Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Attending Harvard means never having to say you're sorry

I don’t know if anyone else has been following the Harvard plagiarism case lately.  But this story strikes me as way more important than whether James Frey actually lived the events recounted in his memoir.  At least they were all his own words.  

The case seems bound for court and while little-miss-perfect at Harvard wants to insist that the copying was “unintentional,” looking at the passages it seems pretty likely that she will get taken to the cleaners.

What’s truly sad is that Ms. Viswanathanin butchered most of the passages that she copied with unnecessary adjectives and added prepositional phrases.  Here are a few from the Boston Globe:
Best Friend
Bridget is my age and lives across the street. For the first twelve years of my life, these qualifications were all I needed in a best friend. But that was before Bridget's braces came off and her boyfriend, Burke, got on, and before Hope and I met in our seventh-grade honors class.
''Sloppy Firsts," page. 7

Priscilla was my age and lived two blocks away. For the first fifteen years of my life, those were the only qualifications I needed in a best friend. We had first bonded over our mutual fascination with the abacus in a playgroup for gifted kids. But that was before freshman year, when Priscilla's glasses came off, and the first in a long string of boyfriends got on.
''Opal Mehta," page 14

The Bad Boy
The other thing about Marcus is that crackheaded girls who don't know any better think he's sexy. I don't see it. He's got dusty reddish dreads that a girl could never run her hands through. His eyes are always half-shut. His lips are usually curled into a semi-smile, like he's in on a big joke that's being played on you but you don't know it yet.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 23

Just about every girl, from the A list HBz to the stoner hoochies, thought he was sexy. The weird thing was, I didn't see it. He had too-long shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half-shut. His mouth was always curled into a half smile, like he knew about some big joke that was about to be played on you.
''Opal Mehta," page 48

Personal Space
Marcus then leaned across me to open the passenger-side door. He was invading my personal space, as I had learned in Psych class, and I instinctively sank back into the seat. That just made him move in closer. I was practically one with the leather at this point, and unless I hopped into the backseat, there was nowhere else for me to go.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 213

Sean stood up and stepped toward me, ostensibly to show me the book. He was definitely invading my personal space, as I had learned in a Human Evolution class last summer, and I instinctively backed up till my legs hit the chair I had been sitting in. That just made him move in closer, until the grommets in the leather embossed the backs of my knees, and he finally tilted the book toward me.
''Opal Mehta," page 175

Finally, four major department stores and 170 specialty shops later, we were done.
''Sloppy Firsts," page 237

Five department stores, and 170 specialty shops later, I was sick of listening to her hum along to Alicia Keyes, and worn out from resisting her efforts to buy me a pink tube top emblazoned with a glittery Playboy bunny.
''Opal Mehta," page 51    

Maybe she should try the Roger Myers Jr. plagiarism defense?

Myers: Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy, but so what? Animation is built on plagiarism!  If it weren't for someone plagiarizing the Honeymooners, we wouldn't have the Flintstones. If someone hadn't ripped off Sgt. Bilko, they'd be no Top Cat. Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Hah! Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.  Your honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from? Her?  [points at Marge]
Marge: Uh... Hmm... How about... Ghostmutt?
-- I see your point

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ya no conozco

OK, so for the last two days I’ve been in Punta Hermosa trying to learn to surf (mostly just thrashing myself against the waves, but trying nonetheless).

Anyways, within a 36 hour period I took a bus from Ica towards Lima and then back from Punta Hermosa (30 minutes south of Lima) to Ica.  For those of you that aren’t up on commercial transport in the South Coast of Peru there is one company that dominates this route: Soyuz.

Soyuz Bus has departures every 6 minutes to Lima from Ica and vice-versa.  Considering that it is a 4.5 hour trip, they must have a minimum of 40-50 buses in the fleet just to maintain that route.  Well, somehow I managed to get the exact same bus coming and going.  The same bus, the same driver, the same ayudante, and yes the same damn movies!

I Spy and The Last Samurai, plus a 20 minute Soyuz infomercial played at top volume twice in the span of less than two days.  Yes, it was as pleasant as it sounds.

Owen Wilson almost managed to make Tom Cruise likable in the second end of our twin bill.  Eddie Murphy was going through the motions, collecting his paycheck, and playing a less-funny Chris Tucker.  And even Famke Jansen was starting to look a little bit long in the tooth!  Sad days indeed.

Even curiouser than riding the same bus twice (at no better than 2.5% odds), the ayudante let me ride for 3 hours without paying anything, even going so far as to protect me against the ticket-takers that get on for 5 minutes at the side of the road and cross-check the sales numbers.  Then, when we were almost scott-free home (in Pisco) he asked for some change and gave me a ticket.  And while I liked saving 7 or 8 soles off the cost of my bus ticket, I really wished he hadn’t gotten my hopes up for riding the Soyuz KC Jones-style…


In Peru, Thursday and Friday before Easter are "dias feriados". Religious and national holidays where most people don't work. Today (Saturday) is not and so I rushed back from the beach to make sure everyone was doing their job at the Caja. In the grand American tradition, of course it would make more sense to give Friday/Saturday off (or even Thursday-Saturday) and have a real long holiday weekend. Peru chose not to do that. Fine, but let work go on as usual Saturday. What I can't deal with is the post office closing more than 2 hours early on the non-feriado day b/c they feel like it. Aaaaaaaaargh!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On the road again

OK, so I’ve been on the road a bit the last few weeks.  Lima, Ica, Ayacucho, and one more Ica-Lima-Ica trip thrown in there.  The Peruvian election ended and another one is about to begin.  Clichés have a lot of truth in them, cause the more things change the more they stay the same…

Some random musings:
  1. How much does a rope tow cost?  Cause someone needs to invest in ski infrastructure at 4,000+ meters.  The mountains here are just sick brah!

  2. I’m surprised the Nuevo Sol hasn’t taken more of a nosedive now that we know Alan and Humala are the two likely presidential candidates.  Has the central bank been effectively fire walled from the political process?  Or was there just so little money bet on Peru to begin with that foreign speculators don’t have much money to pull out?  In any case, the Dollar/Sol savings spread at the Caja stands at ~9% on a one year certificate of deposit.

  3. The road from Pisco to Ayacucho was a lot better than I expected.  99% paved roads combined with an alert (sober) driver and a late-model Landcruiser kept me from freaking out when we encountered snow, alpaca crossings at 16,000 feet (the Quechua woman who was herding did have a nice bright blue American style nylon raincoat), and fog so dense that the only way you noticed trucks was the sound they made as they zoomed by.

  4. Sorry for the lack of pictures!  I’ve been traveling pretty light and an expensive camera is the first thing that I drop out of my day pack.

Hasta pronto,