THUNDER Discussion

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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Ike wrote:Herculaneum
Are the excavations at Herculaneum substantially more important than those at Pompeii? Those seem quite easy to confuse with one another and I'm wondering if there's a particularly good reason to ask for one of them rather than the other.
Klausewitz
Can you post this question? It seemed like half of it was basically about Klausewitz's literary or theological output, which doesn't strike me as particularly important in any way.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ike »

Sure.

In one work, he chastises Lloyd for starting the so-called false theory of the “key of the country,” which is a location which “without possession, no one would dare venture into.” That treatise by this man elucidates a tirpartite relationship between “primordial violence,” “the play of chance,” and the titular event’s “element of subordination to rational policy,” which is now known as this thinker’s namesake trinity. In that work’s first section, “On the nature of” the title action, this author discusses the (*) genius that arises in men because it leads to a “harmonious association of powers, in which one or other may predominate.” While fighting on the battlefield, he praised the example of General Scharnhorst, who made hiss ideas clear through his Military handbook. For 10 points, name this Prussian soldier who wrote On War.
ANSWER: Karl von Clausewitz

It was originally a tossup on On War. My co-editors concluded it would improve conversion rates to tossup Clausewitz. So I just changed all of the referring adjectives to make it basically a tossup on On War with Clausewitz as the answer line.

I don't think Herculaenum is any more important than Pompei, in fact one might even argue Pompei is moreso, but I didn't see anything wrong with tossing up Herculaneum so I went ahead and did so.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Auroni »

1- The main issue is that you wrote questions on things someone could have read at this level rather than writing on things people probably have read. I think this policy should be adopted for all tournaments, but I can understand the disagreement with that for higher level tournaments; however, I think you must have this mentality while writing regular difficulty.
There have been entire discussions before on how people should pick answers. Time and time again, we have come to the conclusion that quizbowl often represents academically overlooked works, or works that are not taught in a classroom setting. You assert that some of my questions (to take three examples, Golding, Alcott, and Dostoevsky) focused on works that are not as frequently read as other works which I could have written on. The issue here is that I intended to explore the other works of these authors, because they are so well known that teams will get them by the end.
This issue is exemplified by the Dostoevsky issue. For VCU Open you wrote a tossup on Poor Folk and for this regular difficulty tournament you wrote a tossup on Dostoevsky only using clues from his minor shorter works that are not usually taught in classes devoted to Dostoevsky. If I was approaching either of these tournaments I would try to think what are works I'm pretty sure people have actually read and I want to reward that knowledge. But you ask is this Dostoevsky work "important" in that case I will ask it because a "hypothetical reader of important works" could have read it. You claims that you are trying to cater to your audience, but if that is true (which I sincerely doubt) this is only a surface dedication. But wouldn't it cater to your audience more if you wrote a tossup on Ivan or Dmitri that it is relatively likely that someone on Louisville B has knowledge about than a tossup primarily on "Winter Nights"? Do you not see a distinction in importance between "Winter Nights" and The Brothers Karamazov?
Not that it matters, but the story is called "White Nights." Dostoevsky is a giant of Russian literature, if not just literature. What you're saying amounts to "ask about these four works of Dostoevsky and nothing else," which I'm in complete disagreement with. Dostoevsky wrote several short stories, all of which are moving, entertaining, and interesting from a literary standpoint, and there is no coherent clarion call for me to not write on them, other than maybe a lingering thought in my mind that "maybe a Dostoevsky purist might not agree with my choice of works here." In retrospect, this tossup ended up harder than I intended it to. I should have added a clue or two more about Notes from the Underground, which is actually more widely read than you give it credit for, and then the tossup would be that much better. But your argument of "these are the four Dostoevsky novels that I was assigned in class" fails to hold up when it's been adequately established that a large chunk of quizbowl learning takes place outside the classroom, whatever the classroom may be.
Lets look at what you said was important: "east of eden, golding, milton, a streetcar named desire, howards end, flaubert, fall of the house of usher, ancient greek and roman comedians, woolf, robinson, confessions of an english opium eater, gilman, hoffman, sidney, dostoevsky, satanic verses, alcott, holmes, coleridge, antigone." First of all, I only care about the tossups because writing good tossups on easy material is difficult (and is where you individually need to improve), while writing bonuses on easy subjects is simple and is often used as a way to cover up less than desirable tossups choices.
So you think that me citing several of my well-thought-out, knowledge-awarding bonuses is a total cop out? Well, fuck you. If you actually had the good sense to look at my bonus choices, you would see that a large part of my innovation and selection of easy topics rests there, but I guess bonuses take no effort and it's only the tossups that determine the quality of a subject.
Lets look at round three: the answers are Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Puig, Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and Hoffman. Now to defended these answer choices you used the same misguided logic I discussed above: in theory someone could have read or been assigned these works. But thats not the important question. The better question would be: is it likely that someone would have been assigned these works? You betray your own defense with the very choice of Gilman as an answer. I could have respected that you were writing on something you felt people knew about if you had written on "The Yellow Wall-Paper", while I despise that story, I respect that it is something that unfortunately is important. But by writing on Gilman it shows that you are not really interested in what people read, but more about improving as a player. The same goes for Confessions of an English Opium Eater. It is conceivable that someone might be assigned that throughout their academic career (I'm discarding the possibility that many people would read that book for leisure), but is it likely? It is very likely that any English or literature major will be assigned a Jane Austen novel or Middlemarch at some point in their career and that is the criteria I would use.

Let's take a further look at that Gilman question:
11. One poem by this author urges a preacher to preach about tomorrow and yesterday instead of today; another features an “ignominious idiot” who doesn’t “want to be a fly, I want to be a worm!” This author wrote the poetry collection In This Our World and a novel about John Robertson, who returns from Tibet to an America “beyond socialism.” In her sequel to Moving the Mountain, this author wrote about a society that reveres the Conscious Makers of People, which include Ellador, Celis, and Alima, who undergo (*) parthenogenesis and marry three visiting men. The Forerunner contains her story about Jane, who hides her journal entries from her husband John during a “rest cure,” which involves her discovery of  claw marks behind the “sickly sulfur tint” in her room. For 10 points, identify this feminist American author who wrote Herland and “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
ANSWER: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
There are a total of seven clues here about Gilman's far and away most widely read works, Herland and "The Yellow Wallpaper." Before that, I included a clue about Gilman's poetry and a clue about the prequel to Herland. I'm sorry, but what exactly am I missing here? Is me including two or three clues about some not-too-well-known works indicative of me not really caring about the works that people who have read Gilman actually do know? For the record, you are right that I wrote that question to improve my personal knowledge of Gilman. That also happens to be largely irrelevant. I posit that you, Ted Gioia, me, and every other quizbowler who has ever written quizbowl questions has written them to include clues that they previously did not know, such that they might increase the scope of their own knowledge of those subjects. You are accusing me of doing something that literally every quizbowl player does. You're accusing me of solely being interested in improving myself, whereas the existence of tossups on Dracula, The Last of the Mohicans, Cyrano de Bergerac, and bonuses on Asimov and Alice in Wonderland are contrary to that; do you think the rest of the tournaments of this semester are going to play out overlooked parts of high school reading lists? Don't attempt to divine my thought processes and go by what you actually see on the page.
2- This pushes me to my next point. Your defense of the tournament approaches importance with an "either-or" mentality. Either it is important enough to be written about or it is not. I have a question for you Auroni, is this actually how you view importance? Or do you see distinctions in levels of importance? Even in high school when I wasn't studying literature but just knew everything I got questions about through plot summaries, I still was able to implicitly feel that George Eliot was more important than Thomas De Quincey. Part of the problem with THUNDER's literature was that there were a lot of questions on the 3-4 level out of 5 on the difficulty scale.
No, my defense of this tournament approaches importance as a stupid and unreliable metric for selecting questions. My metric for writing these questions was "how many people can be expected to convert this bonus part" or "what percent of the field can answer this tossup by the giveaway, and what percent can reasonably get it pre-FTP?" To that end, I wholeheartedly reject a prescriptivist canon of any kind dictating what should and shouldn't come up, and I could honestly tell you that "which of George Eliot and DeQuincey is more important" is the wrong question to be asking when approaching quizbowl questions. The fact of the matter is that they both wrote works that people know about, and I could just as easily have written a tossup on The Mill on the Floss, which I have never read or written about, but this time, I was in a DeQuincey mood. If you follow this line of reasoning, Ted, then you have to criticize every writer ever who has picked a reasonably well-known topic in lieu of another reasonably well-known topic, and such an argument would largely be incoherent.
Now Auroni you seemed to imply that I was belittling you for "not being a student of actual literature", but I'm asking you frankly: do you feel that it is too much of a responsibility to expect you to know that Austen and Eliot are objectively more important and more likely to be assigned and read than Confessions of an English Opium Eater? If that is too big a leap than I apologize.
You read me the wrong way there. I mentioned that I was not a student of literature because I don't know the nuances of the Western Canon, but I do know enough about it to know that you're egging for a metric of importance that is concomitant with it. I can agree with you that Confessions of an English Opium Eater is not as likely to be assigned as works by Austen and Eliot, but I have already shown that quizbowl learning largely takes place out of the classroom. Point me to an intellectually curious individual who has read up on literature and doesn't know DeQuincey but does know the works of George Eliot intimately and we'll be getting somewhere.

