Tag Archives: editing services

Philopogon

Julian II, a.k.a. Julian Augustus, Emperor of Rome, better known as Julian the Apostate and my personal folk hero, was the last pagan Roman Emperor.  He also had a beard.  After enough people gave him guff for it, he wrote Misopogon (‘Beard-hater’), a diatribe against the Antiochenes.  (Short version:  he’d expected the hardcore Christians of Antioch to embrace him.  Like most of his Empire, they didn’t.  He was pissed.)

Okay, fine.  Like Julian, I am bearded.  What is interesting is that to the young, it registers me elder.  This evening I was at a going-away party for an education executive leaving to take up a higher position.  He was a Coug.  For those who do not know Washington colleges, that means Washington State University, rival of the University of Washington, my much-loved alma mater.  His daughter had seen the light and was attending UW.  She and I exchanged old times/new times stuff for a while (and I’m glad her father wanted better things for her; speaks volumes about him).

(Seriously, my host was a fine gentleman and a very bright fellow whose guests were fun, funny and intelligent.  He offered great food and drink, prominently featuring cheeses from the WSU Creamery.  A salute to him and to delicious dining, and full respect to the value of land grant educational institutions that make foodieism possible.  Any city slicker dumb enough to make fun of food production, while savoring gourmet this and artisan that, is effete and idiotic at once. )

The question arose as to Deb’s age, and the young lady guessed many years low.  In my case, she guessed three years high.  I’m not sensitive about how I look, which is a wise stance in 50ish fat, balding, salt-and-pepper old guys.  When I laughed, she said:  “The beard makes you look wise.” (Tell my nephew that; maybe he’ll pay attention to me.)

Interesting observation.  I would like to hear from readers, especially women, since the beard is a fairly defining masculine aspect.  Does a heavy, silvery beard make a man seem wise? When you see a heavy beard on a man, what does it evoke?

Attending ye Renaissance Faire

Deb and I like to go to whatever events are happening around what one Portland sophisticate termed “the famously dull Tri-Cities.”  The logic is simple.  If your community doesn’t supply a vast surplus of toys for you to play with, when it does, one had best play with them, lest said community cease to supply any toys.  What is more, at least in the Tri-Cities, whatever the event is, it’s not a struggle.  It might be smaller than the big city version, but it’s doable and affordable and safe.  There will be parking, it won’t be horribly expensive, and the crowds won’t be too big a battle.  We don’t have enough people to create that large a crowd anywhere.

So we went, to ye land of ye guys fighting and ye minstrels and ye blacksmiths.  I always love to watch the latter because there is a strong attraction in the combination:  scent of burning coal and iron, sight of hammered metal and fiery glow, and the ring of the hammer.  I like splitting obstinate pieces of wood just to swing the sledge from the end, and to hear it ring on the wedge.  It’s almost as musical hearing someone else pound away.

While it’s hard to see myself deeply attracted to medievalism, there’s a lot to like about it.  People make stuff.  They make yarn, they make cloth, they make clothes.  Candles.  Daggers.  Beads.  Beverages.  They work damn hard at this stuff, and a lot of it is pretty impressive.  It suggests a self-sufficiency that resonates.  What if all the electricity went out? Some people, at least, wouldn’t be utterly lost.  What is more, the majority are really quite pleasant folk, ready and eager to hold forth on their fields of expertise, or help the mundanes (that would be us).  It’s not like golf, where the visitor or newbie deals with impatient scowls and haughty disdain.  (Do golfers not understand that this is killing their sport? I swear, the only athlete more shortsighted than a pitcher toeing the rubber is a seasoned golfer.)

It also makes me realize, from an editing perspective, how much esoteric vocabulary got left behind in the Middle Ages. Just all the parts of a suit of armor, or of a castle, or terms for long-faded occupations and tools have caused thousands of words to slip into disuse. A medieval fair is heaven for places who know or want to learn all those.

When I go to these events with Deb, I don’t really take in most of the event because her sort of random wandering style and my systematic canvassing don’t really harmonize that well.  I usually yield to hers unless the event is something in which I have deep and specific interest, with the result that I don’t really see or take in most of what is going on, and that’s fine.  It’s more about just being out and about as a couple, doing what there is locally to do and enjoy.

