Monday, May 18, 2009

Informal Social Control and Power

My daughter's school recently had a program on the Evils of Smoking. They offered booklets and pamphlets to the students, saying that if they knew anyone who smoked, they should give the smokers these books.

My daughter took home two. She very excitedly told me that she got some Important Books at school today, then she took them out of her backpack. At this point her demeanor totally changed into that of determined schoolmarm, and she puffed up and declared that she was going to give these books to her Mamaw and Pat (my mom and her husband). Because they smoke and they shouldn't.

And she did give them these books, along with a very determined and stern lecture about the Perils of Smoking.

They are now trying to quit.

And OH MY GODS my daughter is now feeling a grand sense of power and accomplishment. But the story does not end here. Oh, no.

The next week, we had a doctor's appointment. While waiting in the exam room, I noticed a small book on diabetes. So, we read it. It contained information on diabetes and all the complications that can arise when a person's diabetes goes unchecked. I told her that Papaw (my dad) has diabetes, as does his mom, who is experiencing some of the complications.

She has since brought up that book twice, now. With the same determined air, "We need to buy one of those books and give it to Papaw!" I always imagine her at a podium with her fist raised when she says such things.

She is feeling empowered and ready to change the world, one health issue at a time. I'm proud, and a little scared.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Things Men Don't Want Their Women to Do

Have you seen those Likeness quizzes on Facebook? I've taken a few. They can be fun.

But I was quite curious - and wary - when this one showed up in my notifications: "Things Men Don't Want Their Women to Do."

And I've always had a problem with the phrases "their women," "my woman," etc. I understand that so-called "possessive" pronouns do not always indicate actual possession (e.g., "OMG I missed my turn!"). I do not own that turn. "My" can also often indicate relationship. We have girlfriends, wives, mistresses, friends, and mothers, but it just doesn't sound right to say we have women. Does this bother anyone else? Or is it just me? Maybe it's the heteronormativity of it. Maybe it's just that the only people I hear use such phrases in real life are those I already know to have sexist attitudes.

Anyway. So what are we ranking, pray tell?

-wear nightgowns
-shop in house slippers
-wear jean capri pants
-dress up our dogs
-start scrap booking
-make us wear xmas clothes
-let ur mother move in
-pick matching outfits
-cut your hair
-gain weight

Of course. I feel like running out and doing ALL THESE THINGS. AT ONCE. Just for the hell of it.

So if you see some crazy-looking short-haired fat lady out shopping for scrapbooking gear while wearing a nightgown and houseslippers (with capri jeans underneath), accompanied by a man wearing a xmas sweater, capri jeans, and houseslippers, while walking a sweater-wearing dog, then know it is me. Oh, and my mother will be with us, as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Prediction for Big Bang Theory

Big Bang Theory recently aired its season finale. For those who don't watch, here's a rundown: We have the main character, Leonard, who is in love with Penny, the woman across the hall. They had a brief fling, but it was awkward and didn't work and now they're just friends. Except Leonard is still in love with Penny. So, in the season finale, Penny finally realizes her feelings for Leonard...just in time for him to leave for a summer at the North Pole.

Of course.

She didn't tell him how she felt before he left (but she did give him a Snuggie and a 5-Mississippi hug, when everyone knows a normal friend hug lasts for only 2 Mississippis!). Maybe she she was scared, or maybe she knew he wouldn't go had she spilled. Either way, the season ended at a potential turning point. But this is a sitcom, folks, so of course their budding romance will be thwarted. How?

I predict something akin to the Ross-Rachel-Emily debacle from Friends.

After all, the basic stories are starting out pretty similarly. Boy loves girl. Girl is either blithely ignorant or uninterested. Boy goes away on a trip. Girl realizes she loves boy. Girl is ready to profess her love upon boy's return. However, boy returns with girlfriend. Boy seems to have forgotten about old crush.

Mark my words, internet! Leornard is coming back from the North Pole with a girlfriend. And the tables will turn as Penny pines after a blithely ignorant Leonard. The unrequited love story gets just enough of a boost to keep it interesting to viewers while still maintaining some suspenseful storyline to keep viewers tuning in - Will Leonard and Penny ever get together? For real this time?

Personally, I think Penny and Sheldon should hook up. That would be an interesting dynamic. Anyways, I'm getting bored with Leonard. His sidekick friends are much more interesting. They need to get some storylines of their own. And a Penny-Sheldon focus would be awesome.

(Why yes, I did just write a post about a television show. And you know what? I might write one about Dollhouse, too. Because that Paul Ballard guy really annoys me, and I'd like to further explore this dislike.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Sad and Angry Day

Plagiarizer-

I regret to inform you that I have found some questionable wording in your paper. I have attached a Turnitin.com originality report that was conducted on your paper. It finds that 45% of its contents can also be found in other sources. Of course, these percentages are run by a computer program, so I took a closer look at its findings. Unfortunately, my own research found that, in fact, more than 45% of the paper's content is available in other sources:

1. The first chunk of the paper (in red on the report) is a direct citation from Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia is not listed as a source (nor is any of the other websites that include this same paragraph).