And yes, I think it is a huge leap to think that every writer of literature questions is bound intimately to the confines of the Bloomean Western Canon, something which I am so thoroughly not.
3- I think the third major problem with is that you write about things primarily to improve as a player and not to produce the best possible tournament. I don't doubt you are capable of writing an excellent Middlemarch question but it seems that you are more interested in writing about things that could potentially come up in harder tournaments. I've discussed with Jonathan and Eric individually before how there is a point in the maturation of a quizbowl writer that you're comfortable writing tossups in which you knew all the clues beforehand. I'm not saying you always have to write about the same thing as you imply when you claimed that I am demanding that you write on Middlemarch rather than Confessions of an English Opium Eater. I would be happy with any substantive tossup on something like Middlemarch, Jane Austen, Ulysses, Mrs. Dalloway, Vanity Fair, or whatever. But frankly you will produce better tournaments when you write your questions to reward what the people at the tournament are likely to have read rather than writing on whats most interesting for you. And by writing to reward the people at the tournament I don't mean Jerry, or me, or Matt Bollinger, but to reward the players from Random College B who read the typical slew of canonical works. I'm not trying to be self-serving here, but actually open up regular difficulty tournaments so I miss that question on "The Yellow Wall-Paper" to a player who has read it recently rather than beating someone to a tossup on Charlotte Perkins Gilman based on secondary knowledge.
Again, you think that I've written things that are personally most interesting to me. What you fail to realize is that I have linked those things to answer lines that I know people will be able to answer questions on. The question on Gilman which you're so fond of has the following clues about "The Yellow Wallpaper" in it: "The Forerunner contains her story about Jane, who hides her journal entries from her husband John during a “rest cure,” which involves her discovery of  claw marks behind the “sickly sulfur tint” in her room." There are four clues about it here arranged in roughly descending order of memorability. If some random dude who has just read "The Yellow Wallpaper" can beat you to a tossup on Gilman because he's read it recently, well, tough shit, but he remembered a clue that you should have known better than you.
4- I apologize for dismissively critiquing the Borges question. It was a good question and was a question that I enjoyed. I failed to explain kindly my point. I feel like you default to writing the easier version of a question too often. This default to easier to find material particularly plagues your questions on easier authors, which kind of defeats the point of writing about easier authors in the first place. Let me explain. Rather than writing The Crime and Punishment tossup you choose to write on Dostoevsky using minor clues. Rather than writing a good tossup on Milton or Shakespeare drawing from their poetry (or a Sidney tossup drawing from his poetry which people actually read in depth) you wrote a tossup on Sidney drawing mainly from his plays. Rather than writing on Madame Bovary you wrote on Flaubert from lesser known sources weren't even summarize effectively. Rather than writing on an important 19th century American writer whose short fiction people read in depth (like Kate Chopin, Melville, etc), you chose to write about Louisa May Alcott drawing from her short stories, posthumously published novel, and titles from Hospital Sketches, which I cant imagine are things that are frequently studied. Rather than writing on a Borges story I felt that you defaulted to writing to a quick tossup that drew on plot summaries. (On a side note it is hilarious you thought I was criticizing you for not including Borges' poetry when I wanted exactly the opposite.) Rather than spending the time to find a good leadin for The Seagull you defaulted to giving us: "One character in this play justifies a love affair by reminding the audience that in his youth, he was preoccupied by making a name for himself rather than finding love."
In retrospect, I think that that Alcott question shouldn't have been intended to explore her minor works. I will grant that that was a bad tossup. Your other criticisms here are incoherent. As Jerry pointed out, the leadin clue from Flaubert was from A Sentimental Education, a work that's read and studied and isn't by any means Flaubert's only read work. It also used a clue from "A Simple Heart," another story by Flaubert that's widely read. If you knew things about those two works, then chances are that you powered that question. I probably could have included an easier clue from Madame Bovary earlier instead of that clue on Bouvard and Pecuchet, but I disagree that the Evan Adams model of "pick harder clues from easier works to use as leadin clues" is necessarily the only correct way to approach author tossups.

That Borges tossup had clues from stories, all of which I read, so it was not by any means quick. I rewarded your knowledge of "The Aleph" by getting you a fairly decent power on it if you remembered what happens there at the end. Other than that, if you had any idea what "The Zahir was about, you got power, and if you knew basic things about "Funes the Memorious" and "The Aleph," then you got some not-too-shabby pre-FTP buzzes there. That comment about Borges's poetry was meant in jest, because you expressed frustration at all the plot summaries of his short stories. I reiterate that that's the only way to go if more tossups on Borges are ever written for this difficulty.

And once more, we come to a supposedly vague clue that isn't actually vague if you sit down and just think about it. This quote is similar enough to something that Trigorin actually says in the play and that motivates his actions during its plot. I gave you a splendid buzz on it if you could internalize the plot enough to realize that this bit of paraphrased dialogue is central to understanding Trigorin's motivations for some of his actions in the play. If it seems "vague" to you, then you don't have the level of knowledge about the play to buzz there anyway.
I apologize for using the word lazy, but what I meant to say is that I consistently felt you chose to write on the easiest possible versions of easy answer rather than spending the amount of time necessary to make sure you had a well balanced and clue dense set. The tournament would have turned out better if you asked for help with one of your sub-distributions so you could focus on each individual answer more because I think the time crunch led you to default to quick and easy leadins (like The Seagull leadin, the couple of movie adaption leadins, or to a lesser degree The East of Eden leadins) rather than finding the best possible leadins. It takes more time and effort to do the research to write a good tossup on Madame Bovary than a question on Flaubert written from summaries. I would encourage Auroni to spend more time looking for substantial clues from the most important works in the canon rather than focusing his energy on finding quick summaries of largely unread William Golding novels.
Every literature question was written before the three days leading up to the tournament. Between September and then, I had meticulously written every literature question. I stand by all my leadin choices, including the movie leadin ones. The Woman in the Dunes movie actually won either Cannes or Palme d'Or the very year that the novel of the same title was released, so I decided "why the fuck not" when selecting a clue from the opening montage of that movie to serve as the leadin to that tossup. I decided to elaborate on a difference between the movie adaptation of The Name of the Rose, a not particularly obscure film by any means, and the novel, to yield a Name of the Rose leadin. Was it "lazy?" Maybe. After all, I didn't read a ton of the works that I wrote on, simply because I am a slow reader and I couldn't possibly hope to write questions and read everything before the tournament ran. There are some people in quizbowl, such as Jonathan Magin, whose default activity is to read and who consequently can read every book that they toss up. I think that that's exemplary if Magin and if you can do it, Ted, but I am not one of those people.

Also, at least one other person has read The Spire. In retrospect, I think that whatever volume of the To the Ends of the Earth trilogy I picked was not particularly well-read and I should have stuck clues from Lord of the Flies there instead, so I apologize for that. But again, that's no argument against writing on the other novels of Golding, some of which have won the Booker Prize.

Also, the bit about "... I consistently felt you chose to write on the easiest possible versions of easy answer rather than spending the amount of time necessary to make sure you had a well balanced and clue dense set." doesn't make any sense to me. Aren't you indicting me for not writing Dostoevsky tossups with clues from the "easiest" Dostoevsky works? How do you explain the contradiction between that and your statement here?
5- I think the issue of defaulting to easy answers is related to genre in your writing. I've felt that your writing always veered too much towards fiction and suffered from a dearth of drama and poetry tossups. Moreover, when you do write poetry and drama tossups I always felt the questions avoided the more canonical subjects about things people read. Let me illustrate by looking at the poetry tossup answers Auroni wrote for this tournament and for VCU Open. THUNDER had five (six if you count Pushkin) poetry tossups in the games I played: Sidney, Horace, Essay on Criticism, Lovelace, Pushkin, and "Italian." You need to stop and course correct. Auroni's poetry tossups for VCU Open were: Robinson Jeffers, Martial, Redcrosse Knight, Szymborska, Chretian de Troyes, Holderlin, "Burnt Norton", The Temple, "Fable for Critics", "John Brown's Body." Many of these were good tossups, the tossup on the Redcrosse Knight was especially well done and exemplary of the direction I think Auroni should take more often in his writing. But most of these seem a little off to me. I talked with Kevin Koai after VCU Open about how some of the poetry just seemed weird about stuff such as "A Fable for Critics" or "John Brown's Body" that just aren't interesting to people who read poetry for fun, and I had a similar conversation with Dallas on the way back from THUNDER. It seems weird that there are so many questions on fringe topics. It is not like anyone is going to critique you for using the wrong Szymborska quotes or quoting the wrong lines from Leopardi in a the "italian" tossup. Please don't make the argument that I'm saying people like Holderlin or Pushkin are unimportant, but frankly the corpus of their poetry is not really read frequently by English speakers. It just seems odd that there weren't tossups on any of the Romantics or Modernists or most of the major poets at all in THUNDER. If I was writing a tournament you get to make your own ideal distribution and I would hesitate writing that Lovelace tossup thinking to myself, "I haven't written on any of the major poetry movements yet and have only written one tossup on a work. Maybe I should write about something I know people are likely to have read like Keats, Stevens, Milton, Neruda, Frost or anything."
I mean, now you're trying to say that only poets and poems that people read for fun should come up. Forget the Essay on Criticisms and The Rime of the Ancient Marinerss of the world. Every single one of those works that you cited are studied academically and read by intellectually curious people interested in academic poetry. Your other point tells me that you don't like tossups on the translated poetry of major world authors because English-speaking authors don't read them. The latter is, in fact, a tragedy of the availability of good translations coupled with the well-known fact that Americans nowadays don't read poetry. In fact, Americans largely don't come in contact with the major cultural and historical products that quizbowl asks about, so there's really nothing separating translated poems by Leopardi, Pushkin, Holderlin, or whoever else from other works of literature that the general body of readers should be reading instead of the newest novels by Stieg Larsson or Stephanie Meyer.

(Incidentally, Milton and Frost both came up in two of my favorite and most fun bonus (to write) in this set, not that you care about any of the bonuses)
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I feel that Auroni defaults to writing on poems and plays that people are less likely to have read rather than spending the time to write the good question on very canonical answers. I think it is telling that the worst moments of the set were on the easiest questions. For example during the tossup on Horace, Dallas wasn't able to buzz even after "Odes" was read because he was sure it couldn't be Horace's odes because none of the earlier clues came from the important Horace odes. On a similar note, I find it difficult to imagine that Auroni really feels that Corneille and Eugene O'Neill/T. Williams are really on an equal level of notoriety to an American audience. Once again this goes back to the central principle that it would reward what people are likely to have read to have a question on Streetcar or Iceman Cometh rather than a tossup on Le Cid. I would encourage Auroni to consider writing about the major figures and works in drama and poetry, and not to relegate them to bonuses. If anything it makes much more sense to have bonuses on Sidney or Le Cid and tossups on Streetcar and Milton. I hope this critique gave more constructive criticism than my earlier catty response. I'll offer some individual examples of vagueness and less than optimal clue selection, which I think especially affects the poetry and drama questions, later today or tonight.
Okay, so that Horace question was unfortunate and didn't reward the knowledge of the people that I wrote it for. That's unfortunate, because I had no way of knowing what the most studied Horatian odes were, so I picked three that I was able to find good translations for." That tossup also had, quite early in the question, two important points to take away from Ars Poetica, which I'm pretty sure you can agree that readers of Horace have read.

