Update: Blocking is your friend.

As an update on the recent problem I had on Facebook, I have effected a solution by simply blocking the person who thought it was fine to accuse me of saying something I didn’t say after deleting the thing I actually said, thereby preventing me from demonstrating what I actually said. I also left one group that person is in.

Back to normal (?) posting on Facebook, until Zuckerberg’s outrageous behavior or other events push me over the edge and I simply leave entirely.


The Reason for My Silence on Facebook

I have grown very tired of Facebook users who spend an inordinate amount of time posting to their timeline and to their friends in groups trendy photos of them doing trendy things in trendy places in support of their self-curated personas. One the other day demonstrated a level of arrogance and a lack of civility that left me rather gob-smacked. People who know me will realize that my gob is not that easily smacked.

I have no time for such substance-challenged people and will act accordingly. Unfriending and blocking are just two ways that can be done. In the meantime, I have decided not to participate in the cesspool of Facebook, or at least not in any group in which such members make their curated presence felt.

Japan’s Covid Paralysis

Yesterday we had 539 new Covid-19 cases in Tokyo, a new high for Tokyo (the second in three days), and a new high nationwide. Japan appears to be doing much better than many other advanced nations, and certainly is not seeing the chaos that is happening in the US.

I think Japan’s success is due in a large part not to the government leadership, but rather to cultural factors. In addition to most Japanese not having aversion to mask-wearing, most Japanese have a sense of community and commonality of purpose with other Japanese. There is nothing of the us-and-them attitude that is so prevalent in the US. In reality, there are few of “them” to other. Japan is a highly other-challenged country.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the politicians sent effective messages to indicate how serious this was and how important it is for people to follow guidelines of behavior. After the first month or so, however, things have gone awry. The messaging has been more along the lines of “as long as you follow guidelines, you can do whatever you want wherever you want to do it.” That, I believe, has resulted in the recent record high levels of infections here in Japan. The government is essentially saying that it’s ok to do anything, as long as you are careful. They even instituted partial subsidies for domestic tourism, a business that has been seriously hit by the pandemic. What this does is replace tourists from overseas (mostly China) with Japanese tourists. The dangers remain, but are suffered by the locals.

And with all this going on, Japan is still planning on holding the once-delayed Olympics. I think they are seriously hallucinating or in serious denial. Although Japan is doing fairly well (still), many thousands of athletes and support personnel (not to mention spectators) coming to Japan from countries not doing well is certainly not a smart thing to do. Japan needs to cut bait; there are no Olympic fish available this time. I realize that huge amounts of money, including bribes, have been paid to make the Olympics happen, but shit also happens, and it has happened in a major way. It is time to get out of the way of the shit on its way to the fan.

Japan has essentially been paralyzed, unable to make embarrassing decisions to correct wrong decisions. I hope this condition can be fixed before it causes any more damage.

No Good News

The Corona pandemic has had a serious effect on many businesses. Language service businesses are no exception.

Opening up “the economy” might help a few highly visible business such as bars and restaurants, but it doesn’t help language services or the users thereof very much. Nobody needs to tell most translators to stay home because of the Corona pandemic. Most stay at home most of the time anyway. But the pandemic has made it extremely difficult to go out and meet people to sell, something that is still very much part of Japanese business activities.

The situation is basically the same for my clients, both in Japan and the US, particularly because of travel restrictions between the US and Japan, although there appears to be absolutely no checking or enforcement of purported “mandatory” isolation after arrival in either country.

The virus is highly unlikely to have been a man-made attack, but the prolonged pandemic, particularly in the US, is the result of arrogance, stupidity, and greed on the part of humans.

Drastic measures—unspeakable, yet-unspoken, and potentially politically suicidal measures—are probably going to be required to beat this thing.

I have little confidence that government leaders will step forward and do what is necessary. Politicians are looking out for themselves, their bank accounts, and the bank accounts of their donors.

