Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nominees for Worst Company Name

I'm sure there are plenty of horrible company names out there that I don't even know about, but I came across a new one today: Nomensa. It's a technology firm out of the UK that is apparently proud of the fact that none of its employees belongs to MENSA. I can see the ads now: "Nomensa: No geniuses here!" "Nomensa: Idiots is us!" "Nomensa: Keeping your VCRs flashing 12:00 since 1992!"

I did a quick search for "allmensa" to see what kind of competition they had, but I couldn't find anything.

But this still doesn't beat the company called Powergen Italia, whose original Web domain, powergenitalia.com, was eventually replaced. Some have reported that powergenitalia.com is a hoax, that the company doesn't really exist, but apparently it's a real battery-maker in Italy, and has nothing to do with the Powergen in the UK. You can find old powergenitalia.com pages in old Internet archives, if you know how to access them.

I don't...

(On the other hand, I'm not so sure about Pen Island -- penisland.org and penisland.net.)

What other company names really suck?

(On the other end, the best business name I've ever seen was a hair salon in St. Louis called "Curl Up & Dye.")

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pacers Game

I took my elder boy to a Pacer's game last night as part of a Cub Scout outing. Some company or another bought the tickets for our group, which means they were pretty cheap.

There were only 5 rows of seats that were higher than ours. We were so high that I could see the top of the center-court scoreboard. I ran down at the beginning of the second quarter to get us some popcorn and drinks, and I almost didn't make it back up all those steps.

What does it say about my well-being that I'm too out of shape to even WATCH a basketball game?!

The Pacers lost to the Utah Jazz, the most horribly named team in the NBA.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Loss of Passion

Of late, I've lost my passion. Or maybe I've just noticed that the passion is gone. Ten years ago, if I wasn't sleeping, I was either listening to music, playing music, or writing -- mostly words but sometimes music. I had a real passion for writing and for music back then. (Of course, I was lonely and depressed and surrounded by people who seemed to be quite content with their lot in life, so I had a lot to write about.)

But that passion just isn't there anymore. I am completely unmotivated to do anything. To get anything done, I need to put it on a list of things to do so it doesn't just flitter out of my memory.

I go home and sit down and tell myself that I'll just play on the PS2 for, oh, maybe half and hour. Two hours later, I turn off the games and go hunt for dinner. I know there are things I ought to be doing, and I tell myself, out loud sometimes, what I ought to be doing.

But still I sit on that couch.

I feel like I'm constantly waiting for the next thing to happen, instead of making the next thing happen. I'm just so unmotivated. Maybe I'm just lazy. Maybe it's pre-traumatic stress disorder.

There are a few glimmers: I did sit down and start writing my novel (for the fourth time) two nights ago. I got about a page and a half in when my brother-in-law called. By the time I hung up the phone, I felt like S.T. Coleridge. I could no longer write anything worthwhile.

That'll teach me to answer the phone. My caller ID works just fine; it's my thumb that needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Movies

With the coming of December comes an influx of Christmas movies in prime time. I don't like Christmas movies on the whole. They're always predictable, and they almost always have unrealistic happy endings.

Bah. Humbug. I say.

But I'm interested in what other people think about Christmas movies. What are the best and worst Christmas movies ever made.

The best one, in my opinion, is "A Christmas Story," which we watch every year. (Will Ferrell's "Elf" comes in second.)

The worst Christmas movie? "Frosty the Snowman Returns." Even the title sounds like it should be a parody.

Your opinions?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book Review: Jim Tomlinson's "Things Kept, Things Left Behind"

Sure, I love short stories -- in principle. My all-time favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut, and I’ve read every novel and autobiography he’s written. But even I couldn’t make it all the way through Welcome to the Monkey House, his first short story collection.

Perhaps I’ve become jaded simply by growing up in the era of MTV, but I have come to expect the complete story: the arc, the conflict, the resolution, the denouement. Where once we had static splashes of paint on canvas, leaving us guessing about exactly what a picture might represent, now we have television and film -- complete stories with completely developed characters and a beginning, middle, and end. It’s what we’ve come to expect, possibly to the detriment of the past masters.

