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May 5, 2008

Lost in Translation??

I was doing a quick SiteMeter check to see where recent blog traffic had come from, and I noticed a visitor from Germany. I followed the link to the visit entry page and discovered, lo and behold, that Inner Geek has been translated into German! In fact, I learned that Google translates between a number of language pairs: between English and Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Frendh, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Portugese as well as between traditional and contemporary Chinese and between German and French.

"Inner Geek ... out and about" became "Ein Computer-Freak ... Ausfluege and Sehenswuerdigkeiten."
Hmmm, I think there's a bit lost in translation there, don't you? "Inner Geek" means SO much more than "Ein Computer-Freak."

I looked at the top of the Google page and found the following:

Diese Seite wurde aus Englisch automatisch ├╝bersetzt. Zur├╝ck zu den Suchergebnissen
Originale Webseite anzeigen oder bewegen Sie die Maus ├╝ber den Text, um die Originalsprache anzuzeigen.

If my German is still any good, it means something like the following:
This site was translated into English automatically (by machine?) You can go back to the original website or mouse over the text if you want to see it in the original language.

How about that? Hold the mouse over the German sentence, and the original English appears. It does.

I think some of the translation is spot on. But some is a little weird, especially with collquial expressions. (Otherwise is asking a lot of a computer.) See for yourself. I copied and pasted the first paragraph from the German version of my last post ("Old Friends"), and it inserted the English sentences before the German ones. It's kind of geeky, but if you have studied German, you might enjoy this, as I did.

I've been putting off this decision for a long time, and today was the day to make it. Ich war Putting off diese Entscheidung f├╝r eine lange Zeit, und heute war der Tag zu machen. Shall I leave my LPs and turntable behind, or drag them along on this move? Soll ich meinen LPs und hinter Plattenspieler, oder ziehen Sie sie auf dieser entlang bewegen? I've gotten pretty good at pitching stuff in the past few weeks, so I felt ready to confront the decision. Ich habe mittlerweile recht gut im Pitching Zeug in den letzten Wochen, so f├╝hlte ich mich bereit zu konfrontieren, die Entscheidung. When the time was right, I was rested, and the light was good, I sat down next to the cupboard where the LPs are stored. Wenn die Zeit richtig war, war ich ausgeruht, und das Licht gut war, ich sa├č neben dem Schrank, in dem die LPs gespeichert sind.

What will those Google folks come up with next? I'm going to Germany this summer and will definitely be taking my laptop.

Here is a link to the FAQ
about how the Google translator works. "FAQ" becomes Haeufig gestellte Fragen.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:33 PM

May 9, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Visiting the Tribe

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You can tell that the tribe has made a comfortable transition to their temporary home while the house is being shown for sale. They're in the same positions - just in someone else's bed! A tough life...

They clearly love their new family, especially Kai Miok, who drew this wonderful picture for me. I love the phonetic spelling (Poce = Pookie; Sate = Sadie; Mcens = Mackenzie; Shadou = Shadow). I especially love the big heart next to Sadie. As I've said many times before, when I die, I want to be reincarnated as one of my cats.

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Posted by hgroteva at 5:38 AM

May 14, 2008

Drowning in Paper

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For the past few weeks, I've been doing my level best to divest myself of some of the mountains of paper I have gathered around myself. When the moving company estimated that I might have as much as 6000-7000 lbs. of books and files at my office alone, that did it! I have been recycling, tossing, and shredding as fast as I can. It's really hard. Each piece of paper evokes memories -- overwhelmingly good ones -- of projects, classes, collaborations, papers, and the stuff of the academic life. But some things I brought with me from Texas 18 years ago haven't been opened since then, so they were definitely candidates for chucking. (Although today I found a letter from my dissertation advisor, written (in hand) while she was on sabbatical in California. - It did go to the shredder, but I enjoyed re-reading it.)

I am within 2 or 3 boxes of completing the packing of my office and lab. When I moved here, I brought 101 boxes of books, journals, and files from my old office to the new office. My goal is to take fewer than 101 away from here. That would mean 18 years of work and no net increase in "stuff." (Fortunately, much of it is electronic and can fit on a few CDs. Is that cheating??) With a little luck, I'll come in under 101.

