Monday, October 10, 2016

Wherever you go...

Here's a little love & light, as I know you all are working hard toward achieving your dreams, just like I am. When I stay positive and focus on the good, more awesome things happen in my life. STEUBG W- EUT!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Beyond words

a 15-minute colored pencil sketch rendered in grayscale

Releasing the story,
as it is not my own.
From color to black & white,
I send this one home.

In the course of our careers, we stenographers get really good at sharing the narratives of others. Our brains & bodies, together with machine shorthand, work in concert to turn sound waves into text on a page or to otherwise communicate on a screen what was said.

The testimony I hear and transcribe is often beyond words, and I couldn't talk about it even if I wanted to; so more and more, making art has become one of my favorite means for self-expression.
This practice, whether it's doodling, coloring, or maintaining a sketchbook, puts me in a great mood, probably by helping to release emotions and pent up energy from working in this intense but rewarding field.

When I'm able to creatively express myself, my days are just somehow more awesome. Recently, I was dreading working on a particular transcript, but after first taking an hour to paint with watercolors, I jumped right back into editing, seize-the-day style. What is your favorite creative outlet?    Feel free to share in the comments.

Check out my Redbubble shop to buy steno-related art, clothing, notebooks, prints, and more! Right now you can use coupon code LETSGO20 to get 20% off tote bags, travel mugs, and spiral notebooks.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Opportunity Knocks -- Providing Daily Copy

At the end of 2015, I got a call asking if I'd like to be involved in a daily copy bench trial, which is a case presented in front of a judge instead of a 12-person jury for which the attorneys need transcripts of the proceedings by 8:00 p.m. that same night. No biggie. Not much was going at that moment, and I figured this chance might never come around again, so I said yes and started to brainstorm ways to make this thing happen.

My first inkling was to set up live transfer of work units through a file transfer program to a scopist for near-instant transcript output, but we went old-school and tried & true on it, agreeing to rotate reporters in and out, edit on breaks, and put the transcript together at the end.

A dream team -- my two biggest steno mentors and I -- was eventually put together, strings of e-mails were sent, and dictionary entries made.  Snacks, oh yes; figuring out what healthy snacks to bring the day of was also discussed.  We met the night before for a practice run and to go over the plan for the next morning, including how to name our files for a seamless ASCII merge and the order in which we'd write. Lists of possible steno briefs were passed out, a master spelling key started, and everybody got their printer software set up at that time too.  So you've heard the phrase, "a watched pot doesn't boil?"  Yeah, that but with installing printer drivers.

The two of us who do not usually work in court were sworn in, and I was reintroduced to the judge whose courtroom I had sat in close to five years earlier during my internship.  The feeling of finally coming full circle by being involved in this was not lost on me.

After making sure that we could all hook up our equipment in order to put together these transcripts in time, all headed home to attempt to get a good night's sleep.  My brain hadn't quite gotten the message, though, and I instead spent the night and into the wee hours of the morning tossing and turning, thinking of all the things I needed to remember in the next day, and visions of job briefs danced through my head instead of fluffy sleep-bringing sheep.

The next morning, my loving husband baristaed me up a fair trade maple latte, a hearty breakfast, packed my lunch, and generally encouraged me, saying that everything was going to go well, which I already knew, but it was sure nice to hear again.

I arrived an hour before the start time to make sure I had all my equipment in place, figure out the seating chart once I knew who everybody was, and to speak to the team members present and make any final arrangements.

One reporter, who I'll refer to as Sous-Vide, was the first to write that day and went from 8:30 to approximately 10:30, which is when I tagged in. I have to admit I almost chickened out after watching from the media room her having to read back three to four times and deal with wandering witnesses, tough acoustics, and interruptions; but what else is a mentor for, if not to encourage and remind the mentee that they've prepared for this and are ready?

A quote comes to mind:  "You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."  I took the shot, by golly, it went in! I nailed three or four of my own read-backs and was able to politely interrupt when necessary to make sure what was said was written down into the official record. Thank goodness for key job briefs, which, if not for them, I would have been lost like in a Roadrunner/Wiley E. Coyote-style dust cloud.

I slept much better that next night, mostly from sheer exhaustion. I had a little bit later of a start time the second day, produced my portion of the transcript quickly, and was unexpectedly called on to write a second section of the proceedings in the last time slot, a stretch which was challenging but doable. If it were baseball, I was being asked to take the plate as the bases were loaded and sent the runners home.