This has spilled over to literature, as well. The novel -- the story that starts on the first page and neatly ends on the last (with perhaps just enough of a cliffhanger to get people to buy the sequel) -- has become the pinnacle of literary creation, to the detriment of the short story -- the literary equivalent of the still life, the portrait, the sculpture.

Fortunately, even though novels win the day, the art of the short story is still practiced by a few deft hands.

Things Kept, Things Left Behind is a collection of short fiction that won Jim Tomlinson the 2006 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and for good reason. What daVinci is to art, Jim is to fiction.

In this collection, Jim introduces us to people. Not characters, not stereotypes, not archetypes -- people. Jim presents glimpses into the lives of real people. And, much like the glimpses we get of strangers’ lives every day, their stories do not start with the first word, nor do they end with the final punctuation. This is what makes these stories great.

And he wields his words like a master, at times abandoning so-called “proper grammar” to create something that couldn’t be taught in a high school English class. We’ve all seen incomplete sentences, run-ons, and the like. But rarely do we see them used with such accuracy and with such great results.

The common thread throughout these stories is failed or failing marriages. In each story, Jim reveals what really goes on in the hearts and minds of ordinary people as their marriages die. But don’t look for “And they all lived happily ever after,” because you won’t find it. What you will find are well-told stories about people you recognize, and these stories leave off in moments of despair, indecision, confusion, anger, exasperation, pain, and hope. But the stories don't really end. Sure, the words stop, but the people in these stories don't. The true endings of these stories are left to the minds of the readers.

And along the way, you'll find some little gems of beautiful writing. Here’s one of my favorites, from “Things Kept”:
Sometimes she thinks of herself as a howl. The wail of a coyote, maybe, or a
lone banshee, a shriek dying away in the night without reaching ears. Piercing,
like something wrenched raw from an orphaned soul. A hollow thing, haunted, a
sound that lives on, still shrill in the memory long after its echo dies.

Things Kept, Things Left Behind is well worth the reading.

Who would like this book?
People who are separated or divorced; people who are happily married (though they would enjoy it for a different reason); people who prefer the truth, even when it isn’t pretty; real people.

Who wouldn’t like this book?
People who think that Disney movies have the best endings; newlyweds (this book tops the list for the world's worst wedding gift); people who insist on “correct” grammar and complete sentences; people who don’t deal well with a lack of closure.

Find out more at Jim's Web site.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Finally, Some Good News

I had an e-mail waiting for me when I got to work this morning. A new "explanation of benefits" document from my healthcare provider was ready for me to view. A quick hop over to their Web site revealed that they had processed the claim for the first of my two ambulance rides to the ER -- and my insurance covered the whole $495 (the most expensive taxi you'll ever find)! I work for a great company!!!

I still have three $100 ER copays to take care of, but if things keep going this way, I'll owe only that $300 instead of over $1200. Maybe this won't be such a bad Christmas after all.

(I made it through 30 years without seeing the inside of an ambulance. Then, over Labor Day weekend 2005, while visiting friends near St. Louis, I literally put another crack in my ass at a water park. Now, this year, two more ambulance rides -- both of them, as it turns out -- unnecessary: the ER doctors couldn't really do anything for me. I hope this isn't a trend.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I feel like I should say something about Thanksgiving, but what is there to say? At least I get a few days off work. And they're letting us go at 12:30 today, which is a great opportuniy for a nice sushi lunch.

I'll be spending most of my time off working on some freelance copy editing work, though. But that won't stop me from staying up late and sleeping in later.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Children, Birthdays, and Immigrants

My wife's birthday is coming up this week. It's interesting how a child's mind works. If you ask my kids what she wants for her birthday, they'll list a bunch of "girl toys" for people their age. My youngest thinks she wants Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony toys.

I am sometimes disillusioned by how much our opinions are guided by our own limited view of the world. One big controversial topic right now is illegal immigrants from Mexico. People gnash their teeth and beat their chests roaring that the end of our economy is near because these people come up here and use all of our tax-paid services -- fire and police and the like -- without paying taxes.