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Information retrieval continues to be one of the biggest challenges of the academic life. So many books, journals, files, CD-ROMs, reprints, e-mails, etc. Figuring out the ideal organizational system has eluded pretty much every academic I know. Although I was inspired to read an interview with one of the Google guys about the problem of information. Interestingly, his solution was to avoid systematizing stuff at all on the front end. He suggested instead to put the focus on powerful retrieval engines that can scan through stuff and pull up what you want. I will be trying that in my new life. Nothing like a new job to provide an opportunity for cleaning house and a fresh start. The moving van comes in a week.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:22 PM

May 17, 2008

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers' song comes to mind as I contemplate this Saturday. There's a light northerly breeze, temp in the high 60s / low 70s, birds are singing, I've cleaned the house for the prospective buyers coming at 12:15, and I solved the 6 star Sudoku (Saturday's is always the hardest). The next 24 hours is the calm before the storm. There is an open house tomorrow afternoon, so everything has to stay pristine until it's over at 3:30 -- but then the house-packing begins in earnest. I'm ready.

As I was sorting through more papers yesterday, I kept thinking about WHY these things should matter. Aren't we the sum total of our experiences; and after we go, isn't our totality at the time of encounter what we pass on to those whose lives we've touched? If so, why should letters from 20, 30, 40 years ago matter? Haven't they already been incorporated into who I am? The ones that have made the most impact or been the most symbolically important are surely reflected in who I am today. The ones that are tangential have not been internalized, so why should I feel that they are important now anyway? Is my narrative about all these pieces of paper? I don't think so. My narrative is just me, as I am transformed from day to day. And I'm not the sum total of my experiences, because I am transformed as each new experience is incorporated (or not) into my evolving narrative. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I googled "the sum of our experiences" and got almost 13 million hits. I think this reflects the universality of the human experience. The blogosphere has made it possible for people to read the perspectives of others they will never meet -- perhaps folks on the other side of the world, or writing in another language -- and see their own concerns and insights reflected in those of others. That has surely been true for me. It's exciting and humbling all at once.

And happy 23rd birthday to Mark today. I'm sad to be leaving him; but he's found a direction, and that is so exciting to see.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:30 AM

May 25, 2008

Heading East: Falcon Heights, MN to South Bend, Indiana


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We made it to South Bend, Indiana today - about 550 miles -- home of Notre Dame University. Lots of trucks on the road today, even though it is the middle of Memorial Day weekend. And the gas prices are ridiculous ... $4.19 per gallon near Chicago. Speaking of which, the traffic in Chicago is insane -- even on the outer 290 / 294 loop on a weekend afternoon. I would hate to see it on a Monday morning.

It was very strange to leave the house, and quite remarkable that everything came off on schedule, given the many many things that could have gone wrong. The only near-meltdown was when the movers declared that they could not get several pieces of furniture down the stairs: first, the bed frame, and then 2 pieces of my office furniture, and then my office desk. But what goes up must come down, so they finally figured it out by disassembling things and taking off the door.

The driver starts heading out tomorrow. Stuff belonging to three families is on the truck: one load to Maryland, mine to Amherst, and another in between. He will let me know tomorrow whether we will be the first or the last off-loaded. Tomorrow night we plan to spend in Utica, New York, place of my birth. I haven't been there in ages. We won't have time to look people up, but I'd really like to see the house I lived in on Washington Drive in "Bon Air Estates" (I guess because it's on a breezy hill!) and my grandparents' house on Lynch Ave. Lots of very happy memories from that place.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:15 PM

May 26, 2008

Day Two: South Bend, IN to Utica NY


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We made it from South Bend to Utica -- 12 hours; 638 miles; all freeway, complete with horrible fast food and lots of tolls. But the weather was good, and we arrived safely. The only casualty so far has been Mark's iPod.

We listened to NPR for most of the trip. Since it was Memorial Day, there were many programs about the military. Two were quite poignant. The first was an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, in which she interviewed a RAND Corporation research analyst, the director of behavioral health for the U.S. Army, and the executive director and founder of "Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America" about the alarming incidence of PTSD among active duty military personnel and veterans. I was rather surprised and very pleased to hear very little disagreement among these three people. They all acknowledged the problem and its degree, and they all noted that significantly greater resources needed to be directed toward military personnel and their families. Let's hope that these unlikely bedfellows can accomplish something significant on behalf of these families. You can hear the show by going here.

