PB 2016: General Discussion

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PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Hobbie Klivian » Sun Oct 23, 2016 3:33 pm

This thread is for general discussion related to Penn Bowl 2016.

First of all, I would like to thank all the writers involved in this project: Jaimie Carlson, JinAh Kim, Sarita Jamil, Lam Tran, Paul Lee, Max Smiley, Claudia Epley, Faheem Pahlwan, Paul Kasinski, Samantha Claypoole, Aayush Rajasekaran, Ben Cushing, and Ankit Aggarwal. The editors, without whom this project would not have been possible, were Eric Mukherjee, Ike Jose, Will Alston, Patrick Liao, Chris Chiego.

Jinah Kim and Jaimie Carlson wrote most of the literature. Sciences were written and edited by Eric Mukherjee with contributions to physics from Lam Tran. Other science was written by Jaimie, Sarita, and Lam and edited by Ike. History was a collaborative effort from many writers and was edited by Will Alston, Patrick Liao, and Chris Chiego. I wrote most of the music with contribution and edits from Faheem and Will; Jaimie and Faheem wrote painting, and Jaimie and Jinah wrote the other fine arts under Ike's direction. Religion was mostly written and edited by Will Alston; Jaimie and Jinah wrote mythology with edits from Ike; Jinah wrote most of the philosophy. Finally, Jaimie, Jinah, and Ankit wrote Social Studies with help from Will. Chris Chiego also edited and contributed CE/Geo questions.

For those who played this set during the first rounds of mirrors (10/22) I would like to apologize for the errors found in the set or anything else in the set that would have been fixed through proper edits. We will be working throughout the week to ensure that the next round of mirrors (10/29) will have a polished set.

Feel free to discuss how you felt about the tournament and the set.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by RexSueciae » Sun Oct 23, 2016 4:19 pm

Three main points:

- difficulty on both tossups and bonuses fluctuated considerably, especially across categories (literature drove hard to the obscure on occasion, history to a lesser extent with answerlines like "Air America," other things that would've been helped considerably by a competent head editor enforcing consistency throughout the set)
- what seemed to be a lack of basic proofreading, understandable given that this set was allegedly bailed out at the last minute
- feng shui issues like having three history tossups in a row, or a tossup on Green followed by a tossup on Greene, or two U.S. states in a round, or...you know the sort of things I mean (probably the least serious thing to be worried about, focus on the other two problems first)
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Bloodwych » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:05 pm

I am upset that I only got to play 9 rounds of this set, because I thought it was good despite being written/edited/compiled at the last moment and filled with grammar issues (although the readers at our site did a great job of mitigating a lot of that). The set was actually the zenith of my Penn Bowl experience. However, a few things really stuck out to me.

The lack of alternate answerlines or weird answerline quirks for a lot of the questions in the set. This is definitely a product of being hastily put together, and on more than one occasion I gave an answer that was acceptable and wasn't listed. Chris Chiego is a Google wizard, though, so I was spared giving an incorrect answer more often than I already did. As an example, a team I was facing gave the answer "Dvorak's 9th" and was prompted for "New World Symphony," which should ideally never happen.

There was a noticeable difficulty difference across the distribution of the set, which is a problem that tends to happen when you have no clear head editor for a set and certain people are left to edit their own parts of the distribution. By this, I mean that certain categories stuck out as being a lot harder than other ones.

The literature in the set was harder than a lot of the other content by a wide margin. I am generally a fan of hard things, but answerlines like Invisible Cities and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (it sure made Jordan sad) should not appear in a regular difficulty set with any frequency. I mentioned to Eric afterwards that Invisible Cities was a tossup in ACF Nationals 2013, and now look where we are. It is fine to have a few things like that in a set, but this set kind of beat you over the head with it. I also heard (I do not know if this is true) that some of the literature was written during the summer and some things that were originally written for CO had been recycled and put in the set. This seems unsurprising given that the set had issues being completed, but nonetheless also not ideal.

I don't really feel qualified to comment on the science, but the biology for the set also seemed harder than ideal. I was comparing it to the chemistry as I played because those two go together in my head for whatever reason, and in most instances the biology tossups and bonuses seemed more difficult. Maybe I just know more chemistry. I don't know anything about physics. I won't nitpick because I'm not a scientist and I understand that the editor of these categories was extraordinarily busy with other way more important things.

