Regionals discussion

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Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sat Feb 20, 2010 7:50 pm

With this thread, I'd like to open the discussion of ACF Regionals. Before it commences, some comments are in order.

First of all, I'd like to thank all of my co-editors for their fine work. Although we were not able to meet the ambitious goal of sending out the packets on Thursday, due to everyone's hard work, we were able to do things like correct for grammar, catch repeats, and edit problematic questions before we sent out the final set. I won't say it's the most polished set in the world, but I think we did a good job of not just writing some good questions but also making sure that grammatically and orthographically our house was in order.

Pursuant to that point, I'd like to nominate Jonah Greenthal for the Order of Hero of Quizbowl Socialist Labor. Jonah took many hours to help us proofread and randomize packets, even catching some factual errors in the process. We are heavily indebted to his hard work for being able to concentrate our energies on the writing process rather than having to worry about the mechanical aspects too much.

Some words about the content of the set itself: I don't want to prejudice the discussion but I feel like this was a pretty good set. Obviously we want your feedback on this. We worked hard to reduce difficulty across the board when it came to bonuses and tossup answers. We also hoped to reduce bonus variability by ensuring that every bonus had well-defined easy, medium, and hard parts. I don't think we managed to do this perfectly, but I felt like we had an appreciable degree of success. Later I will have some comments about the submissions and what the logic was in how we went about editing them. Speaking of which, the breakdown of responsibility was:

Chris Ray - European history, non-Western history, trash
Trygve Meade - British lit, religion, mythology, geography, and social science
Dwight Wynne - biology, chemistry, and American history
Ted Gioia - fine arts, non-British literature
Jerry Vinokurov - physics, other science, and philosophy

If you have questions about why a question was changed and how it got that way, we'll be happy to answer them. We can also offer feedback in private, but we do encourage you to make your questions public if you can; this is because a lot more people than just you can learn from a discussion of the questions. We did make a lot of edits along the way, often rewriting entire bonuses and replacing tossups wholesale, so a lot of things didn't make it past the editing process. But we'll be happy to explain why we did what we did and give you feedback on how you can improve the quality of your submissions. By the way, the general quality of the submissions was quite high, which was very pleasing for us. The level of writing on the circuit is on the rise, which is greatly encouraging. I was particularly pleased to get early packets from places like Miami, McMaster, and other places that have not been packet-writing powerhouses in the past.

Let the discussion begin. We look forward to hearing your comments on the set.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Gautam » Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:10 am

I enjoyed this tournament. I don't really have any complaints to make, and I want to thank the editors for a fine set.

This set did a great job of minimizing the impossible hard parts. There were also a good number of interesting, reasonable answers that were asked about in a very creative manner, and I enjoyed that very much.

Kudos to the editors.

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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:14 am

I liked this set quite a bit overall. My impression was that questions were well written, but there did seem to be a few more repeats than usual (Ma Vlast and Smetana came up in consecutive rounds, and I think there were a couple Moliere things, among others). A couple other thoughts:

I think there was far less orgo than normal, at least in the packets I heard. I felt like I heard something like 2/2 on the day, though that is probably an exaggeration. As someone who actually enjoys organic chemistry questions, that was rather disappointing.

There was a bonus part on TMS, which I think said that it had no carbons. Tetra methyl silane certainly has some. They just have especially thick electron clouds, since silicon is not especially electronegative. If I heard it right, you should correct that before the tournament tomorrow.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:57 am

There's going to be a lot of tournament-to-tournament variability because of what gets submitted, what we keep and what we throw out, and so on. I think there has been a counter-reaction against orgo recently, since it's really dominated the chemistry category in recent memory, and I suspect this is a consequence of that.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:27 pm

List of ferry operators in Japan wrote:I think there was far less orgo than normal, at least in the packets I heard. I felt like I heard something like 2/2 on the day, though that is probably an exaggeration. As someone who actually enjoys organic chemistry questions, that was rather disappointing.
Questions wholly on organic chemistry:
Wittig Reaction
Elias Corey
amines
polymerization bonus
ethers bonus
bonus on toxic oxygen-containing compounds
carbocations bonus
NMR bonus
Diels-Alder bonus
bonus about cyclic carbons
Grignard reagents/epoxides bonus

That's 3/8 entirely on o-chem, plus there were tossups on molecular orbital theory and Lewis acids and a bonus on the Mannich reaction which were partially on organic chemistry. Looking at the packet list, you should have heard somewhere around 2/6 of that. I intentionally tried to limit the amount of o-chem, expecting to be flooded with it. Instead, people wrote many good questions on things from other disciplines from chemistry, and I was happy to use them. If that made organic stuff amount to less than one question per packet, I guess that's a side effect that people were either happy or unhappy about depending on their preference for o-chem.
List of ferry operators in Japan wrote:There was a bonus part on TMS, which I think said that it had no carbons. Tetra methyl silane certainly has some. They just have especially thick electron clouds, since silicon is not especially electronegative. If I heard it right, you should correct that before the tournament tomorrow.
Yeah, leaving that phrase in was a brainfart on my part. Apologies to anyone who got hosed there.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:40 pm

This was a very enjoyable tournament. I think at times it hit a touch more difficult than it needed to on tossups (Leisler's Rebellion, the movie Adam's Rib, Conway's Cabal--and those are things I knew, I'm doubtless forgetting a few harder things), but on the whole, answers reflected a nice variety of topics. I was especially happy with the way the American History featured some pretty cool stuff, like Eisenhower's Farewell Address and MLK's final speech (my only neg of the day!). I also couldn't be sure, but it also felt like the Your Choice style of writing produced some creative, interesting ideas that were separate from pure trash stuff. Bonuses were very well done, I thought, fairly handing out 10's, 20's, and 30's.

Minor quibbles--3 Jewish holiday tossups? Also, I felt a lot of the science tossups were extremely equation heavy. This is not a complaint, and it seemed like the people who really knew what was going on were getting them. I'm just curious what others felt or if this was a direct editing philosophy.

