What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

acronyms: WTF?




Quote from a present project:

"Again, it is the GPC as used in the BWC and in the CWC that is the safeguard provided by the CBW governance regime against such challenges."

Class, two questions:

1. Can you imagine 338 pages of this?

2. If you know what's going on here, don't you think that the information in the book is probably not going to be news to you?

Personally, I can't keep it straight. At this point, I am no longer trying.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

South America: Where Are You?

A quick look at the map to the right shows that among the habitable continents, South America is the only one to date where I've not had someone blip in. Then again, whether or not North America is habitable these days, at least the biggest chunk of it, is in question. I was doing some work a few weeks back for a professor from the U. of Alberta, and I intimated that a move north of the border could be a positive step. He agreed, but said that perhaps I hadn't figured in January and February. Point well taken.

Since most of my clients -- the scholarly and university ones anyway -- would probably be considered left of center, I'm probably not going to lose any business with the following little anecdote: we have some Obama signs in our yard, one of which I noticed was bent over and sliced through today. Perhaps it's a result of a sudden storm we had here yesterday with high winds, but given that in the last few years we've had a Hanukkah flag burned in our yard and a burning flare left on top of one of our cars, I think that the destruction was likely intentional. Dare I think what would actually happen here if I ever ventured out of the house? As a friend once said, "It is a wise man who every day learns something new to fear." Uh-huh. Since I've been pictured twice on the front page of the local paper in my eight years in Bristol, maybe I'm a public figure after all. Maybe it's just bad luck.


Nothing really much of interest on the work front to report. Reading a book about translating Christianity into the world's languages, working on an index about weapons of mass destruction, and then next up is memoirs from a New Left pioneer of the early 1960s. Speaking of the New Left (or the Old Left) reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from Saul Alinsky, a Chicago organizer in whose wake Obama follows: "Don't worry, boys. We'll weather this storm of approval and come out as hated as ever."

Monday, July 28, 2008

the last word (for now) on indexing

The following paragraph comes from indexing guidelines sent out by one of the university presses that hires me:

"A note about software: The automated indexing feature that your word processor might contain will not create an index; it will create a concordance—a word list with page numbers that will not match the book’s pagination without extra work on your part. Indexing software, designed for professional indexers, costs several hundred dollars and takes a long time to learn. Professional indexers use such software to improve consistency and to automate routine tasks, but the actual content of the index still requires the indexer’s attention, analysis, and choices. In other words, even professional indexing software won’t do much of the work of creating an index."

So there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

another happy customer

Bob, just wanted to take a moment to say that I am truly impressed. You are thorough, speedy, and a pleasure to work with. My personal thanks for all your hard work.

Cheryl

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What about electronic indexes? More inside baseball

The conversation continues:

HE

You construct the most comprehensive index I've seen or paid for and I've paid for more than a few. On an aside, AAA asks me to put together text that is on par with the cheapy-quicky's. I can't do it! Because I don't know how. I mean I do--I can highlight every paragraph and fill in the blanks every time consistently. . . . no way! It's stupid! If someone knew the better way they'd do it. I need to see the construct. So I expect that to ask you to create a more simplistic index within the parameters of Word's features is not reasonable.

ME

There would be a bit of a learning curve, and ultimately I'm not sure it would be worth it. I think it would be more time-consuming than doing it "the old-fashioned way," which is how I still do an index, albeit without the index cards. I've managed to figure out a few tricks that eventually help me alphabetize entries and more importantly subentries as I'm going along, but it's still read and key, read and key. Then sort, then alphabetize for letter-for-letter alphabetization, then edit and edit again. Even with a new-fangled approach, you'd still need to do those last few steps. Maybe there's a program out there that does letter-by-letter alphabetization as opposed to word-by-word, but I'd need to work with it a while before I trusted it.

The thing is, writing an index is context-intensive. It's not just a matter of assigning fields to words; there's a more human element, to the good indexes anyway. And I have authors at publishing houses who request me again and again -- and it's not because I can manipulate software.

