Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

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Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:07 pm

I know people have been sharing thoughts in the announcement thread, but I'll start this traditional discussion thread anyway. The delay has been caused by me getting home at 1 AM, falling asleep, and then going to work for the day. But, yeah, feel free to comment on anything about this tournament - I'll send the set out to anyone who wants it, but I'm sure if I just get it to whoever posts these things on collegeqb - it'll be on the internet in no time.

Just as preliminary thoughts on the event - I'm fairly proud of myself that I managed to dredge up enough energy that, at the very least, I feel like I did this kind of tournament justice. I feared that I would not be able to find enough time in my day to do what I wanted with this set...but the trains actually ran on time, almost perfectly, and nothing was rushed or slapdash.

First off, thanks to my co-editors Miriam Nussbaum and SteveJon Guth, and Eric Mukherjee for a handful of contributions. I thought both Miriam and SteveJon did solid jobs in their categories (music and science respectively) - and I know I'm not capable of fairly writing those categories, so there's just no way it would have been a successful tournament without their work. Secondly, thanks to Bryce Durgin and Jonah Greenthal for taking care of stats - and Bryce was terrific all weekend, helping things run efficiently in all sorts of respects. Of course, thanks to the other moderators as well.

My Chrono Trigger theme for the event was inspired by the fact that I wanted to make people feel like they'd boarded the Epoch and slipped back in qb time a bit - in other words, I tried to avoid the recent trendy things that qb writing does these days, include plenty of "shadow canon" stuff, and just generally escape some of the questionable tendencies I've seen in recent qb writing.

As I alluded to in my Facebook status this morning, attending CO each year (whether I'm writing or playing) always leaves me with a bit of sentimental warmth for the qb universe. I truly hope that I see all of the players who attended at least once or twice a year, for the next fifty years or so, assuming a Burger King-based diet allows me so much time. More than any other event, Chicago Open really lets you see the range of amazing personalities that qb has to offer - all of whom contribute something to the game, and the combination of everyone together leads to some fantastic competition.

Also, Magin's team had a hell of a comeback in match 15 - sorry for openly rooting against you guys in that match, Seth Teitler. Young squires ,that's how you play this game - you power Boleslaw the Brave and you pull "Sadko of the Underwater Kingdom" to win by five points, and allow me to enjoy reading ridiculous tossups on Rubyfruit Jungle. That is what it's all about.

Alright, discuss away.
Last edited by No Rules Westbrook on Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Cheynem » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:32 pm

This was probably the most fun I've ever had a tournament, possibly because I've finally acquired the baseline skills necessary to appreciate playing hard tournaments. I enjoyed the nice mix of very hard and (relatively) easy answerlines, including the attempts at representing the "shadow canon" which I assume contributed to some rather kicky answer lines I haven't encountered in recent years aside from questions I write (Anthony Adverse! Idiot's Delight!). I won't say anything about it being as an example of what CO should "be," because I agree with Jerry from last year that CO's can take on different styles (and I enjoyed last year's CO quite a bit too).
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:52 pm

I liked this tournament a lot. Perhaps there were flaws in categories that I know (or care) less about, but I was especially a fan of how this tournament mixed and matched easy answer lines with harder answer lines. It was accessible, didn't feel oppressive to play, and yet still was capable of the occasional "nobody gets points, everyone chuckles" or "hardcore specialist gets tossup on his dream thing" moments that you expect at CO.

Unlike my friend and colleague Mike Cheyne I have no reservations about holding this one up as an example for all future Chicago Opens
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Tue Aug 02, 2011 12:15 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:My Chrono Trigger theme for the event was inspired by the fact that I wanted to make people feel like they'd boarded the Epoch and slipped back in qb time a bit - in other words, I tried to avoid the recent trendy things that qb writing does these days, include plenty of "shadow canon" stuff, and just generally escape some of the questionable tendencies I've seen in recent qb writing.
To think I missed a tournament with such a theme. When I saw the title I wondered if all teams with more than 3 players got sent to the end of time.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:12 am

This tournament was a lot of fun, and in addition to shouting out Ryan for editing it I'd like to pay heed to my teammate Ike Jose, who is an excellent quizbowler.

I have one point of criticism about a few of the economics questions in this tournament and economics questions in general: please do not use the titles of economics monographs as answer lines. In this tournament we had "Poverty and Famines" by Amartya Sen and "The Strategy of Conflict" by Thomas Schelling. In each case, I knew it was "that book where famous economist ___________ makes his famous argument __________" but I couldn't pull the title. Obviously knowing the titles of things is important in quizbowl, but the names of books in which great economists distill their research into a definitive statement are not well known by economists. I, for one, much prefer economics questions where the answer is a concept or something else where understanding a well-known argument gets you points: "Amartya Sen famously argued that these events never occur in democracies" for instance.