I'm really happy that the science editors kept all or most of my science answer lines, but significantly rewrote the clues so that I, as a poor science writer, can see how better to construct science tossups.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:49 pm

The science (at least in physics and "other" categories) was a conscious effort by me to write science in a way that I envisioned would be most helpful to science players. I worked hard to minimize clues like "Eponymous Model modifies this Doubly Eponymous Model," and where I did drop names, I did so in the context of harder clues. I put a lot of emphasis on things that you're likely to see in a physics class and understand and minimized things that I felt would result in reaction buzzes from reading Wikipedia articles.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:43 pm

Overall, I really enjoyed this tournament, and it may have been the best set I've played this year. Some criticisms, below, though:

Geography: At least in the packets we played at Columbia, there was essentially no geography (I heard maybe one tossup all day that I would call geography, and no bonuses). I'm not a geography buff, and I'd have no objection to seeing geography reduced in the ACF distribution, and my team probably reaped the benefits of the extra fine arts and social science we got to hear as a consequence. However, as long as the ACF distribution posted on the website continues to ask us all to write 1/1 geography, and we are lead to believe that there will be geography in the tournament, excising it from the first 20/20 of most of the tournament feels kind of disingenuous.

Music questions: in general I found myself buzzing a lot earlier on them than I did at ACF Fall or Sectionals, for example. I don't mean to suggest that the answers were too easy; I think they were of fine difficulty. But I think a lot of the lead-ins tended to reward quite basic primary knowledge of a piece/composer quite early. This is not really a criticism, since I have nothing against this writing philosophy. I'm just curious if this was a conscious writing-philosophy decision (à la what T-party said it's planning on doing), and if other music players felt this way about the music questions too.

The only two questions where I felt this approach might be problematic (and I'd like to hear what others have to say) were the tossups on the Clarinet and on Bartok.

For the clarinet, the first clue was the opening of Sibelius' First Symphony and then the second clue was about its evolution from the chalumeau. Chalumeau strikes me as something that any clarinetist (since the low range of the instrument is still called chalumeau) would know, as would any person who has taken a basic orchestration class or taken any sort of music history class that addresses evolution of the modern orchestra (which I think most should). I don't know what clues come after the chalumeau clue, but if it is more repertory clues (e.g. has a big solo in Mvmt. A of Symphony X), I would think that most of them (short of "plays the cat in Peter in the Wolf" or "has an opening glissando in Rhapsody in Blue" or something) should come before chalumeau to give people who actually know something about clarinet repertory a chance to buzz first.

Likewise, for the Bartok, the clue about "namesake pizzicato" was dropped before we really got into much meaty description of his pieces. I have very little Bartok knowledge, but I think almost anyone who plays or listens to 20th century string music or has studied orchestration will have heard of a Bartok pizzicato. And I think it would have been better to reward someone with more in-depth knowledge of his famous pieces first. I know that I make these kinds of arguments often and people I say that I'm overestimating the music knowledge of quizbowl players, but "clarinet" and "Bartok" are easy enough answers, that I don't think it could hurt to probe deeper in the lead-ins.

As a side note, the Nixon in China tossup used one of the same exact lead-ins as the tossup on Nixon in China from last year's Regionals. This was perhaps ill-advised, as it allowed me to buzz without having any Nixon in China knowledge. The Jupiter Symphony tossup was also very stock clue-riddled in the beginning, enough so that I think both Aaron Rosenberg and myself refused to buzz on the first couple of clues even though we knew them. Michael Hausinger already noted the tossups on Smetana and Ma Vlast in consercutive packets; I definitely liked the latter, though.

I liked a lot of the other music tossups too. I was happy to hear Appalachian Spring tossed up with some nice theory/analysis clues. I was very happy to hear what little I could of a Trout Quintet tossup, before Kevin buzzed in off a good theory/analysis clue (even though more chamber music tossups would spell the death of my ability to buzz on music questions). I was delighted to see a bonus on conductors (we need more bonuses on performers), though I'm a little unclear which is the hard part of the bonus. Bernstein was the obvious easy part, but Karajan and Szell strike me as both being of equal difficulty. I mean, I see most teams going 10 or 30 here, but not 20. But I guess that this is what's required to work these guys into the canon.

Film: I was happy to see a strong film presence at this tournament. Though I'm always happy to hear tossups on 40's Hollywood film especially, Adam's Rib strikes me as a little bit too difficult for this tournament (Mike Cheyne seems to feel the same way). There's a lot more Studio Era film out there to be mined that's more famous and more culturally significant before this one. (By the way, was this categorized as Fine Arts or Trash?).

Last, the Mickey Mouse tossup. I remember being completely baffled by essentially the entire tossup and then suddenly hearing "Steamboat Willie" and losing a buzzer race. I may have been listening badly, but there seemed to be a huge cliff. Could someone possibly post that one?
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 5:57 pm

I don't mean to pick on music people (again) but I want to keep this thread into devolving into "I am an expert who thought it was too easy" type of commentary.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: For the clarinet, the first clue was the opening of Sibelius' First Symphony and then the second clue was about its evolution from the chalumeau. Chalumeau strikes me as something that any clarinetist (since the low range of the instrument is still called chalumeau) would know, as would any person who has taken a basic orchestration class or taken any sort of music history class that addresses evolution of the modern orchestra (which I think most should). I don't know what clues come after the chalumeau clue, but if it is more repertory clues (e.g. has a big solo in Mvmt. A of Symphony X), I would think that most of them (short of "plays the cat in Peter in the Wolf" or "has an opening glissando in Rhapsody in Blue" or something) should come before chalumeau to give people who actually know something about clarinet repertory a chance to buzz first.
So, in other words, people who study music and are good at music have a good chance of knowing the answer on an early clue. I see no problem with this! Your knowledge is being rewarded. Given that the number of people in quizbowl with clarinet and/or orchestration experience is likely to be low, I have no problem with the people who do have this knowledge buzzing early.
Likewise, for the Bartok, the clue about "namesake pizzicato" was dropped before we really got into much meaty description of his pieces. I have very little Bartok knowledge, but I think almost anyone who plays or listens to 20th century string music or has studied orchestration will have heard of a Bartok pizzicato. And I think it would have been better to reward someone with more in-depth knowledge of his famous pieces first. I know that I make these kinds of arguments often and people I say that I'm overestimating the music knowledge of quizbowl players, but "clarinet" and "Bartok" are easy enough answers, that I don't think it could hurt to probe deeper in the lead-ins.
You are indeed overestimating the music knowledge of quizbowl players. As someone who has seen many, many people play quizbowl over many years, I can assure you that knowledge of Bartok pizzicatos is nowhere near as widespread as you think.

