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Musings from an underworked translator April 30, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.

Karen’s guest post on Corinne’s blog today made me question whether I should keep up the blog, but I know deep down that I don’t blog for notoriety or to attract clients. I use my blog as my emotional outlet to vent about situations in the industry that upset me or share my experiences with others. I used to complain on listservs. Most people have no choice but read or at least glance at the various posts that are sent to a listserv. When I blog, people can choose whether or not they want to listen to me. When I was teaching the graduate translation students at Kent I hated the grading, but loved sharing my experience and the wisdom I had gained from so many of my colleagues over the years with the students. I consider my blog to be an extension of this. I also enjoy sharing the occasional video or comic strip about our field. I had hoarded them on my computer, but they needed to be shared and enjoyed.

You might have been wondering why I have been posting less often here in the last few months. The fact is that business has really dried up for me in the last six months. It was slowing down all year last year, as I struggled to find time to translate while settling my uncle’s estate. Then the three week stint at the law firm had me turning down work while working on a large translation at night. After both job assignments finished in early December I have rarely had lots of work. I haven’t needed to use my job board. The jobs come in in dribs and drabs (a thousand words here, 800 words there), with long days of nothing in between. I don’t know the cause of it, but the fact remains that I am woefully underworked. And when I am underworked I start to question things – my life, my abilities as a translator, whether I should continue freelancing or get a “real job.” I start to wonder whether this blog is a detriment to my job – if customers are turned off by the “overworked” moniker or if my complaining about bad clients or bad business practices repulses potential clients or my readers. My motivation wanes: my motivation to blog, motivation to tweet, motivation to sit at my computer, motivation to market myself. I am in a weird position at the moment where I don’t need to work, but want to work. There are only so many books I can read and so much television I can watch. Judge Judy is awesome, but when I have time to watch her twice a day that’s a problem. I know that this can’t continue indefinitely though. Working makes me happy. It makes me feel fulfilled. Like I have a purpose in life. When I am underworked I get bored. listless. depressed.

I know that this too shall pass, but it’s hard to experience. I need to contact my existing clients and let them know I’m available for work. I really need to send out some marketing e-mails and find some new clients. Maybe even reach out to new direct clients like the local law firms and hospitals here in Cleveland. I just need to find the motivation. The death of Dr. Lee Wright has kind of been a kick in the pants for me. I have taken over his responsibilities as Membership Chair of NOTA. His wife Sue Ellen (my mentor and the person who motivated me to be a translator in the first place) brought me his files on Saturday. We went to dinner and reminisced about Lee and his passion for translation, for his students, and for the arts. It was a lovely evening. We enjoyed the Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire perform Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos together. They had season tickets, and Lee used to take me when Sue Ellen was out of town on business. I miss him so much. Sue Ellen told me that when he was told that his cancer had come back Lee made a bucket list, although he never managed to do anything on the list. I am inspired to make my own bucket list. I am healthy and alive and should not squander that. And neither should you.

First on my list is to get away and enjoy a much needed vacation in Hawaii at the end of May. I think I desperately need to reenergize. The flights are booked, the hotels and car rental are arranged, the clothes and swimsuits are bought. I can’t wait. I’ll start the marketing campaign when I get back. Until then please bear with me.


Prolonged sitting leads to glucose and insulin spikes April 25, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

One of my colleagues (and friends) shared an article from Runner’s World that talks about the dangers associated with prolonged sitting on the ATA Business Practices listserv. In the last few years evidence has emerged suggesting that prolonged sitting, which is what we translators do for hours on end, is very bad for your health. We all know it can’t be good for you, but this presents very clear evidence of a correlation between prolonged sitting and glucose and insulin spikes. As the article explains, “No matter how much or how hard you exercise, if you spend the rest of the day motionless at a desk or on the couch, metabolic changes take place in your muscles that increase your risk of nasty outcomes like heart disease and death.” At the very least we should all get up every twenty minutes and take a quick 2-3 minute walk around the house or outside.

