Know Your Masters

I suspect that most Africans who were being sold into slavery and sent to the New World realized almost immediately that they were being traded as products. This is a radical difference from what we see with social media.

Too few users of social media realize that they and their every action on social media are products and that they are being encouraged to perform (and are indeed performing) for the benefit of the owners of big data empires. And people who contend that what they get on their side of their Faustian contract with social media companies is worth it either don’t value themselves sufficiently as individuals possessing agency or simply can’t look beyond the Share button to see the ultimate result of mass submission to social media companies.

Billions of bad deals have been made with social media companies, and the price to be paid is phenomenal and is being paid every day, both individually and collectively.

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No More Help in Sharing to Social Media Company Platforms

I just removed the Facebook share icon from all my blog postings. I have no desire to have anything connected with social media companies on a webpage or blog article that I control.

If you must share somewhere, however, it is easy. Just click on the title of the article that you want to share, thereby bringing up just that article in your browser, and then grab the URL for that article in the URL field of your browser. You can then share it anywhere. Knock yourself out, but I am no longer placing icons of social media companies on my blog or any other content that I control.

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Bad Water at My Doorstep

The sign on the door of my hole-in-the wall company (with holes in its walls) read Globally Empowering Language Solutions. The paint was chipped and flaking, and so was I. I’d been through a lot. I was old enough to remember when translations were done by skilled human professionals. But all of that was changed, and I’d learned to live with it. Changes come with the territory, and I was not about to buck the tide.

I arrived at the office around 10 am. I would say my desk was in serious disarray but disarray was too kind a word. The phone rang.

I managed “Sanjay Noir. What can I do for you?” while trying to shake off the lingering effects of last night’s cheap booze.

“No, I am not interested in being a part owner of an Ostrich farm.” The sound the phone made when I slammed it down echoed off the stucco walls around me.

I had moved to this location in search of cheap rents and cheap booze. I had found both, but there were downsides to deal with.

The natives outside might not have been restless, but they were certainly noisy. I closed the window to shut out the din. Just then, the computer on my desk emitted a strangely out-of-place melodious chime, announcing the arrival of an e-mail. After pondering the consequences of putting off a trip to the toilet in favor of reading the e-mail, I opted for the e-mail. That would prove to be a mistake, in more ways than one. The e-mail went something like this:

Hi! I hope you’re having a fantastic day!

I’m Ludmila Yablokova at Cosmic Megatranslations. We need to translate 10,000 pages of Japanese to English within two weeks. If you can do this work, can meet our budget requirements, and can use our standard Freelunch translation memory system, we would like to send you work immediately. Please reply as soon as possible. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Have a great day!
Ludmila Yablokova
Cosmic Megatranslations

I took a moment to consider the offer. It was sent from a gmail account and provided no clues as to Ludmila’s physical address. I did a search for the company name and immediately found it. Their website’s top page was filled with nausea-inducing animated graphics. It reminded me of a bunch of gaudy Hawaiian shirts being tossed around in a laundromat drier. Feeling a bit dizzy, I turned away. When I looked back at the screen, I saw that they had 8,000 translators and translate more than 150 languages. One of the charming parts of the Internet is that you don’t have to struggle to keep a straight face as you lie.

When I gazed back at the Cosmic Megatranslations website, it looked as if they were in Russia, but they claimed to have branches in 11 major cities around the globe. No addresses were given for any of their branches. I was in no position to complain or fret. After realizing that anyone using Google Earth can out me in seconds as being in this hole of an office, I had stopped disclosing my own physical address.

A 10,000-page job is nothing to sneeze at. It would finance just about any foolish thing I wanted to buy or do in the immediate future. I thought for a moment, a very short moment, and banged out my reply, which went something like this:

Dear Ludmila: Thank you for your inquiry. Yes we can handle your work. Please send it as soon as possible. Our rate would be 0.04 USD/word. And, yes, we are familiar with the Freelunch TM system. We use it all the time.

Regards
Sanjay Noir, President
Global Language Solutions

As I waited for Ludmilla’s reply, I began to wonder what the subject matter might be. Electronics? Mechanical? Legal? Something else? It mattered little, though. A quick post to a reverse-auction website would suck in dozens of people willing to do the translations at less than Ludmilla’s price. Some of them had been let go from call centers set up here for Japanese companies, where they had been doing bad impersonations of unhelpful Japanese call center operators. They were now being replaced by AI call center operators. They would certainly produce junk, but Ludmila was in no position to be picky, and neither was I. All the translators needed to do was churn out lots of English-like words.

