Category Archives: News

To FB or not to FB?

That is the question.

So everyone’s favorite social media site went public today. Meaning they’re offering stock at $38 a share. But thanks to some market mumbo jumbo that I don’t quite understand, casual people like you or I can’t buy the stock yet. (I have picked up some market knowledge from working for four months at a financial news site but clearly not as much as I hoped. Such is the plight of a (digital) paper pusher.)

For the past week, the news sites I follow at work have barely mentioned anything else besides FACEBOOK! What will it be priced? Is it a good investment? What’s the best strategy? And so on. In all the chatter however, I noticed that the people dominating the conversation are hard core investors who most likely to busy trading to be spending a lot of time on the site.

How’s that for irony? The people who know the site best are being left out of the conversation. There are really no social media experts chiming it. It’s all about money now.

For some reason this really irks me. Perhaps because I’ve been on the site for so long. Back when it was Boston area colleges and invite only. I got in as soon as they opened it up to high-schoolers,  back when your network actually meant something.

Or more likely I’m making a big deal out of nothing and I’m just sick of how saturated the news is with basically the same story over and over. I can’t wait for Monday to roll around in the hopes that $FB will be old news. I don’t even care if it does well or not. I just want the media bonanza to be over.


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Filed under Musings, News

Here We Go Again

Gay groups denied permission to march in St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston Wait a minute, that sounds eerily familiar…

Oh yeah, deja vu all over again!

Last year, I found out about a group of LGBT Irish who sought to march in the NYC parade and were turned down. I was upset, thinking that those people wanted to celebrate the fact they were Irish and were refused because they also happened to be gay. They would have to choose whether to celebrate a part of their heritage that basically rejected them simply because of who they were. So I wrote a column for the Chronicle and cited a similar case in Boston that actually was the precedent that the NYC parade organizers used to exclude the group of LGBT Irish.

In the column I mentioned how hard it was to find the policy online. Turns out I didn’t know where to look. Perhaps the rule cited by the parade council is unwritten and barely spoken about, but the court case ruling that favored the parade council in Boston over 15 years ago was easily found once I got the case name, thanks to the article.

The decision, to quote Wikipedia

Justice Souter delivered the unanimous opinion of the court on June 19, 1995. The Court reasoned that, even though the Council did not have a narrow, set message that it was intending to convey, the parade nevertheless constituted a message that the Council had a right to protect. Noting that, while the Council had been fairly lenient in its guidelines for who they chose to allow in their parade, the Court said this did not necessarily mean that the Council waived its right to present its message in a way it saw fit. The right to speak, the Court reasoned, includes the right to determine “what not to say.”  Of primary concern to the Court was the fact that anyone observing the parade (which regularly gained a large number of spectators) could rationally believe that those involved in the parade were all part of an overriding message the Council was seeking to provide.  In this vein, the unanimous Court said that the Council could not statutorily be prohibited from excluding the messages of groups it did not agree with. Effectively, the Council could not be forced to endorse a message against its will.

Like with most supreme court rulings, it takes a couple read-throughs to comprehend it. But at least it does have a sense of logic, even if that logic was used to come to a decision that I disagree with.

I just hate the idea of this accepted practice of exclusion. It won’t change anytime soon, as the court ruling basically said it was up to the parade councils to determine what kind of “message” they wanted to say with the units in their parades. Have the parade organizers not heard of the axiom that actions speak louder than words? By not including Gay and Irish groups for many years in a row, they are telling the public that they are old fashioned and narrow-minded, maybe even bigoted.

They are also sending a message to gays: that are gay first and foremost and that makes them less Irish than their straight counterparts.

The only solution I can see is a game of patience. The Gay Irish groups must sadly wait for the last of the old guard who wish to exclude them to die off. Then they can approach the parade’s councils again and hopefully march openly.

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On Kony 2012 [UPDATED]

Perfectly sums up why I’m not getting swept up in the #Kony fever.

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Filed under News, Reblog

Working Girl: Part II

I graduated in May of 2011, and maybe a month later a piece of paper representing my diploma was mailed to me. (I still have to frame it, but it’s safe in the folder it was shipped in.) I had a graduation party and well intentioned family members asked what I was going to do.

I didn’t know.

I’ve had this dream of being published for so long, I couldn’t quite set my eyes on the short term goal of finding work. I came out of school with great writing skills and a wonderful experience but no idea where to apply the things I learned.

And spending my college life primarily as an English major meant I was:

a)pretty sheltered from the real world since I was discussing books published well before I was born most of the time, and

b)slightly unprepared for said real world.

For three years, my department didn’t tell us about internships, or if they did the emails failed to grab my attention. (I am not laying all the blame at the foot of the department, but I did notice a change when I returned from Germany for my senior year. They did seem to be making an effort to get involved with the Career Center. Too bad it was too late for me.)

Some majors have an internship listed as a requirement, and they will help you get one. One of the things I took away from my four years at Hofstra is that the English department should consider that rule as well. I was lucky to work part time for RecordSetter during my last semester otherwise I would have walked across the stage at graduation with no relevant experience on my resume. Also the book project kept me busy and employed enough during the summer, as I was able to work from home as a freelancer.