But why is it that we never hear a similar cry from Canada? Northerners often hop over to Canada to get cheaper prescription drugs and to take advantage of their socialized medicine -- which is paid for out of Canadian taxes, which those Northerners don't pay. There's irony everywhere you turn.

The other thing that gets my about these chest-thumpers is that they seem to equate "illegal" with "immoral," as if there is something ongodly about heading north out of Mexico in search of a better life.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Anxiety/Panic Update

After three trips to the ER and one trip to a therapist, I think I'm finally on a good road. I'm on Zoloft, which takes 3 or 4 weeks to kick in. After my last ER visit, I got a small prescription for Ativan, which gives more immediate relief (in the form of knocking me out completely). I've used the Ativan only once.

The most important therapy, though, has been knowledge. I bought a copy of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook and have been reading through it from time to time. The important bits of knowledge: panic attacks can't kill me, they are limited by time, and they can't kill me.

Plus, I think I technically have a panic disorder, not an anxiety disorder. The big attacks have all occurred in the morning without any warning. (By "big attacks," I mean my arms and legs get exceedingly cold, and the cold tries to creep in my chest; I also get slightly nauseated and dizzy and very, very pale. Green pale.)

Sometimes I can feel them coming (I get slightly dizzy and hot-faced), and I'm doing a pretty good job staving them off just with some controlled abdominal breathing, happy thoughts, and occasionally singing in the car. Still, I could really use a "happy place" in troubled times. (I'm reminded of Meg Ryan singing "I Love Paris" before the plane takes off in French Kiss.)

A few more therapy sessions to learn some coping mechanisms and I'll gain my confidence back. That and making it through Christmas.

Oh, and thanks to my mom for getting me, among other relaxing things, some "Calming" Yogi Tea, which tastes and smells delicious but is the awfullest shade of green.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I had other things on my mind when I got dressed this morning, and here it is at 2 p.m. when suddenly I realize that I'm wearing my "Vote For Pedro" T-shirt on election day. (Will I be allowed to wear this when I go vote?)

It's nice to know that my brain continues to work, even when I don't ask it to.


Today is my birthday. I plan on staying in my twenties for as long as I can, so today is my twentitwelfth birthday. Eight more years and I'll be 20-20.

Birthdays mean less and less as I get older.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Copy Editor's Pride and Joy

The other day, when I was dropping off my elder son at school, he began a sentence with "Me and Jalen..." but then immediately and accurately corrected himself, "...I mean, Jalen and I...".

Not bad for a second-grader.

Of course (writes the prideful parent), according to the tests, he reads at a fourth-grade level.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pharmaceutical Happiness

I finally went to a doctor today, after having a total of four anxiety attacks. He put me on Zoloft, which sounds like it could be an alien planet in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of this.

On top of that, I'm making an effort to relieve some stress in my life, mostly by throwing old eggs at my neighbors' cars and making crank calls to the Office of Homeland Security. I plan on starting a regular exercise regimen soon (The best laid plans of mice and men . . . but we'll see.) because exercise is supposed to be a good stress-reliever and because I need to lose weight, and sitting in front of a computer all day doesn't burn off the calories the way you might think. I just generally need to be a healthier person.

Baby steps. . .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Magic Umbrella

I have a magic umbrella. It's big, it's black, and whenever I have it with me, it doesn't rain. My magic umbrella never gets wet.

I forgot to bring my magic umbrella with me to work today. Naturally, I got rained on when I went to lunch.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Less Anxiety

After my anxiety attack at last week's rehearsal, I arranged for someone else to take my part in the upcoming IWS chamber concert. But there was another hump to get over. Wednesday night was supposed to be my first full IWS board meeting as president.
I was very worried that my new position on the board was a big part of my anxiety attacks, and I wasn't sure if I could make it through the meeting. But I went anyway. On the way there (a 40-minute drive), I practiced some of the things I needed to say. That helped.
I arrived half an hour early, which unfortunately gave me thirty minutes to stew. But I didn't just stew; I walked. I thrice circled the church where the meeting was to take place, singing as I went along. That helped, too.
Long story short, I survived the meeting without an anxiety attack. I left feeling just superb!
And now this Sunday I get to actually listen to a live rendition of Mozart's Piano Concerto #20 instead of having to concentrate on my own musical part.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Anxiety Attack

On Wednesday night, shortly after posting that gibberish about Chasing Cars, I went to a rehearsal for an IWS chamber concert. As soon as I got there, I started feeling weird -- my insides started tensing up, I got a little light-headed, and I had to focus on something to keep from losing my balance. But I soldiered on.

