28.2.10

Book trending

A while ago the "microhistory" trend took off - books like Salt, Cod, Coffee and Aspirin flew off bookstore shelves into our collections. I'm seeing a variant on the trend, as yet unnamed, which I'll dub the "annual history": books like 1492 (and the "prequel" 1491), 1968, 1789 and other memorable years.

Perhaps history writ large is too much for our ADD-based lives? Or is there another reason? Anyone?

26.2.10

Wintertime Blues

Thank all the gods that February is almost over. Maybe we can move on in March, with better everything for everyone.

Yesterday we had a truncated school day thanks to (depending on how desperate you were) the Snowpocalypse II, the Snowicane, the Major Snowstorm or - as Accuweather.com put it - the WeatherAlert. What was odd to me was that driving north meant driving into better conditions and weather, a little counter-intuitive but it did make up for the nasty first part of the drive (seriously: if you're going to close schools early, make sure that the major roads are plowed before sending the school buses out. And if it's a road that the school's actually on, really make sure the road is plowed!)

As with our last snow day, I was incredibly grateful. More so, in fact, because I've been battling the Cold From Hell. Laryngitis and strep plus massively clogged sinuses = antibiotics and antihistamines and liquids and many, many tissues. Major uckiness all round. So having the extra half day to recuperate was a blessing. Then having today? Total WIN.

There's a lot that I should be doing, but I'm mentally not in a place where I'm doing it. Instead, I'm cuddling with The Boys. I'm reading (22 of 47 books from Midwinter read!). I'm napping. And slowly I'm feeling slightly more human and able to cope with things like cleaning and laundry and paying bills and doing dishes.

Is there a cure for the Wintertime Blues? Dunno. But at the moment it feels like maybe there is, and it's called March.

(ps - you know that I'm all for saving the planet and using less processed stuff, right? well, forget all that when it comes to tissues. Marcal's Small Steps are not what this Lazygal's nose needs now: gimme some of that Puff's Plus with Aloe any day!)

22.2.10

Shibboleth

Recently I asked a friend to wish me luck with something - her response was "I'll hold my thumbs for you". Wha??

You don't know what that means? To me it means one thing: you haven't read Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes. And between readers, there's no better shibboleth than that word or phrase that says "I read it, too".

15.2.10

Short term memory loss?

One of the twitterers I follow is the NYTPicker. Yesterday there was this doozy:
BREAKING: In Editor's Note, NYT reveals repeated acts of plagiarism by business reporter Zachery Kouwe. http://bit.ly/cH7Er8
As a teacher and a librarian and a writer, plagiarism always catches my eye. So I clicked on the link and learned this about Mr. Kouwe
According to Kouwe's biography on the NYT website, he got a B.A. in economics at Hamilton College, followed by a master's degree in journalism at the University of Colorado. He is originally from Tampa, Florida
Wha??? Hamilton College (my alma mater)? Turns out he's a member of the Class of 2000, so relatively recently graduated. One of the things that Hamilton prides itself on is the Honor Code So much so, in fact, that Eugene Tobin, president of the College from 1993-2003 was forced to resign over plagiarism:
Third, there's the case of the Central Connecticut State faculty who voted for their president to remain in office after it had been discovered that he had copied 50% of a newspaper opinion piece. If their actions seem outrageous to you, consider that in 2002, historian Eugene Tobin resigned the presidency of Hamilton College in New York after having plagiarized part of his convocation address from Amazon.com reader reviews of books. And even as the chair of the Board of Trustees accepted his resignation, a university spokesman said, "I think people were both surprised and concerned. . . . But most people who know President Tobin recognize him as a person of high integrity and recognize this was an unintentional error" (Margulies). Copying from Amazon.com reader reviews and representing them as your own reading of books is unintentional? That's ridiculous. But the issue does cloud when we read the statements made by students and faculty at a pro-Tobin rally after his resignation. According to the Utica Observer-Dispatch, Anthropology Professor Bonnie Urciuoli made a "passionate speech" in which she declared,
"I want to make a distinction between appropriating phrases that sound pretty and appropriating information. . . . Plagiarism is when you take someone else's information and pass it off as yours in something published, or in a class paper. It is not what happened here.

"I don't give a damn if people think that I don't understand what the honor of Hamilton College is all about," Urciuoli continued, to prolonged cheers and thunderous applause. "When you have someone who's willing to knock themselves out, morning, noon and night, day after day ... and you understand what the communicative parts of his job consist of, you can see it in a context that you wouldn't have otherwise." (Le)

(Howard) (for an insider's view, there's this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

Perhaps Mr. Kouwe thinks that what he was doing was not plagiarism? Perhaps his defense is that he was really following Helene Hegemann's lead by "mixing it up" ... "rejecting copyright"

Sorry, not buying it. I no longer subscribe to the Times , declining standards being one of the main reasons; that doesn't mean I'm not surprised that this level of deceit is on-going, or that I don't think that the paper could make a comeback. A good start would be reinstating rigorous fact-checking, which now needs to include scouring the web for "borrowed" phrases. Any guesses on how likely that is to happen?

The impact that Kouwe and Hegemann will have on my students is as yet unknown. MPOW has been discussing instituting an Honor Code for a couple of years, and (most unfortunately) I've helped teachers determine whether a paper has been plagiarized. This is going to cloud the issue for students: if we say that there are serious consequences, but in the real world they se that not being the case, what message does that send? What message do we send when we're so radically divergent from what they see "out there"? I can only hope that we, as a society, reject unacknowledged "mash-ups" or outright plagiarism, and that we can teach our students the value of adhering to a code of honor, official or not.

