Here's why plagiarism is a bad thing, kids

Scott McInnis, plagiarist

Perhaps I spoke too soon about Colorado not having any political races this year worth watching.  Two days ago, we awoke to the news that a Republican candidate for Governor, Scott McInnis, whom I described here as the Snidlely Whiplash of Colorado politics, plagiarized articles he was to write as a requirement of a $300,000 fellowship by a private foundation here in Colorado.  (Where can I get that kind of fellowship?)  Then yesterday, the Denver Post reported that McInnis had plagiarized an op-ed that was originally published in the Washington Post back in the 1990s when he was a Congressman, and it called for him to drop out of the Republican primary race.  (Our primary is August 10, but most counties are holding a mail-in ballot election only, and the ballots are being sent out today, so this story breaks at an especially bad time for McInnis.) 

Last night, the octogenarian engineer whom McInnis tried to blame for the original plagiarism said not only that McInnis is lying, but that his campaign tried to force him to sign a false statement taking blame for it!  Today the Post reports that the authors of the plagiarized op-ed, lackeys of the Heritage Foundation, say that they had given McInnis permission to use their words, but most people seem to see it as confirmation of a pattern of Snidely Whiplashian corner-cutting. Continue reading

Writing houses

Undine had a nice post last week about “Writing House Fantasies,” in which she explores her fantasy about a little detached cottage in which to write.  Most writers’ houses, she writes, “They have a window or two, and a view that’s just beautiful enough to reward a glance without encouraging prolonged staring out the window. They have lots of natural wood surfaces, including tables or desks, and room for some books.”  She continues,

The writing house of my fantasy has electricity but not Internet access or phones. Sometimes, in the nineteenth-century version of my fantasy, I bend the rules a little and picture working in a screened-in porch attached to a beautiful old shingle-style house high above the water (a recent house I saw inspired this one). So–wood, light, air, and nature are the only real requirements.

Undine also includes links to a bunch of different writers’ cottages/studies:  Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, and Road Dahl, for example.  (Mark Twain’s unexpurgated autobiography?  Sign me up, please!  Can’t wait!)

I’ve always thought this was a great idea, ever since I saw Thomas Jefferson’s writing shed at Monticello (above right.)  Continue reading

The Case Against A/C?

Stan Cox makes a provocative argument against air conditioning in Washington, D.C.  (He’s plugging a new book on the topic.)  Now this might be a bad time to consider ditching the old A/C, especially for you easterners who “enjoy” suffocating humidity all summer long and have recently suffered through a spate of 100-degree-plus days.  But I think it’s something we should talk about.  I can say with smug (if slightly sweaty) satisfaction that this is what summer at El Rancho Historiann looks like:

Families unplug as many heat-generating appliances as possible. Forget clothes dryers –post-A.C. neighborhoods are crisscrossed with clotheslines. The hot stove is abandoned for the grill, and dinner is eaten on the porch.

Line drying in such a dry climate makes my clean towels look and feel like something a dog chewed up and spit back out–but I’ll make the sacrifice!  Because my house is literally a one-story ranch house with large overhanging eaves, the inside of the house stays at least 20 degrees cooler than the outside.  A strategic use of shades on the South- and West-facing windows helps a lot, too.  We have a bedroom in the basement, in which we could sleep in an emergency since it’s always cool.  But, that hasn’t happened in 8-1/2 summers, so far.  Plus, it’s only really hot one month of the year out here–in July.

At the very least, I think Cox asks a good question:  why shouldn’t we consider shutting down a city in an extreme heat wave, just as we do when snow and ice storms make travel impossible?  We’d at least avoid having to air condition most workplaces and homes, and the absence of commuting would also save fossil fuels.  We westerners should really take the lead on taking out the air conditioning, since aridity is on our side.  Plus, those of us at altitude benefit from 30- to 40-degree swings in temperature from daytime highs to nighttime lows, so opening up the house after 7 p.m. to let in the cool night air makes a big difference. Continue reading

Sex and job satisfaction

Inside Higher Ed has an article today about a survey of Assistant Professors at R-1 universities and their relative job satisfaction.  Interestingly, “these satisfaction gaps vary by discipline. In many measures of satisfaction with various policies or conditions, the gaps between men and women are not statistically significant in many disciplines, but are significant in others, especially in the social sciences.”  To be sure, men appear to have higher job satisfaction than women across the board:

The finding is significant and potentially challenging to many universities, because the social sciences, on average, are more likely to have significant numbers of women in departments than are some other fields. “The fact that these differences cut across disciplines and, in fact, are most evident in disciplines in which women are relatively well-represented is important to keep in mind,” said Cathy Trower, research director of COACHE, which is based at Harvard University. In other words, any university that thinks it has solved problems related to gender just by recruiting a critical mass of women may find otherwise.

