ACF Winter discussion

Old college threads.
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ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:23 pm

Discussion for Winter will be open when I post in this thread signaling that all mirrors have been completed. Please do not talk about question specifics until then.

I hope everyone enjoyed Winter. The tournament wouldn't have been possible without the talents of my co-editors: Eric, Dennis, Trevor, and Rob. Our work was easier because there were plenty of solid packets submitted, many of them from newer teams.

I'd like to sincerely thank Eric Kwartler, Ryan Westbrook, Matt Weiner, Evan Nagler, and Gautam Kandlikar for helping out. Eric especially went beyond the call of duty and put a tremendous amount work into making the set a success, and I speak for all the editors in expressing my gratitude.

In the interest of facilitating more high-arching discussion than hyperspecific complaints about the questions, I will answer all inquiries, listen to all suggestions, and respond to all critiques of individual questions directed to acfwinter@gmail.com.

The packets will be sent for archiving immediately following the tournament, so they should be up very soon.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:16 am

It's now after ten on the West Coast, so I'm going to declare that the sun has gone down on ACF Winter 2010. Discuss away.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Papa's in the House » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:54 am

I liked the tournament and think it did a relatively good job at rewarding people that had deeper knowledge of a subject before people that had less knowledge of a subject. Some questions seemed transparent (and ended up being being so), but they were very few. Congrats to the editors on a good tournament.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:34 am

Good job, editors; this was a fun set to play. A problem was the odd prevalence of repeated answers and information--multiple things on Portugal, a bonus part on Stravinsky's Missa Solemnis followed by a later bonus involving Stravinsky partly from mass clues, etc.--but this set had a pleasant plethora of well-constructed bonuses and interesting, difficulty-appropriate tossups.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Ondes Martenot » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:26 am

I very much enjoyed playing this tournament, which seemed to do a very good job of hitting its intended difficulty. I'll say that I'm not a huge fan of literature tossups about a country, especially if that country really only has one or two authors people will know about, but maybe that's just me. Still, I think the editors did a very good job with this one
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:48 am

This tournament is available for download at http://collegiate.quizbowlpackets.com/a ... Winter.zip
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:31 pm

For the most part this tournament was very good. There were a few dubious question choices (Beyond the Pleasure Principle, really?) and some bonus parts seemed disproportionately difficult for the field (Lane-Emden, Early effect, that one giantess who guards the bridge to Helheim). I would have preferred some of those parts had been ratcheted down. A few things that nagged me: what seemed like an over-representation of Egyptian myth, combined with a still-unfortunate tendency to write about Japanese literature more than is necessary. But these are minor quibbles in what was generally a very good experience. Overall, I think the questions were very well written and interesting, with most of the answer choices for tossups being well-selected. I had a good time at this tournament and I definitely intend for Regionals to reproduce its quality.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Gautam » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:14 pm

This was a fine tournament, and I think it will serve as a good benchmark for the "regular difficulty" label. I agree with Jerry that some of the hard parts could have been toned down, but it wasn't too big of a deal.

I kind of got the feeling that the science (especially bio) tossups at this tournament were more leadin heavy than they should have been. I don't mean to say that because I deserved to get tossups earlier or whatever; to me, the gradation in difficulty between the first 3-4 lines of clues in these tossups didn't seem to be as fine-tuned as the gradation of clues in the next 3 lines. Who knows, though... maybe that could just have been attributed to the oxidation of the brain machinery over winter break.

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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Ringil » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:14 pm

I thought this was a pretty good tournament, but the country tossups for lit got annoying fast (especially Iceland). I liked how most of the bonuses had very accessible easy parts that most everyone could get 10 points on.

I felt the USCD + Penn packet had a bit too much modern history questions. It had a tossup on Portugal with clues from after 1900s, the Battle of Guadelcanal, and Alexander II (which isn't that modern). This was demonstrative of the lack of old history (Roman/Greek/ancient Near East) in this tournament, which I felt was pretty abysmal. I remember only Darius I, Thutmose III, Peisistratus. Perhaps my site just read all the packets without these things, but having only 3 tossups on old stuff in 11 rounds seems a bit biased.

Otherwise, I enjoyed this tournament quite a bit. Most of the tossups were interesting and had accessible answer lines.

EDIT for too specific stuff lol
Last edited by Ringil on Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Gautam » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:27 pm

Ringil wrote: This was demonstrative of the lack of old history (Roman/Greek/ancient Near East) in this tournament, which I felt was pretty abysmal. I remember only Darius I, Thutmose III, Peisistratus. Perhaps my site just read all the packets without these things, but having only 3 tossups on old stuff in 11 rounds seems a bit biased.
I am sure this is a sampling error. I counted adequate amounts of ancient history in the tossups and the bonuses.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Ringil » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:31 pm

gkandlikar wrote:
Ringil wrote: This was demonstrative of the lack of old history (Roman/Greek/ancient Near East) in this tournament, which I felt was pretty abysmal. I remember only Darius I, Thutmose III, Peisistratus. Perhaps my site just read all the packets without these things, but having only 3 tossups on old stuff in 11 rounds seems a bit biased.
I am sure this is a sampling error. I counted adequate amounts of ancient history in the tossups and the bonuses.
I suspected this might be true, but didn't want to read the other packets in the set because we'll be playing on those packets in practice probably.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by leapfrog314 » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:13 pm

Can someone send me a Word/RTF/text version of the packets, so I can put them up on acfdb? The PDF versions are not converting to text nicely at all, i.e., all the line breaks are missing, and the numbers are not next to the correct tossups. Shoot me an email at carlo@carloangiuli.com. Thanks!
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:46 pm

From a moderator's perspective, I thought this was a good set. There were a few typos, but for the most part it was pretty easy to read. There didn't seem to be much confusion of what questions were asking for either. The only one I remember was Ike's buzz of Ekman spirals on the oceans tossup.
A couple question-specific things:
1) Does Zaitsev's rule (Vandy/Harding packet) really have anything to do with SN1 reactions? I learned it as applying to only elimination reactions, which could occur when you attempt an SN1 reaction and it goes wrong.
2) When reading one of the questions (amines, Hannah and Andy) the question mentioned a reaction that uses "PPh3." I know that this is triphenylphosphine, but I would not have recognized it as such if playing and hearing "P-P-H-3." Is that a common abbreviation when speaking, or should the name be written out?

