Sunday, May 31, 2009

Online Language Translation Programs

Online translation services have come a long way, and they have so far yet to go.

Yahoo! bought Babelfish, formerly Altavista's domain, and they do a fair job.

Google Translate also does a reasonable job of translation for most languages.

The litmus test for each site seems to be the non-Romantic languages; namely, Japanese. Here is the original Japanese text of a sample Web site:

こんな私ですが引き受けたお仕事はきっちりやらせて頂きます!
イラスト 漫画 便所掃除 肉奴隷 闇の仕事人 等々…
私でよろしければ何でもやります!お仕事下さい!!!
お気軽にこちらまでお問い合わせ下さいね。
ただしゲーセンの店員だけはお断り致します( ^ ^ ;) もー無理。絶対。



This is how Babelfish attempted to translate this block of text:

In The Midst of Work Collection!!
He is such a I, but you can let do the work which is undertaken accurately!
Work person etc. of illustration cartoon toilet cleaning meat slave darkness…
If it may with me, you do with anything! Work!!!
Don't you think? please inquire with ease to this.
However just the salesman of the Gaea plug refuses (the ^ ^;) - Excessiveness. Without fail.



And now, Google Translate's shot at Japanese-to-English:

Looking For Work?
I took the job I will do exactly this!
Black slaves who worked in the meat and clean toilet cartoon illustration of ...
If you'd like me to do anything! Please work!
Do please contact us feel free to feedback.
The only game parlor employee will be permitted (^ ^;) Oh it. Absolute.

So--neither system is perfect and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. I think Google's result is a little stronger, a little clearer, but obviously it is not precise. Could it help me navigate a Japanese Web site better than Babelfish? Potentially, but not without some small confusion. Still, it's better than I could do on my own.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This is a Very Good Day


This is a big day for me! Everything so far has made up for the fact that I woke up with a pinched nerve in my neck/shoulders.

After weeks of silence, I received three postcards in the mail! My good friend Hedge wrote me from Massachusetts (it's called a Corpse Flower because when it blooms it stinks like a human cadaver); I got a card from my new pen pal Katrin in Germany, with an image of the birthplace of Martin Luther; and I received my first Postcrossing card (see image)! Franzi writes that this image won a photo contest, then was published in a calendar (it was the image for October). I think it's great, and a great way to start off this international exchange!

Also, my new laser mouse arrived from Japan. I saw this cool model, Scope Node, and the big deal about it is that it's supposed to feel as comfortable and natural as holding a pencil. It does not resemble a pencil, but it looks pretty cool anyway. I needed a second mouse for my laptop--I bought a wireless mouse for it but somehow it broke. The USB base still receives a signal from the mouse's movement (as indicated by a red blinky light whenever you move the mouse), but it does not affect the cursor on the screen at all, whether on my laptop or main computer. What crap. So I bought a regular wired mouse, and I prefer laser over optical (bet you didn't know that), and I think everything will be better now.

Also, my friends Nick and Molly got me an awesome freakin' birthday/graduation present that arrived gift-wrapped from Amazon two days ago: a book comprising the best of Dinosaur Comics. I've been carrying it around and reading them aloud to Rebecca at every opportunity and throughout all circumstances and scenarios, much to her delight of course.

Finally, I paid for DNS management of my stupid domain names and now http://www.heavyboots.com, .org, and .net successfully point to my new personal Web site. The naked URL does not, however, and I've yet to figure out why--I included it in the CNAME record so I don't know what the deal is.

Here's another thing you might not know about me: I refuse to use "dilly-o/dealio" in a sentence, ironically or otherwise. Except in a case like this where I have to refer to it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mystery: Anna Gade's Friend

This will be my most self-serving entry. It is entirely to do with an unsolved mystery in my personal life. When I started going to college at St. Cloud State University, MN, I was issued my first online account ever. I browsed the Web with Magellan, read my mail with Pine, and socialized on the "talkers" via Telnet. T3h k1dz will have no idea what I'm talking about.

I must've met new people through Usenet, probably some alt.soc.penpals group or another--long before these things were taken over by indolent and ignorant high school students too lazy to make their own private message boards--and I made many pen pals. I'm still in touch with my friend Hildegard in South Africa, after 15 years of acquaintance.

Someone must have found me on one of these pen pal groups and decided to mess with my head. Below is a section of a journal I wrote several years ago about my strange experience with this anonymous individual.



