Notes From the Copy Editing Trenches

I am editing a procedural manual. IT IS AWFUL!!! The wordiness! The pointless statements! I know I am not exactly Shakespeare when it comes to the craft of the wordsmith, but compared to the remedial hamsters that wrote this document, I should qualify for a freaking Pulitzer Prize.
WHAT IT SAYS: For a given project or planned submission, it is also desirable to define and map the required documents in advance to facilitate communication and ability to assess the degree to which the document set is complete.
WHAT I WOULD SAY: Make a fucking checklist!
WHAT I ACTUALLY WRITE: For each project and/or submission, define and map the required documents in advance. This facilitates assessing completeness of the document set.

BUT… I hate the word “completeness”

OH GOD WHAT IS THIS SENTENCE?!?!?
Controlled documents are managed along various stages of its lifecycle.

WHO WROTE THIS?!??
Document users should be able to perform the procedure correctly (especially in SOPs) or to understand clearly what was done and what was learned (e.g., a Technical Report).

This has given me the idea. While watching the Oscars the other night, I decided that there should be a prize for best Procedural Manual writer out there. If you write procedural manuals (or, possibly technical manuals), send me the BEST PAGE from it! I will announce the winners as soon as I get enough to warrant picking one out! (i.e., I get more than 3 submissions). Send your manual page to: dotdash at gmail with the subject line MANUAL SUBMISSION. The only rule is you must be the author of the manual. Or, you must submit a manual page on behalf of the author. You can’t just pick up the booklet that came with your iThing or whatever and say “hmm, this is good– I’ll submit it!”; you must know the author!
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March 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

A Cranky Gen-Xer’s Tribute to Paul Kantner.

2016 was a big year for celebrity deaths. It became kind of a competition in some ways. David Bowie’s death hit a lot of people hard, but then the famous people kept dropping, and soon it was like “oh yeah? Prince was whatever. GEORGE MICHAEL really had an impact on my life!” and then the person would have to talk about how everyone is celebrating/mourning/talking about _____, but nobody is mentioning ______ as much as they should blah blah blah.

I’m not about to do that. Everyone’s death in 2016 was tragic (except possibly Phyllis Schlafly’s and Antonin Scalia’s, but that’s another entry). However, I would like to bring your attention to one death in particular that made me think: Paul Kantner.

I grew up a cynical, cranky Gen-Xer raised by hippies. My upbringing was not that unusual; many people of my generation were raised with the idea that everything in the 80s was boring, and that nothing was as good or exciting as it was in the 1960s. Baby Boomers adopted a superior attitude of “you weren’t there, you have NO IDEA how boring it is now!” Note, “the 60s” = 1967-1974.

I loved 80s music and was totally into  punk and New Wave. In 1986, when this video came out (see below), I was heavily into U2, Big Country, Simple Minds, and other bands which my parents deemed “crap.” In their minds, in order to be cool, I had to listen to 60s music. They sat me down and made me listen to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen (RIP), whom I have an appreciation for now, but to the ears of a 13 year old obsessed with British New Wave, it just sounded like dreary noise.

60s music was played as background music in every store in my neck of the woods. New Wave was spectacularly un-cool. In my time-forgotten corner of Upstate NY, all my peers were into Pink Floyd and The Who. The Beatles were omnipresent, but they were so cliché at that point; I had heard every song a million times, and their music had become shorthand for “what follows is supposed to appeal to old people.”

Out of all the 60s music I was forced to listen to, the Jefferson Airplane was the only one I could relate to. I liked “White Rabbit” a lot, and I discovered that when a group of Baby Boomers were together and reminiscing, I could name drop the Jefferson Airplane (after many caveats that no, I did not equate it with Starship, the band’s incarnation at the time), and Boomers would think I was “cool” and that I “get it” and didn’t have to give me the lectures on how everything we did was boring and pointless and how they engaged in Real Activism Back In The Day, unlike whatever crap passes for whatever now.

Which brings me to the song “America” by the KBC Band (a band comprised of Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady from the Jefferson Airplane). This is the first song I had heard that actually celebrated the youth of America that was released in my lifetime. It was optimistic!

