ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

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ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:20 am

Hey, I wanted to commend all of the people who contributed to ACF Nationals this year. This is also the thread for discussing questions; arguments about printers or flight times should be left to the existing threads or, better yet, never posted about again. Questions will be posted on the usual archives within the next few days.

I do want to use this opportunity to make one logistical note, which is to applaud Donald Taylor for his work on statkeeping and helping with general TD-type stuff. I was absolutely earnest when I said at the event that he is the best statkeeper in quizbowl, and he improves the efficiency and professionalism of any tournament he is involved with. He came out to St. Louis just to do that and his contributions were tremendous.

Before I get into the accolades, I want to give my thoughts on how things turned out:

Things I thought we did well: We completed 21 rounds (every one of which ended up being needed); they weren't being written during the tournament; the tossups were all dense, pyramidal, and fair; the packets weren't filled with a torrent of questions on stupid nonsense (we had a 1/1 geography and 1/1 trash distro and strictly kept those subjects out of the other 18/18); the difficulty was largely appropriate for the purpose of a national championship.

Things I thought we did not do well: There was some noticeable inconsistency at times in bonus difficulty, mostly due to me not really communicating my intentions as fully as I should have to the other subject editors. I wrote/edited at my intended difficulty and they went with what they thought we were using. This should and will be worked on in the future. Also, the whole set could have used another pass for copy-editing (though it was proofread once and had markedly fewer problems with spelling and grammar than most tournaments, something I thank the proofreaders for immensely.) We should have had things done a few days earlier to really polish the mechanics, or perhaps a few weeks earlier to rewrite some bonus parts to deal with the bonus variability issue. To me, this was the only major flaw with the questions, but feel free to disagree.

Here is an attempt at a complete list of people who worked on this tournament; I am probably forgetting people. I apologize.

What I did: head coordination, editing all history, geography, and trash, editing all the lit tossups and a chunk of the lit bonuses, writing many history, lit, SS, geo, and trash questions for the playoff rounds; writing nearly all such replacement questions for the submitted rounds; randomizing some rounds.

Ezequiel Berdichevsky: All arts/RMP editing and writing, and substantial lit writing and editing, as well as some of the randomizing. Also kept things moving during the last 48 hours pre-tournament and basically ensured that we would have a complete, high-quality set come hell or high water. Ezequiel's contribution to this tournament, even aside from his great work in editing his categories, is incalculable and should be firsthand evidence of why he received the Carper Award this year.

Dwight Wynne: Coordinated science editing, edited biology and chemistry including writing those categories for playoffs, randomized and finalized most of the packets. Dwight came in on short notice when the previous science editor had to be sent on his way, and really bailed out that portion of the tournament with some excellent work. I believe Dwight also contributed some of the playoff history questions. Dwight also handled resolution of science protests via phone and did diligent, impeccably fair research to make sure we got it right every time.

Matt Lafer: Edited physics and wrote it for playoffs, quietly doing a bang-up job as usual.

Evan Nagler: The above, for math and CS.

Ryan Westbrook: The same, for earth science, also offered valuable comments on history etc.

Jonathan Magin: Wrote an entire freelance packet, edited almost all of the social science, wrote some additional social science for playoffs, offered many constructive thoughts on other questions.

George Berry: Checked up on tournament progress and helped with coordination by telling me to get my shit done and in other ways; this was a good idea to restore some confidence in my work after FICHTE 2, and along with everything Zeke did was a major reason why this set was done at its needed length and not being written during rounds.

Mike Bentley: Offered good comments on many questions, wrote several questions in various categories.

Leo Wolpert: Wrote a few questions including that great Tanqueray tossup, randomized some rounds.

Jason Paik: Randomized some rounds.

Tommy Casalaspi: Wrote several dozen freelance questions.

Guy Tabachnick: Edited/wrote all the linguistics.

[The two people above are currently in high school and have already demonstrated themselves capable of producing questions at the rigorous level of quality that ACF Nationals demands. You can expect many great tournaments from them in the future.]

Dan Passner: Helpful comments.

Chris Chiego: Wrote some geography questions.

Carsten Gehring: Was the primary proofreader; everything we were able to get to him in advance ended up quite polished, which I'm sure the moderators appreciated.

I thank all of the people who made this year's ACF Nationals possible and open this thread to all discussion of question content.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by pray for elves » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:44 am

I'd like to thank the following people for helping me finish my portions (math and computer science):

Mike Bentley, for writing most of the CS for the editors' packets, and for helping edit the CS.
Evan Silberman, for freelancing two CS questions.
Alejandro Lopez-Lago and Eric Mukherjee, for playtesting much of the content in these two distributions, along with other people who playtested a few questions (sorry, I can't remember everyone who did this).
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:29 pm

I've taken Jason Paik up on his offer to post some constructive criticism of the science; this was my first time editing nationals-level science and personally, I'd guess it was generally easier than the other categories (whether this is a good or bad thing, I don't know).
minor_character wrote:I continue to be annoyed by tossups on chromatography however. It's a pain trying to divine what specific type of chromatography the question is asking for and this has twice result in my negging the question.
I wasn't 100% happy with the HPLC question, as you can see from this comment I put in after writing it: "[I spent an hour and a half on this question, and it's still merely decent. No one should ever write a tossup on this again -DW]." Although Mehdi apparently liked it showing up as a tossup, it's really hard to write well on various types of chromatography and I would not recommend tossing it up unless you actually have real-life experience differentiating between those types (I have quite limited experience doing so, and it probably showed). Chromatography is definitely pretty important, but I'm not sure that people can consistently produce decently-written eight-line tossups on various types of it.
Matt Weiner wrote:We completed 21 rounds (every one of which ended up being needed); they weren't being written during the tournament; the tossups were all dense, pyramidal, and fair; the packets weren't filled with a torrent of questions on stupid nonsense (we had a 1/1 geography and 1/1 trash distro and strictly kept those subjects out of the other 18/18); the difficulty was largely appropriate for the purpose of a national championship.
Matt and I have different concepts of "written during the tournament" - 17 of the 21 rounds were finished as of the start of Round 1; the other four editors packets were finished during the Saturday rounds and compiled that night (according to Matt, this was "not written during the tournament" because all packets were finished the day before they were needed; according to me, it was "written during the tournament" because people were writing questions while rounds were being played). That said, I agree with Matt that producing a 21 round tournament, filled with interesting, academic, largely difficulty-appropriate questions, is no small feat.