If there are clues that are misplaced, by all means bring that to our attention. But I find these criticisms to be less about anything wrong with the questions as such and much more about your personal tastes and knowledge. Criticizing questions because you, an expert, knew the leadin clues is pretty pointless.
I was delighted to see a bonus on conductors (we need more bonuses on performers), though I'm a little unclear which is the hard part of the bonus. Bernstein was the obvious easy part, but Karajan and Szell strike me as both being of equal difficulty. I mean, I see most teams going 10 or 30 here, but not 20. But I guess that this is what's required to work these guys into the canon.
Szell is so very clearly the hard part here. I know of Karajan (I believe I read about him in the context of reading about World War II in general, not off music knowledge) and I know nothing about Szell. Again, you are allowing your personal knowledge level to determine difficulty instead of looking at across-the-board possibilities of conversion.
I was happy to see a strong film presence at this tournament. Though I'm always happy to hear tossups on 40's Hollywood film especially, Adam's Rib strikes me as a little bit too difficult for this tournament (Mike Cheyne seems to feel the same way). There's a lot more Studio Era film out there to be mined that's more famous and more culturally significant before this one. (By the way, was this categorized as Fine Arts or Trash?).
Film is Fine Arts - Other.
Last, the Mickey Mouse tossup. I remember being completely baffled by essentially the entire tossup and then suddenly hearing "Steamboat Willie" and losing a buzzer race. I may have been listening badly, but there seemed to be a huge cliff. Could someone possibly post that one?
I'll post it, but that question clearly described several other Mickey cartoons, then gave a plot description of "Steamboat Willie," and then titles. Seems ok to me.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Ringil » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:02 pm

The history in this packet was pretty cool, mostly. I liked the tossups on Henry VII, Edward IV, and the Vendee, who aren't tossed up that much.

I was a little annoyed at the War of Polish Succession question. Near the for ten points, it talked about a pragmatic sanction. This just seems like a bad clue to place near the end, where it would be a reasonable placement about the War of Austrian Succession, and led me to neg with War of Austrian Succession.

The Henry III tossup in the same packet also caused me to neg when the Battle of Lincoln was mentioned, after describing that battle as one that secured the succession of that king. Unfortunately, the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 secured the succession for Henry II, leading me to confuse the two. It seemed like this could draw negs from people.

I'm a bit surprised that Pericle's Funeral Speech was considered a history tossup.
Also, can someone post the Cambyses II tossup?
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:08 pm

Ringil wrote:I was a little annoyed at the War of Polish Succession question. Near the for ten points, it talked about a pragmatic sanction. This just seems like a bad clue to place near the end, where it would be a reasonable placement about the War of Austrian Succession, and led me to neg with War of Austrian Succession.
Attention: you gotta pay it. Recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction was one of the causes of the war of the Polish Succession.
The Henry III tossup in the same packet also caused me to neg when the Battle of Lincoln was mentioned, after describing that battle as one that secured the succession of that king. Unfortunately, the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 secured the succession for Henry II, leading me to confuse the two. It seemed like this could draw negs from people.
Yeah, that probably should have said "Second Battle of Lincoln." I didn't actually know there were two.
I'm a bit surprised that Pericle's Funeral Speech was considered a history tossup.
Why?
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Ringil » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:38 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Ringil wrote:I was a little annoyed at the War of Polish Succession question. Near the for ten points, it talked about a pragmatic sanction. This just seems like a bad clue to place near the end, where it would be a reasonable placement about the War of Austrian Succession, and led me to neg with War of Austrian Succession.
Attention: you gotta pay it. Recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction was one of the causes of the war of the Polish Succession.
I'm a bit surprised that Pericle's Funeral Speech was considered a history tossup.
Why?
For the Polish Succession question, I recognize that, of course, you're right that it was correct and that I should have been paying more attention. However, I also think that putting that there is possible neg-bait and perhaps not the best idea.

The Pericles' Funeral Speech seemed like some literature question the whole time. While it did reward reading Thucydides, it didn't seem to reward much else, which is why I was a bit surprised.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:48 pm

I have some reservations and caveats about this set, but for now I'll just respond to the mention of that Bartok question. The first clue in that tossup was something like "It has been argued that this composer's [something] was influenced by the Treaty of Trianon." I have no idea what this "pizzicato" clue is, because I buzzed immediately and said "hm, what composer could have been influenced by that post-World War I treaty involving Hungary? Perhaps notable Hungarian-composer-alive-in-the-1920s Bela Bartok?"

I don't want to get into a discussion of "reaction to SCT v. reaction to ACF regs," but I have to think that if that lead-in appeared in an SCT tossup, it would be pilloried as "transparent" and "allowing people who don't know about music to get the question on a history clue."
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:51 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I don't mean to pick on music people (again) but I want to keep this thread into devolving into "I am an expert who thought it was too easy" type of commentary.
I specifically said that I did not think that the questions are too easy, and that I think the approach to writing the music questions generally worked, but that there are two questions where the clues coming as they did would allow for fraud or could interfere with pyramidality, and those are the ones I criticized.
So, in other words, people who study music and are good at music have a good chance of knowing the answer on an early clue. I see no problem with this! Your knowledge is being rewarded. Given that the number of people in quizbowl with clarinet and/or orchestration experience is likely to be low, I have no problem with the people who do have this knowledge buzzing early.
No, I mean that someone who played clarinet in band in middle school could therefore buzzer race with someone there who had in-depth knowledge of clarinet repertory, because a basic clarinet clue had been inserted early. I thought that would have potential to interfere with pyramidality (I specifically said in my criticism, that I thought that this would be problem if it were followed by repertory clues, as I think this is more well-known fact than a lot of repertory clues). And I do think that in spite of what you say, the clarinet is a very common instrument.
You are indeed overestimating the music knowledge of quizbowl players. As someone who has seen many, many people play quizbowl over many years, I can assure you that knowledge of Bartok pizzicatos is nowhere near as widespread as you think.