Furthermore, there are a raft of economics monographs with similarly undescriptive titles, which are very frustrating either as clues or answer lines since they don't say anything to an economist.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:20 am

Modulo my science critique in the other thread, I enjoyed this tournament, particularly some of the more inspired answer choices like tossups on "bricolage." My only other complaint is that, like a number recent tournaments, it seemed to skew heavily in the direction of classics.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Ringil » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:35 am

I liked this tournament quite a bit. My main problem with it though was that distributions were never consistent. For example, many rounds would have only 3 science questions and round 15 had 3 (medieval/renaissance) european history and no american. It was probably due to time constraints on editing, but it was a bit unfortunate.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by cornfused » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:49 pm

Other than the early tossup on Nastas'ya Filippovna, was there any Russian lit in this tourney whatsoever? I'd welcome people saying "Peterson, you're an idiot*" and pointing it out, but I didn't notice any and couldn't, with the help of my teammates, come up with any in post-tournament discussion.


EDIT: *Um, pun not intended.


EDIT: OK, I guess I just didn't notice them 'cause they were bonuses.
Last edited by cornfused on Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:50 pm

Petersburg came up.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by theMoMA » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:34 pm

This tournament was great fun. Aside from what others have pointed out (most notably the fact that the tournament had that good CO flavor without straying too far into frustrating difficulty), I would like to commend Ryan for the obvious care that he put into the writing and editing process. I didn't get the idea that tossups were simply greenlit into the set. Everything had an extremely polished feel. This was simply a great tournament, and many thanks to Ryan for all of the work that he put in to make it that way.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by MLafer » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:45 pm

There was also a Chekhov bonus, and an (awesome) bonus that started by asking for one of Herzen's novels.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:04 pm

Kurtis wrote:Answer some stuff mostly related to the endangered Siberian Crane, FTPE.
[10] The majority of said birds winter in this Chinese lake in Jiangxi Province, fed by the Gan and Xiu Rivers, the largest freshwater lake in China. It was the site of an allegedly massive naval battle around 1363 near the end of the Yuan Dynasty.
ANSWER: Poyang Lake (Poyangu Lake, Po-yong U)
[10] Because of its habitat, the Siberian Crane will be threatened by the ecological changes caused by this dam, which was constructed at Sandouping along the course of the Yangtze beginning in 1994.
ANSWER: Three Gorges Dam
[10] Located south of the Daba Mountains, this city is bisected by the Jialing River and located upstream from the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.  It was the headquarters of Allied operations in China during World War Two. Unfortunately, none of that has much to do with the plight of the Siberian Crane.
ANSWER: Chongqing (accept Chungking)
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:19 pm

I'm not big on strictly conforming to subdistributions, outside of just making a general effort to mix it up and avoid repetition or obviously overdoing anything.

I will say that I thought classics were, if anything, underrepresented in this set. I made that remark at several points to my colleage M. Lafer - I think there was a relative paucity in both lit and history of ancient stuff.

And, as far as I know (I may be misremembering) - there was only one packet with 3 science instead of 4 (Weiner team packet, if I remember right). And, I thought there was one packet with 5 science. I'm fine with that. Whatever the fourth science was in that packet, I didn't like it, and I preferred to just play my best 20 tossups instead of force it in.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Cheynem » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:54 pm

Sub distros are one thing, but I'm not crazy about just saying you didn't like the 4th science tossup, so it's okay that a packet has 3 science tossups. These things happen, especially during crunch time, but that's such a dramatic alteration of a packet distro that it really impacts matches.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:28 pm

Cheynem wrote:Sub distros are one thing, but I'm not crazy about just saying you didn't like the 4th science tossup, so it's okay that a packet has 3 science tossups.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:08 am

Yeah, I'm biased to the generalist persuasion, so one or two of those decisions per event doesn't bother me all that much. But, I fully understand why it irks players with defined specialties.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:13 pm

This tournament was a lot of fun to play, and was probably the most fun main event I have ever played. Thank you to the editors and everyone else for making it awesome.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by theMoMA » Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:40 pm

On a whimsical note, I was disappointed that Major Abbott didn't get a shout-out in the Pakistani poets bonus. Could have made for a much better William Empson bonus part, too.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:57 pm

Thanks, Guy Tabachnick (presumably), for that tossup on OT constraints!
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Sir Thopas » Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:38 pm

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:Thanks, Guy Tabachnick (presumably), for that tossup on OT constraints!
No problem. I don't think anyone actually got it, sadly, but It's Important! (TM)
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by theMoMA » Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:34 pm