It could be that we will need to continue to suffer this man-made aspect of the Corona pandemic until a vaccine is widely available and widely administered (perhaps next Spring or later?) and then hope that, in particular, the US government can enact measures that will make it so painful and costly to resist vaccination that even diehard antivaxxers and other mental defectives give in and get jabbed.

Facebook Disengagement

I have recently deleted all the posts on my Facebook timeline and all the posts of mine I could find in the two groups I have been most active recently.

Facebook has come to look more and more like a breeding ground for narcissists with highly self-curated personas. That has made it very unattractive to me.

I am also engaging in the process of blocking or unfriending accounts of:

  • people who often share content that is totally unattributed or is attributed to a source that has not revealed their true identity;
  • people who often share content, the copyright on which is owned by someone else, where it is unreasonable to think that they had permission to do so (publicly available and easy-to-steal do not equate to public domain);
  • people who often share content from anonymous Facebook pages (most are anonymous) or a website that is anonymously created and maintained;
  • people who promote cults, religions, or coaching businesses;
  • people who share “chain” posts that ask readers to share or copy & paste them; and last, but certainly not least,
  • people who clearly support political views that have done much in recent years to bring destruction and division to the country of my birth; I have neither the skills nor time to change their views.

There you have it. My new social media order. Leaner, meaner, less generous, and (I hope) less time-consuming and annoying to me.

The New Age of Business Card Exchanges

Executive summary: Exchanging business cards can lead to unexpected outcomes if you are not careful. One fellow in a major Japanese company found that out recently.

Here is a demonstration that you do not need to be too smart to look like you are a smart cyberthug if you are helped by unwary people who do not guard their personal information.

This morning we received from just such a cyberthug an amusing email purporting to be an RFQ from a reputable entity, a well-known subsidiary of a huge auto manufacturer. It showed that the thug has smarts in some areas but is a bit lacking in others. But it also points out the danger of indiscriminately handing out your business card.

The signature line in the footer of the clearly spoofing email is totally correct as an actual person in a specific location of the company, which is in Aichi Prefecture.

The telephone number and the email address given in the footer were also verified as being the actual person’s telephone number and email address.

How could they do that? It is simple.

The thug got this information from somewhere, and it was in such detail that it could only have been gotten from a business card. Some people would, of course, call or email the person being spoofed and go no further when they found out that this was really a criminal emailing them. For many people, that would end the victimization before it starts. But others will click on an attachment in the email, which is the real purpose of the email.

But the cyberthug made some serious errors that clearly reveal both the inauthenticity of the email and the stupidity of the sender.

  • The cyberthug did not even change the sender’s email address from the actual address. It was not in Japan but rather an email address associated with the top domain pw of Palau, a group of islands in the West Pacific (changing the sender email address displayed in the header is a no-brainer);
  • the Japanese is laughable in too many ways to go into here; and (the clincher)
  • the time stamp is UTC +0300 (Eastern Europe and the New Russian Empire), despite the fact that it is also a no-brainer to change your system clock to spoof a “less-suspicious” time zone (Japan Standard Time would of course have been better).

After checking on their website, I called the main number of the auto manufacturer’s subsidiary and they verified that the name, telephone number, and email address in the spoofing email were correct for a person who actually works there. Upon calling that department’s number, I was not surprised to learn that they have been flooded with phone calls and the individual whose identity was being spoofed has been flooded with emails.

The takeaway for translators is that these days you need to be careful about revealing your personal information, including your email address, in public places. Your email address should not be placed on any webpages in harvestable (i.e., text rather than graphic) form. And do not disclose your normal business email address even in graphic form. Use an alias email address that can be changed if necessary if it starts collecting spam.

And, more relevant to the above-noted spoofing incident, be wary of casual exchanging of business cards. The victim of the spoofing in the above incident evidently had not been. I have heard translators gleefully reporting that they were able to hand out N business cards (where N is probably an unwise integer) to people at an event, often under the impression that they were doing sales. A bit more discretion is probably called for.

