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Dealing with crazy days March 30, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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Man, I am happy to see this day end! I am surprised I got as much accomplished as I did. Susanne III calls these days “ADD days” – days when you can’t concentrate on anything for any length of time. In my case, it was due to constant interruptions.

My day started with a client calling me to tell me that the translation I had planned on working on today had been shortened by two pages. She wanted to know if I had started it, and I was happy to tell her that I hadn’t. It had been a crazy weekend, and the jobs I had worked on had taken up more time than I had planned.

I went to my computer to download the new file – and got error message after error message. My e-mail was down – dead as a doornail – es ging absolut gar nix! Not only could Mailwasher and my e-mail program not download my e-mail – I couldn’t even load my ISP’s website to check my mail online or even my own website. I kept getting Page Load Errors and network timeouts. Something was definitely not right. It took several hours to deal with the problem. Luckily I asked my colleague and our resident computer guru on the ATA German Language Division listserv if he had heard of any problems with my ISP in Germany. He reported he was having problems with his GMX account. He did some research and got back to me. It turns out United Internet owns both 1&1 and GMX – not to mention web.de. In the end, it turns out it was a server problem at a backbone provider called XO.net in the UK. Roadrunner (Roland and my ISP here in the U.S.) could not access any sites owned by United Internet. I called their third level support, who called someone who managed to fix the problem by 6 PM. So to those of you who have Roadrunner as an ISP and had problems today: you’re welcome. In the meantime, I hacked into an unsecure wireless network near my home and was able to access my e-mail and get to work translating, delivering a medical report, counting the lines of the PPT file I delivered Sunday night, and writing invoices.

But that wasn’t even the strangest part of the day. Oh no! Around two o’clock my phone rang. It was my neighbor across the street telling me that all the police cars outside were due to a strange briefcase left at the Planned Parenthood down the street. They blocked the road at both ends and put up lots of orange barrels to restrict traffic. But people kept trying to drive through anyways. Man, people these days are selfish and entitled! I amused myself watching the police yell at people trying to drive through the parking lot across the street only to find themselves blocked in by barrels in the middle of the stretch. The bomb squad was called in, and two hours later the drama was over. It was a false alarm, which didn’t surprise me one bit.

Luckily I only had 800 words to translate instead of the previously assigned 1600. I don’t think if I would have gotten any more than that accomplished, because I had to be somewhere by 7 tonight. What a strange and exciting day it was. I really, really hope tomorrow is blissfully uneventful.

As for you, dear readers – what is the craziest day you’ve ever had to deal with and how did you handle it?


Joe Biden and intestinal fortitude March 28, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings, Translation Sites.
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I have recently subscribed to Barack Obama’s Teleprompter’s Blog. Not his speechwriter – the actual computer teleprompter (or TOTUS). I have no idea who is writing the blog, but if you aren’t reading Barack Obama’s Teleprompter’s Blog, you should be. The blog is hilarious and offers insight inside the White House in a very light and tongue-in-cheek manner. Today’s post entitled Who Gave Joe The Pen? reports on a translation flub in an op-ed piece that was reprinted in English, Spanish and Portuguese on the occasion of the Vice President’s trip to Latin America. It’s worth a read because I know my fellow linguists will chuckle.

TGIF: Everything’s amazing but nobody’s happy March 27, 2009

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

It’s amazing how quickly the week slips away. I was busy doing nothing for the first half and got slammed with work again towards the end of the week. I honestly had wanted to write more than one proper post this week. I’m amazed it’s already Friday. I will be working again over the weekend, so I suppose I shouldn’t truly be celebrating the fact that it’s Friday…

But it *is* Friday and that means it’s time for another video. This one made me really laugh. It’s not at all language-related, but I am confident we can all relate. Technology has been improving at an amazingly fast rate. I remember having a “party line” as a kid. No, it wasn’t one of those 1-900 chat line numbers. We shared a phone line with the neighbor across the street. That meant we had to lift the receiver to see if someone was on there and wait until they were done to make our call. If you had an emergency and needed to call home and your neighbor was on the line you had to have the operator break into the call. Yes, that was back in the day when they still employed people to help you make phone calls. All this on a rotary phone, so I particularly enjoyed his intro. In fact, my nieces were fascinated by my parents’ rotary phone when they were really young. They’ve outgrown it now – just like we have. I hope you enjoy this clip!

