The place of zoology in the bio distribution

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The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Nabonidus » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:02 am

Split from the writing prizes thread --Mgmt.
minusfive wrote:I wrote a toss-up on Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) for ACF Fall 2012. It had some legitimate clues, like its hybrid with the Muskellunge (Tiger Muskie), its record specimen (caught in Germany), and its frequent deaths from choking on larger prey, but it also had terrible clues such as a quotation from a Ted Hughes poem. As such, I was chided by a member of the editing team for it. It (unsurprisingly) wasn't used.
Are you sure this wasn't just their polite way of telling you not to write questions on subtypes of pike?
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by minusfive » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:48 am

Eat the Book Jorge wrote: Are you sure this wasn't just their polite way of telling you not to write questions on subtypes of pike?
Yes. If "SONIC HEDGEHOG," "Abscissic Acid" and all the other commonly-asked about bullshit of the biology world can be asked about, someone should know something about a very prominent North American and European fish. And it's pretty much the only type of pike.
Gautam wrote: "Good packets" incentives are great, but they are super difficult to implement. I will point out 3 challenges:

1. These made sense if a vast majority of the questions were being edited by one person. Today, you have 4-5 people on an editing team. Soliciting feedback about which packet was the best, which questions were the best, etc. is a rather difficult endeavor. Most editors are (rightly) going to only be concerned about their portion of the distribution; editors will usually not evaluate packets holistically, and the feedback is going to swing wildly between different editors.

2. But, you say, there is a person who's nominally a 'head editor' for most tournaments - why can't he be doing that? I think there are a lot of things a head editor could be doing right now that are more worth his/her time. For instance, I believe it is a better use of time to actively recruit more teams to tournaments than it is to comb through submissions for finding good tossups.

3. It's hard be objective about it. I've seen editors award people for "good effort", "most # of usable questions", "i liked it the best of all submissions." It's never clear to me what we should be awarding here. The "most # of usable questions" metric, for instance, could award a team for writing a very solid packet on "safe" answerlines - i.e. you get a decent packet, but nothing spectacular. "Good effort" is always relative to the editor's perception of how good he/she thinks the listed authors on the packet are... lot of times this is just guesswork since we don't have good info. "I liked it best of all" is, of course, the most arbitrary metric.
I agree that the head editor has better stuff to do (although I agree with Bruce that someone should be at least assisting with tournament promotion), but the problem of subjectivity isn't insurmountable. You mentioned numerous criteria: this can be refined into a rubric (the same as with essay prizes, figure skating prizes, or art prizes, anything where the showcased product is created subjectively) and really goes on all the time. A prize committee (or person) can work this out.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:43 am

minusfive wrote:
Eat the Book Jorge wrote: Are you sure this wasn't just their polite way of telling you not to write questions on subtypes of pike?
Yes. If "SONIC HEDGEHOG," "Abscissic Acid" and all the other commonly-asked about bullshit of the biology world can be asked about, someone should know something about a very prominent North American and European fish. And it's pretty much the only type of pike.
Perhaps there's a way to ask more about wildlife in quizbowl questions. Assuming for now that you're making a constructive suggestion to that effect rather than just engaging in unproductive axe-grinding, I'd venture to say that the Geography distribution is a better place for it than Biology. As I've written elsewhere, there's a bit of a need right now for geography questions to be made interesting, and asking about notable creatures in their habitats is one way of doing so without cutting into what most biologists actually study or dismissing things like "extremely important protein in embryonic development" and "key plant hormone" as "bullshit". (While I was personally a bit underwhelmed by Bruce Arthur's Wild Kingdom, that set has dozens of examples of what this might look like, if you want to check it out.)
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:04 am

minusfive wrote:
Eat the Book Jorge wrote: Are you sure this wasn't just their polite way of telling you not to write questions on subtypes of pike?
Yes. If "SONIC HEDGEHOG," "Abscissic Acid" and all the other commonly-asked about bullshit of the biology world can be asked about, someone should know something about a very prominent North American and European fish. And it's pretty much the only type of pike.
I like your thought process in principle, but given the difficulty level of ACF Fall, I think it's pretty safe to assume they prefer topics that undergrads study more frequently than sport fishing.

I just noticed that someone responded before me, so I should probably elaborate - despite an undergrad spent studying molecular biology, I also prefer writing questions on animals. Over the past couple of years, for example, I've written stuff on fleas and hydrothermal vent fauna. The difference, I think, is that both of these are a) fascinating from a biological or biomedical perspective and b) iconic enough that a layperson could easily learn about them from a TV documentary. I don't know a lot about the northern pike, and I'm sure they occupy a very important niche in their ecosystem, but are there really enough specific and non-cultural clues about them to justify an entire tossup rather than an early clue for a more general answer line?
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by minusfive » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:36 pm

We seem to be getting away from the title of this post (has that discussion run its course?), but I'll bite on the bio:
Yes, neither plant hormones nor the organelles you (or many, many others) made in 8th Grade science class out of jello are "bullshit" (unless jocularly phrased in a post on writing prizes), but ironically they make literal bullshit possible. Equally so, SONIC HEDGEHOG (it pains me to have to capitalize this) is important for cancer research, as far as I understand. I'm not arguing against their inclusion, and I like canon expansion.
My only point is that if questions are going to ask things that either a) always come up or b) have little application outside a certain field or c) are just fairly specialized (see, for example, former toss-ups on things like "wives of Mao Zedong") then it's pretty double-standarded (Sarah Palin word unlocked!) to argue about whether zoology should be included in (an acknowledged important) distribution like biology. Animals are not geography, plus, while I respect your opinion, geography is written pretty well now in quizbowl: it's a productive idea in moderation, but smacks of "I don't find this interesting" to fill it with other distributions such as bio(not too many people would be thrilled with a literary question on pike, which could uncomfortably be written via Izaak Walton/The Kalevala/the aforementioned Ted Hughes).