This was one of the strangest acquaintances I'd ever had in my life. And now, looking back on it, I know exactly what was going on and what I should've done to maintain it, but back then I was naive and unworldly and way too unconfident to play her little game. This was a young woman I know nothing about, borrowing her friend's email account. Her friend is named "Anna Gade", and she would borrow Anna's email account to chat people, like me. Again, she probably found one of my wordy, self-aggrandizing penpal solicitations, except she got my attention by being even more brilliant and culturally allusive, perhaps alluding to things that didn't really exist but with such cohesiveness and consistency that I believed they were real. She made herself out to be sitting on some straw mat, waiting painfully but patiently for my attention, as I breezed past her without any acknowledgement. Right there she had some pretty overblown perceptions about who I was - I must've totally misrepresented myself, for her to immediately portray herself in the vulnerable position of an inferior, longing for some icon's attention. And she played the victim card by advertising how intensely brilliant she herself was, and wasn't it a tragedy that I just never noticed. Meanwhile, I really thought this was someone in my physical environment, someone on campus, expressing a crush on me and, being as love-starved as I always am, have been, and will be, I ate it up. Here was a brilliant, cultured, literate woman singing her song for me and I was completely at a loss. Who was she? Where was she? You bet I kept my eyes open the following weeks. And again, I chased her off by needing to know too much about her, until one day she told me maybe two or three facts about herself (like being Anna's friend) and I never heard from her again. She just wanted to speak in allusions, she just wanted to tell a story with me. And once I knew that I wanted to tell the story too but for her the spell was broken, I was a wretched, mundane waste of carbon and she could have no more to do with me. I'm sure if she found this entry for her she would not consider saying a word to me, though she may be very distantly flattered to know she has not stopped running through my mind since our first contact. Hope that keeps you warm at night, Anna-Gade's-friend. Bitch. On the other hand, and this would be entirely in keeping with her character, she's probably forgotten about the whole mindfucking experience, doesn't remember me, doesn't remember talking to me at all, and wouldn't remember even if she found this page and read her entry. Wouldn't have any idea it applied to any segment or era of her life. I can see that happening too.

Restlessness in the Mid-Week

The weather's doing something screwy lately, or maybe I'm just not used to the mornings looking like the prelude to a storm and the afternoons becoming warm and sunny. Without any storm.

I should pick up the One Story Every Day game again, because I'm just not writing anything. I'm in a reading group on Facebook and will start in a writers group next week, and I need to contact some people about another writers group, but in the meantime I've totally let myself off the hook.

At least I've gotten back into working out. I skipped out on that for months but Maya (My Fitness Coach) has been forgiving and encouraging. Last night I did half an hour of lower body and she actually mixed it up with some new exercises. Usually, 30 minutes of lower body means 25 minutes of three different plie exercises, but last night it was more interesting and my muscles don't feel completely devastated.

Rebecca and I got a flip camera, which I know little about but looks like a very simple way to take quick videos. Immediately I looked around for my copy of Page 2 Stage, a script-writing program on my main computer, couldn't find it anywhere, went back to the original Web site to download it again. This program, that I paid $80 for back in 2005, is completely free now. That chagrined me somewhat but I got the program and cranked out a quick little two-page script depicting yet another penultimate battle between Good and Evil. I'm growing my goatee out to represent Evil, and I'll shave it and comb my hair differently for Good.

In reconstructing Heavy Boots on Google Sites, I've had to decide what's worthy of recreation on the new page. The first thing I had to do was reconstruct my Online Comics collection--done easily enough. I got rid of the strips I don't read any more and added a couple new titles. I also grabbed some of the autobiographical information from a Google Pages site I coughed up as soon as I was aware of the service; that done, I took the site down but Soda is Killing You is still up and running... for the time being. Google insists that all Pages will be merged into Sites, which I'm not excited about since I actually like the formatting on the current Pages presence and am fine leaving like it is.

Sooooo, what else... The international pen pals thing is going fine. A girl in Germany received my postcard and entered its code on Postcrossing, so I was able to get another pen pal started. This is a girl in Texas who collects pens and stationery--how cool is that? Still, waiting for the other four postcards to reach their respective nations is rather tedious. And I'm restless to write letters, but all I would be doing is sending out mail after previous mail which is still on its way. And it's not that I really have anything interesting to say, I rarely do, but I have the urge to keep writing to people. Maybe I should channel that energy into creating short stories.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The day off yesterday has thrown me off entirely. My limbs don't move with precision and my language is slightly off-kilter. Please overlook this and perceive the essential core of my expression.

