Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

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Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Gautam »

I think we can get ahead and started on this. The set will be posted online soon, but in the meanwhile, you can browse the set on google docs.

EDIT: Packets are up here. Enjoy.
Last edited by Gautam on Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Just to note, there were a few things that were changed in the final proofreading of the set on Friday night, but the google docs should give a good idea of what the set was like.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Gautam »

The final proofread version is on Google Docs AFAIK.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

gkandlikar wrote:The final proofread version is on Google Docs AFAIK.
Didn't realize you'd re-uploaded them! Excellent.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

This was a very enjoyable, well run tournament. It definitely curbed some of the problems from last year (annoying answer lines seemed to be almost absent, as I can't recall any common links that infuriated me) and while there were the usual too hard ideas that pop up in open tournaments, I liked the difficulty better than last year's as well. I'll leave some more in-depth criticism to others with more knowledge and also to when I can focus better.

I guess I will say I immensely disliked the trash "distribution" of this tournament, which I suppose is an inherently stupid criticism. But there you go.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Coelacanth »

Just chiming in to give a reader's perspective...

I thought the quality control was 100% better than last year. Many fewer typos and grammatical errors, consistent tossup length, identifiable easy-middle-hard bonus parts. I heard a few complaints about factual inaccuracies or ambiguities, particularly in the science questions, but no out-and-out hoses. Only once did anyone feel compelled to protest the acceptibility of their answer, and that one turned out not to matter.

I'm not really qualified to comment on difficulty and answer selection for a tournament at this level, but there was some definite variability in the difficulty of the bonuses. This is no different, I expect, than every other tournament everywhere. Some of the "easy" parts had HS-level clues, and other bonuses were getting zeroed by good teams. It just felt that, editorially, there wasn't a consensus on how easy an easy part should be.

This tournament has something of an identity crisis. There were two relatively distinct fields playing the same tournament. About half the teams were very strong, elite-level, ACF-Nats-playoff-contending teams, and about half were not, with not a lot in between. Yes, there were a couple of teams that finished around .500, but if you look at the bonus conversion numbers there's a pretty clean break. Maybe this isn't a problem; people seem to like the idea of an early-season, difficult, Open tournament.

Just a few words about the logistics. There's absolutely no reason that a tournament advertised as "registration from 8 to 8:45; games start at 9" should start play after 9:30. Such a schedule demands that you, co-TDs, all should be in the building at 8, no exceptions. Contingency planning was somewhat lacking; while having scorekeepers assigned to every room was great (and helped things move along at a good pace), making the broad assumption that "all of the scorekeepers will have their own wireless-enabled laptops so we can do electronic scorekeeping without needing to print off a bunch of scoresheets" was less great. Pre-tournament communication implored people to bring buzzers, but nobody told me to bring a laptop. I guess "college students all have laptops and bring them everywhere they go" is actually a pretty good assumption these days, but you shouldn't base your tournament plans on it without having a backup plan ready to go.

Thanks to everyone who stepped in to read in my room during your byes; my ability to speak made it through the day relatively intact.

And, really, despite my relatively nit-picky objections above, I think Andrew, Gautam, Rob, Bernadette, and probably others, did a megapile of work to pull this thing off and did a great job. Thanks be to them.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

Eh, I'm not sure about the "identity crisis." I think by this year it has actually coalesced into being a really strong national tournament. Most of the "bottom part of the field" were B or C teams of national contenders (including a severely ravaged Illinois B). Carleton is a decent team who was missing a few of their players. Michigan is a decent team missing one of their best players. I don't think it was an identity crisis in the sense of "We want it to to be for all! So come on down, St. Olaf!" but more in the sense of "This is going to be a very difficult tournament. We'd love to get a great national field, but if you want to give it a try, we'd love to have you." I felt all teams acquitted themselves quite well.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

More detailed comments are of course owed to this event, but I would like to note my continued belief that you do not need a set on which the kinds of teams assembled at the Minnesota site cannot break 20 ppb to have a perfectly difficult, top-level open event. While ten point answers at this tournament were essentially just awarded by default to teams at some points at this tournament, a huge amount of the medium parts of bonuses seemed a bit nuts to me, and plenty hard parts essentially impossible. If you get a bonus that's absurdly easy part-very hard part even here-utterly impossible part, it's really not a good bonus; an easy part that's easier than the ones that show up at Penn Bowl doesn't make it all right to have two hard parts. If your asking people to name Basque mythological figures - without telling them that you're even talking about Basque Myth(!) - I don't think you somehow mitigate that by saying "ok, sorry about sodomizing you a little bit there, just say "Basque" and "Roncevalles" even though the easy part of the last bonus was Rietveld or whatever.

I can't see how one could possibly argue that any event would need to be harder than this (not that this is like HARDEST QUIZBOWL TOURNAMENT EVR or anything, this is more of a general quizbowl point) - perhaps the newest ground for a top-level tournament to break right now is to reduce overall difficulty while maintaining sufficient academic rigor (which, of course, MO undoubtedly had).

That said, as much as this tournament roughly violated everyone at our site, looking over the packets I see some extremely admirable work. In particular, I see many efforts to re-assert that (contrary to certain Tommy Casalaspis) that random X work of African lit is not an easy part just because "it's come up" and similar things along those lines. There are clear efforts at controlled canon expansion, and tossups on very accessible answers, and you know people had to be predictably absurd in their submissions*. It's obvious that where this tournament missed (and I think it did somewhat in terms of ideal difficulty, and some bonus issues), it missed because of the inherent lack of precision in hitting those marks for top-level fields, especially with packet sub events, rather than anything like a lack of effort or competence by the editors.