The operation went really well, and we all took ownership of various parts of the process.  Sous-Vide kind of coordinated the onsite efforts, as she had done many dailies before; while my other mentor, code name Fancy J, was integral to scheduling and putting things together leading up to game day.

Where did I come in, you ask?  My niche was as the go-getter tech expert, as I was able to effectively troubleshoot some production issues relating to our different CAT systems, and a team player with a willingness to learn and be helpful & positive wherever I could.

Day 1 was a success, though it did come down to the wire.  By day 2, the material was more familiar, my writing was cleaner, and I had streamlined my editing process, so despite having more pages and going later, we still finished essentially on time.

One very helpful technique was having three sets of eyes looking over the final product at different points in the process to make sure we hadn't missed anything. Trading proofreading was effective because people tend to skip over their own mistakes, though there will always be those little differences in opinion on how to punctuate things that we'll never agree on no matter how many sources are cited.

Bleary-eyed but satisfied, we left the building those nights knowing that we'd done our best and produced quality transcripts that the attorneys would rely on for the next few days of trial.

Sometimes we are presented with opportunities, which don't knock twice, that are character-building and will test our fortitude, the figurative lemons of life experience.  The trick is to dream big, prepare, follow the recipe, add some sweetness, and if all goes according to plan, you'll come out with refreshing lemonade at the end. (Lemon bars would be a good choice too.)

Work & (Game) Play

I used to think that work and play were mutually exclusive.

Well, it turns out that they're not, so what would be better than combining the two? Not much. For that reason, I want to share with you an awesome way to practice steno while having fun. After all, time flies when the latter occurs.

Enter stage left, Steno Arcade, which is a "suite of four arcade games designed to teach and drill steno and keyboarding fundamentals in an immersive, addictive, responsive, and interactive way. Steno Arcade is 100% free and open source and works with any steno machine or keyboard." You can download the demo, which has 12 playable songs, on Steam early access or with alpha on Windows, Linux, or Mac at See a video of the game play below. Eek, this is so exciting!

The Crowd Supply project is now closed and funded, which means they'll be developing the full version, so keep an eye out for the finished project. They didn't quite reach their stretch goal that would have enabled the Open Steno Project and For All to Play to develop the option to use our own music libraries to practice to, but you never know; maybe it will come around again. Sadly, the below T-shirts that could be ordered as part of the crowd funding campaign are no longer available. I can't wait till these sweet threads ship out in September.

Happy playing -- I mean practicing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Removing Paint From Countertops

Counter paint is figurative bovine excrement. (There. That feels better.)

What I meant to say is, "Have you ever wondered how to remove decorative paint from your countertops?" Well, wait no longer. My husband and I did just that a couple months ago, and since the Internet is devoid of tutorials for such a thing -- I looked; trust me -- here's how one would do it.

Step 1. Assess the situation. The faux marble sponge paint job the previous homeowners did looked nice for a year but is now peeling off after normal use, so it's gotta go. Buh-bye.

Step 2. Gather your supplies, including paint stripping gel, old towels, wall scraper(s), and the secret ingredient, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. (Optional: adult beverage.)

Step 3. Cover cabinets with drop cloths or old sheets and yourself with painting clothes. A little centering tai chi or interpretive dance here would be good.

Step 4. Working in a well-ventilated area, apply paint stripper gel generously with a cheap paint brush to counter according to the directions. We found one that claimed to be safer, hopefully for both the mammals breathing it and also the counters underneath, so it worked best after sitting for at least 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

Step 5. Start scraping! For the tougher spots, we alternately scraped and then scrubbed with a hot, wet towel, rinsing frequently. Check out the videos for some virtual elbow grease.

Step 6. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 if necessary.

Step 7. Use Magic Erasers and water to get the last little bit up. We thought we were done after Step 6 and washing the counter, but this made a huge difference, so don't skip it.

Aaaaand you're done! It's time to celebrate and admire your handiwork.

Before & after
Thoughts on using Rustoleum or other countertop paint to update your home: It may be fine for a guest bathroom counter that doesn't get a lot of use or stuff set on it, like in a kitchen. On the other hand, if you're flipping a house and don't have a strong sense of guilt about what the future homeowner will have to go through when removing it, have at it & Godspeed.

Victory, sweet victory