An American Editor

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Filed under: A Humor Interlude,A Musical Interlude — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am

Time for a video interlude. Enjoy the following Halloween-related videos — one each from song, cartoon, and humor. Enjoy the trick or treatin’ but go easy on the candy — too much sugar will show up everywhere!

First, a song from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

How can one resist a Dr. Seuss cartoon?

Ms. Swan does it again. Some Halloween comedy —


October 29, 2012

Fact or Fiction? School Textbooks

In past articles, I have worried about the future of the editing profession. I have looked at the state of American education and worried that future editors will be unable to distinguish a noun from a verb. I have looked at the tests submitted by editorial job applicants and worried about what they think is quality editing. I have conversed with younger colleagues about various aspects of the business of editing and worried about their knowledge of and approach to that business. I have reviewed fee expectations of job applicants and worried if I share the same universe.

Then along comes an article in The Economist and I am confronted with what I never quite thought about in regards to education: separating fact from fiction in school textbooks. Usually I would just post a short Article Worth Reading note about this particular article, but I think The Economist article, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, is must-reading for everyone.

I am aware of the textbook controversies here in the United States. Texas fundamentalists want Darwin and Jefferson purged; bigots want the Civil Rights movement’s history turned into a footnote; and the list goes on, including book banning and hiding one’s head in the sand when it comes to sex education. (I am fascinated by America’s puritanical streak when it comes to sex but not to violence. Having a nude scene in a movie — or even an allusion to sex — warrants a R rating, whereas graphically displayed mass murder gets a PG-13 rating. Blood and gore is OK, killing is OK, but not nudity or sex.) And because I am aware of the controversies in America, I just assumed that the same happens around the globe. A bad assumption as it turns out.

America has its faults, but growing up I was exposed to a multiplicity of ideas. Sometimes the exposure was in school, but more often it was a result of my weekly trips to the public library and my reading of newspapers and magazines, each coming from a different perspective. I wasn’t exposed to just one idea on a subject but to many ideas. In the Internet Age, I assumed such exposure was even greater for the young of today, but that clearly is not true.

The Economist article notes, for example, that in Egypt, 80% of the population read or have read only the Koran and school textbooks — not any other book (or so few other books in their lifetimes that it is tantamount to none). What that means is that unless school textbooks give a balanced and factual view of the world and history, students will be unable to separate fact from fiction. Belief in a bible is just that — belief. Bibles are neither fact nor fiction, as their role is (or should be) moral guidance. Yet many countries and many population subsets around the globe want to turn bibles into fact. How much more narrow and limited a perspective of the world and universe can one get than the biblical perspective? The importance of well-written, factually accurate school textbooks increases manyfold when most of a population is not exposed to other thought influencers.

Think about who writes and who edits school textbooks in Egypt. What is their background? How can they question whether something is fact or fiction when their own educational background was limited? What effect does this educational limitation have on university education in Egypt? And how do/can/will Egyptian students compete in what is increasingly a worldwide marketplace for jobs?

The article further discusses the role governments play in the creation of textbooks and how some governments view the role of education as a way of shoring up the present political system, not as a way of expanding knowledge. Whether something is fact or fiction matters not as long as it shores up the current political system.

With that perspective and with the influence that textbooks have on the education of a county’s populace, it becomes worrisome what the future will hold for authors and editors. Will, for example, holocaust denial become fact and the holocaust fiction? Will Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot suddenly become Nobel Peace Prize winners? Will authors write revisionist histories and will editors not know whether statements of “fact” are really queriable statements of “fiction”? Will “the world is flat” become “fact”?

Editors should be the barricade that prevents authorial flights of fiction being imposed on readers as fact. Editors are supposed to be educated well enough to question authorial “facts” that are contrary to the commonly held understanding of what is a fact. But if editors are taught that the world is flat and never exposed to the idea that the world is “round” and that the round view is the dominant view, how will the editor know to question the author? How will a reader know that the author’s statement of flatness is contrary to accepted knowledge? Isn’t this the underlying debate in the United States as regards the replacing of evolution with antievolution theories in school textbooks?