I will second Matt in saying that Zeke really bailed this tournament out; not only was he the only one that stuck to the assigned schedule, but he also accelerated his writing/editing efforts to take care of a huge chunk of the lit and made many important decisions with regard to the direction of the set (perhaps the most important being to convince Matt to abandon the half-written Packet 22 and concentrate instead on making the other 21 packets as good as they could be). Also, mad props to Donald Taylor for not only keeping the stats room running smoothly, but keeping all of us updated on the tournament through IRC.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Lapego1 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:42 pm

Re: HPLC, I'm glad it showed up because I spent a summer doing it weekly. I'm not sure about how unique the clues were, though without looking at it. For me, because I know HPLC exists and everything in the question up to where I buzzed seemed to apply to it, I buzzed off the reverse-phase clue I think. Introducing it as a new answer (EDIT: never mind, it was a middle bonus part at 2007 EFT [liquid chromatography] and a hard part at 2003 Wildcat) MAY have been better left to a second bonus part or something. I agree that it's hard to distinguish these things unless they happen to be floating around in your mind. Still, the presence of relevant chemical techniques outside of the boring things like titration, etc. was refreshing (flow cytometry!).
Last edited by Lapego1 on Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:42 pm

Okay, so let's get away from logistics and talk about my favorite thing to talk about, overall question quality and execution. I agree with the assessment that it was good but not great at Nats, and that the most glaring issue was probably fluctuation in bonus difficulty. I want to talk about one specific issue that I see with the way editing is done these days, and I can come back to other stuff on question quality later.

Okay, here's the thing...I don't think you'll ever have a really polished tournament with this many people writing and editing. There's just too many hands in the pot. Everyone has a different notion of what they want a tournament to look like (even if you tell them exactly what you want it to look like, everyone's interpretation of what you tell them is going to be different). The superlative qb events usually happen when one person has a vision of what a tournament is going to be, and designs it to be that way. That person may have a little help, maybe one or two co-writers, but is primarily responsible for constructing a tourney as he sees fit. Conversely, it's an increasingly modern trend to have a whole herd of people write and edit (and manage and oversee and advise and guest-edit and etc.) tournaments. This happens for two big reasons: (1) Many players don't feel comfortable editing outside certain subject areas, and (2) There's a widespread fear that entrusting primarily one or two people with a tournament can result in disastrous things like said tournament not getting done (to which the modern answer seems to be that we should have all kinds of overseers and project managers and whatnot making sure people stick to deadlines and be responsible - which never comes close to working anyway, but perhaps it prevents total failure in some instances). I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there will always be a little bit of compromise in quality when you have too many hands in the pot - I don't care how much time you tediously spend in conferences and meetings trying to even stuff out.

Also, I'm not wild about having 21 packets in any mACF tourney, bu that's another issue.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cornfused » Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:41 pm

For the record, three of my teammates at Lawrence combined to write 6/6 that I thought was used at the tourney.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:51 pm

cornfused wrote:For the record, three of my teammates at Lawrence combined to write 6/6 that I thought was used at the tourney.
Without knowing much, I believe this ended up in the unwritten 22nd packet. I know the Julia Olefination question was edited and sent to the Magin packet, the geography bonus was sent to Editors 6, and everything in RMP and arts was cut. I think a total of like 2/2 of that 6/6 made it in due to repeats and such.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by setht » Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:12 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I don't think you'll ever have a really polished tournament with this many people writing and editing. There's just too many hands in the pot. Everyone has a different notion of what they want a tournament to look like (even if you tell them exactly what you want it to look like, everyone's interpretation of what you tell them is going to be different). The superlative qb events usually happen when one person has a vision of what a tournament is going to be, and designs it to be that way. That person may have a little help, maybe one or two co-writers, but is primarily responsible for constructing a tourney as he sees fit. Conversely, it's an increasingly modern trend to have a whole herd of people write and edit (and manage and oversee and advise and guest-edit and etc.) tournaments. This happens for two big reasons: (1) Many players don't feel comfortable editing outside certain subject areas, and (2) There's a widespread fear that entrusting primarily one or two people with a tournament can result in disastrous things like said tournament not getting done (to which the modern answer seems to be that we should have all kinds of overseers and project managers and whatnot making sure people stick to deadlines and be responsible - which never comes close to working anyway, but perhaps it prevents total failure in some instances). I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there will always be a little bit of compromise in quality when you have too many hands in the pot - I don't care how much time you tediously spend in conferences and meetings trying to even stuff out.
I agree with Ryan that adding lots of people to the writing/editing pool of a tournament makes for more of a challenge in coordinating difficulty. I also feel that many (perhaps most) of the really good high-level events of the past were produced by one person tackling the lion's share of the writing/editing and a couple other people providing some support--e.g., the ACF Nationals sets from 2004-2007, where Zeke or Andrew (or both) dealt with most subjects and brought in some other people to work on science (and maybe a couple other small areas). Having said that, I think the cost of bringing in more people may be outweighed (especially at the Nationals level) by the benefits of having better in-depth coverage of the full distribution. I think this is especially true in an era where I don't think there's anyone at the level of Zeke or Andrew in terms of having a good command of very large swathes of the distribution.

As an example, take Ryan himself. He was the runner-up in the 2008 best modern writers thread he and Eric Kwartler posted, but when Ryan writes/edits a full distribution on his own, physical science people like myself, Mike and Jerry often complain about the science; Andrew was unhappy with at least a couple of the philosophy questions at last year's CO; etc. I don't think this is an indictment of Ryan's abilities as a writer or editor at all: it takes a lot of experience and knowledge (and not just quizbowl knowledge) to produce good, high-level questions in any topic.

Moving back to the rest of Ryan's post, I agree with him that assigning overseers and project managers seems like a silly idea. If a key editor or writer is going to crap out on doing the work they claimed they'd do, it seems to me like having other people checking in on them won't do much. I guess the only thing it could help with is avoiding fiascoes along the lines of the 2007 Chicago Open trash tournament.

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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:44 pm

Well, I'm gonna quibble with Seth's take on the situation a bit. I don't think Yaphe or Zeke are in some special hallowed category; rather I think that there is a small group of people out there who can write on pretty much any subject in the humanities - science, maybe not, but it's not like that's Yaphe or Zeke's specialty either.

I think that, no matter which member of that small group you pick (it probably includes Teitler, Jerry, Zeke, Yaphe, Lafer, Magin, Sorice, me, maybe a few others) - there are going to be some people who don't particularly like the style that the writer uses. I don't think any of those writers has a magical, unimpeachable style depending on your preferences. If you're a big fan of mastering the canon and its clues, you're going to like me...if you're less of a canon hawk and more of a person who loves buzzing off stuff learned in a more "real-world" context, perhaps you'll enjoy Sorice or Magin. Of course, some names on that list have more command of certain subjects than other names, but I think as long as you stick to the humanities, they're all pretty capable of producing really high-quality stuff across the board.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:17 pm

In regards to the notion that "overseers" didn't help improve this set (compared to not having them), I don't think that's true. I feel without such people raising the alarm that Weiner had written an alarmingly low number of questions about a week before the tournament had to be done, the set would have suffered immeasurably. Similarly, I'd like to think that at least from a tossup perspective the set was improved by having several people get the oppurtunity to look over a question looking for misplaced clues, unclear wording, etc. I know I did this for several questions (and convinced some writers to abandon tossup ideas that probably weren't the greatest), and I'm sure other people were doing this as well.

