Tuesday, February 9

Stoic

Pundits suggest that the Clinton campaign is perplexed by millennials' support for Bernie Sanders. The reasons are not so perplexing for this observer whose fiction, especially Allure of Deceit, explores women's rights, demographics, the generational divide, worries of mothers for their sons, in addition to the warped incentives of charities that strive to boost select groups.

Sanders has captured a key millennial concern - inequality - and he deplores inequality of opportunity as much as inequality of income.

The young may expect Sanders to make worthy appointments and might wonder about nepotism in a Clinton administration, and not just the influence of big donations and speaking fees from Wall Street. There might be concerns, say, about a role for Chelsea Clinton versus Elizabeth Warren in a Clinton administration, whereas the perception is that Sanders would not hesitate to appoint Warren to a cabinet position.

Along the same lines, Sanders seems as though he could work well with Hillary, but young voters can't be sure that the Hillary would be willing to work with Sanders.

The biggest problem may be Hillary's stoic attitude - that she has had to put up with much and she may expect young voters to be patient and do the same - and leaders who expect voters to fall in line with expert opinions.

Clinton's hold over the 2016 democratic nomination was described as inevitable. But too many democrats did not want to be denied the opportunity to listen and choose. Too many in leadership positions, on both the democrat and republican sides, assumed that they could select a winning candidate in advance and impose that on unsuspecting voters.

But voters have their own opinions. The young, the women, all voter can surprise.


Clinton's eager supporters have made a huge miscalculation by chiding young women's support for Sanders - by suggesting that Clinton is entitled and destined to become the first woman president of the United States. Scoldings by Gloria Steinem ("When you're young, you're thinking 'Where are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie") and Madeleine Albright (Young women have to support Hillary Clinton... and just remember, there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other") were cringe-worthy moments that are particularly damaging for the Clinton campaign, as described by Robin Abearian for the Los Angeles Times.

Parents, politicians, teachers have lectured the young time and time again, warning of economic chaos and hell, metaphorical and otherwise, if certain paths are selected or traveled too quickly. Marriage equality is just one example. 

Many young people are weary of polarization between the parties, sexes, races, religions and more. Their world is a crowded place - they must navigate among 330 million Americans and 7.4 billion people in the world versus the 200 million in the United States and 3.6 billion of the world in 1969 when Hillary graduated from college. Yes, the world's population has doubled in a lifetime, and the country is more diverse.  The young want to and must get along. Most voters would prefer that candidates in both parties cooperate within the party and across-the-aisle, coalescing around a few reasonable positions to solve big pressing challenges and get some some work done for the country.

Photo of two campaign supporters assisting an elderly voter, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and the State Library of New South Wales. 

I Write Like...

I Write Like is a free tool to analyze writing excerpts. Users insert a few paragraphs into a box, and the tool assesses the text based on  word choice and style to determine which famous author's work the excerpt most resembles.

So I immediately tested a few graphs from my most recent novel, Allure of Deceit, a scene of two frightened children running away from home. The tool suggested that the text was similar to that of J.K. Rowling. Then I tried a different section, one on a main character reflecting on his age, and was advised the text resembled that of author Neil Gaiman.And then another section from the final climax - that was identified as similar to work by science fiction writer Harry Harrison. I tried yet another section, early in the book, a section describing a mother's curiosity about a son's death, and that was assigned Jane Austen.

The results were surprising and may suggest that my writing is inconsistent over the course of several hundred pages. But then again, perhaps not. I turned to an excerpt of Harry Potter & and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling and inserted her text - and lo and behold, that was assigned a badge from Kurt Vonnegut. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss was reported to be similar to work by James Joyce.

I came late to this little game and was relieved to discover that many other writers had tried the software and posted similar results on social media. "Obviously, I Write Like isn't an exact science," wrote Jake Coyle for HuffPost Books in 2011. "But simply the idea of an algorithm that can reveal traces of influence in writing has proven wildly popular."

The software, developed by Dmitry Chestnykh of Coding Robots, went online in 2010 and is largely based on keywords. Chestnykh explained in an email that the assessment tool is limited to 52 authors. He provided the list, and all are notable.

The length of text inserted into the tool matters. A partial excerpt of the speech by Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump as presidential candidate was described as similar to writings David Foster Wallace. The full text of her speech was assigned the badge of Rudyard Kipling.

There are no rankings that suggest an excerpt is immature or needs improvement. The tool accepts the world's most amateur works, including schoolwork by a second grader or comments on Yahoo, and all are compared to famous works and assigned a badge from one of the 52 famous authors.

And that is probably wise. Any assessment of writing, including I Write Like, is subjective. What matters is that we try to write and connect with others though our work. In Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment, Maja Wilson describes being "convinced that there is something fundamentally sacred about teaching writing - about helping another person to express and shape their humanity through language."

Writing offers a window into the thoughts of others - and as such, writing and tools that aid revision and fine-tuning should be also encouraged. Fortunately, the I Write Like tool does not store or use inserted text for purposes other than the quick assessment.