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Blog lunch at ATA conference September 23, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Corinne from Thoughts on Translation and I were talking about possibly organizing a lunch at this year’s ATA conference for fellow bloggers and those of you who read our blogs. We were thinking lunch on Thursday, the first day of the conference, would be a good choice. If you are interested in joining us, either add a comment or send us an e-mail.

A beautiful fall morning in Amish country September 22, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Today is the first day of autumn. I’m suffering from translator’s block at the moment, which is a post planned for another day, but I wanted to share my joy of a beautiful fall morning spent meeting a friend for breakfast in Geauga County’s Amish country. Without a doubt, the number one joy of being a freelance translator is the ability to schedule your time as you see fit. I met a friend from high school for breakfast this morning. We spent two hours chatting about our lives, our former classmates, and her kids and husband over our Amish breakfasts. It was fabulous, but not near as fabulous as the 30-minute drive through Amish country. That’s the beauty of where I live – thirty minutes from Amish country and twenty minutes from downtown Cleveland.

Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season. The crisp air, the breathtaking fall colors, the smell of bonfires, apple cider, high school football games… It was still quite foggy this morning as I set out for Middlefield, which was featured on Rachel Ray’s television show a couple weeks ago. Driving through the fog on the highway past LaDue Reservoir, which is breathtaking no matter what the weather is, was movie-backdrop gorgeous. The leaves are just starting to turn red and gold, and it was still a little chilly at 8:30 a.m. (it’s 70 degrees and sunny right now as I write this). The two-lane highway merged to one lane after crossing the reservoir, and I was soon driving past old farmhouses, front yard ponds, and orchards and road-side produce stands. As I got closer to Middlefield I kept my eyes peeled for horse-drawn buggies (someone crashed into one two days ago and killed a 7-year-old Amish boy and injured his three brothers in Ashtabula County). Driving past farmhouses with well-tended pastures and no electrical lines to mar the view always makes me smile and yearn for simpler times (but I would never want to give up my computer or running water!).

I got to Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen just in time, and we sat at a table by the window where we could watch the horse-drawn buggies go by. I will be full from the breakfast buffet almost all day. I crashed the grade behind ours’ 20th high school reunion last weekend and had a lot to share with her, but that isn’t an excuse. We always talk for at least two hours when we meet for breakfast there. I drove home with the windows down. On the way home I had to slow down to 20 mph to wait for a chance to pass the buggy in front of me. I also stopped at the road-side produce stand to buy some peaches and apples. It was a perfect fall morning in Amish country. Now if I could only motivate myself to start my big translation…

Do you Twitter? September 22, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Tools.
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I’m pretty new to the social networking arena, so I’m a little confused about what the benefits are and how I can make social networking work for me. It took me forever to join LinkedIn, but I certainly don’t use it for anything other than a place to post my resume and network with colleagues (but even that seems kind of lame – I get the impression that a lot of people there are simply trying to collect as many connections as possible instead of linking up with friends and good acquaintances). The one thing I really like about it is that I have been able to catch up with old friends and co-workers from Germany – and discovered that my friend and colleague in Seattle is good friends with one of my old Translingua co-workers. The world is getting really small…

I haven’t signed up for Facebook, MySpace or Friendster, because it seems too social – and, as we know, we translators are not big on the social skills. 🙂 But seriously, it’s a bit too much information for my taste. Sure, I have a blog and share bits and pieces of my life on it, but I don’t let it all hang out like some folks on Facebook do.

However, I think Twitter could be useful to a freelance translator if enough of our clients were also using it. Instead of sharing the mundane details of your life (as most people there do), you could post that you are translating a 19,000 word job this week and are unavailable for new projects. This could save project managers from skyping or calling me to see if I am available for their 6,000 word job this week. Or maybe I have misunderstood what Twitter is all about. So, if you use Twitter I would really appreciate it if you could share your experiences with me (us) and tell us how you use it.