Plus, there was a male belly dancer.  He was actually pretty good, rocking it.  I respected him.  And as Deb pointed out to me (as if to a slow child), he was flirting with me.  Ha!  I always attract the bear lovers.

Just call me Yogi.

It’s only a fish wound!

Well, not a bad one.  How do you get cut open by a fish on land? Well, suppose you are bumbling through your local antique store, and they have just set down a big swordfish (heavy sucker, like 5′ long).  Not being real bright people, they put the fish diagonally, so that the tail fins stuck right out into a walkway.  Unfortunately, they didn’t contrast much visually with the linoleum.  Thunk.  While I’m not the type to run around blaming other people or institutions for my poor navigation, it probably wasn’t their smartest move to put that there, either.  I mean, you wouldn’t put a pitchfork down there with the tines sticking out into the walkway.

I was surprised how sharp the fish tail’s tip was; went right through my skin along the top of the kneecap.  The woman operating the place showed zero concern, even when I said “I guess there isn’t much blood.”  That told me she wasn’t the sharpest business tool in the shed.  She did offer me some coffee.  Did I retort:  “Why, is coffee good to put on a bleeding gash?” No, I did not.

The post’s title, of course, was that quick comeback that we think of later, the one we never think of at the time. At least I don’t.

One reason I like editing is because I always have time to think of what to suggest someone should say.

software updates

Have you noticed, folks, that when you just automatically go ahead and update a piece of software to a newer version:

  1. They moved everything around, apparently for no logical reason other than it looked cuter?
  2. They added maybe one thing you cared about, and twenty you didn’t care about?
  3. The things you liked most about it before, now no longer work the same?
  4. It’s slower and clunkier?

The problem is endemic to software and has been with us for a long time.  I think it must have its roots in the way software designers think, because it is very consistent.  Most ‘upgrades’ are in fact downgrades.  And these days, it seems, that most of them lean toward letting more and more companies poke around on your machine, with nothing preventing them from phoning home with information that is none of their business.

It gets worse if you depend on software to enable you to work. What if it introduces complications in the middle of a huge editing project? “Dear Ms. Client. Sorry I am going to be late. I upgraded my software and now my life sucks.” Yeah, they’re real understanding about that.

There are a few updates that nearly always make sense, namely those to do with security.  If your Windows wants to download a security update, you should.  If your virus scanner wants to update itself, by all means.  If you use a spyware/malware package, definitely keep it current.  But anything else? Faaaaaa.  Just don’t update it until they force you at bayonet point, or give you some compelling reason in terms of features.

Ignore the constant pleas and pressure.  You’ll be happier.

Whitewater rafting

I haven’t done this in so long, but a WWR trip is one of my presents to my bride for her 50th birthday (at which time, in April, it was a little cold for that most places).  We’re going to take along a couple of dear friends.

Currently we’re deciding between the Methow (north central WA), the Deschutes (central OR) and someplace else.  If anyone has any recommendations within 4-5 hours of Tri-Cities, WA, by all means please advise.

Medieval mentalities

When you think of the Middle Ages, you think of a wholelottaignorant, right? Loopy folk beliefs, slavish acceptance of draconian religious programming, a profound lack of empathy for most other people (especially those different from one), squalor fairly easily alleviated but not being a priority.

Although I must say that at the recent Society for Creative Anachronism event my friends Rebekah and Forrest took me to, they seem to have left out all of the above.  Anyway, consider this dominant reality before you judge your medieval ancestor’s mindset with too much disdain:

They knew nothing was going to get better.

I was walking through my house today, thinking about the stiff knee that results from (what I believe to be) botched cartilage surgery.  Avascular knee cartilage will not regrow, of course.  That which was removed no longer acts as a pad for the weight of my thigh and upper body.  What remains, taking more stress, will deteriorate further.  My knee will never be the same again, and all because for once I finally attempted to evade a pitch rather than let it hit me.  And I thought, well, maybe they’ll invent artificial knee cartilage by the time I need it.

