Posted by: patenttranslator | February 14, 2019

The Insanity of Working Hard All Your Life

When the period of 24 hours, also known as day and night, is divided by number 3, the number we get is 8.

Most of our life is divided into a seemingly endless supply of these 3 periods, a banker might say trenches of 8 hours distributed over the time sheet of our life. It is only towards the end of our life that we realize that the supply of available hours is in fact quite limited and pretty soon we will be scraping the bottom. Some people believe that it does not matter that much because God will in the end bail us out, but I don’t buy that. It simply makes no sense to me.

Most people sleep for about 8 hours a day: a little bit more at the beginning of our life, a little bit less during the middle of it and a little bit more again towards the end of our life, counting the naps older people need to take during the day.

When we are children, adolescents, and even as young adults, those of us who live in developed countries do not have to work because we go to school. This is a good time for us, probably the best time, when school, commuting to school and related activities that are mostly fun bite off about 8 hours out of our night and day.

Roughly 8 hours out of the block of 24 hours should therefore be available for us once we are adults to do with them as we please. But is that what really happens?


Theoretically, things should be simpler and more convenient for those of us who work at home as freelancers. For a long time I thought that I finally figured out how to beat the system and use hours available to me more efficiently when I started my home-based business and my life pattern changed from that of an employee who can ask only one question when ordered to jump …. yup, you’ve got it, that would be “How high”?

It is true that things improved to an extent because I no longer had to commute, and commuting was quite exhausting. In Tokyo, it took me one and half hour to commute to my office – a bus at first, followed by two different subway lines, until I was discharged from the open mouth of a crowded train beast in which commuters were packed like sardines in the Yamanote-sen line at Hamamatsucho.   

I thought I would finally be free to plan each of the hours in the day and even at night exactly as I thought it would work best for me. Except that it was not really true, not true at all. I had to divide the number of words I thought I would be able to translate by the number of hours available to do the work to finish each project on time. And contrary to what people who don’t know much about translation might think, such as captains of the “translation industry,” translators cannot work for many hours at a stretch because these hours must be filled with numerous breaks to refresh the little grey cells in our hard working brains.

Otherwise, the translations will be full of mistakes.

So if one counts the breaks between translating as “necessary activities related to work”, most freelancers must work basically from early morning until late in the evening. At least I did: when I was busy, which fortunately was most of the time. I say fortunately, because how else would I pay the bills? I would start translating just after 6 AM when it was still dark, sometime spilling my coffee on my keyboard, to finally call it a day when it was dark outside again around 7 PM, since I would be so exhausted, both mentally and physically, that I could no longer translate. At the end of the day, I would multiply the number of translated words by the rate per word that I was charging and if the result was a nice, round number, I would determine that everything was right with the world.

But was it really? It turned out that it was not true that I as an independent freelance business owner, I would be able to plan my day and therefore work less as I originally thought: in fact, the opposite was true. My neighbors who wasted every day on average 30 or 40 minutes commuting to work at least could forget about working once they got back home.

And they did not have to work Saturdays and Sundays as I did. I would see them from my home office packing the cars with the kids and their boogie boards and taking off for the beach, or having barbecues, drinking beer and stuffing their faces in the backyard, while I could do so only once in a long while.

Since the bills had to be paid, most of my day was in fact taken up by my work, which was not really an improvement from my life as a “gaijin salaryman” in Tokyo.

But because I was working at good rates for direct customers, at least I was making good money, especially compared to poor warm bodies who nowadays have to work for the “translation industry”, right?

Well, yeah, kind of, but most of the money I made was spent not by myself, but by my wife, who really enjoyed spending it (women have such a talent for spending money that they did not have to make by themselves, don’t they?) And in the end, in order to turn her into my ex-wife, I had to agree to give her almost all of the money that we will hopefully receive from the sale of our house, which, incidentally, has not sold yet.

It’s a bum deal when you have to work so much, basically all the time, and somebody else will get to profit from the fruits of your labor. But that’s just how it is. You don’t get rich by working hard and doing good work. You can only get rich by exploiting the work of other people. That’s how things always have been and always will be.

Working hard all your life to please other people and keep acquiring new earthly possessions is totally insane. I should have figured out a better way to be spending the precious hours of my life on something else than work when I was younger and in much better shape than now.

But this is something that we usually realize only when the time sheet of our life is almost filled up with hours spent working and there is not much space available for new hours, regardless of what we might want to do with them.


I don’t really have anything to say on the subject of translation today, but  it so happened that today I took a look at my first post of this silly blog and I saw that my first post was published on February 5, 2009, 10 years ago already.

So since that ‘s quite some kind of an anniversary, for me, anyway, I decided to write another post again.

So many things have changed in those 10 years. Or is it 11? I’m not sure now. But who’s counting, right? I am now happily divorced, happily retired (there are two small jobs in the hopper, but other translators will do them for me), I live in another country now (the one where I was born) …. just to name a few of the aforesaid changes.

Oh, and I am dating again, after more than four decades. Yesterday I was on a date in a downtown café/wine bar, so we had ourselves some coffee and some wine and we talked for close to three hours.

I now have another date with another woman in two days on Friday. This time it will be a dinner in a nice restaurant, well, nice for Mad Patent Translator, anyway.  The women I am dating now are of appropriate age to mine, which is to say about ten younger then me (but not more than that).

I also met another woman last month by a chance in another café, and I keep thinking about her because despite the fact that she was so strikingly beautiful, she kept talking to me. But she was also less than half my age, and I realize how a young woman could be very dangerous to me.

I must try not to think about her.

 Because I wear my heart on my sleeve, I told the first date about the second one (the one close to my age, not the young chick), and when she heard it, she wanted a full report about it, after the date. So I will tell her about it next week … although maybe not all of it.

Now, I have a dilemma, namely, I don’t know whether I should continue writing this blog as I am losing interest in the subject of translation, what with being retired and all, and not really needing to make money from my translations anymore as I am drawing my well deserved pension after working my  butt off for something like 40 years.

The thing is, I used to publish at least half a dozen blog posts every month for ten years, and most of the time I managed to stick pretty closely to the original subject, although of course I tried to stuff a few more interesting ingredients in the posts as well.