There is going to be a presentation on social networking at the ATA conference in Orlando that I am really looking forward to attending (Social Networking: How to Practice One of the Most Effective Marketing Tools Today, Saturday from 4 to 5 PM), but I have no patience and want to know about Twitter now 🙂

GITS Blog: Seven things I love about being a freelance translator September 19, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Translation Sites.
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Hey folks, if you haven’t read Ryan’s post on The GITS Blog, Seven things I love about being a freelance translator, you should click to it right now. We get caught up in the cycle of complaining about clients and talking about how tough freelancing can be, but it’s important to also focus on the positive side of freelancing. There are a lot of benefits to freelancing, and I agree wholeheartedly with all seven of Ryan’s points. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take advantage of point number three (“I can work from anywhere”) and go work at a local restaurant with several folks from my Coworking/Work at Home Meetup group. OK, it isn’t quite the point he was trying to make, but I do love the fact that I can truly work from anywhere. Plus, I can work for clients from all over the world out of a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and enjoy a good standard of living (and buy a nice house for $150,000, which is impossible on the East and West coasts).

TGIF: You too can learn another language September 19, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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Just like the goldfish clip from about a month ago, this ad with the bilingual cat and the lazy dog makes me laugh. This would never happen at my house. My dog barks at anyone who even walks on the sidewalk across the street – except for the Animal Control guy who was going to put out a trap to catch the skunk that sprayed my dog last Saturday. He left because Lily didn’t bark when he pulled up, so I didn’t know he was there (my doorbell isn’t working at the moment, but I don’t get many visitors so I don’t feel the need to run right out and fix it).

Yes, I’m in a run-on sentence kind of mood today…

Oktoberfest! September 19, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings.
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Thank goodness it’s Friday, and I’m taking a road trip to Cincinnati for the Zinzinnati Oktoberfest, which is proclaimed to be the world’s second largest celebration of Prince Ludwig’s wedding by the Guinness Book of Records. Having attended the Oktoberfest in Munich in 1997, I look forward to comparing the two. Hopefully there will be fewer drunk Italians in Cincinnati – although I have a feeling there will be just as many drunk Americans there. 🙂

The history of Oktoberfest dates back to the year 1820 when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig I decided to marry Saxony Princess Therese and organized a great holiday on the 12th of October. He invited all the residents of the city to join the celebration. The holiday was repeated at the same date the following year, and very soon it became a tradition.

The most common question I usually get asked is why Oktoberfest is celebrated in September. The date of the festival was changed near the end of the 19th century so it can be celebrated while it is still warm out. The Munich Oktoberfest takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world’s largest fair, with some six million people attending every year, and is an important part of Bavarian culture. Bavarians and lots of foreign guests drink about 6 million liters of beer, consume approx. 1 million chickens, approx. 400 thousand wurst and sausages and other local cuisine, such as Käsespätzle (spaetzel mixed with melted cheese and onions), roast ox tail, and Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes). Thirty percent of all the beer produced by Bavarian breweries is consumed during this festival.

The Oktoberfest is a lot more than just eating and drinking. You may be surprised to hear that there are lots of amusement park rides and souvenir vendors as well. There are currently fourteen main tents at the Oktoberfest. The tents themselves are non-permanent structures that are constructed for and only used during the festival. The beer (or wine or champagne) served in each is brought to an accompanying table by women in Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress). These women can carry up to 12 heavy Maßkrüge (a Maßkrug (aka Maß) is a 1-liter beer mug, plural: Maßkrüge) at once. It’s amazing. Seating can be hard to come by, because many people reserve space in tents up to a year in advance. More than 6 million people come to the Oktoberfest, and there are only about 100,000 available seats. If you want a seat, come a little later in the day or try your luck in one of the tents without a line, like the Spaten or Hippodrom tents.

