Borderline attacks plagiarism; told to "get a life"

Plagiarism: The act of appropriating the literary composition of another author, or excerpts, ideas, or passages therefrom, and passing the material off as one's own creation.

- Definition from the University of Colorado website

Oh dear. Borderline has angered another Waltham Shopper reader. You may recall that over the summer Borderline took issue with the writings of a Waltham city councillor who is also a contributor to the Shopper, and was later slapped down in a reader comment for three factual errors in his original post. Borderline apologized. However, Borderline stood firm on one of the original issues -- that the city councillor's plagiarism is wrong.

Another Shopper reader, apparently someone with inside knowledge of the plucky monthly and its editorial policies, has jumped into the fray with a 439-word rant against Borderline. The gist of the diatribe: it's OK to plagiarize from the Internet, because it's helpful information that Shopper readers appreciate.

There's more. This second reader says it's not just the local pol who plagiarizes, but other contributors, too. The anonymous Waltham Shopper fan claims co-owner Glenna Fabbo borrows other people's writings for recipes and historical biographies, apparently without asking permission or giving credit. Roger Moreau does it as well, claims this person: "Most of what he put in his column was not his own information nor his own words but it didn't make it any less valuable to know and it didn't make me think any less of Roger Moreau ..."

And finally, the reader sounds off on the purpose of the Waltham Shopper. It is published "... as a convenience and benefit to residents of Waltham, Newton, Watertown, Weston, etc.".

Wait a second. The Shopper is just for the benefit of the community? All 45,000 issues are delivered as a free service? No one is making any money off of the Shopper? Ads can be included for free?

Well, then. That sounds just like what Borderline is doing. Offering a free service and resource for the members of the Newton and Waltham communities.

Except Borderline doesn't have any advertisements, and never, ever plagiarizes. Borderline frequently excerpts from other news sites and blogs, but credit is always given.

Borderline would like to repeat that it thinks the Waltham Shopper is a great resource. The articles about history, tea, health, are interesting and valuable to readers. Passing along information from another source is also OK -- that's what research and writing are all about. But if the words are copied from another source, without credit or permission, that's plagiarism.

Plagiarism is bad. Plagiarism is illegal. It can get you thrown out of school (if you are a college student) or result in a court case for copyright violations. More importantly, it's totally unfair to the original author. If you take words directly from another source, the author needs to be credited and/or asked for permission to have the content reprinted. If that original author's content is generating advertising revenue for the publication, he or she deserves a cut as well, unless some alternate arrangement is reached.

Yes, it's a pain to deal with these details, but I am sure the Waltham Shopper would understand if I lifted the entire body of original writing from the latest issue, posted it on my blog without credit, and then started charging money to advertisers to have their company's name or product placed alongside the copied content.

Advice to the Waltham Shopper and its writers: Learn how to give credit where credit is due, and payment where appropriate. Paraphrase if you want to avoid dealing with these issues. But stop plagiarizing other peoples' hard work.


Old maps of Newton, Boston, and other towns

We went to the West Newton Cinema to see a movie a few days ago, and on the second floor there was a display of art by local artists -- something you definitely won't see at any of the local megaplexes!. Anyway, one of the displays consisted of retouched antique maps of various parts of Newton, Boston, and other nearby towns. The artist is Peter Kastner.

These maps are very detailed. Besides showing the names of streets and schools, they also include the names of property owners and the size of their parcels. They were apparently used for tax or insurance purposes. According to the accompanying note, they were very marked up with old notations, and faded as well. Kastner, who is actually a longtime map collector, has taken the maps, scanned them, and used photoshop or some other program to clean up the marks and brighten the colors. While not art in a traditional sense, they are quite beautiful and very interesting historically.

Kastner operates a website to sell his creations, communityheritagemaps.com. You can see samples of many maps from various districts of Newton, Boston, Belmont, Arlington, Wayland, Watertown, Lexington, parts of Maine, and New York City. Checking out the 1886 map of the northern part of West Newton, I was surprised to see some streets and other geographical features that no longer exist -- including a pond off of Davis Ave., and "Carroll Street", where Warwick Drive is now.