As rehearsal continued, I was hit by waves of nausea, my body couldn't seem to control its temperature, and I generally felt really really bad. I must have gotten up three times just to go out in the lobby of the church and walk around, trying to regain my calm.

I mostly made it through rehearsal and then high-tailed it outta there. I didn't get much better on the drive home, so I drove myself to the ER.

Now, I hate hospitals. I'm glad they're there, in the way that I'm glad that colonoscopies are there. I'd rather not have to experience either. But just being in a hospital, whether I'm the sick on or not, makes me tense and anxious.

The ER was rather busy that night, so I waited around for nearly two hours -- not sure whether my exhaustion was just me being tired or was a symptom of something more sinister -- before I got to see a doctor.

The short of it is, my blood sugar was fine -- no diabetes. An EKG came out normal -- no arrhythmia. It was most likely an anxiety attack. It was similar to the one I had at the end of the last concert (see previous post), but not as intense in the beginning.

It was midnight before I left, and I took a sick day on Thursday to rest and recuperate and try to figure out where I could reduce some stress. As it turns out, the answer is EVERYWHERE. The problem, though, is that to eliminate a lot of the stress in some areas increases the stress level in the biggest area: finances.

But I have a plan, and hopefully this situation will be only temporary.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Snow Patrol -- Chasing Cars

I've heard Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" on the radio a few times now, and I really like the song. It's touching, poignant, and all that gooey stuff. But one thing always sticks in my craw when I hear this song -- and keep in mind that I'm a copy editor.

The refrain for this song starts like this:

If I lay here,
If I just lay here,
Will you lie with me and just forget the world?

The problem, of course, is the verb. "Lay" takes a direct object. The grammatical way to write this lyric is

If I lie here,
If I just lie here,
Will you lie with me and just forget the world?

Now, I can take a little rule-bending. I'm not the stickler that this post might make me out to be. But in this case, by not using the correct verb form, the lyric misses a whole double-meaning that could have given this song three times the depth. The double-meaning is, of course, that "lie" also means "to tell an untruth."

With "lie" meaning "to recline" (or to simply use the current lyrics), this refrain is a straightforward love song, and the question is nearly rhetorical. But if you read the "lie" to mean "to tell an untruth," the question asked in this lyric becomes, "Is it better to live in a beautiful lie or to live with the ugly truth?" -- the topic of many a Philip K. Dick short story.

I don't assume that the guys of Snow Patrol are grammatical idiots. I think the fact that they got the correct verb form in the third line but not the first two points to the idea that, for some reason, they deliberately avoided the double-meaning. But I can't for the life of me figure out why. The surrounding lyrics in the song are just as meaningful, of not moreso, with "lie" as with "lay."

Perhaps (and if so, this just ruins the song for me) they were going for a double-meaning with "lay" -- "to have sex with." If this were true, the refrain is actually a man begging a woman to be submissive:

If I lay (have sex) here, will you lie (just lie there and do

Or, and I just thought of this, perhaps I'm reading the wrong version of "lie." Maybe he's asking her to keep their affair a secret.

If I lay (have sex) here, will you lie (tell untruths) with me?

The only problem with these interpretations is the word "just." "If I just (have sex) here"?
Hmmm. Comments appreciated.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Williamsport Library Fire

I normally avoid listening to the news. It's always bad. Of course, some of it always reaches my ears. An accident here, a shooting there, a bank robbing granny. I guess I've become galvanized to a certain degree against bad news.

But tonight I heard something on the news that made me more mad, and madder, than any news story I've heard in weeks. Someone burned down the new library in Williamsport, Indiana. An autographed collection of James Whitcomb Riley books -- gone. The town's constitution -- gone. A 9/11 memorial display -- gone. Books, DVDs, CDs, computers, knowledge, learning, truth, lies, laughter, pain, humanity -- all gone.

