CO History Discussion

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CO History Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:40 am

This set is clear. When Eric has time, I'm sure he will post the full set.

In general, I liked how it turned out; there were a few clunkers and our laissez-faire style meant there were some weird difficulty clashes at times, but there were some creative things. Again, I was treating this as sort of enjoyably experimental for my questions (all of the American, some trash, some "other"), so it certainly skewed in certain ways.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:59 am

This was an excellent tournament and I had a great time playing it. Thanks to the 3M collective for putting it together.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jul 21, 2014 11:22 am

I had a lot of fun playing this set. I appreciated that things like difficulty level and line caps were reasonably restrained.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Gautam » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:07 pm

This was fun. At times I thought powers were a little generous, but it's hardly a complaint. The set did a good job of being very accessible.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by rylltraka » Mon Jul 21, 2014 1:25 pm

I did all of the ancient and most of the continental Europe for the set, along with bits and pieces of other categories except east Asia. I think others have already stated the main planks of the 'philosophy' I tried to implement with the questions - some experimentation with things I thought were neat, some 'important things' (Peter Brown, for instance) which wouldn't have a chance to be included in a normal tournament, trying to represent both difficult and more common answers, and fairly generous powermarkings.

Feedback's appreciated.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:09 pm

I'd like to get a copy of the set before I give more specific feedback, but I was not a fan of this tournament. Many of the questions struck me as being on fairly trivial things, and the way many of them were written was seriously annoying: very little context and lots of random anecdotes that seemed to have limited utility in providing information relevant to answering the question. About half of the tournament felt like this; the other half was more or less fine. Some of my dislike is probably owing to stylistic preferences for different kinds of questions, but as a point of comparison, I also played the online mirror of the collegiate history tournament and that was a far superior set by every measure. Overall I found this set very frustrating to play.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:21 pm

I'll let others judge the particular cluing of the questions, but I'm curious about Jerry's labeling of many of the answerlines as trivial. I don't know what in particular he was referring to, but as a point of reference, here's my American history answerlines for the first four packets:

Packet One: Astor family, Secretary of Defense, Haiti, DeSoto's expedition, Vicksburg, Audie Murphy
Packet Two: Edmund Fitzgerald sinking, Newburgh Conspiracy, Boston Strangler, Charles Lindbergh, Richard Mentor Johnson, Cherokee
Packet Three: 1952 steel strike, black Loyalists, Tokyo Rose, Donelson, Teddy Roosevelt, West Point
Packet Four: Pocahontas saving John Smith story, Millerites, Plamegate, William Walker, Poor People's Campaign, Appomattox Court House

I'm not sure I'd label any of these as "trivial" (well, maybe not Audie Murphy). Now, the clues may not have been optimal, perhaps, or maybe trivial-ish (and maybe that's what Jerry meant), but the majority of these answerlines are fairly straightforward, important things. Certainly, some of them are hard, some of them used oddball clues, and probably some of them were bad questions, but I guess I'll ask Jerry (or others) what answerlines they had in mind in regards to the "trivial" label.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:29 pm

I've sent the set to Matt Weiner and have uploaded it to the db; its pending approval.

I'm not sure I had an overarching philosophy to this set, but I did depart a little bit from my insistence on super-creative answerlines. I mainly wanted to write deeper questions on accessible answerlines, because I'm hamstrung by not knowing all of the little corners of the history canon (or really even the big corners). I wouldn't feel terribly comfortable trying to write a tossup on something like "Hitler having only one testicle", for instance, so I tried to write a solid tossup on Cameroon instead. Hopefully people found my stuff playable.

Also, in one sense, I think this entire set was just an excuse for me to write that tossup on George Washington from the Assassins Creed III DLC.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:33 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I'd like to get a copy of the set before I give more specific feedback, but I was not a fan of this tournament. Many of the questions struck me as being on fairly trivial things, and the way many of them were written was seriously annoying: very little context and lots of random anecdotes that seemed to have limited utility in providing information relevant to answering the question. About half of the tournament felt like this; the other half was more or less fine. Some of my dislike is probably owing to stylistic preferences for different kinds of questions, but as a point of comparison, I also played the online mirror of the collegiate history tournament and that was a far superior set by every measure. Overall I found this set very frustrating to play.
I would strongly disagree with this set being unfavorable in comparison with History Bowl with regards to this. Though that set was generally pretty solid, it was full of dumb anecdotes and trivia (people heckling Obama about abortion at Notre Dame, Hitler's balls, "From Hell," the silly bathtub tossup, silly premiere clues, Voltaire's poetry and sermons). This set did that a lot less in general, at least in areas outside of American history, and I think the American history generally did an okay job of limiting such clues.

