Scratch your back, you scratch mine

Humanity is pretty much the same wherever you look, give or take a very few details. This includes the flaws and virtues.

The guy who first proposed the theory of plate tectonics was considered a lunatic for many years and shunned by the scientific community. Darwin’s theories were pretty sponsored by folks who wanted to prove that blacks were descended from monkeys, and thus should be considered an inferior race. Schopenhauer reported that German academia in the early 1800’s was a system of scratch your back and I will scratch mine, and articles were published not so much based on intrinsic value, rather, political prowess of the writer. The academic grant system is a complicated, difficult to navigate and overly political catacomb, where projects often get approved (or rejected) based on considerations other than usefulness. Additionally, try to get a research project funded, if the topic is looking into creation as an option for the appearance of the universe, it will be rejected as being “unscientific”, because the powers that be don’t want the boat rocked.

In fact, the same troubles that pervade other higher echelon of human activities, such as politics, corporations, government, journalism/media, entertainment, religion, affects academia and science. A system where you better play your political cards right, or else, you become a pariah in the “community”. Scientists like to see themselves as immune from this type of garbage, but the fact is, they are just as subject to it. Ego pervades academia as much as it does elsewhere.

I do not think there are all that many “history of science” courses taught at universities, that show the darker side of the scientific profession. Their inclusion as a requirement in all scientific curriculum would certainly be interesting, however extremely unlikely. 

Having one’s back scratched every once in a while is nice.


Jersey cover bands of the 70’s, 80’s

Reprinted with permission of author Carlos de Paula

I decided to lighten up a bit. So much for recession, Iraq, election, immigration and all that jazz. It gets tiring, so let’s go to the silly stuff.

I was recalling the other day the great cover bands I saw in New Jersey, during my college years, 1978 to 1982. I also lived in the state, plus went to Rutgers in New Brunswick.

These were transitional years. At the time, you either were a disco person or rock person. I was more of a rocker, and somewhat despised the disco thing. So I used to go all over the state watching great cover bands.

A band I saw quite a few times was called Cats on a Smooth Surface. They were well known for their covers of Bruce Springsteen songs (which made them very popular in New Jersey, it figures), including a rousing rendition of Rosalita. They mixed oldies, Bruce material, plus a number of other things. They started losing their way when they began incorporating new wave material. They simply did not sound or look new wavish, and the last time I saw them they were no longer very good and did not look comfortable with their material. The keyboard player carried around an acoustic piano to the gigs, so I guess their roadies were not very happy!!!

One of the guys from Cats went to Holme, another famous band at the time, which used as their logo an imitation of the New Jersey Parkway logo. Holme adapted better to New Wave, and I am quite surprised to find out that both Holme and Cats still exist, although I do not recognize any of the faces on the few pictures I have seen on the Internet. Either the guys did not age too well, or the lineups have changed immensely during the course of almost three long decades, perhaps the grandchildren are playing in the bands now… Or a mixture of these two.

There was a band called E.Walker band, or something to that effect. The eponymous lead singer was very tall, kind of looked like Joey Ramone, sort of menacing, and as I recall, he used to perform shoeless. There is little I recall about the band’s actual music, but as far as I remember, it seemed to concentrate on Led Zep, The Who and bands of that sort.

I cannot say that about Prophet. What a band! They played only classical rock, such as Yes, ELP, Genesis, and did it very well, sometimes sounding better than live performances by the bands themselves, certainly better than their live records.

Here and there, some of these bands recorded albums, which is the case of Sam the Band, altogether a different kind of act. They released two albums on Casablanca, which was known for disco releases (one of which I still have), and their music was a mixture of rock, pop, swing and disco. They were also theatrical and comical, as far as I recall. They did not make it big, but this is not the only mention of this band on the Internet; they obviously had a following.

Towards the end of my Jersey tenure, one of the hottest bands were The Watch. What made The Watch different was the fact they had a very good female singer, who did a few numbers, then left the rest to the guys. Those were the days when women new wavers were happening, such as Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and the Go-Gos, and the band captured (and played) well the spirit of the movement.

Although I was not much of a Doors fan, I also witnessed the last performance by a Doors specialist, a band called Crystal Ship, which actually sounded better than the Morrison/Manzarek ensemble. They regrouped later and still exist!!!!

I don’t remember most of the club’s names, although I recalled Towpath, which was in the middle of the boondocks, up North, and of course, the Stone Pony, where I saw Cats once. No cameo appearance by Bruce Springsteen, though… The Pony still stands tall. Plus Dodds, where I went a few times. There was a club next to Rutgers where I saw the Watch a few times, but cannot remember the name for the life of me.

By the early 80’s I moved to New York, where the scene was totally different, mostly original bands trying to break into the limelight. Nowadays there are so many old (recording) bands that I believe life for cover bands is not what it used to be. Except for Cats on a Smooth Surface and Holme.


You know, one gets to wonder about the criteria reputable companies use to make partnerships on the internet.

I never signed for Bing, willingly, that is, and the bloody thing keeps on popping up in more than one of my computers. If if try to get rid of it, it pops again! I see no use for Bing, which seems to be just a cover for a google search. So, it leads me to think that google contractually allows the company to use its search engine (and serve its ads).

The question is, what method is being used for Bing to apparently embed in people’s browsers. That should be considered. It sounds like a virus to me. Call me paranoid.

Sure the company must be serving millions of ads a day, and earning high commissions from Mr. G, commissions that might not have to be paid if people went direct to the g spot anyway. So it does not make commercial sense. God forbid I tried a stunt like this! 

That is not all.

I never signed up for Juno, then one day, a charge appears on my card (the credit card company actually called and I disputed the call). Then I got a CD, a welcome kit from Juno in the mail.

That was the only bogus charge I got on the card, no it was not a case of identity theft.

How did the charge appear, and how my address was provided to Juno, I have no idea. A quick search on the web revealed I am not alone. Plus, I suppose the credit card company knew about problems involving Juno…

Just exactly companies such as these remain in business is what I would like to know.  



Trados and similar software, friend or foe?

I am quite positive that the good folks that created translation productivity software were thinking of helping translators when this type of software was created.

Rather unfortunately, Trados and company have, more often than not, become an expensive diversion that has reduced translator income, and sometimes, increases the work done.

Translation productivity software, among other things, is used by clients to demand lower rates for repetitions.

I do understand that it might be frustrating for clients to pay good money for repetition. Yet, Trados and company have not thought of a way to remunerate translators for researching terms, which sometimes can take quite a few minutes, even with the internet!  Thus the easy repetition compensates the time spent conducting research.

Additionally, translation memory, rather than becoming property of the translator, becomes the client’s property in most cases, who can actually assign future versions of the assignment to another – you guessed – cheaper translator. And there are plenty out there.

Thus, quite often a translator who worked very hard – and long hours – to put together a workable memory for a lengthy manual, might not reap the benefits of the “easier” update.

It comes with the territory, you might say.

There is more.

Quite a lot of translation companies actually use Trados and company to decrease the pay to translators, yet, bill their clients full rate, without any reduction for repetitions.

Thus it is obvious that translation productivity software has by and large become more foe than friend.

What to do?

Pretty much, nothing. The software is here to stay, becoming more prevalent as we speak. It does not work with paper documents, or poor pdf conversions, which might be one of the last niches where translators can command decent rates.

Sure, translators could refuse to work on such platforms, but the reality is, this will not happen.

I actually had a client proposing to pay me something like $0.50 for a short document with a high degree of repetition. Bad times might lie ahead.