Both Animal Planet (second edit: Wild Kingdom, although Animal Planet also rules) and Geo Monstrosity rule. But we could debate our predilections until the pike (pikes?) comes home.

EDIT: I must point out that "unproductive axe-grinding" is an oxymoron: it produces sharper axes and blunter stones.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Unicolored Jay » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:53 pm

As the biology editor for ACF Fall that year I cut that tossup mostly because I didn't think it would be easily converted and it wasn't well-written. I'm also not sure if it has any significance to what biologists and zoologists study, either (is there something noteworthy about it to scientists that I'm not aware of?), as opposed to, say, zebrafish or sticklebacks, which I'm not tossing up at ACF Fall. I don't believe I sent a response admonishing Jordan for it, though.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by theMoMA » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:16 pm

The place of zoology in the bio distribution is an interesting question that deserves its own thread; I think we've stayed on topic enough that I don't want to split this one apart, but please feel free to discuss the merits of zoology questions if you so desire.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Wed Oct 01, 2014 7:02 pm

I think zoology is a pretty good topic from a quizbo-utilitarian point of view, since it has the potential to be simultaneously much more engaging and much more susceptible to real knowledge from people who don't normally do well at typical bio questions. Compare, for example:

"The CY707A gene codes for this molecule's namesake 8-hydroxylase and is the first step of its degradation..."

and

"This animal is easily devoured by meat ants, since they are immune to the toxin that provides its only defense against predators..."

There are a lot of people who will zone out when hearing something filled with scientific jargon like the first one, since they are aware they have practically zero chance of getting the tossup. Whereas a clue in the vein of the second is more likely to set the whole table's minds racing. Almost everyone knows a lot of poisonous animals and can start trying to figure out which ones the clue could apply to, even if they don't have a background in Australian ecological disasters. There are far more amateur fans of, say, David Attenborough than there are of molecular biology. Furthermore, facts about animals are almost certainly more interesting to biology laypersons than facts about hydroxylases, so one can enjoy the educational concent in the clues without necessarily being the one who answers.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Banned Tiny Toon Adventures Episode » Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:21 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:I think zoology is a pretty good topic from a quizbo-utilitarian point of view, since it has the potential to be simultaneously much more engaging and much more susceptible to real knowledge from people who don't normally do well at typical bio questions. Compare, for example:

"The CY707A gene codes for this molecule's namesake 8-hydroxylase and is the first step of its degradation..."

and

"This animal is easily devoured by meat ants, since they are immune to the toxin that provides its only defense against predators..."

There are a lot of people who will zone out when hearing something filled with scientific jargon like the first one, since they are aware they have practically zero chance of getting the tossup. Whereas a clue in the vein of the second is more likely to set the whole table's minds racing. Almost everyone knows a lot of poisonous animals and can start trying to figure out which ones the clue could apply to, even if they don't have a background in Australian ecological disasters. There are far more amateur fans of, say, David Attenborough than there are of molecular biology. Furthermore, facts about animals are almost certainly more interesting to biology laypersons than facts about hydroxylases, so one can enjoy the educational concent in the clues without necessarily being the one who answers.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Windows ME » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:48 pm

That's why they're average.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:19 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote: "This animal is easily devoured by meat ants, since they are immune to the toxin that provides its only defense against predators..."
People who study molecular/cell biology and biochemistry will tune out if a tossup began like this. Average people may not tune out, and this defeats the purpose the tossup.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Wed Oct 01, 2014 11:38 pm

The United States of America wrote:
Eat the Book Jorge wrote: "This animal is easily devoured by meat ants, since they are immune to the toxin that provides its only defense against predators..."
People who study molecular/cell biology and biochemistry will tune out if a tossup began like this. Average people may not tune out, and this defeats the purpose the tossup.
1) When a question comes up that does not seem like anybody's particular specialty the rational response is for everybody to tune in, not out;

2) Academic knowledge about zoology, wildlife, ecology, etc. may be more evenly spread among players, but that doesn't make it more "average";

3) The "purpose of the tossup" is to reward the team of the player who answers first, regardless of that person's typical role in the team.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by minusfive » Thu Oct 02, 2014 2:08 am

That was a really interesting fact about the Cane Toad, and induced me to look up more things about Cane Toads, which seems to be a neat subject because a) this is an interesting subject (to me) and 2) it seems like something a well-informed member of society should know about. I make no judgment on the sequence cascades: they are likely as academically valid (and interesting to those who understand them), but I can tell you which toss-up I would definitely enjoy more (and perhaps would be more interesting to the nebulous concept of "most people").