However, I will say that if you're writing on a not-super-accessible topic, like John Tower, Kim Dae-Jung, the Qianlong emperor, Go-Daigo (hard answers that most people don't know much about), or the politics of Bhutan or Cameroon (easy answers that most people know similarly little information about), it probably isn't a great idea to have more than two or three sentences of information on stuff that's not one of the most famous two or three things about that particular answer. This is simply because having the question be more than nine or ten lines isn't likely to distinguish any different levels of knowledge, and most of the information is going to be useless to most players. Thank goodness the format was tossups-only, or this might have led to the tournament dragging on for quite a while.

I think this set did a great job at hitting every important area of the distribution, both geographically and. I think that the expanded world history content worked out very well, though I'd have liked to see more European and less American history, partially related to the fact that trivia seems to much more easily creep into questions on Americana since those are things American quizbowl players are more likely to know in depth.

I also think the use of very modern history/2000s history worked out very well, and did a good job of making those questions rely on historical context as well as the reading of newspaper and magazine articles. I criticized the Kim Dae-Jung question, but I think that question and the Islam Karimov tossup are pretty good examples of what well-written "modern world" type history questions can and should look like. While the historiography questions didn't use the best clues ever, they were a step in the right direction, and the questions on Menzies and Alexander Romances were fairly fresh and interesting. I would have liked to see a lot more of these in place of the trash questions, in which it was very easy to figure out when something was fake or not.

Though this wasn't particularly frustrating while playing the set, but I noticed that, despite a rather consistent answerline difficulty variance across the answer categories, it felt that each of the writers/categories had a different target difficulty, with the non-US 20th century being the hardest content and the medieval/Renaissance/medieval Islamic content being the easiest. This wasn't as much due to powermarking as much as due to clue selection - the 20th century history would often require you to know obscure named operations, whereas it did not take much effort to narrow down or fraud the tossups on the Old Believers, the Field of Lies, or the Sultanate of Rum.

The set also had a few wrong clues that hampered my enjoyment of the set, most notably:
-(as discussed) the Damascus tossup had a number of clues that identified Edessa instead of Damascus (to my understanding, Nur ad-Din did not ever actually capture Damascus in a military action, but rather orchestrated an overthrow of Mu'in ad-Din; he definitely did capture Edessa, though
-The Tungning Kingdom was founded by Koxinga, which would make Koxinga its first ruler, not his son. I gave the answer of "Zheng" on this question expecting a prompt and it was outright accepted, which seems weird because Koxinga/Zheng Chenggong's father, Zheng Zhilong, is also an important historical figure (and there's also an awful lot of Chinese Zhengs!)

The Lesbos tossup also had a huge hose that caused us to neg with "Melos" and I wouldn't be surprised if other people made the same mistake. It wouldn't have hurt to put an "it's not Melos" warning before the clue about the massacre, since that massacre is generally better known.

I get that a set without a ton of playtesting or universal editorial vision is going to end up like this one, and so I'm not super frustrated with how this turned out in the end. It's a side event, after all, and I'm very happy to have gotten to play it. But there are quite a few things that could have been done better.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jul 21, 2014 6:24 pm

We will read the final two packets from this set on IRC (EDIT: Wednesday) night at 9PM EST or so. Please do not view them until then if you want to play.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:25 pm

I didn't play History Bowl, so you won't get comparisons from me there, but I had fun playing this; others are right to point out that it wasn't as skull-crackingly hard as Urgent Call, but I think that its difficulty setting worked well for the field. I had fun hearing more about some of the subdistributional bubbles (ancient Near East, Islamic world, Mike Cheyne spice).
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:The Lesbos tossup also had a huge hose that caused us to neg with "Melos" and I wouldn't be surprised if other people made the same mistake. It wouldn't have hurt to put an "it's not Melos" warning before the clue about the massacre, since that massacre is generally better known.
Disagreeing. The Mytilene and Melos massacres occur in pretty short succession in Thucydides, but there are ways to differentiate them, and the question did so. As I recall, the question said "largest city on this island" to point towards Mytilene, whereas Melos is in itself an island rather than a city; it also mentioned that Athens quickly reversed its decision by vote, which didn't happen after the Melian dialogue (they pressed on rather undemocratically and killed everyone).

My own specific comments:

-I really liked the emphasis on important historians/historiographers (Gaddis, Peter Brown, etc.) and primary sources of note (Amarna letters, etc.); it definitely felt like reading and doing history-the-discipline was rewarded well at this event.

-The tossup on "universal male suffrage" didn't play very well in our room; various dudes in the question advocated multiple reformist causes, and in particular I'm not sure whether the people in the Newport rising were especially mad about universal male suffrage compared to the secret ballot or other stuff on the People's Charter. (Feel free to tell me I am under-informed.)

-This set's trash questions were delightfully whimsical.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:38 pm

Yes, the Hitler testicle tossup might be my nominee for worst tossup in any tournament I've played in the last several years. Still, my impression of the history bowl set was that it only had a few of those clunkers.

