slyvermont: (typewriter girl)
Ruminations on one of the strangest subjects of an article: Can an all-women’s college have male students? You'd think the answer is no – if a male applied to Smith or Holyoke, his application would be sent back (presumably without the check cashed). But what happens if a female student undergoes a sex change while at a women's college?

The Boston Globe did a story on this a while ago. It's worth looking at because it's so mind-bending. A summary:

There are students at women’s colleges who realize while they are there that they are men at heart. There are many steps in the process of becoming a full-fledged transman (the proper term, apparently), from making physical adjustments like binding breasts to taking hormones to having surgery. What happens when Janice becomes John?

The article didn’t explore this as comprehensively as I would have. I would have interviewed more administrators, board members and students with the question: Should these students be allowed to stay and graduate? Why? What's it like on campus when they are allowed to stay -- in dorms, and classes?

Apparently they are allowed to stay and graduate. I get it – but I don’t get it. OK, there are only a handful of students like this, but still – if Smith is only for women, John shouldn’t be allowed to go there. I guess the question is, when do you kick him out? When s/he changes her/his name? Takes testosterone? Has the surgery? What if a girl has all this done while she is still in high school – would s/he be allowed to apply and be accepted?

Obviously it is PC to let s/he stay at school, but it seems to go against the school’s mission. And could be disruptive, in the dorms for example. What if the student starts doing this freshman year – what about her/his roommate, who thought she was rooming with a fellow female, and doesn’t want a male roommate at a female college?

The question the article asked is: “Is it still a women’s college when some students who were female as freshmen are male by graduation day?” My question is, why are women’s colleges letting males attend and graduate?

Fascinating stuff. I'd love to know what [profile] sylvei thinks, if she still checks here.
slyvermont: (typewriter girl)
[profile] rosiewook linked to and commented on an article that ran last Sunday in the New York Times, about today’s “amazing girls.” I’m commenting here, instead of having a really long response on her journal.

The article focused on a group of girls at an affluent suburb of Boston. These girls really are amazing – they take high-level academic classes, pile on the extracurricular activities, and feel like they have to be thin and beautiful and dressed well, too.

First off, in the general scheme of things it’s hard to feel sorry for a bunch of affluent girls living in one of the wealthiest communities in the country. Their problems are laughable compared to the daughter of a single mother in Harlem, for example. But as a woman, and as a mother of a daughter, I found the article fascinating and I think it does capture the life of a growing section of the population. And it raises some very troubling issues.

Some random comments and responses to Paula. Beware – lengthy!

Plagiarism

May. 2nd, 2006 12:02 pm
slyvermont: (oy vey)
A Harvard student got a book contract and wrote a novel about a high school student who is trying to figure out how to be accepted into Harvard. It turns out she plagiarized numerous sections from other books. She claims it was “unintentional plagiarism” because she has a photographic memory. Her publisher has withdrawn the book from stores.

As a writer, I really hate plagiarism. My work’s been plagiarized: when I worked for the Free Press, a reporter for a small paper took a story of mine almost verbatim, ran it under his byline, and then submitted the story for a statewide contest. Plagiarism is not a welcome form of flattery. As a teacher, I’ve dealt with five cases of plagiarism in four semesters of teaching. Because of the Internet, I think plagiarism has become even more common and an acceptable practice.

But this defense of “unintentional plagiarism” is really interesting. There’s no question that paragraphs of her book resemble paragraphs of the other books, almost word for word. (The Harvard Crimson has done a really good job of showing that here and here.) And while the plots are somewhat similar (how different can stories about teenage girls be?), she does not seem to have plagiarized the plots.

One scenario: She’s sitting in her dorm room at Harvard with five or so novels spread out in front of her, flipping through pages searching for appropriate phrases to steal.

Another scenario: She’s writing away and her photographic memory dredges up a phrase from a book she’s read, so she uses that without realizing that its not original.

Which is more realistic?

I don’t have a photographic memory, and can’t regurgitate anything word-for-word (even my own writing – if my computer crashes in the middle of something I’ve written, I have to start from scratch). So it’s hard for me to understand the situation she claims, although I suppose it’s feasible. Certainly if scenario one is the case she deserves the worst.

A third type of plagiarism is sloppy note keeping – the Doris Kearns Goodwin excuse. I think a lot of people fall into this category – they take a lot of notes and forget to properly indicate where they come from, and then mistake the notes for something of their own they jotted down (one of my plagiarism cases claimed this as an excuse).

The type of plagiarism that bothers me the most is someone who is just too darn lazy to do their own writing, and so uses someone else’s work and just puts their name on the top.

If it was unintentional – should she be excused? Is this the fault of poor editors? Should I feel less disgusted by this type of plagiarism? If her story is true, how does someone with a photographic memory avoid this situation on a regular basis? Or wouldn’t your photographic memory also show you where you saw the words originally? Or is this just a nice excuse she's come up with?