Streets of gold
Streets of wonder
Streets of people growing stronger
Revolution and voices of thunder
It’s a New world, new people
New dreams for all of the children
Young country, new love
New dreams of freedom

The part that really resonated with me was this:

don’t be afraid of anything
don’t be afraid of anyone
young men are dreaming and
young girls believing
and asking questions like

where are the frontiers?
how do i get there?

I was inspired. I was uplifted. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it, but it made me resent my parents’ generation slightly less. I thought, hey, if the members of the Jefferson Airplane can maintain optimism about my generation, anyone can! Throughout all my Babyy Boomer dominated childhood, I had internalized that my entire generation was doomed because we were lazy slackers who listened to shitty music. Maybe we don’t suck so much after all! I mean, even Paul Kantner sang:

something’s happening in america
can you feel it? can you feel it comin’?
it’s like the green party in Germany
young people with visions and dreams
in Nicaragua n’ Chile, Poland and South Africa
freedom brewing, it’s an uphill dream

At this point in my life, I was harboring secret desires to be a revolutionary (I wanted to join the IRA), and this song made it seem like maybe I wasn’t the only one. Of course, the closest thing I ever got to revolution was writing a lot of letters to my Congress people and on behalf of Amnesty International, but still. This song had a giant impact on my early adolescent life. My generation (it didn’t really have a name yet; I don’t think Generation X was yet coined as a term for my peers) wasn’t just a cheap imitation of the one before it, we could make our mark for ourselves!

Jefferson Airplane was awesome, but they belonged to my parents’ generation. The KBC Band was something that belonged to my generation. Even though it was made up of Baby Boomer icons, the music was still new, and mine. It wasn’t me discovering something from the old days, that I could bring to my elders and they would condescendingly talk about how great it was and what’s wrong with me that I was just discovering it now? I heard the KBC Band first. My parents would not hear it unless I played it for them, because they were too busy wallowing in the music of the past to ever bother with anything new. I felt that unlike with Starship, the Jefferson Airplane made finally itself into a version for me.

OK, it may be a long shot to attribute the stalling of my rapidly snowballing cynicism of an entire generation to one pop song, but that one pop song forever cemented in my head that Paul Kantner was awesome (along with Balin and Casady). Rest in Peace.

January 10, 2017 at 4:43 pm Leave a comment

The Internet: where is the information?

While trying to figure out my digestive problems, a chain of events led to me having an ultrasound that discovered my uterus is all stuffed full of fibroid tumors. The largest 2 are 8cm and 5cm, but there are some others as well. I was kind of hoping they would give me a print out so I could put it on my refrigerator or use as a Facebook profile picture or something, just to be weird. These fibroids aren’t causing many symptoms, but I can feel weird pressure when I’m lying down. Mostly they just make me have to pee a lot, and may contribute to my long-lasting periods and spotting. It’s not a huge deal, and it’s been going on for years, so the doctor’s recommendation was to just ignore them.

However, because my uterus is filled with fibroids the size of oranges, it’s getting all stretched out and warped into a weird shape. Because of this, I can’t get my tubes tied. Nor can I get an IUD. I already can’t use hormonal birth control because I’m too old and fat (doctors won’t prescribe it).

Most of the people I know who have tried to get knocked up around my age have had major problems and had to resort to IVF and other methods. So… do I even need birth control? Fibroids are supposed to make it more difficult to get knocked up. I’m old. Is pregnancy even an issue? However, every time I ask about percent risk of pregnancy as a 43 year old with fibroids (which can hinder pregnancy), people just give me anecdotal evidence like “my aunt had accidental quintuplets when she was 80” etc. Internet message boards are full of advice like DON’T BE A CARELESS WHORE WHO HAS TO GET AN ABORTION! Doctors don’t ever want to say “no, don’t use birth control” lest you find yourself in a family way and blame them. If I search the internet, I just find sites geared towards 40-somethings who are trying to get pregnant and take on the “it’s not impossible! Keep trying and you’ll get your miracle baby!” tone of voice, which is not helpful since I am concerned with the opposite outcome.