Some gaps in job satisfaction (all with men as happier than women) were evident across several disciplinary categories. These job areas include: reasonableness of scholarship expectations for tenure; the way professors spend their time as faculty members; the number of hours they work as faculty members; the amount of time they have to conduct research; their ability to balance work and home responsibilities; and whether their institutions make raising children and the tenure track compatible.

“Social Sciences” is hardly as cohesive a collection of disciplines as Humanities or Natural Sciences, in my opinion.  (And I really hate it when they include History as a Social Science!  Please.  The linked summary report doesn’t appear to specify the disciplines included in each metacategory, so I don’t know if History is included in Social Sciences or in Humanities.)  Their emphases, subjects of inquiry, and methodologies are very widely disparate.  (Sociology versus Economics, anyone?)  Continue reading

I am Governor Jerry Brown, my aura smiles and never frowns

I sure am envious of you folks out in California this election season.  I think the race between Meg Whitman (R) and Jerry Brown (D) will be one of the few worth watching, if only because I’d be waiting and hoping for a reporter to ask Brown about this classic from 30 years ago:

“You will jog for the MAS-ter race, and always wear the happy face. . . The hippies won’t come back, you say?  Mellow out or you will pay!”  Ah, if only Jerry Brown were elected President in 1980. . . (For those of you born either before 1960 or after 1980, that’s the Dead Kennedys, fronted by Jello Biafra, performing “California Über Alles.”  I’m assuming that the rest of you Gen X-ers will just play through.)  Continue reading

Tales from the archives

Sister Agnes asks: "what are you waiting for?"

I know, I’m becoming tiresome for always nagging you to get your sorry behinds into the archives and start digging, as opposed to relying on on-line databases and published sources for your historical research.  But, here’s why, friends:  Barbara Austen, the Florence S. Marcy Crofut Archivist at the Connecticut Historical Society, has an interesting essay at Common-Place about her efforts to apply “More Product, Less Process” (MPLP) in making the CHS collections more accessible to researchers.  When she arrived at the CHS in 2004, this is what she found:

Armed with a pad of paper and several pencils, I systematically inspected every shelf in the manuscript stacks—43 ranges with approximately 1,276 shelves—which took a year to examine, record, and put into a searchable database of more than 18,000 records. That was while still doing my regular duties—answering reference questions and arranging and cataloging newly acquired collections. For the inventory, I opened every box and every volume to record very basic information, like the call number, the creator (author) of the collection, a brief title with dates (such as “Diary, 1750”), whether there was a record of this being a gift or a purchase, whether or not there was any organization to the collection, and a brief note on the size or extent (1 box; 30 volumes; 10 cartons). I also went through all 24 volumes of our accession records looking for manuscript gifts and purchases. Then I checked our card catalog and the online catalog (which has items added to the collection since 1984) to determine if researchers could find the collections using the tools already at hand.

What I found during the inventory both fascinated and appalled me. Some collections with obviously early documents had never been touched! The papers were still folded into little tri-fold bits, tied together with string or ribbon. Who knew what they contained? I was also fascinated at how carefully certain collections were cataloged, down to the item level—each letter had been individually described in the card catalog and sometimes in the online catalog. These records were for letters or documents related to individuals like Silas Deane, Oliver Wolcott and other great white men. Other important collections had no catalog record at all. This lack of access astounded me, even though several cataloging projects had preceded me, such as reporting collections to the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, adding 96 finding aids (narrative guides) to Chadwyck-Healey’s National Inventory of Documentary Sources, OCLC (the national online database of library holdings) and 30 finding aids available on our web site using special encoding, which was completed in 1999. Continue reading