Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Failure of the Day: The Sights

And so it begins. Chris is upstairs watching Miracle on 34th Street, putting up our fiber optic tree, and decorating the living room. I can’t really hate xmas anymore…I mean, I can, but I’m trying not to. It just makes him so dang happy, it’s hard to completely…Ok, maybe it’s still too soon for any declarations of xmas tolerance from me just yet. Since Thanksgiving now exists solely to get people in the mood for xmas, I’m getting there though.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving; Marcel came down from Seattle and we dazzled him with everything San Jose has to offer. Which is to say, we took him to the Winchester Mystery House. Turns out it is just a fine example of what happens when faith and money trump knowledge and know how. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for anyone here, but it’s just a house built by a looney lady with 20 million and no one to tell her that it’s a pretty bad idea to pretend to be an architect.

I suppose it is a triumph of marketing. Although the séance room and her fetish for the number 13 don’t do much to dissuade the gullible, there really couldn’t be less mystery about that rickety old house. If I had unlimited resources and a headful of superstitious gobbledygook, the house I would design by sketching blueprints as they occurred to me on cocktail napkins would probably come out about the same.

We saw the Johnny Cash movie, and it was good; Joaquin Phoenix did a fine job, but I missed Johnny voice. I finished The Year of Magical Thinking, and I found it over-thought, under-wrought, and entirely dull. We saw the Sandow Birk Divine Comedy exhibit at the SJ Art Museum—the images were great and really frightening, but his “contemporary re-translation” is pretty weird. I’m not sure anybody should be “checking out” the sights of Hell.

Nice holiday.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Failure of the Day: Free Soda and Tampons

After five days and no fewer than ten meetings, I have to say, my new job is going pretty well, I think. I haven’t yet tripped and fallen down in front of anybody, and I haven’t yet blurted out anything inordinately stupid, and that’s pretty much the best I could have dared hope for. It’s only a matter of time before I do both of those things, but for the time being, I’m enjoying all this assumed dignity.

The commute is pleasant enough on the train, although the evening connection from the shuttle to the train is maddening. The shuttle arrives 5:21 but the train leaves at 5:18. Two of the five days this week, though, the train was late, so I caught it, but not without some ungainly running on my part. Apologies to all witnesses of that unfortunate spectacle. It couldn’t be helped; the next train isn’t until 5:52. I suppose it won’t matter once I get my laptop—I can write for that extra half hour on a sticky bench in San Carlos as easily as I can in my lovely green office at home.

The company is excellent on first blush—I enjoy Diet Dr. Pepper, and if you think I am above hoarding tampons, you are sadly, sorely mistaken. My co-workers are all quite nice if a bit ahem snoopy (so hey, y’all, belated welcome to my blog). I am likewise delighted with my first cubicle—I have a window!—and say what you will about Cubeland, it beats the crap out of “open” office spaces.

Today we went to the Great Mall in search of lime green post it notes and returned instead with a lime green bathrobe. Some might call this a mistake. The robe though is obscenely soft, and despite the 70 degree Thanksgiving we’re about to have, it’s bound to get cold eventually. What I mean to say is: Thanks to everyone who sent congratulations and defended my initiative, but I still doubt the causal universe.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Failure of the Day: Human to Human Communications Engineer

I love my work. It’s engaging and satisfying and rewarding. I look forward to continuing to work as an editor/proofreader for the rest of my life.

There’s just one thing: the authors. Oh, dear god, the puffed up, self-important, rude, and almost without exception, vastly unskilled authors. I don’t mean to suggest that these are ignorant men (and let’s face it, except for Tarin, they pretty much are all men). No, they are clearly the go-to guys when you need to learn the various things one can do in Visual Basic or upgrade the operation systems of 1000 computers simultaneously. What they are not good at though, is explaining how to perform those tasks in anything like standard English.

I understand that developers like to read books written by other developers who have all that much-touted “real-world” experience (although I’ve yet to meet anyone with fake-world experience, but again, I nit-pick). I further understand that developers have to focus on learning the machine’s language instead of their human language. What I don’t understand is how or why those guys think that not only is it perfectly acceptable to write books without bothering to so much as brush up on grammar and punctuation, it is perfectly acceptable to turn in manuscripts without even running spell check.

I was recently chastised for “over editing” a ms; I was editing out the author voice, he said. This from a guy who places a semicolon after almost every clause. He includes only random other punctuation marks…a comma here, every once in a great while a period, but colons and semicolons everywhere. I have to do a separate pass on his documents just to make sure I’ve deleted them all. One of the chapters in this book was so poorly written that it had had to be returned to the dev editor for a complete re-write—and that never happens. And he’s worried about author voice?

(Hey buddy? If it weren’t for the editors that you rage at in rude and condescending comments, your book would be published sounding like it was written by a learning-disabled 13 year old. That’s your author voice.)

Recently, a different author wanted to speak with me on the phone to explain how he wanted a set of documents edited. I asked him to just send the stylesheet and any other guidelines to me in an email, which is the standard way of doing business. He told me he’d prefer to do it on the phone because he wasn’t sure he could explain it in an email. Now, maybe it’s just me, but one wonders how a guy who feels himself incapable of clearly expressing himself in writing was contracted and agreed to, y’know…write a book.

Like I say, I love my work. I might just love other people’s work a little less.