I have a few readers who for some reason have been following what I have been writing on the subject of translation on different “platforms”, mostly in newsletters for translators in the pre-internet age since the nineties, even before I started my silly but moderately successful blog on the subject in question.

What do you guys think, should I continue writing about translation? Even If you are new to this blog, I do appreciate every opinion, if it comes from the heart.

I kind of feel that I’ve said all I had to say on the subject, and then some, and that the whole business model of an independent translator may be slowly circling the drain and that the future is …. drumroll please …. not female, as feminists think, but fascist, as in dominated by fascist-style corporate mega-businesses that will treat translators or already are treating them like easily replaceable, unimportant slaves.

I agree with a commenter who said on my last blog that I had a nice ride, it lasted a long time, and the timing of the exit was probably well chosen too.

Should I continue writing about translation and the translation business?

Or should I just give up obsessive, compulsive writing, my not so secrete pleasure for so many years, and try to enjoy the last few years of my life when I may still be hopefully relatively healthy?

Or should I start writing another blog about something else? And if so, what should it be?

Also, should I keep posting videos on the blog or are you tired of it already. A nasty woman, or actually a couple of them, if I remember it correctly, called the videos “clickbait”.

Well, whatever floats your boat, daahlings, you can call it any nasty name you can think of. After all, you deserve some happiness in your life too. But if most of the readers of my silly post don’t even click on the videos, and there’s no way I can tell, I will stop doing that.

Dear readers, please, let me know. The future of my blog is now in your hands.


Posted by: patenttranslator | January 31, 2019

My Five Stages of Life and Work as a Freelancer Between 1987 – 2019

People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no ‘mean guy’ who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless. But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible.

 The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding

Robert Maynard Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974

This blog post will be a very brief summary of the changes that I experienced as a freelance translator between 1987 and 2019. There have obviously been many changes in more than three decades and all I can do is to try to summarize the most important changes as I remember them in just a few words, otherwise the post would be too long and too boring. So here are the five changes that I came up with:

Stage 1: Working for Translation Agencies in the Late Eighties

Working for translation agencies was quite enjoyable when I started my translation business in the late eighties. There was no “translation industry” yet, i.e. big agencies owned by non-translators who know nothing whatsoever about foreign languages or translation issues, and whose main expertise is in how to buy low and sell high, which is the case today. Most agencies were tiny to very small, and they were usually owned and run by former translators, or people who knew several languages and appreciated the work of the translators working for them.

Up until the early nineties I lived in San Francisco, where I knew several other translators who had been running their translation businesses for many years, many of whom were an inspiration to me. Back then I was quite happy working only for agencies. I was not interested in the marketing of my business, and since I was mostly translating Japanese patents and there was a shortage of people who could do that well, I was quite busy most of the time, and at good rates.  

Stage 2: The Search for Direct Clients with Direct Mailings in the Nineties

Initially, I subconsciously accepted the notion that there is a natural division between the capitalist owners of translators and the owned humans called translators and I was totally clueless about how to connect with direct customers. My extended translator newbie period lasted roughly from 1987 to 1992.

But when my children were born and my wife stopped working based on our mutual agreement (and she never did go back to work), I realized that I needed to make much more money because I had to replace her paycheck, and as a highly talented chef in San Francisco, I would say a genius chef, she was making more than this newbie translator more than three decades ago.

So I got together with Fred, another translator, and we started sending letters to patent law firms in and around San Francisco and Silicon Valley that we thought might have some work for us. In the early nineties, this was still a good way to find new direct clients for a budding patent translator, if you did not mind sending a few thousand letters year after year, which I dutifully did every time when work slowed down, which it did a lot.

It worked – after about two or three years, I had a supply of patents for translation, mostly Japanese patents, from patent law firms in California. I then continued sending letters to patent law firms in other parts of United States and by around the end of the nineties, about 70 percent of my income came directly from patent law firms and the rest from translation agencies at lower but still decent rates.

Stage 3: Finding Clients through My Website in the Early Two Thousands

I continued printing and mailing letters like a maniac to prospective direct customers up until the early two thousands, when I created my own website at, which was doing the marketing for me and which I basically did not change for close to two decades. I remember that there was no response at all to my website for the first three or four years. But after about 2004 I was already receiving most of my work directly through my website, in large quantities and at good rates and I discontinued my mailing campaigns.

In addition to Japanese patents, I started translating also patents from German and French, and things were going very well for me in terms of my income for quite a few years.

Because in some respects I am a total control freak, initially I insisted on translating everything by myself, with the exception of an occasional patent translation from Italian or Swedish or another language a few times a year.

Stage 4: Becoming a Specialized Translation Agency

But after a few years of translating everything by myself, I realized that when one picks translators very carefully, it is actually much easier to make money as a translation agency, since the profit margin common in the industry (about 50%) is quite sufficient. So although I was still translating by myself the majority of the patents that I was receiving from direct clients, in the two thousands about 40% of my income came from my work as an agency operator. I found the customers, matched them with suitable translators, and proofread their translations before sending them to the clients.

Although initially I was reluctant to rely on other translators, after a few years I got used to it and it does not bother me too much anymore. Maybe I am not a control freak anymore, at least not in this respect.

 Stage 5: Retirement

At this point, I am officially retired from the business, and as of this year, I finally decided not to pay for ATA membership (American Translators Association) for 2019.

I still work a little bit as a translator and as a translation agency, but not nearly as much as I used to when I had to provide for a family of four on a single income. Because my translation business was quite successful for many years, I managed to save enough money so that my savings would enable me to live modestly for several years without having any other income at all. To make sure that I will be able to live on a fixed income in my retirement, I moved from relatively expensive Virginia to Southern Bohemia in Czech Republic where I was born, mostly because the cost of living is lower here and also because I love it here and I still have some family here.

The Social Security income that I am receiving after 37 years of paying my taxes to Uncle Sam is quite extraordinary based on Czech standards, as it corresponds approximately to four local retirement pensions. Based on official statistics available on Internet, only 33 other Czech retirees receive a Czech old-age pension that is as high as or higher than mine, and two of them – in a country of 10 million people – receive a pension that is double of what I get from the US Social Security Administration.