Of the answer lines Mike posted, here are the ones I thought were kind of bad: Audie Murphy, Tokyo Rose, Boston Strangler, and Appomattox. Maybe "trivial" isn't the right word to describe these, but I felt like these choices didn't really work at all. Is there some surfeit of knowledge about serial killers in American history that's being probed with this Boston strangler question? What compelling reason is there to know random things people said about Appomatox and random people whose contribution to it consisted of, more or less, their presence there?

There were other clunkers not written by Mike that I thought were pretty bad. Why is there a question on some crank British historian? What depth of knowledge is being tested in the tossup on Canning and Castlereagh fighting a duel that wouldn't have been tested by a tossup on either of them? Alexei fucking Leonov?

My complaint isn't about hard questions; this tournament had lots of hard questions that I thought were just fine. I just think these answerlines, in maybe trying to be creative, were just too "cute." When I look at the clues used for a lot of these questions, they're often of the variety "here are a bunch of things some other people you've never heard of said about this thing," until we get to some kind of substantive information about what's actually going on in the final third of the question. In general, about 15% or so of the questions seemed to me to be written with clues that leaned far too heavily on weird anecdotes of dubious relevance. There were lots of good and interesting questions in this set, but in my view a substantial minority of the questions were just basically flawed and frustrating to play.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:07 pm

Oh, I wrote the question on Gavin Menzies (I assume what you mean by the "crank British historian") as well. While he's certainly a crank, his books were best-sellers and represent a prominent if indeed loony theory about Chinese influence on the rest of the world. Indeed, the tossup was originally going to be on "the idea that the Chinese were the first to settle the New World," but it proved hard to do.

I'll certainly acknowledge that Tokyo Rose and (especially Audie Murphy) are probably sort of "cute" ideas. I don't quite get the Appomattox critique--this was not supposed to be a "cute" idea at all, and during playtesting, people had solid buzzes on early clues. Maybe the usage of the James Thurber clues tipped this into the "cute" range but I think it was either some of those types of clues or transparency. The Boston Strangler question is probably cute, but I did hope to reward some outside-of-academy knowledge here: there are lots of interesting aspects of this case, which was a very big deal in the 1960's (the psychic's inaccurate description, the possibly false confession, etc.). I will admit that I avoided plumbing familiar choices for my stuff, so a lot of important aspects of American history were left out, which is why I wouldn't offer the set as anything beyond a reflection of my own interests per se.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:21 pm

This set was excellent and I'd say it and CHB are good examples of how tournaments with very different writing philosophies can succeed. The ancient/late antique/early medieval history in particular did a very good job of avoiding battle-bowl and fashionable topics in favor of interesting, substantial questions on important topics in the field(Alexander Romance, Peter Brown, Otto the Great with clues on his artistic patronage) and covering social and economic topics intelligently. My only real qibble was that the Ugarit question had some oddish clue ordering given that the cuneiform abjad is probably a little too well-known to be early in the tossup and the Alashyia letter is probably less well-known than the ugaritic Baal cycle ; on the other hand if quizbowl actually knows more about Ugarit and/or the collapse of the Hittite Empire than I think it does I'm delighted. Overall, as Matt put it, it felt like a tournament that did a good job of rewarding history-the-discipline-knowledge and reading primary sources and substantially important and influential secondary literature instead of "did you play the right history video games?"


Also could someone post the Damascus question? I'd like to see how it actually points to Edessa.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:23 pm

grapesmoker wrote:What depth of knowledge is being tested in the tossup on Canning and Castlereagh fighting a duel that wouldn't have been tested by a tossup on either of them? Alexei fucking Leonov?
So these two were by me, and I think they were on the far side of the bell curve of clue stretching (meaning they were among my worst ideas in terms of rewarding knowledge). I'll argue that the Canning-Castlereagh duel seemed like a pretty pivotal event in Britain during that time period, and that Alexei Leonov (and more specifically his spacewalk) is an extremely important event in space exploration. Given that a previous nationals had a tossup on the not-at-all-memorable "Apollo 8" I thought it would be justified to ask about the first spacewalker.
"did you play the right history video games?"
To be fair, it did reward this too!
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:39 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: So these two were by me, and I think they were on the far side of the bell curve of clue stretching (meaning they were among my worst ideas in terms of rewarding knowledge). I'll argue that the Canning-Castlereagh duel seemed like a pretty pivotal event in Britain during that time period
Sure, but it just doesn't seem to me that there's really enough information here to support an entire tossup. I'm not sure there's really anything before "Walcheren" to give you any context for what's happening here.
and that Alexei Leonov (and more specifically his spacewalk) is an extremely important event in space exploration. Given that a previous nationals had a tossup on the not-at-all-memorable "Apollo 8" I thought it would be justified to ask about the first spacewalker.
I'm suspicious of this reasoning; of course, I wouldn't be a fan of a tossup on "Apollo 8" anyway, or really tossups on space missions in general. I just don't think there's enough useful information out there about Leonov that isn't "Russian space guy who isn't Gagarin" to make up a decent tossup on him.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Mon Jul 21, 2014 8:40 pm

