2016 MUT: Thanks and general discussion

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2016 MUT: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:48 am

This year's MUT was written by Mike Cheyne, Rob Carson, Shan Kothari, Akhil Garg, Sam Bailey, Carsten Gehring, Cody Voight, Ike Jose, me, and NOT Cory Haala. Special thanks to Cody for editing most of the science, to Carsten for his editorial efforts, to Rob for taking charge of finalizing the set, and to everyone who helped packetize and proofread (which is basically everyone).

I thought this was a cool set with some interesting takes on what a lower-regular-difficulty question can look like. General thoughts should go in this thread; more specific stuff about individual questions or errata should go in the other designated threads.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Chaac and Ayyy » Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:02 am

First let me thank everyone who worked on creating and editing this year's set, as well as everyone who hosted mirrors. We had a great time this year and are looking forward to next year's edition of MUT.
The only issue my team had was the amount of times "Russia" was used as an answerline. At the UPenn mirror there were three tossups about the country (one about general history, one about film from it, and one about musical works from/dedicated to it) as well as one tossup about works written in Russian. Was this trend intentional or just coincidence?
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:25 am

We operated on the commonly held principle that questions on different subject matters can have the same or similar answer lines, and made sure to separate questions like that into different packets. I think the merits of having questions on the literal same answer line, such as the film and music tossups on the Soviet Union/Russia, is something that people can reasonably debate; I tend to fall on the side that it's ok in moderation as long as the questions concern different subject matter and are not in the same packet. My belief is that the clues are what make tossups unique, not the answer lines, and there's no real reason to avoid asking about different subjects in a way that happens to use the same answer line (in moderation, of course). I believe Bruce Arthur once wrote a history tournament with three or four tossups on Portugal, all of which used entirely different clues, to illustrate this point in an extreme version.

I don't think you'll find many people who think that having a question on "Russia" and a question on "Russian" is an issue, and it'd be quite hard to write question sets if you had to avoid things like that.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Chaac and Ayyy » Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:26 pm

theMoMA wrote:We operated on the commonly held principle that questions on different subject matters can have the same or similar answer lines, and made sure to separate questions like that into different packets. I think the merits of having questions on the literal same answer line, such as the film and music tossups on the Soviet Union/Russia, is something that people can reasonably debate; I tend to fall on the side that it's ok in moderation as long as the questions concern different subject matter and are not in the same packet.
I can agree with that sentiment, and didn't mean to imply all the questions about Russia were poorly written. I guess by "issue" I meant our teams had not encountered something like this before at a tournament and it affected our play a bit due to second guessing ourselves. Tom Perrone said he definitely would have powered the film question except he knew that Russia had already come up as a history question and didn't expect Russia to come up again-even though the question topic/clues were totally different-and hesitated for a bit. I suppose it's something we'll have to get used to and prepare for in the future. Thanks for your explanation!
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Mar 21, 2016 3:56 pm

Yeah, I mean some of it is also the work of different people writing different categories who may not think necessarily to check on that sort of stuff as well (although I wrote a history and film Russia tossup, so what do I know).

I will say that the nice thing about using broad, easily repeatable answer lines across categories is that it allows you to open up the clue space more. The tossup on the Soviet Union's film allowed me to use a variety of clues, as did the tossup on "Russia during World War I," that weren't really available with tossups on more specific things.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:12 pm

I will repeat my call to have the pronoun show up in questions as early as possible. You do not want "Robert Ingersoll" to be the first two words in a tossup on James G. Blaine, or Z-pinch to show up before the pronoun referent.

Akhil Garg is great and should write more. Shan Kothari has...eccentric taste.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Mar 22, 2016 4:02 pm

This tournament was a blast to play, and was made even more so by what struck me as the editors' boldness and clear attempts to put inventive clues into questions or to look at things from a different angle. The most enjoyable bit about last year's MUT was its willingness to venture into this "exciting" territory of harder questions and this year's set took that to an even higher level. What's even better is that the teams seemed perfectly able to roll with this - I saw lots of strong buzzes from high school teams and new college teams on material that struck me as either extra-canonical or rather challenging. So, good job to the editors for putting together an exciting and accessible set, and thanks for making my last MUT a great experience.

The big issue with this tournament was its inconsistency, which I suspect may be a by-product of what made the set good. Questions in different categories seemed to have different standards of difficulty. Most of the arts and philosophy seemed like they were written for a regular-difficulty set, while the myth and history felt solidly regular-minus and the religion, social science, and literature seemed a bit all over the place. This is subjective - I'd definitely want to hear more from others about this - but I think the set as a whole could use refinement and smoothing-over so that the tournament could feel more consistent and coherent overall.

Like last year, the history (and religious history) questions chose strong clues about important historical events, but they took this to an extent that hurt how questions played out among teams of moderate to higher strength since several of them dropped very famous clues early on in the question. To name a few specific examples, the Mughal empire tossup talked about Din-e-lahi in the second sentence, the Cyrus tossup led in with the pretender Gaumata, the Mali tossup led in with the Catalan Atlas (which - checking Quinterest - has been a lead-in at least three times before, and is also real-world famous; it's not a worthless "stock" clue but it's a bit played out) and the Mecca tossup talked about the Quraysh and Muhammad's Night Journey very early on. There was also a weird overload on modern India, with an Indira Gandhi bonus and a tossup clued from the Indo-Pakistani wars. On the other hand, the U.S. history didn't really have this problem and brought in a bunch of fresh material that was fun to play on.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Mar 22, 2016 4:47 pm

I generally try to put the pronoun very early, although sometimes in order to make a better sentence, it doesn't happen. The Blaine tossup's lead-in was:
Robert Ingersoll gave a speech saying this man "threw his shining lance" against all traitors.