I'm struggling with this one, since my own kneejerk reaction is to feel no sympathy for a plagiarist. Other thoughts especially from other writers? In fact: Is plagiarism ever a problem with fan fiction?
slyvermont: (Default)
I’m writing a story about a program called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. It’s in 22 states, but I’m writing about how it works in Vermont. There’s one main prison for women in Vermont, and the Girl Scouts get volunteers from around the state to pick up girls every three weeks for a troop meeting at the prison. Some of these girls have to drive close to three hours to get to this prison. The moms – or aunts, sisters, grandmothers – are trained as troop leaders.

I spent all day Saturday on this story. I joined one of the drivers, we picked up two girls – cousins, whose mothers are sisters and roommates in prison (hard to believe)  – and then drove to the prison. I watched them do the flag ceremony, say the GS pledge, sing songs, play games, make lunch and then have a spa day where they painted each others’ finger nails, gave foot massages and styled hair.

My thoughts )
slyvermont: (Tonks)
This is a question about class rings.

I vaguely recall when I was in high school being on the ring committee to design our class ring (this must have been an experiment in a different persona; in retrospect, I am amazed I did this because I am so not a class ring type of person.) I’m pretty sure that the ring was available for purchase senior year. Rich remembers that timetable from his high school. Same in college – I remember that rings were sold senior year.

In Caroline’s school, the sophomore class designs the ring and it is for sale sophomore year. If you don’t buy it sophomore year, then you can buy a ring later, but it costs considerably more because it’s a separate buy.

Sophomore year seems so early to me. OK, if you get one sophomore year then when you go steady you can wear your beau’s ring around your neck on a string. But senior year is when you buy the yearbook and become all sentimental and get the class ring.

Survey question: When did class rings go for sale in your high school/college? Am I nuts, or is sophomore year too soon?
slyvermont: (Default)
This is the 10th day of rain. Yesterday it rained all day, with no let up. Today, it’s pouring again, and very very windy. We’ve had no foliage season this year, since the days with the best color have been gray and raining.

So, this weekend I baked. I made two apple pies, two apple kugels, applesauce and a chicken pot pie (which used up an apple too). I only picked a bushel of apples this year, which is much more manageable than what we usually do.

Here’s an interesting story that I can’t decide what I think about:

“The Cell” is a TV sitcom that will probably never get on TV. It’s about a cell of Islamic terrorists living in Chicago, who are supposed to blow things up but fail miserably. The NYTimes wrote an article about it last month, and it sounds hysterical. To quote from the NY Times article: “While the script's heroes are ostensibly out to kill and paralyze Americans with fear, the running joke of "The Cell" is that they quickly fall in love with Americans and Americana. They order Domino's Pizza and heat up Hot Pockets, and get weak-kneed over super-sizes and double coupons and sexy college women. They become Chicago Cubs fans - these are hapless terrorists, after all - and derive their cultural literacy straight from television and the movies: their secret password is ‘Kelly Ripa.’”

I love that they become Cubs fans.

I found the article reposted here: http://www.notworksafe.com/postview.php?fid=362065&f=

One of my favorite shows when I was growing up was “Hogan’s Heroes,” which took place in a Nazi P.O.W. camp. I can’t imagine that “The Cell” is any more offensive than that. The article posits that the difference is one of timing: Hogan’s Heroes ran 20 years after WWII ended while we’re still dealing with al-Qaeda now. And emotions are still raw four years after 9/11.

But it does sound very funny. And pro-American and patriotic in a strange if off-beat way.
slyvermont: (anti-war)
This weekend was just glorious. The weather was ideal – blue sky, no clouds, not too hot.

On Saturday, Rich and I drove again to Burlington to bike along the lakefront. When we did this two weeks ago, we biked right past Howard Dean, former Vt. governor. This time, when we were sitting enjoying the view, a woman walks up to us, takes off her sunglasses, and says something like – for you I can take off my disguise. It’s Madeleine Kunin, another former governor of Vermont, also a former boss of Rich’s, and one of my role models. An awesome woman. We chatted for a few minutes, and then as she walked off with her dog, Rich and I speculated on which politician we’d run into next time. None of the other former governors are spry enough to walk the bike path, so we concluded that Bernie Sanders, our socialist Congressman who lives in Burlington, might be the best bet.

This time I brought my camera, and took a bunch of pictures.

Photos, and other stuff )
slyvermont: (Default)
An observation after the Barbados trip, where many of the people we saw were from Europe.

In the U.S., something that women complain about almost across the board is shopping for bathing suits. Most women hate shopping for bathing suits, mainly because they feel that nothing looks good on them. American women are infamous for hating their bodies, and bathing suit shopping means having to look at them in those poorly lit dressing rooms. Most women over the age of 30 wear one-piece bathing suits (OK, maybe tankinis these days), as do many women under the age of 30 as well.