I live modestly in a small, but comfortable apartment, not far (two bus stops) from the downtown in a small city of about 100,000 people just a few miles from the town where I grew up.  

 I do not believe that there is a natural or divine order dividing the world between the businesses representing the “translation industry”, which used to be called translation agencies, and now call themselves “LSPs”, apparently because they are ashamed to be called agencies, and the people who do the actual translation work, who know more than one language, called translators, wherein the twain shall never meet.

This is how the work of translators has been defined for us by big, corporate translation agencies since about the beginning of this millennium, but it is not a definition that translators must or should accept.

I don’t believe that accepting somebody else’s definition of how translators should live, work and function is to accept as an immutable fact that one has to work very hard for very little money and that not much can be done about it.

I believe that the key to success has always been and always will be the ability to beat the existing system by rejecting and replacing it by your own, custom-made system.

Now that I have been happily divorced for close to a year after 34 years of a punishing marriage, and retired for about the same time, I finally have the time to watch undisturbed in my cozy apartment in a quaint town in Southern Bohemia tons of interesting, strange and funny Youtube videos on topics of special interest to me, topics including minimalist lifestyles, designing a small apartment or a so-called tiny house, or techniques for dealing with narcissists and feminism’s war on men, women and the society, to name just a few.

I used to waste a lot of time by following what was happening in American politics and politics worldwide, but I finally realized that that this was a complete waste of time, and that other topics, such as the ones mentioned above, are much more worthy of my attention.

One such topic is also dating advice for women and men: either advice from female relationship gurus for men on how to date women (to get them into bed in record time), or advice from women on how to attract a man and keep him happy.

Although, given that men are such simple creatures, wouldn’t food and sex be sufficient in this respect?

To my surprise, while I was watching this invaluable advice from relationship coaches, one thought kept occurring to me throughout the video watching sessions: The guidance of these relationship mentors and coaches is so similar to the marketing advice of translation experts who coach and mentor novice translators on how to make it in the translation business.  

I think that the difference here is that while the relationship coaches and gurus usually do know something about relationships, and sometime they seem to know a lot, the translators who dispense advice on how to become a successful translator, or translation entrepreneur if you will, often know very little about translation and the translation business.

We will all accumulate a lot of knowledge and sometime even wisdom during our lifetime – if we are not totally stupid and live long enough. Unfortunately, if we live too long, we will most likely be robbed of most of this valuable knowledge and wisdom by Alzheimer’s.

A few days ago I visited the 87-year-old mother of an old friend of mine. Although the years changed her so much that I would not have recognized her had I not known who she was, and she did not even recognize me at first, once I told her my name, she immediately started recalling details about my mother, my sister and my brothers that I did not even know about myself.

Wow, I thought to myself, she’s still as sharp as a tack. But then she said:”I am very old. I am already 60 years old”, and when we told her that she was already 87, not 60, she responded by saying:“Oh, so what comes after 87, is it 70?”

But let’s come back to the subject at hand. Unlike the relationship coaches on the internet who usually have a lot of relevant experience and know a thing or two about human nature, translation marketing experts are almost always quite young, they have often been translating for just a few years, and what they do know is limited to a very narrow field, which is possibly transferable only to translators who work in the same field and translate the same language pair, and even then it may be applicable only temporarily because everything changes with a lightning speed in our world.

I have been translating for a living for a relatively long time, since 1980 when I graduated from university with a degree in languages. But I realize that I don’t know much about anything even in my chosen field of “translation” because it is such a vast field. Scio nihil me scire (I know that I know nothing).

I have been trying to share the little bit I know about how to make a living as a freelance translator on my silly blog for something like 10 years, just for fun rather than for profit.

I know a lot about translation of patents because I have been translating mostly patents for at least the last 25 years. But what I know about patent translation is not directly applicable to translations in other fields, or even to other languages than Japanese, German, or French, which are the languages from which I have been mostly translating patents myself.

In my opinion, the coaching offered in seminars by “experienced” and “successful” translators to other translators can be of some limited use basically only to total beginners, often disparagingly referred to as “newbies”, who may be for understandable reasons totally clueless. And even then, only newbie translators who work in the same language pair and translation fields will probably be able to derive some utility from this coaching by “expert translators”.

It’s one thing when a smart woman, experienced in affairs of the heart, dispenses advice to young men on things like how to avoid the wrong kind of woman (gold diggers, narcissists, or nasty feminists), and how to attract the right kind of a life-long partner. A lot of useful advice can sometime be found in these Youtube video, which are free and sometime very entertaining.

But the advice of translators who have been translating for only a few years, if that long, on how to prepare résumés that will be noticed by “LSPs”, whether to “do or not do” translation tests, or whether to “do or not do” post-processing of machine translation and how much one should charge for something like that is really potentially useful only to total dummies.

 We are all very different people. What attracts one type of woman to a man is very different from what another type of woman will find irresistible – although the one thing that all females find extremely attractive in any type of man is of course a lot of money.

But unlike relationship coaches who seem to realize that there are limits to the fine teachings they are trying to share for fun and profit with the followers of their Youtube channels, most translation coaches seem to believe that they have swallowed all the wisdom available in the whole universe on the subject of “translation”, and on the subject of how to become a “successful translator”, whatever that might mean.

If you are smart, brave and persistent enough, you will eventually realize what does and what does not work for you when you work as a translator. This is something that you will or will not figure out on your own. There is no need to listen to translation gurus. You just need to figure out your own method that will work for you, and this method may be very different from all of the methods other translators are using.

The same is true about advice on personal relationships. Just be yourself and if you are bringing something to the table and you are lucky, you will find somebody who is compatible with you.

And if not, don’t let it bother you too much and enjoy your life anyway. Nobody will give you unconditional love – that is something that only a parent can give to a child. If that is what you want and need, get a dog. And if you can’t be happy alone, you will probably never be happy with another person either.

Automobiles are a passing phenomenon. I believe in horses. Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1905.

It’s hard to predict the future when you live in the present and all you know is the past.

It’s so easy for us to laugh at Kaiser Wilhelm II now that two centuries later, 1.3 billion vehicles are driven on the roads and highways of this planet, some 64 million among them in Germany alone where the automobile is loved as a symbol of freedom at least as much as it is in the United States.