I guess I could have written it as "This man threw his shining lance against all traitors, according to a speech by Robert Ingersoll," but I found that a bit more awkward. I guess I'm not really sure who is going to be confused by a tossup that begins "Robert Ingersoll..." I guess if you have truly deep knowledge, you are waiting to see if the question is on agnosticism, Blaine, Plumed Knight, various other things, but it says pretty shortly "this man."

Will is probably right that the world history tended to skew easy in lead-ins. I didn't get a chance to playtest a lot of it, so I was writing from my own knowledge base here.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by not quite » Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:54 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:Akhil Garg is great and should write more.
Aww thanks, you made my day. Thanks should also go out to Najwa Watson who contributed questions under my name as well as Cody for editing our questions and making them better in ways that we couldn't have thought of on our own.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Fri Mar 25, 2016 2:47 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:Shan Kothari has...eccentric taste.
I have no clue what this refers to.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Inifinite Jest » Sun Mar 27, 2016 7:25 pm

Was it just me or was the bio in this tournament really heavily skewed towards ecology and evolutionary bio?
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Mar 27, 2016 7:26 pm

IMAGINE THAT
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Sun Mar 27, 2016 10:11 pm

Inifinite Jest wrote:Was it just me or was the bio in this tournament really heavily skewed towards ecology and evolutionary bio?
"Really heavily skewed" is an exaggeration, unless I suppose those questions were front-loaded in the packets. I count maybe two-and-a-half ecology/evolution tossups (decomposition, Darwin's finches, the half being "two") and three ecology/evolution bonuses (coexistence / Wilson / lizards, Haldane / Huxley / blue whales, fitness landscapes / epistasis / sex). I guess you could throw transposons / meiosis / maternal effects in there, but more people will have learned the material in that question from genetics classes than evolution classes. In any case, there's not that much ecology, and the slightly elevated amount of evolutionary biology is, I think, well-justified by the centrality of evolution to biology.

I don't expect this from you, Caleb, since I don't know you, but lest anyone think, "Well, Shan Kothari is writing this tournament, so of course there's a lot of ecology" -- note that a third of the questions mentioned above (Darwin's finches, Haldane bonus) were written by other people.

edit: clarifying which questions others wrote
Last edited by Muriel Axon on Sun Mar 27, 2016 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sun Mar 27, 2016 11:34 pm

Inifinite Jest wrote:Was it just me or was the bio in this tournament really heavily skewed towards ecology and evolutionary bio?
Yeah this is what I meant by eccentric taste. It was really noticeable.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:27 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Inifinite Jest wrote:Was it just me or was the bio in this tournament really heavily skewed towards ecology and evolutionary bio?
Yeah this is what I meant by eccentric taste. It was really noticeable.
I don't think Eric gives a fair assessment of Shan's contributions to this set.

Shan's tossups: stomata, telomeres, "two" (a tossup mainly on genetics and evolutionary biology), decomposition, epithelium, adipose tissue, Ebola virus.

Shan's bonuses (by broad theme): E.O. Wilson, transposons, golden rice, chemicals involved in molting, fitness landscapes, transcription factors, lactic acid, giant neurons

As mentioned, a few of the more ecology-based questions in the set were my or Rob's doing.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:28 pm

To the broader point, ecology, evolutionary biology, and organismal biology are three of the four major topics in biology, along with cellular and molecular biology. If you don't believe me, look no further than the irrefutable source that is Wikipedia. (To my mind, quizbowl also has a fifth topic of "human biology" that encompasses more medicine- and anatomy-based questions, and a sixth topic composed of "biologists" and "history of biology" that occupies the smallest niche in the distributional ecosystem.)

Ecology seems to get lumped together with aspects of evolutionary and organismal biology and disparaged as "eccentric" or otherwise heterodox by certain ultra-orthodox science players, Eric chief among them, who seem to prefer (and to create) sets that are much more focused on "human biology," biochemistry, and other aspects of cellular and molecular biology. It strikes me as odd that a set in which somewhere around a fifth of the total biology questions cover two of the four or five major topics in biology is somehow "eccentric," and presumably (and concomitantly), a set that reduces those areas to a few mentions is entirely within the main current.

I don't have the expert knowledge to assess and balance the relative merits of these broad topic areas, and I fully acknowledge that I have no authority to proclaim one vision of the biology subdistribution as "correct," but it does strike me as odd that a very narrow conception of the distribution is the mainstream one, while a conception that seeks to pay more than just lip service to all of the major topics in biology is "eccentric."
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Mar 28, 2016 4:43 pm

"Eccentric" strikes me as a somewhat pejorative term. It's fair to say that this set puts slightly more emphasis on these scientific topics than other sets, but I don't think that's really "off," any more so than you'll note that the history featured little military history.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Mar 29, 2016 12:20 am

The biology distribution I use when writing the category fully (i.e. not here) gives ecology, evolutionary biology, anatomy, and physiology a 25% share of the distribution. Often the latter two are covered in some manner in other subcategories. Having modified this distribution from one Susan Ferrari, I feel very confident that it is quite good.

Often, it seems that writers known for writing ecology and evo bio get "skewered" even when their sets contain an entirely appropriate amount of such questions. I think posters should try to be more fair to writers and realize that their vision of a category is not absolute.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by armitage » Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:48 am

I thought, taken individually, the bio questions in this set were great, and it looks like ecology took up a fair part of the distribution, but through the packets I played it definitely felt like there was (and maybe I'm completely off-base) an overabundance of anatomy / medicine with some cell bio flavor, and very little material touching on straight molecular bio, central dogma, and experimental/wet lab (were there any of these?), which I think you would normally see more of at this difficulty level.