The ONLY reasons I can see doing an index within a Word or InDesign or Quark document would be

1. The index would be automatically generated, although I'm not sure there'd be any less keying, because you still have to write the entries and subentries, and
2. If the pagination changed, so would the numbers.

Really, 2 way overrides 1, but why would pagination change after proofreading (which is when indexing should be done, in the old paradigm, anyway), unless the book needed a total redesign at the last minute, and how often does that happen?

Where a more simplistic index within the parameters of Word's features would actually be helpful would be a proper-name-only index, preferably without subentries. Here we are talking about a concordance, but of names. How many proper-name-only indexes have I been asked to compose in the last 10 years? Maybe one. No more than two. And even then, you gotta read the book, because not every mention of every name belongs in there.

Of the three functions I perform, indexing is the one that is most art and least science. Whether it's spell check or grammar check or find and replace or indexing, people are going to continue to try to say that electronic tools will eventually replace my job function. Ain't gonna happen. Just like with your work, the tools might get better, and they might not, but (1) you still gotta know what you're doing and (2) you gotta realize when the tools help and when they don't.

I was talking about this the other day. I think charts and graphs in printed material looked a hell of a lot better 20 years ago than they do know. Why is that? The tools have certainly improved (haven't they?), but there are more people without the requisite skills who think the tools make them better than they are. What we need are the old pros doing the work with whatever tools enable them to do the best work possible -- keeping in mind that just because something can be done with software doesn't mean it must be done with software.

Weren't all these devices supposed to make our lives easier and simpler and increase our leisure time? What am I doing at 12:30 in the morning? Working. And what will I be doing after about 4 hours of sleep? Working some more.

HE

When it comes to indexing you are the master but here are my thoughts:
There should be no keyboarding, except for a tidy-up here and there. In Word go to Insert--References--Index--Mark Entry, highlight any indexable term. . . . Words index supports multiple levels of subentries and cross-referencing.

At the core of any of my methodologies is time (= money). Here's an example. I recently did a tome that had a detailed table of contents--there were 495 entries. The detailed toc was provided to me. It took me 4 hours to go through that text after pagination, handwrite the numbers on a print and then keyboard them into the text. I vowed "no more." The next book with a detailed toc I called the editor, explained that I was throwing away the existing toc. As part of my process I went through the text and assigned headings 1, 2, and 3 appropriately. I did in Quark what could just as easily been done in Word (Insert--References--Table of Contents) and presto-zappo--instant paginated toc without one typo or mistake in level structure. Time elapsed, maybe 5 seconds.

I don't think that you as a professional indexer will be replaced by a computer. Seven arguments for doing the index electronically:
1. Once those markers are in the text, links can be established, so the text multipurposes easily.
2. Repagination is a non- or minor issue.
3. The index can be done in advance of pagination during the copyediting phase.
4. The indexer never has to worry about double-checking the pagination accuracy.
5. If the document is to be repurposed to .html, there really is no pagination, just links.
6. If the document has index markers the webmaster can link to specific parts of a text, i.e., someone googles "ant farm--construction" Google finds it and takes the searcher to the top of an 80,000 word book on ants, then the searcher has to find the segment on ant farms and construction. With a tag or code in the text the searcher (if the webmaster has done their job properly) will be taken to the part of the book they were looking for.
7. WIth markers in the text it saves hours, if not days, for .pdf and .html links to be established by comp. These files are going to ebooks. The links have to be there. No one is going to want to scroll to page 68 from the index. They want to click the index or toc entry and go automatically.

Tables and charts, I keep it real close to APA, that is to say, clean, perfectly measured and proportioned but not a lot of decoration like one might find in a magazine. I get compliments--I'm good at measuring. I haven't seen too many bad charts, where are you seeing these at? I agree, owning Quickbooks pro does not make one an accountant, and there is still room for the old hands if they adapt to the technology. I think there is a small renaissance movement that is gleaning the pros from people who own software. The software is only a tool for a profession, like a saw to a carpenter.

