Old college threads.
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Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
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Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

As we all know, my attempt at editing a tournament this past year fared poorly. I was recently singled out for not having explained myself, and given that my disaster was simply a taste of things to come for quizbowl when Matt departed, there might be something worth learning from my explanation.

Right around the beginning of the school year, there was a lot of attention drawn to the fact that there were not enough fall tournaments. I was starting phase 2 of my college career, and of course, harbored dreams of quizbowl glory. At first I was not planning on taking any big projects on, but then when I thought more about this, it seemed to dovetail nicely with my interests—I wanted to kickstart my studying via writing a lot, I could definitely have used the money, and I have lots of opinions that I had never been able to fully demonstrate about what a good set should look like. I can't do science, but if that got covered, I decided I could take this on.

I had in the past headed multiple troubled projects that on paper should have been easy, but in practice were disasters, so a rational part of myself knew to avoid editing projects. However, anybody who was able to read between the lines also knows my life in general should have on paper been easy, but was in practice a disaster. Despite having a useful intellect buried in there somewhere, I nearly dropped out of high school, failed out of college, had an acrimonious relationship with my parents that occasionally spilled over into quizbowl, smoked an unreal amount of weed to avoid my depression, and found myself quasi-homeless for close to three years. The only thing that even kept me from doing something more drastic to end my depression was seeing how incredibly well my MOQBA and coaching work were going. (Why else would you think I sound so angry?) So, yeah, naturally, I was going to fuck up editing tournaments in that era of my life because my life was a walking fuck-up.

However, there were some things different. Most importantly, I had just finished my first good semester of school in over a decade, while managing to also regularly practice and work about 35 hours a week. I was much more grounded and felt like I was really clawing my way back to the hard-working life I'd wanted. Just as importantly, I still had a fire to prove that I was an elite quizbowl figure, and I felt that proving I could edit a complete tournament was an integral part of that, especially since writing can make you so much better as a player. I had edited a category for Missouri Open without any trouble. And, again, on paper I should have been able to do it. When I allow myself to work hard, I can knock out an obscenely large number of questions, and I had very clear editorial vision and lots of answers chosen.

Unfortunately, it really came down to the problem of me having too much on my plate. I tried to find time to write, but I was taking 19 credit hours. They were easy classes, but the real problem I hadn't banked on was that, when you take that many classes, you basically have a test or quiz of some kind every single week. Then I had to work a horrible, horrible job whose final straw came when they scheduled me for 3 11-hour shifts in a row the weekend before my midterms, which led me to angrily quit sometime in the middle of October. I was also trying to play quizbowl and manage other aspects of my private life. So at first, my writing went slower than I wanted. The communication problems started because I sort of perpetually felt like all I needed were a couple free days to set up some more documents and get caught up and the moment I could get that done I would email my coeditors and we would be back to being on the same page. Those free days never really materialized, and I had more and more I needed to do in order to be caught up. Towards the end of October I decided that the only way to get anything done would be to shut myself off from the world, stop going to practice, stop using the internet to let myself get distracted, and just knock out a bunch of work, since now I at least was free from my job. That still went slower than I wanted since it was reaching the end of the semester and I had more and more schoolwork to do. Unfortunately, sometime after I stopped checking my emails and using Facebook, Brian and Victor got concerned enough that they intervened and had other people step in to finish the set. I did not find out about this until when I finally had the tournament in a slightly more manageable (but still not good) place, checked my email, discovered that the tournament wasn't mine anymore, and then realized I was wasting all of my efforts.

I guess what was most unfortunate about it was that, contrary to how it appeared, I had a good deal of work done on the set, with a number of questions I was very excited about, and a very clear list of just what work I still needed to do. It was not on schedule and probably would have still needed outside bailing out, but that's better than having nothing done. Once I found out that they had gotten other editors and the set was going to be finished without me I was so ashamed that I just gave up entirely. In retrospect obviously I should have crawled back with my tail tucked between my legs and at least sent them my drafts to let them finish, or something, but it was so close to the tournament and I was in a rather bleak place, so I just decided to shut down and stop panicking. Soon afterwards I had to repair my computer and I didn't care to cling to the set or any of my other quizbowl writings, so now the drafts have been destroyed.