I'm not really complaining; I enjoyed the set a lot and mostly thought the fresh subject matter, like "freezing" and "decomposition" (and Ebola :party: ), were a nice change of pace, but I have to join the chorus of people saying the subdistro felt off and maybe wouldn't be as enjoyable at higher difficulty.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Mar 29, 2016 3:00 am

Richard, that's certainly a fair read, and I assume that Eric meant something along those lines as well. If the distro was quirky, it's likely my fault; I wrote a non-trivial amount of the bio as we worked to finish up the set, and I wrote in the directions in which my competence skews (medicine, anatomy, basic genetics, plant bio, evolutionary/population bio, etc.). Had Akhil, Cody, or Shan written those questions, I'm guessing that they would have rounded out the distribution much more evenly.

I think it's definitely the case that the particular cast of characters we had writing the bio wrote a distribution that perhaps shied away from some of the really heavy biochem and laboratory bio that people have come to expect. I don't think it's the case that this is Shan's fault particularly, or that the set evinces some kind of Shan-based "eccentricity." (Perhaps I'm being overly territorial and this is too thin a distinction to slice.)
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Sat Apr 30, 2016 6:22 pm

This tournament was fun and good, and there was some fun history in there. One day there will be an ancient Greece toss-up where the city is not Thebes, but it is not this day :razz:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: the Mali tossup led in with the Catalan Atlas (which - checking Quinterest - has been a lead-in at least three times before, and is also real-world famous; it's not a worthless "stock" clue but it's a bit played out)
Agreed, this got buzzer-raced a lot at out site. I think people may have heard it too many times recently
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sat Apr 30, 2016 6:28 pm

AOL Email Address Haver wrote:This tournament was fun and good, and there was some fun history in there. One day there will be an ancient Greece toss-up where the city is not Thebes, but it is not this day :razz:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: the Mali tossup led in with the Catalan Atlas (which - checking Quinterest - has been a lead-in at least three times before, and is also real-world famous; it's not a worthless "stock" clue but it's a bit played out)
Agreed, this got buzzer-raced a lot at out site. I think people may have heard it too many times recently
So it's not just Dartmouth where IT'S ALWAYS THEBES is a thing?
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by The Abydos Helicopter » Sat Apr 30, 2016 7:17 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
AOL Email Address Haver wrote:This tournament was fun and good, and there was some fun history in there. One day there will be an ancient Greece toss-up where the city is not Thebes, but it is not this day :razz:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: the Mali tossup led in with the Catalan Atlas (which - checking Quinterest - has been a lead-in at least three times before, and is also real-world famous; it's not a worthless "stock" clue but it's a bit played out)
Agreed, this got buzzer-raced a lot at out site. I think people may have heard it too many times recently
So it's not just Dartmouth where IT'S ALWAYS THEBES is a thing?
It's not just Oxford?! :aaa:
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:27 pm

Are there not many tossups on Athens and Sparta?
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon May 02, 2016 12:09 am

theMoMA wrote:To the broader point, ecology, evolutionary biology, and organismal biology are three of the four major topics in biology, along with cellular and molecular biology. If you don't believe me, look no further than the irrefutable source that is Wikipedia. (To my mind, quizbowl also has a fifth topic of "human biology" that encompasses more medicine- and anatomy-based questions, and a sixth topic composed of "biologists" and "history of biology" that occupies the smallest niche in the distributional ecosystem.)

Ecology seems to get lumped together with aspects of evolutionary and organismal biology and disparaged as "eccentric" or otherwise heterodox by certain ultra-orthodox science players, Eric chief among them, who seem to prefer (and to create) sets that are much more focused on "human biology," biochemistry, and other aspects of cellular and molecular biology. It strikes me as odd that a set in which somewhere around a fifth of the total biology questions cover two of the four or five major topics in biology is somehow "eccentric," and presumably (and concomitantly), a set that reduces those areas to a few mentions is entirely within the main current.

I don't have the expert knowledge to assess and balance the relative merits of these broad topic areas, and I fully acknowledge that I have no authority to proclaim one vision of the biology subdistribution as "correct," but it does strike me as odd that a very narrow conception of the distribution is the mainstream one, while a conception that seeks to pay more than just lip service to all of the major topics in biology is "eccentric."
I would agree with you that it's wrong to say that the biology in this tournament biased too far in favor of any particular topic. However, the biology distribution was extremely problematic because it was heavily biased AGAINST molecular biology / biochemistry. In the first 12 packets (the packets that were played at the mirror I staffed), there was a grand total of ONE question from molecular biology / biochemistry, and it was classified as a chemistry tossup! (phospholipids). Simply put, taking classes in molecular biology / biochemistry did not get you points at this tournament. Whatever your views on what an ideal biology distribution should be, I think it's fairly uncontroversial to say that molecular bio should be at least 25% of the distro, and that 0% is a far cry from 25%.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon May 02, 2016 1:45 am

touchpack wrote:
theMoMA wrote:To the broader point, ecology, evolutionary biology, and organismal biology are three of the four major topics in biology, along with cellular and molecular biology. If you don't believe me, look no further than the irrefutable source that is Wikipedia. (To my mind, quizbowl also has a fifth topic of "human biology" that encompasses more medicine- and anatomy-based questions, and a sixth topic composed of "biologists" and "history of biology" that occupies the smallest niche in the distributional ecosystem.)

