Right up to my last day as a newspaper editor, I trusted our pressmen to catch mistakes.
Sometimes, they caught headline errors, sometimes errors in captions, sometimes factual problems.
But, when the papers came down the line, they picked them up and looked at them and also read them, watching for those kinds of problems as well as how well the color was laying down or whether images were in register.
I guess at the U.S. government print shop in Washington, D.C., they just don't bother. Or didn't in the case of millions of dollars in $100 bills that were printed with mistakes that were so bad the bills have to be replaced.
There is some dispute about how much the printing error cost, according to a story on the Atlantic Wire by David Wolman.
But, some other folks have done some number-crunching and put the cost of the error at millions of dollars.
Heads should roll.
It's always been hard to find good pressmen.
But, the government needs to make a better effort at hiring the kind of people who work at many of today's newspapers.
I had planned to go into Austin to hit Central Market during its weekend Hatch Chile Festival, but did not make it.
Instead, I went to HEB in San Marcos, where they had the chiles without the festivities.
We moved here two summers ago, and that's the first time I ever tasted a Hatch chile. I was hooked. I love chiles, but especially that Hatch kind, because of their smokey and spicy flavor. And I love chile rellenos. Unfortunately, last summer when I tried to make rellenos with Hatch chiles, the end result was less than satisfactory.
So, I invented a recipe: Deconstructed Hatch Chile Rellenos or Chile Rellenos Without the Grease. I made this dish Saturday night for my wife and me, and we had enough for two meals.
Here's the recipe:
DECONSTRUCTED HATCH CHILE RELLENOS
6 Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and slit to lie open and flat
1 1/2 packages Mexican four-cheese mixture
1/3 cup cream
1/2 package goat cheese
In an 8x8 casserole dish, spread three chiles in the bottom. Cover with one-half the cheese. Layer three other chiles on top of that, and cover that layer with cheese. Mix the eggs and cream, then pour evenly over top of casserole. Crumble goat cheese on top. Cook 35 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven or until bubbly and cheese is well melted. Serve with salsa.
Laura, my oldest daughter, has always loved horses, so when someone donated a copy of the 1961 book called "Misty of Chincoteague" to the library, I figured she had probably read it as a child.
I took it to her, and she got tears in her eyes as she recalled the pleasure that little book gave her when she was small.
I figured I would go to Amazon and see what it would cost to buy, and then donate that amount to the library.
I got the shivers, though, when I recalled a conversation I had with another of my daughters about her quest to track down a book called "Little Mommy" that was her favorite children's book, period. (I still have the book stored in my memory and can recite it on cure even though it's been about 40 years since she sat in my lap and had me repeat it over and over and over again.) She said she found "Little Mommy" in ebay, but would not disclose the (what must have been very high) price.
This set of shivers was accompanied by another on Sunday when I read a column in the New York Times Book Review by Terry Eicher about her own search for a childhood favorite. The prices she was looking at were off the charts, as far as I'm concerned.
I found "Misty" in its 1961 version at Amazon for $13.
It was certainly worth that to see the look on Laura's face.
Three decades after graduating from college, I was still lugging class textbooks from residence to residence as I moved around Texas to take new jobs.
Here is an indication of how attached I was to these and hundreds of other books: One of the most expensive texts I ever bought was something like $30. It was a political science book I had to buy for a master's-level class. The book was useless as a reference because the PAGE NUMBERS IN THE INDEX DID NOT MATCH THE ACTUAL PAGE NUMBERS IN THE BOOK! So, looking for Machiavelli? Good luck finding references to him on the actual pages.
I am learning this summer that I certainly was not exhibiting the bizarre behavior I thought I was. Dozens of people have brought old texts and hundreds and hundreds of other books to the library to donate for the Friends of the Library book sale. We're down-sizing, many of them tell us. We're retiring and don't have the space anymore.
I finally got to that very point two moves ago, when I was preparing to leave Wichita Falls for Temple. I looked at all those books and at all those boxes of books and said, No More.
And almost the entire collection, including that political science text, went to a charitable organization that could get some kind of value out of them other than the selfish feeling of owning (controlling? coralling?) all that stuff.
It almost goes without saying that the Internet has enabled countless thousands of students and would-be authors to steal the work of others and present that work as their own.
I've not seen data on the extent of the plague of plagiarism, but I'm guessing it must be a terrible problem. In the classes I've taught at Baylor and the University of Texas, I didn't have to worry about plagiarism because I was teaching courses that required original reporting of discrete events.
I wonder about the issue because I'm a librarian as well as a consumer of information, and I want to trust writers and authors. Better, I want to be able to verify that the words they put forward as their own are, in fact, their own.
I have recently run across a reference to two online services that allow for such verification. One is called Safe Assign, and the other is Dupe Off. I checked them out, and found that Safe Assign is designed for the academic world alone. Dupe Off is available for a fee, for the most part.
So, how else to double-check for originality?
I agree with comments made by Jeffrey Beall, scholarly initiatives librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, in an interview with The Charleston Advisor: He said he finds the best practice is to read the material, figure out where the writing style changes and then Google or Bing those sentences. That works for me.
So, while it is easier than ever to plagiarize, I think it's easier than ever to find a plagiarist.
Although I recall the first plagiarist I came across. He was a sports writer for the university newspaper that I was the editor of. The guy was a native of Yugoslavia and spoke with a heavy accent. He also wrote with a heavy accent, scarcely worrying about things like articles and adjectives. So, when he turned in a story for publication that was in the king's English, I knew something was wrong. Soon, I found he had stolen the work of a real journalist.
Now, that was easy.
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