controllers did a very good job handling all those aircraft, and I said thank you to them as I headed off.

I logged the time, plugged in the oil and cabin heaters, wrapped the plane up in its insulated blanket, and put it to bed.

A darn good flight to shake the rust off and finally get some flying time in.

1.6 and 5 surprisingly good landings.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Little Mikey Better Get Himself A Food Taster

Rumor has it that Mike Bloomberg is considering Hillary Clinton as his Vice Presidential pick.

That's a very bad plan for a load of reasons.

Most importantly, a Vice Presidential pick these days (see Biden, Pence) is supposed to be assassination insurance, not assassination assurance.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

IWI Masada Rounds 851-1150

First range trip of the year finally took place tonight.

Due to the snow, timing etc, I went to the nearby indoor range where the term Range Nazi is not overused.

On the upside it's really close, warm and I could get some shooting in.

I fired 250 rounds of Federal Black Pack 115 gr 9mm Through the Masada, followed by 50 Rounds of M882 ball ammo, also made by Federal.

No failures of any kind to report, even when shooting a lot of ammo through it very rapidly. I was shooting rapidly enough that smoke was visibly rising off the barrel after putting it down to reload the 4 magazines I had just run through it.

No complaints from the Masada though, it just kept on chugging along.

After 1,150 rounds, it's starting to look a tad dirty around the muzzle.

The Trijicon SRO is fantastic - It's very quick to pickup the dot and failure to stop drills are a snap with it. Very easy to quickly acquire the target and hit it precisely. The SRO kept its zero perfectly and is a very impressive and useful addition to a pistol.

Now more than halfway through the 2,000 rounds, and this pistol is seriously growing on me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Michigan, while lacking a DMV more than makes up for it...

With the Secretary of State.

Think DMV but so much worse. Tons of people waiting, three people “working”.

Also now featuring the cloying smell of marijuana on some of the seething mass of humanity waiting to get served.

Quite a number getting their license renewed and all of them get the pitch to get an enhanced Real ID, which adds about 5 minutes plus to each transaction plus as they hem and haw and try to understand what it is because they didn’t read all the news about it over the past few years, nor the huge posters strewn around the Sec State office before they get called up. Even better people here for Real ID are not bringing required things like their passports thus slowing everything up.

Currently they’re at number 21, I’m number 68 and have been here for an hour already.

While the Secretary of State website offer appointments, none are available until February 19 and the same day appointments similarly were not available. In short, absolutely useless.

Much fun waiting will ensue.

Ok, they are handling about 9 people per hour. This isn’t just slow it’s insanely slow. Efficiency was ever a Sec State strong point but seriously it means each worker is processing about three people per hour which is a joke.

They really need one line for people who have simple transactions and know what the hell they’re doing.

They need a second one for idiots who want to socialize at the Sec State of all things because they don’t get out much, which while sad is making every transaction take forever.

Another line for Enhanced Real ID so all the morons that couldn’t figure out what docs they needed to bring can stand there.

Then they need one for idiots that have lost their drivers licenses or failed their prior written test.

Unfortunately that’s 4 lines and only three idiots working.

This will take a very long while.

They’re now up to number 33. That means all three now four workers handled all of 7 people total in the past hour. As yes, there’s now four people working and handling leads than two people for hour each. Real ID really seems to be slowing everyone down, combined with a level of stupidity on both sides of the counter that is amazing to observe.

I did manage to finally escape. It turned out that a lot of people in the 40-50 number series had given up any hope of being served and left. Finally got done what I came to do after 5pm and actual time spent with the worker to get it done was less than 10 minutes. Sheesh. Much too people-ly and inefficient to boot.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Forensics Saturday Summary

Yesterday, Abby and I got up at yet another ungodly early hour to head out for the forensics competition. Of course it was snowing in the morning and streets had not yet been cleared at that hour so getting to her school by 6:00 am to meet the bus for the ride to the competition was fun. On the upside, there's very little traffic that early in the morning on a Saturday.

This time it was to the Birch Run invitational, held at Birch Run High School and Elementary School.

A very well run tournament, they had enough time baked into the rounds so that judges could complete their evaluation sheets and get them back to the Tab room without having to race around like chickens with their heads cut off.

That was nice. I judged Sales, Impromptu, and 9/10 Poetry which surprisingly was not that bad, and far less angsty/angry than previous poetry sessions I've been stuck judging.

In Impromptu, 5 out of 6 competitors missed the point of the quote which was interesting and only 1 got it. Impromptu is hard - they have do an off-the-cuff speech on a quote they get to see only in the room and have 6 minutes total to prep and perform - it's a gutsy bunch of competitors.