I'm just wondering, since it seems that linguistics is the category that whooshes over players' heads the most, if there are simpler concepts from the field that could usher in knowledge of important things like optimality theory? In other words, does that theory inform some larger concept that could be an accessible tossup answer (perhaps "grammar," from reading the Wiki page)?
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Sir Thopas » Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:53 pm

theMoMA wrote:I'm just wondering, since it seems that linguistics is the category that whooshes over players' heads the most, if there are simpler concepts from the field that could usher in knowledge of important things like optimality theory? In other words, does that theory inform some larger concept that could be an accessible tossup answer (perhaps "grammar," from reading the Wiki page)?
A tossup on "grammars" would be almost impossible to do, I think, especially since its specialized meaning in linguistics is rather different from the narrower lay term. I suppose you could toss up "syllables" or "front vowels" or something using examples that often come up, but this raises its own problems. I can't think of a very good way to test knowledge of a theoretical framework, rather than specific examples, other than what I did (which evidently failed). I'll think about it.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:48 am

I'm surprised to see Linguistics described as a category that often wooshes over people's heads. Maybe in the one year since I stopped playing frequently, Guy and Will have flooded the canon with tossups on "real" linguistics, but I remember a linguistics distribution that often had tossups on simple concepts like "vowels" and "consonants", and many tossups about languages or language families, which seem pretty accessible.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Aug 07, 2011 4:24 pm

There are a few classes of linguistics questions which I see:

1) The typical questions about the history of linguistics (tossups on Chomsky, bonuses that go Prague Circle/Jakobson/Trubetzkoy) or languages/language families, which are generally accessible to most players, but which almost never test any important concepts except a few basic ones, like the definition of a phoneme. In particular, questions on individual languages or language families are sort of analogous to taxonomy questions in biology, and a typical linguist has no reason to know lots of things about Basque or the Bantu languages unless they happen to have studied them.

2) More theoretical questions on stuff like "vowels" or "future," which are more satisfying to linguists while still being answerable by non-linguists. If all linguistics questions were of this type, I think there would still be a lot of very important theoretical knowledge that would go untested.

3) Questions like the constraints tossup and my Nats tossup on wh-movement, which directly test knowledge of important theoretical concepts. Obviously, both of these questions had a very low conversion rate, which suggests that these kinds of questions aren't going to be successful at even high-level tournaments like Nats and CO, which means they should probably be avoided.

As Guy mentioned, writing tossups with answer lines like "grammar" would be next to impossible, so it's difficult to see how to test knowledge of important theoretical linguistics tossups while still allowing non-linguists to convert the questions. I think it's best kept to bonuses, even though it's difficult to go into any great depth in bonuses. I think my bonus on negation from ACF Nationals did a decent job:
Answer the following about negation in linguistics, for 10 points each.
[10] This is the term given to expressions, which must be licensed by a negative expression. The word any is an example of one, since sentences like "Mary has any money" are ungrammatical.
ANSWER: negative polarity items
[10] This language is unusual in that negation is expressed by a verb, which inflects for person. Its writing system was developed by Mikael Agricola.
ANSWER: Finnish
[10] The negation transformation is T16 in this 1957 book by Noam Chomsky, which set out his initial theory of transformational grammar.
ANSWER: Syntactic Structures
The third part is easily convertible, and it's a type 1 question. The second part is also a type 1 question, but a linguist who has never studied Finnish might still know about Finnish negation, since it bears on issues of verbal morphology and other things. I could have also made that part more accessible by including more clues. The first part is probably not going to be converted by many non-linguists, but it's an important term, and I expect most linguists to know what NPIs are. So two of the three parts test important theoretical knowledge, but a team of non-linguists can still 20 the bonus. At a hard tournament, you could write a bonus where the middle part was Optimality Theory, and the hard part is some important constraint from Optimality Theory (say, NoCoda), or a bonus whose hard part is wh-movement or syntactic islands, or something to that effect.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by theMoMA » Sun Aug 07, 2011 5:04 pm

Yeah, I thought that was a fine bonus (I believe we got 20 from knowing Agricola's role with Finnish and the Chomsky title, and that seems like a fair 20 to me). I'm a little wary of tossups on things like wh movement and optimality theory just because I think the number of people with any familiarity of those things is probably three at maximum (and one of them probably wrote the question, as we're seeing in this thread). Linguistics doesn't seem like it's inherently too hard (in other words, I could see a future in which optimality theory is a fine subject of a tossup), it's just that most people who don't study it have no way of knowing things like optimality theory at this moment, which leads me to question the efficacy of tossups on it or things like it.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that quizbowl linguistics doesn't test for the things that those who study linguistics care about, but I'd also like people to consider that their questions often decide close games at important tournaments, and probing knowledge that no one has doesn't do the tournament any favors. I'd like to see the drive for "real" linguistics accompanied by a little more consideration for what players are likely to know.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Cheynem » Wed Aug 10, 2011 11:45 am

This is somewhat abroad from the discussion of this year's CO, but I'm curious what people think of Bruce's assertion that this is a "model CO which should be emulated as an example for future CO's." In terms of question quality and logistics, sure, no doubt (although not scoresheets), but--and this is something I've been arguing with people on the IRC a lot lately--I strongly disagree that in terms of question topics, style, difficulty, and the like, that any one tournament should be hailed as something to emulate.