Ecology seems to get lumped together with aspects of evolutionary and organismal biology and disparaged as "eccentric" or otherwise heterodox by certain ultra-orthodox science players, Eric chief among them, who seem to prefer (and to create) sets that are much more focused on "human biology," biochemistry, and other aspects of cellular and molecular biology. It strikes me as odd that a set in which somewhere around a fifth of the total biology questions cover two of the four or five major topics in biology is somehow "eccentric," and presumably (and concomitantly), a set that reduces those areas to a few mentions is entirely within the main current.

I don't have the expert knowledge to assess and balance the relative merits of these broad topic areas, and I fully acknowledge that I have no authority to proclaim one vision of the biology subdistribution as "correct," but it does strike me as odd that a very narrow conception of the distribution is the mainstream one, while a conception that seeks to pay more than just lip service to all of the major topics in biology is "eccentric."
I would agree with you that it's wrong to say that the biology in this tournament biased too far in favor of any particular topic. However, the biology distribution was extremely problematic because it was heavily biased AGAINST molecular biology / biochemistry. In the first 12 packets (the packets that were played at the mirror I staffed), there was a grand total of ONE question from molecular biology / biochemistry, and it was classified as a chemistry tossup! (phospholipids). Simply put, taking classes in molecular biology / biochemistry did not get you points at this tournament. Whatever your views on what an ideal biology distribution should be, I think it's fairly uncontroversial to say that molecular bio should be at least 25% of the distro, and that 0% is a far cry from 25%.
I have taken a few molecular/cell bio/biochem courses as an undergrad, and the amount of tossups I got at this tournament thanks to them is less than or equal to the amount of bio tossups I got from the following activities: knowing what comes out of your mouth when you exhale because I was once in elementary school, reading a tossup on camels from a recent HSNCT, eating a slice of pizza (for those at home, this got me ZERO points)
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon May 02, 2016 1:58 am

touchpack wrote:I would agree with you that it's wrong to say that the biology in this tournament biased too far in favor of any particular topic. However, the biology distribution was extremely problematic because it was heavily biased AGAINST molecular biology / biochemistry. In the first 12 packets (the packets that were played at the mirror I staffed), there was a grand total of ONE question from molecular biology / biochemistry, and it was classified as a chemistry tossup! (phospholipids). Simply put, taking classes in molecular biology / biochemistry did not get you points at this tournament. Whatever your views on what an ideal biology distribution should be, I think it's fairly uncontroversial to say that molecular bio should be at least 25% of the distro, and that 0% is a far cry from 25%.
For the record, phospholipids was in the biology distro. (Also, there were a few molecular bio/biochem bonuses -- maybe the teams in your room just didn't get around to them?)

Also: Andrew, "camels" was in other science.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon May 02, 2016 2:18 am

Cheynem wrote:Are there not many tossups on Athens and Sparta?
Tossups on Thebes have, in my experienced, greatly outnumbered these. The rather more important city of Syracuse seems to get less coverage (or perhaps the same amount) as/than Thebes and Corinth doesn't seem to come up a lot these days (though a Quinterest search suggests that it used to a few years back). I suppose one can chalk this up to the tendency of quizbowl topics to self-replicate.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Ike » Mon May 02, 2016 4:32 am

Muriel Axon wrote:
touchpack wrote:I would agree with you that it's wrong to say that the biology in this tournament biased too far in favor of any particular topic. However, the biology distribution was extremely problematic because it was heavily biased AGAINST molecular biology / biochemistry. In the first 12 packets (the packets that were played at the mirror I staffed), there was a grand total of ONE question from molecular biology / biochemistry, and it was classified as a chemistry tossup! (phospholipids). Simply put, taking classes in molecular biology / biochemistry did not get you points at this tournament. Whatever your views on what an ideal biology distribution should be, I think it's fairly uncontroversial to say that molecular bio should be at least 25% of the distro, and that 0% is a far cry from 25%.
For the record, phospholipids was in the biology distro. (Also, there were a few molecular bio/biochem bonuses -- maybe the teams in your room just didn't get around to them?)

Also: Andrew, "camels" was in other science.
So I don't know what's up with Eric's personal attacks on Shan - I think Andrew, Rob, Shan and whoever else should definitely be defensive, but the biology distribution, at least to me, has major issues.

A lot of the problem with this tournament is that a lot of the hard clues aren't gettable by attending class, reading a textbook or "academic study." Andrew Wang was being flippant, but I agree with him. Also, the tournament's questions that were meant to be on realer topics were just poor: I feel Andrew Wang is actually pretty on point about how SIDS works - that tossup is really obvious.

A lot of clues were more "stamp collecting" instead of science - no one is going to have the degree of specialization to really actually care about camel antibodies in their work or class, you're more likely to encounter this kind of stuff from packets / popsicle sticks / Nature articles [The one syllabus that I could find that talks about camel antibodies is clearly a graduate level seminar, which is crazy given that this is an undergraduate tournament.] Obviously some amount of "intellectual" curiosity is OK - after all you did it in other categories (like Elena Ferrante / Knausgaard) but it felt to me that with the exception of ecology - which is a small enough subject that most players in QB have very rudimentary knowledge of "real ecology" it was virtually non-existent in the other biology as others have discussed.

