Tag Archives: editing services

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
4.Skipper Dan
5.Polka Face
7.Party In The CIA
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.


When you live in an area where a car is more or less essential for any liberty, and you have to take your truck in for three days, and your wife is out of town and your nephew is busy being 18, you are like dismounted cavalry.  Where the hell’s my horse?

My thinking is to embrace it.  I have a perfectly functional bicycle and I’m not disabled.  I should be able to walk or ride where I need to be.

And if I can’t, nephew will take time out from being 18.  One advantage to not asking a whole lot of the nephew is that when one does ask him for something, one is generally in the moral right to hope for more or less cheerful compliance.


For those of you who don’t know, that stands for Society for Creative Anachronism.  Put simply, they play medieval, but without the cholera epidemics.  It is on my mind today because I am shortly taking some friends to lunch after they finish up a local SCA event.  I was invited, very kindly, but declined partly due to feeling so out of place.  I am not sure how often I can say ‘forsooth’, and I’m always nervous if I don’t know the social etiquette of any situation.  Nonetheless, they seem like a group of the sort of people I nearly always like.  My friends are good examples, using many of the skills in real life agriculture and householding.  I find them hardworking, energetic, cheery and intelligent.

Is it silliness? I play Dungeons & Dragons, so if roleplay is silliness, then I guess I’m silly myself.  Sure, anyone can go overboard on pretending to be a brave knight.  One can go overboard on golf, too, or crocheting or cat ownership.  SCA seems like a very crafts(wo)manly way to have a good time roleplaying and understanding how people lived back when, thus teaching history.

You’ll get real bored and real old standing around waiting for me to utter the sentence “Teaching history isn’t worth while.”

Spring beauty

Spring really is glorious.  I started taking more time to appreciate it one day when I realized that someday I would see my last spring, and I doubted that on that day, I would say to myself:  “Self, one of your regrets should be all the time you wasted appreciating warm sunlight, gentle breezes, lilacs, roses, quail families, doves, freshly mown grass, cherry blossoms, apple blossoms and so on.  You should have spent more time staring at computers, berating corporations, and editing out unnecessary instances of passive voice.”

So if you are getting a spring, I suggest luxuriating.  There really is something to that.  And it is all too transitory, and you will see only so many springs in your days here.