How to recognize a scam

Musings from an overworked translator

One of the most common questions I get from beginning translators is how to tell if a job request is a scam. I developed a PowerPoint presentation for the KSU grad students several years ago and thought I would share some of the tips with you so you don’t fall for a scam.

The most common warning signs:

  • Offer advanced payment (which the “client” would overpay and/or then claim a change in plans and ask you to “return” the overpayment.)
  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • Capitalized information suggest form letter
  • No contact information (freemail account like Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.)
  • Not much concrete information offered about the job
  • Wife, daughter, etc. does not speak English and is coming to the U.S. for a shopping trip, conference, etc.
  • Require the purchase of software (my one agency client that also sells a TEnT supplies me with the software and license for free, so you…

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British Pound Woes

LIFE_wavegraph copy

Today’s news confirms what I guessed would happen.  The UK has decided to leave the EU and obviously this has had economic repercussions on the British Pound.   News is currently talking about how it’s hit a 30 year low against the US dollar, and that 2.08 Trillion USD has been moved away from the  world’s stock exchange markets.  The black hole of economics!  Who has moved all of this money?  Nobody in the news is asking this question.  The Rothschild family, the Rockefeller Foundation?  Most probably.  Their network is not so small, and I’m sure there was a lot of preparation beforehand to move money away from the stock market and move it back into the banks.  In my mind it’s not such a big deal for me, since I haven’t invested in the stock market in many years.

Anyhow, back to the nitty gritty of my blog post.  A month ago, I was asked to do the French to English translation of a social science book that dealt with the Europe’s response to the NSA and the Snowden files.  Would have been an interesting book to finish up and put on my roster of translated books, but the book publishing house, which is based in London, was wanting to pay me a rather low British Pound rate per page.   The project would of been due at the end of this month.

Realizing creating a lean startup business for the translation industry requires quite a few skills.  Think I like considering all these aspects though.  Much more interesting than sitting at the desk of a humdrum LSP doing only one task.

Thanks for my fellow teammates for giving me advice and feedback on this project.  Turns out my initial hunch and gut feeling was correct.


Demonyms of Fictitious Place Names

I still think Wikipedia is a great reference website, even though most of my teachers kept strongly dissuaded me on making us of it.  It can always be used as a starting point to find things.  For example, my latest translation work deals with fictitious place names. How should I translate the French version of a place name like Urbia? What to call their residents? Urbians? That seems simple enough. Other place names might not be so easy.


Anyhow, looking up “Demonyms” on Wikipedia has given me a better idea on how to choose a proper sounding words.   The term, obviously has nothing to do with “demons”, although some of the residents of these fictitious place names in the book I was working on, seem to have the typical traits of  evil spirits.  Demo- comes from the Greek word that means populace, and -nym simply means name.

The wiki page gives good examples, and I simply follow the pattern that’s nicely presented on their page. Examples of tricky place names are: Lilliput, Narnia and Oz. They even provide the example used in the Star Trek place name Qo’noS, where those war-loving Klingons apprently live, but that was simply up to the writer(s) to decide on.

Glossary of Technical Sci Fi Terms

Currently working on the translation of a Sci Fi novel that was originally written in French.  Really like the authors take on the future.  Cannot name the writer just yet, since the book is in the process of being published in French.  Hopefully the budget will be decent enough to help her translate the English version.

The Storyline kind of reminds me of the RPG game GURPS™.   Steve Jackson, who created the GURPS world, really knows science and where it might be heading.

Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games
Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games


Here a glossary of technical terms that he uses in his stories:


allele: One of the alternative forms of a gene in a particular position on a chromosome. For example, a gene influencing eye color will have “blue,” “brown,” and other alleles, with each organism possessing one of the options.

amino acid: An organic compound that is an essential component of protein molecules, and thus of life as we know it.

antibody: A protein made by the body’s immune system to attack and neutralize foreign bodies such as microbes or viruses.

antigen: A substance that triggers the immune system to produce antibodies.

apoptosis: The normal death of a cell that has reached the end of its useful life. This is a normal and healthy process, as opposed to necrosis.

archaea or archaebacteria: An ancient form of microbial life, related to but distinct from bacteria.

bacteria (singular: “bacterium”): A class of single-celled organisms. There are countless species of bacteria.

bacteriophage (“bacterium eater”) or phage: A small virus which only infects a particular species of bacterium. Can be used to insert new DNA into a bacterium.

base: One of the molecular “letters” in the genetic code, which combine into pairs and then connect in long chains to form DNA.