Lesiure time. When I was an account exec at BBB they gave us the Word package, and twice the workload since we had the tools to work more efficiently. It was a customer service nightmare.

ME

I'm on a crazy deadline, but just addressing the first: indexable terms do not always appear with the same wording; thus much more editing on the back end. And most terms in the types of books I work on need editing just to get them down to the point where they are a readable entry. So you absolutely cannot highlight a term and mark it. It Just Can't Be Done. Writing and editing are required on the fly just to get the main entry.

It comes down to this: indexes are written as much as if not moreso than compiled. They are a created work, just like the books they are based on. You are focused on the pagination, which is the least of the indexer's concerns. It's presumed that the pages will be correct. It's the entries and subentries that are important, and they are produced in a creative manner, not found and highlighted.

I've told publishers and authors this for years and will continue to do so: run, do not walk, away from any indexer who in the first 10 minutes of selling their services talks about their software. I've never had a publisher request that I do an index any other way than the way I do it. When they begin requesting something different, I'll have to change my ways. But I don't see it coming.

Tables of contents are a different story. No-brainer; should be done electronically.

PS: If you can show me a copyeditor who can simultaneously copyedit and index and return to you a QUALITY copyedit and a QUALITY index in the typically short time allotted, I owe you a hamburger next time I see you. How many quality copyedits or quality indexes do you see anyway when people are doing it separately? It would be like painting two different pictures simultaneously with each hand. I know you know better, but I think you're underestimating the X factor in these functions.

Coding text for design and layout? Of course. Totally agree it should be done. 100 percent.

more to come: on electronic indexing

The conversation continued, where the principals get down and dirty on electronic indexing. Is indexing science or art? We'll find out more in our next installment.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Inside baseball

I recently had the following exchange with a typesetter/designer with whom I have worked for years. He asked me:

Has the advent of Kindle or .mobi had a significant impact on the way you do your work?
————————
My response:

Zero. But I'm always interested in what you guys have going on.
————————
He writes back, quoting back to me an email I’d sent him a few months ago:

I think this has something do with the way your job has changed:

“Among the presses I work for, Templeton Foundation has me impose Word's style sheets for coding. University of Tennessee: the style sheets are already assigned when I get the files to work on. University of Georgia: they have a very extensive angle-brackets coding system that's probably got about 20-30 different codes, even for individual characters like apostrophes that open words, such as 'em (for "them") = em. Health Communications has me do angle bracket coding, as do Orbis and Chapel Hill Press (although I'm trying to get their typesetters to try the style sheets). Westminster John Knox and Baylor Univ. Press have me write in the codes on the manuscript, and someone back on their end or the typesetter follows them or keys them in when the changes are made.

“When I get a manuscript that's been designed in Word (as most often happens with XXX), I'll immediately strip out all the crap, turn it all into body text, and then add the codes while editing. As far as I know, the only press of mine that might actually send designed Word files to the printer (and they look every bit as horrid as you might imagine) is YYY. I think they've got some old guy there (named Mr. ZZZ, actually), who refuses to change his ways and they can't get rid of him. Occasionally, I think the director of the press actually does some design himself just to get around Mr. ZZZ's quirks.”

I'm trying to bring people like Mr. ZZZ (no pun) into an understanding of what is going on, although it really is nothing new--consider it a renaissance if you like (cite "CMOS Vol. 14, p. 63, 2.56"). Maybe those who went before us will stop turning in their graves.
————————
My response:

There's no doubt that my job has changed over the years. You asked me if Kindle or .mobi has had any significant impact on the way I work. I gave you the answer as best as I knew how. Not one of my clients has ever mentioned Kindle or .mobi to me, so the presumptive answer, which I stand by, is "zero." I had never heard of .mobi until your email.

