Thursday, November 30, 2006

What Made You Think You Could Get Away With Something Like This?

One of my colleagues is teaching a freshman survey class, US History to 1865. As part of this class, she has assigned a short book on women in the antebellum South (and by "short," I mean about 100 pages). Students needed to write a 3-5 page (double spaced) review on the book. No exactly a hard assignment.

As she was grading them, however, she came across one which struck her as remarkably familiar. Almost like she had read it before. Then she realized she had. It was a review which had been published on one of the online history networks. It's not even like this guy "borrowed" a sentence or two and didn't cite them. The entire paper was the same, word for word. The only thing which this student had written himself was the last two sentences, which were complete crap. The only other thing this student did to try and hide his plagiarism was to change a few words here and there. It really looks like he simply used the synonym tool on Word. For example, the original review used the word "champion" (as in champion a cause). Well, this student's paper had "gladiator" instead. Yeah, like no would notice that.

And in the course of grading, she has found a couple others, although none quite so egregious. Of course, my friend was more than a little pissed off. She feels that these students are treating her like she's stupid. Well, she's not. And now she's gunning for these students (I offered to walk into her class with one of my other friends, who's just a little unstable, and threaten to break the fingers of anyone who did this sort of thing again - she laughed but did not accept the offer). So, she brought this situation to the attention of the department chair. He looked at the paper, looked at the original review, and said "Give him an 'XE' for the class." Here's how the university defines "XE":

The grade of "XE" denotes failure through academic dishonesty and may not be appealed through the grade appeal process. The grade "XE" shall be recorded on the student's transcript with the notation "failure due to academic dishonesty." The grade "XE" shall be treated in the same way as an "E" for the purposes of grade point average and determination of academic standing.

An XE cannot be expunged from a transcript. It stays on there forever! Good luck ever getting into grad school, dumbass! And this guy is a business major. Companies often look at transcripts specifically for things like this. Worse case scenario, the dean can decide to expel this student, with no change for re-enrollment.

People like this often confuse me some. I can understand that you can get busy and may feel like you need to cut corners to get things done. Remember, I've been there and felt the same way - in fact, there are days I still feel that way. But to think that you can get away with plagiarism is just mind-boggling.

My books need no one to accuse or judge you: the page which is yours stands up against you and says, "You are a thief." ~ Marcus Valerius Martial, Epigrams (bk. I, ep. 53)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back in the Desert

Well, April and I managed to survive Thanksgiving with one of side of my extended family. It was a fun trip overall, but large family get-togethers like this are often a little stressful. Here's the general run down of the trip:

We left Phoenix early Wednesday morning. When I say "early" I mean that our flight was at 8:00 AM, which is just an ugly time of day to be traveling. Luckily, check-in and security went fine. The flight was uneventful - April "slept" (you never can really "sleep" on an airplane) and I read my book. At least the small children did not get fussy until right at the very end of the flight. My brother and mother picked us up at the airport and we went back to their house to pack up everything and then hit the road. My mother's general habit with this sort of thing is to go horribly stressed out during the whole prep time, but then calm down once we've actually gotten out of the house and there's not much she can do about things - and she was true to form again this time. My parent's took the truck, while April and I took one of their cars, a fact for which we were most thankful. It meant a little space to ourselves.

We also had two different cabins in Estes Park, which was very nice. It meant that April and I did not have to spend every minute with the extended family. And this was April's first exposure to most of the extended relatives on this side of the family. While I like most of my relatives, even I have to admit that they can be goofy at times - and often are. But, overall, things went well. The weather was a little cold (no surprise, huh? Colorado, in the mountains, in early winter, who would have thought it might be cold?), but that didn't stop April and I from walking around Estes and looking in all the shops.