You should fight the urge to take one of the Maßkrug home with you. The Maßkrüge are made from heavy glass – really heavy glass so they are not a good souvenir for backpackers! – and typically have a decorative brewery logo on the side, making them very popular souvenirs among visitors. Although it is strictly forbidden to steal the mugs, they can be purchased in the tents at a “reasonable” price. Buyers are strongly advised to keep the receipts because police are known to search them for stolen mugs even away from the fest area. When police catch someone stealing a mug, the thieves may be fined up to €50. There is also a general Oktoberfest souvenir mug that features that year’s Oktoberfest poster. This one is made of clay instead of glass and is available with a tin lid.

For those of you heading to the Oktoberfest in Munich, here is a fun little Wiesn dictionary for you. I’ll miss the tapping in Cincinnati, but in just a few hours many people will be hearing O’zapft is! (it’s tapped!) in Munich.

9/22/08: For photos of our weekend at the Zinzinnati Oktoberfest, click here! Unfortunately, the sausage in Cincinnati is sadly lacking. They consider Weisswurst to be a Brat and sell something called Mett, which is nothing like the Mettwurst I am familiar with in Germany. German Mett is raw minced pork and is usually served on bread rolls (Mettbrötchen) or sliced bread, frequently with a garnish of raw onion rings or diced. Not my cup of tea, but my sister loved it. Cincinnati’s Mett is more like a kielbasa. The pastries like Bienenstich, chocolate mousse cake or Schmidt’s Jumbo Cream Puffs were to die for though! And of course the beer was awesome! One gem is the Hofbräuhaus in Newport, just across the river. I felt like I was at my favorite beer garden in Germany (Schaumburger Hof). There were even real Germans there 🙂 It’s an absolute must for German culture fans! I’ll definitely be back!

Garfield has an interpreter September 18, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Garfield has never been on the cutting edge of language humor, so this comic strip is especially enjoyable for those of us in the T&I sector. Common themes in the strip include Garfield’s laziness, obsessive eating, and hatred of Mondays and diets, his abuse of Jon’s dog Odie, or how inept with women Jon is. The strip’s focus is mostly on the interactions between Garfield, his owner Jon, and Odie (my personal favorite). Recurring minor characters such as the mice Garfield refuses to chase or Garfield’s vet appear as well.

Postscript: Top 10 rules for working from home September 17, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Apropos working from home, Sarah from There’s Something About Translation had the most hilarious link about a week ago to a post on new media producer Ian MacKenzie’s blog called The Home Office: Fact or Fiction, contrasting what home office workers want you to think they are doing with what they are actually doing. If you haven’t seen it you simply must check it out!

Top 10 rules for working from home September 17, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.
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In these days of high gas prices and rising living expenses in general, telecommuting is a hot topic. Many people aspire to work from home, which offers you the freedom to tailor your hours around childcare and cut out unnecessary travel and clothing expenses, office distractions and the need to work 9-5. We translators are ahead of the game, so to speak. Here are my top 10 rules for working from home.

1. Set office hours and stick to them.

The beauty of working from home is you can work whenever it suits you, but it is easy to drift away and do other things – or just the opposite, work the whole day. Decide on a set schedule and stick with it. Keep a log if you have to. You might want to kick-start your day by taking a walk around the block or scheduling a shower at 9 a.m. and then getting to work.

2. Get dressed.

It is hard to feel efficient when talking to a potential customer in your pajamas. I’m not advocating wearing a blouse and a skirt or a suit and tie, but at least lose the pajamas. My favorite organizational guru, FlyLady, insists that you should always “get dressed to lace up shoes” when you first get up in the morning. This means fix your hair and face too. According to FlyLady, “you act different when you have clothes and shoes on.” As for why the shoes should be laced, “putting shoes on your feet that lace up are better than slip-ons or sandals, because they are harder to take off. Instead of kicking your shoes off for a quick snooze on the couch, you actually have to go to a bit more trouble.”

3. Avoid the television during your office hours.

I know this seems like a given, but I have heard from several colleagues who had trouble managing their time in the beginning because they were watching their soaps instead of sending out resumes to potential clients. It is so easy to get sucked into a television program and put off your work – especially if you do not have a looming deadline. Keep the TV off during your office hours or be very regimented about turning it off after a scheduled break. I love Law and Order marathons as much as the next person, but I don’t watch them if I have a looming deadline.

