In defence of proofreading

I am a proofreader.

I would be even if it wasn’t on my business card. (It is.)

I wake up a proofreader. I go to sleep a proofreader. It’s possible my dreams are pedantic.

I adore abstract art, and messy hair, and long-form improvised jazz, and unplanned weekends. But the methodical neural sequences are always running — as subtle, pervasive and persistent as those that maintain subconscious respiration and the miraculous auto-focus of my blessedly functional human eyes. I don’t switch this part of me on and off as I approach and depart the office each day.

As a proofreader, that’s the way things work, and it’s the way I work (even when I’m not at work). Just as an artist sees the world through creative eyes even in the non-painting, non-sculpting, non-drawing moments. Just as the curiosity that drives a scientist, deep-sea explorer or astronomer isn’t silenced the moment they step away from the microscope, periscope or telescope.

{image via PowerScore}

People are afraid of the red pen.

They fear seeing their writing covered in proofreading glyphs, and they resent the person who made it so.

Some editors use green or purple ink because red is ‘too aggressive’.

But red is also the colour of love, and of passion.

I do not proofread in anger. I proofread with passion. When I scrawl all over the page, I am sharing the writer’s devotion to the words they have coaxed forth. It is with love that I — as gently as possible — nurture and nudge those words just a little bit more, hoping to make them as perfect as we both desire them to be.

So writers? Don’t hate the red pen. Your proofreader actually loves your writing.

Proofreaders, don’t be ashamed to be called a persnickety, pedantic perfectionist. Wear that badge with pride (especially if you couldn’t take it off if you wanted to).

And everyone: go to as many Sydney Writers’ Festival events as you can between now and Sunday (26 May 2013). Let your brain be caressed and your thoughts provoked.

Exploded pie! …charts.

It brings me unspeakably irrational joy that “3D exploded pie” is actually a legitimate method of presenting data. No really. It’s a thing.

A chart with one or more sectors separated from the rest of the disk is known as an exploded pie chart. This effect is used to either highlight a sector, or to highlight smaller segments of the chart with small proportions.

Wikipedia (of course)

For example, this is an exploded pie chart OF pies:

Exploding pie chart of pies

{via Peltier Tech}

The thing is that regular pie charts are (potentially) amusing enough…

{via cheezburger}

…even if doughnut charts are better.

{via The Functional Art}

But an EXPLODED pie chart! The New York Times knows what I’m talking about (no really, in response to an article about the death of pie charts, someone worked out how to make an actual pie actually explode, and then actually did it).

Of course this also means there’s such a thing as exploded doughnuts. Er, exploded doughnut charts. (I know, more boring. Sorry.)


If doughnut chart > pie chart… and exploded pie chart > regular pie chart… then by reason, exploded doughnut chart > regular doughnut chart… and the hierarchy of baked-good–based data presentations is:

1) exploded doughnut chart
2) exploded pie chart
3) doughnut chart (intact)
4) pie chart (intact).

Which is, oddly enough, the exact inverse of my personal preference for actual pies and doughnuts.


PS. I don’t* have the time to delve into the differences between “doughnut” and “donut”, but it’s interesting to note that the latter, while deemed wholly** American by English-speakers outside the US, might only be used one-third of the time in US English. Anyway, the Macquarie Dictionary spells it “doughnut”, as do the all the best doughnut joints I’ve frequented, so that’s good enough for me.

PPS. The difference between the American concept of pie (Apple! Pecan! Pumpkin! Peanut butter! Cherry! Banana cream!) and the Australian concept of pie (meat) is even more perplexing and not worth discussing. Sweet pie (NOT exploded; see the conclusion to the list above) is better and that. Is. That.

*The apostrophe doesn’t mark a missing “u”.

**And “holey”, I suppose.

To boldly split the infinitive*

Yes, Wikipedia uses Star Trek to explain the notion of split infinitives:

A famous split infinitive occurs in the opening sequence of the Star Trek television series: to boldly go where no man has gone before. Here, the adverb “boldly” splits the full infinitive “to go.”

And yes, in ye olden dayes, it was positively UNHEARD OF to split an infinitive (boldly or otherwise). But in these modern times, the ‘rule’ is generally considered ‘more what you’d call a guideline‘ than a fiercely applied rule.

Even the Commonwealth Government Style Manual (my new bible) says that these days, it’s best to do what sounds right, rather than to blindly (and boringly) follow dusty old rules*.