The packetizing was not very good. This is also an understandable issue given the circumstances of its completion. You should seriously copyedit and proofread the set before next week.
Last edited by Bloodwych on Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Hobbie Klivian » Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:03 pm

Bloodwych wrote:As an example, a team I was facing gave the answer "Dvorak's 9th" and was prompted for "New World Symphony," which should ideally never happen.
I am sorry to hear that happened; I just checked, and Dvorak's 9th was included an alternate answer (as a matter of fact, just Dvorak would have been acceptable as the bonus was on ninth symphonies). That must have been an error on the moderator's part.
Bloodwych wrote:This is also an understandable issue given the circumstances of its completion.
Before any more rumors go around, I would like to make it clear that this set was largely completed at the start of the tournament. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, a handful of science questions were unwritten at the start of the tournament; this caused a slight delay and complications in packetizing some of the packets. This is still less than ideal, of course, and our failure to catch simple errors such as grammar, clue repetition, etc. (things that could have been caught through copy-edits and play testing) is still inexcusable. That being said, any logistics hiccups barring Eric not being able to read in the earlier rounds should be blamed towards me, the TD, and I sincerely apologize for those who were dissatisfied with the way that the main site was run.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Banana Stand » Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:38 pm

HotSoup wrote:Before any more rumors go around, I would like to make it clear that this set was largely completed at the start of the tournament.

It's not really acceptable for it to be "largely completed" on the day of the tournament, but disregarding that, isn't it just straight-up fact that this wasn't even near completion at the start of the tournament? Unless you don't count editing as part of finishing a tournament, of course. Based on Will's post and my own experience playing the set, there is just no way this set was fully edited, and that has way more to do with wildly inconsistent difficulty across and within categories than with some spelling or grammar mistakes. The set definitely wasn't terrible and I enjoyed a lot of it, but that's probably very fortunate given the circumstances of its completion. I also don't want to totally discredit the work of the people who worked hard writing questions, especially newer writers, but this is exactly why a set needs editors and not whatever this set had.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Red Panda Cub » Mon Oct 24, 2016 3:49 am

Banana Stand wrote:
HotSoup wrote:Before any more rumors go around, I would like to make it clear that this set was largely completed at the start of the tournament.

It's not really acceptable for it to be "largely completed" on the day of the tournament, but disregarding that, isn't it just straight-up fact that this wasn't even near completion at the start of the tournament? Unless you don't count editing as part of finishing a tournament, of course.
Let's look closer at the claim Paul is making. will said he stayed up until 5.30EST with someone writing and then that at 7.30EST there were still questions needing replacement. The claim that those times are both prior to the start of the Penn site are true, but that doesn't in itself mean the set was finished by the time of the first actual mirror of this tournament. Cambridge only got sent any packets at 9.45ish, i.e. about 15 mins before an already late start time. And on top of that they didn't actually receive the full set, but only the first five packets. The rest of the set continued to be sent to the TD piecemeal while our site, the first actual site of this tournament, was already running, which is not ideal.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:43 am

This was not at all a bad tournament. There were good questions in every area of the distro I pay attention to; in particular, the visual arts seemed consistently well-clued, the philosophy was exciting and rewarding (if too hard and skewed towards modern stuff), and lots of lit tossups had early clues that were fresh but buzzable.

I would, however, like to complain about what I thought was the tournament's most persistent and frustrating issue: literature bonus hard parts. When evaluating a possible clue or answer, its really important to consider, among other things, (1) how and why a player might have interacted with this material, and (2) whether, having read (about) it at an appropriate depth, they would be likely to remember the detail you're asking about. Asking yourself these questions as you write is a good way to remind yourself that a book is not necessarily notable by virtue of having a famous author, nor is a plot detail necessarily gettable by virtue of appearing in a famous book. Unfortunately, it seemed that far too many of the lit hard parts did not pass these tests. To choose a few examples:

Victor Hugo's Last Day of a Condemned Man: when (1) is applied to this book, its not immediately obvious why its worth asking about at all. A look at Amazon.com, where its basically out-of-print and has a sales rank in the 2 millions, doesn't suggest many people are reading it; Jstor, Google, and Google Books/Scholar hits (or the lack thereof) don't suggest that critics or readers are writing about it much; and opensyllabusproject doesn't suggest that its being assigned in many classes. So who's going to know about this book, and why? Maybe someone who just loves everything Victor Hugo, but more likely someone who's learned all the Hugo titles for bonus parts like this one. I think its worth examining other bonus parts on obscure works by famous authors, such as Scott-King's Modern Europe and Knight's Gambit, on similar criteria.

