Friday 5: Gear

A white person working at a crafting bench, surrounded by pliers, brushes, wire, and snips.
Photo by Kelvyn Ornettte Sol Marte on Unsplash

What kind of specialized equipment do you own for a specific non-electronic hobby or job?

I have a small collection of jewelry-making pliers, as well as a bead reamer (kind of like a file in the round: you use it for gently opening up holes in beads that are just a little too small).

In what way can this equipment be upgraded or souped-up, and how difficult or expensive would the update be?

It can’t. You just buy newer, better pliers. There are a variety of price points, depending on how professional you are and how much money you want to drop.

Things like drills or torches you can buy different attachments for, but I don’t (as of now) have those particular pieces of equipment. Getting a Dremel is on my short list, though. I have a whole bag of Korean coins I want to drill for a bracelet and some pendants.

In your fields of interest, what’s the gear envy like?

“Envy” is a strong word. When I worked at the jewelry store, customers were always just excited about someone’s new purchase. But in terms of always wanting another attachment or another stamping set or whatever: yeah, that definitely happens.

What’s something you own the old version of because it’s better than the new version?

It’s not gear per se, but I have very strong opinions about bead-stringing wire. SoftFlex is my preferred brand but sometimes it’s really hard to find because everyone’s carrying Beadalon instead!

Lortone rock tumblers also are, from my understanding, still the highest quality brand of rock tumbler around.

What’s a hobby you don’t engage in that intrigues you mostly because of its equipment or tools?

Welding and blacksmithing are kind of natural off-shoots of jewelry making, inasmuch as they’re all about metals. The tools do largely the same work, they’re just scaled up for macro-level projects. Electronics also involve some of the same tools, since it’s work on the same scale. Both of those are things I’d like to learn more about but there are only so many hours in a day!

Moving!

An auspicious confluence of happenings means that my sambo and I spent last week moving house! This is amazing. Our new place is a huge improvement and once the dust settles I’ll be all kinds of productive. (Seriously. Nothing like leaving your new, comfortable, spacious apartment in a cozy neighborhood to clear out the last things from your tiny, crappy apartment in an overstuffed crappy building to realize just how dåligt the stämning really was.) But for now we’re still unpacking and I’m catching up after a week of “move everything that wasn’t ready in time for the movers” plus three days of “the last tenant never even used the Internet so no one knew it was broken or how to fix it.”

Meanwhile, here is a street performer who was out in the centrum in the blazing hot sun last weekend. Swedes are a tough crowd; she was a good sport. It was the perfect way to spend our first weekend in our new neighborhood!

A hula hooping street performer standing on the shoulders of two men, spinning one hoop around her waist and one around each arm.
Toni Smith performing in Bagarmossen.

Friday 5: Opposite Day

A white van parked in front of neighboring rowhomes, one red and one green.
Photo by Abraham Wiebe on Unsplash

What food, normally eaten cooked, do you prefer uncooked?

I don’t know if it counts as “cooked,” or if I would say “prefer,” but I’m comfortable having my bagels untoasted.

What food, normally eaten uncooked, do you prefer cooked?

When I was a kid, all I could think about every time I made (or helped a parent make) cookies or brownies was how when I was an adult, I would make cookies or brownies and then just sit down and eat the whole thing raw.

Now that I’m actually an adult, I have zero desire to do that. Licking the spoon after I’m done scraping out the last of the batter for the cookie sheets or brownie pan is more than enough for me.

What food, normally eaten cold, do you prefer hot?

We only serve beer cold because the temperature dulls the taste of crappy beer. Anything good should probably be served at room temperature.

Also, have you heard the good news about pineapple on pizza?

What food, normally eaten hot, do you prefer cold?

Again, “prefer” is a strong word, but I can live without having my kladdkaka straight out of the oven or warmed up in the microwave. Especially in the summer.

What are your favorite dinner meals to have for breakfast and breakfast meals to have for dinner?

I don’t like to have anything dinner-like for breakfast. I generally skip breakfast anyway, since I’m not hungry in the mornings, but anything like a dinner would be too much heavy food too early in the day. The closest I get would be dumplings, maybe, but that’s it.

But I’m all about breakfast for dinner, though. Brinner. Pancakes? Omelettes? Waffles? Cereal? Yes. All of it. In my mouth.

In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation

In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation is the third entry on my list of DipTrans-recommended texts on translation.

The 1992 edition of In Other Words: A Coursebook in Translation
Image courtesy Routledge

Despite its publication 26 years ago, even the first edition of In Other Words remains fairly relevant. Unlike Becoming a Translator or Culture Bumps, there’s not much time-sensitive material in here that needs updating, so even the first edition from 1992 still feels fresh and relevant.

As a self-taught translator, Baker’s theoretical framework was a helpful grounding for me, and there more were than a few moments where her commentary caused me to reflect not only on my translation work but also my editing work. Perhaps there are other, better textbooks out there on the subject, but you could certainly do much worse.

Friday 5: With A Capital T

The movie poster for The Music Man

What kind of trouble are you getting yourself into?

I’ve been really bad at time management this summer. I’m on some long-term projects that don’t have immediate deadlines, but nonetheless I should be further along than I am. I guess, if I were to be fair to myself, I would point out that I’m using this low period to invest in some professional development (aka reading up on translation theory).

There’s an old saw about how work expands or contracts to fit the amount of time you have, and I’m finding that to be the case. I’m only as efficient as my workload is heavy.

What was your most recent car trouble?

Ages ago because Stockholm is a walkable, car-optional city!

What’s a rhyming phrase (such as “work jerk” or “poo shoe”) to describe something causing you problems lately?

Sun fun. As in, I want to have too much of it.

What’s something that needs loosening or unsticking?

I’ve straight up body checked the automatic doors at Gullmarsplan in between the bus stops and the subway station multiple times because they open so slooooooooooooowly.

What’s your favorite board game involving rolling dice?

I don’t know if Munchkin counts, since it’s a card game and not a board game. If not, then Settlers of Catan.

Proust and the Squid

My ongoing self-directed professional development in the field of translations sends me deep into the academic and coursebook stacks at Stockholm University, most often within the linguistics section. On my last visit, Proust and the Squid caught my eye—what a title!—and, after just a moment’s hesitation, I added it to my stack.

The UK version of Proust and the Squid
Image courtesy Icon Books, Limited

Author: Maryanne Wolf

My GoodReads rating: 5 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 3.8

Language scaling: C1

Summary: Wolf sketches a short history of reading and the written language within a neurological framework, and hypothesizes about the neurological basis for dyslexia and other reading disorders.

Recommended audience: Elementary school teachers; special education teachers; book lovers; dyslexics

In-depth thoughts: I wasn’t expecting Proust and the Squid to be as good as it was, and I went into it expecting to enjoy it. Wolf manages to make complex neuroscience accessible to the layperson.

I debated whether to give this 4 or 5 stars. For anyone who works with young learners, this is a solid 5 stars. Wolf’s approach to typifying reading disorders and pinpointing what seems to be happening in the brain in these situations will no doubt prove useful for teachers, tutors, or parents with dyslexic children. I imagine it would be interesting to special education teachers as well, though maybe much of what Wolf touches on here would be covered in even greater detail over the course of a special education degree. Adult dyslexics might also appreciate understanding the neuro- and physiological foundations of reading and what’s happening in their brains in particular.

For the general public, I would say it’s only 4 stars, only because while the history of reading and the brain is fascinating for me, its immediate relevance to everyday life is more oddity than urgent. Wolf is largely accessible when writing about the hard science, but she tends towards to err on the side of obscurity rather than simplicity. It’s largely for that reason I would consider this a difficult book for English students (unless they were particularly motivated.) I’ll certainly have to read Proust and the Squid a few times to really appreciate it. It’s also been over a decade since the initial publication. I’d love to read an updated edition and see if there have been any new breakthroughs.

Memorizing

A Caucasian hand holding a small sheet of paper with a typewritten poem.
Photo by Sarah Brink on Unsplash

Much like meditation a few years ago, enough disparate pieces that I’ve read have talked about the benefits of memorizing poetry that I’ve decided to give it a shot. Because I don’t have enough to do in my life!

Most of my experience with memorization has been with music. I took piano lessons for ten years, and during those ten years I had a piano recital every six months where I’d be expected to perform at least one, and usually two or three, pieces from memory. I also did a three-year stint in marching band, which involved memorizing music alongside drills.

Memorizing poetry? Not so much. It was part of an assignment for freshman year poetry class, and I can’t remember any of the poems I chose to memorize and recite in front of the class. (Except the William Carlos Williams one about the red wheelbarrow and the chickens. Everyone padded out their line count with that poem. The professor was real sick of it by the end of the semester.) The only other time was when I had to recite a short extract from Eugene Onegin for an intercollegiate Russian competition. I did poorly in the competition, but it stuck a little longer with me than the freshman year poetry. Years after my working knowledge of Russian all but vanished, it was still satisfying to be able to repeat the first two lines to myself. Vesna, vesna, pora lyubvi…

As it turns out, memorizing anything is just good brain practice. There’s no doubt a value in it for EFL and foreign language students as well: new vocabulary, examples of complex or confusing grammar points you can call to mind immediately, and engagement with the language culture on a more meaningful level. Wolf also nods to slightly more drastic reasoning in Proust and The Squid: 

On almost any occasion, [my children’s eighty-six-year-old Jewish grandmother, Lotte Noam] can supply an appropriate three-stanza poem from Rilke, a passage from Goethe, or a bawdy limerick—to the infinite delight of her grandsons. Once, in a burst of envy, I asked Lotte how she could ever memorize so many poems and jokes. She answered simply, “I always wanted to have something no one could take away if I was ever put into a concentration camp.”

So after reading about memorization, and specifically poetry memorization, I decided to make a point of committing a few poems to memory. Because I’m a classics nerd, I started with a handful of the Orphic Hymns. It went surprisingly well; the next challenge will probably be in a language besides English. Karin Boye? Goethe? Brushing up on my Pushkin?

Part of the trick is finding poetry I like, and that’s a pretty tall order.

Friday 5: Esprit

Close up of berries on a juniper bush.
Photo by Steve Richey on Unsplash

What’s your spirit animal?

I’m going to back away from that specific terminology because I’m not even remotely Native American (no, not even 1/64th Cherokee Princess). But as for an animal I relate to, black bears spring to mind. I just want to nose around the forest and eat fruit and berries all day (and as I get older, my “fur coat” only seems to get thicker and darker, sigh…). But I’m not nearly as dangerous as an actual black bear when provoked.

It was my birthday yesterday, which makes me a Cancer in the Western zodiac. According to the stereotype, Cancers have a hard, tough shell to protect their squishy and vulnerable insides. That sounds about right.

What’s your spirit tree?

I can’t relate to any tree specifically, but my mortal enemy tree is pine trees. I have a pine (and fir) allergy, which means I’m allergic to Christmas and pesto sauce. Are there other trees that hate pine trees?

Given my stature, I’m not even really tree-like at all. I’m much more of a shrub. I’ll go with juniper, I guess. We had a bunch of juniper bushes lining our driveway for years. My dad was actually planting them when my mom went into labor with me.  (Mom: “My water just broke, we’re having this baby.” Dad: “Make some sandwiches while I finish getting this one in the ground and then we’ll go to the hospital.”) Those plants are no longer with us, but there are still a couple juniper shrubs (bushes?)  elsewhere on their property, and they remind me of home.

What’s your spirit food or beverage?

“Bullsky,” or equal parts Red Bull and whisky (the cheapest bottom shelf stuff you can find). This is not an actual cocktail you can (or should) order anywhere, or any kind of actual “thing” except with a couple members of my trivia team in the US. But it’s an oddball, low-class combination with a distinct flavor that’s not for everyone. Just like me!

 

What’s your spirit weather phenomenon?

Clear skies, bright sun, 28 *C temperatures, a touch of humidity. I’m a wilting tropical orchid.

What’s your spirit passenger vehicle?

I am absolutely an off-brand knock off Mini Cooper.

On Swimming in Language

I will confess to having a fondness for astrology. Stars, Greek mythology, and the leftover trappings of the New Age movement captured my imagination at a young age, so that’s hardly surprising. I know enough about the topic to know not only my Sun sign, but all the rest of them. And perhaps—because my horoscope contains a good deal of Pisces, the dual fishes swimming in opposite directions, and I’ve consequently steeped myself in fishy lore—that’s why I think about editing and translating as swimming. Or maybe more like deep-sea diving.

(Not teaching, as much. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the interactive and interpersonal nature of teaching means that I don’t have to imagine myself into someone else’s thoughts quite as often. They’re right there to interact with me, in the full spectrum of in-person communication.)

One of the psychology rockstars of the last forty years or so is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his “flow” model. If “flow” is a new concept for you in this context, you might better know it as “being in the zone.” Unsurprisingly, since I enjoy my work and am competent at it, I find myself “in the zone” quite regularly. It would be easy enough to simply describe this “swimming” state of being as flow, as being in the zone. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate, though. Swimming in language isn’t like getting lost in my own writing, or working on a new piece of jewelry. Swimming in language is something above and beyond “the zone.”

In any writing-related work that I do, there comes a point where I reach out to original writer, or speaker, or whoever generated the text I’m working on, and connect with them in my own head. I’m sure everyone in the field has their own personal metaphor for that connection; the arbitrary one that my consciousness and my physiology has lit upon is swimming. It’s like diving into an ocean with various currents that can carry you different places.

One current is the author: what did they mean? what tone are they trying to convey here? is there a better word to express what they’re getting at?

Another current is the reader: is this construction clear enough? will they get the author’s intention here? will this word disrupt their reading in any negative way?

Translating has a few more currents: the source language and all of its history and metaphors and idioms, as well as the target language. The tension between the two is yet another third stream that can catch me and send me circling for hours without going anywhere.

And beneath all of them is always my own curiosity, a nefarious undertow. A quick check on a given word’s etymology can, if I’m not careful, lead to a half-hour trip down the Google black hole: if these two are related, how about this third term? is there a Swedish equivalent of this idiom? what’s the name for this kind of grammatical construction?

(By now, anyone else familiar with Pisces as a metaphor for the dissolved ego and the collective unconscious can read a deeper meaning into all of this. But without the woo, the metaphor still holds.)

Conversely, if I can’t dive into the language and swim in the words, then work gets much, much harder. Not that editing or translating is all about inspiration and muses, of course, but when I’m properly swimming, the right word or phrase, the right comma or recasting, comes almost effortlessly. When I have to sit and consciously chop things up or look up word after word in the dictionary, the result is always noticeably worse (in my opinion). Most of the time, that belabored solution just gets replaced by something that comes to me, out of nowhere, hours later.

Like deep sea diving, some adjustment is needed to avoid getting the bends. “The bends,” in this case, being unable to communicate and express myself. Trying to think about something other than words, and trying to articulate what I’m thinking and what I want, is a little challenging after a long stretch of language work. It gets even weirder when I’ve been translating; that’s when I switch to an incomprehensible pidgin full of “non-standard” (that is, awful) pronunciation and rookie false friend mistakes I would never make in my professional work. I have to remember who I am, remember how to be myself.

Editors, translators, and other language professionals, I’m curious: what does your work feel like to you?

Friday 5: Break of Day

A pair of broken windows in a white wall.
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

When did you last break something made of glass?

Years ago. I had a whiskey glass from the tour I took of the Jameson distillery when I visited during spring break in 2008. It survived decorating my college dorm, but when I came home it slipped out of my hand and didn’t survive its meeting with the concrete garage floor.

The friend I had visited in Dublin gifted me his later to make up for it. Friendship goals!

When did you last break something ceramic?

I don’t know that I ever have, actually.

When did you last break something electronic?

After really good luck with smartphones for years, I finally dropped and cracked the screen on my smartphone last year.

When did you last break a non-traffic-related law?

I’ve definitely had more than my allotted amount of liquids on a flight.

When did you last break a promise?

I promised one of my students I would bring Dixit around for our next lesson and then didn’t. I’m not usually that forgetful…!