I didn’t end up looking for a job in earnest until The RecordSetter Book of World Records was sent to the publishers. By then it was the fall and instead of figuring out what I wanted to do I shifted my goals to getting a job – any job before I had to start paying my student loans in December.

Before Thanksgiving I signed up with a popular temp agency in Boston because I still hadn’t found a job or exactly what I wanted to do. And that way when my family asked me over Thanksgiving dinner what I was doing, I had a concrete answer.

Two weeks before my first loan payment was set to go out, I landed temporary work as a file monkey. That isn’t the proper term for what I did, but it sums up what I did pretty well. I was brought in to prepare files for storage (put them in boxes) and organize files that were closed but couldn’t get shipped to storage yet. I was also tasked with filing papers into active files. It was fun learning, but not exactly in my field. I was there just shy of two months before I landed an editorial internship with a financial news site.

So now I’m taking the first steps in my (I still don’t know what to call it) career. And I’m also going to get back into blogging.

But before I go, here are some (very depressing) links that pretty much sum up the situation I was in for 6/7 months – and if I want to change jobs any time soon – will still be in:

US Jobs Gap Between Young and Old Is Widest Ever – US Business News – CNBC

Today’s Internships Are a Racket, Not an Opportunity – Room for Debate –

Employment Rate For Young Adults Lowest In 60 Years, Study Says

Confirmed: Millennials Are Screwed [Infographic]

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Bunker Hill Day

On Sunday the 12th, the neighborhood of Charlestown celebrated its annual parade for the Battle of Bunker Hill.

In recent years city officials have debated the budget and considered getting rid to two Suffolk county holidays that celebrate important moments during the early revolution war. It would be an attempt to save money as employers get the day off for these holidays which are extremely local. The first day is March 17th, known as Evacuation Day, when the British left Boston. People not in the know have joked Boston gave itself Saint Patrick’s Day off so people could drink the whole day. The second is June 17th, the date of the Battle itself. (The parade is  always celebrated on the Sunday before the 17th, while the actual day is saved for an exercise at the Bunker Hill Monument.)

Politicians with local ties to the neighborhood come to the annual breakfast held before the parade and hosted by the Bunker Hill Associates. While the debate has waxed and waned on Beacon Hill, these politicians have picked up a sentiment stating that we couldn’t have had July 4th without June 17th.

Interestingly the holiday and parade celebrate a military defeat rather than a victory. The rag-tag Continental (or just Massachusetts) militia  held Breed’s Hill through three separate advances by the larger, better trained British Army. When they finally gave up, it wasn’t for lack of trying, but because they ran out of ammo. The British, in taking what turned out to be a rather in consequential hill, suffered heavy loses and learned an important lesson. These patriots were serious and would not roll over.

Perhaps I’m biased as I have lived in Charlestown and experienced these celebrates my entire life, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of this holiday. However I disagree that the battle of Bunker Hill lead to Independence Day just over a year later. Considering the path the Colonial powers and the British were taking both before June 17th and after, the fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence would have happened in some way sooner or later.

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Veterans Preference vs Language Skills

Boston civil servants have long used veteran’s preference to get returning vets into jobs such as the police and fire departments. This year, BFD has asked to set aside 15 of 50 spots in their academy class for people who speak Spanish.

And well, I let the quote speak for itself.

But a group of military veterans, normally given preference for the jobs, has challenged the decision. Alleging in legal documents that the bilingual requirement is being used to “recruit people of color into the uniformed ranks,’’ the veterans have asked the state Civil Service Commission to investigate.

(emphasis is my own)

So when did knowledge of a language determine your skin color? I’m sure this wasn’t the only line of reasoning the veterans put in their legal documents, but this quote makes them seem very racist. Later on in the article, the lawyer for them complains about how they came back from serving in Iraq/Afghanistan to find the rules have changed on them.

And there’s even more background, like how the BFD was legally bound to hire/diversify at a one to one ratio meaning for every white candidate they hired, they needed a black or Hispanic one as well. That rule was disbanded less than ten years ago and since then the department has hired a group that is 88 per cent white.

I don’t really understand why the veterans are so angry. The department finally realized they need more staff who speaks Spanish when they respond to calls from Spanish speaking people. Boston has a huge Hispanic population in one neighborhood, and significant populations in other neighborhoods that are on the other side of the city. In other words the Hispanics are basically all over. It’s time the department should diversify again.

The veterans can always apply again next year, right?

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News Values in different medias

There are different news values, and I think different medias emphasize different values in their reporting, because they know what works (what sells or makes a profit) for them. I compared a NY Times article on Israel’s reaction to the situation in Egypt, to content on the English site of Al Jazeera covering Israel as well.

“I’m not worried at all. If the people in Egypt want to kill themselves,” he shrugged. “You write in Al Jazeera that Ron Chayek said ‘a good Arab is a dead Arab’.”