Sure it would be great if 2-3 people could edit the set and get it done on time at a high quality. However, I just don't see that happening on a 22 packet set at Nationals difficulty with the other restraints of the circuit (i.e. people having to write and edit for other events, spend a lot of their weekends playing tournaments, etc.). For an event like the Chicago Open it's more realistic, since that tournament happens in the summer and there isn't a lot of other stuff going on around it. For ACF Nationals, at the end of what I believe Chris Ray described as a "Quizbowl Death March" of a spring semester, I don't think that it's going to happen.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:43 am

I had a good time playing this tournament, though it was disappointing to play so poorly against the top three teams. The tournament's questions exceeded my expectations in many ways. In particular, I thought the bonuses were incredibly fair. There were a few that were either too easy or too hard (Andrew cites the Browning bonus, which was maybe the easiest of the whole tournament, though I don't think his assessment of the Burmese history bonus as an example of something that is too hard is fair). I think we zeroed two bonuses in the course of the tournament, one of which was our fault for saying a dumb answer.

There were a few things that I thought were problematic with the set. First, there were a couple of problems with the social science. I realize that there is a small percentage of people in quizbowl who study linguistics and are trying to push for "realer" linguistics, but ACF Nationals is not the place to write a bonus about three linguistic concepts that are all about the same in difficulty, and very hard to convert for any non-linguist. I also understand that conceptual linguistics tossups are more "real" than tossups on linguists or works, but the two that I remember seemed transparent, especially "gender." Vowel harmony has come up a few times, but I couldn't figure out what was going on with the clues about roundness and backness, which I knew had to do with how vowel sounds are modified. I know Guy knows his linguistics, but I don't think that he did the greatest job writing on it in a way that distinguishes teams with no linguistics specialist.

That tossup on "attention" seemed like one of the most poorly conceived tossup ideas of the tournament. Everyone on our team has a good idea of what the Stroop effect is, but no one could figure out what the hell that clue was talking about. That gorilla suit study is really borderline in its academic value; it's mostly famous because it's weird and funny. Since that was basically the main "social science" clue before the obvious giveaway, this tossup seemed like it shouldn't have happened. Also, talking about the Stroop effect and then saying that something has a namesake "blindness" seems to invite people who know what they're doing to neg with "color," which Rob did as I was trying to buzz with the right answer after placing the names of the gorilla suit guys.

In general, the social science subdistro really seemed to be skewed towards psychology. There were some good anthro and socio things, but law seemed noticeably absent. Usually this sort of thing doesn't bother me, since most tournaments aren't meant to crown a champion of quizbowl. Since I know that Jonathan likes psychology a lot, this seems even more problematic, since Nationals shouldn't be an arena to cram in things that you love at the expense of fairly measuring the teams.

Japanese literature seemed way out of proportion to the rest of the world lit category. In particular, African lit felt like it was underrepresented (and the tossups that were there weren't great, especially Achebe and Death and the King's Horseman, which stand out in my mind as two of the worst lit tossups in the set).

The other problem I had was that other arts seemed to be missing from this tournament. I remember two tossups on operas (none on composers from operatic clues besides the mention of Stockhausen's Licht cycle), maybe two on building or architects, and another two on sculpture, in the nearly 20 rounds we watched and played. Undoubtedly I'm forgetting some, but this seems like a problematically low number (especially of opera) for a category that supposedly encompasses 1/24 of the distribution. Also, that whole Dvorak for Bartok thing with the Miraculous Mandarin was unfortunate; coupled with a strange moderator pronunciation after the tossup went dead, we thought for a while that the tossup was on a mysterious Dvorak work called "The Miraculous Mountain." Again, subdistributions are not usually something that I harp on, but a national championship tournament needs to do a better job of making sure that it doesn't advantage or disadvantage teams in this way.

I don't mean this as an excoriation of this tournament, which was impressive and well-written and -edited in almost every way. In the future, I'd like to see a bit more attention paid to making sure that the subdistributions are fairly allocated and don't advantage one team over another, especially when it seems that one subdistro is getting more play because a particular editor (or quizbowl in general, in the case of Japanese lit) is a particular fan of one of those areas. That certainly seemed to be the case with the overabundance of conceptual linguistics and psychology in social science.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:06 am

theMoMA wrote:The other problem I had was that other arts seemed to be missing from this tournament. I remember two tossups on operas (none on composers from operatic clues besides the mention of Stockhausen's Licht cycle), maybe two on building or architects, and another two on sculpture, in the nearly 20 rounds we watched and played.
This seems accurate. The tournament was very heavy on orchestral works and painting. In addition, I felt like the music (and, to some extent, the painting) skewed chronologically early; there wasn't much in the way of twentieth-century stuff.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:09 am

theMoMA wrote:Japanese literature seemed way out of proportion to the rest of the world lit category.
This has been something of a trend in tournaments this year for whatever reason. Pretty much every tournament I've played in the past year has had questions on all of the big names in Japanese literature (namely Tanizaki, Murakami, Abe, Oe, Mishima and Kawabata) without fail. This personally plays to my strengths I guess, but it seems like it's getting a little out of control.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:17 am

Keep in mind that trends in all categories fluctuate. In previous years people complained about too much opera, so the pendulum swung towards orchestral music. There's probably some happy balance of the two, but overall sub-sub-distributions are going to fluctuate from year to year so if you think that X was overemphasized, you might just be at the peak of its influence whereas two years ago you might have seen its trough.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:25 am

As I mentioned in the other thread, my overall impression of this set was that it was excellent and well-written throughout. I was especially pleased with the utter lack of repeats, which is really damn hard to do when you're producing a 21-packet set.

The primary real problems were, as Andrew mentioned, related to the subdistributions of various areas. While I do enjoy Japanese lit, the sheer amount of it was pretty excessive and it seemed like other areas of the world may have suffered a bit. As far as myth goes, it seemed like the tournament was somewhat heavy on Greek and Hindu subjects at the expense of, say, Central American or Norse/European things. These are pretty minor quibbles, though; all of the questions, even the ninth bonus on Japanese lit or whatever, were well-written.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:17 am

Yeah, there was enough Japanese lit that I joked to my teammate that nobody would grail against us as long as some question or the other in that vein kept successively showing up. Also, there was a deficit in world mythology beyond Indian and Japanese stuff.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Pilgrim » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:34 am

I'm not really sure how useful criticisms of this nature are, but while we are on the subject of subdistribution imbalances, Greek and Roman history were underrepresented (there was a fair share of at least Roman bonuses, but I'm fairly certain I only heard one tossup in each).
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by rylltraka » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:08 pm

I've got to put my hand in with Trevor on this one; the only "classical ancient history" TUs I recall from the entire tournament were "Thebes" and "Germanicus", both from the second day's packets. These subjects are my bread and butter, so I was a little discouraged at not seeing them until then.