Like the Savage Chickens above, when it comes to splitting infinitives, you’re better off applying grammatical rules with common sense, discernment, and a grain of salt.

And rightly so. “To go where no man has gone before, boldly” is correct, but boring. And “To go boldly…”, while also technically correct, also sounds rather like the application of a font format setting.

*See what I did there?

Quark and Antiquark



Though still operating at low gear dawdling speed, everyone’s favourite particle collider has produced PLENTY <alt=”unexpectedly high numbers“> of mesons*, Thank You Very Much.

THEN> The LHC will run at half power — you know, only 3.5 trillion electron volts [TeV] or so — until 2013.

LATER>> Full speed ahead!

In the mean time, amuse yourself over at xkcd. (As if anyone ever needed an incentive.)

*In case you couldn’t be bothered with the link (but could be bothered with post-scripted footnotes?) a meson = a quark + an antiquark. Yes, I know. I did just link another link. But it was under pressure of absolute necessity, for I certainly do not possess the intellectual faculties to explain said topic myself. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is the font of all knowledge… though admittedly, Uncyclopedia might be more fun:

The Large Hadron Collider, also known as the DESTROYER OF WORLDS, is the largest particle accelerator ever built by humans. It has not destroyed the world yet. [1] When activated, it will accelerate protons to almost the speed of light, before colliding them at precisely 13.5 billion kerjigatrons. It may also dim the lights all over Western Europe, and possibly will cause human hair to stand up on end as far distant as Sweden. Hailed by some as Earth’s own Death Star, the LHC is a milestone in human technology as it is capable of both explaining the universe and blowing it to Hell, unless James Bond reaches the control room just in time to avert it.

“Colliding hadrons is the greatest pleasure one can experience while fully clothed.” ~ Oscar Wilde on the LHC


Large Hadron Collider now actually colliding protons!

The language of deep space

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

Star-maker Machinery

Earth still here?… Yup!

To Hell in  Hadron Collider?

Lunar Perigee: Why The Moon Looks So Huge Right Now

These few days past, I’ve been somewhat astounded by the apparent fullness of Sydney Harbour. Honestly, as though someone set the tap on to fill ‘er up, and accidentally left it on overnight.

See that tiny sliver of beach in the background?

That’s usually, well, a proper beach that slopes down to the water’s edge. Of late, it has looked more like a crumbling pie-crust on the edge of a very swollen, watery pie.

A mere bit o’ sand about to be gobbled up by the advancing ocean.

Anyway, it turns out that I am NOT a lunatic (in this regard). The seemingly unprecedented height of this tide is NOT a figment of my imagination. IT IS, in fact…


Apogee diagram -- Wiki commons

{ via Wikipedia }

Yes, as opposed to Apogee*. For the moon keeps us company on an elliptical, eccentric [as opposed to beige] orbit, and thus every month, she spends some time in very close proximity to Earth (perigee): filling our tides, knocking us off balance, bathing our beds in bright white moonshine… before whirling away again (apogee).

But, tomorrow’s lunar perigee is not just ANY perigee. No indeed. Tomorrow, January 30, is the closest we two shall be all year. So if you have a tendency to moongaze, and find yourself marvelling at the apparent largeness of our satellite — and the fullness of our tides — rest assured that you are not imagining things. Technically, the moon is actually bigger than you remember it.

{ via NASA }

And now, when I awake tomorrow to find the ocean on the very verge of overflowing, and wonder again who left the water running, at least I’ll know who to blame.

*Personally, when I think of Apogee, the first thing that comes to mind is Cosmo…

Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventures, by Apogee Software via Wikipedia }

…and, to a lesser extent, Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen.


Wallflower Words: Saturnine (a./n.)

Wallflower Words is a series of Proof (v.) posts dedicated to beautiful but under-appreciated and seldom-encountered words. Those that are never invited to dance at the parlance party; those that deserve more exposure than is currently afforded by contemporary trends in popular English. This is their turn on the dancefloor.

The Word: Saturnine (a./n.)

Huh? Influenced by Saturn. Contaminated with lead [the effect of lead poisoning may also known as Saturnia] and therefore leaden. Hence the quality of having a heavy, slow, dull, sullen and depressed demeanour.

As in? January Astrology.  Saturn takes 29.5 YEARS to orbit the sun, as opposed to our 365 DAYS. Saturn is the ruling planet of Capricorn (implying that we January babies are goatishly stubborn).