Imagine a world built solely on the bible as its history, a world created in six 24-hour days and that is only 8,000 years old. How would that world differ from the world we live in? Would our ability to separate fact from fiction be so impaired that our lifestyle would be more similar to that of ancient Rome than of modern New York? What types of books would we be reading, or able to read? Or would there even be books as opposed to just bibles?

It has been said that the key to economic and social growth is quality education. What is not discussed is what constitutes “quality education.” It is clear that some people believe that the education of 3,000 years ago is sufficient, whereas others believe that as broad a knowledge experience as possible is what education should be.

After reading “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” I worry that in our current world of outsourcing and offshoring, future generations will suffer a loss of knowledge because those hired to be the barricade between the author and the reader, to query fact and fiction, will be unable to fulfill that function as a result of narrowed education and limited access to those things that broaden knowledge. When someone tells me that “all I need to know is in the bible,” I shudder. Such a view, when translated to the school-education children receive, threatens world progress because it means that children will not have a sufficiently broad knowledge base to question whether something is fact or fiction.

The time has come to discuss just what the role of textbooks in education should be, as well as what constitutes quality education. Our future depends on it.

[The following was added on November 2, 2012.]

The following movie trailer for a documentary, The Revisionaries, about textbooks in America illustrates the problem discussed in the above article:

This video is a more in-depth view about the leader of the Texas movement to the back. Unfortunately, I could not find a version that didn’t have the video uploader’s sarcastic comments included. I suggest ignoring the editorial commentary and just watching the news:

October 26, 2012

A Musical Interlude: Romancing the Wind

Filed under: A Musical Interlude — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes beauty is right in front of us yet we don’t notice. Sometimes the ordinary can be extraordinary. Such is the case with this video of kite flying. Had we been walking by the park at the time, we probably would not have noticed. Kite maestro Ray Bethell flys three kites in a “wind ballet” set to what I consider to be the greatest operatic duet of all time: Delibes’ “The Flower Duet” from his opera Lakme. Bethell’s synchronized control of the three kites is magnificient. Watch carefully to see some outstanding kite flying.

“The Flower Duet” is sung as Lakme and her servant Mallika gather flowers. The version used in Romancing the Wind is very good; Joan Sutherland is a grande dame of opera. But given my choice, I prefer the duet as rendered by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, of which the following is a recording of a live performance:

October 24, 2012

On Language: When Should Two Become One?

I know we’ve already had a couple of discussions regarding hyphenation, especially hyphenating compound phrases, but there is still more to discuss: When should two become one?

If you check Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed), you will find long-standing with no recognition of longstanding. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed) gives you long-standing or longstanding, with the hyphenated version preferred. The New York Times uses longstanding. The style manuals, such as Chicago (16th ed), tell you to closeup prefixes such as post, pre, and anti, even when a double letter occurs.

What no one seems to tell us is when two should become one.

I have come to the conclusion that the test is whether the combined form can be viewed as a single word; that is, we hyphenate the phrase when the phrase can have meaning that is different from that of the single word form or when creating a single word is illogical on its face.

A good example of the test is the phrase small animal practice. First, in the absence of the hyphen we know the phrase can mean either a practice that deals with small animals or a small practice that deals with animals. When we add the hyphen so that it becomes small-animal practice, we know it means a practice that deals with small animals. But it would be illogical to make the phrase smallanimal practice a single word because the single word smallanimal has no meaning in English; each word has to stand on its own and can be combined only with a hyphen to be logical within the constraints of English.

Contrast small animal practice with long-standing practice. In the latter case, long-standing and longstanding are both meaningful and logical. In addition, each can stand on its own as a “word.” This, I think, is the logic behind closing up certain prefixes and suffixes rather than hyphenating them.

Certainly, as can be discerned from the examples above, there can be no confusion when long-standing becomes longstanding, but that is not true of small animal practice, which brings us back to the ultimate rule of making writing smoothly understandable without loss of precision of meaning.