Then for Semi-finals I got to judge Dramatic Interpretation, which was 90% dark and 10% comedy. Not too bad.

I then got a pass on judging finals so I went to watch the Duo finals, which is always a great one to see as the kids doing Duo performances have some serious acting chops.

Meanwhile, Abby advanced into the Semi-finals and then the Finals in Oratory.

At the awards ceremony when Oratory was called she went up and was not 6, 5, 4 nor third. We held our breath and then it was announced that she placed 2nd overall. This was a great result.

Her teammates did well too, with various top spots awarded or close seconds and thirds, with an exceptional sweep of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 9/10 Impromptu which is pretty impressive.

Then the bus ride home and back in time for dinner. A long but very rewarding day.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Stupid Criminals: When Impersonating A Cop, Timing Is Everything

And this stupid criminals timing sucked, which is good timing for everyone else.

Our stupid criminal, masquerading as a police officer complete in vehicle kitted out with light bars, fake radar, fake computer, etc manages to have the timing to be driving along to get stopped by the Oakland County Sheriff himself, with expected results.

The Detroit News: ‘I’m the sheriff’: Oakland County lawman stops phony cop car

That had to be a fun moment:

“He looks at me and says, ‘Who are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m the sheriff. Who are you?’” Bouchard [Oakland County's Sheriff] told WDIV-TV.

I do indeed like Sheriff Bouchard, the man's done a darn good job as Sheriff of this county. His pulling over an impersonator, likely on the way to commit some mischief, by himself makes me like him that much more.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

It's Been A Rough Week For The Dems

First, the Democrat Iowa was a cluster-fisk of the first magnitude, and we still don't have the full results yet.

Second, Trump's State of The Union was outstanding, with petulant Democrats including Pelosi acting like little kids with tantrums - tearing up a speech for the TV? Really? - In the face of his accomplishments and his celebration of Americans.

Third, Trump is now acquitted of both of the bogus impeachment charges

Fourth, Trump's approval rating has hit a record high this week.

And it's only Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Iowa Primary Update

With still no official winner announced as of 11:30 am the next day, multiple candidates have declared victory!

In the void, several campaigns leaked unverified internal campaign data – submitted by their own precinct captains – to claim a strong showing.

Pete Buttigieg effectively delivered his victory speech to supporters, saying, “By all indications we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.” Bernie Sanders’s campaign also released a ranking that showed Sanders at No. 1. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign said she outperformed Joe Biden for fourth place.

With no clear winner, the only truly Democratic thing to do is declare them all winners and give each of them a trophy, as after all, since they all showed up and tried, they're all winners, which is how it works, isn't it?

A Lesson Of The Iowa Democratic Primary

What lesson does the utter hash the Democrats has made of their first caucus offer as to Democrat governance?

Well, these are same Dem bulbs that want to control your healthcare, control your electricity, and control how business do business.

They promise they can efficiently manage all that, yet they can't even effectively manage to accurately, efficiently and credibly conduct a caucus of a couple thousand people in a setting that has had the same basic process since 1972.

Think about that for a bit.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Of Cheap Political Points And Being Bad At Math

This cute bit of anti-gun propaganda was making its way around Facebook by someone too clever by half while being twice as bad at math:

See the problem? Aside from being an inapt comparison between a potential pandemic outbreak and deaths by firearms, which are rather different things, as a cute nudge for gun control, the math is very, very, very wrong.

Since .00001% of 28,159 the latest number we have for gun deaths in the US in 2018, is .28 that means per this smug little graph, that the Coronavirus has or will kill less than a third of a person?

Math, how does it work again?

Meanwhile, 86,000 people will likely die (if it follows the stats from the prior season) of the regular influenza virus in the USA this year and no one bats an eye, which is just short of six times the amount of people killed by someone using a firearm - coming in at 14,611 of the 28,159 (the rest being suicides), or instead influenza kills three times the number of people killed or killing themselves with firearms each year.

Again a meme for the innumerate and progressives to swoon over, but I repeat myself.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

February: Featuring First Fabulous Forensics Foray

Yesterday was the first forensics competition of 2020.

We got up unsuitably early at 4:45 am so we could be at the school by 5:50 am for the bus to Eastern Michigan University where the competition was being held.

A Regional Invitational tournament, it had about 300 students competing.

We arrived in good time and I got my judge packet.

Yes, based on performance last year, I've been permanently volun-told to be a judge so long as Abby is competing. I don't mind much - it's a lot of work but very worthwhile.

In the morning rounds I had judging for Broadcasting, then Oratory (in a different building) also a separate competitor stream from Abby's as you never judge anyone from your own school), and finally Extemporaneous.