Click on it twice to pull it up on Youtube.

Savoring the slow days March 24, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
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After work 12- to 14-hour days all last week and translating a total of around 34,000 words I woke up this morning with a dull headache, but was committed to enjoying the day. It’s chilly but sunny, and the birds are singing and building their nests. The perfect spring day. I had a nice lie-in with my dog, Lily, tucked in firmly by my side (I don’t know if she was afraid of the windows rattling from the spring gusts or was cold, but she usually sleeps at my feet – or rather ON my feet). She almost pushed me out of bed this morning, and that’s unusual. After letting her out to run around the backyard, I fired up the computer and checked my e-mail. I translated the two remaining responses in the survey (final word count: 35,789 – 5,000 of which were translated by a colleague so I could enjoy the weekend) and put on a pot of coffee. I have a 4-cup Gevalia coffeemaker that makes the most delicious coffee… I have a medical report due later today, and one of my colleagues is checking several spots for me. I’ll be heading out to deliver Meals on Wheels in about half an hour, which brings me great joy. I then have an appointment scheduled at 2 with a colleague through LogMeIn to finally remove all vestiges of Office Live, which causes Word to crash every few minutes and drive me batty. Once my computer is fixed and the translation is delivered the day yawns ahead of me, and I plan to embrace it. I’ll definitely go on a walk with Lily in the local park – or maybe even head down to her favorite dog park. I’ll read several chapters of The Private Patient by P.D. James and maybe catch up on some TV shows. The evening will be probably spent watching several movies (Hancock and The Dark Knight) that I borrowed from the public library and have to return soon. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a refill on my coffee…

Bonus TGIF: Spielberg interview (TV Total) – oops! Lucas March 20, 2009

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

Fidusinterpres, a German and English to Portuguese translator who lives about a half hour outside of Bonn, just shared the best video clip on his blog, and I had to share it with you all. N24 needs to hire an interpreter who has actually seen Star Wars. Unbelievable! The interpreter translated the famous phrase “May the force be with you” (Möge die Macht mit dir sein) as “Am vierten Mai sind wir bei Ihnen” (May the 4th be with you – or more precisely We’ll be with you on the 4th). Unbelievable! This may only be funny for German speakers, but give it a try.

I love Stefan Raab. His hit show TV Total premiered while I still lived in Germany, and I always enjoyed watching it. I think he’s just hilarious. He plays with the German language really well. I have a copy of his hit single “Maschendrahtzaun” in my CD case. It was based on a reality TV court show in which the plaintiff had a very strong East German accent. The poor woman was completely overwhelmed with the PR and fans outside her house at the time, but the song was a huge hit.

TGIF: My Internet’s Gone Down March 19, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I have a friend coming to visit tomorrow, so I’ll be busy cleaning when I’m not frantically translating my massive survey. I thought I’d post the Friday video a little early tonight so I don’t forget.

This is a cute video about the horror we all fear: losing our Internet connection. I know I for one go into serious withdrawal when my Internet has gone down. Enjoy!

Stuck between cultures March 19, 2009

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

When I lived in Germany I frequently referred to myself as a Stranger in a Strange Land. I never quite fit in. The people (particularly those in positions dealing with customer service or more likely the lack thereof) would frequently frustrate me. I wasted time on German men who were impossible to read. My neighbors never quite understood me (although I did get a complement from one older woman on the Christmas lights in my window 🙂 ). I became a little bastion of America in Germany. And yet I loved living there. I made a lot of friends and embraced the cultural traditions like sitting in a beer garden or sitting in the sun at a café with a Milchkaffee, a nice piece of cake and a good book.