I have a lot of books here. Maybe they could use them. I'll post a link if and when I find more information.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A New Jeopardy Category

The Language Log (see my links) has been chock-a-block full of discussions about whether Neil Armstrong said "...one giant leap for man" or "...one giant leap for a man," complete with spectrographs and letters from Armstrong's biographer.

But squeezed in among these discussions was this little gem. These are the kind of fun little mistakes that I like to find. The short of it is this: a tanker truck with the contradictory message "NON PORTABLE WATER" on the side.

Obviously, they meant "potable." But it got me wondering. The word "potable" might have disappeared from our vocabulary if not for Jeopardy and its recurring category, Potent Potables. I wonder whether they have used Potent Portables as a category. Or even Portent Portables. (Or Potent Potatoes?)

OK! All right! I'll go to bed!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Last Marathon Mile

I am one chapter away from finishing the copy edit of the current book from hell, but it is one long chapter -- 60 pages before the figures are dropped in. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still a long long tunnel.

I'll feel a little weird when I finally finish, though. I started copy editing this book in late May. Finally pushing this off my plate will feel a bit like having a 50-pound tumor removed. It'll take a while before that "always-there-and-waiting" feeling fully goes away.

Of course, I'll have other books to work on. Microsoft has made sure of that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

House of Cards

They're building a new hotel near the office. I pass the construction site on the way to and from work every day. It took over a month to clear out the land and put in the sewer and electric and whatnot. They've now started building up in earnest.

The hotel has a wood frame that is covered with plywood. It looks so flimsy. It seems to take two days to add a story to the building -- they were up to three stories when I left work today. Whenever I see this building-to-be, which to me just loks like a bunch of plywood stapled together into a three-story building, I can't help but think of a house of cards and wonder how this hotel will fare in Indiana weather.

This after watching the new CVS going in up the street. After they prepared the groundwork, this building's skeleton went up: strong, heavy, steel I-beams welded together.

If there's ever a tornado here, I'm heading for the CVS.

Monday, September 25, 2006

First IWS Concert

Last night was the first concert of the season. We started off well with Copland's Fanfer For the Common Man, followed by the Star-Spangled Banner and Stars and Stripes Forever.

The concert went well, and we generally sounded good. I don't know if any of the pieces sounded good enough for a recording, though. Each had its own little shortcomings. But all in all it was a good concert, definitely worth the price of admission.

But something weird happened to me. As I took a breath to play the last note of the last programmed piece (Persichetti's Symphony for Band), I suddenly got light-headed and woozy. I thought for a minute that I might pass out. Then we played an encore, an arrangement of America the Beautiful. in which the clarinets rest for a whopping 3 beats throughout the entire piece. I didn't play very much of that one. Just moved my fingers along and concentrated on breathing regularly. I still thought I might pass out.

I hadn't had any dinner, and I drank a Mountain Dew before the concert. I figure my body was just mad at me. I stopped at the VP on the way home and got a Gatorade and fig newtons.

Trying to get to sleep last night was difficult, because I never felt "right." Thinking about it made it worse, but I couldn't not think about it. I even considered driving myself to the ER just to be safe, but I never did. Eventually I fell asleep.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Note from the President

That's right: Tonight I was ushered in as the new board president of the Indiana Wind Symphony. My first act as president was to abolish the Eb Alto Clarinet.

I was quickly censured and reminded that the board acts as a representative democracy, not a politburo.

But seriously. Voting me in was the first thing on the agenda. After that, I had control of the meeting, in the sense that a ringleader has control of the circus. There was no set agenda (that'll be my first change), and I was completely unprepared, so the best I could do was draw people's attention to the different rings and then hop out of the spotlight.

But tonight isn't a sign of things to come. I hope that I can leave this band in better shape than I found it.

It's strange. I didn't start thinking about those What Ifs until just now. What if I fail? What if I somehow steer the band wrong? What if I do something wrong -- something government-investigation wrong?