*Rob, Andrew, Gautam et al: I'd be interested in hearing an evaluation of what the submissions were like. My impression of the difficulty ballooning last year was that it was due in significant part to people writing hard as shit stuff, and by the busload. If it happened again, perhaps we should stop doing that.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Coelacanth wrote:There's absolutely no reason that a tournament advertised as "registration from 8 to 8:45; games start at 9" should start play after 9:30.
If I didn't know who you were, I'd reply with "You're new to quizbowl, aren't you?"

As for the tournament itself, I don't think that it was an atrocity, but I do think that it had clear and systemic flaws. I don't have time to get into them right now -- I know that my colleague Ted felt exactly the same way I do, so hopefully he will post.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

Overall I thought this tournament was good. We had a lot of exciting matches against a lot of good teams, and almost always I felt that it was the team with the most knowledge winning, not the team that was getting lucky with misplaced clues, guessing on ill-conceived tossups, or getting lucky on converting really easy bonuses.

There were a few whacky answer choices--Ecuador and Glass come immediately to mind--but overall things seemed fine. Most of the tossups were well written. Playing with Jonathan always gives me a distorted sense of bonus difficulty, so I don't have a lot of comments in that area.

I do agree with Chris that I would like to see a decrease in difficult in open events. See the ACF Nationals thread from last year for my thoughts on this subject.

I would also like to put forward that quizbowl tournaments need to get their question lengths under control. It took us until almost 8 PM to read 13 rounds of this tournament, and that wasn't because of any serious logistical or moderator speed issues. This isn't just an issue with this tournament--nearly every non-novice, and pretty much every hard tournament since about the winter of 2009 has been spiraling towards absurdity in question length. I contend that no tossup ever needs to be longer than 8 lines in 10 point Times New Roman, and that many enjoyable tossups (especially on hard subjects) can be significantly less than this length. It's not the worst thing in the world to have people buzzing on the first clues. This is what good teams do. Plus, shorter questions let us play more rounds. I'd rather play more rounds on 7 line questions and more concise bonus parts than play fewer rounds with maybe 5% fewer early buzzer races amongst the good teams because of an extra 2 lines of leadins.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Coelacanth »

Whig's Boson wrote:
Coelacanth wrote:There's absolutely no reason that a tournament advertised as "registration from 8 to 8:45; games start at 9" should start play after 9:30.
If I didn't know who you were, I'd reply with "You're new to quizbowl, aren't you?"
Actually, I meant to expand on this in my original post. The pre-tournament annoucements gave the schedule as registration by 8:45, games start at 9. Of course it's the case that I, along with everyone else in attendance, knew that this meant the first game would start around 9:50. Nobody was surprised when such a start time actually came to pass. This is, indeed, how most college and open tournaments happen.

My point is that it doesn't have to be this way. This is not an MO-specific comment btw. TDs: nobody will like you any less if you are a hardass about starting times, as long as you are upfront about this. Of course you then need to follow through; it does nobody any good to crack the whip and have all the players there by the announced time and then still start late. If for some reason you need 90 minutes of prep time between your arrival and the start of the first round, then just build that into your schedule. But honestly, registering teams, setting up buzzers, distributing schedules, etc., should take no more than 20 minutes.

My point is that "announce hard start time; hold teams to that; actually start on time" is much preferable to the "announce firmish start time; watch teams straggle in 30 minutes either side of the announced time; start 45 minutes late which everyone knew was the defacto start time anyway" model that most tournaments seem to follow.

Parenthetically, I should add that I completely agree with Mike B's points about knowledge being rewarded and question length.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I'll have a more detailed writeup after I've recuperated from my travels, but I thought this was an enjoyable tournament for the most part. I think the MO editing team did a good job for the most part, especially on the tossups. The bonuses were more checkered, in my view, and most of the stuff that I didn't like was concentrated there. But I mostly had a very good time and I would definitely attend again.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

The sciences were in general a big improvement from last year; there was still a trend of having arguably important but substantially-too-difficult tossup answer lines from time to time. They were tolerable, though, and the sciences were generally fun otherwise. I also enjoyed the philosophy and social science quite a bit, notably the tossups on "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" and "the oceanic feeling."
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by marnold »

This tournament was enjoyable. I can sum up the things I didn't like by saying that at times it felt like there were things that I would without hesitation include in a MO parody. Were there some wacky tossup ideas, occasionally of the common-link variety? Yes. Was the employment of the McKenzie-style easy part pronounced and sometimes frustrating? Yes. Were there excessive references to bees, even at times to the detriment of gameplay? Oh sweet god, yes. These are all things I associate with Minnesota stuff, though, so it wasn't particularly surprising and none of those seemed egregious. Though I agree the trash was disproportionately music-centric, I thought the questions were interesting and I both like and am pretty good at music, so no complaints from me there.

Also, I think the difficulty was fine. The field of the main site was insanely stacked necessitating hard bonuses and the distribution of PPB doesn't seem so say much more than maybe there were a few too many fuck-you 30s that kept any team from getting +20. I don't know the attitudes at the other mirrors, but I didn't notice any of the teams at the main site being too frustrated.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Gautam »

people wrote:The easy parts of bonuses were too easy.
I think that the majority of bonuses that suffered from this went through my hand. I pretty much always tend to write pretty easy easy parts because I hate to see bonuses being 0d. I'll try to avoid it if it is frustrating to many people.

