2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

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ThisIsMyUsername
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2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:27 am

This is the discussion thread for questions in my categories, which were Literature, Auditory Arts, Philosophy, and the more theoretical Social Sciences.

First I should thank the playtesters for my categories, who were of a great help in assisting me in regularizing the difficulty across questions, and in catching my numerous typos. In addition to the padawans themselves, this includes my co-editors Matt Bollinger, Auroni, and Seth, but also Mike Cheyne, Matt Jackson, Kevin Koai, and Jonathan Magin.

I find it useful to preface these discussions with a brief summary of what I was trying to achieve in my categories.

Here's the basic writing principle I tried to teach: A difficulty-appropriate tossup is on a subject about which some members of the field have a real conceptual or experiential understanding and about which some members of the field know only superficial, buzzword-oriented facts. To my mind, the wrong way to try to reward the former group of people is by writing literature lead-ins that go: "This author wrote about [obscure character name X] and [obscure character name Y] in [obscure work]" or philosophy lead-ins that just name-drop a bunch of terms, without an explanation of what the concepts mean. (Unfortunately, many people still write like this.) However, total resistance to name-dropping results in impractical questions that fail to distinguish between the differing levels of non-primary knowledge, which is a crucial sector of the field. So, the skills I tried to cultivate in my writers were the ability to research and write strong descriptive clues for the early parts of questions and the canon sense needed to understand what sorts of clues more-or-less "have to be used" in the second half of each tossup, to make sure it plays well.

In previous posts, I have coined the term "evocativeness" to explain the quality that I think makes for a good descriptive lead-in. I've seen this term used in ways other than how I intended it, so let me clarify what I mean by this. This is not about being evocative in some poetic sense; rather, it's a description of a clue's psychological effect. Finding a unique clue about an answer-line is not in itself a difficult task. The problem with most bad lead-ins is not that they aren't unique; it is that they fail to mentally transport you to the thing being described: they do not "evoke" their answer. The main reason for this is that most "clues" (especially those gleaned from secondary sources) weren't intended to serve as clues at all: they were written for guides or summaries that assume that you already know what work is being talked about. The main task of a writer of descriptive lead-ins is therefore to find a thing that can be evocative when described in words, and to describe it with enough precision and clarity that all of the features that make it evocative are clearly communicated.

So, for literature, I encouraged digging into the books to find scenes that seemed quirky, visceral, humorous, psychologically rich, or supportive of the plot logic or "thesis" of the book. For philosophy and social science, I encouraged a sort of "back to basics" approach: find a couple of key concepts for each thinker, crucial to an understanding of his or her work, and find a way to describe these ideas in as plain English as possible, to reward conceptual understanding. For music, my writers surprised me by being very eager to write score clues, which are often extremely hard to write evocatively. I asked them to consult my music writing guide (http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... 21&t=15801) before writing score clues, and to my great surprise and joy, their first drafts were the strongest submissions I have received as a music editor in any question-submission tournament. To stop the score clues from taking over, though, I tried to include many other types of music clues, including some that I wrote for exactly this purpose.

My other big concern was diversity. There are lots of different kinds of things to care about in each of these disciplines, many different approaches and value systems, and my goal was to reward as many of these as possible. So, for example, in the social science and philosophy questions, I tried to balance out historical, continental, analytic, liberal, and conservative traditions, with an emphasis on basic conceptual understanding, even in bonuses. In the literature and music questions, I tried to engage with the context of works' creation, transmission/performance, and reception, in addition to an emphasis on actual content. My hope was that this variety would be enjoyable, and also encouraging to those who are looking for ideas about directions to take in their own writing.

