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Shreevatsa R
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I'd reshared this wonderful interview about editing some 4 months ago (https://plus.google.com/+ShreevatsaR/posts/NYx7yrFNyZb); posting again my highlighted bits from it before I end up highlighting everything.

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1760/the-art-of-editing-no-1-robert-gottlieb

(Everything in italics below this line is quoted from the article. Of course it's all out of context, out of order, and very misleading to read by itself. What I really need is a way to share an article with highlighting.)

He has helped to shape some of the most influential books of the last fifty years, but nonetheless finds it difficult to understand why anyone would be interested in the nitpicky complaints, the fights over punctuation, the informal therapy, and the reading and re-reading of manuscripts that make up his professional life.

* Not about editing
Lessing: There have been two pressures that have eroded excellence in publishing. One is its increasing commercialization, the other is politics. We now have a generation of people whose literary education has consisted not of being soaked in excellence, but of judging novels and stories by their theme or by the color or political stance of their authors. Now it is common to meet editors who will talk about a second-rate book as if it were the best. My guess is that they probably started off with high standards—that is, if they weren’t political—but the commercial pressures slowly brought them low.

a large ego can be generous and enabling, because of its lack of envy.

Lauren Bacall is a perfect example. I knew she could write her own book, and I knew that she would never be satisfied if she had a ghostwriter, but she didn’t know how to do it, so finally we set up a system. She would come into the office every day and write in longhand on yellow pads, and every night little elves would type up what she had written during the day. She kept saying, Is it all right? and I would say, Yes, yes, it’s fine. You write it, I’ll edit it. And it was fine. Of course, it needed standard editorial work, but it was her book, it came right out of her. Betty Bacall is a bright Jewish girl from New York—she wasn’t going to write a bad book.

* Invisible editor
Heller: The day the interview ran, Bob called me and said he didn’t think it was a good idea to talk about editing and the contributions of editors, since the public likes to think everything in the book comes right from the author. That’s true, and so from that time on, I haven’t. [...]
Gottlieb: editor’s relationship to a book should be an invisible one. [...] Nobody should know what I told Joe Heller and how grateful he is, if he is. It’s unkind to the reader and just out of place.

* Invisible even to the author
I never write with Bob in mind; that would be very bad for me.

* Quick response
The first thing writers want—and this sounds so basic, but you’d be surprised how unbasic it is in the publishing world—is a quick response.
[...]
one’s first job is a swift and honest response—tempered, of course, by tact.

* Suggest / stay true to the author

Gottlieb: if the solution came from her it worked wonderfully. But if I offered one myself, it never took. Now another writer might say, It’s no good your telling me this is the wrong word if you don’t give me the right word.

If Bob identifies a snag in a manuscript and neither one of us can immediately come up with a solution, he will always say to me, go figure it out, and then come back. His fixes are never, as often happens with other editors, editorial patches, impositions that don’t match the language or the tone of the writer. The point about Bob Gottlieb is that he never imposes.

Bob is concerned above all with making the meaning and intention of a sentence crystal clear. He can become quite ingenious, almost paranoid, thinking of ways that a reader might possibly misconstrue something.

obviously a writer of her powers and discrimination doesn’t need a lot of help with her prose. I think I served Toni best by encouraging her—helping to free her to be herself.

LE CARRÉ Bob knows how much to tell me and how much to leave to me. I think that is really one of his crucial virtues. There are so many young editors I hear of who are practically trying to write the book for you. Bob is like a good movie director with an actor—he’s just trying to get the best out of you.

GOTTLIEB Your job as an editor is to figure out what the book needs, but the writer has to provide it. You can’t be the one who says, Send him to Hong Kong at this point, let him have a love affair with a cocker spaniel. Rather, you say, This book needs something at this point: it needs opening up, it needs a direction, it needs excitement.

Anyone can take a piece and tart it up, and in so doing layer another sensibility or another vocabulary on top of what’s there, but Bob doesn’t do that. He has a great ability to get inside a piece and instinctively understand the terms and the vocabulary of the writer, and make changes in those terms and that vocabulary.