Interestingly, Bryan Garner, in Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), simply states for the entry long-standing “adj. So spelled (with the hyphen).” That’s the complete discussion. No explanation why we must use the hyphen nor recognition of the trend to do away with the hyphen.

I suppose that the argument can fairly be made that long-lived and long-range are hyphenated adjectives so why make an exception of long-standing? Conversely, one could ask why these two phrases cannot also be seen as single words and thus should be joined rather than hyphenated.

I admit I’m torn. I vacillate between long-standing and longstanding, but only consider long-range and long-lived. Invariably I end up with long-standing, but I do want to be able to justify my use of longstanding for those projects when I (or the author) do use the single form. The only sufficient justification I can give is that the meaning and readability are the same in both forms.

Spelling and grammar need to be viewed with the same lens and focus: What matters is readability and clarity of meaning; all else pales in importance. If the test is met, then what does the addition or subtraction of a hyphen matter? In the case of a compound adjective as in small animal practice, there are differences in both meaning and readability between small animal practice, small-animal practice, and smallanimal practice. In the case of longstanding, there is no difference between longstanding and long-standing, but long standing does have different meaning and readability characteristics.

The professional editor needs to make a decision on when two becomes one and be able to support that decision. English changes and we need to change with it, but we also need to understand why the change occurs and be able to justify it by applying the rules of meaning and readability.

October 22, 2012

The Business of Editing: On My Bookshelf

One of the things that editors don’t often discuss is what’s on their editorial bookshelves. If someone asks for a recommendation, say for a grammar book, editors chime in with their favorites, but the overall bookshelf, the tomes they rely on in their daily work, are rarely discussed.

Knowing what’s on an editor’s bookshelf is like having a window into the editor’s “soul.” Okay, perhaps a bit of hyperbole, but only a bit.

I remember hiring a freelance editor years ago and when I received back some edited chapters for a medical project, I was concerned by the spelling errors that remained. I inquired whether the editor used medical spellcheck software as an initial screening tool, and was surprised to learn the editor did not. The editor was an experienced medical editor and had a related medical background before becoming a freelance editor. The editor told me that he/she did not use medical spellcheck software because he/she didn’t trust it and believed his/her background was sufficient and he/she could do much better without it. Alas, the fruits of the editor’s efforts didn’t support that belief.

I know I am limited in what I can require freelance editors I hire to use and own. It is a fine line between freelancer and employee, and it is a line that cannot be crossed without financial penalty. I can recommend but not require. However, I do inquire before hiring.

(Just as having the right resource materials handy is important, so is it important to have the right tools handy. Although I cannot require the freelance editor I hire to own and use EditTools or Editor’s Toolkit Plus, or PerfectIt, or any other piece of software — Microsoft Word being the sole exception — owning and using these tools, and others, would improve the editor’s accuracy, consistency, and efficiency, and increase their effective hourly rate. It seems to me that it is to the freelancer’s own benefit to buy and use these tools.)

Knowing what resources an editor uses other than the Internet gives an insight into the quality of the editing I am likely to receive. It is no guarantee, just an insight. Too many editors, I believe, rely too much on Internet sources, and do so to the exclusion of local resources. I know of editors who do not own a dictionary, for example, because they can use the Internet. I suspect that in another decade or so, online-only resources will be the accepted norm. My problem with it (well, I really have several problems with online-only resources, not least of which is reliability) is that when an editor tells me that they rely on online-only resources, I cannot get a feel for how competent an editor they may be. The Internet is so vast and the quality of the resources so variable, that it doesn’t give me confidence. Consequently, I want to know about local (as opposed to Internet) resources that the editor owns and uses.

It is not that the local resources need to be exhaustive; rather, they should reflect the editor’s sense of professionalism and be geared toward the focus of the editor’s work. For example, if a medical editor tells me that they use only Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, I wonder why they do not also have and use Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, which is the other leading medical dictionary in the United States. And I also wonder about them when they tell me that they are using Stedman’s 26th edition instead of the current 28th edition, or Dorland’s 31st edition when the current edition is 32. (In my library I have the current editions of both dictionaries as well as the past three — or more — editions. Sometimes it is important to check past usage as well as current usage. And sometimes words get dropped from dictionaries.)