So you do admit that my bonuses were on topics that are important in the sense of the Western Canon? Well, I deny that I systematically relegated those topics to bonuses intentionally. That Frost bonus came up because I really wanted people to name "Acquainted with the Night" for the 30 because, well, that poem is really cool and I haven't seen it come up much before and I know that people know it. And so that bonus was swept and that part converted during playtesting. Because much of your argument here rests on me knowing what's more important than what, which I've dealt with elsewhere in this post, I really can't acknowledge your point that the tossups were on things of lesser importance than the bonuses. It seems like I'll have to read your mind next time, because I honestly wrote tossups on answers that I thought people would know before the end and which people might get before "for 10 points," and at the same time, were on things that were Western Canon-friendly. If the last part just isn't true, I can't honestly say that that's a huge loss for me, because prescriptive writing based on the Western Canon is so limiting to the question writer's imagination as to be suffocating.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

As a remark on that Gilman question: it doesn't change much, but it would have been good to mention "Herland," explicitly at the end. It's usually a good idea to refer back to a described work later in the question. Otherwise, I think Auroni has offered an excellent explanation of why these criticisms make little sense.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Ukonvasara wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Factual inaccuracy from the minuet common-link: Boccherini's Minuet in A is from his eleventh String Quintet. Minnesota Open claimed it was from his fifth Cello Concerto
Near as I can tell, it's his fifth String Quintet, which is his Op. 11; the "Cello Concerto" part in the bonus part I wrote was an unfortunate typo. Sorry about that!
Sorry, Rob; that's not how to read opus notation. This piece is his Op. 11, No. 5, which means it's the fifth work in the set that was published as his eleventh opus. He earlier published six string quintets in his Op. 10. So it's the fifth string quintet from his second set of quintets, and his first set had six, so it is therefore his eleventh string quintet.
Aha! Well, now I'm doubly sorry about that.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by at your pleasure »

grapesmoker wrote:
Ike wrote:Herculaneum
Are the excavations at Herculaneum substantially more important than those at Pompeii? Those seem quite easy to confuse with one another and I'm wondering if there's a particularly good reason to ask for one of them rather than the other.
Hurculaneum is interesting in its own right, but mostly because it wasn't looted as heavily in the 18th century as Pompeii and because of the skeletal remains found there (the casting process used at Pompeii made all those skeletons unavailable for study). I don't recall if the question touched on either thing.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ringil »

Someone from my team first lined both East of Eden and the House of Leaves (admittedly, the 2nd question he got from reading the first line in the wiki article or something). Also for curiosity's sake, was waves acceptable for the TU on currents?

Maybe my perception was colored, but I felt like this tournament had some very confusingly worded questions. The already mentioned Warring States question chose to call it a conflict, which made me not willing to buzz despite having read about most of the incidents described in it. Also, the question on Chamberlain had a clue that was something like: "his half-brother of the same name signed the locarno treaties," which made me very confused as I didn't think Chamberlain's brother was also named Neville, but that may be my own error. There also may be some other examples, but I can't remember any specifics.

I felt a bigger problem with this set was having large bonus variations. A bonus of electroplating/nernst equation/faraday's constant, all giving some of the more obvious clues for those things, is just not comparable in difficulty to a bonus of women warrior/kingston/hwang. While I felt the majority of bonuses were okay, there was still a significant number of bonuses that felt much harder or much easier.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

Did anyone else feel that the third part of the Shaw bonus, Eugene Marchbanks, was pretty difficult for this tournament? When I talked to Auroni about this, his response was "he's come up before", but a quick web search of quizbowlpackets seems to indicate he's been mentioned like two times in clues for Candida. Furthermore, asking about characters from second-tier canon works seems a bit dubious to me. I find character names extremely hard to remember and was not able to pull this guy's name despite having read it. I'd prefer to keep the majority of bonus parts on characters to characters from very famous works.

Anyway, as many other people have mentioned, I enjoyed the majority of the tournament very much and it was a nice improvement over last year.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

I gave you a splendid buzz on it if you could internalize the plot enough to realize that this bit of paraphrased dialogue is central to understanding Trigorin's motivations for some of his actions in the play. If it seems "vague" to you, then you don't have the level of knowledge about the play to buzz there anyway.
I realize that I'm picking out a relatively small part of your post, but I think it's central to a disagreement we're having. Really, that quote is "central to understanding Trigorin's motivations"? What basis do you have for saying that? Moreover, why do you think that Ted, despite having read this book and written a tossup (or more) on it, doesn't deserve to buzz on the first line of your tossup on it because he doesn't recall that one quote? Again, think of what percentage of your field has read the Seagull. It's going to be pretty small. I posit that, unless you're asking about a book that a very hefty percentage of your field has read, anyone who has read that book should be able to easily get your lead-in. Even setting aside the idea that that one quote is crucial to an understanding of the play, which I don't see much support for, I don't think there's much point in intentionally taking away early buzzes from people who have read a given work, but haven't "internalized" it as well as you would like.

That said, I think it's very difficult to write gettable lead-ins for dramatic works, especially works by Chekov, where not that much really happens outside of dialogue. This was one of the handful of works asked that I happened to have read, so I managed to get it around the third or fourth line, which actually seems reasonable. I think this specific tossup was actually written pretty well. Hell, I'm even willing to admit that your East of Eden tossup was fine, if multiple people buzzed on the lead-in, although I'd have preferred the rest of the power-mark to be more contextualized and accessible. However, I find your assertion that readers should have to "internalize" a work to an arbitrary degree set by the question writer, well, rather strange.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Sir Thopas »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:The only tossup outside my categories that I remember being bothered by was the tossup on Defenestrations of Prague, which was a giant game of chicken, since it started dropping Czech names by the second line, making it abundantly clear that it was looking for some kind of event that happened multiple times in Czech history.
I don't know how the whole tossup looked, but Edvard Benes and Klement Gottwald aren't particularly Czech names. I buzzed because I knew the clues, not because I frauded it. Also, boo on that question for mentioning Bohumil Hrabal's tenth most famous work instead of his fifth most famous work. Perhaps it got fraudable soon after (quite frankly, I'm not sure if that's avoidable), but at least the first couple of lines were good.

Most people have said stuff about the tossups already. I remember a propensity of easy/easy/fuck you bonuses mixed in with a bunch of 30s, but I don't think I really have too much to say beyond that. Something may come to me later.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Cernel Joson wrote:I realize that I'm picking out a relatively small part of your post, but I think it's central to a disagreement we're having. Really, that quote is "central to understanding Trigorin's motivations"? What basis do you have for saying that?
Dude, get over it. It's one quote in a tossup that had lots of other clues in it.
Moreover, why do you think that Ted, despite having read this book and written a tossup (or more) on it, doesn't deserve to buzz on the first line of your tossup on it because he doesn't recall that one quote?
Why do you think he does deserve it? What's this with the "deserving" anyway? So you don't remember that quote, you don't buzz there; this is normal quizbowl people! If the rest of the tossup affords you plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your awesome knowledge of The Seagull you will still beat those of us who haven't read it.
Again, think of what percentage of your field has read the Seagull. It's going to be pretty small. I posit that, unless you're asking about a book that a very hefty percentage of your field has read, anyone who has read that book should be able to easily get your lead-in.
You posit wrong. There's no obvious reason why that should be so. It would be clearly problematic if an entire tossup was composed out of obscure quotes but since this wasn't the case, I don't see anything wrong with it.
Even setting aside the idea that that one quote is crucial to an understanding of the play, which I don't see much support for, I don't think there's much point in intentionally taking away early buzzes from people who have read a given work, but haven't "internalized" it as well as you would like.
It's called "writing pyramidal questions." All it means is that whatever early clue Auroni chose was not the same early clue that another player knew; there is nothing wrong with that, so stop arguing as though there were.
That said, I think it's very difficult to write gettable lead-ins for dramatic works, especially works by Chekov, where not that much really happens outside of dialogue. This was one of the handful of works asked that I happened to have read, so I managed to get it around the third or fourth line, which actually seems reasonable.
....
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Sir Thopas wrote: I don't know how the whole tossup looked, but Edvard Benes and Klement Gottwald aren't particularly Czech names. I buzzed because I knew the clues, not because I frauded it. Also, boo on that question for mentioning Bohumil Hrabal's tenth most famous work instead of his fifth most famous work. Perhaps it got fraudable soon after (quite frankly, I'm not sure if that's avoidable), but at least the first couple of lines were good.
I feel silly arguing with you on this subject, since you obviously know languages far better than I, but Benes is actually a pretty common Czech surname. (Googling it, I find that it is the 16th most popular Czech last name; roughly 1 out of every 400 Czech people have this last name). It is in fact the Czech form of the name Bennett in English or Benet in French. That clue alone is maybe not that fraudable (especially since I bet many moderators pronounced it like it's Spanish), but the next clue was about Saint Wenceslas, noted patron saint of the Czech, still in power, and there are more than five lines more of the question after that.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Papa's in the House »

Ike wrote: Here you go.
Since I'm pretty weak at economics in relation to most other subcategories of SS I admit they may be not optimal. I fully appreciate any critique anyone can give. I'm also curious as to what people thought of me trying to include some non-traditional SS in this distro. Please, comment on that as well! I'll post all the answers here:

fundamental attribution error
iron law of wages
pleading no contest
contract / boilerplate / Pound
FAE - I liked this tossup, mostly because it is an answer line often unasked about.

iron law of wages - I was actually disappointed that this tossup was used as a tiebreaker. I thought it made for a good answer line.

pleading no contest - Can you post this question? I don't recall it coming up.

contract / boilerplate / Pound - The last two parts of this bonus are hard parts for people that haven't taken a law class that covers contracts. While I know of them, we didn't even cover boilerplate clauses in my Business Law class and I didn't remember hearing about Pound in that class.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ike »

The court case Oregon State Penitentiary v Tamayo Reyes allowed an evidentiary to determine the mens rea of the defendant who had performed this action. A similar way of doing this action was the subject of an appeal the defendant made in the case State v. Hansen; that similar way of doing this action was first invoked by the defendant in North Carolina v. Alford, a practice now named for him. Most law codes in the U.S. state that this action is only an admission of (*) guilt for sentencing purposes; it has no effect on the evidentiary status that stem from civil lawsuits. It’s not staying silent, but this response is the third option one can say while being arraigned. For 10 points, name this alternative to saying “guilty” or “not guilty,” which usually means a defendant accepts the charges before him.
ANSWER: pleading no contest or nolo contendere [heck, take Alford plea before North Carolina]
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Sir Thopas »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote: I don't know how the whole tossup looked, but Edvard Benes and Klement Gottwald aren't particularly Czech names. I buzzed because I knew the clues, not because I frauded it. Also, boo on that question for mentioning Bohumil Hrabal's tenth most famous work instead of his fifth most famous work. Perhaps it got fraudable soon after (quite frankly, I'm not sure if that's avoidable), but at least the first couple of lines were good.
I feel silly arguing with you on this subject, since you obviously know languages far better than I, but Benes is actually a pretty common Czech surname. (Googling it, I find that it is the 16th most popular Czech last name; roughly 1 out of every 400 Czech people have this last name). It is in fact the Czech form of the name Bennett in English or Benet in French. That clue alone is maybe not that fraudable (especially since I bet many moderators pronounced it like it's Spanish), but the next clue was about Saint Wenceslas, noted patron saint of the Czech, still in power, and there are more than five lines more of the question after that.
I don't mean to pick a fight or anything; I'm just amused that you would have linguistic frauded that. I'd always assumed as a child that Andy Benes was Hispanic (like Darrell in that episode of Seinfeld does Elaine), and Edvard and Klement certainly don't scream Czech to me in the way that, say, František and Bedřich do. If I hadn't just spent a semester reading excerpts on Czech history from 1945 to 1948 (!), I wouldn't have gotten it there.

