alexpgp: (Schizo)
A document set I am working on right now contains a fairly diverse collection of revisions, by which I mean the following:

A large number of revisions consist of text highlighted in (at least) two colors. What amazes me is how said colors were arrived at, because not only do they not appear among the Theme Colors that are displayed when you click on the font color selection tool in Word's Font ribbon menu, but they also do not appear in the hexagon of "standard" colors that pops up when you click on More Colors.... This requires the conscientious among us to visit to the "custom" tab of the colors dialog box and enter separate values for levels of red, green, and blue (this, after having replicated most of these steps with the original text highlighted to determine what those values are in the first place). In short, I would find it a mighty challenge to make this process any more laborious.

Next, there are a handful of revisions done in (gasp!) revision mode, although the rationale behind a couple of them are a little hard to fathom, such as the following example:
Contractor shall supply one (1)one(1) metal door...
Still, it is not my place to question why, and in order to head off questions as to why I failed to include said correction in the edited text (to be fair, questions never raised by this client, but other clients have raised them), I dutifully highlight the requisite text, and then delete and paste it (with Track changes active) to create the desired effect.

Next, I see a couple of revisions done "by hand," by first applying the strikethrough effect to the text intended to be deleted and then adding new text right next to it.

Finally, I see text that has been highlighted in yellow (with said highlighting explained using text in revision mode).

All of which turned a half hour of work into something much, much greater.

If I didn't have two screens to work on, this kind of work would be a complete nightmare, I kid you not.

Cheers...

P.S. I forgot to include one other revision: one that was not marked in any manner, but caught by the Microsoft Word "Compare" feature. Ye gods.
alexpgp: (Visa)
So yesterday, I noticed that when I do a file-save-as in Word and then click on one of the listed folders, there's a pretty good chance that the save-as dialog box that pops up after selecting a folder isn't pointing at the correct folder.

I'd try to let Microsoft know about this, except for the following bit of intelligence:


Clicking on "Search all of Office.com" obtained a bunch of links that, by inspection, had nothing to do with reporting a bug.

Gr-r-r-rinning and bearing it!
alexpgp: (Default)
I have to get in the habit, when people ask me to accept an assignment, of asking whether they'll be supplying me with "glossaries." I seem to be noticing, lately, that nobody wants to mention glossaries or references until after I accept the work.

It's not that glossaries and reference documents are, in and of themselves, bad. One of my clients consistently sends glossaries and references that are real time-savers. The norm, however, is being on the receiving end of a two-column mishmash of information that contains everything but the kitchen sink (typically, for a document about kitchen sinks), and sets of "references" that having nothing to do with the assignment at hand.

As it turns out, the "glossary" I was sent for this most recent job consists, actually, of six "glossaries," two of which are big enough (13,000 and 16,000 words) to be called "dictionaries." All packaged in two Excel files.

Yum.

Moreover, not all of the entries are what you'd normally expect to find in a dictionary or a glossary. To wit, the following:
Kv - коэффициент пропускной способности клапана равный потоку воды через клапан (в м3/час) при перепаде давления через клапан 1 бар и температуре воды 5-40 0С. Сv = 1,16 Kv

Cv factor is the number of U.S. gallons per minute that will pass through a valve with a pressure drop of one (1) psi. This 'factor' is determined by physically counting the number of gallons that pass through a valve with one (1) psi applied pressure to the valve inlet and zero (0) pressure at the outlet. Cv is a mathematical constant. For a pressure drop other than one (1) psi, use the formula in answer number 10 below.
I mean, this is a nice explanation, but it's not a glossary entry. Nor does it really provide guidance to the translator as to what to do upon running across "Kv" in a text. Are you supposed to multiply whatever the value is by 1.16 and call the result "Cv"?

Ye gods.

A long time ago, when I worked full time at NASA, I successfully led an effort to create a compact bilingual "lexicon" of essential terms having to do with the ISS. In one meeting, though, one of the NASA managers expressed his excitement about the project by predicting the expansion of the Lexicon into a full fledged dictionary, so that eventually translators could be required to only write translations using the entries in this dictionary. (Presumably, document originators would also be required to confine themselves to the words in this dictionary.)

This might sound like an attractive idea if you don't know anything about writing (and most techies don't), and especially attractive if you don't know anything about translation (most people don't, even among those who are bilingual). I mean, imagine taking a Webster's Collegiate and handing it to a subordinate with the instruction: "Use only the words defined in this dictionary when writing your reports." At best, it will absolutely kill your subordinate's productivity; at worst,... well, at worst your subordinate will ignore your instruction.

Now lobotomize the dictionary, because you want to make it more "compact." The result will have huge conceptual holes in it. Delete "horse" and retain "hoarse," because the amateur you hired either doesn't realize there's a difference, doesn't care, is working under a really tight budget or schedule, or whatever.

And now have your subordinate try to write a piece about equestrianism.

Thank Providence for computers. It's going to take me a little while to consolidate these individual word lists into one, but it will save me time in the long run. I hope.

Cheers...

UPDATE: Well, after only two hours of mucking around, which included Word hanging twice, I have a shiny new 36-MB Word file with 35,441 "entries." I'm thinking this might form the kernel of a presentation at the ATA Conference in New York this October... And now, to work!
alexpgp: (Schizo)
Back when Nixon was President, a Commission was appointed to do a definitive study of marijuana, to settle once and for all the various questions that had been floated about its harmful or lack-of-harmful properties. Not surprisingly, the Commission's finding meshed very nicely with the whole War-On-Drugs mentality that today results in the frequent deaths of innocent citizens, who are merely "collateral damage" in the quest to quench the unstoppable drug trade.

I am reminded of this as just a day or two ago, the UN released a report stating that it is very definitely humans who are to blame for global warming. This report is getting wide circulation, with appropriate media suspense and support, and there are even some who see efforts to engage people to criticise the report as somehow corrupt.

I, on the other hand, am old enough to remember when a generation ago, climatologists were sure enough of the onset of a new Ice Age - you heard me right - to cause Time magazine to devote a worry-mongering issue to the question. So you'll pardon me if I am skeptical of the progress of any science that goes from being utterly wrong to utterly right within one generation, relying upon results that are primarily the result of data manipulation and tweaking of computer simulations. And the fact that folks who complain loudly about the development of GMOs - saying that we are playing with fire when we introduce such modified organisms into the environment - generally have no problem with, and even advocate government-sponsored intervention in climate change, just makes my eyebrows rise a bit higher.

I recall a very interesting pair of lectures I was exposed to while an undergraduate studying engineering statistics, in which we were shown the hazards associated with "massaging" data in an attempt to find some underlying truth therein (i.e., what the data "really" mean). The progression was quite innocent, actually. Delete a data point here (obviously some kind of operator error), and a couple of stray points there (almost certainly a hardware glitch), and another one here (statistically improbable) and before you know it, a nice, clear exponential relationship reveals itself, except for the fact that in the experiment under investigation (an experiment undergrads have been doing for almost as long as there have been undergrads), the relationship is known to be not exponential.

It's bad enough when scientists go astray like that inadvertently; when such techniques are used deliberately to obtain needed results... well, when accountants do it, companies often go bankrupt and people go to jail.

Recent items on Slashdot and Digg point the finger at private and the Bush administration efforts to generate opposition to the "prevailing view," choosing to ignore the fact that there is a certain inertia in a government-funded scientific bureaucracy that is attuned to returning a certain kind of result ("global warming is real, and we cause it") to keep funding coming. Nobody seems to care that climate researchers who did not arrive at politically correct, needed results during, say, the Clinton years encountered certain... difficulties when applying for further research grants.

Needed results, you ask? Well, yes. And just as Nixon's marijuana commission could not, dared not return any finding other than "Yes, it's just as we suspected, marijuana is Very Bad™," the same is true for the government's scientific community and global warming today, except the stakes are much, much higher, in my opinion.

Permit me to get up on my libertarian soapbox.

The natural tendency of governments is to increase their power over time. Even if you consider the United States to be the freest country on the face of the planet, can you recall any time within living memory when an administration - Democratic or Republican - left a government that was smaller, more compact, less intrusive than before? And the same principle holds as far as the rest of the world is concerned, in spades. For governments, power is the name of the game.

In the past, such power was based on a variety of guiding principles. We can start with the will of God.

Basing your power on the will of God sort of cuts to the heart of the matter ("Hey! I'm in charge because God willed it!"), but gets sort of old after a while, eroding quickly once a significant chunk of the faithful decide they're going to believe in God a different way (as with the rise of Protestantism).

Okay, well if God won't work as a justification for power, then what about the welfare of society?

Basing power on the welfare of the proletariat definitely appeals to some fundamental desires, but ultimately doesn't work once the system fails to deliver on its promises and goes bankrupt (as with the fall of Communism in Soviet Russia).

However, basing your power on the need to control natural phenomema? Priceless!

That's a real long-term, no-lose, stroke of genius!

Why? Because by making appropriate changes to computer models, you can make the same set of data say anything you want! (Who knows? Maybe someday, the data for the Medieval Warm Period will reappear!) And if, in the extreme, your intervention does well and truly flop on its face and result in the onset of the next Ice Age (or an über-greenhouse effect), you can easily make the data show that your intervention prevented an even greater catastrophe, and that even more intervention is needed!

(Of course, I don't think it will ever get to that point, because if the glaciers really do start to move, then it'll be every country for itself, very likely followed by general social breakdown and a new long, dark age. And there are some that belive I am an optimist!)

What is particularly distressing is that politicians seem pretty casual with the truth when it comes to talking about what needs to be done. For example, while in Switzerland recently, John Kerry dutifully criticized the United States for not moving ahead with the Kyoto Protocol ("...when we walk away from global warming, Kyoto,..."). All very nice, to be sure, and quite partisan, too, because he was one of 95 Senators who backed an initiative - a Democratic initiative - that bore fruit before the Protocol was signed to bar the U.S. from ratifying it!

Paraphrasing Jerry Garcia: "Somebody should probably do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that politicians are stepping up to the plate to do it."

Cheers...

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