B-cell: A type of white blood cell that binds to foreign microbes, tagging them for destruction by the immune system.

biomimetics: Engineering designs that are patterned on or inspired by living things. bioprocessing: Using bacteria, gengineered plants and ani- mals, or other biotech processes in manufacturing.

biotech or biotechnology: A set of biological engineering techniques, such as biomimetics, bio- nanotech, bioprocessing, cloning, gengineering, and transplants, applied to research and product development.

blastocyst: A very early stage of a developing embryo, with only 32-64 cells.

cell: The smallest part of an organism that is capable of independent function. Cells are microscopic entities that consist of a nucleus and various organic and inorganic components, surrounded by a membrane.

chimera: An organism created by fusing together the cells of blastocysts of different species; a cruder form of blending traits than germline gengineering.

chirality: The property of molecules having mirror-image variant forms. Normally only one chiral variant is utilized by biology.

chromosomes: The self-replicating structures within cells on which the genes are located.

cloning: The technique of asexually producing a group of cells or complete organisms, called clones, which are all genetically identical to a single ancestor.

cryonics: The practice of freezing the dead in hope that future science will be able to revive them.

deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): The double-helix-shaped molecule that encodes genetic information.

diploid: Having two copies of each chromosome. Most plant and animal cells are diploid, but produce gametes by cell division without chromosome division, resulting haploid cells that combine to form a diploid zygote.

DNA: See deoxyribonucleic acid.

electrolyte: A liquid solution of ions such as sodium or potassium. Most liquids in the body are electrolytes. enzyme: A protein that serves as a chemical catalyst, accelerating the rate at which a biochemical reaction occurs. eugenics: The study or practice of human improvement through genetic control or genetic engineering. eukaryotes (“true nucleus”): Organisms whose DNA is surrounded by a membrane and which possesses organelles. Eukaryotes are a “superkingdom” of life forms that include most terrestrial plants and animals other than bacteria.


gamete: A male or female reproductive cell (sperm or ovum). These combine during fertilization to form a zygote.

gene: A sequence of DNA nucleotides, located in a particular spot on a particular chromosome, that encodes a specific instruction to a cell.

gene-cloning: The process of duplicating genes inside modified bacteria.
gene therapy: Genetic engineering performed on a fetus, child, or adult to repair defective genes.

genetic engineering or gengineering: Deliberate manipulation of DNA and genes in order to alter an organism’s genome.

genetics: The study of the patterns of heredity, the traits that an organism inherits from its ancestors.

genome: All the genetic material carried by individuals of a given species, containing the molecular instructions for inheritable features.

genotype: The specific genome of an individual; the combination of alleles the individual carries.

germ cells: The basic reproductive cells of a multicellular organism; see gamete. germline gengineering: Genetic engineering of the germ cells so that an organism will develop in a different way than its unmodified genome would have indicated.

haploid: Having only one copy of each chromosome. Fungi and some algae are haploid organisms. Plant and animal gametes are also haploid.

hormone: A protein that acts as a chemical messenger within the body. There are many different hormones, each with its own function.

in vitro (“in glass”): Taking place outside a living organism, usually used when referring to “test tube” fertilization or to the process of growing an organism in an artificial womb, clone tank, etc.

intron: A segment of DNA within a gene that does not code for protein sequences and that is edited out when the gene is expressed. Introns may have regulatory or structural uses.

ligase: An enzyme that can rejoin DNA fragments together, used as a tool in genetic engineering.

microbe: A single-celled organism, like a bacterium or alga. Usually microscopic, but colonies of single-celled organisms can be large enough to see.

mitochondrion (plural: mitochondria): An organelle that converts organic chemicals into a usable energy supply. It also contains DNA, separate from the chromosomes, inherited through the female line.

