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Happy Thanksgiving! November 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Random musings.
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For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that you’re able to take some time off and enjoy the day tomorrow with your family and friends. Here’s what I’m thankful for this year:

  • Family and friends
  • My health
  • My apartment
  • My Westie, who is always happy to see me and cuddles with me
  • Jacobs Kronung coffee with Coffeemate creamer
  • Milka chocolate
  • My blog readers
  • Clients who pay on time
  • The fact that I can earn a decent living as a translator

And as a little bonus to you all, here is an old B.C. comic strip in honor of the day. My thanks to Lee Wright, who sent it to me a year or two ago:

Gobble Google


No GEZ fees for Internet PCs November 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in German culture, Random musings.

I never thought it would happen. The German courts have ruled that there is no legal basis for charging the GEZ fee (German TV and radio license fee allowing you to be in possession of equipment capable of receiving radio or television broadcasts) for PCs with Internet access. As an American, where we don’t have to pay a license fee, I never liked the idea of charging a fee to listen to the radio or watch TV. Technically it is a fee to support public broadcasting, but I prefer to donate to the stations I watch directly, which wasn’t ARD and ZDF. Nope, I was a fan of Pro7, Sat1 and RTL – all the channels that showed all the American and British shows. Not to mention the Dutch channel. But I digress… Once I bought my car I paid for a radio, but not a TV, just to keep them off my back. I stumbled on a fun discussion in English about the fee while researching this post. It’s worth reading for a giggle.computer

When I was still living in Germany I heard rumblings that the authorities were going to start charging a fee for PCs that access the Internet. Apparently because they claimed that people would be able to watch TV and listen to the radio over the computer, which back then was a pipe dream and now is reality. Well, no more. Several people filed lawsuits against the fee for the professional use of a PC with Internet access and the court decisions keep coming – all against the fees. The courts agreed, saying there was “no justifiable legal basis” to charge a fee for a PC that is used solely for business. And apparently people who use their PC at home for their job will also not have to pay additional fees as long as they have registered other radios or TVs. That’s one less useless fee Germans have to pay. Maybe they’ll revolt and get rid of it altogether – a girl can dream…

For more articles and blog posts on this subject (in German), visit:

And don’t bother posting comments telling me I should pay. I don’t live in Germany any more and don’t have any plans to move there for an extended period of time any time soon.

Support Wikipedia November 26, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Tools.
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I donated to the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, today. I found out about their annual campaign while researching the site for some highly specific military jargon. Of course Wikipedia had the answers. A donation to Wikipedia’s annual campaign will help the Wikimedia Foundation sustain Wikipedia and deliver new and innovative global programs to improve its quality, reach, and levels of participation.

If you use Wikipedia as a resource (I have used both the German and English versions and expect you have too), I encourage you to donate to their annual campaign. Folks have donated anything from one dollar up to an anonymous gift of $250,000. Wikimedia is funded primarily through donations by tens of thousands of individuals, but also through several grants and gifts of servers and hosting. The Wikimedia Foundation receives donations from more than 50 countries around the world. Though individual donations are relatively small, the sheer numbers ensure their success.

As Wikipedia explains:

The job of the Wikimedia Foundation is to provide easy access to information, for people all over the world – free of charge, and free of advertising. As a non-profit, it is dependent on your help to do that. Your donations directly support some of the most popular collaboratively-edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, one of the world’s top ten most popular websites and the largest encyclopedia ever compiled in human history. We are hoping to raise $6 million through our annual campaign.

So help keep Wikipedia and the Foundation’s other projects online, free of charge and free of advertising by digging into your pockets and giving a little back to a very valuable resource. Sure, sometimes their articles contain questionable or biased information (since everyone can contribute articles or information, that isn’t all that surprising), but most of their information is worth its weight in gold. Oh, and don’t bother looking for me in the Benefactors page. I donated anonymously.

Tool request: automatic reminders in Google Calendar November 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

I had my dog groomed today. In my worry about getting home without crashing my car on the snow-covered streets I forgot to schedule her next appointment. I also always tend to wait waaaayyy too long until I schedule my own haircuts (I’m talking 2+ months…). It made me wonder if there is a tool out there for Google Calendar or one that will send you an e-mail to remind you to get a haircut, get the dog groomed, etc. It would make my life so much easier if there was…

I did a bit of Googling but the only thing I found was this tool – and I don’t think they’d appreciate a non-customer using it – and something called “Hack 25,” which tells you how long it’s been since your last haircut but it doesn’t remind you to schedule an appointment. Despite the fact that I can frequently find what I need quite quickly, I am stumped with this one. All of the search parameters I’ve used have so far come up empty, and I need to translate instead of deal with life’s minutiae. So I wanted to throw it out to my readers and fellow translators. Are any of you aware of a tool that can be used with Google Calendar and/or will send you an e-mail reminder to schedule appointments?