“Astrologically, Saturn is associated with the principles of limitation, restrictions, boundaries, practicality and reality, crystallizing and structures… Saturn is also considered to represent the part of a person concerned with long-term planning… According to the first-century poet Manilius, Saturn is sad, morose, and cold and is the greater malefic… Saturn symbolized processes and things which were dry and extremely cold, and, therefore, inimical to life. It governed the melancholic humor… Saturn being the planet of mortality, and hence, why the Grim Reaper carries a scythe).”


Also: In bodily (sort of) form, Saturnine is The Guardian of the Road of Lost Souls in the Marvel Universe (which exists within THIS universe of course, but which anyone who has had more than a cursory glance can tell you, occupies a practically endless interlinking Wikipedia Universe of its own). Very morose; very Grim Reaper; very apt.

And? Planetary adjectives are all the rage. Happy people are commonly described as jovial, and mad ones as lunatic. The changeable are mercurial; and anything alien is either martian or at the very least, unearthly. So I say that ‘saturnine’, dark and sluggish beast that it is, deserves a better linguistic workout.

See also: Wallflower Words: Liminal (adj.)

–  Lunar Loveliness
The Language of Deep Space

Don’t forget your [insert modern essential here]



… is a brilliant idea. Before Leaving Check List vinyl wall decals by Hu2 Design.

If my mother has taught me anything (okay, she’s taught me a superfluity of things both useful and useless, but that’s beside the point) it’s that one ought never leave home without reciting the timeless mantra “Keys Wallet Phone. Keys Wallet Phone. Keys Wallet Phone.” … and actually checking to make sure you have all those items on your person, of course*.

Why, to avoid THIS awful feeling:

{ Public Poster Project by Egor Bashakov on Behance Network, via FFFFOUND! }

I abhor, loathe, and dread the niggling feeling that you’ve left something behind somewhere.  Even when it’s just a completely unjustified twinge at the back of your mind all day. But especially when it’s true!

*Things gets more complicated with music players and reading glasses of course. Though I have yet to encounter said technicality, because music lives in the eyePhone, thus killing two birds with one apple seed [it's worth your time clicking that last link, for technological comparison with this, for example]. And these young eyes are working perfectly well, thank heavens**.

**Although if they weren’t, I could always test them out on this awesome type-lovers’ Snellen Eye Chart).


Screen vs. Paper ~ Bookworm vs. Social butterfly

{ Evelin Kasikov, via FFFFOUND! }

Now that I have broken free from the manacles of full-time study (and settled into full-time desk work, for the nonce) I am readily able to indulge my desire to read Readables Of My Own Ready Choosing. No more Textbooks Which I Cannot Afford To Purchase and Do Not Wish To Read Anyway. And, hopefully — depending on my willpower — more printed matter, fewer blogs. I want to touch what I read (and not just on the eyePhone* screen).

Exhibit A:

Hyde Park.

Eoin Colfer (who is NOT Douglas Adams, but is trying VERY hard).

2 minutes later, a ladybird landed on me.

Then I had a nap.


Exhibit B:


Dotingly aware of my studious predicament, (LECTURES! THESIS! ASSESSMENTS! EXAMS!) Father saved a 3-month cache of my favourite nerd magazines.

I took delivery last week.


Now, if only I could find the time to sit and read! [Not looking likely]

Maybe the outside world could stop being so remarkably interesting? [No thanks].

Oh, my library for a quantum life! Or alternatively, it may be time to start reading as a social activity. A bookworm with wings? Sounds nice.

* Secret tweeter‘s tip: Never tweet about “iPhone” lest you suffer an instant inundation of DMing, @-replying macspambots. Choose an appropriate pseudonym, and tweet away.

Large Hadron Collider now actually colliding protons!


I can’t explain why, but this news makes me extraordinarily excited, proud, humble, thrilled, wonderstruck, optimistic…  [insert further relevant emotions here].

Our Universe is a miraculous event.
Won’t it be fun to try and find out just what makes it so?

{ image from Boston Big Picture [I strongly recommend you click-thru  for yet another must-see LHC collection]. This particular portrait features a “Compact Muon Solenoid”, a particle detector much like ALICE and ATLAS. I love lyrical jargon and acronyms the meanings of which fly stratospherically — nay, sub-orbitally far above my head. }


The language of deep space

LHC too cool/broken for its own good; helium-based hilarity ensues

Star-maker Machinery

Earth still here?… Yup!

To Hell in  Hadron Collider?