Mostly, my thoughts have been more along the lines of WHAT THE HELL HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?! Like so many other things in my life, this is something I'll just have to learn along the way.

That's one great thing about being human. We're so adaptable.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Opposites? They ought to be!

The English language can be rather odd, which I think is what makes it fun. For example, the following look like they ought to be antonyms, but they're actually synonyms:
  • ravel = unravel
  • flammable = inflammable: The source of "flammable" is well-documented. "Nonflammable" exists only because people started using "flammable."
  • press = depress: As in buttons or keys on a keyboard. Occasionally I get authors trying to sneak "depress" in when "press" will work just fine. Some people just can't stand one-syllable words.

Can you think of any more?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Indy Irish Fest

Went ti the Indy Irish Fest with some friends this morning/afternoon. When I got there, I made the bad choice of thinking that Military Park (the festival's venue) was shady enough the I didn't need sunblock. My red forehead hurts!

Other then that, I had a great time. They had four stages going, so we got to hear a lot of great Celtic and Irish music.

I heard, for the first time, a band called Siochain ("SHE-uh kahn," at least that's how they pronounced it -- yes, it sounds like a character from Star Trek) that blew my mind. I had thought the idea of "Celtic Rock" sounded a little too far-fetched and forced to be really interesting. But they rocked!!! They had the drums and bass as a foundation, a guitarist who "doubled" on bagpipes, I woman on keyboard and bodhran, and the main man Nathan Klatt on fiddle. I saw them on two stages, and both sets were wonderful. I especially liked their surprising rendition of Amazing Grace.

The best part is that this is a band from Indianapolis, so if I keep my eye out, I can catch them live at the Claddagh Irsh Pub or somesuch. I liked them so much that I bought their CD.

This festival was so much better than this summer's Jazz Fest -- and I love jazz. The jazz fest had only two stages. PREPAID admission was over $20, it was probably $30 at the door. "Food tickets" were either $1.25 or $1.50 -- and a beer cost 6 tickets. That's right, a single beer for the cost of an entire six-pack. It was just too expensive for what you got.

On the other hand, admission to the Irish Fest was CANNED GOODS! That's right, bring in some cans of corn and you get in essentially free. Food tickets were only a dollar, and a beer -- on draught, not from a can -- was either 4 or 5 dollars. (The real Irish beers -- Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks -- cost an extra dollar.)

The food at these kinds of festivals is always great. They don't have carnival food. Local restaurants -- and in the case Irish ones like the Claddagh and O'Malley's Steakhouse, as well as others -- peddle their yummy wares.

Summer in Indianapolis is a wonderful thing.

Now I have to go apply lotion to my stinging forehead.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Palate Cleansing

I just had to get a new note posted so that that depressing note from 9/12 wouldn't be the first thing people saw here.

I don't have much to say, though. The IWS has its first concert of the season on Sept. 23. On Monday I put the finishing touches on our possibly only snail mailing of the year -- a postcard with our schedule and a bit more info on it. Now we just have to get them stamped, addressed, and sent. Not any easy task for a mailing list of, oh, 500 people. We'll probably have a postcard-assembling party this weekend, if there's time for everyone.

On Sunday I'm going with some friends to the Indianapolis Irish Festival. I'll probably get drunk on Guinness and whisky. (More on Sunday evening.) It's nice to have some weekend plans for once.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Day After 9/11/06

I suppose September 11 was pretty blog-intensive, especially with it being a multiple-of-five anniversary. I managed to make it through the day without thinking about it much, except when I saw that the flag outside my building was flying at half-staff.

Is it wrong for me just to not think about something painful? I have enough pain ni my past that I could think about it all night long and never leave the house, even without 9/11.

I've often wanted to ask my few friends whether they knew personally anyone who had been murdered (I knew two) or if they new personally any murderers (I know one), but I don't know what I would do with the answers. I just wonder about how unevenly pain is spread around to people.

Since I was born, I haven't been able to go more than five years without someone close to me dying. The saddest part is that over half of these people died before they reached 40.

Maybe I'm bad luck to know?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Presidential Nominee

It's official. At least unofficially so.