The second was on "Fresh Air," in which Terry Gross interviewed Marine Lt. Col. Steve Beck and journalist Jim Sheeler about their book, Final Salute. Beck's job is "casualty assistance" -- in other words, he informs families when one of their loved ones dies in service and then sticks with them physically and emotionally as they navigate the inevitable shock and grief. It was a powerful interview; hear it here.

The trip from Buffalo to Utica brought back many childhood memories. Many of my mother's relatives lived in Buffalo (including her mother for a time), so we shuttled back and forth on the NY State Thruway many, many times. The plan for tomorrow begins with a pilgrimage to my childhood home and my grandparent's home in Utica. I remember the addresses, and the town is pretty small, so is to take a round-about route to Amherst, since the moving van isn't there yet. We will be heading into the Adirondack Mountains, going through Old Forge (where we vacationed in the summers when I was a kid), and northward, crossing into Vermont via ferry at Burlington, and then stopping at Ben and Jerry's factory. Yum! Then on to Amherst. The past weeks have been so intense. It's fun to take a few days in the midst of it all and shift the schedule a bit.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:07 PM

May 27, 2008

Day 3: Utica NY to Burlington VT via the Adirondack Mountains


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The moving van won't be arriving until Thursday morning at 7:00, so we had an extra day! We spent the morning looking for and finding landmarks from my childhood in Utica. Found the house where I lived from a few months of age until the end of 3rd grade, both my grandparents' houses, the church we attended, and other more-or-less familiar landmarks. I'll post some pictures later - the internet connection at this hotel is very slow.

After tooling around Utica, we headed for the Adirondack Mountains, where we vacationed every summer while I was a young child. We found Kayuta Lake, where my father's parents had a lake house, and then Old Forge, the funky town where we stayed at "Birch Camp." The lake and the Enchanted Forest are still there, but Birch Camp seems to have vanished. We headed further north, and had lunch at Lake Placid. The Adirondacks are really beautiful, and nothing was crowded yet because school is still in session. I'm sure it really hums in July and August. I'd be happy to go back there.

The CR-V is getting over 27 mpg, which is great, given the cost of gas.

Tomorrow we head to Amherst, via Ben and Jerry's. Then the work begins anew.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:32 PM

May 28, 2008

Day Four: Burlington to Amherst


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We made it to our destination today - 1650 miles. Today's adventure was Ben and Jerry's.

Ben + Jerry.gif

The sky was brilliantly blue, and the trees were amazingly green. Northern Vermont is spectacular. My friend Sally spent every summer in Vermont - I can see why. Anyway, we joined the tour and got to see how they make the ice cream. I asked the guide which flavors were gluten free and what precautions they took to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. They seem to be careful about it. They only make 2 flavors a week - one on M-W and the other on Th-F. Between W and Th they completely wash down all the production lines. They also seem quite concerned about peanut cross-contamination. Anyway, New York Super Fudge Chunk was on the GF list, so I happily partook - but I don't think I'd do a large cup again ... too much.

After we checked in, we stopped by the house. I think it will be just what we need. It's got some quirks, but what house doesn't? It has a beautiful patio in the back; I suspect I'll be spending a lot of time there. And the study upstairs has great windows and lots of bookcases. The moving van arrives at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so it will be a very big day. My sister is bopping over from Pepperell to help out; it will be great to be closer to her family.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:09 PM

May 30, 2008

Safely Landed

Just a note to let everyone know I have landed safely -- the moving van arrived yesterday with all my stuff, and delivered the boxes to home and various offices at Tobin Hall. At this point, all seems to be accounted for and in working order. The "settling in" phase looks pretty daunting, but not as daunting as the prior phases. This can be done one box at a time. My sister came over yesterday and helped unpack. Mark has been very helpful, and flies back to MN today so that he can start classes Monday. I'll likely be offline a few days until my internet connections are up and running. Thanks to everyone for the energy you have been sending my way ... I felt it, and it helped! And so the new adventure begins...

Posted by hgroteva at 7:02 AM