I'm not arguing that it super well-known, but I am arguing that it can be very easily frauded by people who know nothing about Bartok specifically, but know something about just general 20th Century Music, or who've just played a string instrument in an orchestra that plays contemporary. And I feel that not much substantive description of Bartok's major works had gone by at this point. It's a bit like dropping a clue about Chekhov's gun after having given one substantive clue from an obscure short story, which would be equally inappropriate and that's what I object to.
If there are clues that are misplaced, by all means bring that to our attention.
That's in fact exactly what I'm trying to do.
But I find these criticisms to be less about anything wrong with the questions as such and much more about your personal tastes and knowledge. Criticizing questions because you, an expert, knew the leadin clues is pretty pointless.
I have good knowledge of music in some areas, but I am not a well-rounded "expert". I know in which areas of music I have deep knowledge and which areas I have very shallow knowledge. Being on a Yale quizbowl team that has three music majors (including myself) perhaps warps my perspective into thinking that there are more music players out there than there actually are, but it also makes me hyperaware of when leadins/middle clues fail to distinguish between levels of knowledge or when questions are pyramidal, because I know when one of us gets beaten to a music tossup by another who knows significantly less about that composer or piece (going back to my lit analogy, it's as if you who have read Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, and Three Sisters were just beaten by someone who's never read any Chekhov but has heard of Chekhov's gun, because that was a lead-in for the Chekhov tossup). I always try in my criticism of questions to distinguish between what I personally know because of my tastes and what I think musicians/music students generally know. I find it unfair to claim that I am just criticizing questions because I knew the lead-in: I'm not criticizing all the music questions that I was able to answer early, only those where I answered them early and have the strong sense that I know very little about the actual answer.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:54 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I have some reservations and caveats about this set, but for now I'll just respond to the mention of that Bartok question. The first clue in that tossup was something like "It has been argued that this composer's [something] was influenced by the Treaty of Trianon." I have no idea what this "pizzicato" clue is, because I buzzed immediately and said "hm, what composer could have been influenced by that post-World War I treaty involving Hungary? Perhaps notable Hungarian-composer-alive-in-the-1920s Bela Bartok?"

I don't want to get into a discussion of "reaction to SCT v. reaction to ACF regs," but I have to think that if that lead-in appeared in an SCT tossup, it would be pilloried as "transparent" and "allowing people who don't know about music to get the question on a history clue."
That sure does suck, I agree. I had meant to edit that out, actually, and I apologize that this obviously transparent leadin made it into the question.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:05 pm

One other area I wanted to remark on was differential bonus difficulty. This isn't meant as a broadside, but as a question: Was the bio/chem in this tournament drastically harder than other bonus areas? My Stanford team was without Arnav, meaning that our grasp of those categories was somewhat rudimentary. Still, it seemed to me that the "easy" parts of bio bonuses were often things we struggled to get, while the middle and hard parts were way out of our reach; as opposed to lit bonuses where the "easy" answer would be something like "Macbeth" or "Remembrance of Things Past" from very blatant clues, and where the harder parts didn't seem to veer so far from "what is gettable by non-experts." It's entirely possible that this perspective is skewed because we were without our only truly competent bio/chem player, but I wanted to throw that out there.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:21 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:One other area I wanted to remark on was differential bonus difficulty. This isn't meant as a broadside, but as a question: Was the bio/chem in this tournament drastically harder than other bonus areas? My Stanford team was without Arnav, meaning that our grasp of those categories was somewhat rudimentary. Still, it seemed to me that the "easy" parts of bio bonuses were often things we struggled to get, while the middle and hard parts were way out of our reach; as opposed to lit bonuses where the "easy" answer would be something like "Macbeth" or "Remembrance of Things Past" from very blatant clues, and where the harder parts didn't seem to veer so far from "what is gettable by non-experts." It's entirely possible that this perspective is skewed because we were without our only truly competent bio/chem player, but I wanted to throw that out there.
I'm probably not the right person to comment on this, but I think the chemistry might have been a little harder than some of the other categories, but looking at the answer selection, there are lots of things in there that I feel I would have gotten if I were playing that question, and I only know basic things about chemistry. I think some of the hard bonus parts tended to be harder than comparable bonus parts in other categories though. The bio bonuses did seem to have fewer truly easy parts, however.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by millionwaves » Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:36 pm

I'm going to try to take a more active role in this post-tournament discussion than I have in other discussions of this type.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Geography: At least in the packets we played at Columbia, there was essentially no geography (I heard maybe one tossup all day that I would call geography, and no bonuses). I'm not a geography buff, and I'd have no objection to seeing geography reduced in the ACF distribution, and my team probably reaped the benefits of the extra fine arts and social science we got to hear as a consequence. However, as long as the ACF distribution posted on the website continues to ask us all to write 1/1 geography, and we are lead to believe that there will be geography in the tournament, excising it from the first 20/20 of most of the tournament feels kind of disingenuous.
At the outset, the editors of this tournament committed to using 4/4 each of the big three, 3/3 each of Fine Arts and RMP, and 1/1 Social Science per packet. Math tells us that that leaves only 1/1 in the first 20/20 for geography and Your Choice, which, except for two or three submitted packets, was trash. Chris and I went through each packet and figured out which of the geography and trash questions were the best combination for the remaining 1/1 and went with that, with the goal of producing the most interesting and enjoyable set for people to play on. Much of the time, the packets had 1 question each geography and other, but in the cases where we had really good your choice, we often just went with that in the interest of providing the best questions.

Another thing that might have obscured how much geography there was in the set was my tendency to put in history, social science, and current events clue alongside pure geography clues. I felt that that made the tossups more interesting and perhaps rewarded deeper (or more meaningful?) knowledge than tossups that rely entirely on clues like "this river borders x country."

And in response to Mike, who questioned the wisdom of having three Jewish holiday tossups - actually, there were only two. The third Jewish question was on Shabbat, which I included in an effort to test knowledge of more day-to-day Judaism. I analogized that to a tossup on, say, "the Eucharist" - not really the same thing as a holiday at all, in my book.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by millionwaves » Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:37 pm

That isn't to say that two Jewish holiday tossups aren't too many. I'm certainly sympathetic to that idea.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:28 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:No, I mean that someone who played clarinet in band in middle school could therefore buzzer race with someone there who had in-depth knowledge of clarinet repertory, because a basic clarinet clue had been inserted early. I thought that would have potential to interfere with pyramidality (I specifically said in my criticism, that I thought that this would be problem if it were followed by repertory clues, as I think this is more well-known fact than a lot of repertory clues). And I do think that in spite of what you say, the clarinet is a very common instrument.
Is there a great number of clarinetists out there? I mean, I really don't know but I suspect a great number of people do not in fact play clarinet at any level. It may be "common" in some other context but it's all that common either on the circuit or among people in general. I believe that your hypothetical is certainly possible, but until I see some evidence that either this has actually happened on a large scale or that a whole bunch of people totally played some clarinet at some point, I'm not going to take this objection particularly seriously.
I'm not arguing that it super well-known, but I am arguing that it can be very easily frauded by people who know nothing about Bartok specifically, but know something about just general 20th Century Music, or who've just played a string instrument in an orchestra that plays contemporary. And I feel that not much substantive description of Bartok's major works had gone by at this point. It's a bit like dropping a clue about Chekhov's gun after having given one substantive clue from an obscure short story, which would be equally inappropriate and that's what I object to.
Oh, is that all you have to do, play a string instrument in an orchestra? Hey, everyone does that! This is roughly analogous to me saying, "anyone who has even barely studied general relativity."

