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The Nitpicker’s Nook: February edition

For keeners, check out the January post.


The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol HarrisonThe Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion

By Carol Harrison

Does the current state of world affairs leave you without words? Thankfully Planet Word, the soon-to-be museum of linguistics in Washington, DC, won’t be. And did you know there is also a National Museum of Mathematics in New York? For me, both celebrate languages.

On January 14, Zhou Youguang died at 111 years old. If you’ve learned to read and write Mandarin using Hanyu Pinyin, you have him to thank.

Pardon me while I geek out. I can’t say enough good things about the movie Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Finally, a science-fiction film that’s about communicating with aliens, not shooting them up! If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen a sample of how the…

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More of What to Do When You’re Waiting for Work

"Hands of Time" by Carol Harrison

“Hands of Time” by Carol Harrison

Two years ago I posted about what to do when you’re waiting for work. Little has changed, but I have come up with a few more tasks that don’t require brushing the bog.

  • Join a professional association: One of my resolutions/goals was to do more professional development in 2017. To that end, I volunteer as the editor-in-chief of BoldFace, the blog for the Toronto chapter of Editors Canada. It keeps me busy, helps me network, and boosts my resume, which is tricky to do when you’re self-employed.
  • Read work-related books: Taking a cue from a colleague, I decided to start reading my newly acquired Garner’s Modern English Usage, which is 1,056 pages. My goal is to read 10 pages a day. I haven’t kept that pace, but I am making meagre progress. Better than none at all.
  • Walk outside every day: Another resolution that I’ve been pretty good at keeping. Even it’s just to the grocery store, which is about 15 minutes away, I kit up for the weather and pull on my reflective vest. It helps my knees, my brain, and my mood. Strava is a useful app for tracking time and distance. Plus, if you share it on Facebook, you get your friends’ encouragement. Everything helps.
  • Take a class: This doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money, if any at all. In fact, the Toronto Public Library offers webinars free for cardholders. You do have a library card, don’t you?
  • Get a library card: The TPL is a fantastic resource! Spend some time on their website. With my card I can sign out books, download ebooks and periodicals, stream movies from Criterion and Hoopla, access webinars, read archived material at the reference library, learn about and use digital printers. What are you waiting for?

The Nitpicker’s Nook: December’s linguistic links roundup

My latest post on “BoldFace.”


The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol HarrisonBy Carol Harrison

’Tis the season for giving or gifting?:The Atlantic’s Megan Garber argues against gifting.

Hey, girl! The analytics website FiveThirtyEight crunches the numbers about why so many girls are in book titles.

In this short interview, The Book Wars talks to Inhabit Media’s Kelly Ward about translating First Peoples’ languages into English.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s Word Usage Workout is an online quiz worth your time! Sadly, however, you won’t learn who you were in a past life.

Grappling for words: the language of wrestling. I don’t know about you, but I intend to wrangle a few of these into my daily conversations.

Author–editor lurve: interviews from Quill & Quire

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No editor is an island: The follow up


Editors drink Wine too! Editors drink Wine too!
by Carol Harrison

It was a dark and stormy night when I met with fellow editors at Editors Toronto’s coffee-shop event last week] at Boxcar Social. We were a small group with varying levels of experience and comfort with social media. These meetings are a great way to alleviate the isolation that sometimes comes from working from home. Plus, it’s good to see the real-life faces behind the online names!

Janet MacMillan and I are both active on social media, with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging. Marg Anne Morrison and Alicia Peres, not so much. Admittedly, these platforms can be time-consuming but they also help you connect with people who you would most likely never meet, especially if they live abroad.

Marg Anne raised the question of what “working remotely” meant. We agreed that it most often mean working from home. However, there are those…

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Carol Harrison, photo by Jerome Daly Carol Harrison, photo by Jerome Daly

All it takes is one email. That’s it. Just one ping, one click and your schedule is changed. Changed, of course, only if you say yes.

Which is what I did. And so, I am Editors Toronto’s new publications chair and, more importantly for this blog, the Editor-in-Chief of BoldFace. I, for one, am pretty excited!

So who the heck am I, you ask? To quote (and punctuate) my Twitter bio, I’m a Toronto-based freelance editor, feminist nerd, hobbyist photographer, music geek, former bookseller, wannabe writer, and work in progress. I’m also a traveller who recently rediscovered the joy of camping, and blogged about it.

My plan for BoldFace is simply to grow a good thing, to bring you articles about editing in its myriad forms, and to review books and other media that are relevant to what we do for…

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Pitching Woo at Lake St. Peter

Lake St. Peter Provincial Park

Lake St. Peter Provincial Park

During the Hokkaido leg of my epic life-changing trip to Japan last year, I decided to see more of my home country. The landscape made me homesick for Ontario. Camping is way cheaper than airfare and so, my inexperience sleeping in a tent notwithstanding, I hatched a plan.