I do agree with you that Wenceslas was probably a poor choice and, at the risk of focussing on one question too much, I'd avoid writing college common-link tossups on Defenestrations of Prague just because you can usually figure them out pretty quickly. Maybe future questions on the topic can just be on the first or the second instead.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Sir Thopas wrote: I do agree with you that Wenceslas was probably a poor choice and, at the risk of focussing on one question too much, I'd avoid writing college common-link tossups on Defenestrations of Prague just because you can usually figure them out pretty quickly. Maybe future questions on the topic can just be on the first or the second instead.
I know it often seems like it when you first write on something you think is cute and/or clever, but in fact common-links of Prague defenestrations have been around for probably about as long as there have been tossups. And they've always been a really poor idea. Which is to say I basically agree with what Guy is saying here.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Gautam »

Ike wrote:Applying the Cobb-Douglass equation to this economic concept can be done to easily solve the Fisher Equilibrium problem by transforming it into an equivalent homogenous degree 1 log-concave function. Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern proposed four axioms such as completeness and transitivity that govern the rationality people exist that is necessary to account for while calculating this economic quantity. One way of graphically illustrating this quantity with respect to two resources was illustrated in Francis Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics, and involves plotting various combinations of various quantities of two (*) resources for two party’s consumption. Indifference curves are graphic representations depicting various quantities of goods that, for a particular consumer, will keep this quantity constant. For 10 points, name this economic measure of satisfaction.
ANSWER: (economic) utility
The first clue is true of production, utility, and a million other things. Cobb Douglas functions themselves can be log transformed into log-concave functions, so it doesn't do anything to describe the answer line.I don't understand the second sentence at all (perhaps it's attempting to describe the von Neumann-Morgenstern Utility functions and risk-aversion, but I'm not sure.) The Edgeworth box doesn't plot utility, but rather, sets of allocations of two different people, onto which utility curves can be imposed. If I hadn't buzzed in by that point, I'd probably have said "endowments."
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

I moderated THUNDER on Saturday; it was on the whole a good set that was slightly-above-regular and pretty much exactly as advertised. It's a huge effort for such a small group of people to produce a good set, and you guys pulled it off for a wide audience that largely got lots of "utility" out of these questions!

Without attempting to actually wade that far into different people’s arguments in the lit shitstorm (litstorm?) by replying directly to them, I’d like to share a thought that came to me while I was reading this thread. It seems like there’s an essential tension in question writing at Regionals level and higher, and that it hasn’t been addressed directly here. The tension probably comes out most clearly in lit, though it really applies to tossups involving any works longer than a page or so that people read:

On one side, people seem to write tossups which primarily highlights things that “quizbowl players,” however recursively defined – are likely to know by virtue of playing quizbowl as a source of exposure. (Examples in this set might include Wide Sargasso Sea, the Dostoevsky tossup, and the Puig tossup.)

On the other side, there are tossups that reward in-depth reading of things that people who have never played quizbowl before are most likely to have read well (i.e. things which “intellectually-curious people”, however recursively defined, are likely to know, things which are assigned in many classes across the country, foundational texts, etc.). Examples in this set might include that East of Eden tossup, and the Course in General Linguistics tossup.

I totally recognize that these types of reward overlap substantially in actual experience – there is going to be someone, somewhere, who was assigned The Woman in the Dunes or Betrayed by Rita Hayworth for a class, and conversely there are many someones who memorize something about their actual plots to get tasty points - and that it’s totally possible (perhaps necessary) to strike a numerical balance between these writing styles over the course of a multipacket set, rather than picking one or the other as a binary choice. In my opinion, though, the set did indeed strike a balance, resulting in the former type of tossup perceptibly more often than the latter, though Auroni did indeed produce many tossups of both kinds.

It’s also possible to load a tossup of either persuasion with lots of clues that are difficult for everyone to buzz on, regardless of whether they’ve read or studied up on the work in question, but that’s a matter for another thread.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ike »

contract / boilerplate / Pound - The last two parts of this bonus are harder parts for people that haven't taken a law class that covers contracts. While I know of them, we didn't even cover boilerplate clauses in my Business Law class and I didn't remember hearing about Pound in that class.

I intended Pound to be a more general answer than just on contract law. Pound really doesnt have anything to do with business law so the chances of you seeing him there is about 0.
gkandlikar wrote:
Ike wrote:Applying the Cobb-Douglass equation to this economic concept can be done to easily solve the Fisher Equilibrium problem by transforming it into an equivalent homogenous degree 1 log-concave function. Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern proposed four axioms such as completeness and transitivity that govern the rationality people exist that is necessary to account for while calculating this economic quantity. One way of graphically illustrating this quantity with respect to two resources was illustrated in Francis Edgeworth’s Mathematical Psychics, and involves plotting various combinations of various quantities of two (*) resources for two party’s consumption. Indifference curves are graphic representations depicting various quantities of goods that, for a particular consumer, will keep this quantity constant. For 10 points, name this economic measure of satisfaction.
ANSWER: (economic) utility
The first clue is true of production, utility, and a million other things. Cobb Douglas functions themselves can be log transformed into log-concave functions, so it doesn't do anything to describe the answer line.I don't understand the second sentence at all (perhaps it's attempting to describe the von Neumann-Morgenstern Utility functions and risk-aversion, but I'm not sure.) The Edgeworth box doesn't plot utility, but rather, sets of allocations of two different people, onto which utility curves can be imposed. If I hadn't buzzed in by that point, I'd probably have said "endowments."
I'm sorry about this. FYI, I was trying to write about the so described utilty functions by describing the axioms needed to apply them then just describing the variables in one.

EDIT - typo
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Auroni »

For people who like religion/opera/ballet, I am curious to hear how my questions were.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by magin »

Jerry and Auroni have already made good points refuting Ted's criticisms of the lit; I'd like to chime in with a few of my own. My major flaw with Ted's criticisms is that they aren't really pragmatic. There are many ways to write a good question; many good answers, and many good clues. I don't see anything wrong with a tossup on Pushkin at a tournament of this level; he's simply really well known and important. Similarly, you could argue that Confessions of an English Opium Eater or Le Cid are too hard for this level, but I just don't understand saying that they should not come up, since they are reasonably well-known and important. I worry that Ted is setting up an impossible standard to write tossups by making the best the enemy of the very good. Tournaments are produced by a lot of goodwill and effort by a lot of people who are not experts in the fields they are writing about, and I don't understand what attacking supporters of good quizbowl for writing good, but not perfect questions is going to accomplish.

To my knowledge, Auroni spent a lot of time crafting those questions, and they seem pretty good to me. I thought a few clues were a bit vague and could have used more context and clarity, and a few of the tossup answers were too difficult for the field, but I don't see any reason to blast the questions in the way Ted did, because pragmatically, they're pretty good. Could they be better? Sure. But are they a problem? I can't see how they are. When you play a tournament, you hope that the questions are excellent; if you just can't accept very good instead of excellent, maybe you should relax and be sympathetic to the way tournaments are actually written (mostly by the goodwill of people who want to promote good quizbowl and learn something in the process).

Also, I completely support Auroni saying that he chose some answers because he wanted to learn about them; I think that's a fine reason for writing a question. Sure, if the question isn't good, then there's a problem, but it's admirable to me to attempt to expose yourself to new things and try to write good questions about them.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by magin »

Oh yeah, sorry about accidentally writing quartet for quintet in the minuet tossup; I meant to write quintet but I clearly did not do so.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Duncan Idaho »

On the topic of the contract/boiler plate/Pound bonus- If I'm reading my notes correctly, that bonus (bonus 8 of round 2) and another bonus (bonus 3 of round 9) each had "contract" as an answer. (The second bonus was contract/Holmes, Jr./statutes of fraud.) Is there any particular reason why this was done? At first we thought it was another verbatim repeat that plagued other packets, but then when the moderator read the rest of the bonus, we were baffled. Was this just an oversight, or was it done deliberately?
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ike »

I saw that. I think what happened is that Trygve wrote a "law school bonus" as other academic. He didn't put any specific answer line down on the answer sheet, otherwise I would have informed him of this answer line collision.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Crimson Rosella »

every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:For people who like religion/opera/ballet, I am curious to hear how my questions were.
I liked the opera tossups that I remember hearing, particularly the one on Mozart. Despite it being a while back, I felt rewarded for having seen Lucia di Lammermoor and Cosi Fan Tutte in person, and I think somebody with deeper knowledge of their plots or a fresher experience of seeing them performed could have easily buzzed before me.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

I think my philosophical critique might make more sense when I provide real examples for the set. To re-iterate I thought this was a decent set. I don't really care if Auroni listens to my critique, but after thinking about the questions there are a few persistent trends that are problemmatic in his writing aside from answer selection. Generally the questions are fine, but I think a lot of technical problems including obscure clue selection and vague clues derive from the same issue. My comment about defaulting to writing easier questions is especially connected to his use of unreliable sources that lead to vague or frustrating questions. It's fine with me if he decides to keep writing like he does, but I'm genuinely trying to offer him a constructive critique that will help him become a better writer. At least in my life, I know I learned the most as a writer during my freshman year from the most savage critique I've ever received.


Let me explain with some examples. At first I was examining the vague Bridshead tossup reproduced below.

8. The namesake of this estate married the widow Beryl Muspratt. “An ancient, newly learned form of words” are uttered at the chapel of this estate at the end of the novel in which it appears. One inhabitant of this estate changes from being an ill-behaved schoolgirl to serving in the hospital bunks during the Spanish Civil War. That character’s brother vomits through a window of this estate onto the ground floor room of his guest, and her sister marries a Canadian in the House of Commons named (*) Rex Mottram. Cordelia and Julia live in this devoutly Catholic estate, home to the raging alcoholic Sebastian Flyte. For 10 points, name this home of the Marchmain family that Charles Ryder “revisits” at the end of a novel by Evelyn Waugh.

Brideshead Revisited is my favorite novel and I was particularly baffled by this quote at the chapel, which isn't very notable and I barely remember despite having read the book and seen the BBC series several times. A quick perusal of Wikipedia confirmed that Wikipedia cites it as one of the novel's most important quotes. As I worried when listening to the questions in person a reliance on sources like Wikipedia distorts the importance of certain quotes or aspects of a book leading to vague questions. I felt that these unhelpful clues taken from shaky sources proliferated the set. When I argued that Auroni sometimes defaults to using easy clues it is this trend that I am talking about. Rather than looking for a good clue, sometimes I feels like he defaults to a quick quote or vague description of a movie adaptation which are rarely helpful.

Let me offer some more examples:

- The tossup on Sir Philip Sidney gives an odd description of A Defence of Poesie, "Another of his works is about “the companion of camps” that never “makes circles around your imagination;” that work was a response to Stephen Gosson’s A School of Abuse." Now it has been a few years since I've read that and maybe I would of pulled that second part about Gosson right afterward but there was no way I was going to get these first two quotes which aren't particularly notable. Yet the "companions of camps" and "makes circles around your imagination" both appear in Wikipedia, which leads me to believe that perhaps that was why they were included even though they aren't very important. Moreover, Ike Jose discovered that the second is actually even a misquote of the original Sidney.