Specialty dictionaries are important but are insufficient by themselves. We deal with languages that are ever-changing and no single dictionary or usage guide is always and forever sufficient. So, I also like to know what primary language resource books the editor uses. I find that I often have to go to more than one dictionary to determine whether a word is used correctly (see, e.g., the discussion on ultramontane in which Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th edition did not have the sense that fit the author’s usage but The American Heritage Dictionary 5th edition did).

And as the fact of specialty dictionaries implies, the more general dictionaries, such as The American Heritage Dictionary, often lack field-specific terms, or, more importantly, do not accurately reflect what is the standard in a particular field. So additional supplemental dictionaries are important, such as the APA Dictionary of Psychology. And authors love to use popular phrases, which makes resources like the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying, & Quotation, the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, the Dictionary of Modern Slang, and The Macmillan Dictionary of Contemporary Phrase & Fable, and thesauruses valuable.

What do you do when faced with a word that you cannot locate? Authors love to “create” a word by combining forms. Do you immediately reject the combination? This is not an unusual occurrence in medical writing (which is why I prefer character count to word count for determing the manuscript page count). Resolution of the problem is not always easy, but I have found Brown’s Composition of Scientific Words, The BBI Dictionary of English Word Combinations, and Sheehan’s Word Parts Dictionary to be invaluable. Also useful, albeit for a different purpose, is Bothamley’s Dictionary of Theories. It provides a capsule way to determine if the author’s use of, for example, “paradoxical cold” or “paralanguage” is appropriate.

Which brings us to the base issues of editing — usage and grammar. I like to know what usage sources an editor owns and uses. It is not enough to make a decision about grammar, an editor must be able to defend it and to be able to defend it, an editor must have some sources to consult. Many editors have a single source; some rely solely on the grammar sections found in various style manuals. But usage changes over time and I think a professional editor has to follow those trends and have the local sources to do so. I, for example, use H.L. Mencken’s The American Language (4th ed revised with supplements), Garner’s Modern American Usage (as well as its two predecessor editions), Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, Good’s Whose Grammar Book Is This Anyway?, The Gregg Reference Manual, and Burchfield’s Fowler’s Modern English Usage, as well as several other usage and grammar guides, in addition to the sections on usage and grammar that appear in various editions of The Chicago Manual of Style, The Council of Science Editors’ Scientific Style and Format, and the APA’s Publication Manual.

It is not unusual for me to have several of my resources open on my desk as I compare and contrast the views of each before making a decision. The books I named above are only a small portion of my local resources. As an editor, I believe it is important to also be able to trace the etymology of a word or phrase, so I have numerous etymological books handy.

The point is that a professional editor relies on much more than just a single dictionary and a single style manual. A professional editor has and uses a library of resources because language is constantly changing and because no single source covers it all. I grant that the Internet has made more resources available and accessible, but it is not always easy to determine the reliability and accuracy of online information. Print publications rely on reputations earned over decades. When I hire a freelance editor, I want to know that the editor has and uses resources in which I have faith.

Do you agree? What’s in your professional library?

October 17, 2012

Going Green (Tea, That Is)

When I was young, many decades ago, growing up in America meant wanting to imbibe in the “adult pleasure” of drinking coffee — every adult I knew drank coffee and multiple cups of it.

Coffee’s caffeine never affected me. It amazed my wife and friends that I could drink a pot of espresso coffee at 11 p.m. and be sound asleep by 11:15 p.m. And because I was a commuter for many years, I rarely had my first cup of coffee until I had already been awake for three or four hours. Drinking coffee was very much a habit and habits are the hardest things to break. We get a sense of comfort from our habits.

One day, however, I looked at my coffee mug, which was still three-quarters full, and realized that although I “drank” coffee all day long, I rarely drank more than the equivalent of one cup in the entire day. Usually I would have a sip or two then set the mug aside. When I got around to wanting the next sip, the coffee was cold (and I never liked iced coffee), so I would dump the coffee in the mug and refill the mug with “fresh” hot coffee, and the cycle of sipping-dump-refill would repeat. I realized at that moment that I really didn’t like (or dislike) coffee — it was just habit and a hot liquid to have available, and that I drank it because everyone drank coffee while working.