In Barbados I could practically tell where women were from based on the bathing suit they wore. One-piece bathing suits – Americans. Bikinis/2 piece – Europe. This doesn’t mean that Europeans have better bodies than American women. There were many overhanging stomachs and rolls of fat to look at on the beach.

So, the question I have is, do European women just care less about what they look like? Do they agonize over bathing suit shopping the way we Americans do?

I have noticed that many American teenage girls dress irrespective of their bodies these days. I haven’t figured out if this means that they have no clue how bad they look in low-cut pants and tight shirts when they are 50 pounds overweight, or if they just don’t care as much about what their bodies look like. Is this a good trend or a bad one? I’m not sure.

I’ve come down with a cold. Caroline spent the weekend coughing. It’s supposed to snow all week. There is very little to look forward to in March in Vermont.

Censorship

Jan. 31st, 2005 10:25 am
slyvermont: (Default)
Since I’m not hanging out in the preschool set anymore, I haven’t met Buster.  A regular on the PBS Arthur series. Buster now has his own series. He visits different families around the United States. He’s visited Mormons and Jews, families who live in trailer parks, in cities and on farms. You get the idea. When he came to Vermont, he went maple sugaring with two sets of kids whose parents are both women. Yes, lesbians. (I sort of know one of the women, too).

When the new Education Secretary learned about this episode, she condemned it. Why? Because this is not showing diversity, but a deviant lifestyle that we don’t want to promote to our innocent children.

PBS agreed to axe the story.

This pisses me off to no extreme.

First, it bothers me that the secretary of Education interfered, and that PBS capitulated. This smells like censorship to me. If families decide that they don’t want their kids to see this episode, they can turn off the television. Why should her values dictate what other parents want their kids to learn about?

And I’m ashamed that PBS was coward enough to agree to this censorship.

Why is it OK that Buster visit a Mormon family and not a lesbian family? I haven’t seen the episode (our local PBS station will be running it), but my understanding is that these two families come across as decent, happy, well-balanced, successful, headed by two parents who love each other. The lifestyle is not being promoted, just shown. Is a kid going to become lesbian because she sees this? Is she going to become Mormon when she watches the episode about the Mormon family? Isn’t one of the basic ideas of education in this country – excuse me, the whole idea of our country period – to accept differences in religion and beliefs. We are a diverse country. We can only accept this diversity if we understand it and learn about it.

In Vermont, when civil unions were first introduced, there was a lot of opposition to them. What we’ve learned as a state is that the world hasn’t fallen apart since lesbians and gay couples were united. Polls have shown that the acceptance of civil unions has grown considerably since they were first introduced – that people who were against them are now for them. That’s because we got to see these families close up; we got our education.

Why shouldn’t the rest of the country get this education as well?

My paper's editorial put it this way )

And now, think about those two families and how those kids feel. Imagine explaining to your children that the government doesn’t want other kids to be “exposed” to your deviant family.

Second news commentary, another type of censorship.

A major story in Vermont has been the “Crazy about You” Bear, from our very own Vermont Teddy Bear Co. This bear, available for a limited time before Valentine’s Day, comes dressed in a straitjacket and with commitment papers, to show your crazy love for your sweetie. (here is is). The mental health community is furious. It’s demanded the bear be taken off the market. The governor of Vermont agrees. The head of Vermont Teddy bear has refused – and may lose her position on the board of a local hospital because of her stance.

I really don’t know what to think about this one. The bear is really really cute. I’m actually thinking about getting one -- it'll probably be a collector't item. My first reaction was that the company perhaps went a little overboard here. But the more I look at the bear, the more I think it’s okay. I don’t know – I guess I can see both sides of the argument.

slyvermont: (Default)
So little time.

First, a moment of silence or laughter. Gasp or cry or yawn.

Jennifer and Brad have split up.

Yea well, who really cares.

Second, an amusing anecdote or commentary on our times.

I went to my first high school girls basketball game this afternoon. I was shocked to see that many of the best players from last year were not playing. I learned from two different moms of former players why -- the coach. (This is the same guy I wrote about earlier, who teaches AP US History and is disliked by many because he's not a good teacher.)

One mom told me the girls decided en masse to stop playing because they just hate him and would rather do something else.

The other mom told me the girls decided en masse to stop playing for "moral reasons." Hmm. The reason: He is openly having an affair even though he is still married (although separated).

Wow.

What an interesting decision, and fascinating that they all made it together (at least 7 girls I can count off the top of my head without even looking at last year's roster). Would they have made this decision if they liked and respected him? I think it’s a shame that these very good players are not playing. But I can’t fault them for making a statement like this.

I’d love to know what the administration thinks. I wonder if any of the girls voiced their position to administration.