- The Zorba the Greek tossup had its taken from a quote mentioned in the Wikipedia article: "a grandfather tells his son that it is a sin to prefer one dish to another because “there are people who are hungry.” This doesn't strike me as a great quote to use as a leadin, but maybe I'm wrong.

- The Seagull tossup began: "One character in this play justifies a love affair by reminding the audience that in his youth, he was preoccupied by making a name for himself rather than finding love. The lover of that character hands him a medallion with the line “if you ever need my life, come take it” from his book Days and Nights. One character compares his mother’s relationship with her lover to Gertrude’s with Claudius; for that insolence, he gets run off stage when two red eyes and the smoke of sulphur are released during a performance."
Generally this is a decent question despite the bad leadin, but The Seagull is a play I've read many times and I was surprised where this Gertrude and Claudius clue came from. It turns out it is mentioned in the Sparknotes article, which also had a line very similar to the vague leadin. It's not that I think one can never use Sparknotes because I often use it as a source, but it becomes problematic when its your only reference. Often this can distort the actual importance of clues and lead to situations where you include a lot of unhelpful clues like the Gertrude comparison and the vague leadin. If I'm writing on a play that I've never read and am using sparknotes I pinpoint an interesting detail in the summary like the Gertrude conversation and go to the text just to find that specific conversation to see if it is actually important and will make for a good leadin.

- The Borges tossup gave an odd description of "Deutsches Requiem" which is a story I've read relatively recently saying only " [This author] examined the possibility that any object “can contain the seed of a possible Hell”" in the "Deutsches Requiem." I was confused because this had very little in common with my memory of the story, but a quick wikipedia search sees that this quote is mentioned in "The Zahir" article as a notable aspect of "Deutsches Requiem."

- The tossup on Lucia di Lamermoor opens with an odd anecdote about how in "One version of this opera adds a character named Gilbert who makes money revealing secrets between two rival characters and removes a character who appears in its number “Egli s’avanza.”" Now Lucia is one of my favorite operas and I've listened to it countless times, yet I never heard this anecdote even though I have a particular love of opera anecdotes. Turns out it was mentioned in Wikipedia. Moreover, this question basically listed a bunch of plot details and skipped all the major arias (except for mentioning the mad scene at the end). The question was decent enough, but a reliance on unreliable sources led to a number of less than useful clues and didn't engage with any of the opera's actual music.

I want to make one thing clear. I'm not saying that every quote you pulled from Wikipedia or Sparknotes is a bad clue, but often it can be hard to tell whether it as important as these sources claim without doing a little bit more research. For example the quote you used in The Confessions of an English Opium Eater turned out to be very important. But it can be hard to know for sure without more research.

I could've gone and cross referenced all the literature questions, but I just picked the clues that struck as particularly odd and did a quick search. I'm sure if I looked further more of these vague clues would emerge. Unsurprisingly almost all the clues I thought were problematic were taken from unreliable sources which could of been easily fixed with a greater attention to detail and a greater commitment to finding the right sources.

The issue of poor clue selection was especially prevalent in non-English poetry. Please take note Jerry. Let me explain:

- Dallas was baffled by the Horace question because he has taken a class on the poet and didn't recognize a single quotes from the question and couldn't even buzz when Odes was mentioned because he assumed it couldn't be Horace. After a little research it turns out that all the quotes from Horace poem come from an online blog run by a linguistics grad student who offers his amateur translations of poetry. What apparently happened was that Auroni just chose to include all the poems mentioned in his blog assuming they were the most important poems. Once again, I felt like this reliance on potentially unreliable secondary sources for research leads to a distorted notion of what is important. Moreover, it could lead to vague questions for people who are familiar with the mainstream translations.

- It turns out that both the Pushkin and "Italian" poetry question (which I actually thought was successful) drew largely on this blog's translations as well. The Pushkin question also largely relies on the random poems this grad student decided to translate. Now Jerry, I hope you understand my logic behind the comment about Pushkin questions. It's not that I dont think good questions on Pushkin's lyric poetry are possible, but rather that he is notoriously difficult to translate into English and often leads writers especially at lower levels to rely on weird sources that make them difficult to buzz on even for people with real knowledge. I would hope that Pushkin questions for regular difficulty would focus more on his longer poems rather than relying mainly on quotes from potentially unreliable (and certainly rarely read) translations of his lyric poems.

Now Jerry let me explain another aspect of my reasoning. I think I've illustrated that the a few of the poetry and drama questions were among the weakest in the set. However, one of the set's best questions in the set was the Much Ado About Nothing, which unsurprisingly Auroni had read. Now I want to say to Jerry that I was not arguing that Auroni has to write on Anglophone writers, but I was encouraging him and all writers to consider writing about someone like Emily Dickinson or Pablo Neruda in which there is a better sense of what poems are really important if one is unsure about what Horace or Mallarme poems are really well known. I'm not saying that Auroni has to write on any subject, but looking at his answer selection for poetry and drama tossups for this tournament and for VCU Open there seems to be some sense of avoiding the Anglophone tradition of poetry and drama and especially the mainstream figure heads of that tradition. To repeat I'm not saying he has to write on any of those people. But I'd suggest that maybe some of the minor problems with vague or unimportant clues that sometimes creep there way into his questions (and especially his non-English language poetry) might fix themselves if he considered writing on a few more of those topics. It's well-established what the famous Emily Dickinson poems are in a way someone without deep knowledge of an area might not be as certain in discerning the the third and fourth best known poems of Holderlin. Don't get me wrong Jerry I hope to see lots of great tossups on Holderlin.


I hope the logic behind my critique is more apparent now. The reason I gave a frank critique of what I felt was Auroni's question writing philosophy is because it is directly related to some recurring problems in his work. To be clear, I think Auroni is a good writer and the literature in this set was fine. I'm perfectly fine if he never decides to listen to any of my comments about his answer selection. But these questions were often frustrating to play on if you had strong primary source knowledge, which could easily be fixed by addressing a few technical problems through a greater use of source materials and less reliance on shoddy secondary sources (especially for finding leadins). Unsurprisingly some of the weaker questions in the set came in poetry and drama, which require more textual research. As evidence of the good Much Ado question I would encourage Auroni to re-evaluate some of his research methods and consider using more primary sources. I know that takes a long time and I'm sure Auroni put a lot of effort into this set, but I think it is the step he needs to take to elevate his questions from good to great.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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RyuAqua wrote:It seems like there’s an essential tension in question writing at Regionals level and higher, and that it hasn’t been addressed directly here. The tension probably comes out most clearly in lit, though it really applies to tossups involving any works longer than a page or so that people read:

On one side, people seem to write tossups which primarily highlights things that “quizbowl players,” however recursively defined – are likely to know by virtue of playing quizbowl as a source of exposure. (Examples in this set might include Wide Sargasso Sea, the Dostoevsky tossup, and the Puig tossup.)
I don't really understand this so-called dichotomy at all. Or rather, I understand that it can and does exist at some level (e.g. asking for doubly-eponymous things in science that virtually no one outside of quizbowl knows) but I don't agree that this set was an instantiation of it. None of the examples in Matt's post are really examples of something that people would necessarily know just from playing quizbowl; indeed, Wide Sargasso Sea appears quite often in many literature curricula, and Dostoyevsky and Puig are not exactly obscurata.
On the other side, there are tossups that reward in-depth reading of things that people who have never played quizbowl before are most likely to have read well (i.e. things which “intellectually-curious people”, however recursively defined, are likely to know, things which are assigned in many classes across the country, foundational texts, etc.). Examples in this set might include that East of Eden tossup, and the Course in General Linguistics tossup.
It is bizarre to suggest that Course in General Linguistics is the kind of thing that an intellectually curious person might know, or which is assigned in many classes, in opposition to Dostoyevsky. That just makes no sense! I'm going to put the likelihood of someone reading Course at barely larger than epsilon; while it certainly is a foundational work, I would be surprised if anyone actually read it, or if more than a few excerpts were assigned in college classes. The reason it comes up has everything to do with its intellectual importance as a foundational work of linguistics, and very, very little to do with how many people might have actually read it. Indeed, I would suggest that the Course is the paradigmatic example of something one might know purely from quizbowl and nowhere else; reference to Dostoyevsky abound in the intellectual milieu, while references to Saussure (Magnetic Fields songs aside) are rather more scarce.
I totally recognize that these types of reward overlap substantially in actual experience – there is going to be someone, somewhere, who was assigned The Woman in the Dunes or Betrayed by Rita Hayworth for a class, and conversely there are many someones who memorize something about their actual plots to get tasty points - and that it’s totally possible (perhaps necessary) to strike a numerical balance between these writing styles over the course of a multipacket set, rather than picking one or the other as a binary choice. In my opinion, though, the set did indeed strike a balance, resulting in the former type of tossup perceptibly more often than the latter, though Auroni did indeed produce many tossups of both kinds.
I was not assigned either of those works in any class, and yet I have read them and got points for doing so. I don't really understand what sort of "balance" this is supposed to signify, or how these things are really in conflict. To me it seems like there are a lot of valid choices that can be answer lines and there are certainly lots of valid ways to know things about those answers that have nothing to do with committing Masterplots to memory. Criticizing a writer for choosing to write about one rather than another of those things is a complete non-starter.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

Also I want to address Jerry's notion that I'm setting myself up as the "literature mafia." You notice I don't comment on every tournament yelling at people for poor answer selection, but rather post when I see specific trends in someone's writing that I find problematic. It's not like I swoop into a thread to yell at someone for writing one outlier tossup. I didn't criticize VCU Open or MO 2010 because they were both really well written and well-balanced tournaments. I didn't see any issues that could have been improved by anything I could say. Evan Adams did a great job with VCU Open and does need me telling him what to do. Even though a lot of the lit and arts in MO 2010 didn't fit my exact conception of the canon, Rob Carson obviously put in a lot of great work to produce a varied and interesting tournament. While I might not have liked the answer choice of certain questions I understand and respect the thinking behind it especially because it was clear that Rob and the editors tried to write accessible answers in interesting ways like Brecht from criticism clues, the first Duino Elegy, and others I can't remember off the top of my head.