As for Chris' request for an evaluation of the submissions, I'll certainly get back on that at some point in the evening. I'm sure Andrew, Rob, Bernadette, and Brian will have some comments too.

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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I sincerely hope that Minnesota Open will continue its tradition of including a tossup referencing the chanting of "UNDERWOOD!" at the 1924 Democratic Convention somewhere in the tournament.

I also agree with Mike Bentley that questions were too long at times, especially some bonus parts. I am okay with short bonus parts if they are actually giving an interesting and helpful clue, but I guess I'm sort of a grump who is never really amused by the sort of gentle meta-mockery from editors that occasionally appears in bonus parts.

My question about the trash distribution is: Were all of the trash submissions changed? Did any actually make it through? If not, then I feel like it was a waste of time to ask for trash tossups to be submitted. I liked my tossup on the film Brazil that I wrote for this, but had I known at the time that it would have been changed to a common link trash tossup on the music of Brazil, I wouldn't have submitted it (that was actually a Fine Arts tossup, I believe, with my actual trash tossup probably the unusable one on the cartoon "Jem," so I can sort of understand it). I think it's perfectly okay for the editors to declare that they will write on whatever trash topics amuse them and that will make up the trash distribution, as this is an open tournament, but then I think they should probably not request trash submissions.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Looking at the packet we submitted and comparing it to the final packet that actually got played, I'm kind of puzzled by some of the editing changes. For example, tossup on Algeciras became a tossup on Morocco instead, and a tossup on Althusser seemingly became one on Empire. I wonder if the editors could comment on some of these decisions. This also leads me to another point, which is that I felt like this tournament contained far too many "polity" tossups relative to actual events that transpired in those polities. While I have no problem with this type of tossup in general, I think they were overrepresented at this tournament (and are becoming greatly overrepresented in quizbowl in general) and I would like to see fewer of them in future sets.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

Cheynem wrote:unusable one on the cartoon "Jem,"
That tossup would have been excitement! And adventure!

Thanks to Minnesota for good time.

Most of the tossups I had issues with were already mentioned--glass and beekeeping reverends, to name two, but I'd like to add that the stabiles tossup was not so great. I wasn't sure whether to buzz with what seemed to be the transparent answer (cue complaints about the term transparent) or to wait for hints that a more specific category or type of sculpture was being asked about. Poly-A tail was a fun answer choice, and I loved seeing The Mother of Us All come up, despite the fact that it was way too difficult for the stated level. Way too difficult. While most of the time the humor and quirks were fine, even entertaining, I thought the tossups could have done without the various references to "Wikipedia claims" or "according to Wikipedia." It takes up tossup space that, as Mike Bentley correctly pointed out, probably shouldn't be as spacious in the first place. As far as bonuses, the tournament did a better job that most about differentiating among the easy/medium/hard parts, despite the fact that sometimes the hard parts were way too hard or the easy parts too easy. A few of the bonuses were the usual carbon-copies of other bonuses on the same topics--Mandelstam and Akhmatova have come up in tandem how many times now?--but questions like the Congreve bonus branched out a little, which was entertaining.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Coelacanth wrote:
Whig's Boson wrote:
Coelacanth wrote:There's absolutely no reason that a tournament advertised as "registration from 8 to 8:45; games start at 9" should start play after 9:30.
If I didn't know who you were, I'd reply with "You're new to quizbowl, aren't you?"
Actually, I meant to expand on this in my original post. The pre-tournament annoucements gave the schedule as registration by 8:45, games start at 9. Of course it's the case that I, along with everyone else in attendance, knew that this meant the first game would start around 9:50. Nobody was surprised when such a start time actually came to pass. This is, indeed, how most college and open tournaments happen.

My point is that it doesn't have to be this way. This is not an MO-specific comment btw. TDs: nobody will like you any less if you are a hardass about starting times, as long as you are upfront about this. Of course you then need to follow through; it does nobody any good to crack the whip and have all the players there by the announced time and then still start late. If for some reason you need 90 minutes of prep time between your arrival and the start of the first round, then just build that into your schedule. But honestly, registering teams, setting up buzzers, distributing schedules, etc., should take no more than 20 minutes.

My point is that "announce hard start time; hold teams to that; actually start on time" is much preferable to the "announce firmish start time; watch teams straggle in 30 minutes either side of the announced time; start 45 minutes late which everyone knew was the defacto start time anyway" model that most tournaments seem to follow.
Sure, it is possible that, one day, a tournament will start on time. It is also possible that, one day, we will have a kosher ham, because scientists will genetically engineer a beast that tastes like a pig but does not have non-kosher physical features.

I will bet my money on the latter happening first.

(I think that MIT's idea of charging high entry fees with a "getting there early" discount is the best solution I've heard to this perennial problem, but nobody else has adopted it)
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Despite our low bonus conversion, I had a good time at the UCLA version of this tournament. It was great to see some of the latest generation of East Coast transfers to our circuit, and the questions (if much too long for my, and everyone else at the site's, tastes) were well-written and interesting, even if they were on things I'd never heard of.

