Friday, October 30, 2009

French to English: iPod, Part 1

I'm running behind the times, way behind.  Blame that on stubbornness and an ounce of arrogance.  Truth is, I deliberately stay away from any kind of technology that gets anywhere near my ears.

In my last "dream" job, I spent a lot of time on the phone.  I was either holding the mouthpiece or had an earplug so I could use both hands and type.  That explains why I developed an allergy to phones and related products like the iPod.  Once I bought a cell phone thinking that I would need it, but chucked it after less than a month because like a dunderhead, I associated phone and phone-like gadgets as sources of ear infections.  That's my fertile imagination at work. 

I wanted to tune off and tune out.  When clients ask if they could speak to me via telephone, I try to convince them to send me an e-mail instead.  When they ask if I'm on Skype, I shrink like a prune.  Lots of people would welcome interaction with clients; I lean more towards saving valuable minutes.  As a freelance writer and translator, the time I spend on the phone is non-billable.  What can be said "in person" can be said via e-mail.

ipod2 Now you know why I'm not racing to own an iPod.  Still, it's a wonderful testimony to man's genius and sense of innovation.  It's a gadget deserving of admiration.

Call the iPod your music on the run and your data-to-go.  It's your "forever" digital library of songs and video.  It has been through at least five generations and has been re-modeled at least 20 different times.

To ward off confusion for future potential owners, the iPod is available in these models (the Apple web site has more information:

1. iPod Shuffle - tiny size, fits in your pocket.  It tells you what songs are playing.

2.  iPod Nano - comes with a video camera and a larger viewing screen

3.  iPod Classic - will store pictures, music and videos.  Your super entertainment on the go.

4.  iPod Touch - games, movies, internet, e-mail.  Check it out, what more do you want?  Available in 8, 32 and 64 GB.  Not to forget - voice control!  Just say, check my e-mails, and your iPod suddenly morphs into an efficient secretary! 

The latest iPod Touch model starts at US$199.00.  That's a steep price to pay, but think...what would 10 CDs, 10 movie passes, and the latest Warlord game cost you at retail stores?  And the Apple store is one helluva mega mall of entertainment.  Have you been?



musique numérique digital music
disque dur hard disk
40 GO (giga-octet) 40 GB (giga bytes)
protection intégrée contre les sautes built-in skip protection
sonothèque ou une bibliothèque musicale music and video library
reproductions d'une qualité parfaite perfect quality copies
formats audio audio formats
calendrier et carnet d'adresses calendar and address book
lecteur de données data player
périphérique de stockage portable back up device
disque dur polyvalent general purpose hard drive
adaptateur adaptor

Monday, October 26, 2009

French to English: Elections, Part 3


We voted yesterday after attending church service.  It was a beautiful day and that's probably why the parking lot in the advanced voting place in my district was decently populated.  I wouldn't call it bumper-to-bumper, but traffic was steady.

The day was a mix of sun and wind but it wasn't your typical late October wind.  It was pleasant, reason why people willingly ventured out of their homes with their voting cards in tow.

According to today's Montreal Gazette, advanced voters made up 5.25% of total registered voters in the island of Montreal.  It reported that in some districts, the line-ups were excruciatingly long.  One voter was so fed up he left before he could vote, fearful that his mother, who was in her 90s, might faint. 

Voter turnout in the 2005 elections was a pitiable 35%.  This Sunday let's hope that percentage is much higher.

I did observe some things yesterday that could be improved;  it might be worthwhile to address some of these issues to make the voting experience "beaucoup plus agréable" as Francophones say.  My observations/comments:

1.  It took about five minutes to walk from the parking area to the polling place.  For people like me, this five-minute walk means nothing, but to older people and to the handicapped, it's an issue that officials should look into.  It's fine to provide less mobile people with free transportation to the polling place, but consideration must also be given once they're dropped off at the polling place.  How about one of those go-carts used at airports?  A rickshaw's not a bad idea and might inject some humor.


2.  My brother and I had to wait in line for about 15-20 minutes; again something a normal person like me wouldn't mind, but I was a tad worried about my brother (who walks with crutches and who can't stand for long periods of time).  The lady ahead of me was leaning on a cane, lamenting the disadvantages of getting old and her weakened knee.  The lady before her had to sit on a bench nearby, saying she was grateful that at least there were no stairs; otherwise it would be have been extremely difficult for her.

3.  No one offered a chair to my brother while we waited our turn.  I'm sure it wasn't done on purpose.  The excitement of the first hour of voting made election personnel oblivious to this problem and were more concerned about orderliness.  There were a lot of older people around, however, and perhaps there should have been a separate and quicker line for weaker and disabled voters.

4.  The ballots - there were four in total.  This surprised me.  Talk about how NOT to confuse people. Couldn't all the candidates' names be consolidated into one ballot?  One more thing:  the instruction was to "darken or mark."  Meaning, the voter could either put a check mark or X or darken the circle.  But the circle was about 1 cm in size against a black background.  I'll leave it to your imagination about what can potentially happen to these ballots.  Here's one question among several in my mind:  what if the voter had arthritis and had trouble with not-so-nimble fingers, unable to press down the pencil?