What the presses do with my work when it gets back to them is not my concern, as long as they keep using me and whatever I'm doing makes them happy. They could be putting this stuff out on stone tablets for all I care, as long as it served their market and kept them, and thus me, in business.
————————
He comes back with:

The purpose of the coding that you are involved in is to accommodate cross-format technology. That has driven the change you mentioned. .html, .mobi and .azw have impacted your and other's work including mine and--coming soon to an editor near you--coding TOC's and indexes prior to pagination to accommodate linkages cross-format will be a norm.
————————
And my last two cents:

1. I feel like the lumberjack who is cutting down a tree. It doesn't matter to me if that tree ultimately becomes a pencil or a fine piece of furniture. But if the person paying me to wield the chainsaw wants me to cut the tree in a different way, I'm happy to do so.

2. Coding indexes prior to pagination -- ehh, not so much. Maybe for a concordance, but not for a true index. It would take a long time for me to switch over from reading laid-out pages to working within coded documents to compose a true index. Indexing is way more than just identifying strings of words and attaching codes to them. I hope that everyone remembers that.
————————
Now, class, why did I post this? Discuss among yourselves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

scanning

My memory being what it is, I'm not sure if I'm exactly right about this, but I don't think I initially had a computer for writing or editing at my first writing/editing job. I know we each had computers for internal office email (this was 1984), but it seems like it was a big deal when one of the writers on staff actually got his own computer for composing textbooks.

One of the first pieces I was asked to edit was a student guide for a life insurance law textbook (and you think the stuff I read now is tedious). The person who had the technology was the department secretary/AA. You'd give her the manuscript (handwritten?) and she would key it in using an OCR (optical character recognition) ball on an IBM Selectric. OCR = the kinds of numbers you see at the bottoms of checks. That output would get scanned by a data processing (later information services) department, and thus would the file be saved.

And OCR wasn't too bad back then. If there were errors going in, there would be errors coming out. Often not too many errors resulting from the scanning itself.

I've received recently a little (66-page) book from one of my publishers, thinking it was going to be an easy job.

Wrong.

The job appears to have been scanned in from what is probably an existing out-of-print book. The easiest ways to tell are missing punctuation, certain letter pairs always being wrong; probably the most common is seeing modem for modern. You can see how a scanner would get that wrong.

But from a proofreader's perspective, so much can go bad with scanned-in copy. While it seems like an easy way to produce a book (I really don't know how fast page proofs scan), to me the task is fraught with peril. Do publishers increase the size of the originals so that the scanner has better input with which to work? I don't know whether they do or not. Is my job as a proofreader to catch mistakes? Of course, but . . .

. . . but what I end up with, especially with documentation (footnotes and bibliography), is ultimately a copyediting task, because the print was usually so small on the pages to begin with. And as I've mentioned before, being paid for proofreading but essentially delivering copyediting gets my goat.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

variety

Working recently on books covering mortgages in East Africa, the writings of a Russian ballet critic and director in the early twentieth century, and Korean military prostitutes. You'd think some of this stuff would rub off on me and I'd be a bit smarter than I am, but if I were smarter, I wouldn't be reading this stuff as much as I do. And I'd spend more time listening to John Fahey (see Brushes with Fame).

Friday, July 11, 2008

what did i tell ya?

This just in from a client:

"There are problems with the art throughout (as you could plainly see). XXXX is having India redo and the book will have to be reproofed."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

five women, one screen, great work

I don't know what the problem is with some graphic designers these days. It's not the ones I know personally, but the ones whose efforts I must endure when working for publishers when it comes time to proofread simple pie charts, bar charts, flow charts, etc.

I'm not going to go through my whole work history, which actually wouldn't take very long, but my second full-time job was proofreading at a small typesetting shop in Atlanta, 1983-84. Mostly they did things like brochures, newspaper/Yellow Pages ads, that kind of stuff. Also, ironically, they produced curriculum for John Knox Press, at the time located in Atlanta; now in Louisville and one of my biggest clients. (I'm not even sure I had a name there. One time I came back from my daily lunch at the Waffle House a block away, walked in the door, and the owner's wife said, "Oh, it's the proofreader." This was in a business that employed ten people.)