I'd love to see the Edmund Fitzgerald tossup because you know ... Michigan. Also, the Millerite tossup if possible. My brother named our 2012 fantasy baseball league "Mayan Doomsday Countdown" and the next year it was called "The Great Disappointment."
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:33 pm

at your pleasure wrote:Also could someone post the Damascus question? I'd like to see how it actually points to Edessa.
Power-marked to show where the power was:
16. The geographer Ibn Kubayr called this city "encircled by gardens as the moon…by its halo", and it houses an octagonal structure supported by eight Corinthian columns known as the Dome of the Treasury. This city saw a massacre of the Ismaili sect in 1129. The general Toghtekin founded its Burid Dynasty, which lost the Battle of Marj al-Saffar. It passed over to the Zengids after being captured by (*) Nur al-Din, and its artisans were expropriated after its 1401 sack by Tamurlane. Nicknamed the 'city of jasmine', one story claims that Muhammad, upon seeing this city, refused to go in, saying men should only enter paradise once. Khalid Ibn al-Walid started construction on its Grand Mosque after he captured it from the Byzantines in 635. For 10 points, name this city which served as the capital for the Umayyads and that was the target of the Second Crusade.
ANSWER: Damascus
OK, so after doing a bit of research, I suppose "passed over to the Zengids after being captured by Nur al-Din" can refer to Damascus as well as Edessa, and most of the other clues uniquely refer to Damascus. I've heard that Nur al-Din simply took over Damascus in light of the weak reigh of Muin al-Din as well, rather than specifically capturing it after besieging it a third time. Regardless, the clue is bad and should have been prefaced by a year to rule out Edessa, whose capture by Nur al-Din sparked the Second Crusade. I have no qualms with how my protest on this question was resolved.

Also, minor nitpick: this question should probably have the alternate names of Damascus listed.

Here's the Millerites tossup for Nolan, edited to show power in the same way:
7. A former member of this group, Clorinda Minor, went to Palestine and wrote the book Meshullam! In response to the most notable event in its history, some members adopted Joseph Turner's "shut-door" belief. Members of this group, including its namesake, Sylvester Bliss, and Elon Galusha, met at the Albany Conference to work out a new ten-point statement of belief and condemn a rigid interpretation of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Their meeting places in cities like Ithaca and Rochester were burned by mobs, shortly after one member, Samuel (*) Snow, used the Karaite calendar to conclude that October 22 was the promised date. Many members of this group formed the Advent Christian Church after the events of the Great Disappointment. For 10 points, name this religious group who believed their namesake's prophecy that the Second Coming would take place in 1844.
ANSWER: Millerites [prompt on Adventists, prompt on Seventh-Day Adventists]
EDIT:
Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
at your pleaseure wrote:"did you play the right history video games?"
To be fair, it did reward this too!
Factual statement: I powered the Oda Nobunaga tossup thanks to re-enacting battles in Shogun 2: Total War.
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by rylltraka » Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:42 pm

The Damascus/Edessa mixup is a result of me not knowing that the Zengids took Edessa; I can't say the precise reason how the error was introduced since I wrote the question weeks ago and don't distinctly remember writing it (perhaps the source I used was unclear or misleading). Obviously it should have read 'acquired' instead of 'captured'; the fault is mine and I apologize.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:28 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Yes, the Hitler testicle tossup might be my nominee for worst tossup in any tournament I've played in the last several years.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: Hitler's balls
What is wrong with you people! That tossup was amazing and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Auroni » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:29 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Yes, the Hitler testicle tossup might be my nominee for worst tossup in any tournament I've played in the last several years.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: Hitler's balls
What is wrong with you people! That tossup was amazing and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
I volunteer to be your second in this upcoming duel.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jul 21, 2014 10:37 pm

Ukonvasara wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Yes, the Hitler testicle tossup might be my nominee for worst tossup in any tournament I've played in the last several years.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: Hitler's balls
What is wrong with you people! That tossup was amazing and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.
ANSWER: the duel between Rob Carson and Jerry Vinokurov
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Jul 21, 2014 11:53 pm

grapesmoker wrote:]Sure, but it just doesn't seem to me that there's really enough information here to support an entire tossup.
Packet 3, Tossup 10 wrote:This event took place near a cottage owned by Lord Yarmouth, and one participant could be heard humming the arias of Angelica Catalani while travelling there. The satire The Battle of the Blocks was published after this event, which titles a 2008 biography of its participants by Giles Hunt. One participant in this event had begun a “whispering campaign” against the other after the latter ordered the disastrous Walcheren Expedition. The Duke of Portland resigned shortly after this event, after which one participant was passed over for the highest office in favor of (*) Spencer Percival and which occurred due to the participants disagreements over where to send troops during the Napoleonic Wars. This event took place on Putney Heath and ended with one participant wounded in the thigh. For 10 points, name this event in which two Tory members of the cabinet shot at each other with pistols.
I' may be willing to cop to this in this case; that tossup was difficult to write, so I may have unconsciously "stretched" it. However, the leadin is about the setup of the duel, the next one is about a satire, the next one is a source I found, and the next one is the clue about the controversy over where to send troops in the Napoleonic war. Then it goes into the repercussions of the duel; people were all scandalized that two cabinet members try to bust a cap in each other's asses, and it led to a bunch of issues as shown in the question.