So what are the actual chances of a person with fibroids getting pregnant at age 43? I have never been pregnant before, so that makes my chances a little lower (I vaguely remember reading somewhere that when you are pregnant, your body doesn’t release eggs, so you have more of them later. if you never get pregnant, your body is constantly losing its eggs). Also, the supplier of the sperm is 54, and dudes’ sperm count *does* go down with age. Is there some kind of probability engine I can plug this into? It’s hard to find decent information, because nobody wants to be the one to say SORRY, OLD TIMER. YOU WILL NEVER FULFILL YOUR ULTIMATE PURPOSE AND SPAWN.

Seriously. Do a search. All the sites I’ve found are either the “you can do it! It’s not impossible to have a miracle baby” variety, the “Guess what? women over 40 are still allowed to have sex. Here are your birth control options” the “don’t be a stupid whore who makes bad choices– I know [person] who had [x] kids in her [advanced age range]”  tone. Where is actual information? Does this information exist? People must have studied fertility rates in older women because fertility sites are always talking about them.

So, let’s re-cap:

 

TL;DR: I am old and don’t want to get knocked up, but birth control options and information is limited.

September 28, 2016 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

No, Hillary is NOT “worse than Trump.”

I get it. It’s a rock and a hard place. Trump is the Scylla, and Hillary is the Charybdis. You hate them both. You wanted Bernie Sanders, and now that he’s out, you’re taking your toys and going home. The game is rigged, and your little slingshot is no match for the Goliath that is American Politics.

But the next time I hear the phrase “Hillary is WORSE than Trump,” I’m gonna have to start pulling the tab on my can of whoop-ass. On what planet is *anyone* worse than Trump? I would vote for my cat before I voted for Trump! My cat’s main hobbies include sleeping and barfing up hairballs, 2 things that would probably be more beneficial to this country than a Trump presidency. Never mind that he’s loud, annoying, brash, rude and has bad hair. Let’s focus on things he says.

Let’s break it down:

  1. Trump is pretty racist, and not shy about letting the world know it.
  2. Trump thinks nothing of committing war crimes.
  3. He is not great about being pro-choice, if he is, he considers pandering to pro-lifers more important than defending abortion.
  4. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I mean, Obamacare is not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
  5. He thinks climate change is a hoax, and wants to do away with the EPA.
  6. He wants to also do away with the Department of Education and put more funding into (for-profit) charter schools.
  7. He wants to appoint Supreme Court justices who are “as close to Scalia as [he] can find.”

Hillary is not my favorite candidate ever, but I will give her credit where credit is due. She is pro-choice. She believes in climate change.

Listen, no candidate is perfect. No candidate will *ever* be perfect because he or she has to appeal to a large amount of people which automatically means ::boring::

Voting is not an exercise of personal expression. The point of voting is not to make some kind of statement of sticking it to The Man or whoever. Nobody cares about your write-in candidate. Your write-in vote is just helping whoever wins a tiny bit. Nobody is going to sit down and say “hmm. 90 people wrote in a vote for Mickey Mouse. What is it about Mickey Mouse that appeals to these people?”

BUT DEMOCRATS ARE BULLLLLLLLYING MEEEEEEE! you cry. Those big, bad Democrats are trying to scare me into thinking that the world will end if I don’t vote for lying, cheating, corporate whore Hillary! It’s not myyyyy fault if Trump wins, it’s the fault of the Democratic party for not giving me my customized choice of perfect candidate for office! Why should I listen to those big meanies who are invalidating my awesome opinions?

Because the president of the United States isn’t your personal mascot, that’s why. This isn’t about YOU. Voting is a strategic decision for the benefit or harm of the NATION. The office of the president is going to be there whether you like who is sitting in it or not. The president is the person who represents this country, the one who sits down at the table with the leaders of other countries to decide who is going to get bombed and when. The President is the one who gets to enforce or ignore the mediocre changes outlined in non-binding environmental treaties, and I would at least like someone sitting at the table who believes that climate change exists.