It seemed better represented in bonuses.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by magin » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:50 pm

theMoMA wrote:In general, the social science subdistro really seemed to be skewed towards psychology. There were some good anthro and socio things, but law seemed noticeably absent. Usually this sort of thing doesn't bother me, since most tournaments aren't meant to crown a champion of quizbowl. Since I know that Jonathan likes psychology a lot, this seems even more problematic, since Nationals shouldn't be an arena to cram in things that you love at the expense of fairly measuring the teams.
So, out of 21 social science tossups, 6 of them were on psychology (I'm counting prospect theory as economics). There were 3 psychology bonuses. Generally, I followed Matt Weiner's outline of answers for the editors packet; the only psychology question I "crammed" in there was the tossup on attention (which, I agree, had problems caused by the Stroop effect clue, which was too ambiguous). Everything else was submitted or written based on Matt's plan for the editors packets (Vygotsky and the Asch cnoformity experiment). Also, no one submitted tossups on law as social science, and in any event, I'm a little confused at that criticism; law is a very minor part of social science, and could have had one question, but did not. I don't understand how the absence of a law question prevented this tournament from "fairly measuring the teams."

Here is the actual breakdown of the social science:

6/3 psychology
5/6 economics
3/4 sociology
3/2 anthropology
3/3 linguistics
1/3 misc (tossup on Mumford, bonuses on Said, Debord, Freud)

That doesn't seem inordinately skewed towards psychology. Do you think that distribution is unfair? If so, please elaborate.

Here are some things I did "cram in": every single tossup on anthropology, of which there would have been zero if I hadn't noticed that and written them. I am bothered by the implication that I disregarded a proper distribution to indulge my whims when editing the social science, when such a claim is belied by the actual evidence.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by millionwaves » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:18 pm

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:
Here is the actual breakdown of the social science:

6/3 psychology
5/6 economics
3/4 sociology
3/2 anthropology
3/3 linguistics
1/3 misc (tossup on Mumford, bonuses on Said, Debord, Freud)

That doesn't seem inordinately skewed towards psychology. Do you think that distribution is unfair? If so, please elaborate.

Here are some things I did "cram in": every single tossup on anthropology, of which there would have been zero if I hadn't noticed that and written them. I am bothered by the implication that I disregarded a proper distribution to indulge my whims when editing the social science, when such a claim is belied by the actual evidence.
I appreciate the effort that you put forth to write tossups on anthropology. Given the actual subdistribution, I'm not really sure why it seemed like there was more psychology than anything else. I don't have my notebook handy, but my impression is that there was quite a bit of it clustered in the first few packets that were read on Saturday; you could hardly be expected to do anything about that (and I may be wrong anyway).

Anyway, I guess I think 3/3 linguistics is too much for a tournament (I might even reduce that to 1/1 or 1/2), and there might be just a little too much economics (but I'd only reduce it by 1/1 or 1/2). I'd put those extra questions to increasing sociology and anthropology, which have a pretty extensive canon at the Nationals level, especially relative to less difficult tournaments. I realize that you were working within the constraints of what was submitted to you, and that you didn't have a lot of time to extensively edit; given that, I think you did an overall excellent job.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:34 pm

Yeah, I definitely think the weakest part of this set was the fluctuation in bonus difficulty, though I think Andrew overstates the case by quite a bit. The "real linguistics" bonuses are a good example, though, of something that inevitably leads to problems - whenever people try to pull off stuff like this, it inevitably turns into "two things you've never heard of unless you're a specialist [and you're not!], and one part that has some tortured giveaway because it's trying desperately to give people points - which it may or may not succeed at doing." On the Burmese bonus, I agree that the Pagan Kingdom ain't no piece of cake, but it's not that hard. I also think there was a fair scattering of bonuses which aggravated the problem, espcially in the literature and arts areas, by being relatively 30able for good teams with clue knowledge - and no doubt it's aggravating to see the other team stumble into one of those while you get real linguistics. On the other hand, I think there were too many bonuses in the set which had ludicrous and virtually-unanswerable 30 point parts, so I know that's a tough line to walk.

And, I agree about other arts, but I'm for raising them and social science in every hard event (and ending this 1/1 geography obligation we can never seem to escape for some reason). As for questions on real law (as in, not Sup Ct cases), that's not so easy to do - though, the unplayed Editors 6 did have a fun Common Law (the book by OW Holmes) tossup.

On the subject of bonuses, kudos to Minny for their impressive PPB...that stat warms the cockles of my heart. We should start giving awards to teams that finish with the highest ppb and don't come in first or second.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:53 pm

Something along the lines of a picture of a smiling Ryan Westbrook with the caption "You've warmed my cockles" would be reward enough, I'm sure.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Strongside » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:05 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:
On the subject of bonuses, kudos to Minny for their impressive PPB...that stat warms the cockles of my heart. We should start giving awards to teams that finish with the highest ppb and don't come in first or second.
That makes me feel really good.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:17 pm

I don't see why Supreme Court cases are not "real law." I can see that these questions might be more prone to be written as history, but they can surely be written as questions pertaining to law as well. I know that there's obviously a wide area of law that's not covered by these questions, but if you try and write "real law" you're going to run into the same problem as "real linguistics." My first thought on this is that the middle part of such bonuses needs to be on something non-linguists (or non-lawyers) might have heard of (maybe with nontrivial clues) and only the hard part should be expert material. There just aren't enough linguistics and law experts in quizbowl to sustain the same level of advanced question writing as exists in the sciences.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:22 pm

I moved my post from the ACF Nationals discussion thread (which should mostly be about how we can prevent logistic screwups of that magnitude in the future) to this thread (which should be about discussing questions and the set as a whole).

First off, as you can see from the question posted in the other thread, GTPase was acceptable until the point in the question that said "hydrolyzes guanosine triphosphate." I mean, maybe I have the view that you shouldn't get the points if all you know about that answer is that guanosine triphosphate is GTP and enzymes often end in "ase," but if you had any concrete knowledge before the last two words you should have gotten points for GTPase.

Second, Jerry, I'm a bit confused what you mean by a "high school bio" bonus in the playoffs. Since I don't know which round you're talking about, I'll post what I considered the easy, medium, and hard parts of every bonus I wrote for the playoffs:

Easy parts: taste buds, sociobiology, Gore-Tex, Human Genome Project, trisomy, EKG, Gram Stain, C4, mitochondrial DNA
I don't think any of these should have been dropped by anyone with reasonable bio knowledge, though I know that there are some teams that don't have that knowledge.