I try to reserve my comments for when I see a problematic trend. I commented in this thread because I felt that I've seen a recurring issue in Auroni's work with not using the best sources which leads to occasional vagueness and bad clues, and non-ideal answer selection. He can chose to listen to my critique or not, but I'm not going to yell at him next tournament if he does the same thing. I got into a flame war with Jerry in the CO 2010 thread because I felt that he chooses to write about what he finds interesting and new rather than what will make for the best tournament. I think that higher levels tournaments and especially ACF Nationals (which he is editing this year) need to have a certain commitment to having a decent number of tossups about subjects that are in the core canon of that discipline's academic tradition and just writing about things that are "important" under the most nebulous sense of the word which I think can be used to justify any tossup answer. Obviously we don't agree on this point and Jerry doesn't even believe a core literary canon exists. Don't get me wrong, I love Jerry and he is a good friend, but we just don't see eye-to-eye on this issue. That conversation with Jerry maybe got pushed out of context to suggest that I imagine myself as the arbitrator of quizbowl literature. I have not and will not in the future jump into every thread yelling at people for not following my methodology about quizbowl literature, but rather when I see problems in people's writing and offer some comments it's inevitable that they will be colored by my personal quizbowl philosophy. And often, as in Auroni's case for THUNDER, I think adopting a writing philosophy somewhat closer to the values that I espouse will help improve these problems. That doesn't mean anyone has to listen to my critique or change how they write, as I'm sure Jerry has no plans in changing his writing, but I'm going to continue to offer constructive criticism when I see a recurring problem even if that critique may be seen as overly dogmatic.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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Magister Ludi wrote:It turns out that both the Pushkin and "Italian" poetry question (which I actually thought was successful) drew largely on this blog's translations as well. The Pushkin question also largely relies on the random poems this grad student decided to translate. Now Jerry, I hope you understand my logic behind the comment about Pushkin questions. It's not that I dont think good questions on Pushkin's lyric poetry are possible, but rather that he is notoriously difficult to translate into English and often leads writers especially at lower levels to rely on weird sources that make them difficult to buzz on even for people with real knowledge. I would hope that Pushkin questions for regular difficulty would focus more on his longer poems rather than relying mainly on quotes from potentially unreliable (and certainly rarely read) translations of his lyric poems.
I just want to be clear that I make no assertions whatsoever regarding this particular Pushkin question. I only remember it insofar as I recognized some of the character names, waited for an extra few clues, and buzzed. It may well not have been particularly good or have used clues that were less than useful. I have no idea where the clues used for that question came from.

But I also want to make it clear that the above is actually a much weaker statement than what you were saying previously. It's certainly true that Pushkin is somewhat hard to translate, but so is Goethe, so is Baudelaire, so is every worthwhile poet writing in another language. It's not like Pushkin is in any way unique in that regard; the only thing that makes writing on him more difficult is that there are fewer Russian speakers in quizbowl than there are French or Spanish speakers. Nevertheless, I am sure that quality translations of Pushkin are available at your local university library. If they are not, there are some excellent, critically acclaimed Pushkin translations by J. Lowenfeld which have been hailed as some of the best in recent times. That site doesn't have everything but it does have a lot of very good translations of the shorter stuff.

This actually brings me to a larger point that I would like to make, which is that I think oftentimes, whether for reasons of propagation of quizbowl mores or for reasons that have to do with what's assigned in classes, we get a very lopsided view of some subjects. Because 1984 and Animal Farm is routinely assigned in classrooms, we come away with the unfortunate idea that George Orwell was primarily a novelist, rather than a journalist and essayist whose novels are not his major contributions to letters. Likewise, at least in the west, Pasternak is known primarily for a single novel, rather than as the brilliant poet that he actually was. Same with Pushkin: I find that a lot of people tend to think of him almost exclusively as the author of Onegin and his lyric poetry is basically an afterthought, which again is unfortunate. Not that I would expect anyone to really know all his lyric poetry through and through (do we know Emily Dickinson through and through?) but there's something to be said for using clues about those works in tossups on the guy. Actually, even his two most famous long works (Ruslan and Lyudmilla and Onegin) contain very famous excerpts; specifically, the prefaces of those two works are quite famous and can be quoted (if not verbatim) in any question. All of which is to say that I think there's a great amount of diversity possible when writing questions and that as long as the rules of good writing are observed, we don't need to shy away from exploring various aspects of a writer's works.
Now Jerry let me explain another aspect of my reasoning. I think I've illustrated that the a few of the poetry and drama questions were among the weakest in the set. However, one of the set's best questions in the set was the Much Ado About Nothing, which unsurprisingly Auroni had read. Now I want to say to Jerry that I was not arguing that Auroni has to write on Anglophone writers, but I was encouraging him and all writers to consider writing about someone like Emily Dickinson or Pablo Neruda in which there is a better sense of what poems are really important if one is unsure about what Horace or Mallarme poems are really well known. I'm not saying that Auroni has to write on any subject, but looking at his answer selection for poetry and drama tossups for this tournament and for VCU Open there seems to be some sense of avoiding the Anglophone tradition of poetry and drama and especially the mainstream figure heads of that tradition. To repeat I'm not saying he has to write on any of those people. But I'd suggest that maybe some of the minor problems with vague or unimportant clues that sometimes creep there way into his questions (and especially his non-English language poetry) might fix themselves if he considered writing on a few more of those topics. It's well-established what the famous Emily Dickinson poems are in a way someone without deep knowledge of an area might not be as certain in discerning the the third and fourth best known poems of Holderlin. Don't get me wrong Jerry I hope to see lots of great tossups on Holderlin.
Ok, I think that's fine. I don't really know Auroni's style and I honestly don't remember what went down at VCU Open, so I'll just take your word for it. If I were writing questions for this set, I would probably have included more Anglophone poetry in it, but that might well be just as much a function of the kinds of things I read as this set was of the kinds of things Auroni read or was interested in. In general, I don't think these kinds of things are unique to Auroni or really anyone else.

It is also possible, with some research, to figure out which Holderlin poems are notable, just as it's possible to find out which Dickinson poems are notable. Writing on any particular author doesn't alleviate the necessity for doing this kind of research.
I hope the logic behind my critique is more apparent now. The reason I gave a frank critique of what I felt was Auroni's question writing philosophy is because it is directly related to some recurring problems in his work. To be clear, I think Auroni is a good writer and the literature in this set was fine. I'm perfectly fine if he never decides to listen to any of my comments about his answer selection. But these questions were often frustrating to play on if you had strong primary source knowledge, which could easily be fixed by addressing a few technical problems through a greater use of source materials and less reliance on shoddy secondary sources (especially for finding leadins). Unsurprisingly some of the weaker questions in the set came in poetry and drama, which require more textual research. As evidence of the good Much Ado question I would encourage Auroni to re-evaluate some of his research methods and consider using more primary sources. I know that takes a long time and I'm sure Auroni put a lot of effort into this set, but I think it is the step he needs to take to elevate his questions from good to great.
I have to again disagree with you regarding the assertion that these questions were "frustrating to play on if you had strong primary source knowledge." I personally earned a good number of powers and many more regular tossups on this set based on things I had read. I'm happy to provide a list of such answer choices in literature if you want, but I hope you'll take my word for it that I got a lot of buzzes on things that I'd read. I felt that the majority of the time, the questions really did reward me for having primary knowledge of the texts. I concede that it may not have been uniform throughout (I know very little about Horace, for example) but at least in those areas where I felt my knowledge was very good, I thought the questions were written well.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

[
On the other side, there are tossups that reward in-depth reading of things that people who have never played quizbowl before are most likely to have read well (i.e. things which “intellectually-curious people”, however recursively defined, are likely to know, things which are assigned in many classes across the country, foundational texts, etc.). Examples in this set might include that East of Eden tossup, and the Course in General Linguistics tossup.
It is bizarre to suggest that Course in General Linguistics is the kind of thing that an intellectually curious person might know, or which is assigned in many classes, in opposition to Dostoyevsky. That just makes no sense! I'm going to put the likelihood of someone reading Course at barely larger than epsilon; while it certainly is a foundational work, I would be surprised if anyone actually read it, or if more than a few excerpts were assigned in college classes. The reason it comes up has everything to do with its intellectual importance as a foundational work of linguistics, and very, very little to do with how many people might have actually read it. Indeed, I would suggest that the Course is the paradigmatic example of something one might know purely from quizbowl and nowhere else; reference to Dostoyevsky abound in the intellectual milieu, while references to Saussure (Magnetic Fields songs aside) are rather more scarce. [/quote]

I don't really agree with Matt's proposed dichotomy, but I will say that Course in General Linguistics is actually a very good an example of what he is proposing. I'm taking a class in Anthropology right now and we spent the first month reading and discussing Saussure. Course in General Linguistics established structuralism and influenced so many other fields that lots of students know Saussure. Derrida's On Grammatology is based on a critique of Saussure and semiotics obviously comes out of the Course. If you study linguistics, anthropology, literary theory, semiotics, or post-structuralism you will probably have to read Saussure at some point.

You're right that fewer people probably read the whole book, but many people are familiar with the metaphors. I was particularly pleased with that question because I've never heard a tossup on it before which is surprising because it lends itself so well to questions since it uses so many metaphors to explain its ideas. Moreover, I think it quizbowl rewards people with real knowledge because I don't think many quizbowl people know anything about it other than "parole" and "langue" and sign/signifier, so if you are a student who has studied it even in the most limited capacity you will be rewarded over someone who just knows it through quizbowl.

But I think you're general point about the inadequacy of this dichotomy is right.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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I synthesized a variety of sources to write my questions when I didn't have primary texts on hand (or when google books had only limited previews, for example.) Yes, I used some sources from Wikipedia when it had more to say about a particular work than other sources than I could find. I'm very sorry that I had to do so, but it's unfeasible for me to spend 3 hours in the library thumbing through Arcadia just to find suitable clues to fill one tossup on its author.

As for the poetry in translation, they are, as Ted has divined, taken from a literary blog that I follow regularly. I took them from there because the guy who maintains that site continues to demonstrate that he knows what he's doing when making every translation, often following up each work with supplemental explanations. I go there because I don't have any idea who the authoritative translator of Pushkin or Horace is, and I doubt that any such translator exists for most poets. At best, I can use one translation and hope that someone who read a different one will pick up on phrases being said in a different way. Also, I used three Horatian odes (Diffugere nives, Integer vitae, and Tu ne quaesieris, two of which are from that blog and one of which is from a different site. Just for good measure, I searched for sites that offered translations of the odes, and these three seemed to be quite common, so I had no idea that they were actually random or obscure. If the translation I used was not mainstream, I apologize, but that seems like an inordinate amount of work to check just how different said translation is from ones that people playing the tournament might have read; I did even offer power for knowing the Latin first lines of those three, so any translations anyone read of those three poems should be able to earn powers. But other than that, that requires a tremendous amount of mind-reading and extra work just to ensure that the 1-2 people playing knowledgeable about certain subjects get rewarded for reading the exact source that they read, which to me seems unreasonable.

Since we both want good questions with good sources, Ted, please tell me how to balance the extra amount of time finding that perfect source with the quantity of questions that need to be written by a definite time. I realize that using plot summaries is nothing short of taking a shortcut, but I can't afford to read plays like Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac every time I produce a set of literature questions, so there has to be a fair compromise somewhere.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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Two more question-specific things:

I know that Pushkin wrote lyric poetry that a large number of Russians, if not people, know quite well. I probably should have kept it to just one of those, but the rest of the tossup was solidly spent on Eugene Onegin and "The Bronze Horseman." Again, it's near impossible to know whether or not one of these things is random or not, but I did a quick search showing that the poems in the first third of the tossup were indeed translated elsewhere, and so I thought that someone might know them.

