Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Road So Far

I said in my last post I'd post my practice regimen "soon," so over a month later, here it is!  I've decided on the tag "The Road So Far" to delineate which blog entries are for this Guinness attempt and which are not.  Yes, 'tis a Supernatural reference.  Last time I discovered it was indeed about the journey and not necessarily the goal, so I chose my tag accordingly this time.  Although there is no journey without a goal -- then it would just be called "wandering about aimlessly."

So if you want to read about this Guinness attempt and filter out my other musings, click on "The Road So Far" in the word cloud to your right.  If you wish to read about my previous Guinness attempt, click on "The Impossible Goal."

So.  Practice.  In order for this blog post to make sense, I'll have to drag my current celebrity obsession crush into this.  *runs to Lux, fetches Tom Ellis, and plops him down here*

If you're a big fan of the show Lucifer, you'll notice that Tom, who performs the titular character, got incredibly ripped between season 3 and 4.  Heck, I certainly noticed. (What??  You seriously think this is an entirely professional blog?  You have a lot to learn about this town, sweetie.)  In this article for Men's Health he described how he achieved incredible results in a short period of time.  His trainer said that as long as he faithfully kept to the system, "...there’ll be a point when you wake up one day and your body will look different."

What does Tom's training have to do with my training?  Honey, I went to Bible college.  I can relate any illustration to any sermon.  Here's the connection:  If you plot the lines for fitness training and stenography training, you'll see they are parallel.

We started slow -- 80 words a minute was my first speed class after theory -- and worked our way up.  When we were in theory class we asked the teacher to dictate at 225 words a minute, just to hear how fast our exit speeds were, and we couldn't even comprehend writing at such speeds.

Then when we were in our 160s, we asked the teacher to dictate at 80, and it was incomprehensible that we once struggled at that speed.  We woke up and our writing skills were different.

Same with strength.  I started bench pressing with a bare 45-pound barbell, and my personal best at my peak was 110 pounds.  I wasn't conscious of getting stronger over time -- I simply followed my plan, and as time passed, it felt like I could suddenly achieve more.

Another article online has to do with training Marine women to do pullups.  It was common "knowledge" when I grew up that women didn't have the upper body strength to do pullups, except for those unusually strong women.  This is 100% false.

The TL;DR of this article is that you gotta stop it with the assisted pullup machine, because it's a crutch.  It doesn't force your entire body to get in on the act.  Jump in with both feet.  Hang from the bar.  Do negatives -- where you hold on at the top and descend as slow as you can.  Practice it daily, if you can.  (That's what the ARTICLE says, not me.  I've tried this and now my shoulder is jacked up.)

How do these two articles about strength training apply to my practice regimen?  Besides Tom Ellis being my inspiration for both steno and fitness.  (heart-eyes emoji)

For starters, I'm taking off the crutch of practicing slow until I'm accurate and working my way up.  In the past I've always -- ALWAYS -- passed speed tests after I practiced at speeds well above my target speed.  This was true for school, RPR, RMR, and speed contests.

I BEGIN my Guinness speed practice by increasing the speed to 420 (heh) words a minute, using the add-on to Google Chrome that is aptly named Video Speed Controller.  THEN I decrease the speed incrementally until I'm getting something for everything.  It's rough as all get out, but I'm getting SOMETHING.

And guess what -- that speed is hovering around 360-370.

Second, the quote from Tom's trainer has bounced around in my brain ever since I read it.  From day to day, it's hard to see improvement.  Until you look back a few months later and see just how far you've come.  If you've ever seen my Failure seminar, you've heard me say something like this before -- trust the system and results will follow.  Don't focus on the goal; focus on the system.

I distinctly remember training for the RMR back in the days of cassettes.  I had a fancy cassette player that allowed you to increase the speed.  I practiced with speed contest cassettes, and sped it up.  One day I was practicing (for the RMR, remember, which is 260 wpm as opposed to speed contest's 280) and thought to myself, "Oh no, I forgot to speed up the dictation."  Yeah.  I had indeed sped it up, but my system was getting results.  It felt gettable.  And of course I subsequently passed the RMR.

So I am trusting the system once again in that before long I will not recognize my skills; they're so advanced :)

Much thanks for the support of my 100-Day Challenge club, where we encourage each other to practice daily for 100 days in a row.  I highly recommend you start such a club.  The benefits aren't just accountability; it's the friends you make along the way.

When's the fifth season of Lucifer coming out??