Thanks again for a good set.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:24 pm

squareroot165 wrote:1) Does Zaitsev's rule (Vandy/Harding packet) really have anything to do with SN1 reactions? I learned it as applying to only elimination reactions, which could occur when you attempt an SN1 reaction and it goes wrong.
Both my organic chemistry textbook and the Wikipedia article (yeah, yeah) mention it only in the context of elimination.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Sun Jan 17, 2010 7:40 pm

I think the hard parts of bonuses were systematically too hard for what I would consider "regular difficulty." It wasn't just an outlier problem, but a pretty frequent "impossible third part syndrome."

I heard a few people wonder if the tossups couldn't have either been shortened or had less difficult opening clues, as really early buzzes seemed very rare even in a field with two 20+ PPB teams that I presume were among the top 10 or so nationwide playing this set.

I think that for the most part the other aspects of the tournament were good; tossup answer difficulty, difficulty of first two bonus parts, and clue selection were generally alright.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by SnookerUSF » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:54 pm

It was great to see the level of competitiveness at the UGA mirror, a lot of very good teams played on some very good questions. I will make a few comments:

I thought the tournament was focused on providing good (accessible) middle clues, rather than three lines of lead-in and two lines of giveaway. In most of the matches I read, very few of the tossups went all the way to the end, which again is great to see. While there were a few tossups that I perceived to be excessively difficult (FRET and the Cronin-Fitch experiment seemed ill-advised, but that is perhaps because I am science challenged), I thought overall the difficulty was consistent with what I would expect at the Winter level. Also, there were some creative tossups that tried to ask about highly canonized answers in a different way. For example, I really enjoyed the "Uncle Tom" tossup, as well as the Berenger tossup. While bonus difficulty variability is just one of those things everyone is going to sense in their own way, my gut reaction is that the middle parts were harder than they had to be. I don't know if anyone else will ratify what I have to say here but let me give a few examples:
ACF Finals Packet wrote:Particle physics! For 10 points each:
[10] These particles were posited by Pauli to explain the missing energy from the beta-decay. The Super
Kamiokande and Homestake experiments attempted to study the flavor oscillations of these leptons.
ANSWER: neutrinos
[10] Bruno Pontecorvo sometimes co-names this 3x3 matrix that describes the flavor oscillations of neutrinos.
ANSWER: PMNS matrix [or the Pontecorvo-Maki-Nakagawa-Sakata matrix]
[10] This effect posits that the neutrino oscillations are significantly higher when neutrinos travel through matter.
One of the requirements for this effect is that neutrinos possess mass.
ANSWER: MSW effect [or Mikheyev-Smirnov-Wolfenstein effect]
The easy part is fair enough, but I want to know which one you think is the middle part, and whether you expect some significant percentage of teams who you expect to play Winter to get it.
Eden Prarie and Marlyand B wrote:Name some members of the Chicago school of economics, for 10 points each.
[10] This monetarist was booed when receiving his Nobel Prize due to his controversial position as advisor to
Augusto Pinochet. He wrote A Monetary History of the United States, Free to Choose, and Capitalism and Freedom.
ANSWER: Milton Friedman
[10] This economist is best known for developing the theory of rational expectations and the consequent policy
ineffectiveness proposition, which states that government intervention will be useless if people expect it.
ANSWER: Robert Emerson Lucas, Jr.
[10] This economist, sometimes considered the founder of the Chicago school, had Milton Friedman, George
Stigler, and others as students. His publications include Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit, which distinguishes between
insurable and uninsurable risk.
ANSWER: Frank Hyneman Knight
So Robert Lucas Jr. is the middle part, I believe, and I think for the audience that is just a little harder than it needs to be.
But I thought that one trend that ought to be lauded and continued is exemplified in the bonuses below. That is, resisting the usual "difficult" answer in favor of works that are not mentioned as much in the archive, but are nevertheless important and worthwhile answer choices.
Thomas Mann works bonus wrote:...
[10] This Mann novel depicts Sieur Eisengrein taking advantage of the Crusades to send off Wiligis so he can
impregnate Wiligis’s incestuous sister named Sibylla, who later marries her son Gregorious, the titular character.
ANSWER: The Holy Sinner [or Der Erwahlte]
Instead of the The Holy Sinner, you might see a Black Swan or Tonio Kroger mention here, nice change of pace.
Whistler Bonus wrote:....
[10] A man on a small boat appears near the bottom of this Hokusai-inspired Whistler painting. Its large, arched title
object dominates the foreground, while the Chelsea Old Church and some fireworks are visible in its background.
ANSWER: Nocturne: Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge [accept either underlined portion]
A quick search of the packet archives reveals that Nocturne in Blue and Gold has been mentioned exactly once, as a 10pt clue for Whistler in a 1997 ACF Nationals Packet. Interestingly though, sources suggest that this work was in fact inspired by a Hiroshige work, this one actually.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by SnookerUSF » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:04 pm

Post continued...