I wondered if I would like tea any better. I knew that I didn’t like the off-the-shelf black, green, herbal, and flavored teas — the Liptons, Bigelows, and Saladas of the mass market — so I thought I’d go upscale and give a premium green tea a try. Green tea was supposed to be flavorful and provide numerous health benefits.

I admit that my drinking habits are somewhat peculiar in comparison to the habits of most Americans. When I drank coffee it was straight, no chaser — no sugar, no cream, no flavoring. I detested the taste of the flavored coffees. I also wasn’t fond of the off-the-shelf coffees like Maxwell House and Folger’s; I preferred premium coffees like Jamaica Blue Mountain and Kenya AA. So I wasn’t overly surprised to find that I didn’t like off-the-shelf mass market teas either.

After trying a few varieties of premium green tea, I was delighted to find that I enjoyed the straight, no chaser premium green teas. At last I had found a hot drink that was flavorful, which I drank by the cup rather than by the occasional sip, as long as I bought premium green tea in loose-leaf form and brewed it correctly.

Tea making is an art in the sense that you need to find that perfect balance of quantity, brew temperature, and brew time. With coffee, it was easy. Use a machine to which you simply add some coffee and water and click a button. Coffee requires near-boiled water. Green tea, on the other hand, requires water heated to about 175 degrees F (79.5 degrees C), because boiling (or near-boiling) water, which is what most people use, “burns” the tea and changes the flavor.

I read about the importance of using the correct-temperature water and so bought a kettle that lets me heat water to that correct temperature. There are several such kettles available; the one I bought was a Cuisinart. I then experimented and found that using water heated to the correct temperature and finding the right brew time for each variety made a significant difference in flavor.

As I wrote earlier, I also discovered that there is a major difference between off-the-shelf grocery-store teas and premium teas. Premium doesn’t necessarily mean high priced but it does mean higher quality. I did some exploring and tried several different purveyors of premium loose-leaf green teas. I currently buy from Harney & Sons, which is local to me, being about an hour away, and The Republic of Tea. Because each supplier seems to have its own sources, I still sample teas from other sellers, but these two, primarily Harney & Sons, are my main suppliers.

I discovered something else about loose-leaf green tea, aside from all the health benefits that keep popping up in newspaper and magazine articles (e.g., helps prevent cancer, helps lose/control weight): I discovered that because each variety has its own distinct flavor, I like to have several varieties on the counter and each day I brew and drink a different variety. Currently, I have seven varieties on the counter and so each day of the week has its own flavor.

I know that cost is a consideration, so when I initially buy a variety, I buy the sample size. The samples allow me to brew several pots (I brew pots of tea rather than cups) and discover whether I like the variety enough to want to buy it in a larger quantity. Yet the loose-leaf tea is also economical in the sense that from less I get more. Although your taste is likely different from mine, I have found that I can make two four-cup pots of tea using just two teaspoons of tea; that is, I get the equivalent of eight cups of tea from just two teaspoons of the loose-leaf tea.

My wife and I each have our own personal carafe, which we use as our brewing pots and which keep the tea hot for hours. Separate carafes enable us to enjoy tea while we work. For me, there is nothing better than a cup or two of green tea to soothe my frustration with another poorly written manuscript.

If you haven’t tried a quality green tea, you should. If you are a coffee drinker, you might find a new flavor sensation. As I discovered, it doesn’t take long to look forward to a flavorful pot of hot tea. As for coffee, it remains unmissed.

If you are a tea drinker, what tea(s) do you drink? Where do you buy your tea? I am always on the lookout for new sources and the Internet makes exploring the world of tea easy.

October 15, 2012

The Business of Editing: Removable Drives & Windows 8

When I first began my career as a professional editor three decades ago, I bought a computer that was “off-the-shelf.” It was a Gateway (remember the cows?). Gateway let me “customize” the computer by giving me a few options in each of several categories, but, like buying a car, some options were available only if you also bought another option — even if you didn’t want that other option.