Ron Chayek, a 35-year-old website manager

This quote from the Al Jazeera page sums up one of the huge differences between content from the two sources. While NY Times did get quotes from people in Israel, they were either officials, or academics. Al Jazeera, on the other hand, collected and published several quotes from regular people in Israel, who don’t say the same thing. Mya Guarnieri worked hard to include quotes representing many different reactions and opinions, even the minority ones.  I think Al Jazeera is large enough that with their 65 bureaus – one’s probably in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem  – it would be easy for their staff to go out into the streets and actually ask passerby what they think of Egypt. There’s a sense of intimacy and reality, that is almost absent from the Times article, which says at the bottom has contributing reporting from Jerusalem.

But perhaps the differences really just boil down to a space and/or resources issue. The Times article was one of the front cover stories for 1/31, but it’s just over 1000 words so it feels short. On the other hand Al Jazeera has plenty of space for its coverage of the Egypt situation that their website so they have two articles on the Israeli situation, one that is manly the quotes from the people and the other reporting on the government. I don’t think the Times had time or room to pursue both sides of the story so they chose the more official government spin. Which for the casual reader in New York, is a fine angel, but for the more invested follower of the Egypt situation, I think they would be more satisfied with Al Jazeera’s coverage.

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Book Post Revisited

Over a year ago I wrote about a prep school giving up it’s library of books and switching to a digital library. As a Bibliophile, I was offended.

Now, Boston Globe revisited the school to find all of its students suddenly using the library and loving the change. They did retain couple book stacks. But the students come into the library to do homework, to research on computers (the teachers also started using e-books in class to make the transition easier) or just to hang out. Before the switch no one seemed to use the room of books, but now the school had to hire another librarian to help with the increase demand.

Big picture wise, this is good for the students because they are ahead of the game in digital literacy. But since the school had to remove so many of its books in order to switch over, does that mean these same students will loose valuable skills in researching from a traditional book? I don’t claim to have the library of congress classification memorized, but I do know how to find a specific book with relative ease among the library stacks.

Sacrificing one side of the coin for favor of the other is not a good idea. Librarians have had over 10 years maybe even 20 years, to integrate the digital world with the world of books. Schools should let them do their job to educate students in BOTH worlds of  literacy.

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Harvard’s Religion Problem

In Pinker’s view, human progress is an evolution away from superstition, witchcraft, and idol worship—that is, religion—and toward something like a Scandinavian austerity and secularism.

“I very, very, very much do not want to go on the record as suggesting that people should not know about religion,” he told me. “But reason and faith are not yin and yang. Faith is a phenomenon. Reason is what the university should be in the business of fostering.”

A university education is our greatest weapon in the battle against our natural stupidity, he said in a recent speech. “We don’t kill virgins on an altar, because we know that it would not, in fact, propitiate an angry god and alleviate misfortune on earth.”

~Steven Pinker, a Harvard University Professor of Evolutionary Psychology

All quotes were taken from a Newsweek Article, entitled “Harvard’s Crisis of Faith”

Background: In 2006, a few faculty members tried to get a requirement for students to take a class in an umbrella group called “Faith and Reason” There would have been religion classes, but also others as well. Yet Steven Pinker lead the charge to shoot down the proposal.

Currently Harvard has no professors who teach solely religion classes, in a solely religion department.  There are classes that study religion, but are taught by Anthropology professors or other departments. As a result the classes are listed in different places in the catalog. Students who express interest in religion are pointed in the direction of the Divinity School.

It irked me to read that this professor equated religion with superstition and sacrifices. It’s like he grouped everything associated with religion – the good, the bad and the in-between – and dismissed religion because of the bad. Like throwing the baby out with the stale bath water…

Personally, I disagree with Pinker’s generalizations (that’s what I’m calling his logic!)  I know we can study religion academically, I’ve done it twice and once was with my own religion.  I would recommend it to students, but I know just recommendations aren’t going to get the kids into the classrooms. Harvard really should require its students take some sort of class that would satisfy the faith and reason category.

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Is it Mixing? Or Plagiarism?

Last weekend, while I was busy trying to solve the EU’s problems with a potential unified military force – I was at Harvard National Model United Nations – I came across a short NY Times article that struck a nerve.

Helene Hegemann is just 17.  But she already has a play and a movie under her belt. Her first book, about a 16-year-old who enters Berlin’s drug and club worlds after her mother dies, has climbed the bestseller lists and is a finalist for a $20, 000 award. But the book and author are in the middle of a huge plagiarism dispute.  It turns out the author has lifted pages from another book without many changes.

The Awards jury was aware of the charges when they made the book a finalist. And one member was even quoted as believing the mixing was a concept of the book.

The author identifies herself as a

representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,”

I totally disagree with both the author, and the awards jury for selecting this book as a finalist. I have no problem with mixing, when the artists are forthright and say they mixed. But this author tried to get away without saying anything. That’s plagiarism, and she got caught.

Mixing is most common in music, when DJs produce new tracks by throwing a couple old songs over new beats. But I’ve never really seen it in books before. I just don’t think it goes well with such a static medium as books. The whole point of books and printed words in general is that it is the original thought of the writer, which goes against the philosophy of mixing.

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