* Impressions

Bob will tell me how he understands a story, and where he feels slightly disappointed, perhaps; where the satisfactions are not what he expected, or something of that kind—it remains very loose.

What I find most useful are the moments when Bob is disturbed by something in a book. He is a marvelous reader, and surrenders completely to a text, so when he finds something invalid or unpersuasive, or if something leaves him disoriented, I know it is important for me to go back to it.

* Kinds of authors
Le Carré is unbelievably sensitive to editorial suggestion because his ear is so good and because his imagination is so fertile—he’ll take the slightest hint and come back with thirty extraordinary new pages. Deighton, on the other hand—who is totally willing, couldn’t be more eager for suggestions—is one of those writers for whom, once a sentence is down on paper, it takes on a reality that no amount of good will or effort can change. So you can say to him, Len, this is a terrific story but there is a serious problem. He’ll say, What is it? What is it? And you say, Well, on page thirty-seven this character is killed, but on page a hundred and eighteen he appears at a party. Oh my God, Len says, this is terrible, but I’ll fix it, don’t worry. Then you get the manuscript back, and you turn to page thirty-seven, and he’ll have changed it to, He was almost killed.

You can’t have only one way of doing things; on some instinctual level you have to respond not just to the words of the writer but to the temperament of the writer.

* Reworking
Before The Andromeda Strain I didn’t really know the extent to which you could write a draft and not accept it but rather tear it all apart, move things around, rework them, and then put it all back together.

Crichton: he said he would publish it if I would agree to completely rewrite it.

instead of trying to flesh the characters out further and make the novel more conventional, we ought to strip that stuff out completely and make it a documentary, only a fictional one.

Occasionally Bob has said to me, The new book doesn’t work. Forget it. Which I have done.

Crichton: the switch has to turn itself on automatically, and the character has to turn it off. He was absolutely right. That was the first time I understood that when there is something wrong in writing, the chances are that there is either too much of it, too little of it, or that it is in some way backwards.

* Cut material

Sometimes the most useful thing you can tell a writer is, Here’s where the book ends—in these next two and a half pages you’re just clearing your throat. [...]

When I first read Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, to use an extreme example, I recognized that the book had come to an end, and that Chaim had written three hundred more pages. The material that was the motor of the book had worked itself out, and he had gone on to write the sequel. So I called up Chaim’s agent and said, I love the book and would like to talk to him about it, but please explain to him it’s only on the condition that he drop the last three hundred pages that I want to publish it; if he wants to leave it as it is, it’s a different book. Chaim immediately saw the point, so there was no problem.

It was agony for him to cut it. It was painful for me, too, because I loved the material. I could have read twice as much, but I couldn’t print twice as much.

* Details

You have to surrender to a book. If you do, when something in it seems to be going askew, you are wounded. The more you have surrendered to a book, the more jarring its errors appear. I read a manuscript very quickly, the moment I get it. I usually won’t use a pencil the first time through because I’m just reading for impressions. When I reach the end, I’ll call the writer and say, I think it’s very fine (or whatever), but I think there are problems here and here. At that point I don’t know why I think that—I just think it. Then I go back and read the manuscript again, more slowly, and I find and mark the places where I had negative reactions to try to figure out what’s wrong. The second time through I think about solutions—maybe this needs expanding, maybe there’s too much of this so it’s blurring that. Editing requires you to be always open, always responding. It is very important, for example, not to allow yourself to want the writer to write a certain kind of book. Sometimes that’s hard. My favorite of Heller’s books is Something Happened. When we are working on a manuscript, Joe is always telling me (rightly) that I want him to write Something Happened again, and that he could only write it once. Inevitably you will like some of a writer’s books better than others. But when you’re working on a manuscript, that can’t matter. You have to be inside that book and do your best to make it as good as it can be. And if you can’t approach it in that spirit, you shouldn’t be working on it.


enfin a book has to work as a book for someone who just isn’t going to pick up on all these clever things you think you’re doing.

the reviewers say, What this book needed was a good editor. But those are usually the books that have had the most editing.