Phyllis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral: this also fails (1), but for different reasons. People certainly read Wheatley's poetry but, as far I know, usually encounter it in anthologies, class handouts, and poetry websites. So how and why would someone know the name of this collection? They might enjoy reading public domain poetry on their Kindle, or they might have researched Wheatley's life. But I think its far more likely that someone who has memorized the title because its mentioned early on her Wikipedia page and gets dropped in tossups is getting 30 points here.

Secondary characters, e.g. Dermot Trellis from At Swim-Two-Birds, Plinio from The Glass Bead Game, and some dude from Waiting for Lefty: I have read or reread all three of these things in the last year, but failed to pull any of these names. I'll admit that names are one of the first things to go for me after finishing a book, but it seems that carefully reading an upper-level canon book in the last year is a depth of engagement worthy of 30 points on a regular-difficulty bonus about that book. So while these works are widely-read enough to pass (1), I'm not convinced that these bonus parts pass (2). For core-canon books that many high school students and/or English majors have read and written papers on, using secondary characters as hard parts at regular-difficulty might be a good way to differentiate levels of engagement. But these books are not core-canon, and the person getting points here is likely the person with a "Plinio Designori -> Glass Bead Game" flashcard.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with giving people points for flashcarding lit things, but penalizing players for not doing so is probably bad. There's nothing wrong with occasional bonus parts that reward "literature history" knowledge or biographical interest in important writers, but keep in mind that you're much more likely to reward people for list studying. If you're excited about a book that hasn't made it into the literary canon, there's nothing wrong with finding a way to clue it, but make the clue exciting and integrate it with more gettable stuff.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:52 am

Yeah I agree with Jordan's assessment about how this wasn't a bad tournament, and now that I know the thing about the Canadian writers I'm more sympathetic. The older I get, the more I dislike how shrill everybody gets in person over tournaments that aren't perfect. Penn produced a set, it had pyramidal questions, the majority of them were just fine, some of them were kind of stupid, some of the logistics of the tournament were bad (but it still also got out at about the time that normal college quizbowl tournaments get out), and everybody I played against yelling about how this tournament made them hate quizbowl was being over the top. There's a way to insist on a better product while still recognizing this isn't Chip Beall and behaving accordingly, and it makes quizbowl a lot less fun when going to tournaments is just endless whining from other people.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:44 am

I might have a little to post later, but obviously this tournament had some issues on copy editing which must and I'm sure are being addressed. On the plus side, and this is from a reader's perspective, I thought the music tossups were really good. They seemed to tone down some of the score-heaviness of late. That's just my first impression, but I thought they were solid.

Seems to me that some of the common link questions could be tightened up to make it more clear what the question wanted as an answer line. An example of this would be a tossup on Sturm und Drang which seemed to, from my vantage, go from asking about a genre to asking about a specific work and then a specific author and back to genre again. Might be worth looking over the common links again to see if there are ways questions like that could be clarified a little more.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Edmund » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:19 pm

Jem Casey wrote:Victor Hugo's Last Day of a Condemned Man ... So who's going to know about this book, and why?
People who know that, among his other social concerns, Hugo came to vehemently oppose capital punishment, and this is the main fictional text in which he communicated these views?

Your argument is that players won't have come across this book, and I guess that may be fair on the assumption it's nothing like as prominent in French literature syllabuses at US universities as it is for French literature in France, where you'd find it on plenty of high school curricula. But among the others this seems an odd choice of target for a work to accuse of being famous only because its author is famous.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:52 pm

Edmund wrote:
Jem Casey wrote:Victor Hugo's Last Day of a Condemned Man ... So who's going to know about this book, and why?
People who know that, among his other social concerns, Hugo came to vehemently oppose capital punishment, and this is the main fictional text in which he communicated these views?

Your argument is that players won't have come across this book, and I guess that may be fair on the assumption it's nothing like as prominent in French literature syllabuses at US universities as it is for French literature in France, where you'd find it on plenty of high school curricula. But among the others this seems an odd choice of target for a work to accuse of being famous only because its author is famous.
Since, as far as I can tell, Hugo's opposition to capital punishment has no particular historical or literary significance beyond being an opinion held by famous author Victor Hugo, I think the point that people are going to get this bonus part if they 1) have a deep interest in Hugo's corpus and life, (unlikely) or 2) have learned all the Hugo titles for quizbowl (likely) still stands. I agree, though, that Last Day might not be as striking an example of an obscure work of famous author as, say, Scott-King's Modern Europe.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:09 pm

"Hugo's influence was credited in the removal of the death penalty from the constitutions of Geneva, Portugal and Colombia."
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Ike » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:21 pm