Ludmilla placed the order, and the Japanese files started to arrive in a matter of minutes. Hundreds of pdf files of internal documents from Zetsurin Seiyaku, a Japanese company marketing the popular pecker-perkerupper health drink called Yoru no Teio. They were being sued for patent infringement by a US patent troll, which had engaged a tiny law firm to be their “hired mouth.” The US law firm had either gone to Ludmilla or to a US translation broker who was outsourcing to Ludmilla to translate a huge volume of discovery documents. Naturally, bad water flows downhill, and that’s how the work arrived at my doorstep. The translation brokering business works in strange ways, but it was not for me to question the system.

We found enough translators and got the translations back to Ludmilla on time. But it turned out that she claimed to be unable to pay me until her translation broker client in the US paid her. The translation broker in the US, in turn, couldn’t make payment until they received payment from their law firm client. I imagined that the law firm needed to be paid by the troll before they could send payment to the US translation broker, but I was wrong. The two-man law firm and the patent troll were actually the same outfit. As I said, bad water flows downhill, and it had reached me, Sanjay Noir, President of Globally Empowering Language Solutions.

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30 Years Plus Two Days Ago Today

The time was 1988, just before the Internet happened to us. Numerous people already had computers of sorts, but nobody was incessantly connected to and talking with (and at) everybody else. And certainly few could have foreseen the arrival of social media and other aspects of the Internet that would be brought to us by technology and the never-ending quest for wealth.

The place was a lodge in Snoqualmie, at which I was attending a gathering of the American Translators Association in connection with the conference they were holding in Seattle. After breakfast, we gathered in a room and were greeted by the sight of a US Navy color guard bringing in the colors at the opening ceremony. We all rose and I heard the person on my right say to me “リゼ君、我が海軍だよ” (Lise, it’s our navy!”)

There have been very few people who addressed me or could address me that way in Japanese. Don Cyril Gorham, who was seated to my right, was one. Living on different continents throughout the decades of my translation career, I only had a few direct encounters with Don. All of them reinforced the impression that I could never aspire to attain his level; a true gentleman, remembered in this age when some seem to have forgotten the value of acting decently.

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And Now the Slide Rule Collection Database is Almost There

I combined the 26 “surplus” specimens with the 253 specimens in the collection proper and fleshed out the many missing or incorrect fields in my FilemakerPro slide rule database, resulting in the superset of “just” 279 slide rules sitting in boxes under a table in my office.

I still have yet to catalog my large stock of slide rule parts, located in green boxes shown in the upper right of the photo. That will need to wait for a day when I have more time. I wonder when that day will come.

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Real “Snail” Mail from a Totally Incompetent Chinese Bottomfeeder

About once a week we receive an offer to do translations from a totally clueless Chinese bottomfeeding agent calling itself CCJK. I don’t think we’ve gotten two emails consecutively using the same sender name. They all appear to be sent from gmail accounts (thereby effectively screaming “nonsubstantial”), although the company apparently has a domain. Perhaps the people sending these are clueless freelancers this bucketshop uses to drum up business. Not so much marching by me to that drumbeat, I am afraid. Anyway,  here is the note and some comments (not made to the snail, of course, because he/she/it would surely not understand them).

Dear friend,

I am not and will never be your friend.

I hope you have had your sweet coffee!

I am actually cutting down on my sugar these days.

This is Snail, Account Manager working at CCJK,an ISO 9001:2008 certified language and IT services provider.

At last, a chance to befriend a gastropod. What an honor. The bar to entry into the translation business is apparently so low that even snails can jump over it (or just high enough for them to slither under it).

I was wondering if you have any requirements about translation or localization services.

We have some requirements. One is that people or entities we deal with must not be located in China and the other is that they are able to use English. You, my gastropod friend, fail on both counts.

If you don’t mind,I would like to spare your several minutes to check my words below:

So glad to see that you are sparing my time. However, your words below are beyond checking; they act as a highly effective emetic.

Trusted by the World’s Global Brands, we have been providing business translation in any fields to support clients in over 120 languages since Year 2000.

I’ve never heard of the company World’s Global Brands. Perhaps they have not yet made their mark in the circles in which I travel. And I wonder whether you are as clueless in all 120 languages as you are in English. Anyway, I am glad to see that you have given the millennium is due respect, in the form of capitalization.

