KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It Really Is a Small World

I have a new neighbor who is Japanese and doesn't speak much English. She and I met at the bus stop in our neighborhood where our streets intersect and our sons wait for the school bus. I wanted to help her feel welcome in America by being able to say a few simple things in Japanese to her. But I didn't know which Japanese–English dictionary would be most helpful. I asked my copyeditor colleagues on one of the e-mail lists I subscribe to, who live all over the world.

Several were very helpful, pointing me to good dictionaries and other reference works, some of which I purchased. Others provided advice and several phrases I could use.

After a couple of weeks of talking at the bus stop, my new friend Misao and I had tea at my home this morning. It was delightful, thanks to the help that everyone provided. I was able to offer her a choice of "honorable teas," which is the literal translation of the Japanese word for green teas.

She had her Japanese–English dictionary on hand and I had mine, and when we wanted to say things we didn't know the words for, we looked them up. I found out that she and her husband are living here for only about a year because he is a pediatrician doing postdoc research in microbiology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which is 5 minutes from my house, has an excellent medical school and affiliated teaching hospital (where both of my sons were born), and is where my daughter is finishing her master's degree in social work. Mishu and her husband met in Japan because she is a nurse by training and she worked at the hospital where he practiced. She hasn't worked as a nurse in about 12 years, though, choosing to stay home with their four sons.

We chatted about where we had traveled, our philosophies about peace and parenting and learning other languages, about fall leaf colors and snow, about our husbands, and about her son and mine who are preadolescents and already becoming a bit moody.

I will be sad when she returns to Japan sometime next year, but thanks to my helpful colleagues, I have a new friend for now. I'll be going to her house next week for tea.

Happy Halloween!

From my house to yours, happy Halloween! The top four photos are our jack-o'-lanterns, photographed at night. Updated 10:14 p.m.: Photo of my sons added.

Trick-or-treat pumpkin, carved by Neil, almost 12
Carved by Neil (almost 12)

Spider web pumpkin, carved by Jared, 5, with help
Carved by Jared (5), with help

Bats and moon pumpkin, carved by Edward

Carved by my husband, Edward

Cat pumpkin, carved by Katharine

Carved by me

My father-in-law, A., dressed up for a Halloween music gig

My father-in-law, A.,
dressed up for a Halloween music gig

Jared (left) and Neil, both dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean

Jared (left) and Neil,
both dressed as
Captain Jack Sparrow
of the movie
Pirates of the Caribbean

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Confessions of a Slut

I have a secret: I've just ended an affair, and I'm feeling blue.

No, I've not been unfaithful to my husband. I just finished editing a book today, and I miss it. I miss the sensuous caress of its prose, the voluptuous images it conjured in my mind. Its rhythms were by turns soothing and shocking, both reaffirming what I already knew and stunning me with unexpected information.

And this was a manuscript about global warming—not a bodice-ripper—written by a scientist who can write. Yes, I know—most scientists who do research can write, because they have to, but they're following a formula and merely communicating information. Their prose doesn't excite the reader, even if what they've discovered is amazing. I wish they'd learn that it's possible to follow a formula, report research neutrally, and yet mesmerize a reader. It's all in how the words are put together. The author I'm talking about can really write, as in make me beg for more of his luscious words.

I returned the edited manuscript to the publisher at midday and planned to start on other projects. I always plan to do that. But when the writing's that delicious, I can't bring myself to mentally leave it. I am bereft. I must mourn my loss. I may never have the chance to edit this author's work again, though I will dream of it. It all depends on whether he writes another book (he's written several) and, if he does, whether his publisher seeks me out to polish it. I'll be a teenage girl again, sitting by the phone, willing a certain teenage boy to call me.

There'll be a few rebound affairs, with mediocre manuscripts that somehow just don't move me, and I'll tell myself it's for the best when we break up. Then when I'm least expecting it, a new romance will come along, another author who knocks my reading socks off. And a new affair will begin ...

I am a book slut.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's in the Family Genes

Here's an e-mail exchange between My Brother the IT Geektm and one of his colleagues:
From: Frances
To: William [my brother]
Subject: Errol's new laptop connection for internet

Errol asked if he needs a special cable since this is a "small" connector and usually has a larger connection or cable. He's leaving at 1 or so. Sorry for the fire drill, but he needs an answer.