Over those early years I bought several computers — it was my practice to buy a new computer every 12 to 18 months — because technology was rapidly changing and I increasingly was selling my services as an online editor rather than a hard copy editor. In fact, after the first couple of years, I refused to accept editing projects that weren’t done online. At that time, doing so separated me from most of my colleagues who were resistant to giving up hard copy editing.

Every computer I bought was a problem in the sense that I wasn’t getting what I wanted. They all worked fine in a general sense, but they didn’t contain the components I wanted in the configurations I wanted. This problem of the computer manufacturer knowing better than me what I wanted and needed was even worse with Apple, which not only limited my options with the hardware, but did the same with the software, and wanted to charge me more for the “privilege.”

After my first three computer purchases, I decided I’d had enough. I either would have to learn to build a computer myself or I would have to find someone to do it for me. I chose the latter path because I wanted someone to take responsibility and action when things went wrong. That began my buying only custom-built computers, a practice I continue today (the sole exception being my very rarely used laptop, which I would have had custom built had I had more time before I needed it).

Having your computer custom built is more expensive than buying a preconfigured computer, but not by much. Buying the closest preconfigured computer to what I currently use would have saved me about $275 but it would not have come close to what I got by custom building. For example, two things that always drove me nuts were the noise and internal heat the computer generated from fans and hard drives and other components. By custom building the computer, I was able to choose a high-end case that virtually muffles all computer-related noise and give it oversize silent fans to reduce internal heat. Now I don’t hear even a whisper of noise and internal-heat-related problems have been virtually eliminated.

But the most important feature of my computers are the hot-swappable hard drives (hot-swappable means I can remove a drive and insert a different drive within seconds and without rebooting my computer — just like changing one music CD for another). I have mentioned these before but I cannot emphasize enough how important these are to me. I rely on my computers for my livelihood. If my computers are down or data is lost, I’m in trouble — I do not earn any money when my computers are not working correctly (which is one of the reasons I also avoid free antivirus/antimalware software). Having removable hard drives helps prevent downtime and lost data (I also take other precautions).

I should note that my computers are built with three hard drives. One is the operating system and programs drive (C:), one is my standard work drive (D:), and the third is my miscellaneous drive (E:). The E drive gets most of the swapping these days because it is the drive that I use to image my other two drives and thus use as a portable backup.

The removable drives will be particularly useful to me with the arrival of Windows 8, which will soon be upon us. I want to upgrade to it, but I am not sure how much I will like it. It is a wholly different experience from previous versions of Windows, and from what I am reading, may not be suitable for the way I work. Yet it offers me something that I want: cross-device compatibility.

I have been a holdout as regards going from the telephone-only cell phone to a smart phone. I’m still using a cell phone from 8 years ago. But I plan to make the smart phone upgrade with Windows 8. I want a Windows 8 cell phone with a Windows 8 computer. My hope is that the experiences will be so similar that I won’t have to master multiple methods of doing things. That remains to be seen, but that is my hope and plan.

Which brings me back to my computer. Windows 7 has been by far the best Windows operating system. It works well, never crashes as a system, only occasionally does MS Word crash (but the recovery is quick and excellent in terms of saved data), and has been easy to use. I am somewhat reluctant to give up what clearly is working well. This is where the removable hard drives come to the rescue.

My plan is to duplicate my C: drive on another hard drive, stick it in the slot, and upgrade that drive to Windows 8. That will give me both a Windows 7 drive and a Windows 8 drive. I will be able to “play” with and familiarize myself with Windows 8 without losing any valuable work time. When I’m ready to play with Windows 8, I’ll simply pop out the Windows 7 drive, pop in the Windows 8 drive, and play. When I need to get back to work, I’ll repeat the process in reverse. Each swap will take me a few seconds. Even if I will need to reboot the computer because I am swapping out the operating system, the total procedure time will take me less than 2 minutes.

Should I decide that I do not like Windows 8 for my work operating system, it will be no problem. I just will stop swapping the hard drives — no need to uninstall, reinstall, and reconfigure operating systems and other programs.