I think I may have been somewhat unclear on a couple points: 1) it was not Jasper, but another OSU student (who I'm pretty sure was also an editor) who talked to me (at a party) about it, and it was certainly gentle for (as I certainly concur with Jasper) a badly written toss-up; and 2) I wasn't intentionally attempting to expand the canon at ACF Fall (I think I may have caused confusion by stating that I like canon expansion while we were discussing Esox Lucius). The Northern Pike question is an example of a rushed and badly-written toss-up (to bolster the case for writing prizes). On a bit of a tangent, could questions which are too hard but well written not be put to some other use?

On zoology, I agree with Derek, but this is going to get into a "interesting things are interesting" loop.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:22 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:I think zoology is a pretty good topic from a quizbo-utilitarian point of view, since it has the potential to be simultaneously much more engaging and much more susceptible to real knowledge from people who don't normally do well at typical bio questions. Compare, for example:

[stuff that's really interesting and relevant to our lives]

and

[stuff you pick up by watching television]
I think this is a really poor reason to either write new questions or change the way we write questions now. Were you to apply this logic to other parts of the distribution, we would be writing literature question on YA lit and Tom Clancy, history questions on stupid anecdotes about toilets, and physics questions on military hardware. Quizbowl has, and always will be, a way of introducing academically important topics to a wider audience, and to ignore that in favor of "utilitarianism" is poor.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:04 pm

The Tom Clancy analogy is nonsense. Zoology may have more cachet in middlebrow culture than biochem does, but that has no bearing on its importance as an academic discipline. There is no inverse relationship between the two. Knowledge of the ecological problems posed by invasive species like the cane toad (and the practices scientists have developed to kill them) is relevant to far more people's lives in practice than the degradation of abscisic acid is.

Yes, technically speaking, biochemistry enables emergent fields of study like ecology and is therefore extremely "relevant to our lives" inasmuch as it enables our existence in the first place. But there is no reason that this claim about causality should have any bearing on the subjects that ought to be rewarded in quiz bowl. If we took that line of thinking to its logical extreme, we would be cutting biomedical questions in favour of more stuff like cosmology and earth science.

The fact that zoology questions are currently less common than subcellular stuff doesn't suggest that sort of information is more commonly known anyways. I do think that knowledge of zoology may be more evenly distributed among players, even if there isn't a greater total amount of knowledge when it comes to animals. And more level playing fields are, obviously, more engaging than ones for which each team already has a designated respondent.
Last edited by Nabonidus on Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Ike » Thu Oct 02, 2014 6:18 pm

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

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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:14 pm

To add another thought - since quiz bowl is indeed "a way of introducing academically important topics to a wider audience", we should probably be at least a little concerned that (according to Quinterest) hugely important keystone species like sea urchins and gray wolves have never appeared as the answer to a science question. Nor have gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, salmon, bears or basically any other prominently-studied wild animal that I could think of. Domesticated animals important to veterinary science, like horses and cattle, fare no better. In fact, the only important wildlife that seem to show up fairly often are sharks. It's a little odd that animals seem to show up much more often under mythology than bio.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Cody » Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:26 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:To add another thought - since quiz bowl is indeed "a way of introducing academically important topics to a wider audience", we should probably be at least a little concerned that (according to Quinterest) hugely important keystone species like sea urchins and gray wolves have never appeared as the answer to a science question. Nor have gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, salmon, bears or basically any other prominently-studied wild animal that I could think of. Domesticated animals important to veterinary science, like horses and cattle, fare no better. In fact, the only important wildlife that seem to show up fairly often are sharks. It's a little odd that animals seem to show up much more often under mythology than bio.
I've certainly written on sea urchins multiple times. Plus, a couple of examples I have close at hand (and not all of the examples possible from these tournaments):
VCUO 2013, me wrote:Identify some things about seminal experiments in ecology, for 10 points each.
[10] C. B. Huffaker's experiments with these creatures showed how spatial heterogeneity can stabilize an otherwise unstable predator-prey reaction. The experiments used oranges as a food source and, in one case, the habitat was fragmented by rubber balls.
ANSWER: _mite_s
[10] Daniel Simberloff and E. O. Wilson tested the equilibrium theory of this field by defaunating small patches of red mangroves and following their recolonization. This field was started by Robert MacArthur and Wilson, who wrote an influential book about <i>The Theory of [it]</i>.
ANSWER: _island biogeography_ [or _IB_]
[10] Isle Royale, found in Lake Superior, is the setting of a long running study of the predator-prey dynamic between these animals and moose. These keystone predators are commonly used to illustrate terrestrial trophic cascades because elk populations explode in their absence, which leads to a decline in low-lying vegetation.
ANSWER: _wolves_ [or eastern _wolves_; or gray _wolves_; or eastern timber _wolves_; or eastern gray _wolves_; or Eastern Canadian red _wolves_]
VCUO 2011, me wrote:In 1960, John Mauchline published the first comprehensive description of one of these organisms. One of these organisms's haemocyanin-oxygen affinity is unusual for crustaceans because it is higher at higher temperatures. That is the northern one of these organisms, <i>M. norvegica</i>, which may also break down haemocyanin while in deep water during their diel vertical migration. The deep sea one of these organisms is notable for lacking bioluminescence. Larval stages specific to these organisms include calyptopis and furcilia. The most common one of these organisms feeds through (*) compression filtration, which involves it using its endopodites and expodites to form a watertight feeding basket through which water is filtered by setae. For 10 points, name these small shrimp-like crustaceans whose most well known species, Euphausia superba, is found in the Southern Ocean and is probably the most abundant organism on the planet in terms of biomass.
ANSWER: _krill_ [accept _euphausiid_s or _Euphausiacea_ before "Euphausia superba" is read]
which was a replacement for this VCUO 2011 question by me after it got spoiled wrote:One frogfish named after this body of water, <i>Histrio histrio</i>, has developed fleshy appendages to help it blend into its environment. The juvenile form of the Atlantic flying fish was once mistakenly classified as a separate species and named after this body of water, and the young of the green and (*) loggerhead sea turtles spend most of their pelagic lives in this body of water. This body of water is where the eggs of the American and European eel are laid. Eddies that break off from the Gulf Stream introduce nutrients into this body of water. For 10 points, name this body of water in the Atlantic Ocean, home to a namesake seaweed.
ANSWER: _Sargasso Sea_ [prompt on _Atlantic Ocean_]
With that said - you don't know what you're talking about here. Plenty of important ecology and related topics come up in quizbowl already. Science at a certain level of play is written to be accessible to that level of play, so people will glaze over on "zoology" just as they would on molecular biology at regular/+.