Third -- oops, no time for more. Maybe later.

Music

Nov. 22nd, 2004 10:39 am
slyvermont: (Default)
It took me a really long time to discover popular music. I remember dancing around the living room to my mother’s LPs of Broadway musicals, but in fourth grade I had no idea how the song Hey Jude went (one of my worst nightmares was a school project where my classmates asked me to rewrite the lyrics of Hey Jude to match some NYC historical event and then sing it to the rest of the class. OMG, I was filking). Anyway, I digress.

Sometime after the Hey Jude disaster, I decided that it might be good for my social standing if I had some familiarity with popular music. I did the only thing a self-respecting pre-teen could do – I started listening to WABC77 top forty.

What I remember vividly is school Christmas vacations, sitting in my bedroom and listening to the tinny sounds from my little radio as Dan Ingram and Bruce Morrow counted down the 100 top songs of the year. I had a piece of paper and pencil at the ready, so I could keep the list. This was a frustrating process, since many times the announcers would leave out the name of the song or the artist. (After a few years I figured out that by sending a SASE they would mail the list to me.)

I had a cassette player/recorder. I put the recorder next to the radio, and every time I heard a song I liked, I quickly pressed the “record” button. This was not the most efficient way to preserve music for posterity. I would miss the opening chords. Very often the song was cut off early for a commercial. And one of the DJs would inevitably talk through the music.

More than 30 years later, I still have some of those tapes. I haven’t listened to them in, well, probably 30 years (I never throw out anything).

Which brings us to the present.

I bought myself a mini iPod a few months ago, and finally took it out of the box. I’ve been methodically going through my CDs, picking and choosing the tracks I want to put on the computer and then on the iPod. I’m very fussy – on many albums there are only one or two songs worth copying. Having finished the CDs, I decided to explore other resources – and found those old tapes along with the flood of memories (and discovered my handwriting was much better back then). One search on Google, and I unearthed every WABC77 top 100 list from 1964-1982 (http://www.musicradio77.com/music.html). (When I think of all the hours I spent making my own lists … and now it’s all just one click away.) Going through all those lists is quite the mind blowing experience. Like, did you know “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan was the No. 1 song in 1972 while Layla by the Derek and the Dominos was 87 that year?

As I think about the process of downloading all those songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s from the Apple store, I realize that what I am doing now – and what Caroline does regularly when she downloads music and burns her own CDs – is just the high tech version of what I did when I was 12 – selecting my favorite songs and putting them on a tape. I marvel at how technology has just taken what we always did and made it easier. I suddenly have this vision of some nerd remembering his days listening and recording songs from WABC and deciding – there’s got to be an easier way. And voila – the iPod came to be. Thankfully, not only is this way easier, it’s also so much better – I am gleeful at the idea that I can arrange songs how I want, and listen to my favorites again and again without having to bother anybody.

You know, that French expression: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Human nature is remarkably consistent – especially given my current total ignorance about today’s popular music.
slyvermont: (Default)
About 11 years ago, a bunch of people started a newspaper just for Montpelier called The Bridge. The idea was to cover Montpelier in a way that the Times Argus (local paper, one I now work for) doesn’t. The Bridge is slightly above a PR rag, which a lot of people look at because it prints real estate sales.

About a month ago, the entire front page of the paper was devoted to a fund-raising pitch – its own fundraising. The paper needs to raise $35,000 to stay afloat.

I have two problems with this. First, it seems crass to devote your entire front page to your own financial problems.

Second – and more significantly – this paper is a FOR profit! And this fact is not made clear at all.

I have a real problem with a for profit raising money like this. I wonder if people realize when they give money ($8,000 has been raised so far, a fact announced on the next issue’s front page) that this is not a tax deductible donation.

In the last year, we’ve had two local arts organizations threaten to disappear because of shortfalls in funding. I would hate to think that people are diverting their charitable giving to a for-profit organization while legitimate 501C3 groups are going wanting.

Politics

Oct. 19th, 2004 12:41 am
slyvermont: (Default)
I drove to Burlington last week discovering on the way that AirAmerica,
the left’s response to Rush Limbaugh  & co., can be heard in
the Burlington area. What a blast!



I particularly enjoyed the interview Al Franken had with an undecided
voter who finally made up his mind. He had learned that all the Bush
campaign appearances are screened, and only supporters are allowed in.
That is so undemocratic, he decided, and antithetical to the beliefs
that created this country, that it made up his mind.



One of the things I find fascinating, when I read articles about
undecided voters, is what criteria people use to make their decisions.



I just read a NY Times piece on this, where one guy decided that he was
leaning towards Bush because he is more “personable.” I really didn’t
think that when the founding fathers wrote the job description of the
president, they had “winner of the Miss Congeniality contest” in mind.







Political ranting ahead )

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