Five typesetters worked there -- all women. One was a bit younger than the rest; she was the niece of the woman whose name was on the business, but who no longer owned it, and if I'm not mistaken the typesetter was either the sister or the first cousin of one of the leaders of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The other four were semi-matronly sorts who would sit there and crank out things like tables and charts with lines and columns and text boxes that aligned just like they were supposed to. Here's the thing: except for the youngest one (who presumably had the perk of being related to the business's founder), they did it without what in those days were known as "preview screens."

Think of it, dear readers. Think of posting to your blog or writing your emails, or creating spreadsheets . . . but you only have your keyboard. No screen. Nothing to look at to verify what you are doing. And no fancy-dancy software to do all the cipherin' for you. These women would figure out the specs (widths of columns, sizes of type, leading), jot 'em down on a piece of note paper, key in all their variables (not to mention the text itself -- no one was sending in Word files in those days either), and hope for the best. And 90 percent of the time, their best was pretty damn good, requiring only minor tweaking after my proofreading to get it right.

These days, with all the software and tools and hard stuff done by some high-dollar programmer out in Silicon Valley, typesetters are lucky if they can center a five-letter word in a two-inch-by-two-inch box. Or, God forbid, center text next to a piece of art. What is up with that?

I guess there are still some people out there who know what they are doing, or who care enough to get it right. The occasional time I have to look at an annual report, the charts look pretty clean. But the textbook and workbook stuff I've been seeing in this millennium looks like crap.

At the other typesetting shops I worked at in Atlanta through the '80s and '90s, the typesetters were craftspeople and perfectionists. They would spend hours fussing with this kind of material getting it just right before it would come to me, and part of the reason they would do so was frankly because I'd rip 'em a new one until it looked just right. And while they sometimes would get exasperated with me, they appreciated my efforts, and I did theirs. They really cared about quality. And we'd bitch at each other and get along great. Hell, at two in the morning you'd better get along great.

I hate to beat a dead horse (maybe that's what this blog should be called), but I wonder if some of the problem is overseas typesetters who aren't getting paid to make it right; they're getting paid (barely) to get it on the page, one way or the other, and quickly.

An unrelated note: A great client of mine develops corporate histories. He told me last week of the time they received an entire manuscript embedded in an Excel document. And this was some executive who was writing it; Excel was the only progam he knew how to operate. Now, I'm sorry. Couldn't some poor sap have opened up a Word document for him and said, "There you go"? And oh, by the way, hit Ctrl S every once in a while, just as you would in Excel. (That's "Save" for you Mac jockeys.)

I speak in front of some author groups whose authors began writing just after Gutenberg finished his gig. I tell them that a computer is nothing but a typewriter with memory. Excel? For a 50,000-word story? How do some people make it through the day?

negative impressions

I'm proofreading a rather interesting (and well-written, well-edited, highly detailed and researched) textbook about how to design surveys. In my world, this is light reading.

When people are asked to make a self-assessment on a 10-point scale, the responses will be better if the scale is from 0 to 10 rather than from -5 to +5; that is, the former type of assessment in one case drew a 34 percent response rate of people ranking themselves 0 to 5, while the same question scaled to different numbers drew only an 18 percent response rate of people ranking themselves -5 to 0, even though what is being reported is exactly the same. People just don't like viewing themselves with that "negative" attached.

Where the book is not so good, and I've noticed this a lot lately, is in the graphs and figures. I am coming to the conclusion that the typesetting of graphs and figures was infinitely better back in the '80s, a topic I will explore more in a subsequent post.

---

Regular reader(s) will notice some changes here. I've moved (at blog goddess Moi's suggestion) and expanded the Brushes with Fame section. So if you've read it before, please take the opportunity to look again. The details bring out the stories a little. Not that they've got much to do with work . . .