If you have any comments, concerns, feedback, or corrections to give, please post here or PM or e-mail me, whichever medium you most prefer. I would be happy to hear about anything that you thought worked particularly well or poorly, so I can use that information to influence my future editing efforts.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by Jem Casey » Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:58 am

The lit was really, really awesome. Thanks to the padawans for their hard work and to John for crafting a fantastic final product.
Jordan Brownstein, University of Maryland '17, Plymouth Regional '13, New Hampshire

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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by no ice » Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:27 pm

I know the metric of "It's been used in high school tossups before" isn't exactly the best way to determine how well-known a work is, but I think that dropping the name of the main character of "A Report to an Academy" as the very first clue of the Kafka tossup would have made the power rate way too high. I would like to see what other works were used in the tossup, so could some post the tossup (from Round 1), please?
James Zhou
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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by kayli » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:36 pm

These social science questions were technically written under the purview of Seth, but I am interested as to how people reacted to the economics that was in the tournament. I wrote tossups on the substitution effect, rationality, and beta (and maybe others I am forgetting). Chris Ray noted that it was clear in the substitution effect tossup that it was either going to be substitution or income effect fairly early on, which I think is a fair criticism since most other effects would probably not be tossed up at this level. I am interested if others felt the same or had other concerns about my tossups. My general philosophy towards economics was to not write about the work of random really old or dead economists that no one cares about anymore (Ricardo, Malthus, Edgeworth, etc.) or Austrian hacks that no one takes seriously and focus more on important economic concepts.
Kay, Chicago.

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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:22 pm

To my recollection from reading the packets, the "beta" tossup gave you 15 points for knowing that your portfolio's volatility is zero when your risk is zero, which seems a tad generous to me. I'd also agree with Chris Ray's comment about the substitution effect tossup.

EDIT: As for your reference to my bonus about people not taking Austrian "hacks" seriously, I'd agree that The Road to Serfdom is not the most convincing book in the world and that credit-cycle economics and finger-pointing at central banks can't explain everything. However, unless people outside the "mainstream" of (frequently empirically incorrect) modern academia don't count as people, there are definitely real-world folks who base their financial choices on predictions they partly make using Austrian economic theory.

I would agree that questions on Malthus and Ricardo shouldn't be thought of economics as much as ones on political economy, but foundational texts that real people still read to gain historical understanding (and to write papers for classes) definitely have their place in the distribution. I do like the attempt to integration real-world financial and behavioral economics knowledge into questions, though, and was definitely a fan of your questions on the subject.
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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:49 am

no ice wrote:I know the metric of "It's been used in high school tossups before" isn't exactly the best way to determine how well-known a work is, but I think that dropping the name of the main character of "A Report to an Academy" as the very first clue of the Kafka tossup would have made the power rate way too high. I would like to see what other works were used in the tossup, so could some post the tossup (from Round 1), please?
Here is the tossup:
One character created by this author is nicknamed “Red Peter” because of a red gunshot wound on
his cheek, from when a hunting expedition fired on him. That character created by this author is
burned with a pipe by a sailor, every time he unsuccessfully tries to drink a bottle of schnapps.
Another of his characters is disappointed to discover that he no longer likes the taste of milk, when
he tries to eat a
(*) basin of bread and milk placed in his room. That character’s family moves away his
furniture to let him climb freely on the walls. A narrator of his explains how he overcame his ape nature and
learned human behavior in “A Report to an Academy”. For 10 points each, name this author who described
Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect in his story “The Metamorphosis”.
ANSWER: Franz Kafka
When I wrote this, I didn't realize that Red Peter had been reified as the protagonist's name. In the story itself, he refers to himself this way only once. Googling this, I see that you're right that several internet sources (including, embarrassingly, a tossup I wrote for a high school set 3 1/2 years ago!) treat this as the protagonists actual name, which I had totally forgotten about. Had I realized this, I certainly would not have dropped the name within power.

To your question as to whether this resulted in too many powers: I don't know. None of the playtesters buzzed on this clue, nor did any of the people in the room in which I moderated. But it's entirely possible that this was widely powered in other rooms and/or at other sites.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by Banana Stand » Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:04 pm

For the tossup on Husserl, our moderator read "Philosophical Investigations" and not "Logical Investigations" which led to the opposing team negging on Wittgenstein. I'm wondering if that was a writing error or a mod mistake.
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Re: 2014 PADAWAN JL's Categories

Post by Cody » Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:54 pm

Banana Stand wrote:For the tossup on Husserl, our moderator read "Philosophical Investigations" and not "Logical Investigations" which led to the opposing team negging on Wittgenstein. I'm wondering if that was a writing error or a mod mistake.
This was a mistake in the question; it was fixed after the 10/4 mirrors.
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