monoclonal antibody: An antibody grown in a cloned cul- ture, producing usable amounts of identical antibodies.

nanomachine: A microscopic organic or inorganic robot, usually cell-sized or smaller.

nanotech or nanotechnology: An emerging technology based around the manipulation of atoms and molecules using microscopic machines. In biotechnology, nan- otech promises the ability to precisely manipulate cells and genes.

necrosis: The abnormal death of cells, caused by injury or infection.

nucleotides: The basic molecular subunits of DNA or RNA. Thousands of nucleotides make up DNA molecules; their sequence determines the genetic code and the function of each gene.

organelle: A structure bound by the cell membrane in eukaryotic organisms, such as the mitochondria.

pathogen: An organism (usually a microbe) or chemical that causes a disease. PCR: See polymerase chain reaction.

peptide: A short chain of amino acids, which may combine with other peptides to form a protein.

phenotype: The expression of a genotype in physical features of an organism. plasmid: A ring-shaped structure of DNA, found in bacteria.

polymerase chain reaction (PCR): A means of rapidly copying DNA using specialized enzymes and equipment.

prion: A pathogenic protein capable of “hijacking” cells to produce copies of itself. Prions can produce various brain diseases such as BSE (“mad cow disease”) and kuru (“laughing sickness”) as well as pathologies of aging and senility.

protein: A large molecule made up of long chains of amino acids. Proteins are formed by cells as directed by their genes, and are the basis for the structure and function of living things. There are countless different kinds of proteins, each with its own specialized function.

protozoan: A single-celled microscopic animal somewhat more complex than a bacterium.

recombinant DNA: The basis of genetic engineering, this is the technology of cutting DNA molecules into discrete pieces and recombining them with other DNA molecules to form new genes.

ribonucleic acid (RNA): A chemical similar in structure to DNA. One type, messenger RNA (mRNA), relays the orders from genes to the molecular machinery of cells, while other types perform other roles. Because of its ability to tell a cell what to do, RNA is a primary tool of gengineers.

ribosome: Parts of the cell’s molecular machinery, these are “factories” that create proteins under orders from the genes.

RNA: See ribonucleic acid.

telomerase: An enzyme that increases the number of telomeres on the ends of achromosome.

telomere: A member of a repetitive DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome that serves as a buffer against incomplete copying.

tissue engineering: The design of artificial organic tissue. transgenic: A transgenic organism is one that has genes added to it from outside its original species.

virus: A non-cellular biological organism that can repro- duce only within a host cell. Viruses consist of RNA or DNA covered by protein. RNA viruses are especially useful tools for gengineering.

zygote: A cell formed when two gametes combine in sexual reproduction. Zygotes grow into blastocysts, embryos, and ultimately adult organisms.



Biking Taiwan’s Eastcoast

Finally got a chance to visit another place off Tainan’s east coast.  First place was Hualian and my second trip was a bike trip from Taidong to DuLan.  Very scenic ride that is mostly uphill to go and downhill coming back. The ride itself is done along a safe bike path that can get you from the Taitung train station to DuLan.


Have been in Tainan for almost a year now and although Tainan is known to be a bit more laid back than let’s say Taipei, a year of running around in the traffic of this ancient city has played its toll on my nerves.  It’s nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the calm of the pacific coast.  No pollution hazy coming from the mainland and the air feels bright and crisp in my lungs.

