Nov 20, 2016

Sweet Greek olives come to Portugal

The Good Doctor is widely travelled, and brings back to Portugal many interesting culinary ideas from around the world, using these to complement the traditions of her native land. So when I began to harvest olives from her trees to pickle for the coming year, she looked a little skeptically at the plastic water bottles full of crushed and slit olives and asked me Why don't you make sweet Greek olives?

I had never heard of those before, and she could not tell me much about them except that she had bought some in a shop while driving through Greece some years ago, and they were rather good, so she would prefer that I make some of those instead of the usual spiced pickles all the local farmers do. OK, I said, and began to look for information on the Internet. Nothing useful was found in searches using terms in English, German and Portuguese. I found some pages talking about candied olives made from pickled ones, but nothing useful describing the process starting with fresh olives.

What to do? I asked a Greek colleague for help, and a few minutes later, she sent me a link to a web page in Greek which describes making sweet olives and olive jam.

Since I can't do much more with Greek than sound the words out and search my brain for possible derivates in a language I know, it wasn't clear to me if I needed to work with any particular sort of olives, and I thought the suggested extraction time to remove the bitter elements from the raw olives was optimistic at best, so I took notes and prepared to "transcreate" the recipe for the olives I have available (based on my past experience picking them) and my own preferred approach to scaling recipes. Thus I arrived at the following recipe:

Azeitonas doces de Elvas
  1. Gather ripe, dark olives, de-stem and rinse them, then place them in clean one- to two-liter plastic bottles. Fill the bottles with fresh, cold water and cap them.
  2. Change the water daily for about two weeks, testing the bitterness of the olives until it is reduced to an acceptable level. The time needed will vary according to the olive variety, the degree of ripeness and your personal taste. The Greek recipe this one is based on suggests four or five days time with daily water changes, but that is simply too little time for my olives and my taste.
  3. After the olives are debittered, cut the tops of the plastic bottles to remove the olives. Then use a de-pitter (a descaroçador de cerejas - a cherry pitter - will do the job) to remove the pits from the olives.
  4. Weigh the olives and place them in a saucepan or small pot.
  5. Add the same weight of water to the pan (so for 600 g of de-pitted olives, add 600 ml water).
  6. Add sugar to the pot amounting to 40% of the weight of the olives (which would be 240 g sugar for 600 g olives).
  7. Bring to a hard boil on high heat, and let the mixture boil for 20 minutes, with occasional stirring. Then remove from heat and allow to rest overnight.
  8. The next day, add more sugar to the pot - 20% of the weight of the olives (so another 120 g of sugar if you are working with 600 g of de-pitted olives). 
  9. Boil the mixture hard for another 20 minutes until the syrup thickens. Then remove from heat.
  10. Can the sweet olives in sterilized jars following the usual hygenic procedures or serve them fresh, warm or cold.

Nov 12, 2016

Trump this!

The Lay of the Politics Waged by Donald

I am the Trump, o hear my cry!
I'll fight for you to love my Lie.
I'll build a Wall to bend you over,
then take my turn with Vlad and Rover.
Injecting Hope in your back end,
I'll screw you green, but I'm your Friend.

I won't pay tax: I'm not a chump,
no plebe like you, I am the Trump!
I make the jobs, you do the work,
you working slobs, and like a jerk,
I'll keep your pay, 'cause it's my perk.

A plastic wife like mine ain't cheap,
nor my pet dog, Slick Mike the veep,
and Master Vlad, he wants his cut,
I'll keep the cash, he'll take your butt.
Russian winters are so, so cold,
but rampant bears are hot and bold!

In politics I make my luck
by giving Vlad a timely suck
and spread his word so true and pure,
like finest vodka from manure!

I am the Trump! O hear my cry!
I have the codes: prepare to die!

Oct 21, 2016

A day in the life....

One of the things I enjoy most about professional translation is the range of activities and subject matters that one can encounter, even as a specialist in a few domains. I can't say the work is never boring, but when it does drift that way, very suddenly it isn't any more. Quite unpredictably.

Yesterday I typed translations. A bit more than expected after two sets of PowerPoint slides - a small one to translate from German and another to edit the rather acceptable English - turned out to have about 8,000 words of highly specialized slide notes about military command and control structures and the technology of fighting forest fires. (Note to self: no matter how busy you are, always import those presentations into memoQ with the options set to extract every kind of text as well as the bitmap graphics if you have to translate those too. Then do a word count! Appearances can be deceiving.)