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Sequel

It's not set in stone yet, but NCRA is looking at doing another Guinness attempt at the 2020 convention in Orlando.  They reached out to us previous attemptors to see if we're interested, giving us first dibs, and some of us accepted.
See the documentary at www.courtreportingmovie.com.
Pic thanks to Marc Greenberg.

Note that it is NOT confirmed just yet, but it's still in the preliminary stages.  But just in case, I'm starting to train for this again.

I'm going to blog through this again, like I did last time.  I need a better label title than "The Impossible Goal" this time, because I don't want that "impossible" word in there.  But I need something to go in the word cloud on the sidebar.  Supernatural- and Lucifer- (the Netflix show, not the Judeo-Christian trickster) -themed catchphrase suggestions welcome.

So here's what I've found in all of two days jumping back in:
  • My ears still hear the speeds.  Last time I started practicing at 370-ish, and it took me a while to even HEAR the individual words.  This time I started practicing at 420 (heh) and while my notes were garbage, I could still HEAR at that speed.  So we're ahead of the game already!
  • My hands are ACHING.  These speeds are tiring.  And I'm supposed to go into the gym when I'm done here and do back day.  Well, much like your first few days working out leave you feeling like a worn-out shell, I'm sure I'm in that stage of practicing now.
  • I have just as much no motivation to practice as I did last time.  I should do another "motivation doesn't exist - Boots 2 Asses" blog post.  I'll put one in the queue to work on.
  • Hey, this'll give me something to blog about so the bots don't take over my blog.
  • Photobucket is all weird now -- so many of my picture links are broken on past blog entries.  So if you want pretty pictures, imagine a funny yet apt photo illustrating the entry.
Mark Kislingbury is vlogging through his journey as well, so head over to http://www.magnumsteno.com and join and follow along. Like he says, if we don't get it, that's fine.  But we're going to TRY.  Writing high speeds isn't about talent, or being some kind of X-men mutant -- it's all about effort and work and grinding.  If I can get my speed up, so can you.  Steno is naturally HARD for me, but practice makes it EASIER.

Last time when I did this, my jobs were so incredibly EASY it was amazing.  This is definitely a case where the journey is more beneficial than the payoff.

I don't know that I'll do a set blogging schedule this time, like post on Sundays or whatever, but I'll post 'em when the spirit moves.  I will however post my practice regimen soon.




Saturday, September 14, 2019

Been a long time since I came around....

... been a long time, but I'm back in town.

I'm back to blogging.  These past few years I've had the honor of serving as the Illinois Court Reporters Association president-elect, and then president, and with that honor comes the responsibility for writing a president's column for the Ad Infinitum, our quarterly newsletter, so that took up my writing priorities.

This is me and Georgia doing the two step then cowboy boogie.....
But now that torch has passed to Georgia Long, my amazing, intelligent, sharp, beautiful*, challenging, and insightful friend, and she will do wonderfully in this role. She's a legacy president -- her mother, Beth Pruitt, served as ILCRA president. She's got a solid background, experience, and insight to take the wheel.

(I already said "insightful." Oh well, it's my blog and I do what I want.)

So anyway, now I should be blogging a bit more often.  A lot has happened over the past two years, and I'll detail exactly what went down with regards to Senate Bill 2128 in the upcoming Ad Infinitum.  Teaser trailer:  It was NOT just about voice writing. 

Side note:  Voice writing is not the enemy.  They're our best allies in the fight against digital "reporting," plus voice writing enables reporters who experience hand/arm disability to continue to work in their chosen, trained field.  (That'll be me in a few years.)  Voice writers read back, interrupt when necessary, and can provide realtime and captioning.  And they're a witness to every single word of the procedure and create an immediate realtime draft -- just like stenography.  Their certification tests are almost directly equivalent to NCRA's certification tests, including realtime and speed.

Head to http://ilcra.org/data/cms/uploadedfiles/ILCRA%20Digital%20file.pdf for a fabulous infographic on the difference between CSRs and digital "reporting," developed by ILCRA's own vice president, Mary Ann Casale.

*Yes, I know, physical beauty is not something we humans should hold quite so dear, but she's seriously beautiful inside and out.  I mean, come on.  Sheesh.

Friday, December 23, 2016

At least one challenge I set for myself has been accomplished!

It's been a while, hasn't it?

What happened was, I got set up to provide remote CART and captioning, and it's been busy!  Plus my new, intense addiction to the show Supernatural, plus ILCRA board activities.