I'd joined three other online pen pal networks, in an attempt to make friends around the world. Yes, sometimes I wonder why a 39-year-old man feels he needs pen pals, and why I'm not interested in the things that other men my age are. I assume those things include sports, middle management, and popular bands, none of which hold an iota of interest for me. Yet I feel somewhat childish, writing "hello my name is Christian" to new people around the world.

One of the pen pal networks may have been legitimate when it started, but today it is overrun by Russian bridal organizations and tear-jerking scams from Ghana and Kenya. (I'll feel like an ass if it really turns out that three people from the same refugee camp seriously gained reliable Internet access and were sincerely hitting me up for friendship, in the name of our Lord.) I terminated my account there last night. And I haven't heard anything from one of the organizations--nothing but silence. That's fine.

The third organization has at least provided one potential contact. Oh, I'm still getting hit up for cash donations from various African nations, but also a woman in France has expressed interest in a postcard exchange. And today my profile was critiqued by "Ali," a 24-year-old Turkish man living in Moscow:
Chritian, your hobbies r really tediuos and simple and common, change them.
if u change DVD-s or CD-s full of clasical music or something like that, it would be another thing. :)
how can u prove u r a gifted writer?
do u have many penpals? I have 24.

Yours, Ali :)
Baffling. Was he trying to make friends? Or did all the vodka in his tummy gang up on his hands and write me some constructive criticism? My profile doesn't mention anything about being a writer, and I think my interests of "grilling, stationery, and scotch" are a little more interesting than "I like DVDs." And at one point in my life it would have been my technique to attack his spelling, but I can't speak Turkish or Russian at all, so his effort in my language goes far beyond my skill in his. I just wonder what he thought he was doing, whether that's how people make friends in his culture.

Overall, I have the weird sense that I'm supposed to be doing something else. I feel like I have an appointment I'm about to miss, but there is absolutely nothing on my agenda currently. I'm pleased that my new URL is working here; I'm trying to get my Heavy Boots domains pointed to my Google Sites account, which I need to shape up in a hurry. Right now it's kind of a holding station for cruft, but I could make it look nice by the weekend.

I'll lose the custom e-mail and guestbook capabilities, but no one's written in the guestbook in several years. The last person was my illiterate roommate (in various guises) who threatened either to come over to my house and beat me up to get his name off my Web site, or to hire a lawyer to alleviate his $300 debt to me and sue me for "deflamation of character." The custom e-mail address was kinda neat, though it was exceptionally prone to spam.

Last night I started reading Steve Martin's Shopgirl. I haven't seen the film and probably don't need to--it's a short book and I'm not anxious to see how Hollywood padded it out. It looks like Martin likes to explore character study and interaction, so this should be a very entertaining read. I'm hoping it's good, anyway. I'm in the middle of The Very Best of Gene Wolfe as well, and I'm actually taking the time to savor it. I'm not plowing through the short stories: I'll read one and let it sit for a couple days, read another, let it stew, etc. I know it's annoying to hear someone go on and on about their favorite (writer/actor/politician, etc.) but my favorite author is still alive. So many of my other beloved authors are not. I'm trying to psyche myself up to write a second letter to him and, as my instructor suggested, set up an actual correspondence. Which seems to me vain and presumptuous, given that I'm nobody but a cold, worn lump of potential, but it's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

...Oh, hold on. "Prince Kafui" from Ghana wants to be pen pals too. I may be busy for the next ten years, don't wait up.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

SUCCESS: Note the New URL

Success. Please note the new URL for this blog: swevenvolant.org. Counter-intuitive, but so am I.

The big tangle was in the "simple" instructions: "you need to create a CNAME record." That sounds complex, more complex than what it actually was: enter only the name server that Blogger provided (ghs.google.com) in the box marked CNAME. That's all it was. The Blogger instructions were confusing in that they're giving you a name server but the registrar forbade you entering any name servers. That was a breakdown in communication. While "create a CNAME record" is the technically correct phrase for the procedure, the laity who does not regularly register domains and point them to Web sites will have little appreciation for this kind of accuracy. I really wouldn't mind two sets of instructions, technical and colloquial, like a bilingual Bazooka Joe comic from Canada.

Oh, and that crotchety dude's advice to put the blog's URL in as the second name server: that advice was as wrong as it could possibly be. It doesn't go in the name server box, it doesn't go in the CNAME box. That guy's a dick.

Well, now I can get back to my regular blogging.