* * *

From: William
To: Frances
Subject: RE: Errol's new laptop connection for internet

By the way, Internet is capitalized. By contrast, intranet is not.

* * *

From: Frances
To: William
Subject: RE: Errol's new laptop connection for internet

Thanks, Professor!

* * *

From: William
To: Frances
Subject: RE: Errol's new laptop connection for internet

I just thought you would want to know that. It could be worse: my sister in NY is a copyeditor.


I was snookered by the best yesterday. He’s short, as con artists go—only 3½ feet tall. He has dimples in each cheek, huge blue eyes you could get lost in, and lovely thick, curly blond hair.

He’s my 5-year-old son, Jared.

Over the last couple of weeks, everyone in my family has suffered to various degrees with a cold that Jared brought home from kindergarten. It’s lasted longer for him and for me than for anyone else in the house—me, because my body doesn’t ever clear phlegm well, and him, because he seems to be my physical clone, except for eye and hair color. So he ended up missing about 5 days of school because he was so congested. I wasn’t worried, because every child’s first year in public school is punctuated by lots of chest colds and stomach bugs.

Yesterday, he’d been back to school a whole week. When I woke him up for school, he was still a bit congested; he had a cough and a stuffy nose. He complained that he didn’t want to go to school because he didn’t feel well. I followed him as he sleepily stumbled out of the bedroom and toward breakfast. I asked him what he wanted to eat. He didn’t want anything, he said, because he felt too sick to eat and to go to school.

He seemed all right to me, so I spent some time snuggling and cajoling him, talking about all the fun things that would likely happen at school that day. His coughing began to increase. I began to get concerned after a few minutes because it didn’t stop. Finally, he coughed so much that he threw up some phlegm. That did it. I told him he’d be staying home because the school nurse wouldn’t want him staying at school when he was spitting up.

I called the school nurse’s office and left a message saying that Jared would miss school because he was ill. He snuggled with me on my bed for a while, and then he wanted to watch some cartoons in the living room. Okay, fine; I know that when I’m sick, I feel like lying around too.

The rest of the day, he didn’t cough much at all, though he still was congested. By the time my husband got home from work in the early evening, I was suspicious about how little time Jared’s upset stomach had lasted. Then I remembered that he has a very strong gag reflex, just like his mother.

“Jared, I think you’re well enough that you can go to school tomorrow. You don’t seem that sick.”

With an adorable abashed smile, the little con artist said, “Mommy, I fake-coughed until I made myself puke so I wouldn’t have to go to school.”

“But I thought you liked school, Jared. You like your teacher and you have friends in class. And you always have a lot of fun.”

“I know. I wanted to stay home with you, Mommy, and watch TV.”

* * *

It’s the middle of the next day now, and the school nurse has yet to call me to pick up a sick Jared from her office. I was conned by a pro yesterday. His face didn’t show even a hint that he was plotting. The kid’s damn good.

Monday, October 23, 2006

An Early Christmas Present

I've gotten used to the hammering, and now I'm seeing some progress in the exterior remodeling of my house.

The construction crew has covered the entire house with new insulation, and I swear it now feels warmer inside this 40-plus-year-old place. They have the north side of the house nearly completely covered with lovely moss green vinyl siding, too. It's so pretty. It feels like a giant Christmas present!

I'll post pix in a few days.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Flag Waver

Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!A while back (here and here), I promised to post a photo of the "Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!" flag that flies in front of my home on a 25-foot-tall flagpole. Here it finally is. My husband and I top the impeachment flag with one that carries the word peace in a multitude of languages.

Our American flag will go back up, above the peace flag, once Bush and Cheney are out of office. We flew it upside down both times those thieves stole into office, but otherwise, it has sat in our closet, waiting for the day our country is free again.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Know Your Anatomy

Well, I've done my editorial good deed for the day, and I'm proud.

I'm proofreading today rather than editing, an unusual situation for me, but hey, I'm getting paid as much as if I were editing. It's fun—a vampire novel. Nothing better to read on a cool, gray autumn day.

In one scene, two characters looking for a specific physician peek into a hospital lecture hall, where they encounter a plastic surgeon speaking about how his colleagues can increase their revenues by performing aesthetic enhancement surgery on women's labia. A sexy blonde climbs onto the gynecological exam table set up for the lecture and lies on her back, legs akimbo, to serve as a live model for the description of the procedure that the lecturer will give. The author wrote:
Every eye in the room was pulled to her vagina.

