Oh, still peeved

A minor incident from my youth, which should have been taken as a strong sign that I was destined to become a copy editor:

I was 16, and I was taking a composition class at the local community college for college credit. My teacher was a young-ish, brown-haired woman with a pleasant disposition, which is all I can remember about her, save for this one moment.

We had been assigned to write a dramatic retelling of a childhood memory. I wrote a heavy-handed, theatrical essay about the girls-only club I started in fourth or fifth grade and about the club’s tragic demise when I, the self-appointed president, stumbled upon my minions meeting in secret to make a unanimous decision to dethrone me. (I was, after all, a pigtailed tyrant.)

After the papers had been graded, the instructor called me to her desk at the end of the session. “This was excellent,” she said, “you got the highest grade in the class.” I beamed. “But I had to take off a point for a spelling error,” she said, raising her eyebrows and flipping to the offending page. I was astonished and crestfallen. “There,” she said, pointing to a sentence in a concluding paragraph. “You wrote, ‘O, the cruel injustice of mutiny!’ but it should be ‘Oh,’ with an H.” I blinked and nodded and took my paper.

But as soon as I got in the car, I raged audibly. Oh, with an H? Had this plebian never read any ode, any poem, any ancient drama?? Clearly, she didn’t get  it; clearly, she had never read literature. My fury knew no bounds.

The fact that this story is still vivid to me today, some 11 years later, is damning. O, the tyranny of the perfectionist child. O, the lack of grace for the classically uninformed. O, the inability to let the most minute things go.

Personality and profession

Click for source.

I was speaking with two senior editors yesterday about some book proofs we’d all been working on that had gone terribly awry, through no fault of our own. We were debating what to do, when, after proposing a course of action, my boss said, “But does that make me a control freak?”

“Of course it does!” The other said. “You have to be a control freak to be a decent editor.”

This made me start thinking: How much do our jobs have the potential to change our personalities? Our habits, our pet peeves? Or do we pick our jobs because they conform to our preexisting personalities?

For example, I think about my father, who is a computer engineer, and thus has a constant compulsion to innovate, to rewire, to upgrade. Or my uncle, who is the town fire chief and has a corresponding fixation with household safety. Or my mother, who is a teacher and has a deep focus on turning every moment into a “learning opportunity.”

Thinking in that vein, here are the habits and obsessions that being a copy editor has engendered in me:

  • A preternatural sense for finding punctuation errors in text. Sometimes I feel like I can sense them before I even read the paragraph.
  • Compulsive need for correctness in all things, especially factually and grammatically.
  • Googling like a BOSS.
  • Soul-level pain if I leave out a needed hyphen, apostrophe, comma, etc.
  • Need to tell everyone that “is” needs to be capitalized in titles.
  • Compulsion for mental and spatial organization.
  • Being obnoxious about little stuff.
  • Extreme timeliness, meeting deadlines way early.
  • A clean inbox. If I get more than eight unanswered e-mails in my inbox, I start to stress.
  • Excessive list-making. But you already knew that.

What about you? Has your job created any personality quirks in you? Or merely amplified the ones that you already had?

Things I know

Colorful hiragana practice. Source: Pinmarklet

This is a companion list to my recent post, Things I Should Know. These are the few things that I do know and could plausibly teach someone.

This list is simple proof that the bulk of my knowledge is almost entirely useless.

I could teach someone…

  • How to identify most AKC-recognized dog breeds.
  • Hiragana and katakana.
  • How to use apostrophes.
  • How to train a dog seven or eight basic commands.
  • Calligraphy.
  • How to fold a paper crane.
  • Why you should always spay or neuter your pets.
  • Fundamental Japanese verbs.
  • The names of most flowers and ordinary songbirds.
  • How to French braid.
  • Basic HTML and CSS.
  • About Virginia Woolf’s life and work.
  • Rapid alphabetization.
  • How to read and correctly interpret a dog’s body language.
  • The commandments of maintaining naturally curly hair.
  • How to incorporate lists into every part of your life.

As you proved with your earlier helpful and enlightening comments, you’re smart people. What basic things could you teach someone? Do share.