I am actually considering printing up some business cards with only a safe and disposable email alias, for handing out to potentially suspicious people. This will avoid problems such as what happened when I handed my business card one day to a fellow at the front desk of a major hotel in Osaka. The result was a deluge of daily spam from the hotel group directed to my normal business email. It took weeks of dealing with a fellow at a call center somewhere in the bowels of India to finally have the email address removed from their spamming list. A safe disposable email address on a business card for use in such situations would have avoided this problem.

One Bright Side to the Coronavirus Pandemic

With work grinding to a halt at the end of March and only just now starting to pick up a bit, I’ve got much more time to attend to cyberspace things. I just trashed one of my three websites (which had no content of its own recently and was only redirecting accesses to my company website), and now I am setting about to the task of rebuilding this blog and the website to which it belongs. There will be:

  • content for colleague translators and
  • content related to some of my rather geeky/nurdy interests.

Stay tuned.

Problem Fixed

For some reason, some settings on my website’s server were returned to their default values, thereby rendering not only this blog, but also my main website (http://www.williamlise.jp/) inaccessible from outside Japan. Things are now fixed.

New Directions

The future of this blog will be devoted to more important things than trying to advise colleague translators about career decisions. Not the least of the reasons for this change in direction is that most of that advice falls on deaf ears or the ears of colleagues in the vast majority of translators who will never be first-tier translators serving translation consumers, but will rather remain on the second-tier or lower, selling their translations to brokers. I will  however write content about the actual practice of translation, divorced from the career or business aspects of the profession.

New content will include my views on some of the serious problems we are all facing these days and, of course, the very timely topic of slide rule collecting (no laughing, please), among other weird interests of mine. 乞うご期待.

An Apology and Resignation

I’m not resigning from any position, of course, other than the overly optimistic position of thinking that any but a tiny number of translators will every break away from their bonds with agencies to become first-tier providers themselves. It’s simply not in the cards.

But I do sincerely apologize to the people who came to listen to my presentation at the IJET-30 Conference in Cairns and, of course, to people who have listened to my advice over the years. I misled you. In fact, I lied.

Most Japanese-to-English translators will continue to surrender their agency to brokers—willingly or begrudgingly—and will continue to work on tier two. And almost none of them will ever work with an entity that knows anything about translation or understands what they’re asking them to translate. That reality is as clear as the nose on your face. The outlook is bleak for almost all translators. And it is getting worse. This truth is more useful than a comfortable fiction.

I have deceived colleagues and potential colleagues into thinking that it is reasonable to aspire to something better. It is not, except for a very tiny number of translators and even then only with considerable good fortune.

I am sorry if I gave the impression that breaking out of tier two was possible. It is an unreasonable hope for almost all translators.

More specifically, only a very tiny number of Japanese-to-English translators will:

  • ever have any engagement with the users of their translations,
  • ever have any engagement with purchasers of their translations who know anything about translation or understand the subject matter they are asking them to translate, or
  • ever be able to get nearly the amount of money spent by the translation consumers who purchase their translations from translation brokers.

Accordingly, I hereby resign—not from translation, of course—but from efforts to tell translators that there is something else available. For almost no translators is that “something else” within reach. Most have already resigned themselves to that situation, and some rationalize their plight. And things are not going to improve for the vast majority of Japanese-to-English translators.

The Sad News: Japanese-to-English Translators put out of work almost 36 years ago.

Today marks the day, almost 36 years ago as of this writing, when human Japanese-to-English translators were thrown out of work by the arrival of machine translation, in the form of an “automatic translation machine” as it was described in this Asahi Shimbun first-page article of May 18, 1984. The company selling this product was Bravice International, which was soon to go bankrupt and sell the rights to its technology to another outfit.

Machine Japanese-to-English translation developed by numerous companies has had a perfect record of not putting qualified human Japanese-to-English translators out of work all these years but it is now poised to achieve parity with incompetent Japanese-to-English translators in China and India. And it only took 36 years to do that. Actually it has taken longer, since the Bravice failure was certainly not the start of efforts to replace expensive translators with software.

A tip of the hat to all the people who poured their hearts (and misplaced hopes) into this effort.