You're still not getting it. It's not about whether some hypothetical person that could hypothetically beat you to this question exists. It's about trying to gauge the general level of the circuit in terms of its knowledge of the subject matter. I'm comfortable in the assertion that not too many quizbowl players have played string instruments in orchestras, which is why I think that clue is fine, but even if someone did get it off of that, I have no problem giving that person points. After all, actually playing something is as good a way of getting legitimate knowledge of it as studying it in another context.
That's in fact exactly what I'm trying to do.
You may be trying to do this but what you're actually doing is concocting what seem to me to be remote hypotheticals and then using those hypothetical scenarios as grounds for criticizing the question. I'm telling you, again, that you are wildly over-estimating the level of knowledge about clarinets, Bartok pizzicatos, and the rest. If I am wrong and a bunch of people want to come forward and tell me that they totally do know that because they played clarinet in middle school or strings in a contemporary orchestra, I'll be happy to retract my statement.
Being on a Yale quizbowl team that has three music majors (including myself) perhaps warps my perspective into thinking that there are more music players out there than there actually are
It sure does!
but it also makes me hyperaware of when leadins/middle clues fail to distinguish between levels of knowledge or when questions are pyramidal, because I know when one of us gets beaten to a music tossup by another who knows significantly less about that composer or piece (going back to my lit analogy, it's as if you who have read Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, and Three Sisters were just beaten by someone who's never read any Chekhov but has heard of Chekhov's gun, because that was a lead-in for the Chekhov tossup). I always try in my criticism of questions to distinguish between what I personally know because of my tastes and what I think musicians/music students generally know. I find it unfair to claim that I am just criticizing questions because I knew the lead-in: I'm not criticizing all the music questions that I was able to answer early, only those where I answered them early and have the strong sense that I know very little about the actual answer.
You're complaining about a tossup that you feel fails to properly distinguish between you and Kevin Koai. That's a very, very fine hair to split. I'm sorry if we failed to split it adequately, but doing so was not the purpose of this tournament. I'm not saying that clues should not be placed with care, but I am telling you that we are not going to spend an hour thinking of the best way to distinguish between two people very, very well versed in music. That would be crazy and a misuse of our time and effort, even if we believed it to be possible. When you know a lot about a subject, you can often get to the answer without knowing everything about it, and I don't really have a problem with this. Certainly at this level, I'm perfectly fine with you and Kevin buzzer-racing on this.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:51 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I'm probably not the right person to comment on this, but I think the chemistry might have been a little harder than some of the other categories, but looking at the answer selection, there are lots of things in there that I feel I would have gotten if I were playing that question, and I only know basic things about chemistry. I think some of the hard bonus parts tended to be harder than comparable bonus parts in other categories though. The bio bonuses did seem to have fewer truly easy parts, however.
Looking through the answer sheet, I don't see anything that indicates that my range of middle parts was any different from the other editors' range of middle parts, or that my range of easy parts was any different from the other editors' range of easy parts. It's entirely possible that my hard parts were consistently more difficult, and/or that a lower percentage of my easy/middle parts were hitting the lower end of that range. Of course, there is also my view that the easy part of a science bonus will be converted less than a history or literature bonus part of equivalent objective difficulty, simply because it generally takes more (real or perceived) effort for non-science people to learn basic science than non-(other categories) people to learn basic (other categories). I mean, if you think about it, the o-chem equivalent of "this major work of Marcel Proust" is probably something like "this doubly-eponymous reaction that reacts a diene with a dienophile," but I'd guess that Remembrance of Things Past is going to always be converted more often than Diels-Alder.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:18 pm

The conductors bonus was mine. I think Karajan is definitely better known than Szell due to his gigantic recording catalog/the Nazi thing/etc. Anyway, this was probably the most fun I've had at a tournament all year. Very nice job, editors.

edited for clarity
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:06 am

Jerry, the main point in your argument that I object to is that you seem to be suggesting that as long as the lead-in rewards some sort of knowledge that one would most likely only get from engagement with classical music, it is a solid lead-in, even if that engagement is not with the actual thing the question is asking about (i.e. the answer line). So, it's okay to get a Bartok tossup really early with no Bartok knowledge, as long as you got it with some kind of music knowledge. This is primarily what I disagree with and am arguing against. While I suppose it's possible for the answer line of the tossup to act as vehicle to test our knowledge of some wide subject, I think that the lead-in, at least, should reward only deep knowledge of whatever the tossup is about, and that the second clue is too early to start introducing secondary knowledge.

It's undoubtedly true that I routinely overestimate how many people possess the kind of general musical knowledge that would allow them to get these without primary knowledge, but I don't think it's also fair to say that I'm just complaining about a tossup that fails to distinguish between Kevin Koai and me. I may have an inflated view of how many music players there are around, but at the Northeast mirror of ACF Regionals, which only had 9 teams, mind you, we had: Anirudh, Chris Horng, Aaron, Rebecca, Kevin, and myself. Not playing this tournament, but also music players in the Northeast who have been at tournaments this year that I've played are Ted, Hannah, and Chris White. I'm not concocting some crazy unlikely hypothetical if I consider that all of these people have deep enough knowledge to get a music question off a lead-in. In a given tournament, most of these people will be in direct competition with some of the others for music tossups. Having good lead-ins that distinguish between our relative knowledge of the piece/composer in question is important. Especially when you consider that the margin of victory in some of the matches between the best teams at this tournament (and others) have been just a couple of tossups, and that those are the teams that are most likely to buzzing early, and therefore the teams for whom lead-ins matter the most.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that music is the more important than the Big Three, or anything like that. My criticism of those two tossups was not said with any sort of anger. I wasn't trying to harangue you or any of the editors for not putting in enough time in the tournament. I'm very grateful for the efforts all of you put in, and I didn't want to imply otherwise. In fact my post specifically noted that I think the approach that was used for music tossups worked in general, and these were just the two where I felt it didn't, because one of them uses a clue about clarinets that I think should come later in a tossup, only after more substantial repertory clues, and because one of them uses a string technique clue that I think should only come after some more exploration of some significant music of Bartok. I didn't realize that either of those statements would be this controversial, or would turn into some kind of thread hijack, and I'm sorry it's turned into one. But I still would disagree with ideas that it's somehow not a concern to have lead-ins that don't turn into buzzer races between good music players because there are not enough of us, or that music tossups should reward general engagement with music before specialized knowledge.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Captain Sinico » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:35 am

Jesus fucking Christ, are you still posting?! Stop; you're wrong on all counts. Go learn more about quizbowl.