2. Immediately following this chunk is an orange sentence that was taken directly from [redacted], just changed to be in the first person and to include a grammar error (Colonist instead of colony). Then, you'll see that the blue sentences further down in your paper were taken from the same source. Turnitin.com only found other student papers with this wording, but a quick Google search turned up this site for me.

3. Immediately following this is a sentence partially in burgundy, followed by a gap, then some more burgundy. You'll note that the entire main answer on this site: [redacted] is replicated in this section of your paper, but with minor changes to include grammar errors. Turnitin.com only found matches to other student papers, but again, a quick Google brought up this site.

4. The same thing is evident with the purple sections, which, with changes to make it from a first-person perspective, can be found at [redacted].

5. The light blue is also directly taken from the site indicated on the Turnitin document, just reformatted to remove the bullet points.

Given these findings, I fear I must submit an Academic Violations report. Also, you will not receive credit for this assignment. Far too much is plagiarized.

Before I take this step, however, I would like to give you a chance to respond to these allegations. Your response will be included in the Academic Violations report.

In the future, please note I'm not a dumbass. Changing plagiarized work to include grammar errors is a big risk. If you don't get caught, it's clever. If you do, you've lost your option of pretending the plagiarism was "an accident."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pie Charts and Bar Charts


“This is a pie chart describing my favorite bars. And this is a bar graph describing my favorite pies.”

If you're not watching How I Met Your Mother, you're missing out.


[via pilot]

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why you shouldn't curse

So, my kid was putting up her middle finger in class today and causing a ruckus. I'm pretty sure she has no idea what it means and she was just practicing her shadow puppets like she said. But on the way home, I explained that the gesture is like sign language for a phrase with curse word in it, and of course, you don't say those in school. Ever.

Of course, she wanted to know what putting up your middle finger meant. So I told her. And then I did some ineloquent fumbling for answers to her subsequent questions.

Kid: "But what does 'fuck you' mean?"

Me: "Hmmmm....it's something people say to someone when they're mad at them and want them to go away or leave them alone. Kind of. But it's also a way of saying you don't care what they say or think."

Kid: "So it's something you'd say to a bully?"

Me: (internal response: YES YES IT IS). What I actually said to her: "Not at school, that's for sure. But it's dangerous even outside school, because some people will take that as an invitation to hit you. Because curse words have a special effect on some people, where it makes them angry just hearing them."

Kid: "Like magic words?"

Me: "..."

So, I was having trouble explaining how worked up people can get over the word 'fuck' in particular, and the best I could do was remind her how her teacher wouldn't tell her what the finger meant and wouldn't say it to me, either. And that if she had, even to explain to the poor kid what she was inadvertently communicating, the teacher could actually get in trouble.

The problem is, such vague "people don't respond kindly to that" warnings don't really work as teaching aides. And I'm not good at coming up with examples on the fly. But then, Boing Boing saves the day, with the story about the girl whose dad almost died because the asshat cop wouldn't take her 911 call, because she said the word FUCK. While her dad was lying unconscious on the floor.

Fucker.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm Getting too Worked up over Pronouns

Reviewer:*

There are several misuses of the word "their" when it should be "he/she"

Response to Reviewer:
We are aware of the ongoing debate regarding the grammar rules surrounding the use of singular “they.” As is noted in the Chicago Manual of Style:

"On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun (he in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using he/she or s/he, for example) or to use they as a kind of singular pronoun. Either way, credibility is lost with some readers."

We feel more strongly about avoiding the "nontraditional gimmick" of he/she than we do about avoiding singular they, since the latter is the common spoken English and literary solution to the problem of not having an epicene singular pronoun.

As such, we have not made any changes. However, we recognize that our use of singular they is not endorsed by the Chicago Manual of Style, and as such, will switch to the use of “one” or change all our discussion of a hypothetical “individual” to the plural “people” or "individuals" if the editor feels strongly about this issue.

Irony:

In the time it took to compose that, we could have just made the changes and been done with it. We probably won't put all that in our response to the reviewer, anyway. I mean, how would it look if we spent more time justifying our use of pronouns than we spent justifying our theoretical approach or some other more significant aspect of the paper?



*Note, this is not the reviewer who said our paper sucks. This is not even the same research. This reviewer actually did a bang-up job tearing apart our manuscript...with the minor exception of having the temerity to ask us to define schadenfreude. I still want to link to let me google that for you or to the Avenue Q song as my response. Instead, I put in a definition. Because everyone should have this word in their lexical repertoire.