The Advent of Discovery, the Oppressive Thumb of Discovery

Okay, I don't know what the hell's going on with my domain name. On the Blogger side, I've deleted the Settings > Publishing stipulation that it should expect "swevenvolant.org" to indicate this blog. I've received confirmation from my registrar that everything on that side is set up correctly. And yet "swevenvolant.org" points to the Google main page.

Why? No freakin' clue. My registrar tried to tell me that "sxoidmal.blogspot.com" points to Google, but now it doesn't. It points to my blog, because of the aforementioned action. "swevenvolant.org" is what points directly to Google, and there is no reason why this should be.

I'm getting irritated!

Anyway, today was a good day. It was a bad day to drive to the outlet mall because of the Memorial Day Sale, which neither of us remembered until we got out there, but at least I got some nice knives and an incredible BBQ sauce. At home we grilled some chicken breasts, zucchini, and mushroom and had a very nice little dinner, before running out to a birthday party. I got to socialize with Martin, Jason, and Jarrin, which is pretty much what I look forward to when I go to these things. The long, lean periods of no-banter make me appreciate these encounters more than ever, and I always learn something by the end of the night, even if it's just the take of another perspective.

Yesterday wasn't great in that Rebecca and I hit a rough patch and our conflict manifested in a unique incident. I made a disparaging remark and she ran off to fulfill a chore which she was going to do anyway, but this time with a slammed door. I thought, Two can play at this game, and for some reason my vast database of relationship-oriented sitcoms failed to indicate to me what a poor idea this is. So I shut off all the lights in the apartment and went out to Urban Bean, where I had a tea and read some Gene Wolfe stories until it closed. I then walked up to Moto-I for drinks and, book in hand, I was quite out of place, but being that I'm nearly 40 and untrendy, I could not have cared less. For me the experience was not about the beautiful, vapid young adults in expensive clothing: it was about enjoying a flight of saké on the roof of the only saké/restaurant in the nation. Granted, the light was too dim to really enjoy my book, but having the book served as a conversational point with the woman working as security for the bar. And I felt pretty good about myself, being experienced and confident enough to have an engaging conversation with an unfamiliar woman, until she had a similar conversation with a nearby group of frat boys and I realized she was only doing her job, only fulfilling her part of the service industry machine. I drank alone in the dark, waiting for my server to find the time to wander over and give me the bill, and walked home in the dark with unpleasant thoughts for unpleasant company.

Rebecca had made me a card. On the outside was a family of hippos superimposed on an arctic landscape; on the inside was a detail from an antique map of Manhattan and a red rectangle of paper on which was printed a plaintive request for me to come home.

I will turn all of the above into a short story and submit it for publication. I want the reader to come along with me on the journey of frustration to deluded self-confidence, to crushing reality, to the enlightenment of priorities. It will be tricky to faithfully replicate each stage in this learning experience without the reader winding up deciding I'm merely an asshole.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Domains and Registrars

Okay, this is frustrating. I've purchased the new domain name "www.swevenvolant.org" and I've gone to my registrar's site, Dotster, to supply the name server. In this case, Blogger offers its own name server, ghs.google.com, but Dotster requires two name servers.

I found a cranky know-it-all's blog and, after dressing down a couple truly-at-sea users because they didn't use the precisely accurate technical terms he prefers in their questions, eventually he got to the suggestion of putting my blog's old URL in as the second name server.

Does that sound right? Can you really point your new domain name to your site by using the original URL as a name server? Something in that sounds fishy to me, but then, Dotster appears to be the only registrar on the planet that needs two name servers. There are no formal help screens for this anywhere.

So, I signed up for this Saturday night. Various Dotster/Blogger/Google help sections say that the servers will reset themselves with the new domain name in either 24, 48, or 72 hours, which means I can't really get resentful until late Tuesday night. Which also means no one can read this post, but I need to release some steam about this. I'll go bug my friends who might know more about this than I do.



Update: It may have been an issue with my account with the registrar. I talked to online support and she realized that I did not have access to Domain Management Services, which looks like a paid service. I don't know whether I was supposed to pay for it (an extra $10 on top of the domain name fee), but she tacked it onto my account for free. Once there, I set up the name servers (not what I thought they were) and CNAME (the "name server" that Google/Blogger provided, plus my old URL for good measure) and...

Now I just have to wait another 24 hours for this to come into effect. Or not, and to call tech support.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Postcards and Little Metal Badges

I've been meaning to get a domain name for this blog for some time. I think I'll keep it what I've renamed it to--discovered that those Twilight tards who found my blog had mistyped the book they were looking for, "Breaking Dawn"--just because it's unique enough not to occur twice without enemy action. So in the next 72 hours people can find me at http://swevenvolant.org.