Some ancillary issues:
So, when we had the packets e-mailed to us round-by-round at the UGA mirror (in docx and doc format), there were a few formatting issues that made reading difficult at first, issues that are not present in the archived copy of the questions. Initially, there were many, many oddly-placed line breaks-that was a minor annoyance and having checked with a number of readers, I do not think it had anything to do with my laptop. More significantly, capital-bolded N's rarely formatted correctly along with some other characters, i.e they were replaced with other characters, usually numbers or forward slashes. This became exceptionally confusing when you are reading a bonus and the answer line is "S21" while the actual answer is "SN1," or the answer line looks like ".jordr," for that tossup I just looked up the answer on Wikipedia. Obviously it was less of an issue with answers like Transfigured _ight, but nevertheless it became somewhat annoying. Now, I know that the experienced and circuit-active readers could decipher it quickly, but in a number of regions, solid experienced moderators cannot always be counted on, and I hope that in our region this did not materially affect any games, but I hope you can see how it could and thus should be avoided.

The second issue is one that I myself am not completely convinced one way or another, I am not entirely sure it even is an issue, but I will mention it anyway. With the increased proliferation of high school teams playing at ACF events (a truly welcome development), should ACF perhaps consider censoring "adult" content in the packets. I am less concerned (read: not concerned) about offending the "virgin ears" of high school students, but more concerned with the presence of parents, who might be turned off by such content, if not necessarily offended themselves either. There are a number of issues at stake, and I don't think it is sufficient to say that moderators can have the option of just not cursing, because I don't think moderators should be editing the content in any way whatsoever to begin with. I could imagine a situation where a parent or even a student might casually mention to some bored, crusading school official that they were at this quizbowl tournament where they dropped the f-bomb, which might engender a whole bevy of issues for the coach or team as well as for ACF. I might be overstating the case, but perhaps not. I might argue that with ACF's concerted effort to enforce regularity, consistency and professionalism (citing the recent heated formatting debates), this might be a step in that direction. I am only half-convinced myself that this should be done, I would be interested in others thoughts.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by dtaylor4 » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:10 pm

SnookerUSF wrote:The second issue is one that I myself am not completely convinced one way or another, I am not entirely sure it even is an issue, but I will mention it anyway. With the increased proliferation of high school teams playing at ACF events (a truly welcome development), should ACF perhaps consider censoring "adult" content in the packets. I am less concerned (read: not concerned) about offending the "virgin ears" of high school students, but more concerned with the presence of parents, who might be turned off by such content, if not necessarily offended themselves either. There are a number of issues at stake, and I don't think it is sufficient to say that moderators can have the option of just not cursing, because I don't think moderators should be editing the content in any way whatsoever to begin with. I could imagine a situation where a parent or even a student might casually mention to some bored, crusading school official that they were at this quizbowl tournament where they dropped the f-bomb, which might engender a whole bevy of issues for the coach or team as well as for ACF. I might be overstating the case, but perhaps not. I might argue that with ACF's concerted effort to enforce regularity, consistency and professionalism (citing the recent heated formatting debates), this might be a step in that direction. I am only half-convinced myself that this should be done, I would be interested in others thoughts.
I can understand not wanting "adult content" for the sake of having it, but I don't think that the answer space should be restricted because of the potential for parents to hear it. This is a college tournament that high schoolers are able to attend. They should know that such content may be there.

On a random note: whoever wrote the tossups on Straight Outta Compton and The Message, thanks much.

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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:11 pm

The packets were sent in pdf form and intended to be read as such. Tournament sites shouldn't have been trying to convert the packets back into Word format, and I have no idea why Georgia would have done that.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by vcuEvan » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:25 pm

I thought this tournament was well written overall. I did think the lead in clues and third parts of bonuses may have been largely too difficult. With literature, I detected a trend to begin author tossups with summaries of two seemingly random short stories before moving on to material that people might actually know. I could be just misjudging the importance of these short stories but I'm not sure a tournament that seeks as wide an audience as this needs quite that many clues that so few are going to know.

I'm very puzzled by the decision to combine VCU's packet with Duke's. Combining packets from two teams in the same field is generally a terrible idea and can wreak havoc on scheduling attempts.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:30 pm

vcuEvan wrote:I'm very puzzled by the decision to combine VCU's packet with Duke's. Combining packets from two teams in the same field is generally a terrible idea and can wreak havoc on scheduling attempts.
This was a mistake, so we're sorry if it caused any pains.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:34 pm

Yeah, I wanted to chime in about the variable bonus difficulty, which I see others have started to comment upon as well. I don't regard this as a flaw for which the editors of this set deserve to be castigated; rather, it's emblematic of the confusion that's been endemic in recent tournaments over what a "typical" bonus for any given difficulty level ought to look like. Some of the bonuses seem to have been written on a "this is ACF fall, but a little harder -- ANY team will get points, and competent teams will have a strong shot at 30 points" model. Then again, others seem to have been written on a "this is an ACF tournament, and I can't be giving you ANY free points unless you have some actual knowledge of the subject" model. Examples follow.

First, the "slightly harder than ACF fall" model:

In one of his novels, this man wrote about Dr. Veraswami, who fails to become a member of the European club, and
his friend, John Flory, who falls in love with Elizabeth Lackersteen. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this author of Burmese Days who said “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have
foolish thoughts” in “Politics and the English Language.”
ANSWER: George Orwell [or Eric Arthur Blair]
[10] In this memoir, Orwell describes encountering rats that were “as big as cats” while serving in Huesca. In its
second appendix, Orwell attempts to correct some of the erroneous reporting of the Spanish Civil War.
ANSWER: Homage to Catalonia
[10] The boar Old Major inspires Snowball and Napoleon to lead a revolt against Mr. Jones and take control of the
titular location of this Orwell novella, a satire of communism and the Soviet Union.
ANSWER: Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

That's the "ACF fall, but a tad harder" model in a nutshell. The "Animal Farm" part is, I'm guessing, answerable by every team playing the tournament; Orwell from two not entirely obscure works is a solid middle part; and "Homage to Catalonia" is a hard part that comes up with some frequency in the game. Terrible teams will easily get 10; experienced circuit teams will likely get 30.