Let me explain. I think there are certain tournaments in the regular season which must take on a pretty consistent form--the ACF tournaments, the NAQT tournaments, novice tournaments, the more widely played independent tournaments like Terrapin and Penn Bowl. To some extent, especially the easier ones, these tournaments have a responsibility to hit a certain difficulty level and probably hit a certain number of "core" topics(there's some question, I guess, as to where ACF Nationals falls into this spectrum). There's obviously leeways--MUT has always had a different feel to EFT and that's great and I don't think anyone's complaining about that.

However, I would say open tournaments are generally not as bound by the constraints of question topics, style, and difficulty. For one thing, as fun as they are to win, they are usually not about crowning a certain program a champion, nor do they really work to attract new teams to quizbowl. Thus, I think it's cool that open tournaments have very different feels to them. I've played, for example, Chicago Open 2010, Chicago Open 2011, VCU Open 2010, Minnesota Open 2009, and VCU Open 2011, and I edited Minnesota Open 2010. All of these tournaments were good events and I had fun (either writing or playing). They were also of wildly differing styles, difficulties, and featured different questions. On an aesthetic level, I wish they could have all been like CO 2011, which is the most fun I have ever had playing quizbowl. Similarly, on an aesthetic level, I found CO 2010 and MO 2009 to be too hard and VCUO 2011 to feature a few too many answerlines I didn't like. This is why MO 2010, which I edited, mirrors my version of quizbowl aesthetics more. That doesn't mean, though, that I would have insisted CO 2010, MO 2009, and VCUO 2011 all be like CO 2011 or MO 2010. They're all good sets. I had fun playing them. I've met people who find MO 2010 their least favorite of the three MO's (even though it's my favorite for admittedly selfish reasons) and certainly people who liked CO 2010 more than CO 2011.

I'm not advocating slapdash "do whatever you want" approaches to tournaments. I don't think anyone is accusing the tournaments I listed as being slapdash or made by people who don't care about good quizbowl. There's legitimate praises and complaints for each tournament, certain people like some better than others, and for open tournaments, I'm okay with this happening.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:20 am

Oh,and I forgot to say...

Ryu Murakami's important! On a scholarly article I read of the 50 most influential works of Japanese literature, he had four entries! Just a note to quizbowl that I didn't write about him cause he has a common last name.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Magister Ludi » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:59 pm

I wanted to say that I thought this tournament was truly excellent and cements Westbrook's status as one of the greatest editors in the history of quizbowl. I criticize a lot of tournaments for the editor letting his personal, ideological vision of the game adversely affect the tournament. This problem especially seems to affect the sub-distributions of certain categories and the range of difficulty. But Ryan really got it right and should be commended. This tournament should be held up as a paradigm for all future COs, not as an exact template to copy but rather as a example of how an individual editor melds his aesthetic to the demands of the field to create a tournament that is enjoyable for all types of players.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by theMoMA » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:16 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:This tournament should be held up as a paradigm for all future COs, not as an exact template to copy but rather as a example of how an individual editor melds his aesthetic to the demands of the field to create a tournament that is enjoyable for all types of players.
Very well said, and I agree completely. I will add that Ryan's care and work ethic are something we should all strive to emulate. In this age of tournament-eve writing frenzies, this set demonstrates the slow, careful, regular approach needed to produce an outstanding event.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Aug 15, 2011 7:24 pm

I like the adjectives slow, careful, and regular...that's the editing approach I've always tried to take.

But, I will say Chicago Open gives you a much better chance to do that than almost any other event. If you attempted to be very slow, careful, and regular with ACF Regionals - you'd either need 12 editors or you'd get 3 packets done. And, if you had 12 editors - regular would never happen anyway, because everyone has their own little differences, and the set tends to turn out very uneven.

Probably more than any other event on the calendar, CO gives the editor a solid amount of workable raw material (much of which needs only tweaking, not overhauling). That allows you a lot more time to be careful, to manually tweak and shuffle things. And, in a lot of ways, it's better than a non-packet submission event - because an entirely editor-written event tends to eventually show biases and preferences, even if you try hard to write against your type or on subjects you don't often pick.
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:19 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:regular
bet the burger king don't help
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:27 pm

John McLaughlin: "WRONG! I am regular, thanks to Metamucil!"
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Re: Chicago Open 2011 Discussion Thread

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:17 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Probably more than any other event on the calendar, CO gives the editor a solid amount of workable raw material (much of which needs only tweaking, not overhauling).
Maybe things have really changed since last year, but I found that I had to overhaul a lot of stuff submitted for CO.
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