Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by The Laughing Man » Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:37 pm

Captain Scipio wrote: The original point was essentially that buzzer races are often created whenever a title is mentioned, which is, for one, an issue of simple non-pyramidality or bad clue selection where it occurs and, for two, not in my opinion such a problem as has been claimed, even among the very best teams.
At Prison bowl we played four games against other top teams (3 against Dorman and one against Charter.) In these games we heard 7 author tossups and one country tossup.
If I recall correctly there were buzzer races on:
The encantadas (melville)
the edible woman (atwood)
of love and shadows(allende)
pinch runner memorandum (kenzaburo oe)

There may have been a buzzer race on a Camus work, but I'm not sure.

Unrelated to titles, there was a buzzer race on the description of Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game"

There were no buzzer races on E.E. Cummings or Spain.

The fact that out of 8 non-work literature tossups in the close games we played, at least 4 of them ended in buzzer races on titles seems like a pretty big problem. Obviously top teams are tough to distinguish. But the fact that only 2 or 3 literature non-work questions clearly differentiated the teams is pretty worrisome.

EDIT: Also note that 3 of the buzzer races were on the first title, which was mentioned after only 1 plot description.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Cheynem » Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:43 pm

Perhaps I was an illiterate rube in high school, but I didn't know any of those books you describe as "buzzer races" when I was in high school. Hell, I don't even know some of them now.

I mean, is it that disturbing that great teams are going to know shit and buzz in when they hear something they know and if two great teams play each other this results in a buzzer race? Barring high school tournaments specifically written for the best of the best (which at least according to Guy, Prison Bowl was not intended to be that), there will be some questions that cause buzzer races because teams know stuff. The solution to this problem, which you seem to be implying, is to make the lead-ins even more difficult, which I see as a huge problem for high school. High school packets, especially ostensibly accessible stuff like Prison Bowl, are not meant to differentiate between great teams like State College/Dorman/Charter where they have people who know all the works of Atwood, Allende, etc. I mean, I don't want to sound like a nattering nabob of negativism, but buzzer races between great teams in high school are inevitable in some cases, even more so than college. I don't find that problematic.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot » Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:50 pm

Anti-Climacus wrote:
With that said, I still think most high school tournaments (Prison Bowl, too) are too difficult.
After seeing the performance of our(very, very inexperienced) B-team, I am inclined to agree with you that most tournaments are too difficult for the lower-tier teams. My new theory is that part of this problem is that age correlates less with ability then it used to ( I think this is most noticeable in the phenomenon of high school teams placing highly at college tournaments). Therefore, I would like to make the following modest proposal: If certain practical difficulties were ironed out I think it would make a lot of sense to base the division between the HS and college circuits on ability and desire to play at a certain level. This would probably have the effect of drawing the better HS teams into becoming de facto collegiate teams.
No offense intended, but this really isn't a good idea. The way I am parsing it, this seems to advocate "bad" or "undedicated" college teams playing with high schoolers on high school questions. Stepping stone theory is bunk. Also, why segregate good high school teams out? I feel like this would drive newish teams away from good quizbowl, because the elite is treating them as if they are an unimportant part of the community. In my personal experience, one becomes good by aspiring to be as good as [insert local top team here], not by looking at that same team in a sort of tower looking down upon the poor morons who can't name and describe 5 Pierre Cot paintings. I don't think the system, as is, is broken, so why should it be fixed?

A more productive suggestion, in my mind, would be to emulate the collegiate novice tournament structure. Have a lot of low difficulty, but still excellent, tournaments early in the season. I'm pretty sure that many top quizbowlers have cited this as the reason for the current strength of the circuit. These tournaments surely draw teams in on questions they can get, while providing an excellent base for further competition. Also, if it works in college, why can't it work in high school? One other thing that could be done with one of these novice tournaments is to have top high schoolers actually write the tournament (with lots of help from experienced collegians, of course). That way, both the new and experienced teams benefit. How does that sound?
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:15 pm

la2pgh wrote: No offense intended, but this really isn't a good idea. The way I am parsing it, this seems to advocate "bad" or "undedicated" college teams playing with high schoolers on high school questions. Stepping stone theory is bunk. Also, why segregate good high school teams out? I feel like this would drive newish teams away from good quizbowl, because the elite is treating them as if they are an unimportant part of the community. In my personal experience, one becomes good by aspiring to be as good as [insert local top team here], not by looking at that same team in a sort of tower looking down upon the poor morons who can't name and describe 5 Pierre Cot paintings. I don't think the system, as is, is broken, so why should it be fixed?