Yogi Berra said it best: “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I don’t believe in horses when it comes to their usefulness to humans in the future. I admire these magnificent animals, but like everybody else, I know that after a few thousand years of faithful service to us, humans, they are now mostly good just for horse racing, historical films and corsage.

I believe in technology, partly because most of my working life of some four decades I have been making a pretty decent living by translating patents and documents about different technical subjects from various languages.

But technology is a double-edged sword. Our smart phones are now so smart that unless we make a lot of effort to prevent the government and greedy corporations from illegally spying on all of us all of the time, the people who have access to all kinds of data about us can easily find out anything and everything about us, including what kinds of thoughts are going through our heads and then use it against us.

It was Cardinal Richelieu who said almost three centuries ago: ” Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.” [If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.] How he would love to run a government and have access to thousands of lines written by each and every of man and women!

The “translation industry” has been trying for at least the last two decades to turn translators into nothing more human apps that can be installed, activated and deinstalled as needed. And to some extent, the industry has succeeded in doing just that because instead of fighting back, translators meekly accepted the new conditions that the “translation industry” created for the human apps by the impersonal and greedy design of the machinery created by the industry to maximize its profit.

I don’t think that the industry makes much of a distinction between an algorithm used by a computer program and a human translator. After all, both are just profit units.

In East Germany, the communist government was able to spy only on about every 18th person with the primitive technology available at the time, although it was much better technology than what Cardinal Richelieu was using in the 18th century. In the  countries of the modern world as it is set up now, everybody can be spied on with the help of modern technology all the time and there does not seem to be much that anyone can do about it, except to try to minimize the damage to ourselves by being aware of what is going on.

And even if we try to do that, it will be an uphill struggle.

Most people are probably not even aware of what happened to privacy anymore, or they simply gave up trying to reclaim their privacy and their rights as independent and free individuals.

There is no independence and there is no freedom without privacy.   

Here is another quote from Yogi Berra

            “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

The future does not look too good for translators, especially if they work for the “translation industry”. It is likely that in many respects, it will probably be worse than the past.

Technological progress has the power to liberate us, or to enslave us.

I believe in technological progress rather than in horses, but I think it will be more and more difficult for translators to make a decent living the way I and people my age who were translating for a living were able to do that for many decades.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to work anymore, because I have found a formula to live quite comfortably off my savings and retirement income without having to worry about where the next job is going to come from and how to make ends meet if there are no jobs in the pipeline.

Regardless of what age you are, but especially if you are not that young anymore, you should probably find your own strategy and your own formula to achieve the same goal, or at least start working on it in the year 2019.

Posted by: patenttranslator | December 29, 2018

How to Train a Translator Like a Dog

The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, but would basically be a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping.   Aldous Huxley

Those of us who have or at some point in time used to have a dog know that every dog needs to be trained. It’s best to start training them when they are still puppies, otherwise, it may be too late to do much about how they behave because, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Over the years, we had seven dogs in more than thirty years, not counting Cherrie-chan that we had when we lived in Japan, all of which my wife, who by now has been actually my ex-wife for seven months, got from the pound in San Francisco. Fortunately, they were all house trained, and the problems they had, like being aggressive and chewing furniture, which is how they ended up at the San Francisco dog pound, stemmed from the fact that the humans who owned them did not love them, or at least not enough to make a connection with the dog’s heart.

You can train even an old dog new tricks, but first you have to make a meaningful connection with the noble animal.

Lucy, a scary looking expert at love bombing.

The biggest problem with puppies is of course that you have to train them not to go to bathroom inside the house, generally by rubbing their nose in the mess they made in the room before they get the concept of what being housebroken means to a dog. They eventually all get the concept that this is a major no-no. Other problems with dogs, such as when they are too noisy and keep barking too much, or aggressive to other dogs or even people, must also be dealt with sometimes, but humans are generally more forgiving when it comes to these personal canine characteristics.

Dogs are masters at making sure that we allow them to behave more or less the way they themselves want to comport themselves rather than what we want from them by using various incredibly sly canine methods, including a tactic also known as “love bombing”.

We are exposed to canine “love bombing”, which is different from human “love bombing”, used both by men and women, but mostly and generally much more effectively by women, when the dog acts oh-so-very-happy when we come back home after having been gone even for only a few minutes, and starts doing things like wagging the tail, jumping around, or even jumping at us and licking our face. It’s a very, very effective tactic, and every dog knows that the tactic can be used to train humans by melting their hearts so that as a result, their humans will become obedient and mindful of perfectly legitimate canine wants and needs.

Just like dogs, translators can be trained too to behave exactly the way their owners want and need them to behave. Fortunately, virtually all translators are house-broken, but even if they were not, given that they work from remote locations through internet, their owners who run translation agencies in “translation industry” 2.0, would probably not give a shit.

The demands that the owners translators in the “translation industry” have on us also are very different from those of rightful human owners of dogs. And needless to say, unlike with dogs, the best and only true friends of humans, there is no love lost, or pretense of love on either side, either among translators or among their owners in translation agencies, which nowadays prefer to call themselves “LSP”, or Language Service Providers (ha, ha, ha).

Dogs allow us to train them because they know their owners love them. It is much harder for translators to be trained by their owners in the “translation industry” because based on how they are being treated, translators know that their owners despise them.

The tools that “LSPs” need to train their translator-slaves are also very different from tools used by humans who try to train their scary beasts and cute doggies to behave properly.

It should be mentioned that the training of translators by their owners in the “translation industry” as if they were dogs has a relatively short history.

Before approximately Anno Domini 2000, translators were not really considered by their owners to be kind of less than human, partly because prior to the current, corporatized and dehumanized form of the “translation industry”, translation agencies were usually run by former translators who liked the management of translation projects more than translating, partly because they understood what translation is about, although mostly because they knew that there is much more money in management of translation projects than in actual translating.

The modern translation agency owners, who Jesus would probably call money changers, are almost always completely monolingual, don’t really know anything about translation, they could not translate anything if their life depended on it … and they are proud about it.

They are just salesmen who would be just as happy selling cigars, or refrigerators, or cars instead of selling translations if they could make more money doing that. But there is good money to be made in translation, you can sell it without knowing much about it, and unlike in most other enterprises, you don’t really need much of a capital to start your translation business.