The trip back to Phoenix was the only place we hit a real snag of any kind. Besides getting stuck with middle and window seats on the plane, I was an idiot and forgot to take my knife off my belt and pack it in my checked bag. Didn't realize this until I tried to walk through security. Airport security is not real thrilled with you trying to carry a jack knife with a 4 inch blade through the metal detector. (I actually did get away with this once - I had forgotten again, but when I walked through I didn't set it off because, I think, the knife had a thick rubber grip on it. I didn't realize this until I reached for my handkerchief during the flight. On the way back, I packed it.) I had to fill out a form and put my knife in a little plastic bag, which will be mailed back to me. Of course, this costs money, but it's still less than buying a new knife. I guess if that's the worst of the trip, that's not too bad.

Hope Thanksgiving went well for everyone else. Now, BACK TO WORK, SLACKERS! (and yes, I count myself in that category)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Running Away

Okay, not really. I'll be back - I promise. Actually, my fiancee and I are headed off to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with my family. And this year we're doing Thanksgiving at a cabin up in Estes Park, which means no internet - actually, I'm kind of looking forward to being off-line for a few days. Means The Overlord can't get a hold of me! I'll be back Sunday afternoon. Hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving be it with friends, or family, or simply taking some time off!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Annoying Co-worker

As most of you probably know (or have figured out) at this point, I basically live at my University. I am a grad student after all, so this is probably not too surprising. While it means I get a lot done, spending so much time in my office does have its downsides as well. One of them is that I end up seeing the same people all the time. In most cases this is not a big - I generally like the people I work with. There are some, however, who have made me occasionally want to bring in either a 2x4 or about 2 feet of lead pipe and "adjust" their attitude. One such person has come across my path several times in the last few weeks.

Prior to entering the graduate program here, this particular person had spend a number of years (about 20) teaching at a community college with an M.A., but had finally reached the limit of what he could earn without the Ph.D. So he decided to go back to school and get one. Fine - I'm all for people doing this. But he makes it seem like, because he's spent time in the "real world" he should get some kind of special consideration. For example, it's a mandatory part of the Ph.D. program for people who are planning on teaching post-secondary history classes that they take PFF (Preparing Future Faculty). No exceptions, even for people who already have experience. This is because there are new techniques and theories of history education being developed all the time, and the department feels it's important for teachers coming out this program to know these. The particular co-worker bitches and complains endlessly about having to take this class. Three words: Deal. With. It.

Just now, I overheard him complaining about the fact that he would have to spend next semester grading papers as a TA. He felt like if he had to grade undergrad papers he should be able to work with the person he wants, or at least in an area of history he's interested in. Well, sorry, but the system doesn't work that way. TA-ships are assigned based on a number of factors including the professor's other classes, class sizes, past use of TAs, etc., etc., etc. Long story short, neither professors or TAs get to pick, so complaining isn't going to get you anything. Plus, to my way of thinking, the department is not only waiving your tuition, they're paying you as well! And this means you just do the job they tell you to do. Take me for example: I specialize in Public History and historic preservation. I'm not planning on teaching any time soon (maybe 20 or 25 years down the road, but not now). And yet, for my first two years, half of my TAship every semester was grading - often in fields outside my own. I've graded for classes on Western Civ, Jazz and culture, and Russian history. Russian history! I've never even taken a class on Russian history. The closest I ever came was having a roommate who spent 6 months in Russia one semester during my undergrad. What the fuck did I know about Russian history?!? Nothing! Now I have some understanding, but I sure as hell didn't going into that class.

So, to this particular co-worker, get over yourself. You're nothing special around here and people are sick of all your bitching and complaining. Grow a pair and get to work.

Ever Hear of a Little Thing Called the First Amendment?