12.2.10

Meme stolen from Small Pond

1. Were you named after anyone?
Yes, my maternal grandmother (who died when I was -12). It's a Jewish tradition.

2. When was the last time you cried?
Uh, I think yesterday. Possibly as long ago as Monday. And before people get worried, it was most likely that save-the-animals commercial (the one with Sarah McLaughlin as the soundtrack).

3. Do you like your handwriting?
When I think about it, yes. When I'm writing fast, it tends to look like Arabic or shorthand. But I had a teacher who used to keep me in during recess if I didn't write neatly, with a fountain pen. The problem was that in America I'd learned D'Nealian (D'Nealian) while in Geneva we were expected to use Palmer. To this day I can do both!

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Prosciutto is first, obviously, but I'll settle for roast beef.

5. Do you have kids?
Do The Boys count? If not, then no. None that I'm aware of, that is.

6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
I'd like to think so.

7. Do you use sarcasm?
Moi???

8. Do you still have your tonsils?
Thanks to my mother being anti-unnecessary surgery, I still have them. That means, of course, that I've had to warn dentists and doctors before they look (and some express surprise).

9. Would you bungee jump?
Not if my life depended on it.

10. What is your favorite cereal?
Oatmeal, with raisins cooked in and just a hit of brown sugar on top.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
I don't usually wear shoes that require tying, but when I do, yes, they get untied when I take them off.

Where is Question #12?

13. What is your favorite ice cream?
Cam mentioned gelato, which is totally unfair (and not really ice cream). But that'd be my first option, with a nice mix of lemon and chocolate. For pedants, I'll say "Haagen Daz Vanilla Swiss Almond".

14. What is the first thing you notice about people?
General looks, but it's really the smile and what I sense about the brain behind it all that is the first impression.

15. Red or pink?
Deep pink, not that pastel stuff.

16. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
My laziness. Seriously. And that's closely followed by my clutter habit, my inability to be nice first thing in the morning, my self-absorbtion (see all the "I" and "me" and "my" comments in this post?), my impatience with idiocy as I percieve it.


17. Whom do you miss the most?
There's not just one person! One college and one prep school friend spring to mind; I miss them equally.

18. Do you want everyone to complete this list?
Well, of course everyone <i>should</i> complete this - doesn't everyone follow my leave? Seriously, though, it would be nice if someone did but I'm not holding my breath.

19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Sort of plaid flannel pj pants; and no shoes.

Where is Question #20?

21. What are you listening to right now?
Watching Season Three of Big Love.

22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Something dark, like Midnight Blue or Forrest Green

23. Favorite smells?
Lilacs and The Boys' fur

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
Thing One.

25. Do you like the person [from whom you got this meme]?
Yes. We seem to have many of the same tastes!

26. Favorite sports to watch?
Formula One racing; the Boston Celtics and some figure skating (it's pretty boring when you only get to see one skater and then a ton of commercials)

27. Hair color?
Dark brown with some grey.

28. Eye color?
It says hazel on my driver's license.

29. Do you wear contacts?
Luckily my eyesight's not bad enough that I need glasses all the time, so no. On the other hand, I don't think I could (touching my eyeball? Ewwwww!)

30. Favorite food?
Fresh fruit in season.

31. Scary movies or happy endings?
Isn't that the same thing? I mean, how many of us really get the happy ending - it's scary when it happens!

32. Last movie you watched?
At the movies: Sherlock Holmes. On Netflix: The Answer Man

33. What color shirt are you wearing?
Maroon (it matches the pj bottoms)

34. Summer or winter?
Spring.

35. Hugs or kisses?
Hugs. They convey so much, don't they? You can get a hug when you're upset, happy, excited, in solidarity, etc.. Don't get me wrong, I like kisses, but they usually don't happen when you're sad.

Where is Question #36?

37. Most likely to [grab this meme]?
Not even going to hazard a guess.

38. Least likely to [grab this meme]?
99% of my readership.

39. What book are you reading now?
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin. Here's a question: why are so many books these days subtitled "A Novel"?

40. What is on your mousepad?
Mousepad?

41. What did you watch on TV last night?
Criminal Minds with Thing One.

42. Favorite sound(s)?
The Boys purring. The natural silence I hear when I'm home with the windows open. Good music.

43. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
I'm going mainstream: Beatles

44. What is the farthest you have been from home?
Israel. Or California, depending on how you define "home" (the former is farthest from my childhood home, the latter from my current home)

45. Do you have a special talent?
I read really quickly?

46 Where were you born?
Rumor has it was at the Boston Lying-In.

10.2.10

Under orders

My friend Aravis told me to "not waste this gift of a day doing something productive", so I'm not. Snowdays are for trashy tv and reading and naps and cuddling with The Boys, right? Besides, Aravis gave me my orders for today! Who am I to argue with her?

Before I head napwards, let me leave you with this from Number Two Niece's FB status: [#2N] is amazed that toilet paper comes with a warrenty - you can return it if it's defective - what is defective toilet paper?

5.2.10

Something in the air

I really don't know what's going on, but something is... something bad. A few friends have indicated (sometimes on their blogs) that they're heading into that Deep, Dark Place called depression; I'll admit to not feeling as perky and happy as I could feel. Others are feeling the effects of SAD (great acronym, no?)

All week at work my colleagues have felt something's Not Quite Right. Many of us thought Friday had arrived well before the calendar said it did, which made this a very, very long week.

Is it just the aftereffects of last weekend's blue moon? Is there something more going on?

Whatever it is, I hope it ends soon, for all our sakes.