Enough of these cracker-barrel homilies, to use Shawn Levy's phrase.  Except for the inconveniences I mentioned, our voting experience went well.  Count our blessings that in Canada, elections are never marred with random acts of violence.  Et pour cela, nous sommes chanceux!

Let's tackle that lexicon for you:



bulletin de vote spécial special ballot
bureau d'inscription registration office
certificat de transfert transfer certificate
depouillement judiciaire judicial recount
greffier du scrutin poll clerk
loi sur la révision des circonscriptions électorales Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
tiers third party
cours à l'investiture nomination contests
vote de confiance confidence vote
ministres sans portfeuilles (Ministres d'État) ministers without portfolio (Ministers of State)
système majoritaire uninominal first past the post
monarchie constitutionelle constitutional monarchy
l'arbitre en matière de radiodiffusion broadcasting arbitrator

This concludes our 3-part series on election terminology.  Our next theme will be on a lighter, more hip topic.  Promise...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

French to English: Elections, Part 2


We received our voting reminder cards yesterday.  Electors have the option to vote in advance or to vote on election day - November 1.  Seeing that the polling place for advanced voting in my area is closer to my home, it looks like my brother and I will be taking advantage of advanced voting on Sunday, October 25. 

The polling place is on our way from church and located about half a kilometer away from my favorite store.  We're all set for Sunday - church first, voting second and shopping last - three activities that will take up a whole morning.  It's a good feeling to be able to do your spiritual and civic duty in one schlep; it's like earning a reward, the reward of course being shopping.

Each year when I do my tax returns, there's a line under the deductions category that I've never filled in - the tax deduction for contributions to political parties.  It's not because I don't support any; it's because the small budget I reserve for donations goes to education (McGill University never fails to call me), Alzheimer's and sick children. 

As for my party allegiance, I support mainly one party although I do recall making a shift once or twice. Apart from those two occasions, however, I've always remained loyal to my party.  I don't think I have ever voted for an independent candidate.  I'm sure there have been and there will be worthy candidates who prefer to run independently, but it seems they get little or no support from the population.

Back to political contributions, the magic number seems to be 1100; that is, citizens cannot make any contribution more than $1,100 to any one party in any given election.  At least that was the rule in 2007, and I hope Elections Canada did not forget to update their web site.

Highlights of the Canada Elections Act pertaining to financial contributions:

  • only Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada can make a financial contribution;
  • the maximum contribution limit to any registered political party is $1,100;
  • the same maximum amount applies to contributions to independent candidates;
  • cash contributions of more than $20.00 to any party are no longer allowed;
  • corporations, trade unions, associations or groups can no longer make political contributions;
  • contributions more than $20.00 must have a receipt and must be reported;
  • as for tax credits, Canadians can deduct 75% of the first $400.00 in contributions, 50% for the next $350.00 and 33-1/2% of any amounts above $750.00.

I'm not sure if the $1,100 contribution is allowed for only one party.  Let's say you're a voter and you like the platforms of three political parties.  Will Elections Canada allow you to make a $1,100 contribution to each party?  That means giving $3,300.00 during one election period.

Or did Election Canada mean to say that $1,100 is the only amount you'll be entitled to contribute?

It might be worthwhile to clarify that point!

Your lexicon:



accès de plein pied level access
agent réviseur revising agent
bureau de scrutin itinérant mobile poll
carte de rappel reminder card
dépouillement du scrutin counting of votes
limite des circonscriptions electoral boundaries
parti enregistré registered party
révision ciblée targeted revision
scrutateur returning officer
section de vote polling division
vote par anticipation advanced voting

One of the more popular issues hugging this year's elections is transportation.  Parties are presenting their ideas about a tramway for Montreal.  The three major parties - Union Montreal, Vision Montreal and Project Montreal - all agree that Montreal needs a tramway.  They differ only on the timeframe and the planning for the initial routes.  With an exceptional subway system that runs on rubber wheels and envied by people who visit Montreal, adding a tramway to our public transport system would really make our city a world-class city.  Plus tramways look pretty.  Cross your fingers that they won't be painted with outlandish designs and be eye sores.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

French to English: Elections, Part 1



My neighbor was calling from work.  "Guess who called me?" 

"Who?"  I asked absent-mindedly, hesitant to take my eyes off my computer screen.  I was running close to an e-book deadline for a client in New Zealand.

"Mayor deSouza.  He wants us to help out with phone work."

"Sure.  One good deed deserves another", I said without hesitating.

About eight months ago and at my neighbor's persistence, our Mayor looked into the matter of taxes we had overpaid to the city.  It had something to do with some re-zoning issues. 

When my neighbor and I bought our property six years ago, we were paying our municipal assessments based on an old zoning regulation.  Those regulations were modified resulting in lower service taxes, so we knew we were entitled to a refund.  These things take a long time because our Borough is governed by the City of Montreal. We waited for our refunds over the last  five years and the Mayor committed that he would look into it and see what he could do.