I have no idea how to figure out what lines from the Canzoniere people know or don't know, so I picked the ones in which Petrarch describes first meeting Laura and where he realizes he can't be with her. I think that those are two points of the Canzoniere that people might be able to know, so I just went with my best guess there.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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Dutton Speedwords wrote:
every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:For people who like religion/opera/ballet, I am curious to hear how my questions were.
I liked the opera tossups that I remember hearing, particularly the one on Mozart. Despite it being a while back, I felt rewarded for having seen Lucia di Lammermoor and Cosi Fan Tutte in person, and I think somebody with deeper knowledge of their plots or a fresher experience of seeing them performed could have easily buzzed before me.
I'm glad you enjoyed the Mozart question, however I used clues from Clemenza di Tito, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro in it.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:
Not that it matters, but the story is called "White Nights." Dostoevsky is a giant of Russian literature, if not just literature. What you're saying amounts to "ask about these four works of Dostoevsky and nothing else," which I'm in complete disagreement with. Dostoevsky wrote several short stories, all of which are moving, entertaining, and interesting from a literary standpoint, and there is no coherent clarion call for me to not write on them, other than maybe a lingering thought in my mind that "maybe a Dostoevsky purist might not agree with my choice of works here." In retrospect, this tossup ended up harder than I intended it to. I should have added a clue or two more about Notes from the Underground, which is actually more widely read than you give it credit for, and then the tossup would be that much better. But your argument of "these are the four Dostoevsky novels that I was assigned in class" fails to hold up when it's been adequately established that a large chunk of quizbowl learning takes place outside the classroom, whatever the classroom may be.


There are a total of seven clues here about Gilman's far and away most widely read works, Herland and "The Yellow Wallpaper." Before that, I included a clue about Gilman's poetry and a clue about the prequel to Herland. I'm sorry, but what exactly am I missing here? Is me including two or three clues about some not-too-well-known works indicative of me not really caring about the works that people who have read Gilman actually do know? For the record, you are right that I wrote that question to improve my personal knowledge of Gilman. That also happens to be largely irrelevant. I posit that you, Ted Gioia, me, and every other quizbowler who has ever written quizbowl questions has written them to include clues that they previously did not know, such that they might increase the scope of their own knowledge of those subjects. You are accusing me of doing something that literally every quizbowl player does. You're accusing me of solely being interested in improving myself, whereas the existence of tossups on Dracula, The Last of the Mohicans, Cyrano de Bergerac, and bonuses on Asimov and Alice in Wonderland are contrary to that; do you think the rest of the tournaments of this semester are going to play out overlooked parts of high school reading lists? Don't attempt to divine my thought processes and go by what you actually see on the page.
I didn't want to comment anymore about this, but I think I need to address these issues. I'm not saying you can't write questions to improve, but what I'm saying is that it can become a problem if it interferes with your editing. Your defense of the Dostoevsky tossup is particularly problematic and strikes me as an example of what I mean when I said your interest in improving has a negative effect on your questions. I'm not saying that you have to write questions on the Dostoevsky books I've read, and by no means am I saying that Dostoevsky's short stories like "Winter Nights" should never be asked about. I would be happy if this tossup appeared at ACF Nationals or there were questions on The Gambler or The Double. I share your enthusiasm for his lesser known works. You seem to think I was doubting them based on their literary merit, when rather what I questioned was whether this regular difficulty tournament was the right venue to explore these lesser known works. Moreover, it seems doubly problematic that the Dostoevsky question didn't mention any of the canonical works other than Notes from the Underground even after "FTP." I think is a case where you let your desire to improve as a player infringe on your editorial judgment. Frankly, I find it a bit troublesome that you continue to defend this obviously inappropriate tossup. Also, you've now written tossups on Poor Folk and the short stories of Dostoevsky for your last two tournaments, so I'm eagerly awaiting the time when you decide that his better known works might merit an occasional question.

I'm not accusing you of doing something every player does, but rather saying that this desire seems to infringe on the quality of your work more often than other writers. I'm not saying this happened in every tossup or that you can never write about things you don't know. Rather I'm trying to suggest that you keep this in mind as a problematic tendency that you have to be on the look out for. I, like all writers, have some bad personal ticks that can creep into my writing, but I try to keep them in mind while I write to do my best to avoid them. I think your answer and clue selection might be one these bad ticks in your writing and I think you should be cognizant of it when you sit Once again, I'm not trying to restrict your creativity or demand you write according to what is taught in classrooms, but simply pointing out a few recurring technical problems in your writing that could be improved on. Maybe if you ke

Also, I didn't appreciate the implication that I was complaining about stuff like the Borges or Flaubert tossup because I missed them. I got the Borges question off the first line because I've read all his stories, but I was suggesting that these areas where you have real knowledge should be among your first choices for writing interesting questions on because you know you will execute a good tossup on it. I was not offering that critique because I'm angry because Ive read "The Aleph" and not "The Zahir" and demand only "The Aleph" comes up, but rather giving a suggestion that could lead to a more varied tournament.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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grapesmoker wrote:All of which is to say that I think there's a great amount of diversity possible when writing questions and that as long as the rules of good writing are observed, we don't need to shy away from exploring various aspects of a writer's works.
I agree with this 300 percent.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

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every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:Two more question-specific things:

I know that Pushkin wrote lyric poetry that a large number of Russians, if not people, know quite well. I probably should have kept it to just one of those, but the rest of the tossup was solidly spent on Eugene Onegin and "The Bronze Horseman." Again, it's near impossible to know whether or not one of these things is random or not, but I did a quick search showing that the poems in the first third of the tossup were indeed translated elsewhere, and so I thought that someone might know them.
Could you post the text of the Pushkin tossup?

I wasn't a big fan of the translation, but I did buzz on Я вас любил - that was a good choice of poem, as it's memorized by most Russian schoolchildren and a decent fraction of Russian majors.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Crimson Rosella »

every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:
Dutton Speedwords wrote:
every time i refresh i have a new name wrote:For people who like religion/opera/ballet, I am curious to hear how my questions were.
I liked the opera tossups that I remember hearing, particularly the one on Mozart. Despite it being a while back, I felt rewarded for having seen Lucia di Lammermoor and Cosi Fan Tutte in person, and I think somebody with deeper knowledge of their plots or a fresher experience of seeing them performed could have easily buzzed before me.
I'm glad you enjoyed the Mozart question, however I used clues from Clemenza di Tito, Idomeneo, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro in it.
That's what I get for watching Cosi and Figaro back-to-back. Guess it's time to brush up with a 22-opera Mozart marathon after finals are over!
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Mike B wrote:Describing the Warring States period as a conflict for most of the question was pretty confusing.
This one was on me. I felt like if I just described it as a period, it would make it way too obvious it was a period of Chinese history in which a bunch of states fought each other. In my defense, Chris said he powered it on the description of Lord Shang.

Mike B wrote:What was the final count of audio fine arts questions to visual fine arts questions in this set? I kind of felt it was more skewed toward audio questions than visual questions, but I could be remembering wrong.
There was 21/21 of each, but some of them may have been relegated to tiebreakers.

Libo wrote: Also for curiosity's sake, was waves acceptable for the TU on currents?
I don't believe so. They're distinct entities.

Libo wrote:Also, the question on Chamberlain had a clue that was something like: "his half-brother of the same name signed the locarno treaties," which made me very confused as I didn't think Chamberlain's brother was also named Neville, but that may be my own error.
He's named Joseph; I believe the question was trying to say that his half-brother shared his surname.

Libo wrote:I felt a bigger problem with this set was having large bonus variations. A bonus of electroplating/nernst equation/faraday's constant, all giving some of the more obvious clues for those things, is just not comparable in difficulty to a bonus of women warrior/kingston/hwang.
You've picked literally the easiest science bonus and the hardest literature bonus, so keep in mind you're looking at outliers. But I'd like to defend that science bonus; I'm not sure that many non-science players would be able to get a bonus part on Faraday's constant without some kind of indication that its named for Faraday. Furthermore, electroplating is something that I've not heard come up in quizbowl (although that could be a faulty memory), so I don't think it'll be converted by teams that don't have general chemistry knowledge.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ringil »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Libo wrote: Also for curiosity's sake, was waves acceptable for the TU on currents?
I don't believe so. They're distinct entities.


I learned most of the clues in that question under the context of waves/flows :( And the Chamberlain bonus shoulda been more careful to say surname instead of just name.
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Libo wrote:I felt a bigger problem with this set was having large bonus variations. A bonus of electroplating/nernst equation/faraday's constant, all giving some of the more obvious clues for those things, is just not comparable in difficulty to a bonus of women warrior/kingston/hwang.
You've picked literally the easiest science bonus and the hardest literature bonus, so keep in mind you're looking at outliers. But I'd like to defend that science bonus; I'm not sure that many non-science players would be able to get a bonus part on Faraday's constant without some kind of indication that its named for Faraday. Furthermore, electroplating is something that I've not heard come up in quizbowl (although that could be a faulty memory), so I don't think it'll be converted by teams that don't have general chemistry knowledge.
Rgarding the faraday bonus, didn't the part on faraday mention induction, whic is very much associated with faraday?

I'm saying that there were a significant number of difficulty outliers. Another example would be the bonus on peat/tanins/acrotome layer(??), though my team is bad at this sort of science, compared to say the bonus on Thucydides/Peloponnesian War/Sicilian Expedition. I don't have too many more examples as I don't have the set, but other people have also mentioned there being outliers.