Medium parts: papillae, William D. Hamilton (the Hamilton's Rule guy, not the quaternions guy), lactic acid (from non-obvious clues), shotgun sequencing, Philadelphia chromosome, Long QT syndrome, crystal violet, PEP Carboxylase, Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy
I'm fairly certain none of these would be a middle part at Fall, though I suppose you can argue that Hamilton, lactic acid (maybe, depending on how transparent you thought the clues were), Philadelphia chromosome, and Long QT syndrome (maybe) could be middle parts at Regionals. The others strike me as either "important stuff that doesn't come up enough" or "stuff that I'd expect as the hard part of a regular difficulty bonus," though others may have a different opinion. Certainly most good bio players should have been 20'ing the vast majority of these bonuses, and most other players should have been lucky to pick up the second part.

Hard parts: (lingual) frenulum (0 ACFDB results; 0 HSQB results, unless you count the identically-named structure in the pelvic region), Trivers-Willard hypothesis (0 ACFDB results; 1 HSQB result - hard part of Minnesota Open bonus), PEG (polyethylene glycol) (1 ACFDB result - a Titanomachy packet middle clue on DNA ligase; 6 HSQB results - leadin and middle clues for a variety of tossup answers), tiling path (0 ACFDB results; 0 HSQB results), Robertsonian translocation (0 ACFDB results; 3 HSQB results - middle clue on translocation at IO 2006, clue on translocation at 2001 ACF Regs with easier clues in the bonus prompt, hard part of Penn Bowl 2002 bonus), Holter monitor (0 ACFDB results; 0 HSQB results), mordant (1 ACFDB result - middle clue on Gram stain at 2005 Fall; 2 ACFDB results - that one and a clue in a Gram staining bonus part), Kranz anatomy (0 ACFDB results, 11 HSQB results - middle clues on C4 at tournaments ranging from ACF Fall 2008 to CO 2006, hard parts of bonuses at tournaments like ACF Nats 2007 and Sun N Fun 2008, and a tossup at the original Westbrook Experiment), heteroplasmy (0 ACFDB results; 0 HSQB results).

I can do this with the other bio bonuses or the chem (which I will agree had much more variability across packets) if you'd like.

Regarding the retention sequence question: I'm really not sure there's a good way to write this; arguably I should have replaced it. There was a superior bio tossup in that packet on lupus, and I regret not marking the retention sequence for post-20.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Dennis » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:31 pm

I kind of felt that the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus was easy compared to the other bonuses in that packet.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:32 pm

Dennis wrote:I kind of felt that the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus was easy compared to the other bonuses in that packet.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:33 pm

He probably means C4/PEP Carboxylase/Kranz anatomy - that seems quite a bit easier to me than those other bonuses - especially when you give most experienced players "this type of anatomy," that's 30 waiting to happen and there ain't many of those in the other stuff you posted.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Susan » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:34 pm

The thing about the Gram stain bonus (I haven't got the questions, nor did I play, so I'm extrapolating from Dwight's post is that the parts of the bonus were "Gram stain", "crystal violet", and "mordant") is that the separation in difficulty between the parts is very small. I can conceive of someone 10ing the bonus because they know that there is something called a Gram stain that can be used to stain bacteria, but they know nothing further about it. However, if you know what a Gram stain is well enough to know that crystal violet is part of the process, the odds that you know the next step (the mordant) are awfully high. Also, this bonus is far easier than the mitochondrial DNA/LHON/heteroplasmy bonus.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:35 pm

Dennis wrote:I kind of felt that the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus was easy compared to the other bonuses in that packet.
Yeah, that's the bonus I was referring to. I would have 20d that and I know nothing of bio other than what I learned in 9th grade and have randomly picked up from quizbowl. I would imagine anyone who has had freshman bio at the college level would easily get 30 on that.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by DumbJaques » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:46 pm

Yeah, that's the bonus I was referring to. I would have 20d that and I know nothing of bio other than what I learned in 9th grade and have randomly picked up from quizbowl. I would imagine anyone who has had freshman bio at the college level would easily get 30 on that.
Yeah, I had the same reaction.I think that the bonus becomes reasonable if you don't establish that Kranz anatomy is some kind of anatomy or named for some dude or whatever. As I posted in the other thread, I think using hard clues for not necessarily hard answers is a highly underused tool in the editor's kit, and could perhaps have been used to achieve a greater balance on the bonuses that Susan (correctly, in my contrasting non-scientist opinion) cites as quite different in overall difficulty.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:49 pm

That breakdown of social science seems to accord with what I remember, though maybe I'm attributing some stuff that could go either into socio or econ as psych. Either way, I'm not of the mind that psychology should be dwarfing anthropology and sociology. Also, it seems like the packets we played had most of the psych in them, which could be exacerbating my recollection of the predominance. Anyway, that seems like an awful lot of tossups for one part of the distribution, especially since the one on "attention" was suspect, and the one on Hans Eysenck seemed designed for psych experts only.

I'm not necessarily saying that it was your personal love of psychology that led to so many tossups on it, but it sure felt that way when we were playing the tournament. Sorry for misattributing the cause, and thanks for writing some anthro to make the set more balanced, though.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:50 pm

Dennis wrote:I kind of felt that the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus was easy compared to the other bonuses in that packet.
I either did this to HFT attendees or changed to something harder or easier last minute. I know this was on the shelf. There's no way that "say the only, like, named anatomy having to do with a plant" is in the same league as desert varnish, to compare across games. Maybe I haven't read enough pre-2003 packets for Ryan's taste, but I don't feel like desert varnish--while an easy term from most intro geo texts, I'll believe him on that, but judge from that and my HI science handed you some points here and there--is nearly in the same league.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Apr 28, 2009 3:56 pm

To keep the actual question discussion in this thread, here's the Burma bonus, as it showed up in the Google Doc. It may or may not have been edited after being pulled off. Eric Mukherjee can confirm/deny that he helped us out by writing this based on the Weiner answer outline, as I have comments of "[done -EM]" and "[added Burma to the first part - cause otherwise this bonus is quite hard - rw]" in an earlier version of the doc.
Editors 7 (Round ??) wrote:This kingdom was victorious at the battle of Ngasaunggyan against the Mongols, and earlier absorbed the Mon people under the leadership of Anawratha. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this kingdom of Burma, eventually supplanted by the Ava dynasty.
ANSWER: Pagan kingdom
[10] This second major important Burmese empire was founded by King Mingyinyo near the end of the Ava dynasty.
ANSWER: Toungoo dynasty
[10] This political party, which eventually became the State Peace and Development Council in 1997, seized power in 1988 under the leadership of Saw Maung.
ANSWER: SLORC or State Law and Order Restoration Council
Yes, the bonuses were C4/PEP Carboxylase/Kranz and Gram/crystal violet/mordant (it shouldn't be hard to extrapolate what went with what; the first easy part listed went with the first middle and hard parts listed, second easy part went with second middle and second hard parts, etc.). I thought PEP Carboxylase was a too-easy hard part at FIChTE 2 and clearly overestimated the difficulty of Kranz.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by nakedmolerat » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:42 pm

Could someone post the linguistics tossups, at least the gender and vowel harmony one? I'd be interested in seeing them again. As far as I know I was the only linguist at this tournament. I only got vowel harmony at the very end, which I'm willing to chalk up to me not thinking along the right lines, but as I recall the 'gender' tossup had some stuff in it that made me discount gender as a likely answer.