Things I should know

I’ve been thinking about gaps in my education lately. These are some things I should know more about:

  • The war in Afghanistan.
  • Science.
  • Financial markets and the principles of basic investing.
  • Japanese grammar.
  • The human body.
  • China.
  • Church history.
  • Divisions and functions of the branches of the U.S. military.
  • How to make things grow.
  • Russian history.
  • Fertility.
  • Cholesterol.
  • The Federal Reserve.
  • How to fix a spare tire.
  • Insurance policies.
  • How to read music.
  • Global warming.
  • Michele Bachmann.
  • Interest rates.
  • Calculus (and by “know more about” I mean “learn anything about”).
  • Currency exchange rates.
  • How to drive a manual transmission.
  • The Supreme Court.
  • Canadian provinces.
  • Latin and Greek roots.
  • The difference between Central and Latin America.

The reason why I don’t know more about these things is because, I suppose, I don’t find them fundamentally interesting. Even though I feel like I should. Do you know about these things? If so, enlighten me. I want to know.

Monday Snax

All bears. All blood. All the time. We enjoyed a wonderful weekend visit with the Watson-Ormonds!

We had the perfect, fresh, spring weekend with Rose and Kemp. Rose and I spent our time on Saturday walking all around town and talking about Life and Other Issues while the boys brewed. We ate tons of good food together and just generally lazed around, too. It was just ideal and we hated to see them go.

Snax on a bed of eggs benedict, whatever that is:

Nettles to Play March 28 with The Welcome Wagon! Yes, that’s right, kids: my brilliant husband and his band will be opening for The Welcome Wagon on March 28 at The Haven in Charlottesville. If you’re around, do come; it’s going to be an awesome show. (Nettles)

In Which These Are the Hundred Greatest Novels. The folks at This Recording have made their definitive list of the 100 all-time greatest novels. This list contains dozens of books I’ve never even heard of, much less read. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t derive deep satisfaction that they ranked To the Lighthouse as the #8 best novel and Lolita, wow, as the #1 best novel of all time. That’s saying something. (And Ulysses was #12! How Woolf must be laughing in her grave right now.) At the very least, the list has certainly given me lots of great titles to add to my ever-growing reading list.  (This Recording)

Zooming Out: How Writers Create Our Visual Grammar. This analysis by Rob Goodman claims that great authors–he cites examples from Milton and Dickens, and closes with a few lines from Psalm 8–are responsible for the first true “cinematic jump-cuts.” The article is very well-written and fascinating. I like the notion of a “visual grammar,” of the keen and yet oft-unnoticed importance that grammar and syntax possess over our visual understanding of a narrative.  (The Millions)

A Ravishing Knockout of a Book. Novelist Gary Shteyngart talks about his favorite novel, Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, in this 2006 review from NPR. I love Shteyngart AND Turgenev, so I was naturally delighted to find this piece, which I stumbled upon while doing some preliminary research on the novel for book club. If you haven’t read it yet, let Shteyngart convince you that you need to. (NPR, All Things Considered)

Real-Life House from Up. I loved that movie; first animated film to make me sob since Bambi, and this is just great. Well done, people at National Geographic. I wonder where the house came from and who was brave enough to actually take a ride in it? Enjoy, even though this has already been around the Interwebs a few times now. This should brighten anyone’s day. (Vulture via National Geographic)

Best Rare Bird Pictures of 2010. In my experience, birds make somewhat terrible pets, but they are such beautiful creatures to watch. National Geographic has released its awards for the best photographs of rare birds from last year. The whooping crane in the air? Amazing. And the tail feathers of the last bird? Gimme a break! That’s crazy. (National Geographic)

Van Gogh Paintings as Pie Charts. I’m all about your color palette, Vincent. (WXTCHOU)

See You Never Again In My Life. One of the best notes from a runaway I’ve ever read. (Passive-Aggressive Notes)

Newt Gingrich Cheated On His Wives for America. The most hilariously absurd explanation for infidelity, maybe ever. No one takes this man seriously, right? (Daily Intel)

First Lady Michelle Obama. I really, really hope this story is true. Go Michelle! (Got a Girl Crush On)

Where Are All the Daring Women’s Heroines? The Guardian’s book blog attempts to address the discrepancy between a plethora of heroines in children’s fiction and a positive dearth of them by the time one gets to adult literature. (The Guardian Book Blog)

Trend Watch: Houses with Slides. I assume these are the homes of multi-millionaires with young children, but, hey, I kind of want a slide in my house. (Flavorwire)

Blue Eyes Are Not Actually Blue. Well. I learned something new today. I can’t tell if I feel downcast because my irises are just an optical illusion or extra cool. (Broken Secrets)