For now, we have cooperated with Apple, Samsung, Cannon, Lenovo, Microsoft, GE and other famous companies.

With the exception of Lenovo, I don’t for a moment believe any of the above, although it could depend upon your definition of cooperation. I cooperate with Apple on a daily basis, using an Apple product made by your countrymen (and, most probably, countrychildren). And if you are going to brag about companies you claim to be cooperating with but cannot spell their names correctly, you should be shot at by Canon with a cannon.

So there is nothing to worry about our qualities.

I am not the least bit worried.

And the followings are the language combinations that we are most professional with:

Source language: English/German/French/Spain, etc.

Target language: Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Malay/Indonesian/
Thai/Tagalog/Hindi/Arabic, etc.

So nice to see that you can do everything, even things that you clearly cannot do, but I pity the poor clients giving you work with which you are not most professional.

Beside the Languages service, we can also offer Voiceover and DTP service.

DTP. How very 1985.

Please kindly contact us if you require such professional services in future. Look forward to working with you soon. Thank you.

Warm regards,
Snail

Needless-to-say (but I will say it anyway), if this sleazy operation has that ISO certification, they are providing a valuable service to the translation industry by demonstrating the worthlessness of that certification. If they don’t, well, suspicions confirmed about Chinese bottomfeeders.

I wonder what member of the animal kingdom will send me the next offer of translations done by CCJK.

As I have said in the past, if I encountered a Chinese person or entity worthy of the time of day, I would not be opposed to developing a business or personal relationship (perhaps I’ll make Chinese snails the exception). Alas, the only Chinese people and entities I encounter are incompetent charlatans trying to fake their way through to the pot of gold at the end of the “translation industry” rainbow. The truth is often painful, but it is better to know the truth than to believe a fantasy.

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Problems Are Not Issues!

Although this is not a uniquely BBC problem, BBC is often guilty of causing problems with “issue.” Listening to the BBC coverage of the recent escape from the rocket that had a booster failure, the announcer on the video says calmly that there has been a booster “issue.” Has the word problem finally been outlawed in favor of the euphemism issue?

I am sure that there are numerous people reading this (if there are indeed numerous people reading this) who grew up in the world after the senseless transition from problem to issue afflicted the English language as it is spoken and written by otherwise intelligent people.

Knock it off, folks. A problem is a problem. The next step after calling problems issues is claiming that bugs are features. Calling a problem an issue might work for a call center operator in Mumbai, but for more sensible people there is no reason to call a problem anything other than a problem.

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More Slide Rules into the Database

Hemmi slide rule.

After updating my Filemaker Pro database of my slide rule collection to properly catalog my collection of 253 slide rules, I went through another both of “surplus” slide rules and cataloged the 26 specimens in that box. That brings the collection overall to 279 specimens. The surplus slide rules are listed separately.

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Even Freer Yet

In searching around the web for information about myself, I encountered an orphaned Twitter account that I had not once used. I made it as an experiment and never tweeted one tweet. It turns out, however, that it was not as easy to delete as I thought.

For a few email exchanges, I pretended to believe that the messages from Twitter Support were from human beings (albeit perhaps in Mumbai), but they were singly unhelpful, merely repeating the same sad news that to delete the account I would need to have and use the email account I used when I made the account. Alas, that email account was made at a domain that I no longer own or control. The word from the Mumbaibot was pretty grim, but it was also pretty mistaken. A solution was at hand. I used the password I had in my password cheat-sheet to log in and was able to deactivate the account.

Having killed all my “social media” accounts, I have attained the same status as Jaron Lanier, whose recent book convinced me that the best approach to dealing with behavior manipulation and the like by social media companies is simply to leave all social media immediately.

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Slide Rule Collection Update

In addition to walking over 10,000 steps yesterday (the first time in N days, where N is too high an integer), I completed a two-day period of taking an inventory of my slide rule collection (don’t laugh; well, ok, laugh).

By culling my collection of over 450 slide rules last year, I got the number down to just 253 slide rules that I really “need” in my collection, all stored in boxes with box numbers and specimen numbers that are listed in a FilemakerPro database, thereby making my next inventory easier.

And (of course) I have yet another box of slide rules that are outside the collection and that I permit myself to play with when the spirit moves me (and I am often moved by said slide rule spirit).

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