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San Jose & San Francisco (Day 12): Ethics Bowl

20 January 2014 1 comment

7 December. Index.

This was the morning of the Ethics Bowl regionals. There were about fifteen teams competing (I don’t remember the exact number), with the top four moving on to the nationals. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t break the top four, but it was a narrow thing. We played three rounds, winning our first two, and narrowly losing our third by 4 points out of a possible 150.

The competition venue was the National Hispanic University, which is a new institution, and seemed only to have the one block. The building did have a pretty stunning view from its glass-walled east face, which you can see in the shot below of our solemn-looking midday team conference.

sanjose_teamconference

While we were disappointed at the loss, it did mean we had much of the day left to ourselves. We ended up taking the CalTrain up to San Francisco for the evening. At the train station we encountered a small troupe of Santas, who looked to be on their way out for a day of volunteering.

sanjose_santamerica

We took the train in to downtown San Francisco and made our way by bus up to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. We roamed around the wharf for a bit after.

Team Captain, David.

Team Captain, David.

These are croissants, or so they were advertised.

These are croissants, or so they were advertised.

Three bears.

Three bears.

All in all, it was a good time together.

Categories: Events Tags: , ,

Ann Arbor – San Jose (Day 11): Spread and Sprawl

20 January 2014 1 comment

6 December. Index.

On my last night in Ann Arbor, I stayed up most of the night working on a post I’d been writing about a sad event that had happened in May in my college. It was probably for the best, because my ride to the airport was an early one. Sarah had agreed to pick me up from the U to the airport. At 5 a.m. I had a quick breakfast of chocolate and breakfast stout (not kidding about the name), said a quick farewell to Darrell, and met my friend without incident.

We reached the airport early, which was a good thing, because I found I was less prepared than I should have been. Mentally speaking, I suppose I had been lulled into a false sense of security after having safely traveled from Northfield through Chicago and Ann Arbor with bags in tow; on no stage of the journey so far, however, had I had to reckon with the TSA. I had to go through the queue twice – but thankfully at an hour early enough that the airport wasn’t too crowded. I remember Sarah being a lot better prepared, and feeling comparatively old and un-wise.

We were on our way to San José, California, via Minneapolis-St. Paul. At MSP, Sarah and I found we were booked on the same flight as two of our teammates who’d been staying at Carleton over the winter.

The event we were headed to was the Ethics Bowl regionals at the National Hispanic University, our participation in the California regionals being prompted by the Midwest regionals in Chicago having been during our exam period. The Ethics Bowl was a debate tournament about ethical issues, albeit in a slightly different format than the parliamentary debates I’d been acquainted with. The clearest difference was the lack of any specific motion to prepare or argue for, with the question given by the judges in the room itself with only one minute’s worth of preparation time. This meant we would only be able to prepare around the case material, and, because of the nature of the usually very knotty cases (e.g. medical care intersecting with issues of racial discrimination complicated by the question of to what extent a parent’s actions can/should be prevented from affecting the medical welfare of a child), that meant we’d have to cover quite a bit of ground. It also meant we would not be able to see our cases in terms of ‘for’ or ‘against’ arguments, at least not until the minute before we’d have to start speaking.

Although many of my school friends and acquaintances are debaters, I myself had never participated in formal debates before, but I’d been motivated to apply for the team because of what I realized had been a strong thread of ethical inquiry in the USP classes I’d taken in the past two years. The philosophical and sociological inquiry modules I’d taken had covered topics like the problems of imagining animals, religious issues in the contemporary world, and the violence of the law. The experience I’d had in these classes proved very useful in preparing many of our cases for the ethics bowl.

The four of us on the flight from MSP arrived at San José early, so after we left our luggage at the inn, it was time to look for lunch. Our roaming took us over quite a lot of ground. San José is more of a city than a town, but unlike Chicago (or Singapore), it sprawls. In some ways, even Ann Arbor seemed more tightly packed. The sprawl meant that there were literally more cars than people going down a street at any point in time. The first row of businesses near our inn, in fact, were automotive concerns.

sanjose_firestone

Our inn also happened to be near a clutch of streets whose names were evocative of something so much the antithesis of petrol and rubber as to be almost comical. They were delightful names, though:

sanjose_streetnames

It looked like a residential neighborhood, and so we were past it quite quickly on our way to the mall-sprawl further west for lunch.

We got back to the inn after lunch, where the other three of our teammates joined us over the course of the afternoon. Soon enough it was time to look for dinner, and we ended up at a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant that still had a few unseasonal Chinese New Year decorations up, which was rather like home. In fact, the menu was a pretty classic zi char-style list, and so I ended up doing the ordering.

sanjose_zichar

We had a decent spread for dinner, but Wah Chee is better.

After dinner, we had dessert at the Denny’s across the road from our inn before turning in.