Last week, my neighbor and I got checks in the mail.  We were ecstatic.  She phoned the Mayor to thank him.  That's when he suggested that maybe we could help out with phone work.  It's election time, you see.

I was more than willing to help.  In fact, I was delighted.  I remember the years I used to be a political volunteer. I did it to force myself to meet more Francophones and to improve my French.  Back then, I was still struggling with my French (I still do).  I also did it because I was a great fan of the late Robert Bourassa, who chose my city as his official riding. 

Well, I know we had an election recently but it seems another municipal election in the island of Montreal is going to be held on November 1.

Critics often say that we live in a province that probably has the highest rate of voter burn out.  Blame that on the referendums we've had over the years and on the partial and full elections.  Difficult to keep track now.

Voter burn out or not, we do have to vote, even if it means braving the cold to cast our ballot.  The cold is no excuse, nor is lack of transportation.  Political candidates will arrange to pick you up if you don't have a car or if you have limited mobility.  All you need to do is request it.

Montrealers will be voting for a Montreal City Mayor and a Borough Mayor in many municipalities. The incumbent, Gérald Tremblay is seeking a third term.  His opponents include:  Louise Harel of the Vision Party, Louise O'Sullivan of the Montreal Villa-Marie Party, Richard Bergeron of Project Montreal and Michel Bédard of Pride Montreal.

Aside from Quebec, these provinces held or will be holding municipal elections this year:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador - September 2009
  • Saskatchewan - October 2009 (urban municipalities only)
  • Yukon - October 2009

Volunteers have a lot of fun during the electoral campaign.  You work the phones, hone your persuasion skills, and "meet" all nationalities.  The idea of switching from French to English when talking on the phone is a challenge to the brain, but it's the most effective way to perfect your bilingual skills.  And the desire to be multilingual runs strong because Montreal has large communities of Greeks, Lebanese, Armenians, Italians, Arabs and Europeans.

Of course, the most endearing thing is to hear people say, "oh yes, I'll vote for him.  He's done a lot of good for our community."  That's when you realize that people are not indifferent and that they do care about how their officials do their job. 


Here are a dozen election terms for your French to English lexicon:



acte de candidature nomination papers
boîte de scrutin ballot box
candidat à l'investiture designated (or nominated) candidate
centre de scrutin central polling station
circonscription constituency (riding)
droit de vote right to vote
gabarit de vote voting template
isoloir polling booth
liste électorale voters list
loi référendaire Referendum Act
plafond des dépenses électorales expense ceiling
redécoupage redistribution

Sunday, October 4, 2009

French to English: Bonsai, Part 3


bonsai part 3

A Bonsai tree is a WIP (work-in-progress).  Your Bonsai hobby starts somewhere but it never ends.  You start with a seedling or with a small tree.  From there, your personal journey begins.

One important aspect of Bonsai is to convert it from an ordinary looking shrub to one that has character so that it earns the admiration of fellow hobbyists - a work of art deserving praise.

To make that transition, Bonsai disciples believe that an essential accessory is wire.  Yes, wire!

Wire gives your Bonsai tree its shape, scope and direction.  This is why after you've mastered the basics of caring for your Bonsai tree, the next step is to learn good wiring techniques.

part 3 quotation bonsai

In Japan, Bonsai students devote two years to refine their wiring skills.  In the good old days, (circa 60s and 70s), there was no specialized wiring for Bonsai; hobbyists had to content themselves with whatever household wire they could get their hands on (like a clothes hanger).

Today's Bonsai hobbyists can now choose from a few specialized Bonsai wires.  We know of at least three types:

  1. Iron - iron wire is inexpensive, but it is also difficult to manipulate.  It rusts with time, so it's not the kind of wire you'd like to leave on your tree for a long time.
  2. Copper - this type of wire is used by hobbyists who want to leave it on the tree for several years.  Copper wire is used mostly for coniferous trees but cannot be used on deciduous species because it can scar their bark.
  3. Aluminum - this is the softest (and most flexible) wire for Bonsai trees.  Some people have the wire anodized to match the color of the trunk, but many use the clear wire as well.  Aluminum wire is used for deciduous trees - and on younger branches.

Wire can be used  on branches and on the trunk.  Fall and winter time are the best times to wire a tree.  When it's time to remove the wires, use wire cutters so you don't harm the bark when they get stuck.  If you're going to wire the trunk and the branch, wire the trunk first and then the branches.  Observe equal spacing and make sure you use the right thickness of wire.  If the coils are too close or too far apart, wiring won't do the work it's supposed to do.

Time for our French to English Bonsai terms:



substrat substrate
mousse de sphaigne moss (peat moss)
gravillion de granit granite gravel
terre végétale topsoil
empotage potting
rempotage re-potting
engrais fertilizer
motte root ball
semis seedlings
bouturage cuttings
arbres caducs deciduous trees
insecticides et fongicides insecticides and fungicides
ligaturage wiring
flétrissement de feuillage wilting of foliage
pincement pinching