I am currently reading several books set in Europe, Spotted Dick, S’il Vous Plait by Tom Higgins and The Private Patient by P.D. James. Spotted Dick is about a translator who opened an English restaurant in Lyon, France. It’s enjoyable. I just wish he would translate his French phrases for those of us who don’t speak French… Anyway, I started The Private Patient last night and was seized by a wave of “homesickness” (or Fernweh – whatever you want to call it…) while reading a paragraph explaining how she walked through the center of town listening to the church bells. It’s amazing how just a simple sentence or description can transport me back to Europe and make me wish I lived there again.

But things wouldn’t be the same if I did. My friends have scattered to the wind, gotten married or had children. Living in Europe in my forties wouldn’t be the same as it was in my late twenties. I am sure I would be able to meet new people and make new friends, but there are lots of benefits to being home as well. I love having all my things around me, for one. I lived a temporary life for six years, with minimal property and lots of used furniture. I now own new furniture and have both new and old things from my childhood/college years/etc. surrounding me. It’s great to have all my CDs in a shelfing unit and just pick out the one I want to hear. I love being a dog owner and doubt I could bring her with me without a lot of hassle and paperwork.

But there’s also a lot to be said for wandering along cobblestone streets and listening to church bells peal – or sitting in a beer garden on the Rhine River watching the barges go by. I decided the way to deal with this is to make sure I actually get to Europe this year, come hell or high water. It’s been a while since I’ve been back, and I do really miss it.

It’s amazing how our adopted countries can quickly become home – and how home never quite feels the same when we return. We translators are a rare breed of people who learn to live stuck between cultures. In the end we adopt the practices that we enjoy the most. I have several German, Spanish and Czech cookbooks that I can use when I get a craving for a bit of the old country. I celebrate Karneval instead of Mardi Gras. I give friends who move into a new home a basket with salt and a loaf of bread. We become the best of both worlds. How about you? What do you miss about your home and adopted countries?

Everyone’s talking about rates these days March 18, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

Corinne’s post Lowering your translation rates: why/why not has taken the translation industry by storm (or maybe just the people I follow on Twitter 🙂 ). I’ve been talking to a lot of fellow translators about this, and everyone has an agency that has tried to get them to lower their rates. It seems the Big Two are particularly guilty of this. One agency in Massachusetts allegedly refuses to pay more than 10 cents for into English translation, while a perfect agency in New York has been trying scare tactics and a big hammer to get their translators to lower their rates. Now, mind you, this particular agency is known for sending job requests after 6 PM that are due the next day or contacting translators on Sunday – both practices that should require weekend or rush rates. The translators I have spoken with who have been asked to do this have stuck to their guns and not agreed to lower their rates – and received job requests the next day at their usual rates!

I have to admit that I was probably Corinne’s inspiration for this post. I mused on Facebook that I was thinking of lowering my rates when I was in the midst of a fairly long dry spell a week or so ago. I was then asked by my favorite client to offer a 10% discount on a very large job (20,000 words) with a tight deadline. I’m glad I didn’t give in to either temptation. Instead of offering a volume discount (which makes no sense from an economic standpoint – working harder for less money???) I am working with the client to keep the word count low (only translating multiple responses once, using contractions whenever I can, allowing them to pretranslate some of the more simple responses, etc.). They are hopefully happy with the compromise. I also have a new client who is willing to pay me my highest rate ever and has sent me four jobs in as many days.

So stick to your guns. We have bills to pay too! For $22 an hour I can work as a secretary or clean houses (both jobs with markedly lower stress levels). There are not that many qualified translators out there as it is. If the agencies keep trying to depress rates more and more they will soon find there will be even fewer qualified translators. The economy is sure to improve any day now. Just remember, this too shall pass!

TGIF: Beauty is nothing without brains March 13, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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Here’s a bonus TGIF video to brighten your day. It isn’t language-related, but since most translators I know love books I figure this is related enough. It made me giggle, and that’s really all that matters, right? Enjoy!

TGIF: Emma Thompson to the rescue March 13, 2009

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

This clip from Césars 2009 (France’s version of The Oscars) is one of those edge-of-your-seat clips, but not for the reason you would think. You don’t need to understand French to appreciate it, although I’m sure the French speakers will enjoy it more for the humor of the presenter. You only need to watch about the first 1:45 or so to see why I named this post what I did.