But then we have bonuses like this:

For 10 points each, identify the following about philosophy inspired by the works of Descartes.
[10] This thinker’s obviously named Philosophical Treatise criticized Descartes’ conception of innate ideas. He also
tried to revive Epicureanism and is considered a forerunner of sensationalism.
ANSWER: Pierre Gassendi
[10] Gassendi mainly objected to Descartes’ ideas found in this book, in which his framework of “methodic doubt”
led him to distrust the truth of ideas which could be posed by an “evil genius” trying to deceive him. Descartes also
declared “Cogito, ergo sum,” in this work.
ANSWER: Meditations on First Philosophy
[10] This author of Search After Truth believed that “we see all things in God” and attempted to systematize
Descartes’ philosophy in the aforementioned work. He also founded Occasionalism.
ANSWER: Nicholas Malebranche

Here, the easy part is clearly "Meditations," but it isn't nearly as easy as "Animal Farm" from the clues given in the other bonus (I can imagine teams knowing that Descartes wrote a work of that title, but not knowing how to differentiate it from the "Discourse on Method"). Then the other two parts are virtually inaccessible to teams that don't have some serious philosophy knowledge. Terrible teams could easily get zero, but certainly won't get more than 10; even strong circuit teams will struggle to get 30.

A more obvious example of this awkward hybridization of substantially different bonus difficulty models appears in the "Hannah and Andy" packet. Here's bonus 6 of that round:

The title judge in the high court falls while hanging curtains, an injury which becomes mortal. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this Russian novella whose title character only finds comfort in his servant Gerasim.
ANSWER: The Death of Ivan Ilyich
[10] This man’s Christian anarchism and pacifism are well-expressed in The Kingdom of God is Within You, but this
author of The Death of Ivan Ilyich is better known for The Death of Ivan Ilyich and War and Peace.
ANSWER: Leo Tolstoy [or Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy]
[10] One of the characters of War and Peace is this friend of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. He impulsively marries
Helene, becomes a Freemason, thinks himself Napoleon's destined assassin, and finally marries Natasha Rostova.
ANSWER: Pierre Bezukov [prompt on Bezukov]

Here, we have "very well-known novella with well-known clues"; a "Tolstoy" part that will be gettable by anyone at any version of the tournament; and "principal character from one of the most famous novels ever written." That's safely on the "ACF Fall" side of the difficulty ledger. Compare that to bonus 15 of the same packet:

The speaker of this poem states that “all around” the title entity “were lettuces, sea foam of the earth, carrots,
grapes” and calls that title entity “the one and only pure ocean machine.” For 10 points each:
[10] Name this “elemental ode” addressed to a fish for sale. That title fish is described as “a bullet from the ocean
depths” and as “unflawed, navigating the waters of death.”
ANSWER: “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market”
[10] The penultimate poem of this work, is also by Pablo Neruda, begins “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” Its
last poem follows a score of romantic pieces and is more somber, bemoaning “In you everything sank!”
ANSWER: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair [or Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperad]
[10] This work, the second section of Neruda's Canto General, exhorts the reader to “Arise to birth with me, my
brother,” and sees its speaker climb the “ladder of the earth” to the title Incan hilltop fortress.
ANSWER: “The Heights of Macchu Picchu” [or “Las Alturas de Macchu Picchu”]

Here, we have "random Neruda poem that almost no teams will know" (I, for one, couldn't pull it); then "two other works by Neruda," without a gimme "Neruda" part for teams who happen not to know much about South American poetry.

Again, my point is not to say "gee, the editors sure did a terrible job of equalizing the bonuses." Rather, this disparity points again to how difficult it is -- especially given the multiplicity of editors characteristic of modern tournaments -- to achieve consistent bonus difficulty.

One suggestion I would make: When the editors for an event begin to conceptualize what they want their tournament to look like, they should have an explicit conversation about bonus difficulty. They should try to hammer out in advance the answers to a number of questions, including: "Exactly how easy do we want the easy part to be? Should it be a fairly automatic 10 even for the worst teams at the tournament [see, e.g., the "Animal Farm" part above]? Or should it require teams to have at least some substantive knowledge of the subject area or awareness of the canon [see, e.g., the "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" part above]? Should the hardest part still be something that is pretty canonical, meaning that strong teams will routinely 30 bonuses in areas they know? Or should it stretch the canon, such that getting 30 on a bonus requires truly in-depth knowledge, even though this means that very few teams will manage to get 30?"
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:05 pm

All right, so a few things.

I thought overall the set was pretty well-written. There were very few tossups that struck me immediately as really badly written or conceived. That being said, it was also overall too hard. I definitely share the concerns about the third parts of bonuses, though I myself went a little out there in the opera bonus I wrote for the finals, but I also think the average tossup difficulty was too high. I admit that I have always thought that Winter should be easier than regionals, but it seemed like there were several tossups that were way too hard and more tossups that were harder than I expected even for a "regular-difficulty" tournament. But maybe I'm just out of touch.

Anyway, a few things. First, I don't really think the right answer to "we expected word format but you sent pdfs so we had to make do and it was a pain" is "we sent pdfs and you were supposed to use them as pdfs." My site had trouble with the pdfs as well, though that was due to a problem I personally could not have foreseen. In the future, tournament editors/coordinators should include the format in which the packets will be distributed in their emails leading up to the tournament, and tournament hosts should do their best to foresee any problems there might be with that format and request an alternative if necessary.