I've just sent an e-mail to the rest of the IWS board that I'd like to be considered for the position as president. Of the IWS board, not the United States. Hope I'm not getting in over my head.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Simple Insanity

An "author" for one of the books I'm copy editing has been turning in, to put it nicely, substandard text from the beginning. It started as just bad writing, but then quickly turned ridiculous. A few weeks ago, he went from ridiculous to ludicrous. Now, in addition to the grammatical problems, clarity problems, agreement problems, and word choice problems, he's showing signs of extremely illogical thinking and total lack of organization.

He's gone from ludicrous to online Japanese translator.

Of course, if any of my authors read this, they'll each "know" that I must be talking about someone else.

But all this leads back to a question I ask myself about twice a week: If someone can get paid as an "author" to write and submit drivel like this, then why haven't I written and published a book yet?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Useless Information the Hard Way

There are a lot of phrases that, as a copy editor, an English-speaker, a reader, and a human being, just grate on my nerves. I'll likely list a few of them in a later post, but today, I'm being weighed down by just one.
There are a number of X that Y.
The mammoth book I'm copy editing now is written by two authors who, to be nice about it, aren't good. If I had a nickel for every time these guys used the above phrase, I could buy myself a nice lunch. And a hooker.

What's wrong with this phrase, you ask? This is possibly the most verbose way to convey a piece of information so small as to be irrelevant. Take this, for example:
There are a number of different types of input devices that can be used.
  1. The subject of the sentence is "there." These expletives need to be avoided as much as possible.
  2. The sentence is in passive tense, which should also be generally avoided.
  3. Two is a number. So if there were only two types of input devices, this sentence would still be true but would be exactly the opposite of the intended meaning.
  4. Of what use is this information?
  5. Most importantly, this tiny bit of information could be conveyed more interestingly, more colorfully, and more accurately and with fewer words, like this:

Data can get into your computer in a lot of ways.

Not all input devices are the same.

There are as many different input devices as there are haircuts.

The best solution is probably to work the existence of a multiplicity of input devices into another sentence with only two or three words. It isn't that hard. [In the end, this was my solution. I deleted the whole sentence and slipped the word "myriad" in before the next nearest occurrence of "input devices."]


Omit needless words!!!

Now reread the first sentence of this post and tell me what a hypocrite I am...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

IWS Starts Its 2006/07 Season . . . Rehearsals

Tonight was the first rehearsal of the new season with the Indiana Wind Symphony. Just from sight-reading the music for the first concert, I'm already excited. We're opening with Fanfare For the Common Man. I can't think of a better way to kick off a new season.

Practically everything else we're doing is new to me. The highlight so far is Warren Barker's New York: 1972, a jazzy pop-type tune that is just fun to play. Apparently Warren Barker died earlier this year. If this piece is any indication of the type of music he writes, I hope we do a lot more of his stuff.

Of course, that being said, we didn't get a chance to read through Vincent Persichetti's Symphony For Band. I'm always wowed by Persichetti's band works, and I don't think I've ever played this one.

Before rehearsal, we had a board meeting. There's a lot going on at the beginning of a season, but especially this one. What with the new redesigned Web site, which includes not only a message board, but also has a PayPal link so that people can make donations through the site. We're also planning to send out an e-newsletter, so we can reach more people more often without spending the cost of a stamp.

But first, we have to put together our first mailing. Or, rather, I have to put together our first mailing -- a 4x6 postcard with, among other things, our concert schedule. Somehow I ended up with the job of designing the thing.

Oh well. I guess I'd do as good a job as anyone else on the board.

We're also, for apparently the first time, setting up committees to handle some of the musical affairs. I'm currently on the fundraising committee. But I'm not a people person, I'm an idea man. I hope we don't end up with a bunch of idea-persons and no people-persons. Sigh.

Also, our board President recently resigned because he's going back to school to get his teaching certification. So we're currently President-less.

I'm seriously thinking about throwing my hat into the ring for this spot. (Nobody else wants it.) Although I'm not sure I'd be doing it for the right reasons...