I know that many people do not want the hassle of trying to figure out what components they want in a computer, do not want to pay 10¢ more than necessary for a computer, and prefer the comfort of having limited options and buying from a reputable company. Yet designing your own computer isn’t difficult and there usually is a local computer shop that will build and warrant the computer. (My local shop warrants the computers for three years — parts and labor — and so makes sure that he installs only high-quality components.)

If nothing else, having removable hard drives should be enough incentive to having your computer custom built. What do you do now when you travel to protect your business from disaster? With my removable drives I do several things. First, I image my C: and D: drives onto other hard drives. I then store one set of hard drives in a safe deposit box and a second set with my neighbor. If disaster should strike while I’m gone, I can be back in business, everything in proper working order with no program or data loss, as quickly as I can get a new computer shell built — a couple of days at most. More importantly, in case of theft, the thief gets nothing but a computer shell — no data at all.

Removable hard drives give me the best of the computing world for my business’ future. Custom building my computers ensures that they serve my needs for computing power. Custom building also ensures that I have high-quality components that are less likely to fail and disrupt my business (and thus my income flow). Removable hard drives let me try new programs without disrupting what already works.

Buying a limited-option, preconfigured computer means conforming my work style to what someone else thinks it should be, not to what is best and most efficient for me. I prefer to make my own business decisions.

October 12, 2012

Articles Worth Reading: The Economist on the 2012 Election

Filed under: Articles Worth Reading,Politics — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: ,

I am a long-time subscriber to The Economist. I consider it by far the best news magazine available to American readers. It provides a wholly different perspective and tends to be more balanced in its views. The Economist is usually conservative on fiscal matters but more centrist leaning left on social matters, but it strives very hard to make those leanings only appear in its editorial, as opposed to its news, pages.

Consequently, the October 4, 2012 issue was quite interesting as regards its perspective of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I think the articles gave a balanced view of each candidate’s positions, both the positive and the negative. Consequently, I recommend to all American voters The Economist‘s analysis, which can be found under the head “US Election” on the table of contents page linked below. It is a series of 13 articles, which is why I am not providing links to each of the articles. You can read those that are of interest to you.

Here is the link to the issues’ table of contents:

The Economist‘s View of the U.S. Presidential Election

Article Worth Reading: Back to the Future of Writing

In past articles, I have wondered what the future will hold for the editorial quality of books as newer generations of college graduates takeover editorial functions. In several past articles, I have lamented about what appears to be a lack of skill in some of the younger in-house editors with whom some editors work.

Recently, this problem — in the more general sense of students who can’t write an expository essay — was discussed in The Atlantic. The magazine article, written by Peg Tyre, explores one failing high school’s (New Dorp on Staten Island, NY) response to this problem. The article, “The Writing Revolution” (October 2012 issue of The Atlantic) is almost a must read for anyone who wonders whether there is hope for future literacy. To quote but one paragraph of the article:

Her [Deirdre DeAngelis, the school’s principal] decision in 2008 to focus on how teachers supported writing inside each classroom was not popular. “Most teachers,” said Nell Scharff, an instructional expert DeAngelis hired, “entered into the process with a strongly negative attitude.” They were doing their job, they told her hotly. New Dorp students were simply not smart enough to write at the high-school level. You just had to listen to the way the students talked, one teacher pointed out—they rarely communicated in full sentences, much less expressed complex thoughts. “It was my view that these kids didn’t want to engage their brains,” Fran Simmons, who teaches freshman English, told me. “They were lazy.”

This is an article that is definitely worth reading.

The Writing Revolution by Peg Tyre

A Humor Interlude: Mitt Romney’s Neighborhood

Filed under: A Humor Interlude — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
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This video of Jimmy Fallon satire of Mitt Romney is amusing, and plays off of Romney’s desire to scuttle funding for public television and radio, which currently accounts for less than 0.001% of the federal budget, not enough to pay for his proposed tax cuts. (I wonder how many gold-plated toilet seats and hammers the defense department buys and what percentage of the budget those items account for.)

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