In my experience of writing, you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and, you have to assume, the ship’s exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.

If you hear criticism from Bob you never think, as you sometimes do with other people, Well, he’s just jealous because he wants to be me. And that helps in terms of hearing things from him that you might not want to hear. It was from Bob that I learned to ask readers, Tell me how you reacted, not what you think ought to be done.

* General info
At a magazine, the writer can always withdraw his piece, but basically the editor is in charge. In book publishing, editors are the servants of the writers, and if we don’t serve writers well, they leave us.

the editors there had been trained that an editor does not improve writing, he makes it correct.

Editing is simply the application of the common sense of any good reader. That’s why, to be an editor, you have to be a reader. It’s the number one qualification. Because you could have all the editorial tools, but if you’re not a responsive reader you won’t sense

I dislike writing: it’s very, very hard, and I just don’t like the activity. Whereas reading is like breathing.

As an editor I have to be tactful, of course (which I wasn’t very good at when I was young). But goodwill has to be natural. You can’t fake it. It just doesn’t work that way.

* Give it up
When I was a young firebrand it never occurred to me that I might be wrong, or that I wasn’t going to have my way, or that it wasn’t my job to impose my views. I could get into twenty-minute shouting matches over semicolons, because every semicolon was a matter of life or death. As you grow older you realize that there are bad lines in King Lear and it has survived.
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A good article on the current state of science, and how hard it is to do it well.
Graphics by Ritchie King If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately. Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in wh…
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This is a great explanation of why the train is always late, the plane is always too full, and why everyone else has more friends.
The following is a draft of an article I have submitted for publication in CHANCE Magazine, a publication of the American Statistical Association. With their encouragement, I am publishing it here to solicit comments from rea...
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In the category of seriously, wtf?, we have a new development in the case of some Orange County cops who raided a medical marijuana dispensary, and in the process were caught on video doing some rather shady things, such as eating the pot brownies. Thanks to this video, the business is suing the cops, and the cops in question are looking at being demoted or sacked.*

But now, the cops in question are moving to have the video suppressed under California wiretapping laws. You see, under California laws, both parties need to consent to any recording for it to be legal. And while the cops knew there was a surveillance system in the business – not only was it posted, but they're legally required to have one – they are claiming that they had a legal expectation of privacy, because they thought they had smashed it.

This has got to be one of the most bizarre legal motions I've seen in a while.* I wonder if they've seriously thought through the consequences of such a decision? "I shot out the cameras, so I had a legal expectation of privacy while robbing the bank!"

* Eating a pot brownie is a serious business, you see; this isn't a minor thing like shooting a black teenager.**

** Oops. Did I say that out loud?

* I really wish I could say "ever."
As you can probably guess, they didn't get all of them. When it's ok for a masked man to steal your TV About a week ago (ars technica, Orange County Register), some of the officers who raided a medical-marijuana shop...
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Absolutely outstanding article! One of their very best!!
When we meet new people, we’re tempted to ask: 'what do you do?' We’re picking up on the idea that our identity is very linked to our daily tasks. But the way the question is answered tends to lock on to the practical externals of our jobs. So a dental hygienist will explain how they k
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Shreevatsa R

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A poem by Akbar

Was reading Braj in Brief by Rupert Snell, a great introduction to Braj Bhasha (seems a beautiful language!) via modern Hindi and the doha-s of the poet वृन्द (1643–1723):  http://hindiurduflagship.org/resources/learning-teaching/braj-in-brief/

In an aside he quotes the following poem by Akbar, in which Akbar (1542–1605) misses the company of his courtiers Pithal, Tansen (1506–1589) and especially Birbal (1528–1586):

पीथल सू मजलिस गई तानसेन सू राग ।
हंसबो ‍रमबो ‍बोलबो ‍गया ‍वीरवर ‍साथ ‍॥
With Pithal went the soirée; with Tansen, music;
Laughing, strolling, talking all went with Birbal’s company.