I am first and foremost ashamed and sorry that I latched Brian and Victor to this project and then was incapable of following through, forcing them to pick up an immense amount of slack. I am sorry to every writer that stepped up to finish the set. I am sorry for every host who got jerked around by this, especially to Dylan from Northwestern given that he had to fill in for me. I am sorry to the teams that may not have gotten the bill of goods I had promised. I also am sorry to MOQBA and MACA whose JV state I played a role in screwing up back in like 2012 or so, and to Rock Bridge for not finishing editing a set of theirs the same year. I also believe I apologized for it (insufficiently), but my 2009 Missouri Open did not fare much better and Auroni and Shantanu deserve all the credit for making sure it happened. Obviously I have resigned myself to knowing I am not meant to be an editor.

I don't know that I am interested in discussing this further, since obviously it is the nadir of my quizbowl career and there is an incredible underlying sadness I have attached to this failure. I just hope that people can learn the lesson to allow quizbowl to be one of many components of a healthy life, and not to feel pressure to take it upon yourself to do everything. If you have lots of school and a job, don't edit tournaments unless you have an incredible work ethic. My quizbowl career would have been much more enjoyable and beneficial to everyone if I had just told myself “don't take any big projects, focus on school, and just do some practice and play some tournaments.” Listen to Matt Jackson and find a niche that works for you, and have fun. For years I spent too much effort on quizbowl, and I am just glad that I managed to get out of this whole ordeal without allowing it to self-destruct anything else in my life. Also, get lots of therapy.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

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Muriel Axon
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Re: Confessions

Post by Muriel Axon »

First of all, Charlie, thanks for actually giving a real apology. To see that you understand what you did wrong and that you're ready to change your approach to quiz bowl as a result is encouraging.

Second of all, I hope this conveys to all head editors the importance of communicating with your writing/editing team. You know, speaking as someone who (like many writers) has, on one or two occasions, been frustrated by a complete lack of communication from head editors.
Shan Kothari

Plymouth High School '10
Michigan State University '14
University of Minnesota '20

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Victor Prieto
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Re: Confessions

Post by Victor Prieto »

I am not speaking for Brian or anyone else who worked on DEES here.

I too would like to thank you for your apology, and really taking responsibility for your own actions. It is better than no apology, or worse, some inadequate explanation that reflects all the blame away from yourself. I really do think you feel awful about the damage you caused to me and others, and for that, I accept your apology.

However, I think you failed to address your biggest mistake, and is what I want other people to take away from this. Charlie, you were dishonest to others about your ability to finish this set. I’m guessing you just convinced yourself that you were still able to complete the tournament, despite the insane workload which you just described above. Worse still, you misrepresented this to Brian and I, and told us that we would be fine on October 27, very late in the game.

Shan, you stressed the importance of communication with your editing team. Yeah, not checking your email or facebook for several days is extremely unacceptable behavior. But the fact is, every time Charlie did communicate with us, he assured us that he had a lot of work done and the tournament would be finished. I trusted him, even in the face of minimal evidence visible.

I don’t want to throw Charlie under the bus any more, but I think there’s a really important point to be made here. Editors (head editor or otherwise) of future tournaments: be honest with your co-editors about your progress. Leading your co-editors along with constant reassurances and no warning signs was the most harmful action in this case. If you’re editing one of these tournaments, or any of these tournaments, make it a mandatory requirement to every one of your co-editors that your progress is visible, or they have every right to assume that you’re doing nothing.
Victor Prieto
Secretary, PACE
Tower Hill School '11 | Rice University '15 | Penn State University '20
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