I've probably mentioned here at some point that I am lucky enough to be aunt to the two greatest young people who have ever existed. I was fully prepared to love them "no matter what," and to love them "through all the rough patches," and to love them "even if they became really annoying," but my magnanimity has as yet been untested-- they've now been walking and talking for years, and they're still likable.

My elder niece, who is in junior high school, has started a website about peculiar animals. It is funny and informative and features an acceptable number of capybara photographs and references to the kinds of creatures that live in volcanic vents and will be responsible for creating a new civilization after humans are destroyed by asteroids and overeating.

My younger niece is in public school, and her website, although it boasts less content, does have a photo she took of a flower, and that's awesome. She's not as devoted to website upkeep, because she seems always to be running unnecessarily long distances and battling a serious Minecraft addiction.

(Also, their friend started a website about failed inventions that's pretty great.)

So this holiday season, I give thanks for the fact that I spend time with my family talking about things like organisms that could survive in outer space, the kinds of virtual building materials one needs to construct an undersea video-game house, and the understated (but undeniable) gloriousness of Ringo.

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I've been busy doing editing homework—so busy, it seems, that the integrity of my brain has been compromised. Instead of focusing on how best and most profitably to line edit dialogue between two imaginary people I already hate, I've been consumed by my quest for the perfect sentence. By "perfect sentence," I do not mean "sentence that by way of a few, well-chosen words communicates something profound about an aspect of the human condition"— I mean "sentence involving either curse words or scatological references that sounds funny when added to any work of fiction or non-fiction."

And I think I've got it.

I'm sure you'll disagree and argue on behalf of your own personal obscenity, but I like this one. See if you can spot it in the following passage from Henry James's The Wings of the Dove:

Really at last, thus, it had been too much; as, with her own least feeble flare, after a wondering watch, Milly had shown. She hadn't cared; she had too much wanted to know; and, though a small solemnity of remonstrance, a sombre strain, had broken into her tone, it was to figure as her nearest approach to serving Mrs. Lowder. "Why do you say such things to me?"

This unexpectedly had acted, by a sudden turn of Kate's attitude, as a happy speech. She had risen as she spoke, and Kate had stopped before her, shining at her instantly with a softer brightness. Poor Milly hereby enjoyed one of her views of how people, wincing oddly, were often touched by her. "Because you're a dove. I shit you not."

You're welcome, Mr. James.

And here it is working its magic in non-fiction :

Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way.  …if we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments.  We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – I shit you not – we’re better off that way.

All I did in that passage from Malcolm Gladwell's Blink was replace a "sometimes" with some far superior words. And voilà! One hundred per cent better.

You're welcome, Mr. Gladwell.

I think it works so well because there's something a bit fancy about it. It's kind of like what would happen if "I'm not shitting you" went to college and started affecting elbow patches and a tiny perfect bow tie.

I do not know why I'm taking editing courses: I am already the greatest editor of all time.

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