One of our best business practices, for overall good health as well as weight control and alertness, may be getting up off of our comfortable desk chair – or, as Corinne suggests, using a treadmill desk. I have been diagnosed with insulin resistance, so it seems I’d best seriously start looking into a treadmill desk. The heck with the cat – she can find somewhere else to sleep!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday April 25, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
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Problem with Microsoft Update and SDL Trados April 23, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tech tips.

Just a word of warning to those of you who use Trados and install the Microsoft Updates on a delay… there is a problem with Security Update for Microsoft 2007 Suites (KB2598041). If you install each update individually you should skip this one.

If you have already installed the update, you should set your computer back to a earlier Restore Point and install each update individually.

In the future consider waiting a day or two to install the downloaded updates. You can change the setting for Windows Update

  1. Click Start, type Windows update in the search box, and then click Windows Update in the Programs list.
  2. In the left pane, click Change settings.
  3. Select Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.
  4. Click OK.

Those of us who work with MemoQ, Fluency or Wordfast don’t need to worry about this 🙂 – although it’s still a good idea to delay installing updates to see what problems might crop up.

TGIF: Monty Python’s Flying Circus at a “traditional” Bavarian restaurant April 20, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff, TGIF.
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I’m amazed at how good John Cleese’s German pronunciation is. Apparently none of the Flying Circus crew spoke or understood German, but they learned their lines perfectly. Cleese revealed in September 2010 that he has always had a “secret love for Germany.” Thanks to my friend and colleague Matt Baird for sharing this recently.

FTP for translators April 20, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Tech tips.

There was a brief discussion about FTP on one of my listservs yesterday. The translator had received instructions from her client telling her to log onto their FTP server to access some files. She was confused about the concept of Explorer and Internet Explorer (which are two completely different animals) and needed some guidance from her listmates. I thought it might be a good idea to quickly explain what FTP is to readers who may not be aware of FTP or are new to the industry.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP is a standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host to another host over a TCP-based network, such as the Internet. In many cases, it is often used to upload web pages and other documents from a home (or work) computer to a public web-hosting server. However, in our industry clients use them when their files are too large to send over e-mail, since some e-mail servers have restrictions. The translator is given the address and a username and the password to log onto the server and download the files.

An FTP server is not a website. You can access an FTP server through a web browser, which is what the client instructed the translator to do, but this created the confusion. She was told to use Internet Explorer, because some browsers such as Chrome or Firefox do not recognize the ftp:// command. For instance, you need to install a plug-in (FireFTP) in order to access FTP through Firefox. Your best bet is to use an FTP client, such as FileZilla or BulletProofFTP (I currently use SmartFTP and have used CuteFTP, and WS_FTP in the past). Cyberduck is a free, open-source FTP client for Mac OS X. Another option (for those  who are comfortable with DOS prompts) is to call up the DOS prompt and enter the FTP command. Most FTP clients have a “paste URL” that automatically routes you to the link the client gives you. All you have to do is enter the username and password (and possibly the port if it isn’t the standard 21).

One thing to keep in mind is that FTP was not designed to be a secure protocol—especially by today’s standards—and has many security weaknesses. FTP is not able to encrypt its traffic; all transmissions are in clear text, and usernames, passwords, commands and data can be easily read by anyone able to perform packet capture on the network. The chance of someone intercepting your transmission is miniscule, but you should only access FTP sites that you know are reliable. That said, I doubt that this is a problem that our clients have. It is more an issue if you are blindly surfing the web for illegal content, which you should never do.

Happy translating!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday April 18, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.
1 comment so far

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday April 11, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Fun stuff.

Spring cleaning the office April 10, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

When was the last time you cleaned in your office – I mean *really* cleaned it? If you’re like me it was probably when you moved in, but I bet it was at least several years ago. Why not set aside a day in the next week or so and do a thorough cleaning of the office? Since it’s now officially spring and the windows will soon be thrown open, now is the perfect opportunity to spring clean your work area, which can make you more efficient and productive, and even healthier.