My trip started in Taitung (aka Taidong 台東).  Took the 3 pm train and arrived at around 8 pm.  Had to take the slower train (name) since the medium speed train (name) doesn’t allow bikes as a carry on. Found a B&B even though everyone in town including the 7 Eleven was telling me that it would practically be impossible to find a room since it was Chinese New Year.  Was lucky and found a place that was willing to bargain even though it was New Year.
Woke up quite early and had a quick breakfast.  Asked a few people to confirm the directions and off I was on a nice bike path, that follows the coastline. The path itself is a mix of small roads next to villages and some broader highways. Biked for a while and was suddenly passed by a team of cyclists riding some amazing looking bikes.   They also sounded like high-end road bikes. I could tell by the sound of their gears. The guy heading the crew was quite tall and big.  The whizzed by me and I tried to keep up, but my old bike seemed to be riding so slow and couldn’t maintain their speed even though we seemed to be riding downhill.  Turns out that the ride from Taidong to Dulan does seem like it has downhill spots, but somewhat of an optical illusion.  Validated this upon passing by a small town called 都蘭水上屋 (DuLan Shui Shang Wu) which means DuLan UpWater Room.  Had also noticed websites talking about this optical water illusion.  A bit like Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick.  Was quite taken aback by the wonderful scenery.  Felt like home, back in the Maritimes in New Brunswick and in Gaspé, Québec.
Stopped by a few wharfs to relax and chat with a local fisherman.  Found out that most were actually from Taidong, but ride their cars or scooters out near DuLan to hang out with their buddies and drink Whispy, a really strong local booze.  Talked about the fish and recipes.  People seem quite fond of using MiJiu (local rice wine) to balance out flavors or mask what they consider to be the bad taste of let’s say some fish or lamb and the barking deer meat.  There are quite a few Aboriginal restaurants and communities when you go ride towards the mountains.  The foreigners and local Han Taiwanese seem to be more by the coast and on the main road next to the coast.  Overall, this ended up being a nice change of pace from the routine I’ve established in Tainan.  Highly suggest people visit the East Coast of Taiwan.  The West Coast is quite busy and industrial.  Good for shopping and trying out foods at the local markets, but the East Coast has some much more charm.

Perl Script to convert Chinese Simplified to Traditional or Traditional to Simplified


Just finished watching a movie with Chinese subtitles. I’m more interested in practicing reading of traditional characters, so I found a Perl script that converts a file containing simplified Chinese characters and converts them to traditional. Works like a charm. Works from command line on my Darwin Linux. You’re probably thinking this can be done with a copy paste option, but command line is much more convenient, since it won’t affect the text layout, which sometimes happens with copy and paste commands. This command worked on a .srt subtitle file used for films. Give it a try if you want. Found this script on Sourceforge. Thanks VBenito!

Chinese Lunar Exploration Project: Chang’E

Chang_E_Moon_Exploration_ProgramJust finished a Chinese to English translation topic about the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project that uses the name Chang’E.  It’s interesting to note how NASA uses Greek mythology for their project names.  Chinese use their own cultural myths to name their projects.  With the wealth of stories and myths in their culture, I think they’ll have the imagination to keep an edge on the American projects.  Perhaps Indian collaboration with India will help keep things fresh.  My hope is that the whole world will collaborate on future projects.  Seems like national pride and envy is the norm these days. Sorry about not having the names of the authors. Their report is still quite interesting. Their imaging technology have helped improved the science of imaging. One amazing fact is that they’ve discovered a mountain that is 10 Km high. That’s amazing!


A sample Zh-En project

Here are a few samples of my recent projects. Still working on building a decent portfolio of Chinese to English translations. Here’s my first sample. Would eventually like to work with new partners on projects, or just simply network and share leads on potential work. Feel free to contact me! Opportunities and Challenges for Social Science Research in the Age of Big Data. Only sharing the opening paragraphs, since it would be showing a lack of respect for the authors to share the whole thing without their consent. I think the ideas presented in it are quite interesting. It kind of alludes to the idea of E-Government. Very touchy subject, but interesting nevertheless. Although there is no real mention of it in the paper, it makes me think that eventually, China might try to develop a new form of democracy using social media. I guess you might call it “E-Democracy”. Again, this is only a personal impression, and doesn’t represent what the researchers are proposing in the paper. There have been attempts to create some kind of e-Government with a few western cities, but most have just pushed aside for more pressing and urgent issues. The reason why I have an interest in the topic is that worked for a part of my life as a quantitative research assistant. Anyhow here are my two files, with the source language being Chinese and the target language being English. Had to put the English text as two pages / files. The Chinese file only uses one page. It’s curious, since I had teachers repeat over and over how redundant French was when it came to the written word. I guess if you compare Chinese to English, it’s the English text that seems redundant and makes use of a lot of “textual space”. Source Language: Chinese BigData_Intro_Zh Target Language: English (Part 1) Big_Data_Intro_En0 (Part 2) Big_Data_Intro_En1