Second, I agree with Andrew 100% about the bonus variability issue, but I would like to point out additionally that the apparent confusion over intended difficulty also led to a whole lot of "20 or 30" situations in the bonuses that didn't feature a gimme 10 part. That Neruda bonus, for instance, has an ass-hard part then two low-level parts. People have this tendency to compensate for not giving a gimme part by providing two equally difficult parts at the next lowest level, thus "keeping the bonus within the tournament difficulty." Don't do that.

Third, I encountered the same issue as Ahmad with regard to the Straight Outta Compton tossup. There were two parents in my room when I read that tossup, and they didn't seem to respond all that well to its content. "Caveat emptor" is definitely a legitimate response here, but at the same time, would it really be so bad to exercise a little restraint at lower-level tournaments? I know how funn it is to have a legitimate reason to insert profanity into the set, but I don't think it's too big a favor to ask to forbear from indulging that particular impulse. Also, as much as I love "The Message" and Straight Outta Compton, there probably shouldn't be two old school hip hop tossups in one set.

Finally, I wrote that Jap film bonus and put Akutagawa in instead of Kurosawa. My bad.

Overall a good set. Hats off to the editors.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:58 pm

Meh, not to sidetrack discussion, but it's a collegiate event - that's what the C in ACF stands for. I'm the biggest proponent of high school age players taking on college events, but I don't particularly think that they should get special rules or consideration. That means occasional question profanity. Hey, your 17-year old could be playing professional basketball in European leagues and hanging out with reprehensible 30-year old Italian dudes, count your blessings.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Boeing X-20, Please! » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:00 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:C in ACF
Competition
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Jan 17, 2010 11:06 pm

Drat.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:42 am

Particle physics! For 10 points each:
[10] These particles were posited by Pauli to explain the missing energy from the beta-decay. The Super
Kamiokande and Homestake experiments attempted to study the flavor oscillations of these leptons.
ANSWER: neutrinos
[10] Bruno Pontecorvo sometimes co-names this 3x3 matrix that describes the flavor oscillations of neutrinos.
ANSWER: PMNS matrix [or the Pontecorvo-Maki-Nakagawa-Sakata matrix]
[10] This effect posits that the neutrino oscillations are significantly higher when neutrinos travel through matter.
One of the requirements for this effect is that neutrinos possess mass.
ANSWER: MSW effect [or Mikheyev-Smirnov-Wolfenstein effect]
Fuuuuuuuck.

Stop doing this! How many particle physicists are even playing this tournament? The answer as far as I know is zero. The second two parts of this bonus are entirely opaque to me; granted, I'm not a particle guy, but I have some basic familiarity with neutrino physics by way of cosmology. There's no way I could have pulled either of those parts (we didn't play this packet at Yale) and I doubt whether anyone at any site could have done so. Those things are entirely too specialized (as in, you need to literally be a neutrino physicist to know what they are) and I can't imagine any context in which even a very good science team could have encountered either of those topics. Like, why can't "mass" be the answer to one of those parts with hard clues and "flavor oscillations" be another part? That would require you to know something about neutrino physics and yet still be accessible to people with a good physics background. Instead, this is just alphabet soup that doesn't mean anything to anyone, is hardly known outside a very small subspecialty, and guarantees no more than 10 points to everyone playing this bonus.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:32 am

Mr. Kwalter wrote:Anyway, a few things. First, I don't really think the right answer to "we expected word format but you sent pdfs so we had to make do and it was a pain" is "we sent pdfs and you were supposed to use them as pdfs." My site had trouble with the pdfs as well, though that was due to a problem I personally could not have foreseen. In the future, tournament editors/coordinators should include the format in which the packets will be distributed in their emails leading up to the tournament, and tournament hosts should do their best to foresee any problems there might be with that format and request an alternative if necessary.
The right answer shouldn't be to convert packets into another format, risking corruption and whatnot. I religiously monitored my email accounts for any problems regarding the set, and I gave all hosts my cell number too. If teams needed doc format, I had Word packets available to send. I didn't send them out because I prefer not to have lots of different versions of packets circulating, and also because pdf is pretty much the most universally readable document format available.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Geringer » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:47 am

I can only think of a few instances that a tossup would absolutely require profanity to convey information. Otherwise, cursing doesn't bring anything to a tossup and might even take away from the question. Yeah, we're all adults and can handle some f-bombs once and a while (I'm sure the high schoolers can too), but I think the swearing could eventually cause a situation similar to what Ahmad outlined above and we could avoid this pretty easily.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:51 am

Macho Man for Expediency wrote:I can only think of a few instances that a tossup would absolutely require profanity to convey information. Otherwise, cursing doesn't bring anything to a tossup and might even take away from the question. Yeah, we're all adults and can handle some f-bombs once and a while (I'm sure the high schoolers can too), but I think the swearing could eventually cause a situation similar to what Ahmad outlined above and we could avoid this pretty easily.
I doubt we can avoid it if we're writing questions on "Straight Outta Compton" or "bullshit." What you're proposing is to eliminate topics from the game based on the fact that they might hypothetically offend people who are not the target audience of the tournament. I don't see what "trouble for ACF" is going to ensue from the mother of a high school student objecting to profanity.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Geringer » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:54 am

Matt Weiner wrote:I doubt we can avoid it if we're writing questions on "Straight Outta Compton" or "bullshit."
Macho Man for Expediency wrote:I can only think of a few instances that a tossup would absolutely require profanity to convey information.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:57 am