You are really just very, very wrong about the amount of knowledge people have about these various topics. As someone who cares more about this kind of stuff than most of quizbowl (and got a lot of questions next to Will Butler at Wild Kingdom), people do not, in fact, know these things - not the general populace or the quizbowl populace.

as a sidenote and from personal experience: it is not as easy to write good questions on these topics as you are making it out to be, which is another reason they are not represented as much.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:03 pm

As I wrote in my response to Eric, I don't claim that people in general have a greater amount of knowledge about zoology compared to cellular and molecular biology. This is pretty clearly not the case given the fact that so many club members study cellular and molecular biology.

I do claim that, in my four years of involvement with McGill's quiz bowl team including three spent trying to recruit and retain novices, questions where the answer line was a wild animal (or basically anything whose existence our Arts students were aware of) appeared to be more engaging for everyone at the table compared to ones where everyone expected a certain person to answer as soon as hydoxylases were mentioned. I don't think I have ever heard anyone express sincere enjoyment of a question whose answer was something like "calmodulin" or the like, which barely registers on the radar of your average humanities freshman.

I apologize if my previous post was inaccurate with respect to gorillas, salmon, etc. Is there a better option than Quinterest or quizbowldb for searching previous packets?
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:17 pm

Probably just about every science tossup I've ever buzzed in on since finishing high school (in practices, at least, and maybe I have even answered a science question or two in competition?) has been on either an animal or a disease. Maybe questions on such things are just more frequently fraudable/lateralable?
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:32 pm

Being in the middle of practice, I just polled our current batch of recruits and was told that "Questions where everyone knows what the thing in the answer line is feel like they involve more critical thinking."
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:13 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote: I don't think I have ever heard anyone express sincere enjoyment of a question whose answer was something like "calmodulin" or the like, which barely registers on the radar of your average humanities freshman.
I will be so happy if they ever tossed up something like Mothers Against Decapentaplegic, but as a science student, I couldn't care less about English kings. A history, literature, social science or RMP tossup is just as blank to me as a molecular biology tossup is to "your average humanities freshman".
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:28 pm

The United States of America wrote:I will be so happy if they ever tossed up something like Mothers Against Decapentaplegic, but as a science student, I couldn't care less about English kings. A history, literature, social science or RMP tossup is just as blank to me as a molecular biology tossup is to "your average humanities freshman".
I was going to rebuke you for this, but then I remembered that the rest of our A team consists of a genetics student who only answers bio tossups about diseases, an adult human who reads only British military history and sincerely believes he's a p-zombie, and a guy who is conspicuously absent from Montreal.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by RexSueciae » Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:33 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:Being in the middle of practice, I just polled our current batch of recruits and was told that "Questions where everyone knows what the thing in the answer line is feel like they involve more critical thinking."
Because polls of the teeming masses should be used to decide the future of quizbowl? It works so well at the HSNCT, after all.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:37 pm

RexSueciae wrote:
Eat the Book Jorge wrote:Being in the middle of practice, I just polled our current batch of recruits and was told that "Questions where everyone knows what the thing in the answer line is feel like they involve more critical thinking."
Because polls of the teeming masses should be used to decide the future of quizbowl? It works so well at the HSNCT, after all.
McGill's ability to field a Div 2 team does seem to be pretty contingent on maintaining the interest of the great unwashed.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Gautam » Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:01 am

We are having yet another debate about the importance of various biology subdistributions, which is going no better than the last one we had.

You are wrong when you say people don't write on interesting things. People write lots of tossups on all kinds of interesting non-biochemistry biology. Bruce et al wrote a whole tournaments on animals, for instance! I wrote a goddamned tossup on sea urchins for Gaddis 2009. The gentleman who started this thread wrote a bonus on shark electrophysiology for MO 2010 which I edited (you should have seen Phil Guan on Michigan try to figure out how to say "electricity" but could only say "your presence".)