What's wrong with that sentence (other than that you'd normally never encounter it at all)? Well, can the vagina be seen by just looking between a woman's legs and not using fingers or a speculum to get the labia out of the way? No.

So this is the query that I wrote:
Not vulva? The vagina is the interior canal not immediately visible to the eye. The vulva is the external genitalia.

I mean, if you're gonna talk anatomy, do it right, vampires or not.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

If I Had a Hammer ...

Well, now, this will be interesting!

The new siding for my house has arrived, and the contractor had a break in his schedule on another project. So suddenly this afternoon, there are three guys ripping the old cedar shake shingles and asbestos shingles (yes, you read that right!) off my house. I will now get to find out just how well I can concentrate on work while men hammer on the walls. I've turned off the classical music; the hammering kinda interferes with it.

My house will go from barn red to a light, soft moss green. I wonder what color my face will become as I try to focus.

"Beginning of the End of America"

Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, continues to be one of the few voices in the mainstream media who say that Emperor George Bush has no clothes. Last night, he said that we now face a "government more dangerous to our liberty than is the enemy it claims to protect us from." That is because
We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

See the video here; read the transcript here.

Mr. Olbermann, if Bushco doesn't abduct you and send you to Europe for rendition, please run for president. American needs people like you who speak the truth.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

Woohoo! I've just found out that I've been acknowledged in several medical journal articles because I did substantive editing!

"Preventing Antibiotic Resistance: The Next Step"

"Emergency Cardiology: A Review of Recent Literature"

"The Effect of a Predialysis Calcitriol Administration Protocol on Postdialysis Parathyroid Hormone Levels"

You'll have to scroll down to the acknowledgments to see the line about me.

Authors have acknowledged my contributions in books before, but this is the first time anyone's mentioned me in a medical journal. Happy day!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TV Plus Toddlers Equals Autism or AD/HD?

Cornell University researchers have reported a study which they say indicates that there is a "statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3" (layperson's explanation here). I think their findings are wrong.

I'm a parent of an almost-12-year-old boy with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ([AD/HD] diagnosed when he was 5), the wife of a man with AD/HD (diagnosed when he was 39), and the daughter-in-law of a man with AD/HD (diagnosed when he was 66); obviously, my husband's family carries a gene implicated in AD/HD. I tell you this because some researchers think that AD/HD is another point on the autism spectrum (here, here, here).

In 2004, a report on a study came out saying that it was possible that watching too much TV causes AD/HD; a report on another study came out this year refuting that hypothesis. Though I think that watching too much TV and watching it at an extremely young age are bad things, I have a very hard time believing that TV can cause either neurobehavioral disorder. The researchers in both studies have likely been tripped up by a factor that just happens to coexist with the rise in reported rates of AD/HD and autism, rather than a causative factor.

AD/HD and autism seem to be much more prevalent now than in the past in large part because parents are more aware of them now and more of them are getting their children's problems diagnosed and treated.

Research (for example, here, here, here) has already shown that specific genes can cause a child to be predisposed to developing AD/HD, and here's a story about other genes found to double a child's chance of developing autism. Yes, there are likely environmental causes, but genes seem to play the largest roles in these disorders.

Just wait; eventually a study will show that TV doesn't cause autism.


"I'm 5 now!"

Jared's 5 now

Last month, my son Jared's kindergarten class celebrated his fifth birthday. I love my cutie.

The Darwin Awards

The things I learn on the job ...

Just found out about the Darwin Awards in the course of verifying their existence while copyediting a book on paleontology:

Where Evolution Hits the Pavement

We salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who remove themselves from it. Of necessity, this honor is generally bestowed posthumously.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Helpful Tools for the Self-Employed

A discussion on one of the editing-related e-mail lists I subscribe to began with talk about how much and what kind of lighting freelance editors need while editing onscreen, then turned to other tools. I share this information here for those of you who are self-employed.

In my office, which is my very small kitchen (I suppose some would call it a breakfast nook), I sit under a light fixture that uses three 100-watt lightbulbs. There is also natural light from two windows on the wall behind the computer and from a long, narrow window on the wall perpendicular to the computer on the left side of the room. With all of that light, I rarely experience eye fatigue.

