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Alone

It’s weird, but I expected to be feeling happy. My wife and two children went back to England this morning to visit the grandparents and to let me work solidly for the week and give me a fighting chance of meeting my deadline. I dropped them off at the station this morning and felt the tears begin to well up as I waved goodbye to my 2-year old as she stood by the train doors. She looked so sad.

I came home to an empty house and had actually been quite looking forward to the sense of freedom to do what I want. But, I’m now coming to realise that what I want is to be with my family, so I’m actually free to do anything else besides what I really want. And that’s what’s so weird.

Having children changes one’s life in ways that one can never really comprehend until one has children. Everyone says it’s a life-changing event, and pretty much no one would argue with that, but until it really happens, you just never really know. At least I didn’t.

It’s a right miserable day today, which does nothing to lift my spirits.

They are on a pretty long journey involving a train ride, a bus ride, a flight and then another flight (with baggage collection and check in between the two flights because it’s Ryanair). The second flight is about to leave and she hasn’t called. That just makes me feel more depressed. She forgot her mobile phone in the dash out the door this morning and I guess getting to a payphone with two kids and luggage is too difficult. I’ve already been to the post office to mail the phone and charger to her so that at least she’ll have it for the way back.

So this is only day 1 and I’m feeling dejected already. Maybe it will get easier as I get my head stuck back into my work again, and I’ve got some things lined up for the evenings to keep me from moping at home.

I’m a family man now, and I wouldn’t be anything else. I miss my family and hope that they’re having an okay trip. They were all tired and our 2-year old has a stinker of a cold. When she’s tired, she gets crabit and stops cooperating. And so, back to my work then with the the phone by my side. I guess I won’t hear from them now until they reach grandma’s. Sigh.

Translation in the morning

I went to bed last night at 8.30; I was feeling kind of low and too tired really to concentrate on anything. I switched on the TV to watch some drivel and, as soon as I saw Laurence Llewelyn Bowen’s coupon on the screen, I knew the best thing to do would be to switch it off and go to bed. At least then I’d wake up early and be able to get some work done, rather than wasting time just because it was too early to go to bed.

But did I wake up early? Nope. I got up just after 8 a.m. and immediately started feeling glum about how I’d overslept and how much work I could have done.

But now I’m sitting at my desk and have translated a paragraph. I’ve got my 16 oz Starbucks cup filled with Scottish Breakfast tea from Taylor’s of Harrogate and the sun is just starting to peep through the skylight window (a big deal in the attic office as it’s usually dark enough to require lights on for most of the day). Having had plenty of sleep, I can see that my translation output is pretty good. My thought processes are working well and I should manage, if I can stop blogging for long enough, to get through my quota for today before the lunch-time rush starts. I can’t really work in the afternoon as I’m downstairs watching Hamish.

So, best foot forward and all that as I delve into today’s quota. Wish me luck!

Merlin Mann & Getting Things Done

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders often participates in the various podcasts that I listen to (basically the twit.tv suite of “TWiTcasts”). I decided on Friday that I would check out Merlin’s own podcast, so I downloaded them all and listened to the first 18 episodes on my iPod as I did the weekly shopping on Saturday morning. And man, what a great bunch of podcasts!
First of all, you should know that Merlin has a wicked sense of humour, so there was no shortage of chuckling as I pushed my trolley around the supermarket.
Where it gets good and serious though is in much of his content. Merlin is a productivity guru and he talks a lot about getting things done (and Getting Things Done). The episode entitled It’s Just a Cup struck home, as did the one entitled The Richard Scarry Book of the Future, but the real ring-a-ding-dinger was The Perfect Apostrophe. These are about work practices and it was interesting to hear him describe my working method as if he had been sitting in the room watching me. By that, I mean the ridiculous amount of time I can spend preparing to work, rather than actually working. In The Perfect Apostrophe, he talks about how he spent three days preparing to start writing a book, ending up on a quest to find the exact typeface for the apostrophe used in the font for the O’Reilly logo.

 It was gratifying to hear that I’m not completely messed up though. I’m a translator by profession and the episode entitled First-time Sex & the Beauty of 1.0 also explained my working method, but this time from a positive perspective. This is about the idea of getting something out there, producing something, even though it might be utter rubbish and eventually be completely discarded. That’s the 1.0. That is how I deal with translation. I start by translating literally using what I call Russian English (basically English words and Russian word order). So when I get to the end, I’ve read the whole thing, thought about it some, done some research and am much better equipped to start from the beginning again with the experience I’ve gained. It’s a whole lot quicker than deliberating long and hard to get the perfect translation of each sentence.

In his later episodes, Merlin conducts a series of interviews with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. I think I first hear about this book on a TWiTcast a while back; I’m not quite sure, but in any event I bought it on iTunes and tried to listen to it on a car journey one day. I found the style too dry and couldn’t really follow it. After listening to Merlin’s interviews (I’ve still got two to go), I tried again to listen to the book, but again found it too hard to get into. This might very well be down to the fact that I’d just spent the last hour or so listening to Merlin talking to David and was all tired out.

After spending some time today clearing my bills and what I refer to as my ‘admin’, I realised that, in my own way, I too am a GTD guy. I have a system that works and I only really get overwhelmed with my translation work when the deadline starts to loom (as it is now).


Translation wise, some of the technology that’s available now has made the process easy to breakdown. I use Wordfast, which is translation memory software that breaks the translation down into chunks. That helps to remove the scariness of having thousands and thousands of words still to go, eliminates any chance of missing bits out and, of course, gives you the power of memory and glossaries. I also have a spreadsheet into which I enter the daily work quota and it automatically updates to show me how much is left in percentage terms and how much I’ve done (which can be both encouraging and discouraging).

I do plan to listen again to the Getting Things Done book and see if I can get more involved with it. I do need to watch out that I don’t spend so much time learning about GTD and participating in discussions about it that I don’t actually get things done!

So, back to my translation. I’ve not done today’s quota yet!

My first blog entry… EVER!

So I’m a blogger now I guess. Although I suppose that having a blog does not make one a blogger. It is the act of blogging on a blog that makes one a blogger.

I’ve never done a blog before and, to be honest, am not sure about how it all works. I found my way to Vox after seeing Anil Dash of Six Apart on episode 36 of Cranky Geeks. It seems to have a nice interface with a similar feel to Backpack, which I love and is the only Web 2.0 service to which I have a paid subscription. (I do pay the $2 donation to Leo Laporte each month).

On the subject of Leo Laporte, I discovered podcasting about a year ago and it’s annoying that I don’t recall exactly how it came to my attention. I think that the first podcast I listened to was Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast, co-hosted by Leo. It wasn’t long until I discovered TWiT and all the other TWiTcasts. The first TWiT I listened to was episode 24 (26 September 2005).

I guess I really discovered Vox on Inside the Net when Mena Trott of Six Apart was on there (episode 28), but I’m a bit slow to catch up with blogs and things.

Podcast Cover Art

I actually have my own podcast, called Wood & Steel and hosted at Big in Japan (which I also learned about on Inside the Net). I’ve only done three podcasts thus far, but plans are in the works. It’s going to be interviews of acoustic guitar players and builders. It’s available for subscription through iTunes and it should get off the ground in the new year when I finish translating the book I’m working on on Russian archaeology (currently 80% done of the first draft with 15000 words left to do by 15 December – yikes!)

I think it will be a lot of fun to keep this blog going and it will be useful for me to refer back to things. I’ll see how it goes.