Monday Snax

With every day that passes, I become more and more excited that January is almost over. I know a lot of dearly beloved people who have January as their birth month, but I’m sorry, guys: It is by far the worst 31 days of the year. I will forgive it once it’s gone. However, the bright side of January is that it has given me ample time to read, drink tea, and–yes, I admit it, world!–watch “Lost” with my husband. He’s doing a pretty good job of convincing me that it’s addictive. We also bought a coffee table yesterday, which was pretty exciting, because I think it means we’re done with buying furniture for our apartment. Mainly because nothing else could possibly fit

Snax in a white bowl of pomegranate arils:

Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl! A Border Collie–who knows 1,000 words–teaches us about language. A quote from the article: “Chaser proved to be a diligent student. Unlike human children, she seems to love her drills and tests and is always asking for more. ‘She still demands four to five hours a day,’ Dr. Pilley said. ‘I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.'” (New York Times)

Space Invaders: Why You Should Never, Ever Use Two Spaces after a Period. Slate Writer Farhard Manjoo, I LOVE YOU. FINALLY. Someone is talking about this! “What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces.” Me too, same as me, I’m the same! Please. If you are a repeat space offender, read this article. Spread the word. (Slate)

Same Books, Three Ways. Cate’s excellent post about how she’s chosen to display her books as she’s moved. Beautiful! (The Charlotte)

Fashion of the Future. Probably the best video I’ve seen all week: Fashion designers from the 1930s predict what clothes we’ll be wearing in 2000. Totally amazing. (The Charlotte)

Life on a Farm. Brief thoughts from Grace as she begins her stint on a New Zealand farm. (Como Say What?)

Figure-Figure. Lovely pairings of photographs and paintings. (Miss Moss)

Look: Napping. I’ve never been one who was actually able to nap; I feel guilty for napping. But these photographs could almost change my mind. Everyone looks so peaceful. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters to Support Palin. “A recent poll shows 62% of Americans say they don’t want to vote for Palin, but just kinda have to see what what would happen.” (The Onion)

Dogs in Ginza Wearing School Uniforms and Glasses. Japan, this is taking your little dog obsession too far; too far, I tell you! (Tokyo Times)

However, Since You Are Twelve… “We appreciate your interest in the Marine Corps. However, since you are twelve, you won’t be eligible to be a Marine for a while.” (Letters of Note)

New Game! Is it Etsy or Anthropologie? Hah. Loves it. And it can be very hard to tell. (Regretsy)

This Is the Brooklyn We Live In, This Is the Brooklyn I Remember. A beautiful post about growing up in New York City and then raising your own kids there. It makes me think about what a different life she and her daughters must lead, compared to those of who weren’t raised in the greatest metropolis. (Sweet Fine Day)

Postscript: Reynolds Price. A thoughtful eulogy for North Carolina writer Reynolds Price, who passed away last week. (The Book Bench)

7 Common Investing Mistakes. A place to start, at least. (Wise Bread)

Light Locations. Such a beautiful photographs of such peaceful, bright space. I want to create rooms like this in a house one day. (Ill Seen, Ill Said)

Bruce. I feel like there’s a great short story in this. (FOUND Magazine)

Love/hate with the blogosphere

I read a lot of blogs. I’m very devoted to my Google Reader. It’s very organized. I have it set up in lots of folders, which are arranged in order of how much I care about the blogs in a particular folder (for example, “Friends” are at the top and “Food blogs” are at the bottom).

I do most of my reading out of a folder I labeled Cool Lady Bloggers. These are the queens of the fashionable Internet. You know who they are: Joanna Goddard, Naomi Davis, Heather Armstrong, James Kicinski, Alice Bradley, Maggie Mason, the women at Design*Sponge, and nearly every cute wedding blog, and so forth. I love them all. I feel like we’re friends because I’ve been reading their blogs for years and looking at pictures of their babies. But today I was musing about the 300+ Cool Lady Bloggers I read and came to a few conclusions. I am going to share them because I have no self-awareness.

Reasons why I often loathe Cool Lady Bloggers:

  • Often pretending their life’s, like, perfect and stuff. We know it ain’t. We know you don’t just “whip up” cupcakes like that for every party. (The great bloggers–like most of the names I mentioned above–are the ones who actually share mishaps and trauma with grace. See Dooce; she’s the pro at this.)
  • NO ONE KNOWS the difference between “stationery” and “stationary.” NO ONE.
  • If you just keep re-posting content that someone else created, that’s not blogging. That’s just image dissemination. I will unsubscribe you so fast…
  • Heavy photo-editing of one’s life. (Just be like me, Lady Bloggers: Take terrible, noisy pictures instead!)
  • They don’t have real jobs. They get to sit on a couch and drink giant mugs of tea and read stacks of novels with their puppies and fresh babies all day. And then they go walk downtown in super-cute dresses and take pictures of themselves. And then they get up the next morning and do it all over again. OK. So maybe that’s not true and that’s just my jealousy talking, but if often appears that way. I know full-well that the mommy bloggers don’t have life that easy.
  • Everyone is usually just talking about the same stuff for one week.
  • Taste is universally shared. If you do not DROOL over letterpress “stationary” and GUSH about Anthropologie’s window displays and GASP over moody photographs of girls draped in rowboats, then you do not belong. You must leave the Blogosphere immediately, never to return; your entrance to the gates shall be barred by a pair of Zooey Deschanel doppelgangers with red lipstick and yellow dresses, fending you off with bouquets of flaming peonies.
  • Senses of humor are hard to find (again, see Dooce ‘n Friends for the considerable exception to this rule).
  • Senses of the English language are even harder to find.
  • Talking constantly about how much you addooooore vintage clothes, especially vintage dresses. Time is up. This is no longer going to make you cool. EVERYONE loves vintage clothes. Even your mom.
  • Product endorsement pieces just make my heart sad. Even though your credibility is bolstered by the fact that you are now legally required to disclose post sponsors, it is overwhelmingly weakened in my eyes that you took the deal in the first place. I know that some of the CLBs are literally supporting their families with their blogs, and so it’s understandable, but it severely compromises the respectability of one’s voice.
  • Their nail polish is never chipped.

Reasons why I la-la-la-love Cool Lady Bloggers:

  • There is a strong sense of familial loyalty amongst them. It’s a tight-knit Internet community and lots of the famous ones (like the Heather, Maggie, and Alice mentioned above) are actually friends in real life. I love that. Because the Interwebs are, like, huge, but you’d never know it if you hung out with these ladies. If you wrong one, you have WRONGED THEM ALL.
  • They give me a lot of good ideas for life improvement–Maggie Mason practically invented the Life List.
  • They give me pretty things to look at when I’m bored.
  • They share about their lives. Because, really, what’s more interesting than looking at pictures of strangers and pretending like you’re friends? (I sometimes wonder what I’d do if I saw Naomi Davis in D.C. I’d probably run up to her and ask for her autograph like a toooootal fangirl.)
  • They are predominantly dog people. I can’t actually think of any of my favorite CLBs who are cat people. This is the main reason why I love them all.

OK, so the “loathe” bullet points all just spring from envy, I know. But I had to get it out there. That’s all I have to say. Happy Friday, CLBs! Learn the difference between “your” and “you’re,” because I promise that there is one!

A distant target

An entirely adequate description of English grammar is still a distant target and at present seemingly an unreachable one, the complications being what they are.

— Robert W. Burchfield, Unlocking the English Language (New York: Hill and Wang, 1991), 22

Happy weekend

It’s finally here, kiddos! I’ll be home with my cute, now freshly bearded husband soon, and then he is going to generously accompany me to the DMV so I can get a new license with my new name and state on it. I’m dreading going, but it will be good to get it done. And swap out that awful picture for a hopefully* less awful one.

To keep AFP Calligraphy more fresh and interesting, I’ve instituted a new category that I’m calling My Letters. In it, I will attempt to ironically chronicle my handwritten correspondence with a handful of beautiful women. Just a way to show potential clients some of the ways I’ve been writing lately, I guess. And to brag on my friends, each of whom has her own completely lovely and independent style. So, if you write me a letter, you have been forewarned. Don’t worry, though: I won’t post your full address anywhere or the contents of your letter, or anything like that. Just a corner of your stationery or a sample of your handwriting. Capiche?

Thanks for the book suggestions, friends! I am still debating my choice, but will let you know what I pick. I started Death Comes for the Archbishop today. I am told by my own notes on the front page that I last read the book in January 2005. I remember thinking it was very dull then, so I was hoping that I would prove my 17-year-old self wrong by falling in love with it. But so far… it is very dull.

“For in him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” This might be my favorite verse in that entire letter. It is so beautiful and mysterious. I could think about it all day long. (Colossians 1:19)

I’ve had a lot of down time at work today. If you can’t tell. I revamped my reading pages up there. Because I could.

* I always think of my editing professor, Bill Cloud, when I use this word. He frequently reminded us that it’s often used improperly (e.g., it does not mean “I hope,” but rather, to do something in a spirit of anticipation; slight difference, but there is one). But then one of the editors at the Denver Post told me that everyone uses it the wrong way now, and so all we can do is accept it. So I have.