There is a close analysis of this poem in the PDF (screenshot attached), along with an intruiging remark going against the common understanding that Akbar could not read or write.
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Nice to see someone writing up what came of their exploratory project.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/kent-beck/prune-a-code-editor-that-is-not-a-text-editor/1012061842160013
You want to change the tree structure of a program. You figure out what series of text editing operations, operations that manipulate a 2D grid of characters, are equivalent to the change in the tree you desire. What a waste of time and energy. Programmers waste energy translating tree ...
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It's difficult to think of a greater example of heroism than this: an 82-year-old Syrian archaeologist preferred to be tortured (I presume, though the article doesn't actually say this) for a month and then killed rather than to reveal the whereabouts of artefacts that had been taken from Palmyra and hidden for safekeeping. 
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Great stuff in this month's Schneier newsletter, as always.

(If you find this sort of stuff interesting, the subscription link is at https://lists.schneier.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/crypto-gram — or or course one could subscribe to his blog: https://www.schneier.com/ .)
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The conic sections

Here you can see a plane moving though a cone.  Most of the time the plane intersects the cone in a curve.  These curves are called conic sections.  They have famous names and formulas:

Circles:   x² + y² = r² with r > 0

Ellipses:   ax² + by² = r² with a, b, r > 0

Hyperbolas:   ax² - by² = r² with a, b, r > 0

Parabolas:   y = ax²  with a > 0

I haven't given the most general formula for each kind of curve, but my formulas are enough to describe all possible shapes and sizes of these curves.  For example, if you have an upside-down parabola y = -2x² you can rotate it so it looks like y = 2x².  So, I say they have the same shape, and I don't bother listing both.

However, there are a few other cases that aren't on this list, which are still extremely important!   These are the other shapes you can define using equations of the form

ax² + bxy + cy² = 0

1) You can get two lines that cross.  This equation

x(y - mx) = 0

describes a vertical line together with a line of slope m. 

2) You can get a line:

x² = 0

3) You can get a point:

x² + y² = 0

Ordinary folks wouldn't call these 'curves'.  The last two special cases are especially upsetting!   But the famous mathematician Grothendieck figured out a way to improve algebraic geometry so that these cases are on the same footing as the rest. 

In particular, he made it really precise how

x² = 0

is different, in an important way, from

x = 0

The second one is an ordinary line, given by a linear equation.  The first one is a 'double line', the limit of two lines as they get closer and closer!  Watch the movie and see how we get to this 'double line', and you'll see what I mean.

People in algebraic geometry had already thought about 'double lines' and similar things, but Grothendieck's theory of schemes explained what these things really are.  Whatever it is, a double line is not just set of points in the plane - if we look at the set of points, there's no difference between the double line

x² = 0

and the single line

x = 0

The double line is something else - it's a 'scheme'.

But now it's time for breakfast, so I can't tell you what a 'scheme' actually is.  Instead, I'll just say this.  Grothendieck developed schemes, and more, as part of his attack on a very hard problem in number theory, called the Weil conjectures.  But his attack was a gentle one.  Instead of using brute force to crack this nut, he preferred to slowly 'soften' the problem by inventing new concepts.  Here's what he wrote about this:

The analogy that came to my mind is of immersing the nut in some softening liquid, and why not simply water? From time to time you rub so the liquid penetrates better, and otherwise you let time pass. The shell becomes more flexible through weeks and months—when the time is ripe, hand pressure is enough, the shell opens like a perfectly ripened avocado!

The gif in this post is from +Math Gif:

http://mathgifs.blogspot.sg/2014/09/the-conic-sections.html

#geometry  
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(Resharing this just to annoy +Mohan K.V)
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I don't know what it is between you two, but I'm loving it!
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  • MIT
    2007 - 2010
  • CMI
    2004 - 2007
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