I wonder if anyone got vowel harmony before the end - I just finished a grad-level phonology class and I didn't.


I should also put out there that I wrote the Bea Arthur tossup and
a) if that question had been used Sunday everyone would have known all the first clues if they saw the news, how weird
b) clearly I have some sort of creepy horror-movie prophetic power when writing quizbowl.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:55 pm

I certainly agree that bonus difficulty was more variable than it should have been, as I posted to start this thread. Was it so severe as to undermine the legitimacy of the championship? That's a strong claim to make and requires comparison to other tournaments.

I am genuinely surprised that anyone in the ACF Nats playoffs didn't know SLORC. Maybe it's just my years of striving to dominate NAQT current events to make up for a lack of science knowledge talking, but that genuinely seems super-easy to me. Evidence suggests that I may be wrong on that point. I also thought Pagan would be a sufficient middle part as it's come up several times in recent memory and can be learned about in various contexts--even if one doesn't know the history of Southeast Asia, Pagan was attacked by the Mongols and thus figures into histories of China etc.

I also think the SS subdistribution was fine (and the idea that linguistics should only be 1/1 in a tournament with 21/21 social science is bizarre). In a packet-submission tournament, one does not have the luxury of discarding perfectly good questions in order to make really small changes to the subdistribution. Having 17/17 psychology or 0/0 anthropology out of the 21/21 SS would have been unacceptable, but we didn't have those things. Giving each expected area a reasonable amount of coverage is the standard in a submission tournament, I believe, and I also believe that is what we did with SS in Nationals.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Kyle » Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:58 pm

nakedmolerat wrote:I should also put out there that I wrote the Bea Arthur tossup and
a) if that question had been used Sunday everyone would have known all the first clues if they saw the news, how weird
b) clearly I have some sort of creepy horror-movie prophetic power when writing quizbowl.
Hey, write some tossups on Supreme Court justices.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Sir Thopas » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:05 pm

nakedmolerat wrote:Could someone post the linguistics tossups, at least the gender and vowel harmony one? I'd be interested in seeing them again. As far as I know I was the only linguist at this tournament. I only got vowel harmony at the very end, which I'm willing to chalk up to me not thinking along the right lines, but as I recall the 'gender' tossup had some stuff in it that made me discount gender as a likely answer.

I wonder if anyone got vowel harmony before the end - I just finished a grad-level phonology class and I didn't.
The vowel harmony question was inordinately hard, especially in the lead-in, and going onto most of the clues as well, and for that, I apologize. Writing it in general was a poor judgement choice; I should have just written one on English vowel shifts instead. (I wasn't able to find enough good clues for either, especially at 1 AM). I'm going to be writing up a new thread on the stuff that I wrote (which, in general, was too hard) and where to go from here in the next couple of days. For now, here's the three linguistics tossups I wrote; the gender tossup, almost entirely rewritten; the other two, from scratch.
Tucker, Lambert, and Rigault tested French speakers’ skill with this construct, which a 2007 study by Dalila Ayoun showed was being lost from that language. The Lak word for “house” is the only word in that language that expresses the inquorate form of this construct, which is fairly common in Tsova-Tush. That language differentiates between eight types of this construct, as does Swahili, which marks this construct by prefixing every word in the clause related to the noun which carries it, even the verb. Although this construct is generally arbitrary in Indo-European languages, Dyirbal uses this to distinguish between “things related to fire” and “non-flesh food”, and many languages, such as Ojibwe, use it to distinguish between animate and inanimate objects. Often marked by articles like French la and le, or case endings like Latin -us, -a, and -um, for 10 points, what is this noun characteristic, most commonly seen as “masculine”, “feminine”, and “neuter”?
ANSWER: gender [prompt on noun class or phi characteristic]

This thinker noted that aphasia can occur across either the syntagmatic or paradigmatic axis, or involving either word combination or vocabulary substitution. He postulated the Gesamtbedeutung and Grundbedeutung, or invariant and contextually specific meaning, of morphological constructs, which he used to analyze his native language’s case system in terms of directionality, marginality, and quantification. This man came up with six functions of communication, including context and code, in his expansion of Karl Bühler’s Organon-model. One of his theories, put forth in Preliminaries to Speech Analysis, states that each phoneme can be described by possessing or lacking certain qualities. For 10 points, name this creator of the distinctive features theory of phonology, who, along with people like René Wellek and Nicholas Trubetskoy, was a leader of the Prague School of Linguistics.
ANSWER: Roman Osipovich Jakobson

Haruo Aoki proposed three criteria for this and rejected two in an article entitled “Toward a Typology of” this, while a book by Martin Krämer on this feature describes some certain phonemes as Trojan, hybrid, opaque, or transparent. Arisaka’s Laws indicate that Old Japanese may have had a form of this feature. Guaraní has a form analogous to this one with nasals, and Germanic umlaut was a weaker form of this phenomenon. It is often determined by height, backness, or roundedness of the phonemes at hand, and can occur progressively or regressively, often affecting suffixes, as in Hungarian. Estonian has notably lost this feature, while Finnish retains it, classifying /i/ and /e/ as neutral. Also present in Altaic languages like Turkish, for 10 points, name this feature of languages in which the vowels of a word assimilate to be only of one type.
ANSWER: vowel harmony [prompt on assimilation of vowels]
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:37 pm

I don't think I would have had a problem with a tossup on just "vowels," even. I've encountered the terms backness and roundness before, I just couldn't figure out what kind of process they applied to. Vowel harmony has come up quite a few times as a clue for linguistics tossups on various languages (thank you for not writing any of those), and once as a bonus part, so I should have realized that that's what you wanted, but I just couldn't figure it out in time.