4. Create a separate office space.

Ideally this is a separate room, with a door you can shut at the end of your office hours. If you haven’t got enough space, think carefully about where you want to work. Keeping a computer in the corner of your bedroom is not a good idea. Bedrooms should be a place to unwind and relax – not have a constant reminder that you can quickly check your e-mail. If you have to, partition a space off in the living room or dining room with a screen.

4. Plan your day.

Make a to-do list and do things in order of importance. Keep up with your e-mail. Answer e-mail as soon as you can before it becomes overwhelming. Make the difficult calls when you are starting your day, because putting them off and dreading them can sap your energy all day.

5. Have a clutter-free desk.

Think of your desk as a place of action. At the end of each day, put everything away and update your job board. I love starting each day with a clear desk. Keep the minimum of essential items such as pens and a few stationery supplies on your desk. Try and work on one project at a time so you can keep focused.

6. Don’t let post-its clutter up your desk.

If you have too many post-its you will start ignoring them. Keep a notebook or log to record phone calls on rather than post-its and scraps of paper.

7. File stuff away as soon as you can.

Invest in a filing cabinet and personalize your filing system. Also, does it really need to be in alphabetical order? Why not file the items chronologically at the front of a folder? I have four files for each business year and file invoices, bank statements, pay stubs, bills, etc. in chronological order. More on this another day.

8. Turn off the lights and close the office door at the end of the day.

It is so easy to keep the computer on and check the e-mail before you go to bed. One of my colleagues does not answer her phone outside her business hours, which she clearly states on her answering machine message. It isn’t healthy to be accessible 24/7. Our customers don’t usually work 24/7, so they shouldn’t expect you to.

9. Communicate your boundaries with your customers.

If you get up at 5 a.m. so you are available to take your kids to school or are a night owl, let your customers know. My customers know I do not get in the office until 10 a.m. because I work best later in the day. I also avoid working with customers who don’t respect boundaries. Unless they have a valid reason for doing so and are in a life-and-death emergency situation, if an agency calls me at 3 a.m., 8 p.m. on a Friday night or even Sunday night (these examples have all happened to me at one time or another) I cross them off my mental list of customers. If the customer’s expectations are unrealistic tell them and explain why.

10. Be sure you get some “me time.”

Take weekends or a couple days during the week off. Schedule time to exercise. Get a monthly massage. Take a walk in the park a couple days a week. Down time is so important.

If you follow these 10 simple rules you will find working from home to be more enjoyable and rewarding than it would be otherwise. Give it a try and see for yourself. Did I miss something? Tell me in the comments!

New York Times: Secrets to good hard-drive hygiene September 17, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
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I wrote about backup systems several days ago. While cleaning off my hard drive just now I stumbled on this New York Times article on consumer backup software, Secrets to Good Hard-Drive Hygiene, that I thought did a good job of illustrating the importance of backing up files and the various options available for backing up your data. It is from July 2005, but it is still relevant today. Corinne McKay also wrote a really good post, Methods for backing up your computer data, the same day I did before reading my post in her feed reader, which just goes to prove that brilliant minds think alike. 🙂

I looked into several of the suggestions made in the comments to Watch your back – what is YOUR back-up system and have decided to try Syncplicity. It seems like a trustworthy back-up system, and the idea of easily transferring files to a laptop appeals to me. I will test it in a few hours when I transfer files from my computer to my laptop in preparation for heading to my sister’s to babysit my niece on Thursday, who finally gets her half-body cast off on Friday. I transferred my files when I babysat her two weeks ago by burning them to a CD-RW and copying them to the laptop, but it helps to remember to bring the laptop’s power cord with you when you are going to work somewhere off-site… I had to use my brother-in-law’s laptop to finish and deliver my files. And I learned to hate Vista and Office 2007.