Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More photos from New Orleans

Some photos from the Thank You Feast at Common Ground last Thursday:

Common Ground sign at the 9th Ward Distribution Center

Volunteers and local residents in the food line

Members of Playback Theatre (I should probably do a post about them...)

The Green Team. Clockwise from left: Common Ground founder Malik Rahim, two California Greens whose names I neglected to write down, me, Joy Glatz of Dallas

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Remains of early mixed-race homestead found in eastern Travis County

An interesting bit of local history:

Webbers Prairie, Travis County, Texas: "Webber's Prairie is a little known jewel in Travis Co., east of Austin, Texas. Our purpose in creating this web site is to raise public awareness of its unique history and of the imminent danger of losing this vital contribution to the early settlement of Texas by a mixed race family."

h Building Corner

Monday, November 28, 2005

Common Ground

There are whole districts in New Orleans that have hardly been touched in the three months since Katrina and the flood. There's still no power, and for miles in all directions there are yards full of debris and houses full of toxic mold and ruined furniture and people's jumbled belongings. It's mind-boggling. A few residents of these places are trying to return, but the houses are uninhabitable and they have no place to stay, and almost no one is offering any help. I kept seeing these FEMA notices posted on people's front doors stating that the owner wouldn't be eligible for housing assistance until they could be present for an inspection. Where they're supposed to stay while they're there to help FEMA carry out the inspection, no one seems to care. I was working with the Common Ground Collective, a grassroots organization set up in response to the disaster, starting to help people clean out homes and community spaces, but it's a huge job, and even with 300 volunteers there last week, I'm afraid what we accomplished was more symbolic than anything else.

Below is Debra Jordan's house, where I worked on cleanup Wednesday, plus a picture of Debra herself.

More on Common Ground later, but please donate if you can.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Going to New Orleans

I may have to suspend the daily blog post experiment for a week. I'm going to New Orleans to take part in the Common Ground Road Trip for Relief project along with some other Texas Greens, and I don't know whether I'll have Internet access. If I do, I'll post from there; if not, I'll report when I get back.

"The folks at Common Ground invite you to join an estimated 300 volunteers from around the continent to converge in New Orleans the week of Thanksgiving.We want to encourage those in attendance to arrive with building & clearning supplies, donated equipment and, if possible, funds that can apply directly to help rebuild the 9th Ward.

"Upon arrival, we will orient you to the long history of neglect and oppression in this area and offer tips on how to connect with the community in a respectful and effective manner. Then we will plug people into community projects in the 9th Ward where we have just opened a new distribution center and where we are helping to coordinate efforts to challenge unjust city, state and national governments' policies and commercial exploits.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Green Paradigm Reading List

Steve Welzer offers over 500 titles in his "Green Paradigm Reading List", from Edward Abbey to Michael Zwerin. If this is just the sample, I'm not sure I want to see the whole list!

Following instructions

When I receive solicitations from freelance translators seeking work, I respond asking them to "send your résumé/CV and a brief sample of your work INTO your native or dominant language, with original, enclosed in a StuffIt or Zip archive, using your last name as the filename." I find that only about 15% of respondents actually follow the instructions. It seems like such a simple thing, but apparently it's not. How reasonable is it for me to reject out of hand the respondents who send their CV and sample unzipped, or don't use their last name as the filename? Is the ability to follow simple instructions in a situation like this a good predictor of ability to deal with more complex ones in a paying assignment? Or would I be passing up a lot of capable, talented people by arbitrarily eliminating the ones who fail this test?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mid-month stocktaking

Halfway through my "post every (week-) day" experiment seems a good time to draw some preliminary conclusions. First, I am capable of pumping out some verbiage every day; whether it serves any purpose to expose it to public view remains an open question. Second, the exercise does make me aware that there are certain topics that I can and should be writing about. But third, the commitment to producing something every day means that much of the material that gets posted hasn't received the degree of analysis and development that it should. Perhaps I could be using the blog as a sort of public scratchpad for generating and refining text that will later be used or published elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Michael Grant -> Lethargic Man
Fits today.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why I'm not a Democrat

Message to Democrat Apologists | Green Commons: "While there's absolutely no doubt that this president put his thumb on the scales in order to make certain the case for war prevailed, it's equally true that Democrats joined the warbeat out of sheer corwardice because, historically, few elected federal officials have ever survived by opposing a sitting president's call for war. You people placed your own self-interests ahead of the welfare of our soldiers, their families, your constituents and our nation and for that you cannot or should not ever be forgiven."

Well said.

Translation Quality -- Subjectivity and Hard Numbers

"Quality" is a much-abused word. In the language services industry, most quality assurance or quality control systems seem to be based on models from the manufacturing world and to depend heavily on strictly defined procedures and checklists. While these systems are good at isolating and preventing "errors" (in meaning, grammar, spelling, etc.), a translation can be "error-free" and still be of little value if it doesn't function well as a target-language document. But to a considerable extent, that suitability is determined by factors such as readability and conformity to (or effective divergence from) document-type conventions that are largely subjective and difficult to control through conventional QA techniques.

But subjective doesn't necessarily mean unquantifiable or unmanageable. A human reviewer can easily express his or her subjective assessment of a text's quality numerically and in multiple dimensions, and the numbers derived from these subjective assessments can then be put through the same kinds of rigorous processing and analysis as any other numerical data.