The prices seem reasonable, but unfortunately do not include framing, which can get quite costly. Additionally, Waltham is not represented in his collection -- yet. The website says there is a stack of other maps in his inventory that he has not had time to restore, so maybe we'll see the Watch City in a future restoration.


Ozzy-obsessed airwaves

What's the deal with WBCN and WAAF? It seems that every 30 minutes or so starting at 5:00 pm, they are guaranteed to have an Ozzy Osbourne song from the 1980s, or maybe something older from his Black Sabbath years.

During my afternoon commute, I have nothing against reliving 1982 -- except for memories of shaggy hair and Rubik's cubes. However, Nirvana tends to be the oldest band you'll hear in rotation on these two stations. I know Ozzy is a crossover pop-culture icon thanks to his reality TV show, but is his regular appearance on local airwaves an indication that he is a music crossover icon, too, with an appeal to anyone who has been 15 years old between 1970 and 2003?

I don't buy it. Kids may know his shuffling TV image, but not his music, even the new stuff. And we can test this hypothesis. My kids are too young, but if you have teenagers, especially teenage boys, ask them these questions:

1) Do you know who Ozzy is?

2) Can you name one of his songs, or hum one?

If enough teenagers say "no" to question 2, then BCN and AAF are wasting their time. There are not enough 40-year-olds out there who will wax nostalgic while listening to "Crazy Train" in their Altimas as they drive home on the Pike.

And besides, if you're going to play something from 1982 during peoples' commute, wouldn't The Cars be more appropriate?


Boycott Shaws for one shopping day

That's right, Borderline is calling for a consumer boycott of Shaw's Supermarkets. For one day, any day, of your choosing, in the next month.

They've played a pretty nasty trick, tattling on competitor Whole Foods for daring to open on Thanksgiving. According to the Boston Globe, Shaw's, which wasn't planning on opening on Thursday, decided to remind the Massachusetts Attorney General that there is a Blue Law which forbids markets opening on Thanksgiving. The office of Attorney General Thomas Reilly issued a legal opinion saying that it would be breaking the law to open on Thanksgiving.

Never mind that the Blue Laws are a relic from a different age, and that there thousands of ancient laws on the books that are never enforced, either through official ignorance or deliberate inaction. Whole Foods wanted to stay open, was willing to pay its staff extra to come in on that day, and many consumers in Newton and Waltham may have wanted to go there to buy a last-minute something for Thanksgiving dinner.

Shaw's letter is a nasty, underhanded business tactic. They are the dominant supermarket chain in both Newton and Waltham. But in the next month, consider taking one of your regular shopping expeditions elsewhere as a response -- I know I will. Whole Foods has at least two branches in Newton (Washington Street, and Newton Four Corners) and Waltham has a Hannafords (Main Street) and Costco (on the other side of Rte. 128). Add a comment here if there is another Shaw's alternative that I missed.


Saudi "royal" gets royal treatment after admitting he killed

Does anyone feel as angry as I do, after reading about the story of a drunken Saudi "royal" who killed a man with his SUV in Boston, and then gets an unbelievably easy sentence on an island jail on tony Martha's Vineyard?

The Globe article by Jonathan Saltzman and John R. Ellement has this quote:
Saud's royal blood ''means nothing to this court because in this system of justice, every individual is treated the same, no matter what their social status is," [Judge Christine McEvoy] said.
How many times have we heard that old chestnut before, and then watched as fat cats and VIPs have been either let off the hook, given lightweight sentences, or allowed to remain free pending appeal? Ordinary people almost never get these kinds of breaks. What about Melanie's Law? What about criminal law?