I want a president who really believes that climate change exists. Period. I also want a president who believes in LGBT rights and racial equality. Voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson may make you feel like the special snowflake you truly believe you are because you didn’t “sell out” or whatever, but it won’t do anything to protect the planet or the rights of minorities. Voting for the president isn’t like finding the perfect wallpaper for your iPhone– you only have two choices. Everything else is just noise. “but we need a better candidate! What is this, the Soviet Union?” No shit we need better candidates. The 2-party system is bullshit, but that’s what we’ve had for the entirety of our lifetimes so suck it up and deal. You know the way to make a viable 3rd party? Vote for 3rd parties in local elections. Volunteer for a local 3rd party candidate’s campaign, heck, you could even run for a local election under a 3rd party. You can’t change the system from the top down, you need to nurture and grow the seeds of change, or some metaphorical crap like that.

Hillary is not my idea of the perfect candidate, but I will vote for her. Do it for the current Supreme Court, if nothing else! The Notorious RBG is 83. Anthony Kennedy is 80. Stephen Breyer is 77. Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas are both in their mid-late 60s, which would put them at retirement age for most normal jobs. There is already one vacant seat because @#%@$ Mitch McConnell won’t approve Obama’s pick. So, the next president will *definitely* get to appoint at least one Justice. This person will be a justice for an average of 26.1 years. That is somewhat longer than a generation. If Trump gets elected, and appoints someone “close to Scalia,” here’s a small sampling of what you get:
1. calls to overturn Roe v. Wade, generally anti-abortion
2. Anti- gay rights, gay marriage
3. Pro Citizen’s United

The Supreme Court is important, and will be around long after whoever gets elected president this November is around. Clinton’s possible Supreme Court Justice wish list looks a lot better than Trump’s.

So, you think Hillary is a crook, and Hillary lies or she’s a corporate shill war monger or whatever. Probably nothing I could say would make you change your mind about that, so I’ll leave this article here saying that she *is* for a lot of good stuff.

So even if you don’t like Hillary, you think she’s shrill and corrupt, and a liar (even though many of these allegations are totally blown out of proportion), vote for the Supreme Court Justice who will shape not only your life, but the lives of your descendants.

September 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Things I start writing in Internet forums but never finish/publish

If women got pregnant from washing dishes, and not from having sex (ooh, horrors!), abortion wouldn’t even be a debate. Once you bring sex into the equation, all rational thoughts are off the table because Oooh slutty women are stupid! We have to tell them how to behave! Honestly, abortion/birth control/abstinence/whatever is a personal decision and none of my business. If these hypothetical women who get 100 abortions a month stopped having sex altogether, they’d be frigid bitches in the eyes of society, and therefore less than human. The way to be an “acceptable” woman in this society is such a narrow path, I try to refrain from making judgments. Women spending all the taxpayers’ money on abortions! Oooh how terrible! Women spending all their own money on abortions! Oooh how terrible! Women spending their own money on going to NASCAR rallies and buying Twinkies! Oooh how terrible! Poor women keep having babies they can’t afford! Ooh how terrible! The government spent my hard earned tax dollars on subsidies for billion dollar corporations, yet we get all worked up about the hypothetical pennies spent on women. Oh no! We’re gonna have to pay for bitches’ birth control thanks to the ACA! Thanks, Obama! I don’t want my hard earned money to be set on fire so chix can be sluts! But wait, what’s the best preventative measure of abortion? That would be birth control. (for the record, you can’t use federal money for abortions in most states, though insurance covers Viagra, and nobody seems to have a problem with that.) Also, why should I have to pay for some stupid guy’s testicular cancer treatment? I will never have testicular cancer. Why should my hard earned tax dollars go to some dumb dick’s ‘nads?

In short:
1. how many abortions one gets
2. how “necessary” it is [i.e., was the embryo conceived happily in wedlock, but is medically defective for some reason? Is the woman’s life in danger? Is the prospect of motherhood just inconvenient for whatever reason?]
3. how one pays for said abortion
4. The circumstances of the conception [was the embryo created after a night of drunken debauchery in a barn? Was the woman raped by a stranger in an alley?]

are NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

Abortion is legal in the USA, and none of the above gives anyone more or less right to one.