To my eye, there's no dearth of content in this question, and the clue density is fine. If people think otherwise, I would love to hear it; I would like to improve my writing.
grapesmoker wrote:I just don't think there's enough useful information out there about Leonov that isn't "Russian space guy who isn't Gagarin" to make up a decent tossup on him.
I really don't think that's true. Leonov had two very important missions - the one with his spacewalk (Voshkod 2), and the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission that wasn't just a huge deal for the space program, but for the cold war itself. On top of that, he was present at the assassination attempt on Brezhnev (along with Tereshkova and two people no one's heard of), which is an event of some importance. Here's the question:
Packet 3, Tossup 12 wrote:This man wrote a dual autobiography with David Scott entitled Both Sides of the Moon. Because of a miscalculation, one of this man’s missions landed 240 miles away from its intended target, right in the middle of the grounds of a bunch of wolves during mating season. In one interview, this man related how Leonid Brezhnev apologized to him after surviving an assassination attempt in which both of them were present. With Slayton, Brand, Stafford, and Kubasov, this man participated in a mission to test the docking capability between Apollo and Soyuz capsules. During this man’s most famous action, the joints of his (*) suit became too stiff to allow him to re-enter his craft, requiring him to bleed off some of his high-pressure oxygen; that action occurred during the Voskhod 2 mission and lasted 12 minutes, 9 seconds. For 10 points, name this Russian cosmonaut, the first human being to conduct a spacewalk.
The leadin is a throwaway. The second clue is about Voshkod 2 (after his spacewalk, they screwed up the re-entry and missed the landing site by 400km, ending up in Not-Safe Area Sibera), the third clue is about the Brezhnev assassination attempt, the next one is about the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, then the rest is about his spacewalk during Voshkod 2. This seems like a very reasonable density of important clues to me, and all could be things that reading a book on the Space Race would teach you.

I'm happy to be told that a tossup on Leonov is a bad idea outright if the argument is that people haven't heard of him, or more precisely that too few people have heard of him to make him a viable answerline. However, this being a side tournament, I wanted to try to hit areas that are somewhat neglected in the larger canon (esp at regular or regular+ difficulty), and it seemed like Leonov was such a figure; there's always the danger that you're going to swing and miss on these things, regardless of your answerline's actual importance to the field.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:15 am

I thought the Leonov question was fine. I managed to pick up on the clues from what I knew from my moon mission-obsession days back in 8th grade, but I could only remember his name as "Alexei L-something."
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Banana Stand » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:49 am

Cheynem wrote:Boston Strangler
I'm happy to see that I've contributed to canon expansion. Also, sad that I didn't get to play a Richard Mentor Johnson tossup.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:56 am

There were also tossups in this set on the Andrea Doria disaster and Great Chicago Fire.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:46 am

I want to use this as an opportunity to make a critique of a question and of the general discourse about bad writing (I already brought this up in person to the editors, so this is more just an exercise to make a point). There was a question using alternate universe clues from Harry Turtledove. The question I heard was a long string of weird fictional clues nobody's ever heard of without reading some particular book, then it starts a sentence with the phrase "This man succeeded Hitler," at which point I buzzed in, said Doenitz, and was negged, only to find out that the question was describing an alternate universe Hitler who dies peacefully and is replaced by Himmler. Too often, people complain about these sorts of questions with the expectation that they deserve the points and should win a protest over it, and too often other people respond with the (correct) point that "Other clues already ruled out your answer, you can't get the points," while missing what may be valid criticisms of a writing style. So here, I will simply point out that, no, there is no protest that needs to be lodged over this question, BUT, writing the question that way still makes the tossup play poorly. When I write questions, I try to pick apart each phrase and think "what might somebody buzz with here?" and if I realize a clue is preceded by a string of hard things that nobody will know, followed by something that sounds like another answer but is ruled out by those very hard clues nobody will know, it's probably time to rewrite the question.

On the whole, this tournament was awesome and Jerry is cuckoo for Coco Puffs.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:15 pm

Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) wrote:I want to use this as an opportunity to make a critique of a question and of the general discourse about bad writing (I already brought this up in person to the editors, so this is more just an exercise to make a point). There was a question using alternate universe clues from Harry Turtledove. The question I heard was a long string of weird fictional clues nobody's ever heard of without reading some particular book, then it starts a sentence with the phrase "This man succeeded Hitler," at which point I buzzed in, said Doenitz, and was negged, only to find out that the question was describing an alternate universe Hitler who dies peacefully and is replaced by Himmler. Too often, people complain about these sorts of questions with the expectation that they deserve the points and should win a protest over it, and too often other people respond with the (correct) point that "Other clues already ruled out your answer, you can't get the points," while missing what may be valid criticisms of a writing style. So here, I will simply point out that, no, there is no protest that needs to be lodged over this question, BUT, writing the question that way still makes the tossup play poorly. When I write questions, I try to pick apart each phrase and think "what might somebody buzz with here?" and if I realize a clue is preceded by a string of hard things that nobody will know, followed by something that sounds like another answer but is ruled out by those very hard clues nobody will know, it's probably time to rewrite the question.
I endorse this. When Victor ran this question by me, I didn't even think about the possibility of people buzzing with Doenitz (Dan Puma also did this in my room). That's my mistake.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by DumbJaques » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:45 pm

I thought this tournament was very good, and infinitely more enjoyable than last year (though part of that probably has to do with not having to worry about bonus difficulty). In particular, the presence of actual historians and things you read in history class, as Matt brought up, was great. In fact I would've preferred more of that; it seems bizarre to me that a CO history tournament wouldn't have a distribution devoted exclusively to historiography. Not all answers in that area need to be as difficult as Peter Brown, either (and indeed, should not be).

As far as Jerry's main criticisms, I don't at all think they're cuckoo but I don't agree they were serious problem. I understand the critiques to be 1) that some answers were on somewhat trivial things (Leonov, the PM duel, etc.), and 2) that some leadins were anecdotal and unhelpful.

As far as 1) goes, sure, but I think he's vastly over-representing how often it happened. There were ~1 of these questions (absolute max) per packet, and sometimes they were more whimsical and fun than simply clunky (Durer's rhinoceros is an example). I don't have a huge problem with this, assuming the number is kept very low. In fact I found this far less upsetting that wasting a historian tossup on fucking Gavin Menzies or alternate history tossups or whatever. The issue other writers often seem to run into (PAGING DR. GUPTA) is that they're never able to rein that stuff in to the point where it's only a very small part of the overall set.

[For the record: Leonov probably doesn't make for a great tossup despite the fact that the information is interesting and valid as an answer space at this tournament.This is an unusual case where the issue wasn't that the information wasn't interesting or knowable but that the subject just played badly as a quizbowl question (if I had remembered the name of the not-Gagarin cosmonaut, I would have powered the question despite not knowing anything about the space walk).]

As far as the other objection, it didn't seem like a systemic problem to me at all. The biggest criticism I have of this tournament is that it wasn't packet-sub, and thus very clearly reflected the interests and competencies of the writers despite an obvious and fairly successful attempt to counteract that effect. Note that I don't mean this as a criticism; I say "successful attempt" because I think there's inherently only so much you can do when you write a set yourself. You can't very well come up with answer lines you'd never have thought of, and when you assign each area to one person, it's just not avoidable.

Bottom line, this was an excellent set and I really liked playing it. Given my preferences for packet-sub, it's all the more striking that I liked this event more than any CO history I've played. Thanks to the editors for an extremely enjoyable experience.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:06 pm

I had a lot of fun playing this set. As others have alluded to, some of the questions were a little clunky; rather than trash the answer lines, which I mostly found amusing, I'd note that a few questions on the more "creative" side descended rather inelegantly from harder clues to easier ones, without much context or explanation preceding the descent. That can be a little jarring, and maybe that's part of what Jerry is complaining about in his criticism of heavily anecdote-based clues. (Stringing those sorts of clues together can sometimes result in a herky-jerky question that doesn't really do a good job describing something famous before alluding to it directly. There were a couple of those in the set; the clue about Forrestal's jumping out a window seemed to pop right up out of nowhere, for me at least.)

That was a slightly longer critique that I'd intended, because I enjoyed this tournament a lot. I thought it built on some of the successes of the CHB's "flavorful" approach and added some interesting seasoning of its own. Many thanks to Mike, Mik, and Mukherjee for putting it together, and to Jeff allowing me to ride his extensive coattails.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:32 am

DumbJaques wrote:In particular, the presence of actual historians and things you read in history class, as Matt brought up, was great. In fact I would've preferred more of that; it seems bizarre to me that a CO history tournament wouldn't have a distribution devoted exclusively to historiography. Not all answers in that area need to be as difficult as Peter Brown, either (and indeed, should not be).
The distribution actually set aside 6/0 historiography. I think if I had to do it again, I'd replace the transnational/other and CE/supermodern with 6/0 more historiography and 6/0 more trash, since the other two things can be folded into other distributions (for a total of 1 historiography and 1 trash question in every packet).
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:37 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
DumbJaques wrote:In particular, the presence of actual historians and things you read in history class, as Matt brought up, was great. In fact I would've preferred more of that; it seems bizarre to me that a CO history tournament wouldn't have a distribution devoted exclusively to historiography. Not all answers in that area need to be as difficult as Peter Brown, either (and indeed, should not be).
The distribution actually set aside 6/0 historiography. I think if I had to do it again, I'd replace the transnational/other and CE/supermodern with 6/0 more historiography and 6/0 more trash, since the other two things can be folded into other distributions (for a total of 1 historiography and 1 trash question in every packet).
FWIW, I think I speak for both me and Marshall when I say that the trash seemed like the worst part of the set. It was very, very easy to figure out when something was "fake" and when it wasn't, and most of them seemed very much like vanity more than anything else (really, wars from Star Trek?). Aside from Patrick powering the tossup on Dynasty Warriors, I don't recall anyone getting excited about any of the trash questions in any of rooms I was in. Meanwhile, the supermodern questions tested knowledge that's very important to understanding areas of the Modern World, like understanding what the Sunshine policy is and how it was created.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Jul 25, 2014 2:41 pm