Must ponder.
Must sleep.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

From the Copy Editor: Only

Being a professional copy editor, I spend way too many of my waking hours trying to make what other people write as clear as I can. Most hurdles that trip up authors involve switching from spoken word to written word. The rules (or guidelines or what have you) for written English are different from the rules for spoken English (another post, another time), but some authors have trouble making the switch.

One of the most common corrections I make is the placement of the word only. Normally, people just place it right before the verb, but that isn't always the right place. Only should appear as close to the word or words it modifies as possible. (Even though only ends in -ly, it isn't always an adverb.) Consider these permutations of "I ate the apple."

Only I ate the apple. "I was the only one to consume this delectable fruit."
I only ate the apple. "Bob juggled with it, and Jane did a magic trick with it, but I just ate it."
I ate only the apple. "Out of this entire smorgasbord, the only thing I ate was the apple."
I ate the only apple. "There was only one apple, and now it's in my belly."
I ate the apple only. "I didn't touch your damn pear!"

Now, "I ate only the apple" and "I ate the apple only" seem mean the same thing, but there is a subtle difference. Say the two sentences out loud and listen to where you put the emphasis. You'll probably hear this:

I ate only the apple.
I ate the apple only.

In the first sentence, the stress in on only -- on the apple's solidarity; in the second sentence, the emphasis is on apple; as opposed to the other fruits. These two sentences could answer two different questions:

Did you eat much? No, I ate only the apple.
Did you try one of the peaches? No, I ate the apple only.

Of course, there are sure to be exceptions the "rule" about putting only next to the word it modifies. If only I could come with a good example of one of them . . .

A Rhetorical Question

My father turned 59 over the weekend.

Why does that make me feel old?

Monday, September 04, 2006

IWS Takes a Ride on the Superhighway

I'm glad to see that the Indiana Wind Symphony Web site now has a discussion forum open and running. This summer, the Web site was completely overhauled by one of our own clarinet-playing computer geeks (and no, it wasn't me). The new site has been launch, and we're now in the clean-up stages. The site looks great.
Hopefully, this new venture will help the IWS become more a part of the central Indiana music scene, which will turn into more butts in more seats at our concerts. We're really quite good, and our concerts are now free. So if you live in the Indianapolis area (especially on the northwest side), you have no excuse.

Book Review: Kurt Vonnegut "Man Without a Country"

For as long as I can remember, I've been a serial monogamist when it comes to authors, and Kurt Vonnegut was one of my first "favorite authors." I discovered him in, I believe, the eighth grade, and over the next five years I read probably 85% of what he had written to that point. (It took me a while to find a copy of Happy Birthday, Wanda June.) Since then, I've bought his new releases in hardcover as soon as they came out.

I recently read his latest, Man Without a Country. This, of course, isn't fiction. KV doesn't write fiction anymore. But this isn't fact, either. It's opinions, personal philosophy, politics, and old age.

Yes, old age. More and more, KV is starting to sound like an old fogey. But, of course, he is an old fogey--he was 82 when he wrote this--and he readily admits it...both his age and his fogey-ness. But, perhaps more than before, his age shows through his words. Although he stealthily avoided the phrase "kids these days" throughout the entire book, that implication hangs over every word.

Of course, to KV, "kids these days" applies not only to rebelling teenagers, but also to the likes of W and his sidekick Dick, to baby boomers, to Vietnam vets, pretty much to everyone.

KV touches on many topics. He gives a brief lesson in good humor, tells us the most important works in American literature ("Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and de Tocqueville's Democracy in America), tells us what war is really all about, and gives a decent discussion of creative writing, complete with blackboard examples (although I, as a copy editor, question some of grammatical viewpoints, to wit: "Do not use semicolons. . . . All they do is show you've been to college.")

Does this sound familiar? Sounds like a blog, doesn't it? Man Without a Country is the closest thing to a blog that this self-proclaimed Luddite will ever write. For anyone who ever wished that Vonnegut would start a blog, he has. It's this book. Fans of blogs will enjoy this book, as will secular humanists, democrats, pacifists, musicians, artists, Tralfamadorians, writers, Luddites, auto dealers, comedians, and senior citizens. Who wouldn't enjoy this book? This list is short, and it starts like this: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh . . .