Sometimes I question my intelligence and all that sex

It is a good exercise, we should all do it.

I would like to think that I am not stupid.

I have been around the internet for a very long time, and got to learn a few things. First of all, there is a lot of hype around it, so, if you are much of a sucker, you invariably fall for it.

You might not be that old to remember the web domain buying frenzy of the late 90’s. I was around, and bought a few hundred myself. Managed to sell one for 200 bucks, so, that little “business” cost me quite a few grand, for domains were very expensive back then!

I went through affiliates, adsense, creating multiple sites with different themes, using SEO techniques, portals, bla blah blah. All hype. Sure, for some people it worked, especially those working fulltime in it, just like things work for some people in MLMs. But most people just lose money. By the way, those that lose make somebody rich in the process. You guessed, the one generating the hype gets the dough

The other day I read someplace that twitter and facebook professionals commanded a salary of about 20 grand in a South American country. A MONTH. And it is dollars, not pesos! That is a lot of money, for something that, I believe, is worthless.

I go into FB a few times a day, and guess what? Never did business with a single FB advertiser. In fact, don’t even add people who are simply there for business, and do not “Like” businesses anymore. And I found that most people, the vast majority don’t. Truthfully, by the looks of it most FB ads seem silly.

So, these poor suckers, the advertisers, are being dragged into thinking this is the thing of the future, that FB is a marketing platform, the metrics is excellent and all that crap. To me, it is little by little becoming a sex thing, lolitas all over. But that is besides the point.

Then there is twitter. I “followed” this guy who was on the same business as I, for a while (when I still entertained the idea that twitter was of some use). He almost gave away the name of his clients and contacts, the silly dude, for face it, my business is not sexy at all, and he had nothing exciting to say, besides saying he was busy (he really wasn’t, for he was posting every 5 minutes). My business is highly technical, most people will not understand a thing we  say. In my estimation, he was spending at least an hour a day posting!

He definitely paid a few bucks to go to a twitter marketing seminar, attended a webinar of some sort, or paid some self styled “pro” to give him pointers.

The reality is, the driving force behind the internet, like it or not, is still google. Sure, most searches are probably still sex related, however, it is the only thing that works! The rest is just a way of taking people’s money on hype. Like those “Rich man, Poor man” seminars. Argh!

And in order for you to build up your google ranking, you need tons of references or links on the “open” internet. Publishing articles on Facebook, or twitting, will not boost your ranking at all. It will consume loads of time, and no result. Both FB and Facebook are basically closed systems, and google has no access to what is inside.

Sure, it makes people feel sexy, up on things, modern, state of the art, they get goosebumps when they say their business has a Facebook page or a twitter account, but the reality is, what really generates $$$ is your google ranking. The rest is hogwash and the more time you waste on your FB business page or twitter account, the farther your business will be going down google’s ranking.

I for one, would be very happy if twitter disappeared tomorrow. I see no usefulness in a microblog, especially in this day and age when teenagers are losing mounds of their grey matter for being addicted to connectivity, and no can no longer form good phrases or think critically. Duh,  um and like are the most widely spoken words of this generation of texting-addicted folks.

I am not just saying it. I tested this. At one point I had two thousand followers on twitter, and I posted tons of interesting items, with links. Out of two thousand, two or three bothered to check it out every time! Facebook, same thing. I had over 5000   friends, and tops, 5 people would bother to read what I had to write. Leads me to think, in order for these things to work, you need to be Ashton Kuchter. Which, by the way, I am not.

As for linkedin…

So, although it hurts, I will continue to give my money to google. Or even the good old United States Post office.

EUROLINES

When you get to be 50, you begin to seek comfort, and try to stay away from adventures. But quite frankly, with airline seats and space between them so short these days, at least for us, forced economy class fans, comfort seems to be a thing of the past. If you want to travel further than your couch, better get used to cramped quarters and a certain level of discomfort.

I wanted to travel by bus within Europe, which would be a new experience to me. My wife was a little hesitant about the whole deal, but I was sufficiently enthusiastic to convince her. I like buses and bus travel, call me nuts. And the price charged by Eurolines for a ticket between Brussels and Amsterdam was unbelievable, 17 Euros. Yes, the price of a regular dish at a moderately priced restaurant in most of Europe.

The Eurolines quarters at Gare du Nord were not enticing. They had that 70’s Times Square feeling, if you know what I mean, by far the worst place I visited in Belgium. But we went ahead with my pet project.

The trip was good. The bus left and arrived on time, was comfortable enough, made a stop along the way, where we had some French fries (I guess, Dutch fries) and bought some drinks, where I tried my recalcitrant Dutch and visited the bathroom. The bus had no bathroom, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your situation. Lots of beautiful scenery on the way, tons of cows, sheep and ducks. We could thus see some of the Belgian and Dutch countryside, away from the train lines. Plus, got to visit two cities that were not on our plans, Breda and Utretch. Well not really visit, we just passed by to drop passengers, but we could at least see something other than Amsterdam.

Eurolines prices are really cheap, unbelievably so. You could visit most European capitals on much less than a 1000 Euros, in fact, they offer package deals for 1, 2 weeks and a month.

I am not sure that I would travel from Brussels to Russia at this stage in my life, but honestly, for shorter hauls Eurolines is a very good, safe, and inexpensive bet.

http://www.eurolines.com/

Two myths undone

There is a myth that it is impossible to eat a bad meal in Paris. Pure baloney.

After a walking for a while inside the Pompidou Center Museum of Modern Art, both myself and my wife worked up quite an appetite. As there are quite a few restaurants around the area, we decided to pick one up.

After quick deliberation, we choose a restaurant called Chouchou. I wish I had not.

We ordered each a Formule, which means a special containing an appetizer and an entree. I ended up ordering a 3-vegetable mousse, and a bavette, which is a beef cut, with fries. The appetizer was in the range of OK to tasteless. The bavette was almost raw, although I asked for medium, and the meat itself was very rubbery and hard at the same time. Just horrible. The French fries were just adequate. Service was indifferent and kind of slow.

I believe the guys that run the place were Moroccan, so maybe I would have been better off eating a Moroccan dish. Well, it is done, but I will definitely not return.

The other myth is that it is impossible to eat a special meal at a chain restaurant.

Sure there are the Applebees of the world, that serve food that feel like TV dinners. However, I found that Chez Clement in Paris manages to serve very special dishes, with good level of service.

I honestly was not aware that it was a chain, until my wife pointed out we had just seen another Chez Clement around Bastille. We ate the at the one nearby the Arc de Triomphe. What a meal. I had this pork rib, with potatoes, mushroom and apple, that was to die for. I was very pleased with my meal, and the service was good too.

It seems there are over 10 Chez Clements all over Paris. If all are as good as the Champs Elysee one, go for it!

Translations of academic documents

A few great resources for certified translations

http://www.atanet.org The site of the the American Translators contains a lot of useful information concerning translation in general

http://www.naces.org Naces is the association of companies that provide equivalencies of foreign academic documents

http://www.legaltranslationsystems.com Company specialized on translation of academic documents. It also has a blog that explains the different types of documents that might be required by colleges and schools in the USA http://legaltranslationsystems.com/blog/blog1.php

By and large, academic documents written in a language other than English need to be translated, by means of a certified translation. Different states and different institutions might have different rules pertaining to what constitutes a certified translation, but, in general, it is a translation done by qualified  translation company, in the company’s letterhead, duly notarized. The translator and notary cannot be the same person. Do not attempt to translate the document yourself, and notarize it, it will be rejected.

Translations and equivalencies are not the same thing. Certified translations cannot be interpretative, while equivalencies are in essence so. In most cases, you need both the translation and equivalency.

Certain companies provide both translation and equivalencies, however, they might cost much more than doing the work with two different companies.

Venting off frustration

People are just amazing.

I know people that do not get off the internet, have all types of connective devices, 24 – 7.

Then, you find they had a party, or a pleasant event they could have invited me, and they say “I could not find you, sorry”.

Well, what a lie. I can be easily found on the first page of google, yahoo. Daytime phone number, email, night phone number. Very easy bloke to find. 

Then, one day, they need a favor, or are trying to sell me something. 

VOILA. They easily find me, at any time of the day or night.

People can be nasty sometimes…

Racing SUVs

SUVs are the most popular vehicles in the USA today, although $4 to $5 a gallon gas might kill American appetite for such gas guzzling machines. Strangely enough, although there are races for pretty much all type of road vehicles, from cars, to pick-up trucks, to tractor trailers, to grass mowers and motorcycles, there has never been a circuit race series for SUV’s. At least I have not seen one.

It would probably be a grand spectacle, with vehicles of all makes vying for honors. Fans would be able to root for their favorite SUV brand at Daytona, Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca and Talladega.

I guess most SUV drivers, who are quite used to drive their heavy vehicles at great pace, frequently ask: “Why is there no race series for my favorite mode of transportation?” After all, they feel like regular Jeff Gordons and Tony Stewarts using their powerful wheels to cut across regular cars, at great speed and abandon, at I95 and elsewhere.