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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:39 am

To put it another way, John, I think the Northeast, for whatever reason, is by far the strongest music section of quizbowl. At our site, for example, there were very few players who could be expected to buzz quickly on lead-in music clues. Some of what you are saying may be a little colored by the types of music players you are accustomed to be playing against.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:39 am

Might I suggest that people make threads to use for discussion of niche subjects rather than the main discussion thread? You have an entire forum!
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:52 am

I thought this was a pretty solid set, overall - I actually agree with Andrew kind of strongly that easy part disparity with some of the science was a pretty pronounced issue. I mean, I think Jerry did one of the better jobs to date of crafting real knowledge science questions that can still be logically followed by non-scientists, but there were a definite bonuses where you really had no shot on any answer if you hadn't taken a class in the subject. This just isn't a standard to which we hold other easy parts, on the whole. It's tough, though, because I suspect that it's probably kind of hard for real science players to even perceive that disconnect depending on their experiences and the subject area. I suppose I'm arguing that there's a large barrier to basic knowledge acquisition in many scientific areas than in a lot of other categories, and a logical implication of that (to me) is that it will naturally be that much harder for those with extensive knowledge in those areas to conceptualize the boundary between "your ignorance of this topic really can't be rewarded by any points at all" and the rather lenient easy part standard.

But enough about science, I want to talk about history! Or, rather, I want to hear you guys talk - as Jerry notes above, I edited all non-American history (well, and that MLK tossup, which fell into my General Knowledge/trash slot). I edited trash too, I guess, but I don't suspect there's really much to say on that, except that I think my Mickey Mouse question was fine:
7. In one hilariously racist appearance, this character laments "he thinks he's speared a lion...he wants me to praise him" when his radio is impaled by an African named Thursday, whom he discovered in a crate of imported bananas. After riding a rhea to the Cantina Argentina, this character once drunkenly leered at a showgirl whom he had mouth-raped in an earlier appearance after failing to coerce her into making out with him by performing dangerous maneuvers; that love interest is saved by expandable granny panties when she risks suicide to escape this character's assaults, leaping out of a shoddily-constructed biplane this figure builds as a tribute to Lindbergh. More famously, this protagonist of The Gallopin' Gaucho and Plane Crazy drowns a parrot who ridicules him after abusing a series of animals to perform "Turkey in the Straw," earning the ire of Captain Pete. For 10 points, name this star of Steamboat Willie who, when not beating Jonas Brothers or abusing his girlfriend Minnie, serves as the rodent mascot for the Walt Disney Company.
ANSWER: Mickey Mouse
I get that this doesn't sound like the prequel to a Goofy Movie, but all this shit really happens!


As far as history goes:

There actually were a few neg hooks I noticed reading the set that I'd liked to have changed, if possible - while Jerry is right in that the Polish Succession tossup is not at all a hose for the Austria succession, I'm not surprised it induced several such negs. My goal is always to avoid that stuff happening, so it's definitely not ideal.

I actually disagree with Jerry that the Lincoln thing is a problem. The tossup:
This monarch won his crown after hiring the mercenary Falkes de Breaute, whose seasoned troops overwhelmed his foes and captured an old Norman Fortress. This man was not crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, because that man supported Louis VIII of France's claim to the throne at the time. Instead, this monarch relied on the support of a prolifically successful tournament champion, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal, to secure his claim by winning the aforementioned Battle of Lincoln. His decision to fund a war in Sicily to secure a title for his son Edmund eroded his support, though his major domestic opponent would be killed by this man's son at the Battle of Evesham in the Second Barons' War. This father of Edward Longshanks succeeded John Lackland and was forced to sign the Provisions of Oxford by Simon de Montfort. For 10 points, identify this Plantagenet monarch of England, the third of his name.
ANSWER: Henry III or Henry of Winchester
I had always thought that the second battle of Lincoln was definitively the more famous one anyway, but since the first was fought between Stephen and Matilda, and did NOT win the throne for Henry II - it allowed Matilda to briefly stop running all over the place fighting battles, and that lasted only a few months before she was expelled from England entirely. Henry II didn't even get anywhere near the throne until like 15 years later, as a result of a bunch of shit that has nothing to do with the results of Lincoln. The question initially states and then recapitulates that it wants a king who secured his claim by winning the battle of Lincoln, and there's no way that implies that the tossup wants Henry II. Perhaps more importantly: Although both Henry II and III were kids when their respective Lincolns were fought, Henry III was actually the king and the battle was fought for him, to secure his claim. 1st Lincoln was actually fought by Matilda, for her claim to the throne. Henry II didn't begin to factor into it until he had come of age a decade later, so I do not see why the question is problematic.

On the flip side, I'm really sorry about the Cambyses tossup - I made a mondo fuckup on that one. While The rest of the tossup seems ok to me, the leadin clues mention an account related in the Bisitun inscription - this is from the original submission. I actually know what the Behistun inscription is in both a quizbowl and actual sense, and know that placing the clue there and in that way would likely be a hose for Darius I no matter what clues you used. My mental process upon editing that question was something like "the Bisitun inscription, eh? Cool, a lesser-known equivalent to the Behistun inscription created by Cambyses. . . sounds like a good leadin!" After Trevor Davis bewilderingly noted to me that those are the same damned thing, I was cured of my delusions and now sit here pondering how I could have made that mistake. I'm sorry if it caused you to neg with Darius I (it probably did); there is no culprit but my own stupidity.

EDIT: Oh, yeah, this
ringil wrote: The Pericles' Funeral Speech seemed like some literature question the whole time. While it did reward reading Thucydides, it didn't seem to reward much else, which is why I was a bit surprised.
I really don't get this complaint, dude. The question "seemed like some literature question the whole time?" How is that even a complaint? Did the Eisenhower Farewell Address question make you neg with Breakfast at Tiffany's? I'm joking here, but really, it's a tossup on an important speech from history - I don't know how it's different from any other such question. Thucydides has the text of the speech, but so do a million other history books. It seems like your chief problem with the question is that it rewards. . . reading? Forgive my Magin-naminity, but read a book! Every history tossup ever comes from one of those originally anyway.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:04 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:For the clarinet, the first clue was the opening of Sibelius' First Symphony and then the second clue was about its evolution from the chalumeau. Chalumeau strikes me as something that any clarinetist (since the low range of the instrument is still called chalumeau) would know, as would any person who has taken a basic orchestration class or taken any sort of music history class that addresses evolution of the modern orchestra (which I think most should). I don't know what clues come after the chalumeau clue, but if it is more repertory clues (e.g. has a big solo in Mvmt. A of Symphony X), I would think that most of them (short of "plays the cat in Peter in the Wolf" or "has an opening glissando in Rhapsody in Blue" or something) should come before chalumeau to give people who actually know something about clarinet repertory a chance to buzz first.
Noted person-who-actually-played-clarinet-for-nearly-ten-years me couldn't disagree more with this line of thinking. People by and large just don't know the history and development of instruments, even though it is important and worthwhile knowledge (and, often, even when they've played said instruments!). Moving the chalumeau clue after repertory bits such as Peter and the Wolf or Rhapsody in Blue would reward stock clue knowledge over primary knowledge. The editors absolutely made the right decision here, and if the two of us are buzzer-racing on "chalumeau" then oh well. That sort of knowledge should be rewarded by making it an early clue.