A more productive suggestion, in my mind, would be to emulate the collegiate novice tournament structure. Have a lot of low difficulty, but still excellent, tournaments early in the season. I'm pretty sure that many top quizbowlers have cited this as the reason for the current strength of the circuit. These tournaments surely draw teams in on questions they can get, while providing an excellent base for further competition. Also, if it works in college, why can't it work in high school? One other thing that could be done with one of these novice tournaments is to have top high schoolers actually write the tournament (with lots of help from experienced collegians, of course). That way, both the new and experienced teams benefit. How does that sound?
I agree with this post pretty much in its entirety. I am motivated by the early experiences I had as a seventh grader playing the major DC area teams and loosing tons and tons of blowouts. I have vivid middle school memories of loosing to TJ, WJ, Charter, and others. Mostly, I would just sit there in awe during games, but then I would go home and get better. I want to be as good as those guys one day, and with four years left, I think I can get pretty close. Removing top teams removes inspiration, which is very useful for strengthening both players and the general circuit.

As for the idea of novice tournaments in the beginning of the year, I also think this is a good idea. Opening up the year with a HAVOC or two would benefit the circuit greatly. Less experienced players would have a chance to get their feet wet without being immediately thrown into the deep end. I know loosing inspires me, but how many potential players does it chase away? Plus, the more experienced players who would ostensibly be running these tournaments would have the chance to brush up their writing skills for their later "varsity" events. Win-win.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by aestheteboy » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:25 pm

Yeah, I have to say that I'm hardly "worried" about buzzer races between Charter and SC. Sure, it's not desirable, but I really don't think it's a problem that we can reasonably address. Other than the Atwood tossup, which I regret not editing, I don't think the tossups Ben mentioned were inappropriate for a high school tournament. The other tossups, in my opinion, would have been worse off with any more early clues.

The other thing I want to say is that (again, other than Atwood) I didn't know that those titles were too easy. It's hard to write a good tossup given the constraints that we had (difficulty and length), when the audience is much better than we, the editors, are. The reason that there were buzzer races between Charter and SC might be because they are better than WJ and Hunter.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:37 pm

No offense intended, but this really isn't a good idea.
None taken. Now that I think about it, more novice tournaments early in the season probably would be a better idea than the one I proposed.
the poor morons who can't name and describe 5 Pierre Cot paintings
Actually, I had never heard of him. Nor do I think, having looked at some of his paintings now, that I was really missing out on anything.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:40 pm

Actually, I had never heard of him. Nor do I think, having looked at some of his paintings now, that I was really missing out on anything.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:26 pm

The Laughing Man wrote:
At Prison bowl we played four games against other top teams (3 against Dorman and one against Charter.) In these games we heard 7 author tossups and one country tossup.
If I recall correctly there were buzzer races on:
The encantadas (melville)
the edible woman (atwood)
of love and shadows(allende)
pinch runner memorandum (kenzaburo oe)
Congratulations, you're officially one of the top teams in the nation that happened to be playing another one of the top teams in the nation!

I think hand wringing over stuff like The Edible Woman being a buzzer race is really a problem exclusively for the top 1% of high school teams. Your average team is not going to be jumping on those clues.