The conclusion of the last unproductive debate we had on this matter was: "Go read some packets." It remains the same. Go read some packets.
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Re: Writing Prizes

Post by Nabonidus » Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:58 am

Gautam wrote:You are wrong when you say people don't write on interesting things.
If biochem in general was uninteresting to me, I wouldn't be a student in the Department of Human Genetics. My observation was that tossups on animals often seem more engaging to club members "who don't normally do well at typical bio questions", as this describes a large majority of our club's recruits and a large majority of the bio questions they hear at our weekly practices. I have no doubt that there are plenty of nice tossups on lions, tigers and bears out there (despite the lies of Quinterest, which is coyly claiming no results for "sea urchin" in Gaddis 2009).
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Amizda Calyx » Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:54 am

This is a better resource for finding old questions, although it's not complete, either.

I don't really understand why we want to get more people who don't know and don't want to know bio to "have more fun" on bio questions? Knowing who caught the heaviest pike is not testing bio knowledge, it's testing Snapple bottle cap knowledge.

Also, I wrote this for Tricon 2.5:
The age of the subject suffering from this condition correlates to the secretory concentration of the bicyclic ketal frontalin, which has been shown to elicit a sexual response in conspecifics of the opposite sex. This vertebrate condition yields a sesquiterpene biosynthesized following a reaction between geranyl pyrophosphate and isopentenyl pyrophosphate. Along with (+) farnesol, p-cresol, and cholesterol are discharged in a tar-like consistency in this condition, which also presents with malodorous urine. These compounds may be partially responsible for the (*) behavioral changes of this condition, as the swelling temporal glands concomitant with irritating temporin secretion cause acute pain. During this condition, subjects behave erratically and dangerously, although the length of this period can be shortened by mahouts. The animals that experience this cyclic condition frequently have testosterone levels 60 times greater than normal, and their increased violence has resulted in goring rhinos with their tusks. For 10 points, name this periodic condition in which male elephants go aggro.
ANSWER: musth <A question related to animals>
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:07 am

As I have said probably hundreds of times by this point, I don't believe that quizbowl should be limited to "what people study in an academic setting". I don't believe that is a good aspirational goal for quizbowl, and I certainly don't believe that it accurately describes quizbowl as it exists today (or has ever existed).

Quizbowl rewards intellectual curiosity. Intellectually curious people pay attention to their classes in school, but the vast majority of their knowledge actually comes from reading books in their spare time, attending lectures that may have nothing to do with their field of study, talking to friends and colleagues, attending concerts and listening to music, watching movies and documentaries, visiting places, etc.

I do believe that in the course of "intellectually curious activities", people will gain real knowledge about animals. They might learn about an invasive species like the Zebra Mussel or Cane Toad from the news or from reading a history book, they might gaze upon the skeleton of a Daspletosaurus in Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, they might see a kinkajou in its natural habitat while touring ancient Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica.

I think it's legitimate to ask about animals in quizbowl, and indeed people do ask about animals all the time. I don't know if the Biology distribution is the best place to do it: there certainly are some bio questions about animals, but from a practical perspective it is important to realize that science questions are written and edited by a small cabal of people who take science classes and edit the questions in such a way that people who take science classes are hugely advantaged (because science is one place where curriculum is way more standardized between schools...part of why science players are often much more on the "reward what is studied in the academy" side of the debate, or even the more extreme "reward what people who currently play quizbowl study" view).

I echo the folks who say look to the "Geography" and "Your Choice" as other places where you can insert questions about animals. Few people use these categories well and there's plenty of room for growth.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:24 am

It's also important to remember that different animals can be important in different ways, and so there are many different kind of animal questions that belong in different categories.

There's the classic taxonomy question with an answer like "Cnidarians" or "segmented worms". I guess they're not really taxonomy, they're more like "do you know what features different groups of animals have". Maybe things have changed since I retired from quizbowl a few years ago, but these used to be very very common in the biology distribution.

There's also questions about animals that scientists commonly experiment on. Search any database for "C. Elegans" and you'll see hundreds of these questions in the biology distribution. They're mostly about important experiments that have been run on these animals or individual genes that are significant to a scientist.

Stepping into a more gray area, there are animals that are ecologically important in their own habitat, either because they're a notable invader, or they're a keystone species, or they play some really cool or unique role, etc. You could write a cool tossup that combines clues about the animal itself with clues about how it lives, the environment it lives in, and how it interacts with other animals. Fewer of these questions exist. I think that because of the link the ecology you could argue for them to be in the biology distribution, but you could also make an argument for geography.

Then there's the straight-up animal tossup, where the answer is an animal and the clues are about the animal's body features and behavior. I think when you're writing this it's important to ask yourself why is this animal important or notable. If the animal was an example of some kind of weird evolutionary turn or unique behavior, you could make a case for biology. If the animal is ecologically significant, I think bio and geography are in play. If the animal is particularly associated with a particular region or country, consider geography. Otherwise, it is probably "your choice". It might even be trash, especially if it's a common game fish like the Northern Pike.