Yesterday I dictated translations. The job started out as a bunch of text fragments from slides, where context über alles was the rule, lots of terminology required research, and voice recognition offered no particular advantages, then suddenly it became the translation of a rather long lecture using all that new terminology, and the deadline was tighter than thumbscrews operated by an angry ex-girlfriend. Dragon NaturallySpeaking to the rescue. Not only was this necessary to finish the text in a long workday rather than most of a week, but the more natural style of translation by dictation suited the purpose of the translated presentation particularly well. I could imagine myself in the room with equipment vendors, military commanders, firefighting specialists and freight forwarders, talking about the challenges faced and the technology required to avoid the tragedies of an out-of-control firestorm. And the words came out, transcribed from my voice directly into the target text fields of memoQ, exactly as they should be spoken to that audience. And at the end of that long day my hands still had feeling in them, which would not have been the case if I had typed even a third of the text.

Yesterday I made a specialized glossary to share with a presenter who will travel halfway around the world to lecture with the slides I translated for his talk. Long ago I discovered that the way I produce translations has the potential to provide additional benefits for those who will use my work. Sales representatives might need to write letters to their prospects, discussing their products in a language not mastered as a native, and the vocabulary from my work may help them to improve communication and avoid confusion that might result from using incorrect or simply different words to describe the same stuff. Or an attorney might need a quick overview of the language I used to translate the pleading she intends to file, to ensure that it is consistent with previous efforts and will not complicate discussions with her client. The terminology I research and record for each translation can be exported and reformatted quickly to produce glossaries or more complex dictionaries in a variety of formats suited for purpose. Little time and often a lot of benefits for my clients.

Yesterday I translated bitmap graphics and not only had to deal with the editing tools for that but also had to consider the best strategy for transforming the original German graphics into English ones. Would those charts be translated again into other languages? Would the graphics be re-used in other types of documents, so that I should consider ease of portability in my approach to the translation? And how the Hell do I actually use that new bitmap graphics transcription and substitution for Microsoft Office files which was added to memoQ some time ago and sort out the five charts to translate from the fifty to ignore? (Maybe I should blog the solutions some day.)

And yesterday I was asked to write summaries of large, badly scanned articles so that the equipment manufacturer would understand how its latest technology was discussed by German reviewers. As a kid I had a silly fantasy about getting paid to read, and this is just one of the many ways it unexpectedly came true. But before I get that far, these scanned files needed to be reworked so that they could be read and searched on the screen, so as I described in a guest post on another blog some years ago, I converted them to searchable PDF/A with ABBYY FineReader, which in this case also reduced their size by about 75%. The video below also shows how this works. Strangely, when I describe this procedure to other translators, many of them don't get it, and they go on about converting PDF files into editable MS Word files or plain text, or, God help them, something really stupid like importing PDF files directly into a CAT tool for translation, though none of this really relates to my purpose. Conversions often contain errors, and many texts are harder to interpret when the context of an accurate layout is lost. So "text-on-image" PDF files for translation reference to the original source files are often critical, and for files to summarize or consult sporadically for reference (with many pages to look at and essentially nothing to translate), a searchable PDF is the gold standard for efficient work.

In the course of that day I had to work with two computers linked by remote access using four networks at various time, working in German, English and Portuguese (the latter mostly involving questions to the housekeeper on how to do an online pizza delivery order so I could stay in the office and keep working). I used well over a dozen software applications for necessary tasks. These, and the environments in which they operate must be balanced carefully for efficient work. And even after some months in my new office, the balance isn't quite as good as I've had it before, and more attention to ergonomics is required.

Some colleagues are nostalgic for the "good old days" when they received a stack of paper to translate and sent off another stack of paper when the work was done, and they had a filing cabinet or a shelf of notebooks full of old work to use as reference material, and boxes of index cards stuffed full of scribbled notes on terminology next to seldom-dusty specialist dictionaries prepared by presumed experts, often full of marginalia commenting on errors or omissions and stuffed with papers bearing other scribbled notes. Not me. Since the day 30 years ago when I laboriously typed a text file full of file folder numbers and content descriptions for my research work and personal papers I have been a big believer in electronic retrieval of information wherever possible, and I miss retyping botched pages just as little as I miss the lines in the post office or the stress of dealing with delivery services.

I suspect that some feel a loss of control with the advent of new technologies in an old profession, and certainly the changes in the business environment for translation since the days of the typewriter often require a very different mentality to survive and thrive. What that mentality is, exactly, is a matter of healthy debate and often misunderstanding - again, because of the great diversity of the profession and the professions and unprofessionals in it.

The greatest challenges of new technologies that I find are the same as those faced in many other kinds of work and in modern life in general. Filtering the overabundance of input for the few things that are truly of use or interest and maintaining focus and calm amidst omnipresent distractions. Not relying too much on technologies that are far more fallible than most people, even experts, realize or acknowledge. And remembering that a fool with a tool, however many features and failsafes it may offer, remains a fool.