As a person who has actually written and edited several dozen history tournaments, I thought this set was very good and reflected the realities of what you need to do to fill out this subject without getting repetitive or abstruse, and I welcome future flavorful questions.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Fri Jul 25, 2014 3:04 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:It was very, very easy to figure out when something was "fake" and when it wasn't
You've mentioned this twice, so I have to ask: Is this actually a problem? Do trash questions have to be coy and conceal their trashiness to be worth playing as part of an academic tournament?
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Fri Jul 25, 2014 3:07 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:FWIW, I think I speak for both me and Marshall when I say that the trash seemed like the worst part of the set. It was very, very easy to figure out when something was "fake" and when it wasn't, and most of them seemed very much like vanity more than anything else (really, wars from Star Trek?).
This is not the reception I got for my questions. People actually walked up to me and told me some of the answers were well-appreciated. And why should trash have to conceal what it is?

And FWIW Kurtis Droge answered the Dominion War question well before FTP.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Aside from Patrick powering the tossup on Dynasty Warriors, I don't recall anyone getting excited about any of the trash questions in any of rooms I was in. Meanwhile, the supermodern questions tested knowledge that's very important to understanding areas of the Modern World, like understanding what the Sunshine policy is and how it was created.
The Kim Dae-Jung tossup was in the East Asia distribution.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Jul 25, 2014 3:33 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
DumbJaques wrote:In particular, the presence of actual historians and things you read in history class, as Matt brought up, was great. In fact I would've preferred more of that; it seems bizarre to me that a CO history tournament wouldn't have a distribution devoted exclusively to historiography. Not all answers in that area need to be as difficult as Peter Brown, either (and indeed, should not be).
The distribution actually set aside 6/0 historiography. I think if I had to do it again, I'd replace the transnational/other and CE/supermodern with 6/0 more historiography and 6/0 more trash, since the other two things can be folded into other distributions (for a total of 1 historiography and 1 trash question in every packet).
An interesting variation might be to include a very small methodologies distribution alongside the historiography distribution about "how people do history"; this could cover things like archival research practices, research practices in specific fields, archaeological practice, specific ways of using primary sources(prosographies, epigraphy, provenance research as it pertains to material culture, and so on)-basically the "how we know what we know" of history. It wouldn't be feasible to write a lot of this, but it could make for a few interesting questions. Maybe we could even axe the trash in favor of this plus a few other questions in smaller areas.

A final note: Some people have been talking about this set reflecting the writer's interests more than they would like. I personally am fine with that; I'd rather hear a set very biased towards what the writers like that has good questions because people are writing what they know well than a set with bad questions because the writers forced themselves to write on subjects they didn't know well.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by rylltraka » Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:14 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:complaints about trash being obviously 'fake'
I agree with Shan on this one - the presence of a small trash subdistro was made clear well in advance, and of that only 2 or 3 (Dominion War, ISIS, maybe George Washington) tried to pass as 'real history', and not for very long. If we held ourselves to this standard, we'd have to restrict ourselves to a very small subset of answerlines. Besides, doing this more than occasionally seems like a bad strategy - it's almost like we're being asked to include pseudo-historical hose questions. What I think (mostly in retrospect, now that I'm not exhausted and rushing to finish the tournament) is that the trash as we had it did a decent job of serving as an extension of an aspect I wanted to include in the 'real' questions - the interaction of history qua history and culture in general. The trash, more by accident than design, had one question on music, one on commercials, two on film, two on TV, one on trash lit, and two on video games. I think that serves as a decent representative sample of the non-academic ways history fits into our culture, and fits in with my general policy of trying to include some social/cultural history in as many tossups as possible, sometimes as the entirety of the tossup (for the first, things like Mechthild of Magdeburg and the Ottonian Renaissance, for the latter ancient silver and Durer's Rhino).
at your pleasure wrote:An interesting variation might be to include a very small methodologies distribution alongside the historiography distribution about "how people do history"; this could cover things like archival research practices, research practices in specific fields, archaeological practice, specific ways of using primary sources(proso[po]graphies, epigraphy, provenance research as it pertains to material culture, and so on)-basically the "how we know what we know" of history. It wouldn't be feasible to write a lot of this, but it could make for a few interesting questions. Maybe we could even axe the trash in favor of this plus a few other questions in smaller areas.
This is an interesting suggestion. I think it's the analogy of questions that have sprung up about science tests and such, although the exposure of such things to quizbowl might severely limit the answer space even at a subject tournament like this one. I did play with this sort of idea for a little bit - say, by writing a question on ancient epigraphy - but thought this sort of stuff would be better introduced in bonus answerlines. Perhaps in occasional tossups on major archaeological sites?
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:25 pm

rylltraka wrote:ancient silver
This was an outstanding question; thanks for writing it.