Amazon.com’s Universal Wish List November 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Tech tips.
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I should be translating my 3,000 word legal document, but instead I find myself taking long breaks to add to my Amazon Wish List for my family (Amazon sells Tom Tom navigation systems and accessories…). I already have 1,000 words done and it isn’t even noon, so I’m not panicked yet. I broke out my 2 GB memory stick with all my Christmas music this morning and am typing this to the vocal stylings of Andy Williams, so I’m now in Christmas mode. 🙂

Did you know that you can add items from any website to your Amazon Wish List? It’s easy! Simply drag the Universal Wish List button to your browser toolbar, and start shopping. When you see something you’d like on any website, just click the Add to Universal Wish List button, and the item will appear on your Amazon Wish List. Then all you have to do is send the link to your Wish List to your family and friends so they know what you want for Christmas, birthdays, etc. No more unwanted gifts!

Make that PC like new – PC World November 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Tech tips.
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We translators have to take advantage of our down time when we can get it. I am having a bit of down time at the moment and am taking full advantage of it. Here is an article from PC World that I’ve had hanging about the office for forever (the article is from March 2006). The article offers valuable cleaning hints to thoroughly clean your computer inside and out. Anyway, this article is definitely worth a read!

Make That PC Like New

When it comes to computers, spring cleaning means more than defragging a hard drive. It also means, well, cleaning.

Laurianne McLaughlin
Mar 7, 2006 10:00 pm

Martha Stewart’s spring cleaning probably involves homemade lemon-scented beeswax and complex polishing rituals. For me, it’s time to open the windows, clear my desk, and get rid of the keyboard crunchies. You know what I’m talking about: the remains of every muffin, cookie, and Pop Tart you’ve eaten over your computer’s keyboard.

Yes, your average PC-beautification project typically involves system-optimization tasks–drive defragmentation, spyware sweeps, and the like. This story includes those, too. But let’s face it: The outside of a computer can get as nasty as the inside.

When the tax man cometh and leaves start to appear again on the trees outside, it’s a good time to give your PC a thorough cleaning, inside and out. Perhaps you live somewhere that requires you to run the heat and keep the windows closed all winter, and now your home’s dust quotient has hit its peak. Once summer hits, you’re not going to want to park in front of the PC for an afternoon of cleanup chores. So, from dusty monitors to disorganized hard drives, it’s time to get your PC in order–before the mess catches up with you.

Bust the dust. PC cases can get truly dusty, which is a risk to the long-term well-being of your computer. First, make sure to turn off the PC before doing any cleaning tasks. Then look at the fan on the back of your system: If it’s fuzzy, use a can of compressed air (sold at hardware stores for less than $10) to spray off the dust in a sideways direction. Dust other case surfaces with a disposable dusting cloth, like Swiffer-brand cloths. If there’s other gunk on the case (maybe a late-night coffee stain) a slightly damp paper towel will do the trick. Note: While dust lurks inside, too, don’t go there unless you’re very familiar with the PC’s internal organs.

Detail your printer. To prevent printer jams and other foul-ups, give a small burst of compressed air to the printer mechanism that rolls in the paper. With an inkjet printer, make sure to print at least a page once a week in order to avoid cartridge clogs. To clean the outside of the printer case (usually unnecessary, unless the printer lives in a kitchen and has a close encounter with flying food), use a slightly damp cloth. Check out PCWorld.com for more printer-cleaning tips.

Kill keyboard crud. More goodies may lurk in your keyboard than live under your couch. (Unless you’re the parent of a small child–in that case, the keyboard is one of the only surfaces beneath which you’ll never find Cheerios.) Unplug the keyboard, and then turn it upside down to shake out the cookie crumbs and edible artifacts. If you want to take the keyboard apart and do some surgical cleaning–say, between the keys–you can. But remember: You could buy a new, clean one for between $10 and $20.

Improve your view. When was the last time you dusted your monitor? Unplug it and dust it with a disposable dusting cloth. If it’s really dirty–say, with dirty fingerprints or a yogurt-covered handprint–unplug it and use a slightly damp cloth with water only. (Some monitor makers sell cleaning solutions, but you probably don’t need one unless you have a fancy or expensive monitor.) Note: Do not use Windex-type glass cleaners or household detergents. And never spray water directly on the display.

And Now, Your System’s Innards . . .