One of the first tools that the translator owners in the “translation industry” used to train their translators to show them how worthless they are were new  “NDAs” or “Non-Disclosure Agreements” that started being used to beat obedience into translators by the industry around the year 2,000.

These new “NDAs” were very long, unfair and extremely demeaning to translators, as I wrote in several posts on this blog, such as How the So-Called Translation Industry Turned “Confidentiality Agreements” into Declarations of Acceptance of Servitude, or One Possible Strategy for Dealing with Unfair and Demeaning “Non-Disclosure Agreements” Pushed Recently by Some Translation Agencies.

Many of the clauses in these agreements were illegal, but translators were too scared not to sign them because they needed translation work, even if generally poorly paid, so instead of protesting or finding their own customers, they just shut up and signed.

Approximately at the same time, the agencies, especially the big ones, started lowering the rates that they were paying for translating. This was made easier by the fact that many new translators living in countries with a much lower labor costs than for instance in Western Europe or North America entered the competitive field of supplying cheap translations from third world countries.

The latest innovation in this trend to outsource labor overseas, imitating the trends of large corporations in other industries, is the development of so -called back offices in other countries where labor is very cheap, which in turn may be working as subcontractors for other back offices located in yet other countries where labor is even cheaper.

Agreements to work for their bosses anonymously, the customers can’t tell from which country or continent a translation that they think originates in United States, France, or England really came.

While the prices of translation charged to the customers did not really change that much, the rates paid for the translations to far-flung, inexperienced newbie translators were slashed to the bone, which worked very well for the bottom line of the “translation industry”.

The rates paid to translators were further reduced by the invention of wage theft enabling programs such as Trados, which can be used to remove from the word count translated words that translators are not paid for, as I write for instance in There Is Really Nothing Fuzzy About the Logic Or the Concept of Fuzzy Matches or in Is Trados Co-Responsible for the Falling Rates in the Translation Industry?

The “translation industry” is still busy innovating away along these lines, which is to stay trying to come up with new ways to increase its profits by paying translators less and less for their work.

Yet another innovation of the “translation industry” is post-processing of machine translations created by machine translation programs by pitiful human automatons, who are no longer called translators, but go instead by the generic title of “post-processors”.

I have been writing about this latest gold rush concept of the “translation industry” also in many posts on my blog, such as in Post-Processing of Machine Translations, the New Money Maker of “the Translation Industry” or in There Are Many Ways to Commit Suicide, But Post-Processing of Machine Translations Would Be a Horrible Way To Go.

Of course, these automatons, formerly called translators, who are paid next to nothing and usually reside again in countries with very cheap cost of labor, will not catch most of the mistakes because they generally have no qualifications and are paid almost nothing for what would be very hard work – if it was possible to do it well. But since doing something like that well would mean retranslating the whole damn thing by an actual qualified and experienced human translator, this would beat the purpose of the entire exercise since it would be very time-consuming and much too expensive.

Here I do find one interesting similarity between training a puppy to become house-broken and training a lowly post-processor to catch machine translation mistakes. You have to rub the nose of the post-processor in the shit and piss left in the text by the machine translation program, just like you have to rub the nose of puppies in their own shit and piss that they keep leaving on the carpet before becoming house-broken.

But the big difference is that while virtually all puppies eventually figure out that if they wait until they can go outside, their sensitive noses will not be subjected to the horrible smell of their own excrement, human post-processors of the detritus left after pre-processing by machine translation programs will have their noses rubbed in it and will be exposed to the cruel and unusual punishment that is their job until they find a better job or until they die, whichever comes first.

Happy New Year 2019!

Posted by: patenttranslator | December 22, 2018

Christmas in a Foreign Country

So I have been living in this pretty town in Southern Bohemia for almost three months now and it’s already Christmas. I can hardly believe it. Time flies, whether you’re having fun, or not. That’s just what time does … except when we are children and can’t wait to become grownups already.

The last Christmas that I remember in this country was 40 years ago, in 1978, when I still used to come back to my mother’s apartment in Český Krumlov for Christmas. My father was still alive, but he was spending most of the time at our “chalupa” (house in the country), which was just as well.

After eating and talking to my mom, I drank all by myself a bottle of red wine, I think it was Egri Bikavér (Bull’s Blood). After I had finished the bottle all by my lonesome, I started walking the streets to look at lighted Christmas trees decorated with ornaments and little chocolate figurines in the windows of apartments of the families in the festive atmosphere of the town, maybe mostly happy families, probably happy enough if they had small children anxiously waiting for their presents to magically appear under the tree already on Christmas Eve, unlike in America where the children have to wait until the morning of the next day.

Nothing makes us happier than when we can make a child happy.

I remember that I walked off the wine by walking through the town’s streets all the way to the fields and the forest behind the Zámecká Zahrada (Castle’s Garden), although it was late evening already. To my delight and amazement, I then saw many years later some of the streets end even a part of the forest where I had walked that evening 40 Christmases ago in the 2006 movie “The Illusionist” with Ed Norton and Jessica Biel. Except that in the movie, some of the streets and the forest were supposed to be in or near Vienna, not in Prague and in Český Krumlov.

But they can’t fool me!

Yesterday when I was coming back home from the bus stop after taking a look, along with tour groups of Chinese and Korean tourists, at the big Christmas tree and dozens of stands selling coffee and chocolate and punch and all kinds of Christmas goodies on the big square in České Budějovice, a tiny, terminally cute doggie started yapping at me like the hound of Baskerville with a serious case of rabies. I wanted to say to the old lady who was walking the miniature beast “What a cute dog”! But I had to stop and think for a couple of seconds how to say “cute” in Czech. I finally managed to say something and we exchanged a few pleasantries, but I’m still not sure I used the right word.

Thirty seven years is a long time, even for me. Although I was born and grew up here, I live in a foreign country now, at least for the time being. I keep thinking that people probably pick up on a wrong word I say and figure out that I am some kind of damn foreigner. Or maybe they think I already have old age dementia.

Or maybe I do and that’s why I am writing this silly blog? Oh well, who cares.