Broadcasting and Extemp are both harder categories to judge as you don't just go to your assigned room for the competition. First, you have to go to those prep rooms right before the round, get the material, understand the material so you can evaluate the competitors when they give it, and then race to the competition room to get there on time, do the round, grade the round, race back to the tabulation room to drop off the scores, and run to your next location.

Having been assigned both Broadcasting and Extemp meant someone in the scheduling department didn't like me, or I had failed to remember to bribe the schedulers appropriately. Come to think of it, I had forgot to do that, so it must have been my fault.

As you might guess, being a judge in these very cerebral competitions does involve a surprising amount of cardio.

For broadcasting the competitors get a packet of news articles and have a limited time to arrange them into a comprehensive 5-minute broadcast, including about a 1 minute editorial. In short, think of these kids as future anchors on the news and some of them really are already better than your current anchor-people. Others not so much but give them time.

Oratory went pretty well, with some being very polished and some still reading off note cards and stumbling over their speeches - they'll get better as the season continues.

Extemp is when they draw a random question from a list then have 30 minutes to prep a 4-7 minute speech answering the question, including research and prep for delivery. It's a very hard category and all the competitors are pretty brave for giving it a shot.

Unfortunately, this rounds question were all political and wowza some students had a bit of ideological blinders on.

One question was: Who will win the Democrat Primary to run for President?

Another was What should Congress do about Russian interference in elections?

Another was how will the impeachment affect Trump?

Talk about hot-button questions.

As a judge you can't let your personal political, or other views for that matter, affect how you rate students in any way. Regardless of how they answered it politically it didn't matter to me and I graded and ranked strictly on the basis of how well they presented their argument and analyzed the questions. Knowing they had no choice in what question to answer and their own politics are their own to develop, it's not my place to argue nor up or downgrade them if they happen to agree or disagree with my own politics.

Lack of decent analysis however was fair game, but the student's pretty typical leftist leaning politics are not (nor are the far fewer students with conservative leaning politics getting any extra points either).

In short, bring your argument, use facts, make an analysis and draw a reasoned conclusion from it in the time allotted.

One student answering the Democrat primary breathlessly declared Bernie Sanders would win the nomination because he offered free tuition, cancellation of student debt, and the Green New Deal which according to her would ensure 400,000 new jobs. This was basically a Bernie! campaign speech as retold by a high school student.

That was it. No other analysis, no support for the claims, no comparison of other candidates positions, or support base, or even polling numbers, and done in 3 minutes. That's 1 minute under minimum time and a complete lack of analysis. As you can imagine she didn't score well as a result of being under time and not analyzing and actually fully answering the question.

On the Trump impeachment one, the student while being openly anti-Trump (knowing most judges there that's actually a pretty safe position to take) did a decent analysis and looked at all sides of the matter mainly from a very liberal perspective and then concluded that while he didn't like Trump, the impeachment wouldn't really harm Trump much. He stated it was basically going to be used politically against him during the election but it hadn't moved his support much among the electorate so would have a neutral overall effect. Decent job of analysis, good use of facts, a reasoned conclusion so yes, got a good ranking out of it.

On the Russian interference the competitor started off well and then went a bit overboard, claiming the Russian hacking caused the popular vote to go for Hilary and the Electoral College to go for Trump. News to me, and no sources to back that claim up, at all. Bit of a whopper there, and competitor lost points on it. Also made quite a few false equivalencies in the argument that cost as well. Was doing pretty well up to that point, but then went on to claim that paper ballots are the problem because paper ballots are easily hacked by Russians - what?

So it was an interesting morning.

Then running off to a quick but decent lunch at EMU's cafeteria where it was all-you can eat for $10 and the food was remarkably good - nice salads, soups, chicken strips or fried chicken sandwiches that while not Chik-Fil-A grade were still very tasty.

Thence hurry up and wait as technical difficulties with the new forensics scoring software caused interminable delays. For hours. And it started snowing.

Finally on to the semi-finals. I got to judge Sales, along with a second judge on the panel, and it went quite well, but now I want to buy a lot of things after being successfully marketed to in the presentations.

Snow continued, as did the technical difficulties and the tournament directors decided to bypass the final round and just use the scores through the semis to come up with the winners. This made sense, as otherwise we would likely still be there this morning given the delays.

So they announced the winners and Abby's school did very well, with first place finishes in Broadcasting, Storytelling and Impromptu and lots of lower placements.

Abby came in sixth for Oratory which was not too shabby at all for her first time out this year, and the very first run of her new speech.

We finally rolled back home at 8pm last night completely exhausted but quite happy with the results. It was a very long day.

It's going to be a great forensics competition year.