The first step is to dedicate a day and time for your spring cleaning. The most common reason cleaning is put off is our daily interruptions. We have every intention of going through those files, and then the phone rings with a rush job or an email arrives in your inbox that needs to be answered immediately. If you can dedicate a specific day or time for cleaning, you’re more likely to actually do it. Pick a day that is typically quieter (in my case Fridays are usually good times) or set aside a weekend by not accepting any weekend work. Push yourself to get everything done and then, on your designated day, put on some good music, roll up your sleeves, and get to it.

Be sure to break up your tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit. You’ve got to cut the mountain of tasks down to size to make it surmountable. Make a list of what your spring cleaning will entail: organizing and weeding out your paper files, combing through your email inbox, sifting through the papers and invoices on your desk, cleaning the insides and outsides of your computer and peripherals, etc. Decide what needs to be done, then pick one or two projects to tackle each day or each time you need a break from your regular work. By breaking things up, you might not feel so overwhelmed, and you’ll have a sense of completion each time you conquer one item on your list.

In my case, my first step was to go through the piles of papers and magazines that accumulated and file them away or recycle them. You might be surprised by what you find during your clean up. When I cleaned my office last week I found the two replacement tickets for the musicals Million Dollar Quartet and La Cage aux Folles when I couldn’t go on my assigned days for my Broadway subscription. I had torn my office apart looking for them at the time and ended up not going because I couldn’t find the tickets. Other people may find uncashed checks from clients or unused gift certificates. Challenge yourself to go through your piles and find some lost treasure.

Once the surfaces are cleared, grab that surface cleanser and give your desk, bookcases, shelves, etc. a good scrub. Clean your monitor using the appropriate cleaning agent. Spraying Windex on a paper towel can clean up your CRT, but lint-free wipes are usually a better choice. If you have an LCD screen, steer clear of ammonia-based cleaners. Instead, use a soft cloth dampened with plain water. Just make sure the cloth isn’t too wet. Next wipe down the keyboard, microphones, lamps, phone headsets, etc. with a sanitizing disinfectant. You might want to keep a tub of wipes on the desk next to you so you can wipe these things down more often in the future. This will cut down on the germs you are exposed to on a daily basis. If you have a window in your office, spray some Windex on the windows and let the sun shine in.

Now let’s turn our attention to our computers. Computers have moving parts such as fans on their CPUs, power supplies, video cards and, in some cases, on the case itself. Each fan is important for the smooth operation of the computer because they keep the system cool. If the parts overheat it could damage your computer. If you have a desktop computer you need to occasionally make sure the fans are running unimpeded – especially if you have pets or smoke in your office. Unplug the computer from the power supply so you don’t electrocute yourself or short out the motherboard, open up the case and blow out the dust bunnies. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner. Vacuums can generate static electricity, which can kill your computer. You need to use compressed air, which you can buy at any office supply store. If you are using compressed air or a compressor, give it a test spray of air first because sometimes they can collect moisture and spray water onto your computer, which is something we definitely don’t want. Place a pen or pencil in between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning and blast the dust away from the fan blades. Next, you will need to get the dust out from the computers CPU heat sink just below the CPU fan. A good blast from a low angle facing towards the back of the case should get most of the dust out from in between the aluminum grills. Be sure to run the vacuum cleaner in the office after you’ve done this – or take the computer outside or to your garage to avoid dust being blown around.

OK, now that that is done, you should clean up your files on the computer. Remove any unwanted programs or programs you no longer need by going to Start->Control Panel->Programs or Add/Remove Programs, then remove the unwanted programs. Delete old e-mails from your e-mail inbox. Archive jobs that have been delivered. You also don’t need a ton of links on your desktop, because it just slows the system down. Delete any unneeded links.