Let me use another representative example that I know better than biology: astronomy. I thought the astronomy in this tournament was especially bad - the astro questions were about Schiaparelli and Maunder (history of astro) / clusters (stamp-collecting) / asteroids (history / current events of astro that has a middle school level leadin, and it somehow manages to have a leadin that is factually inaccurate!) and tidal - a poorly executed very obvious TU that is more physics. I think this tournament's astronomy distribution was way too small. But it looks and feels much, much, worse when the astronomy you have in the set is just very poorly executed and covers topics that if you were an undergraduate taking astronomy courses, you are probably not going to cover other than a historical curiosity. It's almost as if, to adapt a phrase from IKD, you "Ruth Benedicted the astronomy." (I assure you, Schiaparelli isn't examined with the same kind of scrutiny anthropologists examined Ruth Benedict!) If the biology is even half as bad as to what happened to the astronomy, then I can see why there have been a lot of posts about this.

It also shouldn't doubly surprise you when you count stuff like dinosaurs, camels, dimming, and "fingerprints" as "other science" it's going to anger the science players even more. In fact, that's what's wrong with the tournament's science: it just continuously cut corners to the point where the problems continued to swell - first you trim from areas that are already woefully under-represented to write on stuff like fingerprints (interesting topic, but no one knows about this from a science perspective except for maybe one person, it's more suited to GK / other academic.) Then in the actual science distribution, you wrote on more and more fringe topics and avoid key areas that people are likely to encounter from coursework. Then the real topics tended to be very poorly worded, have misplaced clues, factual inaccuracies, etc. All of this just kind of snowballed, and you have a set whose science that didn't turn out for the best.

Andrew, Rob, Shan, Cody, you've played enough tournaments over the years to have some reasonable understanding of what the science distribution should be. Even if you don't, you all have access to NAQT's distribution for biology which is a reasonable starting point. It shouldn't really surprise you then that when you write a tournament with a wonky distribution and poorly executed questions, people are going to flip out! - Look who has complained to some extent about science: Mr. Vague Eric Mukherjee, Richard Yu, Billy Busse, Andrew Wang, and now me! That's a lot of science complaints from five pretty prominent players, and all of this should suggest to you that you are doing something wrong! I really hope that the four of you at least, don't kneejerk react to all of this, and actually try to make next year's iteration of MUT, or whatever projects you work on, something better for the next time.

If you want a quick "How do I fix this" simple set of suggestions, I would recommend two things: 1.) For every tossup you want to write that's on a wonky topic like "camels," write another tossup on something relatively "standard" for the level, like "lysosomes" so that you can hit the classroom knowledge thing as well - I think you would have too many fringe topics anyway, but at least it would be more in line. and 2.) get someone who is actually confident on their ability to edit stuff: Shan, I know you know ecology well. But do you know biochemistry well? - I actually don't intend that to be a rhetorical question, but if not, there's no shame in saying that you dont, and having someone else help you out on it. Cody, I know at some point you have complained about writing astronomy - but there is nothing wrong with finding someone to help you out on that, as well.

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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon May 02, 2016 10:26 am

I hardly understand these complaints about the astronomy distribution. Are you seriously suggesting that clusters / Virgo cluster / Milky Way + Andromeda galaxies is "stamp-collecting science" as opposed to something people would learn in class?? I can also assure you that I pulled the "tidal" tossup directly from an astronomy syllabus and textbook and it's not nearly as "physics" based as you seem to think (also, part of writing astronomy is writing astrophysics!) (and I dispute that it is as poorly executed as you say -- this is a regular minus tournament!).

Obviously, since I wrote them, I likewise see no problem with the asteroids tossup (though if it was empirically too easy, I erred; as far as I am aware, the lead-in is perfectly accurate) or the Martian canals bonus. The asteroid tossup mixed in both "things you would learn in an astronomy class" and "thing that are very important to modern astronomy". The Martian canals bonus is, indeed, meant to be a bonus that rewards historical curiosity.

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of writing astronomy, but I dispute that that means I need help with the category. At lower levels (including MUT, though that's something of an upper bound on "lower level"), I hold the opinion that the distinction between "astronomy as learned in the classroom" and "astronomy as NASA/news" is not nearly as clearly defined as it is at a tournament like VCU Open (which has a much more limited audience and is expecting something very different from the astronomy distribution). So, no you won't see me writing the same kinds of questions for both tournaments, but I hardly think that's a bad thing.

(addendum: Nature articles are not "stamp-collecting science"!!)

edit: also, though I was not involved in the method of dividing up the "Other Science" distribution, I see no problem with the tact that was taken.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon May 02, 2016 10:41 am

Ike: We already agreed upstream (and I guess more explicitly, in a private conversation between me and Eric) that there was a lack of molecular bio/biochem and apologized, so I figured that was that and was kind of annoyed to see even more people piling on with the same complaint. That said, with respect to my biology questions in particular, I think it's basically false that they're insufficiently core to biology -- rather, the problem is what Richard said, which is just that there wasn't enough molecular bio/biochem. This was more a problem of coordination that anything else -- I wrote the first half-or-so of the biology questions assuming that more of that material would be filled in later, but it wasn't, for reasons that aren't really important to dissect here. We should have taken more care, but I'm not sure I see the use in belaboring that point.

So, I agree with you on that limited front. That said, like Cody, I'm not understanding your criticism of the other-other-science distribution -- this is marked separately from math, CS, earth science, and astro, as you know since you have QEMS2 access to the set. What else do you want to see in here?
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon May 02, 2016 11:39 am

I didn't write any of the science.