At Blue Danube we assess the quality of translation assignments with reference to four criteria:

  • Source-language comprehension
    Translation accurately reflects the content of the source text

  • Subject-matter expertise
    Correct and consistent use of terminology

  • Target-language style
    Translation reads smoothly and naturally and is idiomatically appropriate for the document type

  • Target-language technical proficiency
    Completeness, grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting, fonts/charsets, untranslatables, etc.

Being subjective, any given assessment by one evaluator of one translation may be biased or skewed in any number of ways. The key to success is in continually evaluating virtually every translation and recording and monitoring the data for both translators and evaluators. If a translator gets a bad (or good) evaluation once, it may not mean much. But if the translator consistently gets high or low marks from a number of different evaluators, that's a pretty reliable indicator of his or her performance. Conversely, if an evaluator consistently gives a certain translator higher or lower marks than other evaluators, or scores one dimension more or less strictly, that's also information we can use.

The evaluation data becomes even more valuable when used as part of a comprehensive system of feedback loops for every level of the process.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Geek headline of the day - Japanese robot lost in asteroid mission - Nov 13, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

Ethical dilemma

A good client asks me to do a job I have ethical qualms about. The ethical issue is not related to anything illegal or universally condemned--it's an issue on which honest people may differ but that I feel strongly about. But as I said, it's a good client....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Economic sustainability at the community level

This is what the key value of community-based economics is all about. Within the natural limits of the ecology, we have an obligation to keep entropy at bay and meet human needs. To do so, we seek to build thriving communities on the basis of successful rooted, human-scale businesses. A community is unsustainable without a functioning economic base.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Torture Scooter first

"Here's an idea, and I can't believe I'm the first to come up with this modest proposal, but why doesn't the U.S. government just go ahead and torture Lewis "Scooter" Libby? And not just for that ridiculous name."

If Cheney's for torture, why not use it on Scooter?

(Don't forget Bugmenot for the registration.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Texas institutes free love for everyone

News 8 Austin | 24 Hour Local News | TOP STORIES | Prop 2 passes statewide, Travis County an exception

Gay fellow Texans, you are now officially second-class citizens. But meanwhile, according to the ballot language, neither the state nor any political subdivision thereof may create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to the union of one man and one woman. Free love for everyone!

The right has pushed gay marriage as a honeypot issue for progressives, one we can't ignore (because it's a question of principle) but also can't win (because the straight public still isn't ready to accept gays as equals). And even if the right had miscalculated and Prop 2 had actually been voted down, there's little risk in it for them since there's little effect on their paymasters' true economic interests. A perfect weapon of mass distraction.

Where's the progressive honeypot issue? Something environmental? Something related to civil rights violations by employers?

Monday, November 07, 2005

More feelers on economic sustainability

On the organizational level, entities that generate their own resource flows have enormous advantages over those that depend on volunteer time and donation revenues. To be effective, an organization must first of all assure its own survival. Next, it must deploy resources in the pursuit of its aims. It helps to be able to pay people for their time--rare is the volunteer activist who can outlast a corporate lobbyist doing what he does for a living. Yes, it's possible to apply management and marketing disciplines to fundraising and working with volunteers, but really, the farther you move in that direction, the more you might as well just drop the restraints and strive to earn a profit. What's more, non-profits are easily captured and neutered by corporate donors, or must circumscribe their political activities to protect their tax status. Independent businesses can remain autonomous.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Economic sustainability

Sustainability, whether on the personal, organizational, political, or global level, has to include an economic dimension.

On a personal level, the problem of poverty hasn't been solved until a family controls its own source of income. Dependency may be a step up from indigency, but in the long run it's not only politically unsustainable, but fosters weak people and weak communities.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Green ideas sleeping furiously

During a period of "conservative" ascendancy, progressives generally and Greens specifically often fall into a trap of continually responding to the other side's initiatives instead of developing constructive ideas of our own. Ever since Dubya took office, how much of our time and energy has gone into desperate attempts to block the latest outrage to emanate from the White House or the Republican Congress? (Don't even get me started on the Texas Legislature!) In the time we've spent fighting (and thereby keeping public attention focused on) the anti-gay Hate Amendment in Texas, how many opportunities have we missed to examine the real challenges facing our state from a Key Values perspective?

Don't get me wrong -- every football team needs a strong defense. But any coach will also tell you that the only way to win is with a good offense.

The Green Institute and Green Horizon Quarterly are a couple of the groups that are focusing on a positive Green program. The Apollo Alliance folks deserve a shout-out too. But there's a long way to go to get constructive progressive thinking back into the mainstream of the public dialog.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Celebrating the new minivan...

... that our Bosnian-Croatian friends just bought...
... with a bottle of Jack Daniels...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

La Michoacana

Had breakfast tacos this morning at La Michoacana, one of a chain of Mexican-American "meat markets"--really grocery stores with a large butcher counter--with locations around Texas. Walking into one is like being in another country--the signage is almost all in Spanish, the staff speak little English, and the products on the shelves seem to be mostly imported, or maybe just specially packaged for the "Hispanic" market. Must brush up on my Español....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

An Experiment

As an experiment, I will (try to) write at least a few lines on this blog every day (or maybe just every weekday) during November. We'll see whether I produce anything worth reading, or if it somehow helps me manage my own thought processes better. Such as they are. Today I'm off the hook because the experiment itself furnishes topic enough for those few lines. Tomorrow I'll actually have to come up with something. If the experiment "succeeds" I suppose I'll be writing more often afterwards; if it fails I may give up the blog. Or just let it linger on like I've been doing, posting once every few months whenever I see something or an errant thought floats through my skull that might be worth sharing with people I'm not already otherwise in communication with....