I'd be interested to hear what some of the other science people thought of the Ziegler-Natta question. I buzzed off six and a half words from a ten line question. I'd like to know whether "hey these things from chemistry that use something have lots of generations" was a misplaced clue, a luckily rewarded lateralization on my part, or something in between.

I greatly enjoyed the Brown packet. I was also enjoyably(?) frustrated with tossups on things like "waves" and "fitness" that went the entire question without getting answered, and the plethora of bonus parts in which I was madly gesticulating "this is something by X, which I don't know the name of, so I guess we'll just screw up this part and take the pity points for X."

One of the more bizarre instances in my time in quizbowl occurred during Round 3. Mason Liang and I buzzer raced somewhere just after the power mark. He won the buzzer race and negged with the "Peninsular Campaign." I was going in with "Wilderness Campaign." So, like a dutiful good quizbowl player, I wait till the end of the question, expecting to pick it up at the end. Imagine my surprise when the end of the question mentions the Battle of the Wilderness, and I can't pull the other name. This is the only instance I can think of in which vulturing immediately after a neg would have earned me more than 5 points more than not vulturing.

I also hope that people enjoyed the picture of the sign on the door to the Russian Room in which we played half our matches.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Oh yeah, as Mike Cheyne pointed out above: if you're asking people to write trash questions, please don't then just replace them with whatever you want. Was there some kind of prevalence of Sam Peckinpah in the submissions that necessitated the replacement of a Wild Bunch bonus in our packet with one on Nickelodeon? I know it's stupid to complain about trash in academic tournaments, but if you are pretty much committed to writing your own, just tell us and we won't bother. It's surely a waste of effort on our part.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Captain Sinico »

Whig's Boson wrote:Sure, it is possible that, one day, a tournament will start on time. It is also possible that, one day, we will have a kosher ham, because scientists will genetically engineer a beast that tastes like a pig but does not have non-kosher physical features.

I will bet my money on the latter happening first.

(I think that MIT's idea of charging high entry fees with a "getting there early" discount is the best solution I've heard to this perennial problem, but nobody else has adopted it)
Yes, that's done wonders for packet submissions! Also, Bruce, your school-of-Westbrook argument that whatever you think is currently the case is inevitably so is rather thin, in the first place because what you claim is the case is not not the case given that several tournaments have run on time and in the second place because there are very obvious things that can be done to remedy/obviate the issue of teams' late arrival causing tournaments to run late. In fact, the arrival time of teams is only a factor in a tournament's run time to the extent to which it's allowed to be.
As you can probably guess, I really agree with Brian here. Please enforce published forfeit times, from someone who's been serially late in the past. My recollection is that the vast majority of teams were on time and, in fact, that there was only one team with the majority of its scoring actually late, which would have meant that swapping that team's bye to the first round could have let the tournament start on time.
Actually, I think this is a more important concern than we're treating it as. For example, starting an hour late on Saturday probably cost me an hour of sleep and perhaps delayed things Sunday, which are both rather bad things when I'm (not alone in) facing an 8-hour-plus drive home starting in the evening.

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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Swapping another team's bye to the first round was probably not an option, since we had the first round bye because we came in on a Saturday morning flight. But we knew the tournament would start without me and Guy, and we told everyone we were fine with that.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier »

cvdwightw wrote: I greatly enjoyed the Brown packet. I was also enjoyably(?) frustrated with tossups on things like "waves" and "fitness" that went the entire question without getting answered, and the plethora of bonus parts in which I was madly gesticulating "this is something by X, which I don't know the name of, so I guess we'll just screw up this part and take the pity points for X."
.
I actually thought the fitness tossup was way to easy to power.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Let me interject to say that I can't imagine a more profoundly usable tossup than one on Jem.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

I don't know; I should have recognized the description of the shifting balance theorem and certainly the Price equation, so I shouldn't have missed power, but it makes sense that I should have powered this tossup since I'm taking a course in evolutionary dynamics. I suppose it's possible to figure the tossup out on one's own (this is a quantity that an individual has! this probably isn't a tossup on, like, fecundity!) but i don't think it would be too common to play it that way--it didn't play that way in our room, at least.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

cvdwightw wrote:I'd be interested to hear what some of the other science people thought of the Ziegler-Natta question. I buzzed off six and a half words from a ten line question. I'd like to know whether "hey these things from chemistry that use something have lots of generations" was a misplaced clue, a luckily rewarded lateralization on my part, or something in between.
Schrock carbenes have like 3 generations now too, so I was sitting on that for a while. It was probably a bit of both.
cvdwightw wrote:I greatly enjoyed the Brown packet. I was also enjoyably(?) frustrated with tossups on things like "waves" and "fitness" that went the entire question without getting answered, and the plethora of bonus parts in which I was madly gesticulating "this is something by X, which I don't know the name of, so I guess we'll just screw up this part and take the pity points for X."
I'm not sure the fitness tossup was like that, because both Price's equation and Fisher's Fundamental Theorem are pretty important. I couldn't piece it together until a few words after those clues came up, but that's not an indict of the question itself.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Just from my reading of the set, there were only two things that made me uncomfortable and that I wish I'd caught in editing. The first was that the trash, instead of being the equal-access, more generally-known things that I think make trash more fun at tournaments like this, tended to skew towards music in one particular genre and things that people who grew up in the mid 90s would enjoy. That wasn't supposed to happen, so sorry that it did.