I feel like science is basically the one part of the distro where "back to the classroom" is the most entrenched, and I get why, but I also think some comparisons to other parts of the distro are probably instructive. As a historian, by far most of my buzzes come from stuff I've read outside of class, including the history equivalent of Nature articles (I read a book or a Smithsonian article on the subject). Similarly, I've never taken an undergraduate film class in my life; i mostly learned stuff by reading books about film. I recognize the frustrations by science players and I think Ike has a good point about where the frustration is coming from, but I also think such players are being rather dismissive about non-classroom ways to write and learn things.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Sam » Mon May 02, 2016 11:55 am

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Cheynem wrote:Are there not many tossups on Athens and Sparta?
Tossups on Thebes have, in my experienced, greatly outnumbered these. The rather more important city of Syracuse seems to get less coverage (or perhaps the same amount) as/than Thebes and Corinth doesn't seem to come up a lot these days (though a Quinterest search suggests that it used to a few years back). I suppose one can chalk this up to the tendency of quizbowl topics to self-replicate.
I would be more inclined to chalk this up to there being, in an absolute sense, not many questions on any of these cities (or any given answer line, really), and so it's easy to find patterns that may not actually exist. (That being said, it does look like there were tossups at MUT specifically on Thebes in 2014 and 2015.)
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon May 02, 2016 12:02 pm

The 2015 tossup on Thebes was actually a myth tossup for what it's worth. I wrote the 2014 and 2016 tossups and they at least don't reuse too many clues? I'm pretty sure my reasoning for writing on it both years was "ah, a break from all those Athens and Sparta tossups."
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Sam » Mon May 02, 2016 12:12 pm

Cheynem wrote:The 2015 tossup on Thebes was actually a myth tossup for what it's worth. I wrote the 2014 and 2016 tossups and they at least don't reuse too many clues? I'm pretty sure my reasoning for writing on it both years was "ah, a break from all those Athens and Sparta tossups."
Yeah I don't think it's actually a problem, sorry if I implied it was.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon May 02, 2016 2:16 pm

Cheynem wrote:I didn't write any of the science.

I feel like science is basically the one part of the distro where "back to the classroom" is the most entrenched, and I get why, but I also think some comparisons to other parts of the distro are probably instructive. As a historian, by far most of my buzzes come from stuff I've read outside of class, including the history equivalent of Nature articles (I read a book or a Smithsonian article on the subject). Similarly, I've never taken an undergraduate film class in my life; i mostly learned stuff by reading books about film. I recognize the frustrations by science players and I think Ike has a good point about where the frustration is coming from, but I also think such players are being rather dismissive about non-classroom ways to write and learn things.
Similarly with me on history, but I'm sympathetic to the scientists here for a different reason: When you create a question, you have to have a "reasonable suspicion" that there may be several levels of knowledge about a subject present and that these can be distinguished in a meaningful way. You can do this with "in-class" clues and "out-of-class" clues, but if nobody knows your clues then it doesn't even matter! Speaking as someone whose knowledge of "other science" is mostly from outside of the classroom (aside from math), I actually do think people have enough knowledge of camels to make a reasonable gradation there, and enough people have been to natural history museums that a dinosaur bonus is fine (though a tossup is iffy, especially if it's on a particular species) but I too have severe doubts about the rest of the questions Ike mentioned.

I think the reason the "back to the classroom" approach is good for science is because, for the most part, the stuff people know about science is what they've learned in a science classroom - or at least, this is almost certainly true for the actual population of people who play tournaments like the Minnesota Undergraduate Tournament. Writing history questions this way won't necessarily be the case, in no small part because you'd end up ignoring things that get (often wrongly) de-emphasized in contemporary classrooms like military and political history which are actually important and which you will actually learn from reading history books.

EDIT: As for Thebes, in addition to several myth tossups, I think I've played four military history tossups with the answer "Thebes" in the past four years - at ACF Regionals 2013, MUT 2014, Penn Bowl 2015, and this year's MUT. There was also a tossup on the Sacred Band at VCU Open 2014 (EDIT 2: and a tossup on Leuctra at College History Bowl 2014).
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Mon May 02, 2016 2:31 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon May 02, 2016 2:20 pm

A lot of this frustration comes from the fact that the responses from the editors with respect to this criticism have been largely flippant, dismissive, or mischaracterizations of the core argument. Sorry Mike, but your last post misses the entire point--the issue is not that tossups on fringe / "non-classroom" topics are intrinsically bad (for example, I thought the bacterial endospores tossup was a cool and interesting idea). The issue is rather that the amount of "classroom" topics with regards to biology was essentially zero. As to Shan, how am I supposed to know that you privately apologized to Eric, and how is that possibly relevant to the current discussion? I guess I kinda sympathize it's annoying to receive the same criticism repeatedly, but I sympathize much more with Andrew, who had a particularly frustrating experience on this tournament's science. (I moderated for a round where Andrew would have gotten 0 science tossups against a team that knows much less science than he does--he got 1 because I was moderating and gave him a well-deserved prompt because the 2nd clue of the ligands tossup doesn't exclude a correct answer of "coordination complexes")
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon May 02, 2016 2:26 pm

I was not attempting to be flippant or dismissive; not having written any of these questions, I have no idea if they are quality or not. My point was that it could very well be true when Andrew W says "classroom stuff earned him almost no points when it came to biology in this tournament." My reaction was "Well, there are whole tournaments where classroom stuff gets me almost no points when it comes to history." I did not mean to suggest that these questions were good and that you guys were off base; I was trying to figure out why Andrew's reaction is inherently problematic. Will offered a decent suggestion as to why it is different in science as opposed to other categories.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon May 02, 2016 2:35 pm

To be clear, I was addressing claims about the evolutionary biology and ecology at the tournament in my post; I wasn't addressing the lack of molecular bio, which does appear to be the case, because it hadn't been brought up yet. Although I dispute the notion that there was too much evolutionary bio/ecology, I agree that we didn't write enough molecular biology, and I apologize that the bio I ended up writing contributed to that gap.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Ike » Mon May 02, 2016 3:03 pm

Sorry I'm on a phone so this may be shorter than intended. My criticism of the other other distribution was that it was more general knowledge, and often times inappropriately hard (dimming, eg). It's also the case that I felt a lot of stuff not in the other other category should have belonged in the other other category - like science history can definitely go here!