I will not be alone on Christmas because I will be spending Christmas Eve with my three nieces (well, one of them is a grandniece) and their children. I’m sure they’ll give me something, although I told them not to, and since I have no idea what to give them myself, I’ll just give them some money in an envelope, which is exactly what I have been giving to my children on Christmas for at least the last ten years.

It’s pretty effortless, and I think it works best.

An old girlfriend that I used to be madly in love with for quite a few years keeps calling me from Prague, after I called her and gave her my Czech phone number. But I think it’s basically just idle female curiosity on her part. She even asked me if I still carry the torch for her, I can’t remember now exactly what kind of Czech idiom she used. So I told her that I will never stop loving the girl that I used to know, but that I do not really know the person that she became and is now.

I’m pretty proud of myself, that I was able to come up with this answer, especially since it’s basically true. Her husband of many years died in an accident five years ago. So we are now both free and unattached.

And old.

She keeps calling, about once a week or so, asking me to call her back when and if I feel like it. But the calls are very brief and she does not really want to talk to me, I think, because she always calls when she is about to go to see a movie or a theater play, or when she is driving her car, so that there’s really no time to talk at all.

I called her back once or twice since I don’t really have any friends here, but I am not going to do it again. It’s some sort a weird game that she is playing with me that I don’t really understand and definitely do not like.

I think that what she is doing with me or to me is what many young men on Youtube who don’t like what feminism has done to women nowadays call “shit test”. A “shit test” is when a woman is saying or doing something to a man to test his reaction, like telling him that she already has a boyfriend even if it’s not true, basically to see how he’s going to react and if he’s man enough for her.

Women have been doing stuff like this to me and all males forever, of course. But at this point, I don’t feel like going along with these shit tests. I’m too old for this stuff.

What women usually don’t realize, (because they are so incredibly vain), is that when they get older, they lose the awful power they used to have over men when they were still young and beautiful.

Charles de Gaulle said it best when he said: “Treaties, you see, are like girls and roses; they last while they last.”  

Posted by: patenttranslator | December 19, 2018

Kidney Stones

Two weeks after I moved from United States to Czech Republic at the end of September of this year, I had to take a taxi around midnight to the Emergency at the local hospital because I felt terrible pain somewhere in my … what is called, loins? … I did not have an insurance card yet, although I was assured by phone by an insurance company that I chose to register with that I was already registered with them and my monthly insurance payment would be 1,640 Czech crowns ($73), exactly a half of what I pay for my Medicare insurance in the United States.

I remember that just before the taxi came, I went to my balcony to get some fresh air, and I thought to myself, half seriously, “Good thing I live on eighth floor. If the pain does not stop, I can always jump.”

The pain was really terrible, I could barely walk when I got to the hospital. An orderly put me in a wheelchair, took me to another floor by elevator to have an X-ray taken, and then a young doctor, probably an internist, saw me and diagnosed two smallish kidney stones based on the X-ray. One stone had already passed out from urinary tract to something else (I forgot what he called that part of my body to which it passed, but I remember that he spoke Czech with a faint Slovak accent); the other stone, about 2 cm in size, was still inside my body in the whatchumacallit, urinary tract or duct or something, and that was the thing that was causing the horrible pain.

After they gave me an injection, the pain stopped completely within about an hour. The Slovak-Czech doctor gave me a prescription for some pain killers, but the person at the Pharmacy later apologized that I would have to pay for the pills because I did not have my insurance card yet so that they could not bill my insurance company.

So I paid for the pills. I don’t remember how much it was, because the amount was so small compared to American prices. I think it was about $5 or $10. In addition, I also had to pay a fee of 100 Czech crowns (also about $5) to the Emergency department.

The doctor expressed surprise that I took a taxi to the hospital. That’s because you’re an American. Local people call ambulance for every stupid little thing, he said, because the insurance companies will pay for it.

When I asked the doctor, whose first name was Oliver, whether the stones could have been caused by the stress of moving to another country after so many years in United States, he said it was possible, that it could have also been caused by the changes of pressure during a supersonic flight or many other things, but that it is usually due to lack of adequate hydration. Drink a lot of water, he said, and the stone should pass out from your body on its own. If not, we’ll figure out how to deal with it, he said.

I have insurance in US called Medicare, which is supposed to be really good, for America, anyway … because Medicare is a socialized rather than a for-profit insurance system, for the most part, anyway (although private insurance companies already are part of the Medicare system, which is why the costs, deductibles, etc., are going up). But unlike for example European insurance policies, Medicare does not work outside of US. So I stopped paying for it as of this month since it is now useless to me.

Within about two days, the pain was gone completely as my body managed to pass out the second stone as well.

Had I suffered the kidney stone attack two weeks earlier, prior to my departure, I would probably have received the same treatment, the same pain killers and the same advice from a doctor in Virginia. Instead of a Slovak accent, he might have an Indian accent or something, I guess.

But based on my experience with insurance companies after living in United States for 35 years, I think it is very likely that after a few days or weeks I would receive a letter from my insurance company informing me that my insurance policy did not cover completely all of the services I received, and then I would be receiving bills from various doctors and departments of a US hospital for a year or two, multiple bills with letters demanding payment of thousands of dollars for each separate procedure, like the X-ray, the injection, the wheelchair, etc.

So instead of paying about $10 to $20 to the hospital in Czech Republic, the chances are that I would have to pay at least 5 to 10 thousand dollars (or maybe more) to a hospital in Virginia. The hospital could just say that Medicare does not cover this procedure, or that I don’t have Medicare Part This or That (I only have two “Parts of Medicare” and there are like ten of them now that private insurance companies figured out how to make their blood money from people on Medicare too), and that would be that.

I enjoyed my life for three and a half decade in America very much. But the thing is, unlike now, basic things that people need to live in any country, like accessible, affordable, good-quality medical care still used to work in America back when I moved there more than three decades ago, both for doctors and for the patients. Now, even basic necessities of life like healthcare work mostly just for Wall Street, for hospitals, and for some doctors too, I think.

But not for patients, that’s for sure. The patients are in the system just to get fleeced by the various parasites who are getting rich from the insanely greedy racket that the American healthcare system has become.

Seems to me I moved back to “socialist” Europe just in time.

Posted by: patenttranslator | December 11, 2018

The Zen of Downsizing

Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.