As with a lot of harder linguistics questions, it seems unduly predicated on having heard of the answer, which is a problem that can be easily alleviated by making the answer something that everyone has heard of. That said, it may be about time for a tossup on vowel harmony anyway, and for that I had fewer problems with this tossup than the one on gender, which seemed pretty transparent.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Apr 28, 2009 5:54 pm

theMoMA wrote:As with a lot of harder linguistics questions, it seems unduly predicated on having heard of the answer, which is a problem that can be easily alleviated by making the answer something that everyone has heard of. That said, it may be about time for a tossup on vowel harmony anyway, and for that I had fewer problems with this tossup than the one on gender, which seemed pretty transparent.
Yeah, I'll say that it's time for a tossup on vowel harmony. Answering that Concierto de Aranjuez tossup is pretty much predicated on having heard of it, too, as is the Pockels effect (yay!). But we're okay with this, since at some point you should be asked hard things in these fields.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by setht » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:07 pm

I don't think the bonus difficulty fluctuated enough to really mess things up; in particular, I don't think that's why we beat Stanford in the play-in game. Looking at our play-in game with Stanford: they answered the same number of tossups and had one less neg than we did. They also had slightly better bonus conversion in the playoffs. There were some fluctuations in bonus difficulty in the finals match (the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus felt like the middle and hard parts were both a bit easier than they should have been, the Porphyria's Lover/My Last Duchess/Love Among The Ruins bonus felt like the easy and middle parts were both a bit easier than they should have been; in contrast the pedocals/playas/desert varnish bonus felt like the easy part was a bit harder than it should have been), but I don't think there was enough to explain what happened. Rather, I think the packet had some bonuses that played well to the strengths of the Stanford and Chicago teams, some bonuses that played poorly to both teams' strengths, and some bonuses that played well to one team and poorly to the other (and perhaps more that played to Chicago's strengths than Stanford's)--without the bonuses as a set being unreasonable in subdistribution or fluctuating wildly in difficulty when gauged against a larger sample of teams. I further think that Stanford had the bad luck of drawing more of the bonuses that played poorly to their strengths (e.g. the geology, VH1 and Burmese history bonuses). I actually think the geology, VH1 and Burmese history bonuses would have been fine for us--I had 20 points on the geology bonus and should have had 30, Michael had at least 1 part of the VH1 bonus, Selene had 10 (Pagan) on the Burmese history bonus and I believe Shantanu knew one or both of the two other parts to that bonus. I think Stanford also got a geography bonus that they didn't get much points on; we probably also would have done poorly on it (goodness knows we were terrible on most of the previous geography questions we got). It sucks for them that they got a bonus that they struggled with that we also would have struggled with (assuming that did in fact happen), but barring a real problem with that particular question I don't see any grounds for complaint. It's also unfortunate for them that they played us on a packet that happened to have some bonuses that played better to us than to them, but again, I don't think there was anything systematically wrong with that packet. When there are a couple teams that are pretty evenly matched, games can easily be decided by fluctuations in the subdistribution of what comes up, and perhaps a slightly weaker team will beat a slightly stronger team; short of making packets much longer to smooth that out, I don't think there's any good solution to this, and I don't think it's worth making packets much longer just to deal with this.

In any case, Andrew, I will happily answer any and all desert varnish-related bonus parts at CO, unless Wesley makes them so hard I can't even tell what we're being asked.

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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by setht » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:08 pm

nakedmolerat wrote:I wonder if anyone got vowel harmony before the end - I just finished a grad-level phonology class and I didn't.
Bruce Arthur answered the tossup somewhere before the end.

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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:09 pm

Oh, yeah, I thought that the Pockels effect tossup was one of the weaker ones of the set. I actually knew a bit about what the Pockels thing was coming into the tournament, but I negged it with Kerr when it said electric field, thinking that only that or Voit were possible answers. The tossup basically said it allowed you to do something with a mineral and light in the second line, which narrows down the answer pretty rapidly.

That clue about rubidium in the tossup on population inversion seemed like a poor one to open with. Sorice buzzed right there in our room, but I was definitely thinking about doing that too. Since BECs already came up, the common use for rubidium is pretty much down to (since I'm an English student and not a scientist) "doing stuff with lasers," and since the tossup was asking for a process/action/phenomenon/whatever, it seemed like population inversion was the thing to buzz with.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:12 pm

I would never buzz with "population inversion" just because I heard "rubidium." I submit that Mike probably knew quite a bit more about what was going on in that question than most people did; certainly the first clue wasn't all that useful to me and I thought it was phrased in an odd way. But I guess if someone buzzed there, it was useful after all.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:18 pm

Coincidentally, in the phonology class I just took we did a problem involving vowel harmony in suffixes in Hungarian.

The vowel harmony tossup was difficult, although Germanic umlaut and the fact that vowel harmony can be progressive or regressive are things which linguists might be expected to know. I have a nitpick, though, with the clue "Guaraní has a form analogous to this one with nasals." I don't know about this, but I assume it's simply nasalization harmony, which I know occurs in Desano. If that's the case, I think "assimilation" would be a reasonable answer to that clue. I know the term "assimilation" isn't usually used to refer to long-distance effects, but harmony is a type of assimilation, and I've heard harmony referred to as assimilation (though rarely). That, coupled with the fact that generic assimilation can also be progressive or regressive, might confuse a player into buzzing with "assimilation." I mean, the earlier clues rule that answer out, but the earlier clues are pretty damn hard. (Anyway, this is only a minor, and possibly misguided, complaint about what I generally thought was a good tossup. Also, apologies if Guy is the only person who knows what the hell I'm talking about here.)

On another note, I totally loved the fact that there was a Dyirbal clue in the gender tossup. My username comes from the title of a book by George Lakoff which gets its name from the Dyirbal system of gender. Awesome.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:51 pm