With the outside of your PC all clean and new, it’s time to turn your attention to the insides, namely to the bits and bytes that can end up strewn everywhere after prolonged PC use. If it’s springtime, and you haven’t done any of these things, do them now. And try not to wait a whole year before taking some of these measures again.

As always, before optimizing your PC, back up your important data.

Update your Windows. If you have time for no other cleaning chores, make sure you keep your Windows operating system updated. Otherwise, invaders worse than bathroom mildew could take over your PC. In Windows XP’s start menu, right-click on My Computer, then choose Properties, Automatic Updates, and choose a time for Windows to update itself daily.

Check antivirus protection. Antivirus software does you no good unless you keep the definitions up to date. The software can’t protect you if it doesn’t know what’s on the latest watch list. If you own Norton Anti-Virus, for example, you must pay yearly for access to updated definitions. Not sure if your definitions are up to date? Click on your antivirus software, and it will tell you if you need to renew, or the date on which you’re going to need to renew (most programs will hound you for weeks leading up to the expiration date).

Play “I spy.” Spyware programs, those devious little applets that camp out in your PC after you open a malicious e-mail or visit a rogue Web page, can be tough to find. You’re wise to check for them regularly. If your system’s running slowly, your Web browser settings seem to change automatically, or you have strange icons in your system tray, it’s definitely time to check for spyware. Try SpySweeper 4.5, $30 at webroot.com. Also check out Process Explorer, a free utility that will tell you if strange things are happening in the background.

Defrag the hard drive. Your PC’s hard drive needs help to stay in tip-top shape. If you regularly defragment your hard drive, your reward will be quick access to files and software programs. Windows XP will do the work for you: From the Start menu, go to Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Got an older version of Windows? Try this.

Stop file mayhem. If you don’t organize your PC files once in a while, your hard drive starts to resemble the junk drawer in your kitchen. First, clean out your temporary files: From My Computer, right click the C: drive, then select Properties and Disk Cleanup. Check Temp Files and Recycle Bin and click OK. Next, in order to get rid of duplicate files, try a free utility such as Duplicate File Finder.

More Spring-Cleaning Tools

You’ve done the bare minimum it takes to gear up your system for another 12 months of action (and remember, some of these maintenance chores shouldn’t wait another 12 months). Now you’re really in the spring-cleaning spirit, correct?

Here are some handy utilities (most are free) to help you clean up even more messes lurking inside your PC. One can even help you recover from accidental deletions.

  • RegSeeker: Warning: Messing with the Windows Registry is not for novices, or the faint of heart, and it can seriously impact your PC. However, if you’re the tinkering type who wants to clean up the crud lying around in the Windows Registry, consider RegSeeker. It’s free.
  • IE Privacy Keeper: Keep your Web-browsing tracks clean with this free tool, which lets you schedule regular cookie, history, and cache cleanups.
  • ScrubXP: Not only can Windows and your browser reveal plenty about you, so can your programs–they can give away things like what documents you’ve recently viewed. Scrub XP gets rid of temporary files, plus any auto-complete and document lists that may reside in your apps. The cost? Can you say “free”?
  • Sandra 2005 Lite: This combination pack of testing and tune-up tools will help you diagnose and address issues affecting different parts of your computer, from hard drive to memory. This handy program will help you maximize performance and spot problems early. The trial period is free, but it costs $35 to keep.
  • Restoration: In case you accidentally delete a file or two while you’re doing all your spring cleaning, check out this free utility. It can find what you tossed.

Laurianne McLaughlin is a freelance technology writer based near Boston.

The Art of Translation on NPR November 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, Translation Sites.

NPR published an interesting article/podcast on Saturday about the art of literary translation. Thanks to JLibbey of pandltranslations, who just started following me on Twitter and brought this to her/his followers’ attention. I liked it so much I posted it to my Facebook account for my friends to read and learn a little bit about what I do and the hurdles we face as translators. After all, a good translation needs to be true to the original and able to stand on its own for a new audience, and that is why there can be different translations of various books published. The example NPR uses is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, among others. The thing NPR stresses is how translation is not literal and how much is truly involved in translating texts, which I think is a good message for its readers/listeners to hear.

Certified translations – truth or myth? November 24, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation Sites.
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Unlike the way things work in Germany, where translators apply with the courts to become beglaubigt, which then allows them to stamp and certify their translations, “certification” in the U.S. is a whole other ball of wax. Let us not get this confused with ATA certification, which entails taking (and passing – no small feat!) a test and having to complete a set number of continuing education points every two years in order to maintain your certification. You do not have to be an ATA certified translator to certify a translation.

I am talking about the translation and certification of legal documents, such as birth certificates and divorce decrees. NOTA published an article by Nancy Huskins, Doing the Impossible – Quite Possibly What Translators Do Best, in the May 2005 NOTA BENE that details the situation very well. We also have numerous quotes from our members about certification and how they certify documents.