But by golly, I completed the 2016 POPSugar Reading Challenge, pictured here and listed below.

A book based on a fairy tale -- Beauty, Robin McKinley
A National Book Award winner -- Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
A YA Bestseller -- Divergent, Veronica Roth
A book you haven't read since high school -- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
A book set in your home state -- Native Son, Richard Wright
A book translated to English -- King of Taksim Square, Emrah Serbes
A romance set in the future -- Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
A book set in Europe -- Secret Healer, Ellin Carsta
A book that's under 150 pages -- The Shepherd, Frederick Forsyth
A New York Times bestseller -- The Lightning Thief,  Rick Riordan
A book that's becoming a movie this year -- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
A book recommended by someone you just met -- What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi (recommended by a wonderful staff person at Left Bank Books in St. Louis)
A self-improvement book -- The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort 
A book you can finish in a day -- Apocalypsis: Kahayatle, Elle Casey
A book written by a celebrity -- Actors Anonymous, James Franco
A political memoir -- Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton
A book at least 100 years older than you -- The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
A book that's more than 600 pages -- Fallout: Equestria, kkat (fanfiction is literature too)
A book from Oprah's Book Club -- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
A science-fiction novel -- Aftermath, Chuck Wendig
A book recommended by a family member -- The Madman's Daughter, Megan Shepherd
A graphic novel -- The Time Lord Letters, Justin Richards
A book that is published in 2016 -- The Light of the Fireflies, Paul Pen
A book with by a protagonist author who has your occupation -- Out of Time, Jason Meadors
(I took a bit of liberty with this one, since CART captioners aren't that utilized as protagonists in literature that often.)
A book that takes place during summer -- Midair, Kodi Scheer
A book and its prequel -- Cole, Strangely Normal, Tess Oliver
A murder mystery -- Joyland, Stephen King
A book written by a comedian -- Yes Please, Amy Poehler
A dystopian novel -- Robinson Crusoe 2244, E.J. Robinson
A book with a blue cover -- Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
A book of poetry -- Crank, Ellen Hopkins
The first book you see in a bookstore -- My Beloved World, Sonja Sotomayor (actually the first book I saw was Living History, but since I'd read that, I went with the second book.)
A classic from the 20th century -- Great Tales of Horror, H.P. Lovecraft (took me the entire year, reading a few pages at a time right before bed)
A book from the library -- The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
An autobiography -- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
A book about a road trip -- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with -- What is the What, Dave Eggers
A satirical book -- Animal Farm, George Orwell
A book that takes place on an island -- And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
A book that's guaranteed to bring you joy -- The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, William Anderson

I think I got a pretty good mix of classic and contemporary, thought-provoking and fluff.  And it's not as time-consuming as you'd think -- 41 books in 52 weeks, so it's a little time spent away from the television, and also using "found moments" between captioning jobs or on the treadmill.

Next year's challenge has been published here.  It has 40 entries, with an additional 12 if you really want to go for it.  This was good for me -- I read books that weren't previously on my radar, got more use out of the library, and had some good entertainment as well.

Monday, June 13, 2016

18-Year Experienced Newbie

It's raining work.  Hallelujah!  And it's NEW work, work that I've not done so far.  Some of this work doesn't fit in the handy freelance-official-captioning box in which we like to categorize our steno work -- or categorize ourselves.

How is this happening?   Not because I'm special or lucky.   It's because I'm willing to change.

Comfort is fatal to one's career.

A rut is a grave with the ends not filled in yet.  The only thing constant is change.  The platitudes seen on cross-stitched pillows on Pinterest boards worldwide.

They're true!  No matter how successful you are NOW, if you don't think you need to change in order for your career to keep or increase its momentum, you're going to be disappointed.

HERE'S THE KEY REASONS I'M GETTING THESE JOBS:  I stay open to new opportunities.  I'm willing to upgrade my equipment.  I'm willing to drastically change my work setup.  I PRACTICE.

I've done my share of depos, a few hearings and grand juries, and a lot of CART.  Last month (was it only last month?) I said YES to three jobs that I didn't envision myself doing when I passed my last 225 Q&A nearly two decades ago.  In short, last month I captioned three university commencement ceremonies, provided in-stadium captioning for several baseball games, and provided instant transcripts for a nationally syndicated political radio talk show.

That's key reason #1!  Stay open to new opportunities.  "No, I've never done that work."  For cryin' out loud, if you say that, you'll NEVER do that work!