Keep in mind that you can also use animal clues in tossups where the answer is not an animal. You could probably write a good tossup where the answer is a region or country and most of the clues are about the critters who live there. I've written a lot of tossups where the answer has been something like "South America" or "Patagonia" and the clues have all been about extinct animals who lived there at some point.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Cody » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:35 am

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:My observation was that tossups on animals often seem more engaging to club members "who don't normally do well at typical bio questions", as this describes a large majority of our club's recruits and a large majority of the bio questions they hear at our weekly practices. I have no doubt that there are plenty of nice tossups on lions, tigers and bears out there (despite the lies of Quinterest, which is coyly claiming no results for "sea urchin" in Gaddis 2009).
But this observation is inherently useless because biology is not written for "people who don't know about bio", just like literally every other category. Your standard would require a complete overhaul not just of biology, but every category in quizbowl, which would be pretty dumb because all categories (including biology) have a plethora of questions at various difficulty levels that people can play, so they can choose the level that's most appropriate for them.

Having said this, many, many tournaments include plenty of questions of exactly the type you are talking about. What is the problem here?
another VCUO 2013 example that popped into my head this morning wrote:The foundational text on these organisms was written by Charles S. Elton and published in 1958. For 10 points each:
[10] Identify these non-indigenous organisms that threaten biological diversity and fuck things up.
ANSWER: _invasive_ species [or invasive _exotic_s]
[10] Part of the success of this invasive aquatic plant is due to its production of turions and tubers. The only herbicide allowed to be used on this noxious weed is fluridone, and it is the most serious aquatic weed problem in the United States.
ANSWER: <i>_Hydrilla_ verticillata</i> [or _Esthwaite waterweed_]
[10] Invasive bark beetles in the <i>Scolytus</i> genus spread the fungi <i>Ophiostoma ulmi</i> between these trees, causing a namesake disease. These trees are also affected by a namesake phloem necrosis.
ANSWER: American _elm_ [or Dutch _elm_; <i>_Ulmus americana_</i>; or white _elm_; or water _elm_]
compare to this very inappropriate but fucking awesome (rejected) question for Nationals 2011 wrote:Besides humans, these organisms are the only known vertebrate reservoir of the parasite Rickettsia prowazekii, the main form of typhus, which is mainly transmitted among their population by the Neohaematopinus louse. In these animals, the abductor pollicis longus muscle pulls the falciform bone toward the radial side of the hand, which in turn pulls the styliform-falciform ligament and extends the styliform cartilage. The tibiocarpalis muscle bends the styliform cartilage into a curve which causes the characteristic form of this animal's plagiopatagium. Unlike the other members of the subfamily Sciurinae, they are nocturnal, which is the reason they have very large black eyes ringed with dark fur. Only the northern and southern species of this animal is found in America, and the other member of their subfamily is the tree squirrel. For 10 points, name these rodents that glide by expanding a fold of skin that extends from their wrists to their ankles.
ANSWER: flying squirrels [prompt on squirrels]
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Nabonidus » Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:47 am

Joelle wrote:This is a better resource for finding old questions, although it's not complete, either.

I don't really understand why we want to get more people who don't know and don't want to know bio to "have more fun" on bio questions? Knowing who caught the heaviest pike is not testing bio knowledge, it's testing Snapple bottle cap knowledge.
This is why I disagreed with Jordan over the relevance of northern pike. As I wrote earlier, the subjects of zoology tossups ought to be "fascinating from a biological or biomedical perspective" and have "enough specific and non-cultural clues about them to justify an entire tossup". I don't think sport fish meet these requirements.

(Thanks for the link, by the way. Is there a better way to find answer lines than searching "answer: word-i'm-searching-for"? That doesn't seem to find very much.)
Cody wrote:But this observation is inherently useless because biology is not written for "people who don't know about bio", just like literally every other category. Your standard would require a complete overhaul not just of biology, but every category in quizbowl, which would be pretty dumb because all categories (including biology) have a plethora of questions at various difficulty levels that people can play, so they can choose the level that's most appropriate for them.
I never said that bio questions should reward people "who don't know about bio" at all. I did argue that, in my experience at least, people with real knowledge about cane toads, horses and chimpanzees are less likely to be stereotypical Bio specialists and that questions about fairly well-known animals are more vulnerable to aggressive buzzes based on clever use of critical or lateral thinking. I think both of these tend to lead to a more engaging experience for the table as a whole (hence my admittedly sloppy use of the term "utilitarian"), while still being equally valid representatives of one's understanding of an academic subject and ability to play Quiz Bowl.

I also thought it was pretty obvious from context that my observation was primarily a justification of animal questions remaining part of the bio distribution, not an exhortation to reform the theory and practice of quizbowl in general. Although I do agree with basically everything else Bruce writes, I think geography is already fairly accessible to players who develop real knowledge through means other than geography classes. And, just like bio questions asking about something iconic like "salmon", they can be more fun to practice with because everyone in the room is aware of the existence of Cuba and has a point of reference for these newly-learned facts.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Victor Prieto » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:44 pm

Derek, if you want to see a change in the biology distribution, the best way is to write good questions on the animals or whatever else it is that you want to see. Talking about the importance of zoology for a long time in this thread isn't going to change anything. It's just not how things change in quizbowl. If you think that people who know about the zoology of cane toads, horses or chimpanzees should be rewarded more than they are now, please demonstrate to other people that increasing the amount of viable questions on such topics is possible. Right now, I'm not convinced that such an increase is possible, and I think many of the people who have posted in this thread (all of whom have more writing experience than you do) are similarly unconvinced. DEES, Regionals, and STIMPY are all upcoming packet submission tournaments where you could write such questions. If you can write good questions in your packet submissions on the topics you want to see, your arguments will carry a lot more weight.