Cody - your leadin to the asteroid tossup makes the incredibly dubious claim that ceres is not an asteroid. I can't seem to find anything that says that, but I have definitely found a lot of reliable material claiming that it most certainly is still an asteroid and a dearf planet. At worst it's a factual inaccuracy, but at best it's an incredibly misleading tossup. I would be inclined to throw that tu out if I had to rule on a protest about it.

Look I don't dispute that you can write a bonus on stuff like galactic clusters that isn't stamp collecting, but the bonus was pretty much name these large things - nothing about their principles. There's no reason why you can't write a bonus that mixes both. Similarly I think there would be fewer complaints if you mixed in some molecular biology into ecology, but this tournament just seemed to focus on very bizarre topics at times.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon May 02, 2016 3:16 pm

Ike wrote:Cody - your leadin to the asteroid tossup makes the incredibly dubious claim that ceres is not an asteroid. I can't seem to find anything that says that, but I have definitely found a lot of reliable material claiming that it most certainly is still an asteroid and a dearf planet. At worst it's a factual inaccuracy, but at best it's an incredibly misleading tossup. I would be inclined to throw that tu out if I had to rule on a protest about it.
But Ceres isn't an asteroid -- it's been reclassified as a dwarf planet (much like Phobos and Deimos are no longer asteroids -- they are moons of Mars). As far as I'm aware, it would be more misleading (both in a quizbowl and non-quizbowl context) to call Ceres an asteroid. (for an example, see this cached NASA page, since the live page isn't working; or "Ceres was the largest known asteroid in the asteroid belt until 2006. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union formed a new class of solar system objects known as dwarf planets. By definition a dwarf planet is spherical and travels in an orbit around the Sun. Ceres fit the definition perfectly.").

I would be hard pressed to devise a protest where that lead-in would result in the tossup being thrown out.
Ike wrote:Look I don't dispute that you can write a bonus on stuff like galactic clusters that isn't stamp collecting, but the bonus was pretty much name these large things - nothing about their principles. There's no reason why you can't write a bonus that mixes both.
I don't disagree but that bonus needed to differentiate between a number of somewhat similar terms (groups, clusters, superclusters) and also not have a bunch of 3 line parts (given that length was my biggest problem with this tournament, I'd say that's a good thing!). I think it did a pretty good job of including important things that I would expect players to know (like the Coma cluster and the Abell catalog), even if it didn't explicitly say why they were important.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Ike » Mon May 02, 2016 3:38 pm

I can't find anything that says ceres is not an asteroid. In fact you can be both according to many reliable sources! And come on dude, even if what im saying is not true, this tossup plays poorly for people who aren't hyperaware of this pedantry, I would just change the wording to be something akin to "Dawn first went to one of these."
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cody » Mon May 02, 2016 4:03 pm

Ike wrote:I can't find anything that says ceres is not an asteroid. In fact you can be both according to many reliable sources! And come on dude, even if what im saying is not true, this tossup plays poorly for people who aren't hyperaware of this pedantry, I would just change the wording to be something akin to "Dawn first went to one of these."
I am seriously confused by this -- I don't think this is pedantry at all, I do think it's fairly obvious, and I don't think it's confusing if you know the clue. It's not like people are going around referring to Ceres as an asteroid now-a-days -- they're calling it a dwarf planet, because that's what it is. Given that asteroid is not a strictly defined term, sure, there may be sources that have decided that a dwarf planet can be an asteroid as well, but there are also numerous sources that say the opposite! It's not my bailiwick to resolve this academic dispute: I wrote the lead-in to be clear to everyone that Dawn is currently visiting something but that something is not what I am looking for -- this way, no one gets negged for saying "dwarf planet". Now, if you actually know that Dawn visited Vesta first, you know that Vesta is an asteroid and you get points. So, on the one hand, I don't have people negging w/ dwarf planets and on the other, people who know about Dawn still get points -- I don't understand how this is confusing for players.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon May 02, 2016 4:41 pm

My issue isn't inherently that "I took undergrad classes, I am entitled to get tossup points" but more along the lines of that the curricular science approach strikes me as the most appropriate for a tournament along the lines of MUT. I think Will makes a pretty good point since in a STEM undergrad curriculum, there's a pretty set standard of knowledge you'd expect someone to get from their coursework/related labwork, and a lot of the stuff beyond that can get pretty esoteric (both in deeper courses, and undergrad research). I could be wrong here, but I think this kind of material would generate a better pyramid of buzzes for random undergrads than tossups on specifics of ebola, or bacterial spores, which while interesting, strike me as having early material that people aren't really likely to know (unless you've spent as much time doing research on ebola as richard yu has)
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon May 02, 2016 4:59 pm

Cody wrote:Now, if you actually know that Dawn visited Vesta first, you know that Vesta is an asteroid and you get points. So, on the one hand, I don't have people negging w/ dwarf planets and on the other, people who know about Dawn still get points -- I don't understand how this is confusing for players.
because if you also still consider Ceres an asteroid (perhaps you were mysteriously born before 2006 and learned of it as one) then the first half of the sentence eliminates the answer you're looking for
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon May 02, 2016 5:32 pm

There seem to be a few distinct arguments here regarding the biology: (1) That there's too much ecology/evolution in the set; (2) that there's not enough molecular biology/biochemistry in the set; (3) that the biology in the set is not core/curricular enough. Andrew H and I already copped to (2) long ago in this thread. If there's another MUT next year, I'm sure we can take care of that, and I apologize to the biochem/molecular folks for whatever frustration you experienced.