It also helps to have highly technical tools called children to protect your vision. These handy items, of which I have three (but one of them has metamorphosed into an adult and now tools around on her own), cause me to look away from my computer screen quite frequently—and often to blink in amazement at how they operate—which decreases wear and tear on my eyes. They are expensive to maintain, however, and require an investment of approximately 21 years of heavy-duty maintenance. But they do provide reassuring background noise, which can be a comfort to those who don't like the isolation that comes with self-employment. They can be persuaded to act as temporary lap-warmers in cold weather and are good at keeping their owners mentally alert.

Then there are feline tools. I have two of them. Quite useful. They help prevent repetitive-stress injuries, requiring that their owners remove their hands from the keyboard to perform lengthwise stroking of the furry outer covering and scratching under the roughly triangular front-end protuberance. These varied hand motions give overworked wrists a rest.

One colleague recommends also having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), which "forces the editor to get up and move around a whole lot, especially when working on booooorrrrrrring manuscripts."

Indeed. I cannot claim to have that particular tool myself, but I take advantage of it peripherally. My spousal unit, middle-child unit, and father-in-law unit, all of whom are stored in my abode, have AD/HD. Their verbal flights of fancy and tendency to forget my requirement for quiet while I work keep me mentally alert and keep my vocal cords warmed up as I strenuously and repeatedly request a return to quiet. It is because of that tool that I have taken multitasking to supreme levels, allowing me to work while also keeping them on task.

Friday, October 13, 2006

U.S. GIs Act Like "Trigger-Happy Cowboys"

Yet another atrocity in Iraq:

Oxford, England – A coroner ruled Friday that U.S. forces unlawfully killed a British television journalist in the opening days of the Iraq war.

Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would ask the attorney general to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for the death of Terry Lloyd, 50, a veteran reporter for the British television network ITN.

Witnesses testified during the weeklong inquest that Lloyd—who was driving with fellow ITN reporters from Kuwait toward Basra, Iraq—was shot in the back by Iraqi troops who overtook his car, then died after U.S. fire hit a civilian minivan being used as an ambulance and struck him in the head.

"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said. "There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces. There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire." ...

You can read the rest of the Associated Press story here.


Getting Answers from Bush

This ad cheers me up tremendously. Demand answers! Vote for change!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Caution! Congestion Ahead

You'd think, because our kids are so spread out in age (5, almost 12, 23), that my husband and I would by now be immune to the catch-every-germ-in-the-universe ritual that is part of having a kindergartner.

You'd be wrong.

It's currently snot, snot, snot everywhere. Jared brought home a tenacious cold last week and has been hacking away ever since. His older brother, Neil, is now hacking. He reported that when he arrived at school on Tuesday, his coughing a staccato accompaniment to the classroom noise, several of his classmates let him know they were displeased because they knew they would soon catch what he has. But public schools have this thing about students missing too many class days; they'd never allow us to keep our kids home until they were fully recuperated from each illness. (And that's just one of the reasons that I wish I could juggle both full-time self-employment and homeschooling.)

I spent Monday and Tuesday hacking, blowing my nose, and dozing on the living-room couch or bed, too oxygen-deprived because of severely stuffed sinuses to be able to think and thus to work. I'm still blowing my nose every few minutes, but now it's my husband's turn to be miserable, though his head's far less packed than mine was. His sinuses actually drain, unlike mine.

It's just snot pretty around here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Secret Instant Messages

In the wake of the Foley sex scandal, Mark Morford reveals his chat with a "special" GOP friend: "My Secret IMs With 'The Cowboy.' "

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Next Spring, You Can Call Me ...

... Grandma! I'm so excited!

My daughter, Becky, who got married on my birthday in August, just called from her doctor's office to say that she is 8 weeks pregnant. Her due date is May 18, her husband Li's birthday. This baby will show up a couple of years earlier than planned, but hey—the relatives and I will get to take turns passing him or her around while Becky is receiving her master's degree diploma this June.

And yes, the baby will have a 5-year-old uncle and an 11-year-old uncle—my sons Jared and Neil. :-)

daughter Becky son-in-law Li baby pregnant grandmother grandchild
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