OK, I didn't notice any expletives in Winter except in those two questions, so what are we talking about, then?
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Schweizerkas » Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:23 am

grapesmoker wrote: Stop doing this! How many particle physicists are even playing this tournament? The answer as far as I know is zero. The second two parts of this bonus are entirely opaque to me; granted, I'm not a particle guy, but I have some basic familiarity with neutrino physics by way of cosmology. There's no way I could have pulled either of those parts (we didn't play this packet at Yale) and I doubt whether anyone at any site could have done so. Those things are entirely too specialized (as in, you need to literally be a neutrino physicist to know what they are) and I can't imagine any context in which even a very good science team could have encountered either of those topics. Like, why can't "mass" be the answer to one of those parts with hard clues and "flavor oscillations" be another part? That would require you to know something about neutrino physics and yet still be accessible to people with a good physics background. Instead, this is just alphabet soup that doesn't mean anything to anyone, is hardly known outside a very small subspecialty, and guarantees no more than 10 points to everyone playing this bonus.
Whooo. That's a brutal bonus indeed. I actually am a particle physicist (but not a neutrino physicist). I've been to enough seminar talks on neutrino oscillation to have heard of both the PMNS matrix and MSW effect. (The PMNS matrix is a really basic quantity in the theory of neutrino oscillations, but unfortunately I think the acronym PMNS is not as well known as the matrix itself). But regardless, neither of them should be anything but a hard part of a bonus.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:04 am

Let me say a few words about hard bonus parts. First, I agree entirely with Andrew (Yaphe) upthread about the difficulty of balancing bonuses. Sometimes you think people will know a thing and they don't, or you think something will not be as well known as it is. A lot of these situations are just instances where people slightly misjudge the difficulty of some given answer; these things happen and while we should strive for a reduced difficulty variance on bonuses, ordinary mis-calls like this tend to a) not be terribly egregious, and b) even themselves out somewhat.

The larger problem is parts that seem to me to be picked entirely based on novelty without any obvious regard for what people can actually get. I think a good example of this is the bonus part on The Holy Sinner. I (perhaps without warrant) consider myself relatively well-versed in Thomas Mann; what major works of his I haven't read I know a lot of details about from second-hand knowledge. When I go to bookstores, if I see something of Mann's on the shelf that I don't have, I usually buy it. I can confidently say that I've never encountered The Holy Sinner in any context. Now, by itself, this is of course no argument at all; there are many things that I probably don't know that much about that are absolutely fine as answer choices. But this doesn't appear to be a particularly major Mann work, and it's not even clear to me that it's a major minor Mann work. About the only thing it seems to have to recommend it is a plot writeup on Wikipedia, which as far as I'm concerned means nothing at all. I suppose I could be convinced that this an ok hard part for ACF Nationals, but really, who is the target audience of a question on The Holy Sinner at a putative regular difficulty tournament? I just don't get it. There are plenty of major Mann works that people actually read, including anthologized novellas and so on. There is just no shortage of ways to find out who really knows more about Thomas Mann without going into what seems to me to be obscurata that even relatively well-read people with a decent amount of Thomas Mann knowledge almost certainly do not know.

I think this kind of mistake occurs when people encounter something exciting and new and don't stop to ask themselves about how someone else would know about this thing. I think it's what was responsible for things like that neutrino physics question just as much as for the Thomas Mann bonus. What everyone needs to keep in mind is that bonuses are intended to differentiate teams just as much as tossups are. In other words, better teams that know more should be getting more points. If you've written a physics bonus with two impossible parts and one part that almost anyone will get, you are not differentiating between my physics knowledge and Bruce Arthur's or Jonathan Magin's, just to throw names out there. When that happens, that's an indication that something is wrong with the question. Bonuses that basically eliminate the possibility of converting one of the parts do exactly this and should be avoided. The way to avoid them is to ask oneself how one would come to know such a thing. If the answer seems primarily to be "by clicking on every blue link in Thomas Mann's Wikipedia article," then don't do it. I'm not suggesting that that particular bonus was actually written that way, but I think it's emblematic of the kinds of things that can be easily avoided by thinking about what other people know.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:20 am

One of the questions cited above reminded me of something: I don't believe that Descartes actually uses the phrase "cogito ergo sum," in Meditations. I'm fairly sure that particular phrase comes from Discourse on Method and the text here supports that claim. That bonus part gave contradictory information regarding the desired answer.

edit: as long as I'm at it, I'd like to note that my question on the electromagnetic force mistakenly identified the photon as the only massless gauge boson. This is incorrect, as the graviton is also predicted to be massless. The text should have described it as the only massless, spinless gauge boson. After rereading the question and catching the mistake, I mentioned this to an editor but I think that correction might have fallen by the wayside. In any case, apologies for that incorrect information.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:11 pm

I thought this tossup was pretty weak:

16. Two volumes about this thinker titled Epistemology and Ontology were written by M.R. Ayers, one of the foremost authorities on this man’s work. One work by this author argues that magistrates are limited by having only external authority, while the title attitude helps to eliminate civil unrest. Originally written to Phillip van Limborch,
addressed as “Honored Sir,” that work still condemns atheists as untrustworthy. This author wrote a work whose
first section is directed against Filmer’s defense of the divine right of kings. The second part of that work by this
author claims that property results when work is done to improve nature, and outlines the shift from a state of nature
to civil society. For 10 points, name this British philosopher who wrote Two Treatises of Government.
ANSWER: John Locke

The work mentioning the title attitude was never mentioned in the question, and the clues after that were pretty lame. Oh yeah, we're not supposed to criticize individual questions without putting it in a larger context. Um, this question exemplifies the larger trend of not specifically naming works mentioned in questions. Larger context: satisfied.