I feel one comment in particular summed it up best:

I don’t really know what people want when they say “certified translation” and I guess they don’t know either. For whatever purpose they need a translation, they have been asked to get the translation “certified” and they pass the requirement to the translator. I also have continuous requests for “certified translation” and it always involves birth certificates or other type of certificates and also diplomas. What I do, after the translation, I just add a sentence which reads, “This translation has been prepared by me, (name). I am a professional translator and fully competent to translate, and to the best of my knowledge and ability, this translation is
complete and accurate.” Signed, dated and signature notarized, and it always works. Which leads me to believe that this is a “certified translation.”

When I need to certify a translation I include a cover page (see below) and go to a notary public to get my document(s) notarized. The notary public can be a secretary, someone at a bank, or a fellow translator. There are several translators I know who are notary publics. They, like other notary publics, still can’t confirm that the translation is a “true and accurate translation of the attached original,” but they can notarize you “appeared before them and acknowledged that [you are] an active/certified member of the American Translators Association and that [you] executed the document as [your] free act and deed”. You also might want to include a disclaimer such as “to the best of my knowledge and ability.”

The best certification example, which was submitted by Dr. Lee Wright and a version of which I now use, is as follows:

[to be printed on translator’s business letterhead]


I, [translator’s name] ([translator’s academic or other credentials, if any; e.g., Ph.D.]), a translator of proven expertise in translating to [target language] and an active/certified member of the American Translators Association by a certificate attesting thereto issued on [date], do hereby CERTIFY that the foregoing translation of [a] document[s] pertaining to:
corresponds to its/their original in [language], which I had in my possession.

In [city], [state], USA, on the ____________ day of _______________, ______.


I, the undersigned Notary Public, do hereby certify that [translator’s name] appeared before me and acknowledged that [she/he] is an active, certified member of the American Translators Association and that [she/he] executed this document of [her/his] own free act and deed.

In witness whereof, I have set my hand and seal, this ___________ day of ______________________________.


Naturally, you shouldn’t include the “original in [language], which I had in my possession” if you only had a copy of the document. And of course it goes without saying that you should always charge for the time and extra work involved with certifying a document.

PC Magazine goes all digital November 21, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tech tips.
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Ziff Davis Media’s PC Magazine is the latest monthly magazine to quit printing and become a purely digital operation. The January issue will be its last print edition.

I am uncluttering my office at the moment and, in my effort to get rid of the piles of paper on my desk, have written a bunch of draft posts on blurbs and articles I have torn from magazines like PC World and PC Magazine over the years. I will be posting them here over the next few weeks. As I was going through the articles today I ruminated on my decision to cancel my subscriptions to PC World and PC Magazine, only to discover this news item in my feed reader. I had canceled my subscriptions, because I found that I simply didn’t feel reading the magazine was a priority and would let them stack up until I had a free afternoon to go through them. I figured I could read them in the library or catch up online. Obviously many people felt like me and now rely on the web sites for their helpful articles.

Moving to an all-digital format seems like a natural and inevitable progression. I look forward to visiting their website now instead.

Transit NXT was released yesterday November 21, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tools.

One of the busier listservs I belong to is discussing the new version of Transit, Transit NXT, which was released this week. I got a chance to see a demo of it at the ATA conference and was quite impressed with it. I like Transit because it strips all the formatting from the actual translation, and you as the translator don’t have to deal with it.

The Transit tool offers a lot of configurable options, so that is why they don’t advertise the price anywhere. This allows you to pick and choose the features you need and disregard those you don’t (like the project management tool, which isn’t useful for a freelance translator who works with only one or two language pairs).

One thing I haven’t liked with previous versions of Transit is that the windows tended to overlay on top of one another and weren’t all visible. They seem to have fixed this problem with “Bubble windows,” which are dynamic windows that appear when you need them and disappear when you don’t. The fuzzy window disappears when you don’t need it and other information, such as similarity to the source text, segment status, words that appear in the dictionary, etc., is also visible at a glance. No one outside Star Group has had a chance to really become familiar with it yet, so we need to allow a week or two for translators to become familiar with it and then the real info will start trickling out.

The consensus among my fellow translators is that people are getting increasingly frustrated with SDL Trados’ support (or lack thereof) and its rigid thinking. The biggest complaint I hear is that support isn’t responsive to translators’ questions. Most questions are more effectively answered in translator forums such as tw_users. The second biggest is that they are too focused on the agencies and not enough on the needs of the translator.

I’d love to hear what you guys think of Star Transit and Trados. Fire away!