Also, we got 20 on the conductors bonus because I stupidly confused Szell with Solti. Still, that question was greatly appreciated, and was one of the very best moments in a day filled with good questions.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:07 am

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:Noted person-who-actually-played-clarinet-for-nearly-ten-years me couldn't disagree more with this line of thinking. People by and large just don't know the history and development of instruments, even though it is important and worthwhile knowledge (and, often, even when they've played said instruments!). Moving the chalumeau clue after repertory bits such as Peter and the Wolf or Rhapsody in Blue would reward stock clue knowledge over primary knowledge. The editors absolutely made the right decision here, and if the two of us are buzzer-racing on "chalumeau" then oh well. That sort of knowledge should be rewarded by making it an early clue.
Thank you for succinctly conveying the point I'm trying to make. Again, it's not as much about what you (the general you) specifically know, it's about how that's going to play out in practice over many different sites.

edit: looking at that clue on Lincoln Field in context, it's actually totally fine. I was speaking in the abstract when I made that remark but the way it's used in this question is perfectly ok.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Maximus » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:15 am

Captain Sinico wrote:Jesus fucking Christ, are you still posting?! Stop; you're wrong on all counts. Go learn more about quizbowl.

MaS

Whoa calm down man. I think he obviously knows quite a bit about quizbowl.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Pilgrim » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:16 am

I already talked to Chris about this, but I think that as a general rule, if you are going to refer to someone by their title in a history tossup, you should check to make sure that that they are the most famous holder of the title, or otherwise try to include some qualifying information (e.g. a name or what number holder of their position they are). At this tournament, the Fronde tossup talked about the Duc de Choiseul, a title most notably held by Louis XV's foreign minister during the Seven Years War (in fact, it seems the dude that the question was talking about wasn't granted the title until late in life and appears to be more commonly referred to as the Marshall Plessis-Praslin in sources about the Fronde).
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:20 am

Maximus wrote:
Captain Sinico wrote:Jesus fucking Christ, are you still posting?! Stop; you're wrong on all counts. Go learn more about quizbowl.

MaS
Whoa calm down man. I think he obviously knows quite a bit about quizbowl.
I think John knows a lot about music. I think he knows considerably less about quizbowl and the way that quizbowl questions get written than either Mike or I do. There's no shame in that and it takes a lot of effort to figure out how to write the right kinds of questions for the right kinds of audiences. I respect John's knowledge as much as I respect the knowledge of any specialist, and I certainly admire his zeal for quality, but there's an added consideration here that I don't think he's taking into account.

Can we end this derail now? I really don't want this thread to descend into a harrangue about a possibly misplaced clue in one music tossup.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Ringil » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:42 am

DumbJaques wrote: I had always thought that the second battle of Lincoln was definitively the more famous one anyway, but since the first was fought between Stephen and Matilda, and did NOT win the throne for Henry II - it allowed Matilda to briefly stop running all over the place fighting battles, and that lasted only a few months before she was expelled from England entirely. Henry II didn't even get anywhere near the throne until like 15 years later, as a result of a bunch of shit that has nothing to do with the results of Lincoln. The question initially states and then recapitulates that it wants a king who secured his claim by winning the battle of Lincoln, and there's no way that implies that the tossup wants Henry II. Perhaps more importantly: Although both Henry II and III were kids when their respective Lincolns were fought, Henry III was actually the king and the battle was fought for him, to secure his claim. 1st Lincoln was actually fought by Matilda, for her claim to the throne. Henry II didn't begin to factor into it until he had come of age a decade later, so I do not see why the question is problematic.
You're right about the relative importance of the two battles of Lincoln, but I actually had only heard of the first one before this tournament. So, I don't think that the 2nd Lincoln is that much more famous than the 1st Lincoln, which is why I think it might be wise just to put the second battle in there.
DumbJaques wrote: On the flip side, I'm really sorry about the Cambyses tossup - I made a mondo fuckup on that one. While The rest of the tossup seems ok to me, the leadin clues mention an account related in the Bisitun inscription - this is from the original submission. I actually know what the Behistun inscription is in both a quizbowl and actual sense, and know that placing the clue there and in that way would likely be a hose for Darius I no matter what clues you used. My mental process upon editing that question was something like "the Bisitun inscription, eh? Cool, a lesser-known equivalent to the Behistun inscription created by Cambyses. . . sounds like a good leadin!" After Trevor Davis bewilderingly noted to me that those are the same damned thing, I was cured of my delusions and now sit here pondering how I could have made that mistake. I'm sorry if it caused you to neg with Darius I (it probably did); there is no culprit but my own stupidity.
I was more confused about the later parts of the question. I thought it mentioned that his successor lost at Eurymedon, but I wasn't entirely sure about that, which is why I asked for text of the tossup.
DumbJaques wrote: I really don't get this complaint, dude. The question "seemed like some literature question the whole time?" How is that even a complaint? Did the Eisenhower Farewell Address question make you neg with Breakfast at Tiffany's? I'm joking here, but really, it's a tossup on an important speech from history - I don't know how it's different from any other such question. Thucydides has the text of the speech, but so do a million other history books. It seems like your chief problem with the question is that it rewards. . . reading? Forgive my Magin-naminity, but read a book! Every history tossup ever comes from one of those originally anyway.
You're right. I was being silly because I personally don't like such tossups.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:05 pm

Even though I didn't play the Mickey Mouse tossup, it looks fine to me. I'm not up on my old Mickey knowledge, but that seems like a fine description of Plane Crazy (and a title) and then Steamboat Willie, both of which are certainly buzzable (I don't know much about The Gallopable Gaucho).