I would like to get back to cussing for a moment. I'm pretty much against self censorship for college quizbowl, and I didn't think there was gratuitous swearing in the ACF Winter set. That said, I think the response, "The high school teams/coaches/parents should expect cussing at a college event, so they shouldn't get mad," is kinda lame. For all a parent knows, college quizbowl is basically like Jeopardy with 4 people on each team, and I don't know why a coach who is trying out a college tournament for the first time should necessarily expect saltier language at a college event when high school tournaments test knowledge without such colorful words. So I think programs running a tournament should make it clear to these high school teams that, on occasion, there might be adult language. Put it in the tournament announcement or mailer or whatever, and make it clear. As someone who thinks it's good to have lots of high schoolers playing college quizbowl, I think that would be good practice to facilitate that.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by cornfused » Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:52 pm

grapesmoker wrote:as long as I'm at it, I'd like to note that my question on the electromagnetic force mistakenly identified the photon as the only massless gauge boson. This is incorrect, as the graviton is also predicted to be massless. The text should have described it as the only massless, spinless gauge boson. After rereading the question and catching the mistake, I mentioned this to an editor but I think that correction might have fallen by the wayside. In any case, apologies for that incorrect information.
I negged that with "gravity" on the massless gauge boson clue... glad to hear I'm not crazy.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by cornfused » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:01 pm

On a different topic: why were the finals packets for this being written during the tournament itself? It was less than encouraging for my team to see only 2/2 of our packet used, then to watch the editors continue to write while the tournament prelims were being played.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Pilgrim » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:35 pm

grapesmoker wrote:One of the questions cited above reminded me of something: I don't believe that Descartes actually uses the phrase "cogito ergo sum," in Meditations. I'm fairly sure that particular phrase comes from Discourse on Method and the text here supports that claim. That bonus part gave contradictory information regarding the desired answer.
Yes, this was a mistake that I somehow didn't catch in editing, which is odd because I noticed it immediately while reading for the tournament. Sorry about that.
The Midnight Rider wrote:I thought this tossup was pretty weak:

16. Two volumes about this thinker titled Epistemology and Ontology were written by M.R. Ayers, one of the foremost authorities on this man’s work. One work by this author argues that magistrates are limited by having only external authority, while the title attitude helps to eliminate civil unrest. Originally written to Phillip van Limborch,
addressed as “Honored Sir,” that work still condemns atheists as untrustworthy. This author wrote a work whose
first section is directed against Filmer’s defense of the divine right of kings. The second part of that work by this
author claims that property results when work is done to improve nature, and outlines the shift from a state of nature
to civil society. For 10 points, name this British philosopher who wrote Two Treatises of Government.
ANSWER: John Locke

The work mentioning the title attitude was never mentioned in the question, and the clues after that were pretty lame. Oh yeah, we're not supposed to criticize individual questions without putting it in a larger context. Um, this question exemplifies the larger trend of not specifically naming works mentioned in questions. Larger context: satisfied.
I'm not sure what happened here, since "Letter Concerning Toleration" was definitely part of the edited question. However, I would like to argue with your premise that any work referenced in an author question must have its title given later on. I feel like there can be a plethora of instances where a description of a work is way less well known (in the quizbowl community) than the title of that work. In order to maintain pyramidality, then, you're not going to want to put the title and description next to each other. Most of the time you can then drop the title later in the question (the popular "description of work, description of work. In addition to x and y" model, for example), but sometimes the structure of the question doesn't permit this. I think in such cases, it is better to preserve pyramidality and lose the title of the work than to either drop the title where it doesn't belong or to contort the wording of the question to try to fit it in later.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:40 pm

I can't say I feel there were any problems with that Locke question. The titles of Locke's works are pretty well known, so it makes some sense to push them to the back. I think the content being referenced was described pretty well, or at least well enough for me to buzz on it confidently.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:11 pm

Pilgrim wrote: I'm not sure what happened here, since "Letter Concerning Toleration" was definitely part of the edited question. However, I would like to argue with your premise that any work referenced in an author question must have its title given later on. I feel like there can be a plethora of instances where a description of a work is way less well known (in the quizbowl community) than the title of that work. In order to maintain pyramidality, then, you're not going to want to put the title and description next to each other. Most of the time you can then drop the title later in the question (the popular "description of work, description of work. In addition to x and y" model, for example), but sometimes the structure of the question doesn't permit this. I think in such cases, it is better to preserve pyramidality and lose the title of the work than to either drop the title where it doesn't belong or to contort the wording of the question to try to fit it in later.
Sure, I agree re: mentioning titles. However, with this particular question it would have been helpful to have Letter Concerning Toleration mentioned at some point, imo. It wouldn't have sacrificed pyramidality and could have been worked in artfully.
Pilgrim wrote:I can't say I feel there were any problems with that Locke question. The titles of Locke's works are pretty well known, so it makes some sense to push them to the back. I think the content being referenced was described pretty well, or at least well enough for me to buzz on it confidently.
I'll agree to disagree. I'm not arguing to put "Letter Concerning Toleration" at the beginning of the question, but I don't see why it shouldn't have gotten worked in at some point.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:31 pm

cornfused wrote:On a different topic: why were the finals packets for this being written during the tournament itself? It was less than encouraging for my team to see only 2/2 of our packet used, then to watch the editors continue to write while the tournament prelims were being played.
I can assure you that those two things do not share a common cause.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:54 pm

The Midnight Rider wrote:I'll agree to disagree. I'm not arguing to put "Letter Concerning Toleration" at the beginning of the question, but I don't see why it shouldn't have gotten worked in at some point.
Yeah, I don't mean to disagree with this. I think it would have been a good idea to mention it towards the end.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by marnold » Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:59 pm

I wrote the Locke question that is rapidly starting the inevitable thread-derailment-over-one-question phenomenon. I put the title in there, but I also wrote a question that was too long; most of the editing of the question was making what I wrote more concise, so I assume in that process it was accidentally deleted, or perhaps the version in the packets was somehow in the middle of the editing process and the title got lost in the shuffle.