Before you get any ideas that I’m some city princess (snort) who’s never been north of the 401, I’ll provide a little background.

When I was a kid, my mum and dad joined the National Campers and Hikers Association (NCHA), a club that organized family camping throughout the summer. We would drag our trailer around every campsite in the province, including St. Catharines for the annual grape festival. There was mud and bon fires and mud and toasted marshmallows and mud and third-degree burns. Good times!

So until recently my idea of pitching a tent involved hovering around my parents while they yelled directions at each other, shooing me away like an over-eager, unhelpful muddy puppy. It also involved dad cranking up the tent, rather than actually pitching one. Oh, and it involved claustrophobia. Because children always get the bunk, which is really just oversized overhead storage.

Fast forward through the seventies to the present day. Wait for your head to stop spinning. Right, so here we are in 2016. After a few scheduling hiccups, my boyfriend Jerome and I booked a last-minute weekend in June at Lake St. Peter Provincial Park, which is just past Bancroft. Actually, we drove a lot past Bancroft then backed up a bit because one, Google navigation is crap; and two, it’s not a road trip unless you get lost. And the government should do something those stupid signs, make the stick bigger or something.

We arrived at the park. It wasn’t as rustic as I feared anticipated. The site was sweet, with trees and privacy without having to bushwhack your way to the privy down the road. We pitched the tent and erected the new kitchen tent, all within an hour. Time to walk around and get our bearings.

Yes, well, that was short, but we found the privy, the comfort station (with laundry, no less) and two beaches. I had begun to relax. No one cared how they were dressed, we were all just enjoying the sweet fresh air and slow pace of nature.

When we initially arrived, we bought firewood and kindling at the tuck shop near the gate. So now it was time to start a fire. There’s something primal about fire, especially cooking on one. Everything seems better and safer, but you can’t take it for granted. It must be fed and tended and controlled. And burgers must be flipped carefully. Oh my god, I’ve never had tastier burgers than the ones we cooked that night. With a wine with a blazing fire. . .



As the sun set, it was time to face my marshmallow demon. Stick procured, marshmallow impaled, I thrust the lump of sugar into the flames. Whoosh! In mere seconds the crusty brown bubbled black. Carefully, I brought the flaming thing to my face—and blew. All that was left was a hot, smoky, sugary, sticky treat at the end of a stick. I pulled it off, remnants of goo left behind, and devoured the charred marshmallow. I won. I vindicated the burned and blistered nose of childhood.

"Feet to Fire" by Jerome

“Feet to Fire” by Jerome

Then it started to rain. We stowed our food and bundled the garbage (one word: bears), grabbed our rain gear from the car, and huddled in the kitchen tent…with mesh walls. Plans to observe the stars (and stay dry) thwarted, we cleaned up, put things away, then bedded down for the night.

Bagged salad and boxed wine are the Devil. And I have the best, kindest, most patient boyfriend in the world. That is all.

The next morning I awoke to a blazing fire, hot coffee, and a freshly cooked breakfast sandwich. Oh, and a hot shower so I’d feel human again.

Humanized, we planned our day. Hiking, wading in the lake, lounging on the beach, cooking steak and potatoes on an open fire . . . then stargazing.

The stars!

The stars!

Oh my god the stars! We were in a dark-sky area, which means we were away from the light dome of the city. One by one they peeped out, as if they were shy. As it got darker and my eyes adjusted, I could see smears of galaxies. We mounted our cameras on tripods then changed the settings for astrophotography: open up the camera, slow down the shutter, and prepare to be gobsmacked.

Rorschach Test

Rorschach Test

Three days and two nights of firsts: first time sleeping in a tent, first time swimming/wading in a lake, first time cooking over an open fire, and first time photographing the stars. I was hooked! When could we do this again?

Sayonara, and Thanks for All the Fish



Day 27: June 2, 2015

Time to go home. I’m packed and pre-boarded for the 4:00 p.m. flight out of Osaka.

My first train is the subway to meet the 9:10 bullet train to Shin-Osaka. It arrives at 12:05 and I have a forty-five minutes to until I board the JR train for the one-hour trip to Kansai Airport in Osaka. This leaves me time to shop. I pick up some sweets and other things that fit in my daypack.

I feel sad about leaving, but I admit I’m tired. It’s time to go home. I’ve seen so much and yet there’s so much more to experience. Nevertheless, I think I have a better understanding of Japan.

One thing I will be glad for: the chance to be still, and not be in constant motion.

I arrive at the airport at 1:35. Checked my backpack, so I have now is my day pack and my camera bag. Perfect! Passport, boarding pass, empty pockets, et cetera and so on.

“Excuse me, miss, is this your bag?” a young security guard says in halting English.

“Yes, why.”

“Please come with me.” He motions me to a table away from the queue.

