Thanks to Jack for pointing this discussion in a more interesting direction. I do work very hard on this tournament, but that does not mean that it is beyond criticism.
Two other people owed thanks are Jonah, who read through several drafts of the questions and gave a lot of good advice, and Chris Ray, who sent me some intelligent criticism of last year's questions after listening to my Kathy and Judy (RIP) bit. I got some help from other sources as well.
A few things about Jack's criticisms specifically--I don't really care whether or not my tournament is gimmicky, and I don't really care whether it is emblematic of new quizbowl or old scholastic bowl. This doesn't really negate his points, it's more of a semantics thing. I'll also add that the comparison between this tournament and Ultima can only go so far, since there were very significant differences. All that being said, the gist of what he was getting at was valid.
I do plan on keeping the math as is. If somebody wants to start a thread about math in Scobol Solo, I can be part of the conversation. For now, let me make a few points specifically about this tournament directed towards people who are against computational math:
* In tournaments which use IHSA format, you might drag along a math specialist or promote one to your A Team even if that person was uninterested or no good at other quizbowl questions. That's not an issue at a Solo Tournament.
* If the biggest problem with the math questions were that two knowledgeable in most matches were efficiently working out problems and that people who had a solid understanding of the problem were commonly being beaten to the buzzer, then that would be a serious problem. Based on what I have seen and heard, that isn't happening in this particular tournament so much. It's not an IHSA tournament pitting one team's math specialist against another's--it's two people going at it, and often at least one of them isn't so good at math.
* The questions are written by somebody who to at least some extent includes some conceptual thinking with the computation.
* If somebody outside of Illinois wants to mirror Solo, I will send them the questions sorted by category, which they can put into rounds however they want and toss out whatever they want.
Let me also say this--I find it laborious to write significant amounts of noncomputational math. I wrote five such questions for this tournament (Residual, Convergent/Converging, Fermat, Confidence, Rank), and I wasn't happy with them. I cannot make something a category unless I can come up with 20 questions a year in it without repeating myself year after year. One of my goals for next year is to write five good ones.
Let me say a few things about category changes for next year. This is not an official announcement, but it's where my thinking is at right now. If I'm still thinking the same way in July, then I'll be able to make an official announcement then. First of all, I think Vocabulary was the worst category in this year's tournament. It probably will be eliminated, opening up a space for a second American Lit category. I will revive what I did the first year of Solo, having a US Novels and Novelists category and an Other US Lit category. Also, I think Interdisciplinary is dispensable--if it helps me get to twenty categories I'll take it, otherwise I don't need it. I probably will replace it with an additional US History category, probably giving me a US History pre 1900 and a US History since 1900. I am also going to rearrange the Geography/Astro/ES category to get an Other Science category and combine the Geography with Current Events (so that each round will have Geography or Current Events). The Other Science would consist of Astronomy, Earth Science, topics that don't fit perfectly into the three main sciences (such as Biochem or Thermo), Health (along the lines of the Vitamin D and Rabies questions from this year rather than questions on MyPyramid), and possibly some computational science in the rounds containing some noncomputational math. (There will continue to be three computational questions per round.) I am also toying with renaming Nonfiction as Philosophy/Social Science, though I don't see that as a major change since that's the direction those questions have been going in recent years anyways.
While in general I agree that announcing categories is bad, I don't think it's a huge deal, and I want to keep in order to keep the category tallies, which is one of the quirks in this tournament that I like and that seems to be popular. It's possible a few years from now that the tallying will become more automated, which would make it possible for me to keep the tallies while scrambling the question order, which in turn would allow me to eliminate announcing categories. It doesn't make sense to me to have the questions in the same order each round without announcing the categories, since putting them in the same order is tantamount to announcing them for each round after the first one.
As far as Shakespeare is concerned, I write four or five each year. Four of them go into the regular rounds, and each student plays half the regular rounds. In other words, the average student plays two Shakespeare tossups out of seven British Lit tossups or out of 140 total tossups s/he plays during the day. I am of the opinion that this is the right amount.
As far as Religion/Mythology is concerned, I try to have it come out 50/50, and given a choice I would rather have somebody play 4 Myth and 3 Religion rather than vice versa. Sometimes it comes down to which rounds you play--the first match had Ganesha and the second match had Tao.
As far as Palestrina and other difficult tossups, the Scobol Solo Championship is supposed to be played by the top nine students in Illinois. Visitors are also welcome, and due to conflicts and upsets it probably doesn't actually end up being the top nine, but by any rate this is a very good place for tossups that push the envelope. I pushed it too far last year, but I did not think I did so this year. Not counting the four tiebreakers, nine out of 60 questions went dead (geometry comp, Hysteresis, Entablature, Rank, another geometry comp, pyramidal math, Glycerine, Glucagon, Robert the Bruce). If one out of nine students can get Palestrina before, "Name this composer who sometimes is credited for saving polyphonic music," then that question properly rewarded knowledge.
I'll also stand by the Laser question.
These objects sometimes use mode-locking or Q-switching. They require that more molecules be in an excited state than a lower energy state, which is known as population inversion. They also contain a substance such as titanium sapphire which is used as a gain medium inside a resonator cavity, which typically has a fully reflecting mirror on one side and partially transmitting mirror on the other. This technology, whose red type was first introduced in 1960, is now ubiquitous, used in communication, printers, and data storage on CDs and DVDs. Name these devices that emit coherent light.
If you can't get that in the first two-thirds of the question, then I recommend learning something about lasers.
As far as the marketing/field issue is concerned, I don't see it as central to what I do. I spend too much time and make too little money ($0, and my team does not need money either) on this tournament to compromise my integrity at all. I will run it the way I want to run it. (That's not to say that I am not interested in feedback--it's just to say that if somebody told me I could double my field by doing something I didn't want to do that it wouldn't matter whether the claim was true or false.)