[No one is more of a slave than he who thinks himself free without being so.]
Johann Wolfgang Goethe

It is a time-tested custom that older people downsize from a big house if it is no longer suitable for them as they suddenly have different priorities than when they were younger. This is now called downsizing in America and other countries, but it is in fact something that has been around forever, in different forms and in different cultures.

In old Japan, for example, there was a custom of drastic downsizing called obasute, or ubasute, ((姥捨て), which literally translated means “throwing the old woman out”, or “oyasute” ( 親捨て) , which means “throwing the parent out.” Wikipedia describes this ancient custom as “the mythical practice of senicide in Japan, whereby an infirm or elderly relative was carried to a mountain, or some other remote, desolate place, and left there to die.”

But I don’t think there is anything mythical about it. Why invent a mythical barbaric custom if there is not some truth to it? When times were hard and there was only so much rice to feed hungry family members, you had to make a choice whether to keep alive the children or grandma and grandpa.

When Bohemia was still a part of good old, ramshackle Austria-Hungary a century or two ago, a preferred form of what is now called downsizing in English-speaking countries was in Bohemia called “na vejminku“, which is hard to translate, partly because unlike Japanese, the Czech language does not have Chinese characters with cute and meaningful curlicues (although it would be so much fun if it did, wouldn’t it)? Anyway, na vejminku could be translated as [living] on a concession.

When the parents got to be too old to live in their original house, their children, who were now married and with children of their own and needed more space, simply took over the big house and instead of taking the parents to a mountain to die there of hunger and exposure, they allowed their old parents to live out their days in a smaller building constructed for the old geezers behind the main house. This was the condition (or concession) under which the old folks agreed to give their house to their kids.

To the best of my knowledge, people no longer bring grandpa or grandma to a mountain to die there, nor do they build that much little houses behind the main house for their elderly parents. Fortunately, old people in most countries now have an income called pension, provided that they have been honestly paying taxes for many years while they were working.

But because in every country, the income from a pension is likely to be much smaller than what most people were making when they were younger, typically about one third of the original income, older people often use different, creative forms of downsizing when they reach retirement age to make ends meet.

But downsizing is about more than when old folks move to a smaller place in a cheaper area or country. It is a philosophy and a way of life that is becoming popular as an alternative to the Western type of insatiable and ultimately unsustainable consumerism, a hungry dragon that insists on eating itself, starting from the tail and continuing until it logically must swallow its head and then die.

More and more people in all age categories are beginning to understand that it makes no sense to measure the health of a society and success of individuals in it by how fast the GNP (General National Product) is growing. When more than 50 percent of marriages in Western countries end up in divorce, which they do at this point, this is a very healthy development from the viewpoint of how quickly the GNP number is growing. Divorce lawyers are getting rich as poor ex-husbands must pay and pay, but it is hardly a positive development for the society in a given country.

Incidentally, as per the Youtube video below, unlike in recent past when divorce was usually initiated by men, 75% of divorces are now initiated by women who see divorce mostly as a way to conveniently squeeze even more money from the men who at one point were stupid enough to marry them.

Older people move from countries with a high cost of living to retire in cheaper countries, which often offer also a warmer climate and a simpler way of living.

Young people who refuse to be saddled with mortgage for two or three decades choose different strategies to avoid becoming slaves to insatiable appetites of the banking and real estate industry. When they eventually move from mama’s basement, and they prefer to stay a long time in what in Europe and Japan is called “hotel mama”, they move to small apartments instead of buying their first house, or use even more drastic methods of avoiding a huge debt, including building a tiny house or even retrofitting a van to create a permanent living space for themselves.

Drastic downsizing of any type of course always comes with many challenges.
If you move to a different country, you will either have to learn a new language, get used to a different culture and find new friends, or remain a foreigner in the country where you are trying to make a new home.

If you downsize to a tiny house, you may have to climb up a ladder every time you want to go to bed – and go from bed to bathroom – and you will have to solve all kinds of problems, such as where to connect your water, electricity, gas and other utilities, including WiFi, the most important utility because it connects you to information and to the world.

The downsizing trends, such as the MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) trend and other societal changes are only some of the many indications that the current economic and political systems may have outlived their usefulness and that the structures that used to work reasonably well for several centuries are now breaking down and disappearing.

People are looking for new ways to live because the society as a whole is looking for alternatives to the old, rusty models that no longer seem to work very well. We can try to ignore what is going on around us, or stop being slaves of the dragon who is eating himself and has already eaten up at least 50% of his body, and instead enjoy and marvel at how things are constantly changing, and join the changing world with our small contribution to it, however small it may be.

The second approach, which I am calling the Zen of Downsizing in my silly post today, is in my opinion much more fun than the traditionalist acceptance of the way things are because we “know” that we can change anything anyway.

Why did I move back from the green coast of Eastern Virginia to the country where I was born and lived for the first 28 years of my life, after spending 38 years abroad, mostly in the United States? Well, there was a number of reasons for that, not just one, of course.

My adult sons have left our household more than a decade ago, they live thousands of miles away and I would see them perhaps only once or twice a year. They don’t need me anymore, and I will probably still see them once or twice a year even where I live now, at least I hope so.

After 34 years of marriage, we decided to call it quits and my ex-wife will be returning to Japan to be with her elderly mother. I loved living in Japan when I was young but I would not want to do that at this point in my life.

I missed Bohemia a lot when I lived in California and then in Virginia. That was another potent reason for me to move again, this time back to where I came from. But the main reason was of course economic.

I calculated that to be able to stay in United States and continue living the same lifestyle as before also in retirement, I would need to make about 3,000 dollars in addition to my Social Security income, which I started receiving 2 years ago. I can do that relatively easily at the moment and I also have savings that would last me maybe a couple of years if I had to use them. But what if I get sick, for example, what then? Even though I like what I do for a living, there should be a point in my life, just like in everybody’s life, at which I should be able to stop working altogether like most people, n’est-ce pas?

There are many countries in this world where the Yankee dollar goes quite a bit farther than in the US of A, so I decided to join the hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of seniors who moved abroad to be able to live in retirement off a somewhat limited fixed income, often just Social Security.