One of my least favorite trends in quizbowl discussion is trying to dig on the specifics of an overall point, especially when the conclusion is valid! By which I mean, I think Jordan has a very good argument about this tournament's literature, and that he chose some examples that I disagree with, but we shouldn't get bogged down in discussion about a poorly-chosen example. For example I would be OK with parts on ~Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral~ and ~The Last Day of a Condemned Man~, but I think Jordan has a good case, and most of his examples are illustrative. (ZOMG, I've read Waiting for Lefty twice too and I would not get that part!). It would be unproductive of me to say "HAR HAR TIER 1 PLAYER EAT MY SCOTT-KING KNOWLEDGE FREAK" or to defend the idea of a bonus part on that Hugo work since Jordan's advice is worth listening to and doesn't really change much whether or not he is right about the Hugo example.

I guess if you want to have academic discussions about the importance of Victor Hugo's social work, that's fine too. But at least make it clear that these Penn writers--who are trying to improve--should listen to Jordan's overall post if you're doing that. And if you don't know if people should listen to Jordan but just want to have a discussion about Hugo's work, this seems like the wrong place to do it.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:28 pm

I would hardly think of mocking Jordan, and I do think his overall point is (presumably) fine. However, he offered some inaccurate points to support his argument on this Hugo piece, and I wanted to clarify them, my broader point being that sometimes there are seemingly hard or obscure things that are just outside your knowledge base. Both that and Jordan's point can both be true.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Ike » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:30 pm

Cheynem wrote:I would hardly think of mocking Jordan, and I do think his overall point is (presumably) fine. However, he offered some inaccurate points to support his argument on this Hugo piece, and I wanted to clarify them, my broader point being that sometimes there are seemingly hard or obscure things that are just outside your knowledge base. Both that and Jordan's point can both be true.
Yeah and I'm fine with this of course, but I guess I'm interested in just making it clear that you're not saying "Jordan's point is wrong because / as illustrated he chose such a poor example." Especialy since, I think this tournament's writers, can learn from him.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:31 pm

I would never dismiss Jordan like that...he'd kill me.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Jem Casey » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:08 pm

Cheynem wrote:"Hugo's influence was credited in the removal of the death penalty from the constitutions of Geneva, Portugal and Colombia."
Again, I'm willing to concede that Last Day might not be the best example, but biographical sources on Hugo are not going to convince me that this bonus part can be converted from knowledge gained for reasons other than interest in Hugo's life or quizbowl studying. As far as I can tell, this factoid appears only on Wikipedia and in Hugo biographies, and rarely in conjunction with Last Day; what would actually refute the example, I think, is a citation of an important source about the death penalty, Geneva, Portugal, or Columbia that also references Hugo in a way that could reasonably lead someone to know about Last Day. To be clear, my point is not that this bonus part was an offense against good quizbowl or that lit questions should never reward biographical knowledge, but that the habit of thinking about where players might have learned about a given clue/answerline can help you discern what type of knowledge you're rewarding by using it, and allow you to choose whether that's what you want to do with the question.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by TheIronLadyOfQuizbowl » Sat Oct 29, 2016 9:51 pm

As someone who is likely one of the newer members of the quizbowl community, I would like to say that, while not perfect, the set had a number of very creative clues and answer lines that made it very enjoyable. It also had a great diversity within subcategories, which was definitely something that challenged me to study quizbowl harder and better. Getting to play an event like this was certainly one of the highlights of my career thus far. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Sam » Sat Oct 29, 2016 10:50 pm

First, this was a good tournament; kudos to those who wrote for it.

However, (and perhaps this is a symptom of many of the questions being compiled late), many of the sentences were structured in a way that was not easy to read or to understand when being read aloud in real time. Sometimes this was because the sentence was just ungrammatical: a frequent issue was using a subordinate clause when there should have been a normal participle. (E.g., instead of "This man had a daughter who did such-and-such," the sentence would read "This man, whose daughter did such-and-such.") That kind of problem was annoying but would presumably have been limited with more proofreading.