I'm also trying to spread the word about the blog a little, and I'm already starting to see some results. If nothing else, I might get a new pen pal or two, even if just for a day. And you never know where some seeds might fall. What's the gardening phrase? The first year it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps?

And I've added the map. In the first day, two lost souls from India and Australia clicked in. If you're still around, let me know what you think and what brought you here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

talking with publishers

Seems that everyone wanted to catch up today after the holiday weekend.

1. I told one of my best clients a provisional no, thanks, to an index, just because I have too many of them scheduled back to back at a certain point in the future, and of the three tasks I undertake, the one I cannot do repeatedly (like four or five in a row) is indexing. I need a break from that, moreso than proofing and editing.

2. Another very nice publisher of mine contacted me because the author whose book she was publishing was questioning the serial comma (sigh) and was totally confused by the Chicago treatment of numbers. Well, no surprise there, because the Chicago treatment of numbers is totally confusing if you don't (1) work with it every day or (2) have someone like me to explain its confusion in easy-to-understand and impossible-to-remember terms.

3. Professional services firm from a few posts back continues to be confused on copyediting/proofreading. They emailed and said they could shuttle me some chapters to proofread, and then the designer could work on the layout and design from those corrected chapters. No, I explained, first the layout and design, then the proofing. After encountering the aural brick wall, I asked if I could just be put in touch with the person who is actually composing the book. Meanwhile, more time is wasted on the front end and, oh yeah, their deadline seems to have moved closer on the back end.

4. Again, if you're following the story, the publisher I mentioned a few posts back who is helping put out the out-of-date business book asked for my opinion on the tome, which I gleefully shared, and with which he 100 percent agreed. Now there's a cause for fireworks.

Next on the desk is an actual very up-to-date business book. What a nice change.

But also today, amid incessant phone calls and emails, was indexing the chatty book on how the wealthy should give their money away now. Interesting thing has developed over the years. From repeatedly indexing books on very difficult subject matter, I find that indexing books that are more anecdotal or down-homey, for want of a better term, is a harder task. Easy book, tough index. One of my publishing cohorts said that one of my greatest talents was to write indexes for books that have very little true content and make them seem substantive. Whether that's a good thing, I don't know.

Long day, tired eyes, boring post. Well, maybe they all are.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

revolutionary billing thought for my clients

OK. Follow me here. (And I apologize to my readers for the number of recent posts. William Burroughs referred to it as "unleashing the word horde." And I'm up late, as opposed to early, and don't feel yet like sleeping or working more.)

I proofread and copyedit, though rarely on the same job because of a not-unwise policy of most publishers to break out these duties to two separate people. Many reasons for doing so, some of which are obviated by my general pattern of memory loss.

I just finished proofreading the aforementioned book about the theoretical Q source for three of the New Testament Gospels. Far as I'm concerned, the copyeditor did a crappy job. Now admittedly, it was a tough book, and s/he did a good job on the tough parts, but missed far more than per should have on the nontechnical sections. (For use of "per" as gender-neutral pronoun, see an earlier post to this blog.)

Some publishers require the proofreader to mark every change on the page proofs as either an EA (editorial alteration) or a PE (printer's error). The publisher generally must pay for EAs, depending on the agreement between the publisher and the typesetter/designer. Sometimes, the cost can be as much as a dollar an EA. This is done to discourage many changes at the page proof stage, which is a good idea. (Frankly, a dollar per EA is a ridiculously high charge in my opinion, but I guess it does the trick.)

So, let's say that in this 173-page book, there were 150 EAs -- that is, stuff that the copyeditor missed that I caught. That's $150 added to the cost of the typesetting bill. Perhaps the publisher builds in some EAs to their budget, I don't know.

What if the copyeditor wasn't paid until the proofing was done, and the cost of EAs was deducted from the copyeditor's fee?

This would no doubt cause a workers' revolt in the freelance copyediting industry. And it would hurt me too, because as a copyeditor, I'm sure I make my share of mistakes of omission and commission -- hopefully, though, not as many per page as this copyeditor did. Yet it would certainly improve the work of copyeditors across the board.