Well SUV driver, do you know why there are no race series for SUVs? Due to their high center of gravity, all SUV’s are very unstable making turns in high speeds, and tend to roll over easily. This property is not exclusive to the Suzukis of the 80’s. All SUV’s suffer from the problem, it is inherent to the type of design. SUV’s ARE DANGEROUS AT GREAT SPEEDS!!!!!V-E-R-Y D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S.

Which means that when you are driving your SUV like a nut on the road, daydreaming you are Mario Andretti, you are no only placing your life and your kid’s life in danger, but also the lives of all drivers on the road who still drive ‘boring’, unfashionable cars. SUV’s should be driven at sedate pace, and turns, especially tight ones, should be made extremely carefully, at low speeds.

If you bought your SUV thinking it is a NASCAR racer, a high performance vehicle, you have been duped, dude. Easy on the accelerator. Let me drive by in my Mini-Cooper…

If you don’t believe me, read on

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=CENTER+OF+GRAVITY+SUV&btnG=G

The King James Bible Controversy

There are many people who truly believe the only English translation of the Bible that should be trusted is the King James version. In these corners of the woods, people believe the translation was basically “inspired”, much in the manner that the books of the Bible were.

I have nothing against the King James Bible, in fact I do enjoy it, but I do have a few things to say against such a belief system. This is the type of thought process that kept the Bible in Latin for many centuries, and its content a privilege of a few people, away from the masses.

First of all, this belief system shows little or no understanding of translation as an art, craft and science. I have been a professional translator for 25 years, and have handled assignments in a vast variety of languages. I say this not to show off, but rather, to establish that I am not merely talking about a matter I have a passing interest on. I have professionally translated tens of thousands of texts from Slavic, Scandinavian, Germanic, Latin languages. In other words, I know a bit more about translation work than most folks, have been exposed to a great diversity of languages and am a bit more sensitive to the issue than most people.

I also know a bit about linguistics, which by the way, is not the same thing as translation. Quite a lot of people mix the two concepts, and therein lies most of the problem.

Translation work is not mathematical. It is not an exact science. A translation done by one qualified translator might come out very different, when done by another qualified translator, depending on each professional’s writing skills, vocabulary depth, overall culture, logical reasoning, literary proclivities, background and style. However, the essence of both translations should be the same. This is especially true for non-scientific texts, which is the case of the Holy Bible.

Add to that the difference between language groups and structures, and you will realize that translating the Bible is not an easy task, especially considering the sections written in Semitic Hebrew and Aramaic. These two languages have very different structures than Western European languages such as English. Old Hebrew is a contextual language.

On the subject of linguistics, live languages such as English are constantly changing, metamorphing, under the influence of other languages, technological, economic, social, political, historical and cultural changes. Therefore, the English spoken today has little to do with the English practiced in the 1600’s, in fact, if it were possible to record it, we would probably not understand any of it.

The changes do not happen only to words. Constructions, mannerisms, expressions change with time. Some are born, some die, some persist unscathed. The language of the day tends to be more clear, more straight-forward, journalistic and scientific, although it might not sound as elegant as the language of our ancestors. English in the 1600’s was poetic, in the new Millennium it is a practical, world language.

Additionally, advances in archeology have unveiled in the course of the last few centuries, many other manuscripts that the King James translators were not privy to. And advances in linguistics help scholars better understand the inner workings of ancient Greek and Hebrew languages.

In the essence, I have found the KJV to be in the same tune as other versions such as the NIV. There is nothing ontologically different in this version and the Living Language Bible that would warrant an educated judgment that these versions are not “inspired” as the King James Bible. By the way, the Bible itself does not make any reference to inspiration of translations, so I do not see any Biblical reason to believe any translation version or other should be construed as the only acceptable standard.

Sure, the King James version, as I said before, sounds more elegant, more eloquent, profusely traditional. And here is the problem, from a spiritual standpoint. Jesus himself fought greatly against religion tradition for the sake of tradition, and above all, against idolatry. Dogmatically believing the KJV is the only version a Christian should read is tantamount to idolatry!

Furthermore, if such argument were accepted, then all of us should fast learn ancient (not modern) Greek and Hebrew, and understand all of their linguistic nuances, because if all other English versions fail the litmus test, so would the KJV – for it does have its technical translation flaws in comparison to the originals in Greek and Hebrew.

For practical purposes, if a more modern (and good) translation of the Bible is more readable and enjoyable, I think we should embrace it, and do like Martin Luther did: make the Word available to all, for all to understand, not keep it as secret for a few chosen people.

However, if the KJV is your favorite version of the Bible, God bless you! Keep on reading it!