“Maybe by the time I get that old, there’ll be something better.”  The exact form of hope that peasant LeBlanc, tilling his fields in medieval Anjou, did not have.  Could never have–not if sane.  What reason had he to imagine his sore knee would be ameliorated by a new invention? He had never seen a new invention.  He had seen new proclamations from the clergy, the nobility, the merchants.  In nearly every case they were bad news for him:  you are going to hell, you must produce more grain, you must pay more interest.  Unless you imagine that anyone ever told him:  “You get to go to heaven, you are allowed to produce less crops for me now, and we’ll lend to you without charging interest this time.”

His knee hurt, it would continue to hurt, and nothing would be invented to fix it.

My knee hurts, and not only do I hope something will be invented for it, I am not insane to imagine that it may be.  As a child, games were things played on a board with tokens and dice and spinners.  Today’s child (who when I was his or her age, I marveled at Pong) plays a realistic and immersive game of army combat.  With Koreans.  Who are currently in Korea, not in his living room.  Also an Australian guy and some gal from Norway. When I was in college, I wrote my papers on an electric typewriter. Now I edit people’s writing on a computer with software that allows me to track my changes and leave margin comments.

I saw this change.  It is more scientific to tell myself things are possible than impossible, all considered.

You probably feel the same way too, especially if you are in your forties and hoping they’ll fix all the elderly ailments before you get them.  (They intercepted polio at the pass, did they not?)

Now imagine your life, your entire life, with no such rational hope.

Saving the snakes with Uncle Mike

Some years back, I was out on Peyton Creek (Flint Hills, Chase County, KS) getting ready to help my Uncle Mike work the vineyard.  It is long tradition for nephews visiting close relatives to be included in all activities, particularly labor.  (Our nephew JD, currently living with us, may harbor misgivings about this hallowed tradition.)  Anyway, you read correctly:  a vineyard in Kansas.  Uncle Mike and Aunt Jaque worked several acres of them for years, along with a friend who came up from Wichita, and got pretty good results considering the myriad dangers and caprices of Kansas agriculture.

The ranch is very traditional.  Nothing’s name ever changes.  The carriage-room, which is now a second TV room, is still called the carriage-room, and the saddles and tack still hang there.  The granary has not stored grain for, gods, it must be over half a century.  Maybe more.  Never mind; the granary it is and remains.  The feel of tradition is as delicious as range-fed Kansas beef, or the apple pies my great-grandmother used to make, nearly blind, in the same kitchen she had used for some 75 years.  And one of our traditions is that we don’t kill something unless we need to.  There is a reason the ranch has diverse wildlife, its own spirit:  if we can, we let it live.

So, the nephew was underneath the tractor attempting some mechanical task as requested by Uncle Mike, futzing with tractor doodads he did not understand, out in front of the granary (now used mainly to store stuff, such as nylon netting once used to try and shield grape vines from avian predation).  I heard Uncle Mike call out to me from the granary:  “John?”

“Yeah, Mike?” Only when I had nephews of my own did it occur to me that my uncle would always enjoy being called by the title of honor, ‘Uncle.’  Wish I’d figured that out a lot sooner.

He asked the magic question.  “How are you with snakes?”

“Pretty good, Mike.  Why do you ask?”

“Well, in that case, come on in here.”

So I rolled out from under the futile futz-fest, got up, and headed in.  Whatever it was, it was going to be interesting.  “Take a look over there,” said my uncle.  There were two very large kingsnakes, both in a bad way.  You know how fish get caught in nets, hooked by their gills and fins? Thus with snakes’ scales.  Both were snarled up in the nylon netting, beyond extricating themselves.  They’d lost a few scales struggling, though not much blood, and we could see that both were constricted where the netting hung them up worst.  Most likely they were dehydrated.  It was a warm spring afternoon, and one doubts they’d have made it through another day, weakened by a desperate struggle for liberty.

The thought of harming them, of course, didn’t cross our minds.  Not only are kingsnakes non-poisonous, they consume great quantities of varmints.  You’d no more kill an owl than a kingsnake.  They’re our friends.  Of course, they can bite if threatened, but like nearly all snakes, they just hope you’ll leave them alone so they can go consume some more varmints.  We hope they’ll do it early and often.