I'd like to point out that resident Saudi "royals" are almost always given the benefit of the doubt by American officials when they break the law. I was furious a few years ago when Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of the Machiavellian Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was allegedly found to have wired money to people connected with terrorism. Our government's response? The then Secretary of State Colin Powell basically gave this woman the benefit of the doubt -- saying it was "highly unlikely" she would be involved in something like this. You can bet if it was any other foreigner that did this, they would be interrogated, thrown in jail, and eventually deported. But if it's a "Saudi royal", especially a connected one, a different justice system applies.


More local blogging sites spotted

We are not alone! It seems that the Waltham-Newton blogging universe is growing. Here's a list of sites that I have stumbled upon recently:

Universal Hub

It sounds like some kind of computer device like a USB hub, but it's actually a site devoted to blogs in and around the Boston area, as well as breaking news -- it seeks out reports from bloggers. I found a few Waltham and Newton blogs that I didn't know about before, but I also discovered that Borderline is not listed!

I've submitted Borderline to Universal Hub -- hopefully it will pass muster and help Borderline connect with other bloggers and people in Newton and Waltham.

Scott Lennon

I found out about Scott, an alderman in the Lake, after he posted a comment to Borderline. He has a website, http://www.scottlennon.com/

Ted Hess-Mahan

Another Newton alderman also has a blog, but it's only been updated twice in the past four months. Blogs are not a very effecive medium for reaching out to constituents, Ted, if you only update once every two months!

Once in a Blue Muse: A poet's journal

LJ Cohen also posted a comment to Borderline, and has a site about poetry.

If you know of any other Newton or Waltham blogs that I should be aware of, send 'em my way! Chances are I'll give them a plug.


CPA passes in Waltham, Cohen is mayor in Newton

The big news from the elections in Waltham: The Community Preservation Act passed by 9 votes! Barring a recount and overturned vote, this means Waltham property taxes will go up an average of $40 per household per year, but the city will get matching funds from the state to preserve open space, create affordable housing, and other benefits.

Whether you supported the CPA or not, this close race is yet more proof that you need to get off your duff and vote, even when there is no major state or federal balloting taking place. I am sure a lot of anti-CPA folks who thought the "nays" would carry the day (like in 2001) and stayed home are wishing they had made the effort to vote.

In the Newton races, Mayor Cohen kept his seat with a landslide victory. No indication in the News Tribune article if Michael Striar will keep trying to gain an elected foothold in the city -- but I am sure we will continue to see interesting letters to the editor from Striar in the Tab. In fact, I think some of Striar's pre-campaign letters to the Tab may have really hurt his candidacy, such as the idea to wipe out all coyotes living in Newton -- it really made him seem like he was obsessed by fringe political ideas. His silver spoon upbringing -- "Daddy let me run the country club at age 20" -- didn't impress me, but as we've seen in George Bush, John Kerry, and Al Gore, coming from a upper class background seems to help more than hinders political candidacies.

One other race I had been keeping an eye on was Republican Greer Swiston's second attempt to gain an elected position. She has pluck, she tries hard, but in the end she couldn't win the alderman-at-large seat in Ward 3 -- but she came awfully close, with 26.3% of the vote, just a few percentage points short of Leslie Burg (28.3%). That's a difference of about 400 votes. Despite her party affiliation, she makes a strong effort to play down traditional Republican issues and I do believe she cares about the community -- for instance, she is a teacher at the Chinese Community Center in West Newton.

I won't get into the other races in Waltham or Newton. Incumbents seem to have carried many of the alderman/city council/school committee races. Unofficial Newton results are here, but I can't find results on the Waltham city website.


Newton and Waltham elections

The Borderline blog has touched on local politics and politicians before (see posts about Governor Romney, Mayor McCarthy (Waltham), Markham Lyons (Newton mayoral candidate), Sally Collura (Waltham City Councillor) but I am going to hold off on commenting on the upcoming election until after the votes are tallied. I have been keeping up with some developments in Newton via the Tab, and have received about 5 or 6 flyers for races in Waltham, but really don't feel I am familiar enough with the candidates' platforms to offer an informed opinion about them.