To offer something that might steer this back into more fruitful territory, one thing I liked most about this tournament was that literature tossups seemed to begin with with events that were actually memorable rather than ridiculously minor or hopelessly vague. Examples that come to mind are tossups on The Trial and Arthur Miller; I haven't read the relevant works particularly recently, but the first few clues were both things I found quite memorable. So good on ya for that.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:02 pm

I think Andrew is dead on, and I really regret that I wasn't able to make the bonuses more uniform, which had been one of my goals coming into the tournament. There was a major crisis in the last few days of tournament editing that really forced me away from using the model of editing I wanted, so I didn't get much of a chance to implement my vision for the tournament.

Areas where I thought we came up short:

1) Bonus variability was unfortunate, especially the amount of bonuses whose third parts were not gettable for a vast majority of teams, nor objectively important enough to warrant inclusion on their own merits.

2) Tossups did a fairly poor job of using hard clues from famous things. I agree with Evan Adams that many lit tossups on authors seemed to start by describing two haphazardly chosen short stories. I wanted to see us concentrate on rigorous testing of the basics at this tournament, but we often fell short of that aim.

3) There were a few information repeats throughout the tournament, which a final read-through of the set would have undoubtedly eliminated.

4) There were way too many en-vogue answers coming up for a tournament that was supposed to avoid them. Specifically, Japanese literature was again vastly overrepresented.

5) I really don't think it's acceptable to be writing a tournament during the tournament itself, and unfortunately completing the finals packets came down to that.

Though we didn't achieve everything we set out to achieve, I think this turned out to be one of the better regular-difficulty tournaments in a while. Specifically, I think we came closer to a rigorous test of the basics than any regular tournament in recent memory, and I hope that future tournaments can build on that vision. I don't want to take anything away from what the editors did, because all four of them are among the best in quizbowl, and the set ended up okay because their talents and the massive amount of work they put into it. Hopefully everyone was able to enjoy the set, because I think it was pretty good.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:08 pm

marnold wrote:To offer something that might steer this back into more fruitful territory, one thing I liked most about this tournament was that literature tossups seemed to begin with with events that were actually memorable rather than ridiculously minor or hopelessly vague. Examples that come to mind are tossups on The Trial and Arthur Miller; I haven't read the relevant works particularly recently, but the first few clues were both things I found quite memorable. So good on ya for that.
Yeah I felt this tournament did a very good job asking about important people and works from literature. I also liked the tossups on The Trial and Arthur Miller. Often times in quizbowl tournaments I get the sense that no matter how much I read of canonically famous authors I'm not going to really get rewarded for it, but this tournament showed otherwise.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008

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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:25 pm

I too agree with the general assessment of the literature questions. I thought both the history and the philosophy categories were pretty well done too, and the physics questions generally tried to ask about more significant basic things than many tournaments had done in the past. One question I have about literature: where was that "New Zealand" tossup going after Katherine Mansfield?
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:43 pm

I'm glad people liked the Miller and Straight Outta Compton tossups.

I'm interested in people's opinions re: the tossup on the electric field I wrote. I intentionally included no eponyms in the science I submitted, and this tossup made it through without any making their way in there:

Particles of dielectric materials may be separated in a fractionation method that uses a nonuniform one of these. Band-bending occurs because it varies linearly in a depletion layer. Symmetric top molecules undergo line-splitting in their microwave spectrum due to the application of one of these. Modulators for active Q-switching lasers rely on an effect in which crystals lacking inversion symmetry become birefringent in linear proportion to the magnitude of one of these. Its flux through a surface is proportional to enclosed charge, and its curl is equal to the negative time partial of the magnetic field. Its magnitude is proportional to one-over-r for a line charge, and it is proportional to one over r squared for a point charge. For 10 points, name this vector field given in units of volts per meter.
ANSWER: electric field [or E field]

So the line-splitting in the third sentence is an example of the Stark effect, I think, and the fourth describes the Pockels effect. Of course, the Pockels effect by name is buzzed on less than the Stark effect. Do people think that the descriptions (in the context given) are in the right order here? I wasn't sure.

On other notes, I'm happy about what I see in the science re: the increased number of questions that draw on (or ask for) lab technique, such as the FRET tossup or the chemistry lab techniques bonus. (Also, things like quorum sensing are pretty cool; we should have more questions on topics like that and fewer of the two thousandth tossup on lysosomes.)

I'll read more later, but I'm generally happy with the science in this set; while it has some of the issues that Jerry etc. pointed out, it doesn't seem to have those issues to a greater extent than other questions in the set. And, most importantly, it explores good topics for questions and good ways to write questions.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:11 pm

On reflection, the use of the word "dielectric" in a tossup on the electric field seems a little unfortunate, but this did not occur to me at the time. Otherwise, I think it's a good question that avoids the effects-bowl model according to which lots of physics questions get written.
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Re: ACF Winter discussion

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:37 pm

Mr. Kwalter wrote:
Third, I encountered the same issue as Ahmad with regard to the Straight Outta Compton tossup. There were two parents in my room when I read that tossup, and they didn't seem to respond all that well to its content. "Caveat emptor" is definitely a legitimate response here, but at the same time, would it really be so bad to exercise a little restraint at lower-level tournaments? I know how funn it is to have a legitimate reason to insert profanity into the set, but I don't think it's too big a favor to ask to forbear from indulging that particular impulse. Also, as much as I love "The Message" and Straight Outta Compton, there probably shouldn't be two old school hip hop tossups in one set.
It's always tough to say whether or not profanity should be used. If parents are all up in arms about it, they shouldn't have their kids playing it. It is kind of necessary to put "I'm a fucking soldier" in a Kellen Winslow Jr. tossup. On the other hand, I take more offense when players make a drop every 4 letter word in the dictionary when they neg. Yeah, a little bit of emotion is ok, and no ones gonna care if you slip up, but completely losing it is unacceptable. It's a slippery slope which leads going Jose Offerman on the buzzer, or even the moderator. Just try and be respectful, considering the other team is not one of your boys.
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