I had never heard of Mechthild of Magdeburg prior to playing this tournament. On Sunday afternoon I passed up the opportunity to buy a copy of The Flowing Light of the Godhead at Powells, which will no doubt hurt my performance at future history subject tournaments.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Fri Jul 25, 2014 7:40 pm

rylltraka wrote:
at your pleasure wrote:An interesting variation might be to include a very small methodologies distribution alongside the historiography distribution about "how people do history"; this could cover things like archival research practices, research practices in specific fields, archaeological practice, specific ways of using primary sources(proso[po]graphies, epigraphy, provenance research as it pertains to material culture, and so on)-basically the "how we know what we know" of history. It wouldn't be feasible to write a lot of this, but it could make for a few interesting questions. Maybe we could even axe the trash in favor of this plus a few other questions in smaller areas.
This is an interesting suggestion. I think it's the analogy of questions that have sprung up about science tests and such, although the exposure of such things to quizbowl might severely limit the answer space even at a subject tournament like this one. I did play with this sort of idea for a little bit - say, by writing a question on ancient epigraphy - but thought this sort of stuff would be better introduced in bonus answerlines. Perhaps in occasional tossups on major archaeological sites?
That would make a lot of sense(e.g. a clue on Hatra with something about its namesake aramaic dialect inscriptions, with the caveat that I know very little about Roman or Latin epigraphy and Hatra and Hatra is a nutbar answerline even for a tournament like this) , or at least a lot more sense than tossups on the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum or equally nutty things.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Ike » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:03 pm

bird bird bird bird bird wrote:
rylltraka wrote:ancient silver
This was an outstanding question; thanks for writing it.

I had never heard of Mechthild of Magdeburg prior to playing this tournament. On Sunday afternoon I passed up the opportunity to buy a copy of The Flowing Light of the Godhead at Powells, which will no doubt hurt my performance at future history subject tournaments.
I'm going to use my yearly "inane endorsement of this random thing that came up because I need to show off my knowledge on the topic" post on this book actually. I read this book in my freshman year of college in what kicked off my mysticism phase, and I can say it's fascinating if you like extremely vivid religious metaphors and imagery.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:50 pm

I suppose the real problem I have with "obvious" fake stuff/trash is that it sort of defeats the point of having a history tournament which, in my opinion, should talk about things that are actually present in serious human historical records. At the very least concealing the fact that your question is asking about something fake tests whether people know it's real or fake history (and I personally enjoy "figuring it out" when something is or isn't trash). I don't mean to speak for the authors, but when I heard some of the trash questions at this tournament, it didn't really feel like there was any effort made to connect the question to things of real-life importance, but rather simply that the topic was something the writers thought it would be fun to ask about (as opposed to both, as was the case for a lot of the better questions in this tournament).

I think trash is perfectly defensible in a history tournament when it tests things that actually happened and actually had an impact on human history. For example, tossing up "Star Trek" and discussing its impact on sci-fi and real-world culture, or tossing up individually important baseball players with similar real-world cultural effects (Jackie Robinson comes to mind). But a question on things that only happen in fictional works and only affect people in them doesn't test this sort of knowledge, but rather if you were just familiar with the particular vanity topics the author chose to write on.

I would apply the same exact logic to something like literature or music questions in a history tournament (though this isn't as relevant here). Testing knowledge of plot details isn't testing knowledge of human events, though understanding the impact of human events on other cultural phenomena is perfectly reasonable. Hence, I would think a question on "The Three Kingdoms Period" clued largely from literature and even Dynasty Warriors would be perfectly reasonable, but asking about plot details that are entirely divorced from real-world important events, be they from video games, pulp fiction, or works of serious literature, seems really out of place.

I recognize that my attitude towards this is fairly puritanical, especially for a side event that announced that it would have trash beforehand, but it's frustrating and unrewarding to me when random historically irrelevant vanity like this can almost decide the outcome of a game, as it nearly did when we played Patrick and Jarrett.
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: CO History Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:54 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:it didn't really feel like there was any effort made to connect the question to things of real-life importance, but rather simply that the topic was something the writers thought it would be fun to ask about
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:individually important baseball players with similar real-world cultural effects (Jackie Robinson comes to mind)
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:I recognize that my attitude towards this is fairly puritanical, especially for a side event that announced that it would have trash beforehand
shuuuuuut uuuuuuuuuuup
Rob Carson
University of Minnesota '11, MCTC '??
Member, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer and Editor, NAQT

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