Uncle Mike and I stood there for a few minutes figuring out the best way to save the snakes.  One must respect wildlife’s potential dangers, especially suffering, starved, dehydrated wildlife.  My uncle pulled out his Swiss knife and began to cut the netting.  “John, let’s take them outside.  You hold the snakes, and I’ll cut ’em loose.”  Sounded like a plan, and soon Uncle Mike had the netting apart enough for us to bring them out one by one.

Now came the tricky part.  When I said I was good with snakes, I didn’t mean I was a talented snake wrangler, simply that I didn’t run screaming when I saw one.  I took the first snake gently behind the head, and held up its mid-body so my uncle could begin the really tricky part.  You never saw such delicacy in your life.  Strand by strand, patiently, kindly, he worked the tip of the knife under each strangling wire of nylon.  I watched very closely as he managed it without costing the snake even a bit of blood.  Remember how deeply the nylon was dug into the snake’s scales and flesh; impressive dexterity and gentleness.  I’m still impressed.

It took about five or ten minutes, if I remember correctly; he worked from tail to head.  With about half the snake loose, it began to make sinuous movements in my hands.  Somehow I knew this wasn’t a fight to be free of my grasp, just getting circulation back.  That snake had to be suffering something awful.  When it calmed down, Uncle Mike went back to his work.   Before long the final strand snapped free, the snake wormed around again, and I took it over and released it in the grass.  It wasn’t far to water and food.  That kingsnake was going to make it.

Snake #2 went more quickly, both of us having now had some practice.  It behaved the same, and I let it loose over in the same deep grass.  I can’t know, but it’s fairly safe to guess they lived long, happy serpentine Flint Hills lives.

I wish I remember what, if anything, Uncle Mike and I said afterward.  I’m so gabby I must have said something, but it can’t have been too profound because I forget.  I suspect that Mike and I just smiled, watched the snakes disappear into the grass, and got on with his plans for the grape vines.  What I do know for sure is that it was one of our best moments together.

The Alpocalypse

No, it isn’t an invasion of South American camelids that resemble mini-llamas and produce trendy wool.  My musical main man, “Weird Al” Yankovic, has a new CD coming out very soon.  We wait years for these.  And if you’ve never seen Al in concert, you have missed an experience.  Nonstop entertainment, even during the every-number costume changes.  A hardcore trouper’s ethic (he had the flu when I saw him), great band chemistry and a total commitment to a great show.  My wife was meh over the idea, but became a concert convert.  I don’t even like concerts much and I liked it.

Here’s the track listing:

1.Perform This Way
2.CNR
3.TMZ
4.Skipper Dan
5.Polka Face
6.Craigslist
7.Party In The CIA
8.Ringtone
9.Another Tattoo
10.If That Isn’t Love
11.Whatever You Like
12.Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me

Any questions? That last, in particular, hit a resonant frequency for me. People used to constantly forward stuff to me in the belief that it was funny or important. Whether or not I had editing work on my plate, it got so irritating, and then I’d ask them to please stop, at which point they’d think I was a killjoy. That’s not how that works.

Amazon’s little game

Do you buy used books through Amazon? I do, though I’m seriously considering ending that practice.  If you’re anything like me, you have absorbed the following salient facts:

  • Any used book costs a minimum of $3.99 for shipping.
  • Often that’s the entire cost, with the book selling for $0.01.
  • If you make an order of any size at all, Amazon gives you free shipping.

Perceptive readers with business sense, and at least a little bit of avarice, have just done the mental math.  Okay.  So if I’m Amazon, here’s my game.  I’ll set up my system to adjust my price to $3.98 above whatever the best independent bookseller deal is.  And if they buy from the bookseller in spite of my undercut, since I take most of the profit anyway, I can’t lose.

The reason this offends me is that it is so scientifically designed to hose the little guy or gal, the independent bookseller in Waverly, KS who keeps a local retail store going by using the business as a net-order warehouse with retail capability.  It’s not malice, just scientific greed, and I see through it. Given that it affects books and authors, thus clients, as an editor I’m perhaps more sensitive about it. I like local bookstores and help keep them around when I can. So, I reckon, do most editors and writers.

What I have taken to doing, when I do buy used books from Amazon, is easy and inexpensive.  Buy it from the little guy or gal anyway, for the extra $0.02 or $0.50 or $2.00.  It would be great if others did so also.