Now, this certainly doesn't mean it's not a problem at all - Charter and State College matches should be able to differentiate between each other fairly. But unless you're writing a national championship or a Weekend of Quizbowl-level event, I think concerns about too many people knowing a second or third tier Melville work are slightly misplaced.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:39 pm

aestheteboy wrote:Yeah, I have to say that I'm hardly "worried" about buzzer races between Charter and SC.
That about sums up my feelings, too, if you add the caveats the these buzzer races are perceived (it's my experience that buzzer races are perceived much more often than they actually occur for a variety of reasons) and happened on middle clues, meaning that both teams had a chance to distinguish themselves on something that both teams didn't know.
I guess if a tournament is dropping titles that a lot of teams know as first clues, it's probably not a good tournament for those teams; conversely, if there are substantive clues* before the titles, you didn't know them, and then you lost a buzzer race (or even won one) on a clue both teams knew, I mean, boo hoo, man. I guess I can keep throwing out other clues but, practically, there's a length limit to consider and the problem is, at some point, that the teams just know about the same.
As a more general point, a buzzer race isn't ipso facto an indictment of the questions. A pattern of buzzer races in a single subject is getting there, but I still find the evidence somewhat less than compelling.

MaS

*It may seem that I am here to be begging the question: after all, the other side's point is seemingly that these title clues are coming too early. I counter-blast that they are begging the question: those aren't too early because I see buzzable clues before the titles in most cases mentioned here. I sometimes see unbuzzable fluff before titles (for example, incredibly generic plots) and, in that case, I guess a beef can be had. But that is a separate point and one that doesn't seem relevant here.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Sir Thopas » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:50 pm

Also, would The Pinch Runner Memorandum have been a buzzer race before that ridiculous bonus at MOHIT? Just curious...
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by closesesame » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:52 pm

Maybe if Josh Hahm (author of said ridiculous bonus and Oe question at MOHIT) had been there for the finals of WJIAT, we'd have gotten the Oe question off the Pinch Runner Memorandum...
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by theMoMA » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:57 pm

Also, I'd caution against using the term "buzzer race" to describe multiple people attempting to buzz on the same clue. There is a skill involved in figuring out likely answers and getting ready to push the button.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by cdcarter » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:08 pm

theMoMA wrote: If you write a leadin that no one gets, and a second clue that a few teams get, it's still fine;
Although I agree with pretty much everything else you are saying here, and everything Mike, Charlie, Daichi et al. are saying, you have to be careful here when writing under length constraints. If say it's an IS length tossup, and the leadin is too hard for anyone in the field, then you've lost about 1/4 of the question, and the pyramid just gets steeper and more prone to buzzer races.

But that's not really the moral of the thread. The moral of the thread is that State College is good and that they should be buzzing on things they know, and that a majority of teams aren't buzzing on those things. The leadins are not too easy.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by theMoMA » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:25 pm

It's somewhat misleading to quote that without the second half of the sentence. Basically, you should do your best to find things that just a few teams know for your leadins. If you err to something that's too hard, it's fine as long as the rest of your tossup is well-constructed.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:26 pm

(it's my experience that buzzer races are perceived much more often than they actually occur for a variety of reasons
Why are buzzer races precived more often than they occur? I think it would be quite useful to be able to gauge how many precived buzzer races are actually buzzer races when evaluating sets.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Siverus Snape » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:43 pm

Anti-Climacus wrote:Why are buzzer races precived more often than they occur? I think it would be quite useful to be able to gauge how many precived buzzer races are actually buzzer races when evaluating sets.
It's my experience that people sometimes reflexively press the buzzer when they see someone else make a move to buzz or hear the sound itself. I know that I do it occasionally when I'm hearing clues that are familiar to me but that I can't quite solidify into an answer. When I'm in that kind of a situation, especially in a tight match, and see someone else buzz, sometimes I buzz too. It makes very little sense, but it happens.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by ihavenoidea » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:46 pm

Siverus Snape wrote:
Anti-Climacus wrote:Why are buzzer races precived more often than they occur? I think it would be quite useful to be able to gauge how many precived buzzer races are actually buzzer races when evaluating sets.
It's my experience that people sometimes reflexively press the buzzer when they see someone else make a move to buzz or hear the sound itself. I know that I do it occasionally when I'm hearing clues that are familiar to me but that I can't quite solidify into an answer. When I'm in that kind of a situation, especially in a tight match, and see someone else buzz, sometimes I buzz too. It makes very little sense, but it happens.
I actually buzzer faked Anurag into doing this at Triton Bowl. He negged with "Britney Spears" for "System of a Down."
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:53 pm