Part of what got me thinking about this was my resentment at having to clean up the lack of work that some of this manuscript reflected. As I've talked about before, I feel that I'm doing copyediting at (lower) proofreading rates.

Anyway, just a thought: holding people accountable for the quality of their work. I guess that a good publisher or managing editor lets copyeditors (or any freelancers) know when their work isn't up to snuff, and less repeat business is always an option. I've always said that, given a choice, I'd rather have quick payment and repeat business than my name listed in the acknowledgments.

PS: I worked on a book for a self-publishing author recently, and I just received a copy in the mail the other day. The copyright page reads: "Copyediting: Bob land, Land on Demand," with the first letter of my last name in lowercase. Gee, thanks a lot.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

getting your ducats in a row

Something for everybody, I suppose. I read an AP article earlier today saying that even the Optimists' Club was having a hard time being optimistic on July 4, 2008. The idea of Happy Birthday, America! wasn't ringing real true with a lot of people. The article quoted a 16-year-old talking about the good old days. Wow.

So what comes across my desk? A book telling the very wealthy how they should be getting rid of their money charitably. I guess this is a good thing. There's some term out there I'm sure that comes close to "cognitive dissonance" that would explain how I sit here and process this stuff.

But it's a good balance, I suppose. So many of the books I read are really rather depressing -- the ones that deal with social justice work, which try to get folks off their duffs to do something about this world -- and here comes a book that takes a stab at telling the really rich to dispose of all their money before they die so it can do some damn good and not make spoiled brats out of their descendants. Yes, that's what the book said. More power to the author.

I get to read the book again as I need to index it as well, although (budding editorial freelancers, take note) when indexing I don't read every word of a book as I would for proofreading, where I read every single character on every page. Here's a hint for you indexing wannabes out there: if the sentence ends in a question mark, it's unlikely there's gonna be something indexable there. So you know I love paragraphs that are just strings of rhetorical questions.

Well, back to the first century AD. Gonna try to finish that off tonight.

Have there been a lot of fireworks around your houses, dear readers? All of the last three nights have sounded like July 4 in this neighborhood. When my son got back from walking the dogs, I told him it sounded like Afghanistan out there.

Thirty years ago, when I was 18 years old (oops, should I have said that?), I was working as a cabana boy at a beach club in NYC. Did you ever see Karate Kid? They filmed that at the club I worked at the fall after I worked there, and I guess Ralph Macchio sorta had the same job I did. I don't know, because I never saw the movie. You'd think I probably should. Come to think of it, I probably pulled some 14- and 16-hour days at that job too. Among the differences: it was the only time in my life I ever had a tan; I don't tan real well. I just sorta burn and it washes off in the shower. I was working six days a week instead of seven like now. I also had plenty of tax-free cash in my pocket from tips at the end of the week. And, oh yeah, I also didn't have a care in the freaking world -- well, except maybe for thinking that no female on this planet would ever want to say a word to me, or more precisely, that I would never develop the personality to ever even say "hello" to a girl. (Hell, this beats therapy.)

Now I've got an eighteen-year-old of my own. Where's he? Europe. Geez. Then again, he's pretty damn near fluent in French. (At eighteen I was pretty good at finding my way around the NYC subways and pawing through the great used bookstores that used to be in downtown Manhattan.) So I guess he sorta deserves it, even if it is his fifth or fourth time over there.

I know a guy whose mother, addressing the fact that her son was about to enter graduate school and was not yet working a regular gig, said, "When I was 17, I was working for a Jew in a gift shop."

Damn, how did I get here? Is anybody still reading this mess?

let's do the time warp again

I just finished indexing a 500-something-page book, the publisher, author, etc., of which are not important . . . or maybe they are but I'm showing a little discretion. While it's my intent to be honest here about what I do and the troubles I sometimes run into, it's not my desire to embarrass anyone or make any potential clients wary of using me. That's why I am no longer posting what I work on, in case anyone's noticed -- because I want to be able to talk about this work openly without giving the impression that I think some book or publisher or author is just circling the drain. And I don't want someone to do the detective work and say, "Oh, he's been reading X, and here it is two weeks later and he's bitching about X."