Bruce's second post on the different kinds of questions you could write may be helpful, as well as the many good example questions posted by Cody. If you do write these sorts of canon-busting questions in a submission (I implore you to), be careful about its playability, and balance them out with tossups on solid, core topics. Communicate with the editors beforehand, they can help guide you into submitting a usable tossup rather than risk it getting cut. I really wanted to see Pedro Almodovar more in the film distribution, so for Regionals last year, I asked Evan Adams whether it was a good idea or not before I submitted it. It made it in as a tiebreaker.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Oct 03, 2014 12:51 pm

Eat the Book Jorge wrote:(Thanks for the link, by the way. Is there a better way to find answer lines than searching "answer: word-i'm-searching-for"? That doesn't seem to find very much.)
For the foreseeable future, until some radical updates to searchable online databases take place, the best way to search for answers is to create a personal packet archive on your hard drive by downloading (or getting Dropboxed) as many cleared sets as you can, then keeping it up to date as more sets get posted. After doing that, just type "ANSWER: [thing being looked for]" into Windows Search (or its Mac equivalent) to get a much more accurate picture of how often something's come up and with what clues.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:06 pm

Cody wrote:compare to this very inappropriate but fucking awesome (rejected) question for Nationals 2011"]
It should be noted that (according to the editors) the only reason this question was rejected was because they did include another animal question submitted in the same packet, namely the bonus on tuataras.

I agree with what has been said above--no editor is going to reject a good question, especially in science where good questions are at a premium. If you write a good biology question on an animal, it will be included. If someone else writes a good biology question on an animal, you will play it. If you write an incredibly dumb and overly hard question like an ACF Fall tossup on the Northern pike, it won't be included, because excluding incredibly dumb and overly hard questions is a core function of the editor. Many good questions on animals have been written and included in the past and will continue to be so in the future. The criterion for including biology questions, much like the criterion for including any questions, is "good, difficulty-appropriate questions" not "are hangers-on at some particular team's practice who hate this category able to display 'engagement' while not answering this" or whatever alternative is being proposed.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Muriel Axon » Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:23 pm

I don't want to beat a dead horse too much, but seeing as I majored in zoology as an undergrad, I think I have the right.

My advice to those of you who'd like to see more zoology questions is not to write tossups on specific animals or animal groups, unless you're 100% sure that you can do an awesome job writing a tossup with a good distribution of buzzes throughout. Most zoology majors rarely learn much in depth about many species, even if they take classes on "Birds of [X]" or "Invertebrate Structure and Function," etc. Classes and casual reading alike are unlikely to teach you much about pike or cane toads beyond the specific things that make them important, so unless you can write a whole question on those things, don't bother with dumb clues about obscure aspects of physiology or evolution, because very few people study those things.

On the other hand, surely we can draw on natural history knowledge to write questions on topics of broader ecological/evolutionary/physiological interest. I would love to see more of this, but that would require that people start writing more/better questions on them.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Nabonidus » Fri Oct 03, 2014 4:36 pm

Image

[Moderator note: The above image shows the text that was in this post before I (Shan) accidentally edited rather than quoted it. Thanks to Victor Prieto for bringing back the post. In response to the post, I asked what Derek was proposing that wasn't already part of the status quo.]
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Nabonidus » Sat Oct 04, 2014 9:12 pm

I'm not entirely sure, but I think a mod has edited a question addressed to me over my preceding multiple-paragraph post rather than simply editing it and responding to it. I'm assuming this is accidental...? I would never even have seen it if I hadn't come back to the thread to bookmark Joelle's link.

To respond the the question itself: I am aware that what I look for in a question is a little different from the norm and thought one or two people might be interested/apalled by my provincial theory of how gameplay sometimes benefits from zoology answerlines (northern pike and their ilk not included).
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:08 am

It looks like someone (probably someone not used to mod powers!) accidentally hit "edit" rather than "quote" and didn't notice.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sun Oct 05, 2014 3:08 pm

Thanks Victor!
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Coldblueberry » Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:18 pm

Any other biology majors feel like the distribution should be ~1.5 compared to Chem and Physics at 1?

It seems like there are a ton of massive, undergrad-accessible fields for bio that are easily incorporated into Quizbowl.
1. Medical stuff (physiology, anatomy; we don't even have courses in these here)
2. Zoology
3. Botany
4. Molecular Bio (itself a huge category that for us includes Biochem, genetics, cell, dev, etc inside)
5. Environmental bio / Ecology
6. More "classic," evolutionary bio


I've taken a decent amount of chem and it seems like it's possible to touch on all the things that come up 'quizbowl chem' in your 4 years of classes. There's no way you could do this for 'quizbowl bio.'


There's just more stuff to ask about and more people that know this stuff.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Amizda Calyx » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:35 pm

Coldblueberry wrote:Any other biology majors feel like the distribution should be ~1.5 compared to Chem and Physics at 1?