Siverus Snape wrote:
Anti-Climacus wrote:Why are buzzer races precived more often than they occur? I think it would be quite useful to be able to gauge how many precived buzzer races are actually buzzer races when evaluating sets.
It's my experience that people sometimes reflexively press the buzzer when they see someone else make a move to buzz or hear the sound itself. I know that I do it occasionally when I'm hearing clues that are familiar to me but that I can't quite solidify into an answer. When I'm in that kind of a situation, especially in a tight match, and see someone else buzz, sometimes I buzz too. It makes very little sense, but it happens.
I can confirm that this behavior exists. I do it all the time.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:54 pm

I think part of what Andrew was doing was trying to draw a distinction between "buzzer races" and "a bunch of people buzzing on a clue they all happen to know". The term "buzzer race" generally refers to what happens after a difficulty cliff, when an easy clue shows up after a bunch of unbuzzable material.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:26 pm

My query seems to be answered.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Tower Monarch » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:00 pm

closesesame wrote:Maybe if Josh Hahm (author of said ridiculous bonus and Oe question at MOHIT) had been there for the finals of WJIAT, we'd have gotten the Oe question off the Pinch Runner Memorandum...
Except for the fact that you played Maggie Walker whose notable player Tommy buzzed off it to beat you...
EDIT: To my knowledge, this buzz occurred before a title, thus on the first buzzable clue and really unbeatable without a buzzer race....
Captain Scipio wrote:
aestheteboy wrote:Yeah, I have to say that I'm hardly "worried" about buzzer races between Charter and SC.
That about sums up my feelings, too, if you add the caveats the these buzzer races are perceived (it's my experience that buzzer races are perceived much more often than they actually occur for a variety of reasons) and happened on middle clues, meaning that both teams had a chance to distinguish themselves on something that both teams didn't know.
I guess if a tournament is dropping titles that a lot of teams know as first clues, it's probably not a good tournament for those teams; conversely, if there are substantive clues* before the titles, you didn't know them, and then you lost a buzzer race (or even won one) on a clue both teams knew, I mean, boo hoo, man.
This was my sentiment as well, especially having played on that Melville question and knowing that even during game time, if you have read that immensely boring sketch of islands as I have, you could have avoided the buzzer race. There were substantive clues in that one, and I am sure experts on things other than Melville short stories could testify to their presence in the other literature questions that were supposedly conducive to buzzer races...
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by closesesame » Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:01 am

Tower Monarch wrote:
closesesame wrote:Maybe if Josh Hahm (author of said ridiculous bonus and Oe question at MOHIT) had been there for the finals of WJIAT, we'd have gotten the Oe question off the Pinch Runner Memorandum...
Except for the fact that you played Maggie Walker whose notable player Tommy buzzed off it to beat you...
...which is essentially exactly what I said. Harry, Kevin, and I do not claim to know anything about Kenzaburo Oe beyond a sentence involving Bird and mental retardation. Josh knows way more than that. Hence the ridiculous bonus of which Guy spoke.

Anyway, my two cents on the topic: the key metric for whether or not to use titles as clues before the giveaway is how recognizable the titles are to the point that the tossup could be frauded by binary matching. Consider a hypothetical tossup on Nadine Gordimer. Lots of people know that Gordimer wrote July's People and The Conservationist, and just by hearing those titles those people would buzz and say Gordimer. I'd say that many of those same people don't know what either work is actually about. A tossup in which details from both works are described (Maureen digs for roots OH NO) and the giveaway is something like "FTP, name this South African author of July's People and The Conservationist" would work much better than a tossup with clues like "she wrote about a white family seeking protection in the native village of their black servant during a civil war in July's People" and a giveaway of "FTP, name this South African Nobel laureate."