I think (1) is basically misguided -- I explained this before hand -- and the perception might be because there's a broad tendency to lump a lot more questions into ecology/evolution than ecologists and evolutionary biologists would. Was the question on stomata an ecology question? By any reasonable definition, no, but people who don't think about them a lot might hear it as such.

I can only really address (3) based on my questions, since I don't really know where Rob/Andrew H learned the material in their questions, and I know nothing about (for example) bacterial spores or the particular clues used in the "vagina" TU. I think Andrew W has a point with questions like "Ebola" (which was one of mine) -- I like writing "science current events" type material but that question was perhaps not a great idea, and certainly not curricular. But taking a look at other questions I wrote, they're nearly all things I learned in my undergrad classes! Even isolating the ones dubbed ecology/evolution (which, aside from Ebola, are most likely to be labeled "stamp collecting") -- "decomposition" and "coexistence" are about as core to ecology as you can get and were written straight from textbooks, the bonus on crop engineering would be easily 30d by any of the undergrads in the several crop science majors in MSU or UMN, telomeres and transposons / meiosis / maternal effects were from my genetics class, one or two others from my evolution class, and so on.

If someone wants, I can post all the bio answer-lines for people to dissect, though that seems like overkill to me.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Mon May 02, 2016 6:12 pm

Muriel Axon wrote:There seem to be a few distinct arguments here regarding the biology: (1) That there's too much ecology/evolution in the set; (2) that there's not enough molecular biology/biochemistry in the set; (3) that the biology in the set is not core/curricular enough. Andrew H and I already copped to (2) long ago in this thread. If there's another MUT next year, I'm sure we can take care of that, and I apologize to the biochem/molecular folks for whatever frustration you experienced.

I think (1) is basically misguided -- I explained this before hand -- and the perception might be because there's a broad tendency to lump a lot more questions into ecology/evolution than ecologists and evolutionary biologists would. Was the question on stomata an ecology question? By any reasonable definition, no, but people who don't think about them a lot might hear it as such.

I can only really address (3) based on my questions, since I don't really know where Rob/Andrew H learned the material in their questions, and I know nothing about (for example) bacterial spores or the particular clues used in the "vagina" TU. I think Andrew W has a point with questions like "Ebola" (which was one of mine) -- I like writing "science current events" type material but that question was perhaps not a great idea, and certainly not curricular. But taking a look at other questions I wrote, they're nearly all things I learned in my undergrad classes! Even isolating the ones dubbed ecology/evolution (which, aside from Ebola, are most likely to be labeled "stamp collecting") -- "decomposition" and "coexistence" are about as core to ecology as you can get and were written straight from textbooks, the bonus on crop engineering would be easily 30d by any of the undergrads in the several crop science majors in MSU or UMN, telomeres and transposons / meiosis / maternal effects were from my genetics class, one or two others from my evolution class, and so on.

If someone wants, I can post all the bio answer-lines for people to dissect, though that seems like overkill to me.
As to point 1, this is probably skewed by the lack of MCB and my view of the set is definitely also skewed by the presence of tus on things like bacterial spores, the "do you understand how your breath works tossup?", the tu on freezing that Auroni commented on, and that tossup on camels (in the same packet as freezing ?!?)

As for the curricular post that was more in response to Mike's point about my comment from earlier (and I should have made it more evident that that was the case). I thought that the genetics was excellent as were the two histology based questions.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon May 02, 2016 7:00 pm

As was already posted, the tossup on camels was in other science. I'm fully okay with having some zoology in a tournament, especially a low-difficulty one where drawing in some not-strictly-"in class" knowledge can help increase conversion.
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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Mon May 16, 2016 6:53 pm

I realize most of you are finished with this discussion, but we just ran the tournament at Valencia on Saturday, May 14. As always, the questions were well written and interesting and ended in answer lines well in the wheelhouse of the median and above teams, 11 of 16 of which were CC teams. But I have a couple comments/questions:

First, the majority of toss-ups seem pretty long for an undergrad tournament. Now I want to preface this by stating I fully understand that our field is weaker than those at most other sites, and some length and clue density is needed to differentiate top teams elsewhere. But heck, even CO has a "soft cap" of eight lines; a quick skim of packet one toss-ups shows that about half are nine lines, and half are eight lines. I personally don't think an undergrad tournament TU on Tanizaki really needs nine lines, but maybe in a match between Yale and Princeton it does? FWIW, while reading for two of the sub-median teams, I would often read the first line (always the first line), and if in an instant I could see where to cut forward by skipping a sentence, I would.

Second, what the what with this Bill Clinton supposedly "reciting" the Benjy section of The Sound and the Fury at some meeting? Surely this is some type of hyperbolic joke I'm not getting?

As always, we enjoyed mirroring the set, as we have since its inception, and we look forward to doing so again.
Chris Borglum
Valencia College Grand Poobah

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Re: Thanks and general discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon May 16, 2016 6:58 pm

Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

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