I just read about a town in Nevada, Pahrump specifically, where they have made it illegal to fly a foreign flag unless you also display a U.S. flag above it. Apparently, a man by the name of Michael Miraglia proposed and championed the ban because he was upset by people waiving the Mexican flag during the immigration debate demonstrations a few months back (well, that and the fact that all the Mexican food places in town were closed). For fuck's sake, people! You may not like the fact that people are waiving the flag of a foreign country, but cannot deny the fact that they have a Constitutionally protected right to do so. This sort of idiocy just pisses me off.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wish I Had Thought of It

Yes, I'm still alive. I know it's been a little while since I last posted. Things have been busy here. One of the projects I've been working on for The Overlord had its official launch Monday. Since the launch, we've had 606 hits, from 422 unique visitors. Not too bad. So keeping track of that and dealing with problems which have come up since have been taking up much of my time. The rest of it has been focused on preparing for classes. One of my classes, a directed readings class led by the department chair, finally met for the first time yesterday. I've also had to prepare for a couple of discussions on gender theory for one of my other classes. I've already thrown out one hand grenade in the discussion on Tuesday, and I'm thinking I might two or three more which I might throw out today. So needless to say, I was really up for a laugh this morning when I got into the office.

One of the professors here is extremely anal about noise. He happens to have an office in a poor location, as it's near one of the conference rooms and the break room. In an attempt to keep things to his liking, this particular professor has posted a note on the break room white board reading "Please keep the door closed!" This particular professor has pissed off and/or annoyed a number of people (both grad students and other professors) in the department, just because he's such an ass about this sort of thing. Well, starting very soon after he first started writing this, someone started erasing part or all of the message on a regular basis. This, of course, only pissed him off more. Well, early one morning last year, I was in my office working when he stuck his head in and basically accused me of being the one to do this. I denied it simply because it wasn't me. His reasoning for accusing me, I was in early every morning. Yeah, that makes sense. Naturally, this pissed me off. I figured that if I was going to be convicted of the crime, I might as well commit it. So I started erasing parts of his message. I'd do things like erase every other letter, or erase the top or bottom half the message. Basically, I was making a point of doing it in such a way that it was clear that this not simply someone erasing his note, but someone trying to piss him off and make fun of him. Honestly, I was hoping to cause him to have a mental break down. It hasn't happened yet, but I think today's incident might just do it. When I came in this morning and went in the break room to get water for my coffee pot, I saw that someone (NOT me!) had altered his note. Someone had replaced the "keep the door" with "hold me" and altered the d in "closed" into an exclamation point. It now read "Please hold me close!" Again, I would like to emphasize that it was NOT me, but I certainly wish I had thought of it!

UPDATE: Monday 11/20
Apparently, one of my friends managed to snap a picture of this on her cell phone. So here it is:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The "Dee Dee Dee" List

Inspired by Carlos Mencia (watch him here), this list is intended to keep track of various people who have proven quite clearly that they are, in fact, Dee Dee Dees. These are the people you walk by on the street, sit near in meetings, or have some contact with, and you find yourself thinking "Goddamn, I hope they never procreate!" As I, or someone else, come across these people, I will add them to the list (newer ones towards the top so people don't have to scroll through the whole list).

Wednesday 11/08/06: A British man has been hospitalized after lighting a firecracker which was in his ass (story on Apparently, he and his friends had decided that this would be a good way to commemorate Guy Fawkes' day. How he could think sticking a lit firecracker in his ass and letting go off was a good idea, I have no clue. I wonder which of his friends (who of course filmed this with their mobile phones) was the first to yell "Holy shite!"

Monday 11/06/06: I overheard someone on the bus this morning, complaining about how the police had treated him over the weekend. Apparently, some one called the police, saying that a group of young, hispanic males were trying to steal tires. As it turns out, this guy matched the discription and was in area. So the cops rolled up on him and his friends. They told him to get out of his car. He refused because "it was cold out." His brother was also there and, after they finally got out of the car, he refused to remove his hands from his jacket pockets. Needless to say, this did not exactly makes the cops happy. And now this guy is pissed off because the cops were treating them bad. Hello, dumbass! You did everything you're not supposed to do with cops short of pulling a gun or running!