On a side note: In the Hispania (Spain) tossup, how come Lusitania isn't acceptable for the first line? I remember it going something like some Roman dudes fought Viriathus' rebellion here. Viriathus was most famous for defending what would become the Roman province of Lusitania, though at that time I guess technically it might have been still part of Hispania.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by dmac587 »

My bad on two accounts, I meant to say last name in that Chamberlain tossup and Lusitania should have been acceptable if you buzzed in on the Viriathus clue (but his rebellion occurred before Lusitania was established as a Roman province and still would have been known to Romans as Hispania).
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Mike B wrote:Describing the Warring States period as a conflict for most of the question was pretty confusing.
This one was on me. I felt like if I just described it as a period, it would make it way too obvious it was a period of Chinese history in which a bunch of states fought each other. In my defense, Chris said he powered it on the description of Lord Shang.
This is part of a trend in quizbowl (especially history) that needs to stop. If you can't write a tossup on something because it's transparent, just don't write it. Changing your question so that your pronoun is incorrect is just obnoxious. I recall there being at least one example of this at Minnesota Open that suffered from the same problem, although the specific answer line escapes me.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I generally agree with this. The only tossup I remember getting direct criticism in that vein at MO was the much-discussed Siege of Sevastopol question, in which someone told me that calling it a battle, not a siege, was confusing. If there were other such confusing pronouns, please let me know.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Cheynem wrote:I generally agree with this. The only tossup I remember getting direct criticism in that vein at MO was the much-discussed Siege of Sevastopol question, in which someone told me that calling it a battle, not a siege, was confusing. If there were other such confusing pronouns, please let me know.
Sieges are battles!
This is part of a trend in quizbowl (especially history) that needs to stop. If you can't write a tossup on something because it's transparent, just don't write it. Changing your question so that your pronoun is incorrect is just obnoxious. I recall there being at least one example of this at Minnesota Open that suffered from the same problem, although the specific answer line escapes me.
Sometimes answer lines don't lend themselves to very good tossups. That's when I suggest moving them to the bonuses if you really must use that answer.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Pilgrim »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Mike B wrote:Describing the Warring States period as a conflict for most of the question was pretty confusing.
This one was on me. I felt like if I just described it as a period, it would make it way too obvious it was a period of Chinese history in which a bunch of states fought each other. In my defense, Chris said he powered it on the description of Lord Shang.
This is part of a trend in quizbowl (especially history) that needs to stop. If you can't write a tossup on something because it's transparent, just don't write it. Changing your question so that your pronoun is incorrect is just obnoxious. I recall there being at least one example of this at Minnesota Open that suffered from the same problem, although the specific answer line escapes me.
I agree with this to some extent, but I really don't have a problem with it in this situation. I guess it's unfortunate if someone figures out "this is a conflict during the warring states period, now I have to figure out what it's called...", but it's pretty clear to me that there was a historical conflict, so I think it's fine to ask about it by calling it "this conflict."
grapesmoker wrote:
Cheynem wrote:I generally agree with this. The only tossup I remember getting direct criticism in that vein at MO was the much-discussed Siege of Sevastopol question, in which someone told me that calling it a battle, not a siege, was confusing. If there were other such confusing pronouns, please let me know.
Sieges are battles!
The problem with this arises in cases like Sevastopol where the siege is a prolonged campaign which in fact contains many distinct battles. For example, I've always learned (though this might not be the standard interpretation, I'm by no means an expert on the Crimean War) that Balaclava, as an attempt to break the siege, would be considered part of the overall "Siege of Sevastopol" campaign.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Pilgrim wrote: The problem with this arises in cases like Sevastopol where the siege is a prolonged campaign which in fact contains many distinct battles. For example, I've always learned (though this might not be the standard interpretation, I'm by no means an expert on the Crimean War) that Balaclava, as an attempt to break the siege, would be considered part of the overall "Siege of Sevastopol" campaign.
Fair enough. I probably should have gone with "campaign" in hindsight.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Ringil »

Pilgrim wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Mike B wrote:Describing the Warring States period as a conflict for most of the question was pretty confusing.
This one was on me. I felt like if I just described it as a period, it would make it way too obvious it was a period of Chinese history in which a bunch of states fought each other. In my defense, Chris said he powered it on the description of Lord Shang.
This is part of a trend in quizbowl (especially history) that needs to stop. If you can't write a tossup on something because it's transparent, just don't write it. Changing your question so that your pronoun is incorrect is just obnoxious. I recall there being at least one example of this at Minnesota Open that suffered from the same problem, although the specific answer line escapes me.
I agree with this to some extent, but I really don't have a problem with it in this situation. I guess it's unfortunate if someone figures out "this is a conflict during the warring states period, now I have to figure out what it's called...", but it's pretty clear to me that there was a historical conflict, so I think it's fine to ask about it by calling it "this conflict."
That's exactly what happened to me as I was like o.o a tossup on a battle/conflict during the warring states.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Sorry for reviving a somewhat moribund thread, but I kept meaning to address some of the below statements.
Magister Ludi wrote:Also I want to address Jerry's notion that I'm setting myself up as the "literature mafia."
That was in jest. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
I try to reserve my comments for when I see a problematic trend. I commented in this thread because I felt that I've seen a recurring issue in Auroni's work with not using the best sources which leads to occasional vagueness and bad clues, and non-ideal answer selection. He can chose to listen to my critique or not, but I'm not going to yell at him next tournament if he does the same thing.
My feeling about this discussion is that it started out a little too personal. I'm not saying that Auroni is above criticism or whatever, but I think you were, and still are, making somewhat unwarranted extrapolations from some basically harmless things that Auroni has said to his ability as a writer, and pinning the deficient questions on his character. I think he's a decent writer who has put in a fair amount of work into the tournaments he's been part of, and clearly not someone who operates in bad faith or that his approach is fundamentally unsound, so I don't think we need to go beyond "these questions are flawed and here's why," to "these questions are flawed because of your character." Sorry for that meta aside.
I got into a flame war with Jerry in the CO 2010 thread because I felt that he chooses to write about what he finds interesting and new rather than what will make for the best tournament.
The problem I have with the above is that you rhetorically position me in opposition to "what will make for the best tournament," and I refuse to be characterized in this way. I'm not convinced (ok, I flat out don't believe) that there's any such thing as "the best tournament," something which I think should be clear from everything I've said before. Rather, I believe that there can be a multiplicity of good tournaments, each good in their own way. I recognize that a tournament edited by another editor would look different from the tournament I edit, and I'm fine with that; what I'm not fine is being painted as some kind of indulgent despot who subordinates quality to his personal idiosyncracies; while I certainly do have an agenda when I edit (as does everyone) I do what I do because I think that it will, in fact, produce a better tournament.
I think that higher levels tournaments and especially ACF Nationals (which he is editing this year) need to have a certain commitment to having a decent number of tossups about subjects that are in the core canon of that discipline's academic tradition and just writing about things that are "important" under the most nebulous sense of the word which I think can be used to justify any tossup answer.
That's because "important," really is a nebulous word, a point I've been making for a while now. You want to say, "here are the things that are really important, and all this other stuff is just the periphery," whereas I don't view that distinction as particularly crucial or interesting. What we view as important is in many cases very strongly contingent on all sorts of factors that really have very little to do with any notion of "intrinsic" importance. As such, I see the notion of a "core canon," as instrumentally useful but also confining; at least part of what interests me about quizbowl is the opportunity to explore a wide and diverse range of topics, whether that's going to be in literature, history, the social sciences, or the hard sciences. I believe that there's entirely too much interesting stuff out there to be constantly rehashing the same subjects.

Obviously I cannot comment in any way on what will actually be in ACF Nationals (which in any case depends very heavily on what gets submitted), and nothing that I'm saying now is something I haven't said before. All I can tell you is that we're going to cover a wide variety of interesting things, and whoever wins that tournament will have demonstrated a very impressive combination of breadth and depth. But you already knew that.
Obviously we don't agree on this point and Jerry doesn't even believe a core literary canon exists. Don't get me wrong, I love Jerry and he is a good friend, but we just don't see eye-to-eye on this issue.
Well, I appreciate the sentiment, and I too will say that I consider Ted a good friend and an excellent writer/collaborator to boot. Our differences on this subject are probably more complicated than can be captured in a debate about quizbowl, but as I've said above, it's not that I don't think a de facto canon exists, it's just that I think that whatever is in that canon by no means exhausts the space of interesting and relevant answer choices.
And often, as in Auroni's case for THUNDER, I think adopting a writing philosophy somewhat closer to the values that I espouse will help improve these problems.
I'm not convinced that this is true, because so far all I've seen is a few questions that were poorly written, but essentially well-conceived. What that tells me is not that there's a philosophical problem somewhere but merely that the execution wasn't up to par. Well, that happens, and we can talk about how we can improve that, but I don't think that "not writing tossups on Pushkin," (sorry to harp on that) or "write tossups on Madame Bovary instead of on Flaubert," is a reasonable solution to these problems.
That doesn't mean anyone has to listen to my critique or change how they write, as I'm sure Jerry has no plans in changing his writing, but I'm going to continue to offer constructive criticism when I see a recurring problem even if that critique may be seen as overly dogmatic.
What I object to in this critique is that I feel you smuggle in personal preferences about what you'd like to see in packets under the guise of objectivity. It's fine to have preferences; I have them too, and if someone wrote a tournament that catered to my tastes, I'd be thrilled, but I don't pretend that that's the only legitimate tournament that can exist. On the other hand, I feel like too often you are trying to delegitimize others' writing by attacking it on the basis on failing to adhere to a weird canonicity criterion that you've actually never really articulated very well. My response continues to be: there are multiple acceptable realizations of a good quizbowl tournaments. That your realization may or may not be appealing to me from some kind of aesthetic standpoint (or vice versa) is not, in my view, an argument for or against it, so I tend to view these disputes as generally useless when it comes to resolving the practical issues of producing good tournaments. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to fully convince you of this, but that's my position.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT LITERATURE EVEN A LITTLE BIT.

Yeah, so I liked this tournament. For one thing, it actually was it claimed to be - something Regionals-ish, on the harder side of regular difficulty. Considering the rather astounding reliability with which most events FAIL at that whole "as advertised" thing, I think this is worth commending.

I particularly enjoyed a number of history questions in this tournament - Pablo Escobar was already mentioned, I liked the non-transparent question on Governor General of India, and a number of questions Dominic wrote that are a great example of how you absolutely do not need to choose difficult answer lines to reward the deepest kind of history knowledge.

For the most part, I also thought the bonus hard parts did a solid job of not being impossible, with a few unfortunate exceptions. Jerry and I were both less than thrilled with the question on Heidegger's Off the Beaten Track, which just seemed incredibly ill-advised. I mean, that's a collection that has a couple essays people read (which themselves are reasonably hard enough) and a couple more that people usually don't. The problem is that whenever you do read those works, it's almost certainly not in some collection - the best chance anyone has of encountering that collection is as a scoring prize at a tournament. Still, given a number of the other SS/P questions, I'm ready to chalk that up to one miscalculation out of a number of solid attempts to ask about some cool things.

This tournament's lack of 18-line tossups also continues a promising trend emulating sets like 2010 Nationals and VCU Open. Hopefully we can finally do away for good with the logic that you have to vomit up every clue possible when writing a tossup.

I also think that we undervalue how much work goes into completely house-written sets, and while I agree with a number of critiques in this thread, I'm reminded that I sure do like not having to write a packet and just showing up to play 12 rounds of good quizbowl. Gracias.
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Oh yeah, good point on the Heidegger collection. Perhaps as a non-expert on Heidegger I'm wrong about this, but I don't think his collections (as opposed to the individual essays therein) are all that important. That hard part would have been better as a question on a more difficult Heidegger essay that people read, such as "The Origin of the Work of Art," or "The Question Concerning Technology."
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Re: THUNDER Discussion

Post by Duncan Idaho »

Is this set going to be posted soon?
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