I also think that we wrote on too many topics that could be identified as "things that Minnesota likes," which is something that I really hoped to avoid.

For the most part, I disagree with what Chris is saying. Our tournament was written with the goal that good teams be able to get between 10 and 15 points per bonus, and contending teams get somewhere close to twenty. From the stats and my discussions with players, I think we did as good a job making consistently hard bonuses as we could expect to. We made some mistakes in all aspects of the bonuses, but I disagree that tournaments like this would be better served having teams that were in the 13-16 range average 20 PPB. We would have had to make the bonuses too easy to provide gradation between teams that were contending for the main site title.

I was really happy with the way that most of the tossups turned out, and I'm glad that the response so far has been positive. We always try to be inventive without being confusing or writing on things that are just too hard, and I think we did that for this tournament. I did write a few questions that were too difficult, so I'll just apologize for that right now.

If people are curious about why their questions were cut or aggressively edited, it was usually either because of repeats (like the Althusser question in the Brown packet; we had already written a question on Das Kapital using clues taken almost exclusively from Althusser's Reading Capital) or to avoid transparency (the tossup on Algeciras seemed to narrow down place, subject matter, and time very quickly). We were not hesitant to replace or rewrite submitted questions, and in fact erred on the side of doing that; I think I straight-up wrote around 80/80 for the tournament, and drastically reshaped many more questions. So the general answer of why we replaced things is going to be: because we thought the tournament would be better if we did.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I knew Ryan would back me up on Jem. I should have saved it for FIST, I guess. I'll have to contribute some freelance "Things Mike Likes" to it. Beware, Jerry!
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

theMoMA wrote:JFor the most part, I disagree with what Chris is saying. Our tournament was written with the goal that good teams be able to get between 10 and 15 points per bonus, and contending teams get somewhere close to twenty. From the stats and my discussions with players, I think we did as good a job making consistently hard bonuses as we could expect to. We made some mistakes in all aspects of the bonuses, but I disagree that tournaments like this would be better served having teams that were in the 13-16 range average 20 PPB. We would have had to make the bonuses too easy to provide gradation between teams that were contending for the main site title.
I don't think this is what Chris is saying. Not one of the teams at the open site itself broke 20 PPB. The PPB for most of the top teams could have been improved that single point or two, and the PPB for teams at other sites more dramatically shifted, by slightly toning down some of the more out-there middle parts and making some of the hard parts less impossible. This would not have significantly affected the games between two top teams and would have allowed for better gradations among good teams.

As a prime example of the first kind of bonus issue, the Illinois A packet contains a bonus on Mayakovsky with two plays (neither of which show up with any substantial description in any question found in the hsquizbowl.org packet search). My guess is that initially Mayakovsky was supposed to be the easy part of this bonus before the editors realized that that was even wackier difficulty and replaced a part. So in that bonus you pretty much got 10 points for knowing who created Humbert Humbert and maybe 20 if you'd read one of the two plays mentioned. An example of the second kind of bonus issue ("free 20, impossible 30") was the Basque myth bonus (which we didn't hear at our site, but which Chris explicitly mentioned), which was pretty much a near-impossible part followed by two parts that any above-average college player would be likely to get.

But enough of that; bonus difficulty modulation is arguably the hardest thing to do when writing a tournament at any difficulty level and the fact that the editing team got even this close to what they wanted is pretty impressive.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Strongside »

This tournament was pretty good, so thanks to the editors for putting together such a strong set. It was great that so many people traveled to the Minnesota site.

I should mention that I wrote the Basque Myth bonus, and that it was originally harder. Here is the original version.

This goddess is married to Sugaar and lived in some caves. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this goddess, the primary Goddess of a certain European myth system
ANSWER: Mari
[10] Sugaar and Mari are members of this myth system, whose other members include Eguzki and Ilargi. The people who believe in this myth system speak Euskara an ergative-absolutive language, and mostly live in Spain.
ANSWER: Basque Myth System/Mythology/etc.
[10] Mari is said to have lived on this mountain. Mari is sometimes known as the lady of this mountain.
ANSWER: Anboto

Also, I thought Mari reasonable for a middle part, but I think it was also okay for the editors to make that bonus easier. Basque myth has come up this year at ACF Nationals, Geography Monstrosity, Eurofest, Cato/Taco and now Minnesota Open

As for the bonus conversion stats I thought they were about on. The top teams had conversion stats in the mid to upper teens, which seems about right. If any of the teams at either of the sites were averaging 22-23 points per bonus, the bonuses probably would have been too easy.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Strongside wrote:Also, I thought Mari reasonable for a middle part, but I think it was also okay for the editors to make that bonus easier. Basque myth has come up this year at ACF Nationals, Geography Monstrosity, Eurofest, Cato/Taco and now Minnesota Open
I don't think the circuit is ready for a wholesale infusion of Basque myth. Certainly your original bonus was way too hard; there's just not enough knowledge out there to justify it.
As for the bonus conversion stats I thought they were about on. The top teams had conversion stats in the mid to upper teens, which seems about right. If any of the teams at either of the sites were averaging 22-23 points per bonus, the bonuses probably would have been too easy.
I don't know how you can really say that 22 to 23 PPB is "too easy" unless you simply define it that way. I think picking an arbitrary benchmark and deciding that this is what constitutes optimal or suboptimal bonus conversion is not a good way to write questions.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

I agree with Jerry. I tried to write bonuses that I thought would award teams with competence in the bonus subject ten points. For the middle parts, I applied the standard that teams should be challenged to get the middle part, but that the contending teams should be able to get the second part a majority of the time. The third part was designed to award only the most knowledgeable teams in the area points; hopefully we didn't write too many bonus parts that were universally zeroed, because we were always trying to make the third parts things that were not outside the realm of possibility. It's pretty hard to walk the line between challenging teams and writing impossible bonuses, so I hope that this set did a good job of the former and minimized the latter.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by dyetman89 »

First of all, thanks to Minnesota for a well-crafted set. The quibbles re: occasional wildly difficult answer selection are valid (perhaps at a later point I'll find a bit more to quibble about), but my cup overfloweth with interesting clues, pyramidal tossups, and all that good stuff.