It seems like there are a ton of massive, undergrad-accessible fields for bio that are easily incorporated into Quizbowl.
1. Medical stuff (physiology, anatomy; we don't even have courses in these here)
2. Zoology
3. Botany
4. Molecular Bio (itself a huge category that for us includes Biochem, genetics, cell, dev, etc inside)
5. Environmental bio / Ecology
6. More "classic," evolutionary bio


I've taken a decent amount of chem and it seems like it's possible to touch on all the things that come up 'quizbowl chem' in your 4 years of classes. There's no way you could do this for 'quizbowl bio.'


There's just more stuff to ask about and more people that know this stuff.
I would be fine with more A&P in the distro ;)
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:03 am

Coldblueberry wrote:There's just more stuff to ask about and more people that know this stuff.
On the whole I'm not sure this is a good standard to base the quizbowl distribution on.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Muriel Axon » Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:35 am

On the contrary, I think that's a fine justification for giving more weight to biology. After all, one of the key reasons we only have 1/1 social science seems to be that writing lots of high-quality social science without excessive overlap between tournaments is hard (especially at low levels), and I think the same holds for a subject like chemistry - at least for most writers. If I recall correctly, there was a 2013-4 tournament that had 0.5/0.5 chemistry, and probably somewhat more biology than usual. I don't remember what the reactions were, but I don't think they were strongly negative.

But I don't think anyone will be convinced by an argument on the forums, compared to writing good questions that show the advantages of expanding the biology distribution. If we ever work on a tournament together, Justin (or Joelle), maybe we can talk about tweaking the distribution a bit.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Cody » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:48 am

The misc. sciences are consistently underrepresented, though, so it makes more sense to expand them and contract a science category rather than expanding a category that is already 1/1. It's not infeasible to have 1/1 Math, for example.

For example, way back for VCU Open 2011, Evan & I did:
1/1 Biology
1/1 Physics
.54/.54 Chemistry
~.5/.5 Math/CS
~.5/.5 Earth Science/Astro
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Victor Prieto » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:46 am

I don't know why the screenshot of the page I took upthread disappeared, but here it is:

Image

Just to clarify, to whom are you responding to in that second paragraph?

On an unrelated note, most of the images disappeared from the "famous quizbowl photos" thread, too. Dunno if anybody knows how to fix that.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:04 pm

It is fine for different tournaments to tweak subdistributions different ways, so long as they have a coherent rationale for doing so that the field finds acceptable. I would have no problem with a tournament that contained 1.33/1.33 bio and .66/.66 chemistry per round, for example, for exactly the reason you note -- there's just so much more of the former than the latter, and teams are more likely to know it. At the high school level, in which the amount of askable chemistry learned even by the most intellectually-curious students is even more limited, the PACE National Scholastic Championship has used a distribution which weights biology and chemistry in about that proportion for the past several years.

Don't fly off the handle with gratuitous excess -- like, I don't think quizbowl wants or needs 7/7 biology per packet or anything like that -- but tweaks such as the above seem justifiable. The ACF distribution is only binding on ACF, and no one is going to be burnt at the stake for changing it a bit at their own events to try something different. The distributional changes made for, say, Sack of Antwerp are probably just at or over the upper bound in this regard.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by I'm a goff (in case you couldn't tell) » Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:38 pm

Wasabi wrote:On an unrelated note, most of the images disappeared from the "famous quizbowl photos" thread, too. Dunno if anybody knows how to fix that.
I'm looking into it.
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Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by Nabonidus » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:25 pm

For what it's worth now that we're throwing around theories of bio and chem distribution, in Fall 2014, McGill (the only school for which I have stats ready-to-hand, for obvious reasons) had:

378 generic Biology undergrad majors
275 Microbiology and Immunology
485 Anatomy and Cell Biology
356 Physiology
751 Medicine
427 Kinesiology and Physical Education
266 Physical and Occupational Therapy
143 Dentistry
388 Pharmacology and Therapeutics
487 Dietetics and Human Nutrition
69 Plant Science
323 School of Environment
46 Agriculture and Environmental Science
213 Natural Resource Sciences
208 Bioresource Engineering (?)

[total 4815 if you include stuff like forestry]

and

175 plain ol' Chemistry
408 Chemical Engineering
161 Food Science & Agricultural Chemistry
268 Biochemistry

[total 1012 if you generously include biochem]

Those figures count double majors twice, and McGill obviously isn't representative of universities in general . . . but I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio of budding biologists to callow chemists was somewhere around 5:1.

(Also, in response to Victor - I don't remember writing that in particular but the comment about having already read quite a large number of packets was presumably addressed at the guy who said "Go read some packets").
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Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

Re: The place of zoology in the bio distribution

Post by vinteuil » Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:46 pm

Nabonidus wrote: Those figures count double majors twice, and McGill obviously isn't representative of universities in general . . . but I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio of budding biologists to callow chemists was somewhere around 5:1.
I think the point Stephen Liu made in another thread is relevant: quizbowl is not 25% (or more??) "Communications" and like 75% economics just because those two majors predominate.
Jacob Reed
Chicago ~'25
Yale '17, '19
East Chapel Hill '13
"...distant bayings from...the musicological mafia"―Denis Stevens

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