Another, perhaps more insidious, issue was the sentences that on paper were fine, but were troublesome when spoken aloud. I think writers were frequently trying to pack more information into each clue than the clue could comfortably contain, and this led to long sentences where it became unclear what the main subject was. I don't remember it verbatim but the myth tossup in round seven stood out: the tossup was on some guy, who did something with a friend, and that friend had also done something in another myth. In situations like that I'd recommend the writer either use two sentences ("This guy did X with his friend. That friend also did Y.") or even just drop the secondary clue.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Jason Cheng » Sun Oct 30, 2016 12:30 am

I'm on my phone right now, so I'll try to elaborate more later, but I have a preliminary comment to make: future iterations of this set needs to pay more attention to answer lines. This manifested in obvious things (like all the Lorca answers requiring _Garcia Lorca_, despite Lorca being his most commonly accepted surname in most sources, etc) but also in why I suspect everyone called the literature obscenely hard. Contra to what I heard, I didn't think the literature was particularly impossible (although I'm certainly not going to call myself a top tier lit player), but a common trend I noticed was that all the tossup and bonus answer line selections tended to cluster around what I call "standard hard topics," where I wouldn't bat an eye if I saw two or three every couple of rounds at the regs level. At this tournament, however, I noticed that there was a preponderance of answer lines being on these "stretches" of the regular canon. While I think it's fair game and a good idea to toss up the most notable work of Vaclav Havel or a non-Glengarry Glen Ross Mamet play, it gets pretty ridiculous when it's sitting side by side with like eighteen other standard hard answer lines, and borders on terrible when you simultaneously slap teams with a bonus where I'm pretty sure Menander was the easy part (I think??? There were certainly a lot of tossups where there almost wasn't even a medium part).

Other than that, I think the set was fundamentally decent minus a few glaring proofreading and editing oversights. I wasn't the hugest fan of the set, and I disagree with the execution, but I don't think it was awful per se--just some subjects that seemed weaker than others, and a lot of common symptoms of a Friday Night death march. If this were what the set looked like at playtesting, I would've said it was pretty good and had a lot of potential, and I applaud the writers for pulling it all together despite what appears to be a lack of a ton of experienced guidance.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Inifinite Jest » Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:55 am

This set wasn't as bad as the pre-tournament rumors would've had me believe (in fact I kind of liked it better than last year's iteration). However, I thought the humanities in this set were peppered with poorly executed questions. In particular, this tournament seemed to feature a lot of old time-y Yaphe-style lit questions which rewarded cursory knowledge of the basic plots of obscure works instead of deep knowledge of canonical works. A few of these tossups in a set is fine, but it seemed like a lot of the lit tossups were of that form. There were also several glaringly misplaced painting clues and the philosophy had some issues with clues not being fully fleshed out. I'll post about specifics when I have a little more sleep, but on the whole I think was a solid (if occasionally frustrating) tournament.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by vinteuil » Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:05 am

Strong agree with Caleb, Sam, Jordan, and everyone who's commented on lack of fleshed-out answerlines. On the other hand, as I was saying repeatedly throughout the day at our site: this tournament, I thought, was pretty solid! (Especially the science, although 50% of the hard parts were noticeably easier—not to a horrible extent, but noticeably—than, say, the lit, and maybe 10% of the science had pretty hard middle parts. If I have time, I'll come up with some examples.)

Aside from the bonus difficulty (Malcolm Lowry middle part? Novalis??), two complaints. One is distributional (and personal): where was the math? I remember a tossup on the central limit theorem and other assorted applied-math stuff (fourier transform; primes in CS; game theory?) and a really bad tossup on groups, and that was it. Complaint #2 is a fair amount of vagueness in some of the humanities questions, but I think many of those were in Will's categories (I apologize that this sounds like I'm impugning him as a writer or editor. I'm not: I just notice things more in those categories, I'm sure), so I'll comment in that thread.
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Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:58 am

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region wrote:I might have a little to post later, but obviously this tournament had some issues on copy editing which must and I'm sure are being addressed.
Still true even as someone who read it on the 29th. Missing periods (and occasional double periods), sentences without verbs, getting corrections about factual mistakes in the packets from Jason at lunch. Yikes.

Also, as a reader who doesn't have a science background, I pride myself on my ability to break down long words of poly-glyco-hexa-whatever into something readable. However, I could have used more help on the many, many unfamiliar acronyms/initialisms in the packet. Not stuff like CRISPR or other things that experienced mods would have heard, but there was a lot of stuff that I hadn't seen (the one I can remember is FROGs). A couple of brackets with whether to say the letters or the word or whatever would have been helpful.
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Joined: Sun Mar 19, 2006 5:54 pm
Location: Boise (City of Trees), Idaho

Re: PB 2016: General Discussion

Post by tiwonge » Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:58 pm

Have all the mirrors been completed? Can this set be public now?

(Where might I find a copy of it? I didn't take good notes when I was playing, and there were some questions I wanted to take a look at.)
Colin McNamara, Boise State University
PACE
Idaho Quiz & Academic Teams

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