The philosophy distribution, however, seemed a bit bizarre to me. I combed through the packets and found the following:

Clearly Postmodern/Continental/"World" Tossup Answers

Empire
Cornel West
On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense
[On the] Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason
Heraclitus
Truth and Method [or Warheit und Methode]
Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Okonomie
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
What is Enlightenment?

Clearly Postmodern/Continental/"World" Bonus Answers

Nicholas of Cusa/Neoplatonism/Ernst Cassirer
Maurice Merleau-Ponty/The Phenomenology of Perception/Humanism and Terror: An Essay on the Communist Problem
Anaximander/apeiron/Aristotle
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge/Jean-Francois Lyotard/Theodor Adorno
Discourse on Metaphysics/Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz/New Essays on Human Understanding
The Science of Logic/Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel/Charles Taylor
Jacques Marie Emile Lacan/the mirror stage/Alexandre Kojeve
History and Class Consciousness/Georg Lukacs/the novel
The Incoherence of the Incoherence/Al-Ghazali/Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi


Okay then, let's have a look at the answer selection that was not obviously postmodern/continental:

Other-than-post/cont tossups

Steven Arthur Pinker
Ronald Dworkin
Two Concepts of Liberty
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Gilbert Ryle
Edmund Lee Gettier III
The Unreality of Time (McTaggart)

Other-than-post/cont bonuses

Anselm’s ontological proof/Gaunilo/Alvin Carl Plantinga
Otto Neurath/Vienna Circle/Decline of the West
How to Make our Ideas Clear/Charles Sanders Peirce/tenacity
Reasons and Persons/Derek Parfit/Thomas Nagel
The Problem of Christianity/Josiah Royce/Clarence Irving Lewis
The Conscious Mind/David Chalmers/Rene Descartes
Alciphron/George Berkeley/The Querist
The Refutation of Idealism/Principia Ethica/A Defense of Common Sense

Now, I'm no great expert on this subject (this is not just a pro forma declaration! I want to make it clear that I'm quite fallible here, as I have only been studying this area in a serious and systematic way for six months, and I may be over- or understating the case), but it seems to me that this philosophy distribution does not in any way reflect how the subject is actually studied in mainstream, English-speaking departments. First of all, continental and postmodern subject matter comprises a plurality here; it is hardly on the map in most departments and journals. True, as a student at an American university there are surely plenty of opportunities to study Lyotard, Adorno, Cornel " 'philosopher' who apparently has never addressed any philosophical questions and teaches in the religion department" West, and the whole postmodern/Continental gang, but odds are it won't be in the philosophy department. In fact, one could get a doctorate in philosophy, pass one's comps with flying colors, and generally make oneself into an acknowledged expert on this subject, and never encounter any of these fellas.

Furthermore, Alciphron, The Querist, The Incoherence of the Incoherence, What is Enlightenment?, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Gaunilo, and Leibniz's shit are clearly important in an historical sense, but so far as I'm aware they are not the subject of ongoing, widespread study in mainstream departments; you are much more likely to study such works and thinkers in a history department, for example.

What could be done about this in a quizbowl context? Plainly postmodern thinkers are very important to certain branches of literary theory and the social sciences; perhaps some space could be carved out of the latter for "literary/cultural/critical theory" or some such? As to historically important works and thinkers who may not be terribly relevant to the discipline as it is currently constituted, I seem to recall someone (I want to say Dwight Wynne?) proposing an "intellectual history" distribution, which seems to me worthy of serious consideration. I certainly don't want to run everything that isn't firmly in the analytic tradition out of quizbowl altogether (far from it!); but if we want the philosophy distribution to have a high degree of relevance to the subject as it is actually studied, then some sort of change needs to take place.


One quibble: I was surprised to see Pinker referred to as a "philosopher"; Steven Pinker is a linguist and psychologist. Some of his work may have implications for the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, but he himself is no philosopher under any definition I'm aware of.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

dyetman89 wrote:One quibble: I was surprised to see Pinker referred to as a "philosopher"; Steven Pinker is a linguist and psychologist. Some of his work may have implications for the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, but he himself is no philosopher under any definition I'm aware of.
In the class he teaches, he makes repeated and humorous attempts to be a philosopher that fail utterly. Anecdotes available second-hand on demand.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I think Doug overstates his case a little bit, especially where old warhorses like Berkeley, Kant, and Hume are concerned, but I mostly agree that he's onto something. Probably this should be a separate thread about the philosophy distribution; from my experience, MO was pretty much in line with what you expect to find in philosophy questions in many other tournaments.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