Also, Chris, not sure if it was yours or not, but I liked the Yosemite Sam tossup.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:32 pm

Chris, could you explain why some of the history tossups on kings felt the need to say the number at the end (such as that Henry III tossup you posted)? I don't know history, but that to me sounds almost like ending a question on, say, Garcia Marquez by saying "Name this author who wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude and whose mother was Luisa Márquez." Yes, I'm exaggerating here, but I think my point is clear. The number is part of the required information during the rest of the question, so why give it at the end?
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by DumbJaques » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:24 pm

Ringil wrote:You're right about the relative importance of the two battles of Lincoln, but I actually had only heard of the first one before this tournament. So, I don't think that the 2nd Lincoln is that much more famous than the 1st Lincoln, which is why I think it might be wise just to put the second battle in there.
Ok, but you're responding to like, the 8th most important point I made as to why the Lincoln clue is ok. In principle I agree that it's always good to do things like that, but there are lots of battles that have the same name as less important engagements, and the only argument I'm seeing for why this clue could have been a problem is "I've heard of the less important one but not the more important one," which I don't buy as a valid metric for their relative fame. Buzzing there with Henry II displays a fundamental lack of understanding about Henry II, Henry III, and both Lincolns. I don't see a reason to allocate any editing utility to preventing that, in marked contrast with my oversight on the Cambyses question.

On that note, I actually forgot to mention that there was a SECOND mistake in the Cambyses question (argh), which as you note mentioned the Eurymedon River, a victory for the forces of Xerxes. Originally I had made that clue longer and talked about both Darius and Xerxes to prevent anyone from negging with Darius, but cut it down for length reasons and left the wrong fragment in there. Although the Behistun clue is not actually quite as egregious as I'd thought now that I look at it, that question is going down as my worst effort in quite a while.
You're right. I was being silly because I personally don't like such tossups.
Well, nobody likes reading Thucydides, he's not exactly a wordsmith. That speech is important though and subject to some interesting work by many less excruciating writers, so I encourage you to consider alternative ways to access things like that.

A lot of the tossups I personally wrote for this tournament (Funeral Oration, Nuremberg Rallies, Ali, the Poor Law) reflect my view for how history tossups should be written. I've argued in military history debates that the reason people dislike military history tossups is because they're often written poorly, with clues that reward neither awareness of the narrative nor scholarly work on the battle (short of remembering "random landmark X"). The counter-action I see some questions employ, to shy away from naming important things and deliberately avoid saying important people or geographic placenames for fear of rewarding nefarious "frauders," are even more problematic.

The goal in all of these questions were to reward the study of history, through primary source reading, detailed study of famous subjects like the growth of Nazi Germany or the Sunni-Shi'a split, or awareness of the causes of broader social change like poverty in Great Britain. These questions reward people who really try to study their subject matter (though not necessarily in an academic setting), and you can't do that by withholding key terms or spending 80% of the question talking about the 4th-12th most important battles of the Great Northern War. Perhaps more controversially, I'll assert that you can't really do that with tossups on things like the Kappel Wars (like Nats last year) - you don't need 8 lines for these things anyway, make the tossup on Switzerland and reward things that more than 10 people spend serious time studying.

Look, it doesn't matter if you're writing about a battle, a law, a person, whatever - the principles that make a good question are the same. Use important clues, frame them in a way that logically presents that importance (even if you're not explicitly stating it), and for the love of god, use proper names where applicable. The person listening to the question isn't staring at the answer line like you are when you write it, and they havent' spent the last 30 minutes reading solely about this subject the way you have. They're trying to reach through the entirety of recorded history to pinpoint what you're talking about, and your opaque clues about the Srivijaya empire are not a positive force in the world!

Cheynem wrote:Also, Chris, not sure if it was yours or not, but I liked the Yosemite Sam tossup.
That was actually a submission, so I can't take credit. It was indeed well-written, and I didn't have to edit it at all, so thanks, mysterious benefactor!
Chris, could you explain why some of the history tossups on kings felt the need to say the number at the end (such as that Henry III tossup you posted)? I don't know history, but that to me sounds almost like ending a question on, say, Garcia Marquez by saying "Name this author who wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude and whose mother was Luisa Márquez." Yes, I'm exaggerating here, but I think my point is clear. The number is part of the required information during the rest of the question, so why give it at the end?
Well, I think you're exaggerating a lot, really, because your analogy would only fit if the question ended "FTP, name this third Henry to rule England." I don't think it results in free point, and it strikes me as a way to improve conversion for answers that might be a little harder. Still, I probably overdo it with this, perhaps stemming from my own inability to keep the English monarchy straight. I don't believe I did this to an irresponsible degree though - it's not as if we're using trash giveaways for Liverpool or Ali, or giving the number for a kingship with only one real name, like the Ptolemies. There are a great many "third of their name" kings of England, and if you can rule some of them out you're still using knowledge and it's still differentiating you from an opponent who thinks England has been ruled since its inception by the Easter Bunny.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Mon Feb 22, 2010 5:30 pm

DumbJaques wrote:... it's not as if we're using trash giveaways for Liverpool or Ali, or giving the number for a kingship with only one real name, like the Ptolemies. There are a great many "third of their name" kings of England, and if you can rule some of them out you're still using knowledge and it's still differentiating you from an opponent who thinks England has been ruled since its inception by the Easter Bunny.
Ok, that makes sense. Thanks.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by Cheynem » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:56 pm

I played it at practice and negged it, but the Nuremberg Rallies thing was a really cool idea. I reflex buzzed on "Julius Streicher" because I was so excited to have him come up and could only spit out Kristallnacht (which made no sense in the context) and then a second later realized what I had done wrong. Excellent idea.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by vcuEvan » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:23 pm

I can say more when I have the questions, but my initial impression is that this tournament was very good. It seemed like there was a conscious effort to limit hard parts and lead-ins to things that are actually important. The literature in particular seemed less objectionable than usual. As far as I can remember, the history was also pretty good. Even though I don't know much about these topics, history questions on such things as Pericles' Funeral Oration, the Poor Laws, and the Nuremberg Rallies were really successful varying the usual pattern of history questions and rewarding real knowledge while not compromising the game.
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Re: Regionals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Feb 26, 2010 6:01 pm

This discussion has died down a bit, but I'd really like to hear what people thought of the physics and other science categories. As I said in the science difficulty thread, there was definitely some realification going on in this tournament (no more "Gross-Pitaevskii = BEC" buzzes, despite the attempts of some teams to submit questions of this type), and I'm wondering what science players thought of that approach.
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