Category Archives: writing

lost in translation daughter drives an old Volvo that doesn’t have a port for an iPod cable. We originally got her an adapter that played her iPod via the cassette player. When it broke after a few months, we looked for an alternative. It arrived from Amazon yesterday: the Eforcity 3-in-1Charging and Car Holder FM Transmitter. She plugs it into the car’s cigarette lighter (yes, the car is old enough to have one of those), tunes the radio to an unused frequency, and plays her music through the radio.

If I were to write instructions for using this gadget, they’d go something like this:

  1. Set your iPod in the cradle, and adjust the arms on each side so they hold the iPod firmly.
  2. Plug the cable into the iPod.
  3. Plug the cigarette-lighter adapter into the car’s cigarette lighter.
  4. Turn on the car radio, and locate an unused frequency.
  5. Turn on the iPod, and you’re ready to rock.

Here are the actual instructions printed on the package insert. (Step 2 is my favorite.) Note that the punctuation is as written:

  1. Insert some cigarette ends of iPod car kit in some cigarette devices of automobile of yours, and adjust the suitable angle, so that your convenient operation iPod.
  2. Draw back both arms, put your iPod into and equal to the urgent both arms , let your protection firmly of iPod among them .
  3. Will charge the plug and connect it on the base interface of iPod, in this way you can charge while listening to the music .
  4. Choose the transmission frequency of this equipment according to the local frequency situation of radio station , the switch is presetting frequency to stir the frequency band , try one’s best to avoid the frequency of the local strong radio station , then open wave band , FM of auto radio , of you , is it search platform or manual to search set let auto radio of you receive frequency that you preset automatically to choose, in this way you can listen to iPod stereo music of high-fidelity taken the place of to you through iPod car kit device .

Parts of step 4 are almost haiku-like:

then open wave band
FM of auto radio
of you

My daughter thinks the manufacturer wrote the instructions in Chinese and then ran them through a translator. Just to see what would happen, I took my version of the instructions, translated them to simplified Chinese on, and then translated them back to English on Babel Fish:

  1. Establishes you in cradle aspect iPod, on adjusts the arm nearby each, therefore they have iPod firmly.
  2. The plug enters to the iPod wire.
  3. The plug enters to automobile’s cigarette blasting machine’s cigarette blasting machine switch.
  4. Turns on the car radio, discovers frequency which has not used.
  5. Is decided in iPod, prepares the jogging with you.

I think that (thankfully) technology has a long way to go before the writer/editor’s job becomes obsolete.

my son, the author

My 11-year-old son and I are big fans of the web site, and its sibling site, Personally, I don’t choose to waste my time and money on movies where my favorite characters die in the end. I’m much happier if I know in advance that, as we say in my family, “they all go to the seashore.” These sites provide the try-before-you-buy info that I want: I can find out how a movie ends, or read the entire plot, and then make an informed decision about seeing it. (Yes, I usually read the ends of books first, too.)

A few days ago my son talked his grandmother into taking him to see The Messengers — a things-that-go-boo scary movie that has gotten lousy reviews but is still eminently satisfactory for people like them who like that sort of thing. (I don’t. This is why it’s lucky that my mother and my son have such similar taste in films.) We already had determined that no spoilers were posted for the movie, because I’d been trying to find out exactly how scary it was and how much violence it included before letting him go. So, when he got home, he sat down and wrote a plot summary and emailed it off.

And what do you know? This morning, to his vast excitement, he found that he’s been published. You can find his spoiler here and here (scroll down the left and click “The Messengers”). Some day when he’s rivalling J.K. Rowling or R.L. Stein for book sales, you can say that you read his stuff way back when. 🙂