In other words, no one can fraud Oe off of an early clue of the Pinch Runner Memorandum, so it's ok to mention that title before the giveaway. A Personal Matter is a different story (no pun intended).
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:03 pm

I want to point something else out about the arguments about buzzer racing here. In the vast majority of cases where a buzzer race happens, it seems to me what happens is one player moves to buzz about a syllable or a word or so before another player. I would argue that this part of the game is where the gameplay aspect arises. We have to remember that given the limitations of our activity using buzzers, there will always have to be an aspect of it that comes down to "who, between the two people who know exactly the same clues, is more prepared to buzz in quickly." As frustrating as this may be to teams who are frequently racing for buzzes on pyramidal questions, I believe that as long as the question is itself sufficiently pyramidal and the reason the buzzer race is happening is because the two teams essentially know the exact same amount of information about something and not because the question is not doing a good enough job of rewarding people who really have done work to learn more about a subject, then there is nothing inherently wrong with a buzzer race happening.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:34 pm

Yeah, it seems as though there are three cases here.

1) Two teams have different amounts of knowledge, but important clues for distinguishing were omitted, and so the tossup goes "A dude from this country wrote The Box Man, for 10 points name this country with capital Tokyo." This is stupid and should never happen.

2) Two teams have very similar levels of knowledge. Just as when you do column chromatography, they're separable under some attainable conditions. Indeed, the best way to do that in a six-line tossup is, if you have perfect knowledge of what both teams know, to write a pyramidal question starting with the first clue that the deeper team knows and ending with the first clue that the shallower team knows. That achieves maximum separation. You can only approximate this: because your packets aren't being played by just two teams, because you don't have perfect knowledge of their knowledge (if last week someone too suddenly told me high schoolers knew The Dean's December inside and out, I'd crap my pants), and because even under the best circumstances, it's very hard to find multiple clues in between two levels of knowledge. So you might not get maximum separation, but you will probably get a little. Failure, however, is only your fault if it happens in more rooms than just a few games between great teams.

3) Two teams have the same level of knowledge. You can't separate the compounds this way; whatever goes down isn't your fault.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by vcuEvan » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:46 pm

Here's an example of a tossup I like from VCU Open.
He used the voice of the fictional pamphleteer John Pickard Owen to satirize the relationship between science and Christianity in The Fair Haven, while a similar work, Darwin Among the Machines, was expanded into one of his major novels. Alethea dies giving birth to the last of the central male’s five children in one novel by this author, in which a game of cards determines which Allaby daughter is to marry Theobald. At Roughborough, Dr. Skinner gives a harsh education to Ernest, who inherits seventy thousand pounds at the end of the tale of the sons of religious publisher George Pontifex. In another of his novels, the protagonist is not allowed to marry because he is not interested in Zulora; in that book, he wrote about the University of Unreason, the worship of Ydgrun, and the use of Musical Banks in a place where disease is considered a crime. For 10 points, name this creator of Nosnibor and Higgs, the author of The Way of All Flesh and Erewhon.
Dropping off the early clues and just having it be a summary of the Way of All Flesh and Erewhon would make this a pyramidal tossup that doesn't drop titles early or stack them at the end. I don't think this should be the dominant form of lit tossup, but I think there should be more of them.
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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:29 pm

I also think a reasonable chunk of buzzer races are illusory. As someone above mentioned, it's a reflex to push your buzzer after someone else has already buzzed in despite it not making any sense really. What usually happens in my brain is "What's this dude's name--is it this...oh, X is buzzing, oh DAMN, it is this dude. BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ." Obviously my furious buzzing goes to no use but because it all happens so fast it appears like a buzzer race is in effect, when in effect it was more of a mental race, which I lost.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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Re: Dropping Titles in Literature Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:34 pm

Tower Monarch wrote:This was my sentiment as well, especially having played on that Melville question and knowing that even during game time, if you have read that immensely boring sketch of islands as I have, you could have avoided the buzzer race. There were substantive clues in that one, and I am sure experts on things other than Melville short stories could testify to their presence in the other literature questions that were supposedly conducive to buzzer races...
Hey, I won't have The Encantadas denigrated in this thread!
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
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