This ensures that your computer is running at tip-top shape. I like to occasionally run a program called CCleaner on my computer. It removes cookies and temporary Internet files as well as dead links and other detritus that can slow your computer down. If your computer is running particularly slow you may want to clean up the Registry as well, but don’t clean up the Registry if you don’t know what you are doing! One option is to visit a well-trusted computer magazine website (I recommend something like CNET or PC Magazine) and search for step-by-step instructions on how to do this. However, if you don’t have the slightest clue about the structure of your computer and its files you may want to hire someone to do this. And whatever you do, always back up your system before doing this.

If you don’t want to buy a special program like CCleaner you can run a complete disk cleanup using the system tools on your computer. After clicking on “Start,” move your cursor to “All Programs” then up to “Accessories” and then “System Tools.” Click on “Disk Cleanup” and then click the “More Options” tab at the top of the page, and select all three of the following: “Windows Components,” “Installed Programs,” and “System Restore”. Clean up all three by clicking on their respective tabs. You may want to delete all but your most recent system restore point, as you probably don’t need the others.

You will also want to remove adware, malware, and spyware. Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package that automatically renders advertisements. This may be in the form of a pop-up, but they may also be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keylogger programs and other privacy-invasive software. These programs may be installed by websites, with programs from unknown developers or through a Trojan horse through your e-mail. I use a combination of Lavasoft AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy.

Once the unused files and programs are purged you will want to defragment your system. Defragmenting your computer moves all your files to where they are supposed to be. Again, you can find the Disk Defragmenter tool under Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools. You may want to download an independent defragmenter (such as Defraggler by Piriform). It is small, concise, and more powerful, than the one distributed with Windows. But I use the Windows Disk Defragmenter, and it’s perfectly sufficient.

Once your computer is ship-shape and exactly how you want it, then go to Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools, then System Restore. Create a restore point, and restore it back to that point whenever your computer is running poorly. Once you do all this, your system will be running faster and you will feel lightened by the burden of a messy office. Happy Spring!

Translators and the art of business April 3, 2012

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.

There is a discussion on the WPPF listserv about a company that may or may not be having payment difficulties. Here are two comments from two different posters with the name of the company redacted:

Company X owes me $1,181.70 for a translation job completed on December 26, 2011.

They owe us $19,497.73 for 5 projects. The last invoice was issued on Dec 26, we completed the project during the holidays without any extra charge. So there are about 80 days from the last invoice and around 90 days since the other invoices were issued.

I can understand the first comment, but the second comment just shows some terrible business practices. First of all, they worked for the company over the holidays without a rush fee or surcharge. That is wrong on just so many levels. Secondly, I don’t know how some translators can let such a large debt accrue with just one single client. That’s just trouble waiting to happen! I wrote off my invoice to “Dear Client” as a business loss on this year’s taxes (since it had been a year since I had sent the invoice), but luckily it was only $60. I refused to work for the client again when they contacted me a month after the first job and hadn’t yet paid my invoice. I could understand the issue with the first poster, but the second one allowed a much larger debt to accrue. That kind of overdue debt is unacceptable from a business standpoint.

First of all, one should never limit oneself to just one client, because this kind of shortfall might easily occur. In that case, I highly recommend making sure you have a cushion in the bank to cover the lean times. A few weeks ago I had about $8,000 in overdue invoices, but that was distributed among three different clients. All but one invoice have since been paid and profuse apologies were issued. The responses these posters are receiving from the client, which claims the accountant is no longer working for the company and the other accountant was on vacation until March 19th, leads me to believe that these people may never see their money. This means they spent hours and hours translating and might never be compensated. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, and they do get paid. I know that if I were contacted by the company I would most certainly not agree to work with them.

Luckily they reported the delinquent client to the WPPF listserv so that people have a heads up that there might be a problem. This is why payment practices groups and lists are so important. The link leads to a post listing all the available listservs out there. I hope you all are subscribers to at least two. I myself subscribe to four different groups. It allows me to be aware of who the bad apples in the industry are.