As a US citizen, I can live anywhere I want to (except for Cuba and North Korea) and continue receiving Social Security payments as I have been paying taxes in the United States for 35 years. Actually, 36 years, because as I am still working, I already paid about a half of what I will owe to Uncle Sam for this year and I will pay the rest of it by March of next year.

There is a whole industry catering to US and other seniors who are looking for a country to move to once they have reached retirement age. Most of them move to countries with warm weather and a low cost of living, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama or Thailand, but some move to pricier European countries, for example Germany, France or Croatia.

The cost of living in Czech Republic is higher than in some Asian and Latin American countries, for example, but quite a bit lower than in the United States. A number of differences in the cost of necessary daily expenditures accounts for this fact.

The cost of real estate and the cost of renting is much lower in Czech Republic than in US, especially when compared to California, as you can see if you click on the introductory Youtube video.

The cost of my mortgage, mortgage insurance, home insurance, home owners association fee and real estate taxes was about $1,800, which is not too bad for Virginia – thanks to the fact that we bought our house a long time ago. Even if the mortgage ($1,200) were paid off (which it isn’t), I would still owe about $600 in other fees related to real estate, more than half of it in real estate taxes which are much higher in US than in other countries. The utilities on my house in Virginia were about $300 to $500 a month a month – higher in the summer, which lasts about half a year in Virginia, because you need air conditioning pretty much non-stop.

I am now renting a small but comfortable and conveniently located apartment, (with a small balcony and a view of the small city and the Black Tower in Downtown from eighth floor, about 44 square meters or 470 square feet, as opposed to 3,800 square feet, or about 350 square meters that were wasted on only two people in our spacious house in Eastern Virginia), in the South Bohemian town of České Budějovice where I am living now. But the rent for my Czech apartment is only about $350, and the utilities are about $100. So the rent here is about nine time less here than in San Francisco where I lived from 1982 to 1992, when it was still possible for normal people to afford living there, and the cost of rent and utilities here in České Budějovice is basically what I paid just for real estate-related taxes and fees up until October in Virginia. And internet and cable TV are included in the cost of utilities, while in Virginia, I paid $220 a month just for for internet and cable TV. And the internet is fast and reliable – so far my wifi was out only once, in early morning hours, probably for maintenance.

So I used the hot spot off my cell phone for my computer, no big deal.

What about the cost of food here?

After only seven weeks, I am still not sure about the differences in the cost of groceries, especially since I don’t buy them much. It’s probably cheaper here, but I am not sure by how much.

But a delicious Czech meal, including a hearty soup and a main course such as Wiener schnitzel and potatoes with a good domestic beer (a typical Czech meal!) costs a little over $6 at a neighborhood family restaurant near my apartment. A similar meal in a restaurant in Chesapeake where I used to live would cost almost three times as much.

Plus there is a service that brings me and other seniors my lunch to my apartment Monday through Friday and the cost of that service is about $3.60 per lunch. I just nuke the main meal in my microwave oven and usually have the soup next morning. I never learned how to do anything more complicated than warming up a sausage or boiling eggs because for the last 34 years I was married to a former chef. So I thought that I would need to finally learn how to cook once I move not to have to spend too much of my budget on food.

But it looks like I will not have to learn how to cook after all, as the cost of restaurants and meal-delivery service is quite reasonable here in České Budějovice, a town with a population of about 100,000. After almost two months, I am getting a little tired of the Czech cuisine that tasted so wonderful at first … although so far I went only once to a Chinese restaurant and twice to a junk food place.

But there are many other restaurants in this town as well, from Italian, Indian, and Mexican, to Japanese and Chinese, Vietnames and Thai restaurants, I’ll just have to find them. I do have to say, though, that the pizza from the two pizza places I tried so far was pretty horrible. The pizza I ate in restaurants in Italy, Germany, or America was much, much better.

The food in junk food restaurants such as KFC, McDonalds, or Burger Kind is a bit cheaper here and it tastes pretty much the same anywhere in the world. But will I ever find a pizza joint here with a pizza that tastes as good as for example the pizza from Papa John’s in Chesapeake? That is the big, unresolved question.

The cost of health insurance for me at this point is $74 a month in Czech Republic, while I paid $173 for part B of Medicare insurance in United States. But there are many things that Medicare does not pay for. For example, I had to pay just under $1,000 for an eye exam and new glasses in Chesapeake last year. So far I have been to a doctor here three times and there has been a copayment that I had to pay every time. But it was only 100 crowns, or a little over 4 dollars. I also bought some medications, even before I had health insurance, but the cost was again only a few dollars, much less than what I would have to pay in United States.

Another interesting point of comparison is the cost of transportation in Chesapeake and České Budějovice. There is basically no public transport in Chesapeake with the exception of a few buses that are extremely inconvenient. So since like everybody else, we needed two cars, that the cost of transportation for the two of us, including insurance and gas, was about $150 a month, which was much less than what most people have to pay given that neither of us had to commute to work.

I don’t need a car here because public transport alternatives here, namely many buses and trolleys,  are everywhere and they run every few minutes. Taxis are reasonable too, it costs under $4 to get from my place to downtown or to the train station, both places only about a mile away.

The cost to me for public transport in the small city where I live is about 40 cents a year.

No, that is not a typo! Seniors of any nationality living in this town just need to bring their ID or passport to one of the Public Transport Authority offices in order to prove that they are old geezers based on their date of birth to buy a yearly coupon for a transport ID that costs 10 Czech crowns, which is at today’s exchange rates 44 cents in US dollars.

The idea is probably to get dangerous older drivers off the roads, which works for me just fine. Another thing is that once you have this senior ID, you can also get other discounts off the cost of the regular fare on trains anywhere in Czech Republic, which I think is fabulous. I have not tried it yet, but I intend to so soon on my next trip to Prague (under 100 miles), which should take about two hours and cost, thanks to the senior discount, under four dollars for a return trip.

I have still a few problems that I have to deal with here as a special case of a new immigrant. For instance, although I have a permanent domicile certificate, I don’t have a Czech ID yet, which seems to require much more documentation than I thought would be needed.

But other than that, I am getting used to my new environment fairly quickly, and of course, this is in no small part also thanks to the considerably lower cost of living here compared to the United States.

It’s so nice not to have to work anymore because everything is comfortably covered by your pension even though you live on a fixed income!

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