Theft is illegal in the USA, yet nobody cares about circumstances of theft.
1. how many other people has the thief robbed?
2. is the thief just robbing to feed his or her starving children, or because he or she just likes that Rolex the victim was wearing?
3. what precautions did the victim take to ensure she was not robbed of her watch?

All irrelevant. Theft is still illegal.

On another note: why is there no male birth control widely available except condoms (which guys say they hate)?

Further note: I have proverbially “kept my knees together” (i.e., never been pregnant, never been a drain on taxpayers’ money to feed out of wedlock children) yet I am a selfish evil bitch because I don’t want to ever reproduce. Go figure. You can’t win. Stop judging.

September 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Gettin’ my nails done

I was a life long nail biter. My grandmother tried to bribe, shame, incentivize, enact consequences, and every other way coerce me to stop. I tried. I would stop for small periods of time, enough to collect the reward (or be disqualified from the vague punishment), but then I would relapse. It was a tough habit to break!

However, on February 2001, I decided to stop for good. I had the willpower. I was going to do it. I did! It took several years before I learned how to properly use nail clippers, scissors, and nail files and stuff (I still bit the nails when they got too long, what I considered “for maintenance” and not out of habit), but now I can say I have the knack!

Every year on my anti-nail biting anniversary, I make a tentative plan to get a manicure, but never do. I have always been fascinated by the concept of getting one’s nails done– it seemed to be something all women did, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, regional inhabitation etc. When I worked at Cornell, every woman, from the lowliest trailer dweller to the fanciest professor went to regular nail appointments. I was curious to see what a manicure was like, as manicures seemed to be the Great Social Equalizer. In a small city such as Ithaca, rich and poor alike went to the same nail salons, as there weren’t that many.

This year, I was determined to actually follow through on my manicure plan. I got my friend Athena to come with me, and I found a place not far from home to go. I was a little apprehensive because I had read this article, and didn’t want to support what is essentially slavery in the industry, but the place I picked seemed legit.

The place I went was in a building that used to be a real estate office where I had been contracted to take care of the plants when I was a plant care person years ago, so that was a little odd. It looked totally different now, though–the inside was well-lit and cheery, instead of the dark paneled “professional” look, staffed by disgruntled but immaculately dressed women who clearly hated their jobs of yore.

I sat down at the fingernail painting place, and the friendly Chinese women looked at my hands and said “oh, you have kids?”
“no,” I replied
“You don’t? No kids?” she seemed confused.
“No really. No kids.” Then I looked at my hands and discovered that they were covered in pink and green marker because I had been experimenting with coloring Barbie hair. This is business as usual for me, but I guess in the real world this is a sure sign of reproduction!
“Why no kids?” she asked.
“Too expensive.” I said. She laughed. Then asked
“You have boyfriend?”
“No,” I said, and she laughed again and patted my arm.
“Oh, but you so beautiful!” she said, and then, sadly “no boyfriend.”

Later, she kept saying “Next time you get red!” and held up a bottle of red nail polish and motioned to my fingernails.
“OK.” I said. “Maybe next time.” She laughed.
She brought up the red nail polish a few more times.
“Red is lucky. It’s a good color…” I said.
She laughed and said “Yes! Very lucky!” then she grabbed my shoulder and whispered in my ear “maybe you will be lucky and get boyfriend!” and then laughed.

Uh… I think it will take a little more than red fingernails for me to get lucky!
But hey, you never know. I never paint my nails red; I always paint them blue or green or purple or something. Maybe if I painted my nails red I would have to use those hands to fight off all the men who will be throwing themselves at me! Somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, my first nail experience was an interesting anthropological experiment. I’m not sure I will ever do it again, as it seems kind of a lot of money for what amounts to having your nails painted. I’m not sure I see the appeal. The people I used to work with would go to get their nails done on a regular basis! How often are you “supposed” to do this? I still have no clue. Maybe I should go and get long fake bejeweled fingernails with, like, sunsets airbrushed on them or something. Maybe then I will understand the allure.

2016-02-23 20.11.46

Athena (left) and I with our shiny new colorful finger and toenails!

February 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

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