It's no secret that most of independent quizbowl's biggest proponents and most frequent writers/editors of philosophy questions are big fans of pomo gibberish and the French "public intellectual" tradition. There's not much that can be done about this situation; it's far preferable to people who don't know anything at all producing the questions, or to the pre-modern-era deluge of questions on Pre-Socratics and lists of titles. If people who are into more English-language modern philosophy were to express their desire to write and edit more good philosophy questions, I'm sure they would be welcomed.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Matt Weiner wrote:It's no secret that most of independent quizbowl's biggest proponents and most frequent writers/editors of philosophy questions are big fans of pomo gibberish and the French "public intellectual" tradition. There's not much that can be done about this situation; it's far preferable to people who don't know anything at all producing the questions, or to the pre-modern-era deluge of questions on Pre-Socratics and lists of titles. If people who are into more English-language modern philosophy were to express their desire to write and edit more good philosophy questions, I'm sure they would be welcomed.
I'm doing the philosophy editing for ACF Regionals and writing half the philosophy for Walden III. I'll definitely be interested in what people think of that.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat »

I had a lot of fun playing this tournament, and my teammates did as well. We knew the tournament would be really hard, and it met our expectations. Since we came knowing that much of the material would be over our heads, viewing the tournament mostly as a learning experience even more than usual, we weren't very frustrated by low bonus or tossup conversions. I hope the same is true for other teams near the bottom of the standings.
Dwight, I also thought the Ziegler-Natta tossup sounded odd. During the tossup I was confused whether a type of reaction, functional group, or some substance was wanted, but I'm not sure why now that I look the question over. More notably, metallocenes were used as a clue twice. I buzzed off of the second one, since I wasn't sure if I had heard right the first time. I have a vague impression that, although important, Ziegler-Natta catalysts don't have enough clues to be tossed up about more than once or twice a year, but I may be wrong.
Other impressions (whether good or bad things, I don't know):
It seemed like there was a lot of religious theory.
I don't remember any geography or sports until bonuses in the last packet we played.
It seemed like there was a lot of poetry, though this may be skewed by the three tossups on poems put in our packet.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Although it led to me not answering the tossup because somehow it came up as a practice LSAT reading this year, I really dug the music tossup on "London." I never really thought before about writing a music tossup on a city, but I've decided that at the rate of one per tournament or less, probably, they could be really interesting ways to write music questions. Unfortunately there aren't a whole lot cities for this to work well with, but London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Prague all could probably have it done well.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

Strongside wrote:Also, I thought Mari reasonable for a middle part, but I think it was also okay for the editors to make that bonus easier.
No, that was WRONG!
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by millionwaves »

To be clear, I submitted the Stephen Pinker question as a social science question.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

millionwaves wrote:To be clear, I submitted the Stephen Pinker question as a social science question.
And it was used as such!

I'll have some more comments on the set later when I'm not feeling so sick.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by dyetman89 »

grapesmoker wrote:I think Doug overstates his case a little bit, especially where old warhorses like Berkeley, Kant, and Hume are concerned
Perhaps. For one, I have to revise my hasty inclusion of "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" in the category of "historically significant works that have limited contemporary relevance"; it is a foundational work in modern philosophy of religion, and though I can't say I've taken many classes in that field (yet), I'm sure its arguments are still studied heavily.
Matt Weiner wrote:It's no secret that most of independent quizbowl's biggest proponents and most frequent writers/editors of philosophy questions are big fans of pomo gibberish and the French "public intellectual" tradition. There's not much that can be done about this situation
Really? So these writers and editors have an absolute stranglehold on this part of the distribution, and all we can do is thank God it's not worse? I submit that there is at least one thing that could be done about this: continuing to tell these people, over and over and over again, not to write on topics that are never studied in any philosophy department in the english-speaking world, unless it's some off-the-beaten-path 1500-hundred-student liberal arts college where the philosophy faculty is comprised of a presocratics expert whose degree is in classics, a Roycean pragmatist fuddy-duddy, and a Marxist-feminist-queer-"cultural" theorist with a comp lit doctorate who has never tackled a single philosophical problem of note, but sure can bitch a lot about oppressive metanarratives and the tyranny of heteronormativity. I think if we just appeal to the community's sense of fair play, and say "look: do your best to fill the philosophy distribution with stuff you would encounter studying in a philosophy department here in the U.S.", that should go a long way.

Now, to comment on the set itself once more: I thought the Gilbert Ryle and Two Concepts of Liberty tossups, and the Reasons and Persons/Derek Parfit/Thomas Nagel, The Conscious Mind/David Chalmers/Rene Descartes, and The Refutation of Idealism/Principia Ethica/A Defense of Common Sense bonuses were just terrific. Densely written, interesting and important clues, thoroughly relevant answer selection - who could complain? In fact, that's one of the aspects I found most satisfying about these questions - the lack of excess verbiage and overall density of clues.
Ukonvasara wrote:
millionwaves wrote:To be clear, I submitted the Stephen Pinker question as a social science question.
And it was used as such!
My apologies. Apparently Cornel West was the philosophy tossup in that packet, not Pinker.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I was able to write the tossup on Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion because we were assigned to read it in and talk all about it for over a month in my Philosophy 1000 class at Mizzou I took my first semester here, so while maybe I had a skewed experienced with it, I still would be amazed to think people don't still talk about it.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I hypothesize that most quizbowl players don't actually learn philosophy from a philosophy class. Rather, they learn it from one of the following sources:

(1) A history class
(2) A social science class (especially an intro or core social science class)
(3) from independent reading ("hey that book looks cool, I'll read it when I'm not reading for class!")
(4) packets

I think this is true for most other categories too, btw, except maybe science. If this hypothesis is true, then I think it follows that we frankly shouldn't give a damn about what is taught in Philosophy classes and some other standard is called for.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

Whig's Boson wrote:I hypothesize that most quizbowl players don't actually learn philosophy from a philosophy class. Rather, they learn it from one of the following sources:

(1) A history class
(2) A social science class (especially an intro or core social science class)
(3) from independent reading ("hey that book looks cool, I'll read it when I'm not reading for class!")
(4) packets

I think this is true for most other categories too, btw, except maybe science. If this hypothesis is true, then I think it follows that we frankly shouldn't give a damn about what is taught in Philosophy classes and some other standard is called for.
In this case, though, it seems that an interesting and important part of the intellectual discipline is being underasked, meaning that in gameplay terms, we have a big, untapped space of interesting answers. I certainly have found philosophy of mind interesting enough to do some independent reading about it... and I'd be happy if David Chalmers, Thomas Nagel, Daniel Dennet and others of their discipline and time period came up more often.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Volvo Effect wrote:
Whig's Boson wrote:I hypothesize that most quizbowl players don't actually learn philosophy from a philosophy class. Rather, they learn it from one of the following sources:

(1) A history class
(2) A social science class (especially an intro or core social science class)
(3) from independent reading ("hey that book looks cool, I'll read it when I'm not reading for class!")
(4) packets

I think this is true for most other categories too, btw, except maybe science. If this hypothesis is true, then I think it follows that we frankly shouldn't give a damn about what is taught in Philosophy classes and some other standard is called for.
In this case, though, it seems that an interesting and important part of the intellectual discipline is being underasked, meaning that in gameplay terms, we have a big, untapped space of interesting answers. I certainly have found philosophy of mind interesting enough to do some independent reading about it... and I'd be happy if David Chalmers, Thomas Nagel, Daniel Dennet and others of their discipline and time period came up more often.
There's nothing wrong with submitting a third bonus part or lead-in clue about something you think should come up more.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

There are a lot of things I wish were different about the way philosophy questions are written, but I think it's not quite fair to say that they include people who are never studied in an academic context. Even some wacky postmodern Frenchmen are legitimate philosophers, and there's no need to denigrate non-anglophone philosophy. On the other hand, I think the selection of answers should move towards some facsimile of what represents the kinds of things philosophy majors read, which would be a good realignment.
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Re: Minnesota Open 2009 Discussion

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

So, by and large this tournament was really superlative. Yeah, there were a few bonus difficulty issues, a few poor tossup choices (hey thanks for giving us a 19-tossup Round Two just so you could continue to indulge your tired old BEES fetish), and other oddities like the packet with 1/1 South American Countries in Art, but I came in expecting a tournament that was 99 percent awesome, and this set delivered.

A few more specific comments:
squareroot165 wrote:I don't remember any geography or sports until bonuses in the last packet we played.
Naw, man, what about the bonuses on Central Place Theory and the concentric zone model? Real academic geography like quizbowl's never seen before!

Those questions were fucking exciting, even if I stupidly blanked on Burgess and Christaller despite learning about them in my urban theory class not three weeks ago.

As for sports, yeah I don't think there really was any. The pop culture distro in this tournament (yeah, a silly concept, I know) was heavily skewed towards music, which played to my benefit but also probably wasn't the "fairest" way to do things. I do want to single out "What's Going On" for praise, though- if "significant" pop culture exists (as I personally believe it does), that's got to be a textbook example. A really well-written question on a worthwhile subject.

dyetman89 wrote:The philosophy distribution, however, seemed a bit bizarre to me. I combed through the packets and found the following:
Looks like a roughly 50/50 split between analytic and continental, which as far as I'm concerned is pretty much the way it should be- it probably seemed skewed because most of the analytic material was concentrated in the later packets. I'm sympathetic to the truth that, since English-language philosophy departments are overwhelmingly analytic, we should try and include some more analytic material; however, the Continental tradition is also indisputably important in many other parts of academia (sociology, literary theory, philosophy in other countries), in addition to bringing the valuable "public intellectual" angle along, and as such deserves a place at the table. (I'd also strongly dispute that it's "gibberish", though YMMV of course.) In addition, I'm somewhat skeptical that there's enough well-known pure analytic philosophy to sustain 1/1 a round of the course a year's worth of tournaments. In any case, both analytic and continental questions are preferable to Random Pre-Socratics, and I wouldn't have an issue with throwing some Continental material in lit, socsci, and religion questions in order to (slightly) expand the room given to analytic works.

...

Finally, I by and large enjoyed the music at this tournament, though it felt like the distribution was somewhat haphazard- most egregiously, this tournament had multiple questions on minor Classical-era Italians, whereas I didn't hear a single question on music from the Baroque or earlier all day long. Also, just out of curiosity, has anyone even heard of La Wally? However, the good far outweighed the bad, headlined by well-written tossups on noted excellent subjects Brahms' violin concerto and the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony.
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Chris White
Bloomfield HS (New Jersey) '01, Swarthmore College '05, University of Pennsylvania '10. Still writes questions occasionally.
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