Wednesday 11/01/06: A Boston lawyer was arrested because he was dressed up as Osama bin Laden and waving around a fake gun. Apparently this was his way of protesting a proposed change in tax law. According to the Ruerter's story, he said "I didn't expect to be arrested. Obviously I touched a post-9/11 nerve." No shit, Sherlock!

Tuesday 10/31/06: reports an Orlando Magic fan has been banned from all NBA games for this season for calling Dikembe Mutombo a "monkey." The fan says he simply used "poor judgment." Gee, ya think?

Monday 10/30/06: A man in Ohio is suing "Discount Drug Mart," saying that the orthopedic he bought from them were so tight they caused him to have three toes amputated. Here's a hint, dumbass, if the shoes are starting to cause physical damage of this kind of severity, QUIT WEARING THEM! Read the local new story.

Thursday 08/10/06: Maurice Clarett. I ranted at length about him here. What else can I say?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

It's Election Day, so it seemed appropriate to have a few quotes from important people.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.: The freeman casting, with unpurchased hand, the vote that shakes the turrets of the land.

Daniel Webster: Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and heart to this vote.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.

Ayn Rand: Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

William E. Simon: Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.

John Q. Adams: Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

Anon.: No matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard

Now, I'm not going to harp on Ted Haggard, the disgraced Evangelical preacher from Colorado, or anything here. I just have one quick thing, which I have already posed a couple people and they seem to think I have a point. Haggard admits he bought Meth, intending to use it, but then flushed it away. And that this was the only time he's bought Meth. Now, I know a number of people who have used drugs of various varieties, including Meth users. NONE of these people have just woken up one day and said, "You know, I think I'm going to start doing Meth today!" All of them have had prior experience with other drugs. Meth is simply not a drug, in my experience with people who do this sort of thing, you start with! Makes me wonder, that's all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Disappointments and Traditions

Well, I have to say that I'm disappointed with the kids in my neighborhood. We had a total of three trick-or-treaters last night - and they all came at the same time. Which means my roommate and I have a bunch of candy we really don't want sitting around the apartment. I'm thinking I'll unload a bunch of it in the break room at work. You leave anything edible with a sign reading "FREE!" in a university break room, and it'll be gone in short order!

On the plus side, I maintained my own personal Halloween tradition of great (or simply greatly bad) movies. If Halloween falls in the middle of the week, I usually don't have the time or energy to do anything on Halloween night (plus there's the whole handing out candy to kids, or at least trying to). So I hang around the house and watch Halloween appropriate movies. I usually try to pick one which great for being so cheesey, one which is a little more . . . polished, maybe, and then one which is an all time cult classic.

For my great cheesey movie, this year I picked Evil Dead II. If you have not seen this, you must! It's an all time classic bad horror film, complete with demons, zombies, and even has blood in three different colors (red, black, and green)! As if all that wasn't enough, it also has some great lines and physical comedy. Let's face it, the idea of Bruce Campbell having to cut off his own possessed hand and replacing it with a retro-fitted chainsaw is too good to pass on.

My more "polished" film for this year was The Crow. After all, it's an enjoyable film with some pretty good acting and a decent script. And as it takes place on the night before Halloween and involves people coming back from the dead, it's entirely appropriate.

The all time classic cult film to which I referred early is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have watched Rocky nearly every Halloween since I was about 13 or so. I have been to live showing of it, and I know the proper responses to the film (for example, when Dr. Frank-N-Furter calls for a toast, you throw toast, or when you yell "BACK ROW" as loud as you can during the opening song). And, having watched it so many times, I can safely say that no man (and I do mean "man") on Earth can pull off a black teddie and five inch heels better than Tim Curry. Plus there's the whole watching a young Susan Sarandon run around in her underwear the whole time.

So, I was disappointed with the kids, but I watched a bunch of great movies and was, in the end, fully amused. Hope Halloween went well for everyone else and happy Dia de los Muertos!