setht wrote:I don't think the bonus difficulty fluctuated enough to really mess things up; in particular, I don't think that's why we beat Stanford in the play-in game. Looking at our play-in game with Stanford: they answered the same number of tossups and had one less neg than we did. They also had slightly better bonus conversion in the playoffs. There were some fluctuations in bonus difficulty in the finals match (the C4/PEP carboxylase/Kranz anatomy bonus felt like the middle and hard parts were both a bit easier than they should have been, the Porphyria's Lover/My Last Duchess/Love Among The Ruins bonus felt like the easy and middle parts were both a bit easier than they should have been; in contrast the pedocals/playas/desert varnish bonus felt like the easy part was a bit harder than it should have been), but I don't think there was enough to explain what happened. Rather, I think the packet had some bonuses that played well to the strengths of the Stanford and Chicago teams, some bonuses that played poorly to both teams' strengths, and some bonuses that played well to one team and poorly to the other (and perhaps more that played to Chicago's strengths than Stanford's)--without the bonuses as a set being unreasonable in subdistribution or fluctuating wildly in difficulty when gauged against a larger sample of teams. I further think that Stanford had the bad luck of drawing more of the bonuses that played poorly to their strengths (e.g. the geology, VH1 and Burmese history bonuses). I actually think the geology, VH1 and Burmese history bonuses would have been fine for us--I had 20 points on the geology bonus and should have had 30, Michael had at least 1 part of the VH1 bonus, Selene had 10 (Pagan) on the Burmese history bonus and I believe Shantanu knew one or both of the two other parts to that bonus. I think Stanford also got a geography bonus that they didn't get much points on; we probably also would have done poorly on it (goodness knows we were terrible on most of the previous geography questions we got). It sucks for them that they got a bonus that they struggled with that we also would have struggled with (assuming that did in fact happen), but barring a real problem with that particular question I don't see any grounds for complaint. It's also unfortunate for them that they played us on a packet that happened to have some bonuses that played better to us than to them, but again, I don't think there was anything systematically wrong with that packet. When there are a couple teams that are pretty evenly matched, games can easily be decided by fluctuations in the subdistribution of what comes up, and perhaps a slightly weaker team will beat a slightly stronger team; short of making packets much longer to smooth that out, I don't think there's any good solution to this, and I don't think it's worth making packets much longer just to deal with this.
It may be that in my irritation I'm overstating the case a bit, but I think this account understates things. To move on to quibble about yet another bonus, take that trash bonus from the Stanford-Chicago game. Now I don't claim to know anything about geology or linguistics, but I do know a fair amount about TV, not least because I watch it incessantly. However, I don't happen to watch VH1, and as such I was unable to get any of the three random-ass shows which were asked about in that bonus. Some post-tournament research reveals that there are 116 pages in Wikipedia's "VH1 television series" category; I could answer questions on about ten of the more famous/long-standing ones -- e.g. "Flavor of Love" or "The Surreal Life" -- but I couldn't identify "Tool Academy," or get which of the umpteen "I love the X" shows the bonus was talking about from the fact that Sisqo appeared on it.

Compare this to the trash bonus which came up in the next playoff round -- I don't remember the details, but it was something about Parliament where the easy part asked you to identify James Brown and told you that he was the "Godfather of Soul." To my mind, there's a pretty fundamental difference in the writing philosophies exemplified by these two bonuses. For the first, the mindset seems to be "It's not enough to be generally literate in pop culture, or even to be an avid watcher of/reader about TV -- unless you follow this one cable channel pretty closely, you won't be getting any points here." For the second, it's "we can't expect every team to be up on their '70s funk, so we'd better give an 'easy' part which even people who know little about the area will be able to get 10 points on."

The problem with the playoffs, on my view, is that bonuses written from both of these (substantially different) perspectives were intermingled freely. I think that goes beyond "unfortunately, you didn't get the bonuses which played to your strengths," and instead speaks to a flaw with the tournament's editing. And the fact that Seth -- who is, I take it, the best earth science player in the country -- would "get 20 and should have had 30" on the geology bonus doesn't make me change my opinion. If that bonus had instead been "Name these three books by Stanley Cavell, none of which you'll know unless you are a hardcore contemporary philosophy person," then I would have gotten 20 or 30 points on it instead of 0; but it would still have been a bad question when intermixed with bonuses which offer people 10 points for knowing about "My Last Duchess" from famous clues.
setht wrote: In any case, Andrew, I will happily answer any and all desert varnish-related bonus parts at CO, unless Wesley makes them so hard I can't even tell what we're being asked.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:04 pm

Well, again Andrew, I agree with you that bonus fluctuation was a problem in this set...but, I think it's unreasonable to insist that all bonuses have substantially similar "philosophies of difficulty" (especially in a set edited/written by multiple people). In my mind, there are several kinds of bonuses within the realm of acceptability - some bonuses may give you 10 really easily (i.e. "Godfather of Soul" easy) and then offer you two parts which are fairly difficult unless you have decent knowledge, some bonuses may make the 10 point part a bit harder and then have a medium part that's easier than the above and then have a quite hard third part, etc...I don't really object to some variation in approach like that. To put it another way - I don't really think it's necessary to ask that all "easy parts" be of roughly the same difficulty across the set, that all middle parts be of the same difficulty, and all hard parts be same-difficulty. All that said, I think the problem of fluctuation gets exacerbated when there are multiple writers and editors, because it's very hard to match everything up.

What I'd rather see people shoot for is just reasonableness across the board (no bonuses where teams with tons of knowledge can't get more than 10, no bonuses where teams with decent knowledge get 0, no gift 30s, etc.). I can handle 10-point swings here and there based on how bonuses inevitably go, but as long as you satisfy the reasonableness standard, the swings shouldn't be more than that.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:44 pm

Yeah, I'd like to apologize again for writing on something like retention sequences; it was the sort of thing where I read about them and thought they were cool, and I agree that lupus was a far superior answer choice. Frankly, I was surprised that retention sequence was not replaced/pushed to tiebreaker while some tossups that I thought were just fine were in fact replaced or moved down. My upper-level science writing isn't all that hot, so I'll definitely keep these comments in mind for the future.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by QuizBowlRonin » Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:07 pm

HKirsch wrote:Yeah, I'd like to apologize again for writing on something like retention sequences; it was the sort of thing where I read about them and thought they were cool, and I agree that lupus was a far superior answer choice. Frankly, I was surprised that retention sequence was not replaced/pushed to tiebreaker while some tossups that I thought were just fine were in fact replaced or moved down. My upper-level science writing isn't all that hot, so I'll definitely keep these comments in mind for the future.
I was responsible for moving lupus to the tiebreakers when I randomized your packet. I had already seen Graves' Disease, which would mean we would have two autoimmune disease tossups in the same tournament. Retention sequence sounded interesting at the time, but I could have read the question more carefully - I admit, I was bleary eyed in the hotel room while randomizing packets. I also didn't pay attention to Dwight's specific commentary regarding the question, either, which was to move the question to the extras.

Apologies to all.

EDIT: I also had a bonus repeated in at least one of the packets which I randomized - again, my responsibility.
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Re: ACF Nationals question thanks/discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:49 pm

QuizBowlRonin wrote:I was responsible for moving lupus to the tiebreakers when I randomized your packet. I had already seen Graves' Disease, which would mean we would have two autoimmune disease tossups in the same tournament. Retention sequence sounded interesting at the time, but I could have read the question more carefully - I admit, I was bleary eyed in the hotel room while randomizing packets. I also didn't pay attention to Dwight's specific commentary regarding the question, either, which was to move the question to the extras.
I was surprised at the preponderance of disease and disease-related questions that showed up in the submissions to this tournament; yeah, it might not have been smart to have two autoimmune disease tossups in the same tournament, but given how many disease-related questions were making it in anyway (because I felt better editing those than writing entirely new ones from scratch), I wouldn't have found it too egregious. Also, Jason, I don't believe I actually marked retention sequence "move to post-20" as I should have done; thus the fault is mine, not yours.
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