I sent five postcards out last night through Postcrossing, or got them written up to go anyway, and have tacked on a couple more pen pals through other means. I'm very excited about this international exchange and hope that I can keep it up longer than two weeks, unlike my other hobbies. I think, with the staggered rate at which these replies should be forthcoming, I'll never feel inundated and will have plenty of time to respond.

Today, Rebecca and I are heading out to Frontenac State Park. I'm all excited because many of these state parks sell little souvenir metal badges that one nails to one's walking stick, say. The more state parks I travel to, the better I feel about getting out and availing myself of state and natural resources, and the more little metal badges I can collect. It's a win-win!

International Pen Pals

Okay, so, lately I've been very restless to communicate. All last week I've been writing out a stack of postcards to most of the addresses in my address book, knowing full well I'll hear from maybe five of these people by the end of the month. I don't care, I've got to write and post this stuff in the mail.

This wasn't enough, so I tried a couple pen pal programs on Facebook, one being dedicated to postcard exchanges for people around the world who collect international postcards, and one for pen pals, where you just casually post an interest to write to people and maybe in a month someone might see your name.

From the two mentioned programs (Postcard and Penpals) I've made contacts in Japan, Malaysia, Slovenia, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, and Germany. I've sent postcards out to these contacts... and my thirst is not slaked.

My German contact turned me on to Postcrossing, and I see my Italian friend is already using it. If you're paranoid, the whole deal sounds dicey: you put in your street address and any random person on the program can receive it in order to send a postcard to you. On the more optimistic side, I hope to receive a lot of postcards from all over the world. Tonight I'm writing to a woman in Finland: she's into paper dolls and miniatures, so I cut out some paper doll patterns and pasted them onto a regulation-size card to post.

I'm excited! I have a burning curiosity about the rest of the world, and I want to strike up some conversations. Gods know I can hardly get any of my Stateside friends to pick up a pen, and yet people in other nations (for whom postage is considerably more expensive) are totally on board with this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Still Hacking Away at the Book

Last night I had another cigar (Rothchild) and half a bottle of wine (Steak House, red). I'm told the wine should've been more vinegar-like, considering how long ago I opened it, but if anything it was sweeter--that could've been the cigar's effect.

I don't need to unhinge my mind when I crank out my tedious little short stories with the comic twist. I can knock those out and be done with them in an hour, if I'm inspired. I can turn them in and get an A, or I have historically.

But currently I'm working on my novel, and I really need the nicotine and the alcohol to dissolve and wash away the barriers of my conscious thought, to enable my creativity to find weak spots through which to seep. I'm amused to discover how highly I view the concept of the novel, how many tacit tenets to which I hold myself accountable in this writing process.

My writing ritual is to relax on the porch to start with, lighting the large clove candle in the iron holder. I smoke a whole cigar, I drink a quantity of alcohol, and I study a Gene Wolfe novel. The plot of The Citadel of the Autarch (or The Castle of the Otter, as some have it) glows faintly in the back of my mind, like a television set in an unoccupied room, as I focus upon word choice and sentence structure, how specific terms contribute to the atmosphere of the piece. For all the new words he created for his world, I'm fascinated by which of the mundane variety he retained. What was he trying to achieve with this character's voice? How do these two men speak differently, and does it impart the desired sense of foreignness between them?

Lastly, I look at how very much he wrote in each chapter, how indulgently long they are, and that is the permission I need to sit down at my own computer and write out as much as I desire. This is important because I've been working on censoring and editing myself, trying to say in a few words what I would say in many more. Many people around me remind me of my verbosity, the logorhea with which I'm afflicted. I think the real crime here is when I use a lot of words to become repetitive, and there's nothing wrong with me typing out vast quantities of text otherwise. So last night, after rereading the storytelling contest, I opened up "Chapter Three: Piotr Trains Alone" and tripled its file size, and I'm not done with it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Make Facebook Work for You

I got mired in the tedious little games and even lost some sleep over the drama attached to those games, but I have cleaned up my Facebook account, cut out all the games, and repurposed my role on there.

Looking for penpals.
Suchen der Brieffreunde.
Buscar a corresponsales.
Ricerca dei corrispondenti.
Recherche des correspondants.
正在寻找笔友。
ペンパルを捜すこと。
펜팔을 찾기.
Искать корреспонденты.

Thank you, Babelfish.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Playing pool w/Reb at the Cloud Cult show @ 1st Ave., drunk on Citron+sour. Pretty awesome way to be married. Video games later?