We do CART for a large university which needed captioning for several commencement ceremonies
this year, so I upgraded my regular CAT software to the full captioning suite.  (Might I add, I completely changed software providers at this time, so I had an additional learning curve).  We captioners set up in the AV/media/tech room, next to the camera and sound operators.  I watched the ceremonies from the backstage monitors.  One of the tech staff set a camera to point at the Titantron or whatever the big stadium overhead is (I don't know what it's called.  In the WWE it's called the Titantron, so there you are) so I could see the actual captions. We did NOT caption each student's name as they walked across the stage.  Everyone has a program with the students listed, so they can follow along.  I did have scripts for the ceremonies, as well as some of the speeches that were made, which helped greatly.

That's key reason #2.  Be willing to upgrade your equipment.  That job can't be done by regular CAT software.

Let's talk about baseball.  I got offered the chance to provide in-stadium captioning for some of Wrigley Field's home games! No, I don't drive up to the friendly confines every once in a while -- it's done remotely at my coworking space in O'Fallon, Illinois.  My only internet service option at home is substandard, so I rented some space from a friend of mine who has his own office.  I've got my captioning going and my little mini-MLB Game Day window up so I can see how the game is progressing.  It's fun to be part of the show!  I grew up Cubs but have since moved to Cardinal Nation, so it's quite nostalgic for me to be rooting for the Cubs again.  I don't know who I'll cheer for when I caption a game that's Cubs v. Cardinals.  I'll just have to root for whichever team plays someone I have a crush on.

That's key reason #3.  Be willing to change your work setup and think outside the box.  If you've got to take major steps, but it will be worth it to do so, for heaven's sake, DO SO.

My next assignment came from an agency new to me, but I'd developed a friendship with the owner over the years and they know I got the chops, so they invited me to help with an ongoing assignment on an as-needed basis.  This agency provides instant-delivery transcripts for a daily national talk show, and they need another person to help out.  It's challenging, because it's wall-to-wall colloquy, multiple speakers, and they talk FAST.  When they have guests, they talk FASTER.   Every hour on the hour I send a rough draft to the show's staff, and at the end of the three hours I clean it up and send the final out.  What helps is that the show is on for 20 minutes, then there's a commercial break for a few minutes, then the show, then commercials, etc. so I do have some time to clean it up, but I need to write well and fast in order for it to work.

Key reason #4.  Keep improving your skills!  PRACTICE.   That work requires SPEED.  The me ten or even five years ago wouldn't have been able to handle this assignment.

Were these changes EASY?  Was I COMFORTABLE?  Absolutely not!  I stumbled!  I panicked at times!  Last month my stomach was tense more than it was calm!  Heck, at the time I'm writing this we're trying to figure out why I'm not able to connect through a modem, and isn't troubleshooting a big bucket of enthusiastic joy!

But let me reiterate:  Change is constant.  Reporting and captioning today is not like it was five years ago.  Reporting and captioning five years from now will not be the same.  If you choose to do things exactly like you did ten years ago, you've already fallen behind.

Comfort is fatal.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Only Human

If you want to know about the Fairly Reasonable Goal, click here.

Three months since my last blog post.

I've been practicing some--honestly, I have!  But I'm so busy I just can't find the time!

And yet you've logged over 70 hours on Fallout 4 since it was released mid-November.

When I get home from work, I just want to rest.

By watching The Walking Dead -- all six and a half seasons -- in the span of four weeks.

I bust my butt all week with work that I seriously just want to relax on the weekends. 

You watched a total of 20 episodes of CW's The 100 last weekend.  The laundry is still not folded.

THIS semester, though, I've got a nice block of time between classes on a couple of days where I can get some speed practice done, since I'm on campus and don't have the distractions, so I do indeed get some practice in at that time.

Which you hurry through so you can get back to Netflix/Reddit/Tumblr, which are still accessible.

Look, yes, I have turned off my 9:00 pm practice alarm, but that's because I have late classes two a week, to be precise, and they end at 7 pm and sometimes we go to the movies one time since the last blog post and I have to go to bed early because I have to get up sooo early in the morning 7 am so I turned it off.  Plus I don't want to unpack all my stuff and set up to practice and then repack it again.

You got a frickin' Briefs Catcher last year at convention.  And you have another laptop in your home office which has practice material on it.

I know.  I know.  I need to get up and go practice.

But you have a cat on your lap.

The dog needs to go out.  I'll take her out and then practice.

But you have a cat on your lap.