Oh, they must have found my walking stick or my tripod. No problem. I got this.

The young security guard gingerly pulls out my Leatherman tool. The one with the knife. That I had carefully stowed in my shoe in checked luggage on my way here, and utterly neglected to repack with the same damn care.

I attempt to explain. His limited English fails him and he pulls a more senior guard over, one who presumably speaks better English. This fellow also has more authority, as he sports a security hat, pressed shirt, and white gloves. I’m not making light of the situation, as I’m fully aware that this man has, in this white-gloved hand, not just my tool but the power to make my life hell—or at least make me miss my plane, which is the same thing right now.


“Why do you need this?”

“Just in case I needed to fix something.” I explain that I didn’t pack my bags properly coming home and that this is my mistake.

He looks baffled. “How long have you been in Japan?”

“A month.”

“What did you do?”

“Travelled around as a tourist.”

“Where do you live?”

“Toronto, Canada.”

“Who do you work for?”

Oh here we go. “Myself. I’m self-employed.” Yep, there’s the look. Gonna be here a while.

“What do you do?”

“I edit books.” That look again. “I fix them. Make them better. No errors.” Stop now, Carol.

“You don’t work for a company.”

My tablet! I have access to email! “Here! I can show you letters, invoices, jobs I have waiting for me.” Don’t fail me now, Wifi!

He looks at the screen, satisfied I am who I say I am; that I’m not a respectable office lady; that I’m some weird, camera-wearing, sloppily dressed Canadian woman who carries a Leatherman because she doesn’t have a husband, poor thing.

“Can I take that on carry on now?” I gesture to my tool.


“What can we do about this, then? Because I have to be on that flight. If my knife is stopping me from getting on a plane, you can have the knife.” I’d rather not because my parents gave it too me and it wasn’t cheap and it’s a great tool. Sigh. Poker face, Carol.

He considers. He looks at me. I don’t budge.

“Okay,” he says, “Go to check in and put in your checked luggage. Go through this door.” He hands me a pass. “This will get you back in.”

Domo arigato! Thank you so much” I bow a lot, all smiles.

I make my way to baggage check where I’m greeted by a poised, polished clerk.

Konichiwa! I wonder if you can help me. I need to check this in my backpack. Is that possible?”

“Have you checked you bag?”



“Oh, few minutes ago.”

“Do you see it?”


“I’m sorry, but I cannot retrieve it. For security reasons.”

I explain my problem, emphasizing that this is totally my mistake.

“You’ll need another bag.”

“I have to buy another bag? Here?!” My heart leaps at the price of bags at an airport.

She considers this. “One moment.”

I anticipate another international negotiation with well-pressed, white-gloved official.

She hold up a pink shopping bag. “Put it in here.”

YES! I could do a dance right now! “So you’ll tag it and tape it and it will get to Vancouver?”

“I hope so. Then you put it in your checked luggage in Canada.”

And so it is done.

I return to the boarding lounge satisfied that I negotiated my knife back from Japan airport security, but worried that I may never see it again.

Two hours and a bowl of rice later, I’m aboard the Air Canada flight to Vancouver. Middle row with one other person. This is bearable.

Roughly ten hours later, we arrive in Vancouver. Retrieving my pack is a breeze. And as I stand at the conveyor belt, I catch sight of a little grey plastic box with my humble, taped-up paper shopping bag. My Leatherman!

As I navigate my way around the airport, I’m struck by how rude the staff are compared to Japan. At one point I try to shove the tool in my pack when a male clerk barked at me to get in line. In fact, there is no line; I’m the only passenger there. Even the customs officer/pseudo cop is abrupt, snapping passports out of peoples’ hands. It isn’t busy at all. I shake my head and find a Tim Hortons to prepare for an eight-hour layover.

Books, coffee, and the inevitable nap make things . . . better. Landing in Toronto, I’m a little sad and grumpy. Typical after a trip. I have warned my friends that I’ll be all, “In Japan they do this” and “In Japan, I saw that.” It seems I’ve already started.

Rereading my notes now, over a year later, reliving this remarkable trip, I remember how my mind was ablaze with planning another. Of course, reality settled in: bills had to be paid, work had to be drummed up, money had to be saved. But I had a blog to update and (more than 2,000) photos to edit. So plans? Yeah, I still had them, but they’d be closer to home. And they continue to change my life.



as I walk Toronto

through my lens

shannon alberta

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.


Attempting to remove the packages from my pantry, one bag and box at a time.

Writer Beware®: The Blog

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.


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The official blog of Editors Toronto

The Editors' Weekly

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.

lumpy darkness

Welcome to Muse Ink, my small space on the worldwide web! You'll find commentary on books, movies, current affairs, and whatever else moves me. So have a look, have a drink, and get comfy.

Sentence first

An Irishman's blog about the English language.

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