But, damn.

This book for which I completed the index is a business book that seems to have been written in the late '80s, maybe updated slightly in the '90s, and a few bones were thrown at it in the current millennium. And it's being put out for publication now.

Please remember, dear readers, that much of what I work on deals with events of about 2000 years ago. I'm presently (yes, I'm taking a break at one in the morning to post to the blog) proofreading a book about the presumed Q source for the NT Gospels, so we can say that the circumstances haven't changed much lately. While the intellectual climate of course has done its flips and flops and a few new discoveries have hit the bricks -- little wonders like the Dead Sea Scrolls -- well, we're basically dealing with a given set of events.

Business? You don't think there's a reason, especially these days, to put out an up-to-date book about certain aspects of business and the economy? (I'm being very careful not to mention the particular focus.) The book barely touches the Internet, doesn't discuss gas or energy at all, and states that the U.S. might run the occasional trade deficit, and what the effects of that are. Might? Hell, they were discussing the trade deficit when I was working at the Fed in the late '80s.

So, I'm not sure where this book is going. I daresay that 90 percent of its references are from the 1970s and 1980s. Maybe some things don't change, but a whole lot do. And in the present circumstances, where it seems that unless you got 9 figures in federal reserve notes stuck in your mattress you're living on one of the seven levels of hell, reading a business book that acts as if the last 20 years -- much last the last 20 weeks -- never happened is a shocker indeed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

computer troubles, other ughs

I am fortunate in that my ISP is up the street, and not in Bangalore, as I 've mentioned earlier, but today I spent too many damn hours trying to achieve a reasonable internet connection at the house. A 2 a.m. run to Swill-Mart for a new router, which I may not have needed, 7 calls to tech support in the last 24 hours, and it's still acting bad. They will have someone out here tomorrow, though, so that's OK. But it's still the kind of case where you talk to seven different people, all of whom have a different take . . . and half the time it's like going to the mechanic. The noise your car has been making for weeks goes away when you finally get it to the garage.

But still. We've had three or four computers fry in the last six months (if you have a computer that is more than three years old, do a backup now if you aren't already, because that seems to be the shelf life of a hard drive these days). The local tech geek has less personality than about anyone I've ever met who opens up a shop door every day; I had to drop $160 for a new old version of Word 2003 today. Sometimes, things ain't perfect in this universe. My clients seem to be going through a rash of new systems, new accounts payable people, jobs are dropping off my schedule, and I've actually turned a few down lately. I've been waiting 20 years for my life to settle down, and I've finally determined the exact date it's going to happen: whatever date it is that people are throwing dirt on top of the casket. If I'm lucky.

Hell, even my local mechanic, who is mainly responsible for keeping two of our cars running, got jacked out of his job lately. The garage owner couldn't afford him and the other mechanic any more, so he ditches the two of them (both intelligent, thoughtful guys) for lower-paid help. Now do you think service will improve? Will the garage owner realize that hiring people who will work for less will not necessarily in the long run cause repeat business? Who down there is ignant anyway?

As a friend says, I could go on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

english, sort of

I received today the following email:

Dear sir or madam,
We, is member of DragonFord Corp is a professional pharmaceutical, chemical, intermediate, raw material, veterinay,agrochem,ceramics foam filters,adhesive tape.
At a customer’s oriented, cooperative, positive and effective ways, we have enough confidence to cooperate with our partners in a pleasant way.
If you are interested in this, please contact us at any time. Let's have a good start.
Waiting for your comments, thanks a lot in advance!
Yours faithfully Mr. Bob

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What I am interested in is making their English passable to the people with whom they are trying to correspond. I informed them that I accept PayPal.