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.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Still Falling Off the Wagon

Yep, it's been hard to keep up with practice.  Busy work schedule, plus my Buddy, Mr. Puppy, the Good Boy named Rutabaga went to Doggy Heaven last week.  He was 13 years old.

This week is filled up workwise for me too with full days, but I'll try.  That's about all I can guarantee, right?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans

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

Planned practice has taken a solid hit these past couple of weeks, due to -- well, lots of things.  Last weekend I was at the Illinois Court Reporters Association and completed the speed contest, but I had to leave due to a family emergency, which took up a lot of practice energy (and emotional energy) the past several days.  And I've had a few more classes added to my academic CART captioning schedule since last we met.

BUT if you fall off the horse, you gotta get back on, so I am reporting that I am doing so.

(ILCRA speed contest results:  I got the Legal Opinion, but didn't get the Q&A [93.5%] or the literary [93.7%]. But both were graded to the end, so that's a small victory, I guess!)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Week of School

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

First, a bit of accountability.  This week has been the first week of the semester, and I do academic CART captioning onsite. So oftentimes this is a very hectic time for me until the schedule settles down, students are done adding and dropping classes, etc., and I can get into a routine.  Monday and Tuesday I did NOT do any practice, but I found some time the rest of the week to get it done.

  I did state that I don't have to practice if I'm writing 5+ hours in a day due to my arms wearing out, but you know what?  I've got a few of those in my schedule this semester, so I'll have to try to get in at least one short practice session to keep things up.  Real-world writing and test-taking writing are two different things for me.  Real world isn't a steady speed, isn't measured for syllabic density, and isn't scored and graded.

  But as to my weekly progress: Three takes a day probably doesn't sound like a lot, but over the past two weeks I've felt my speed and accuracy starting to -- solidify?  Steno people, do you know what I mean? It's nice to pass a particular test once in a while, but it's better to pass them consistently.  Because then you KNOW you've got it!

The first week of class is done, and I've had some additions to my schedule starting next week, so hopefully I'll be able to maintain the parameters I've set for myself!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Parameters of the Fairly Reasonable Goal

Greetings, greetings!  This is my official post whereby I state my clear objective:  passing each and every leg of the NCRA speed and realtime contests in 2016 in one go.  I've passed each leg except the realtime testimony -- now it's time to pass them all together.  This is what I refer to as the Fairly Reasonable Goal (in homage to the Impossible Goal, what I named my 2013 Guinness record quest -- see entries tagged The Impossible Goal).

So here are my parameters, for those of you playing at home.  I need parameters or I won't get it done.  The parameters for my training will be much like those used during The Impossible Goal, which were developed by pulling them out of my butt as the situation merited.

The minimum amount of practice is three takes a day, preferably of different categories.  A "take" is usually five minutes, but if I speed up/slow down a Magnum Steno take, the time will vary and that's okay because I said it's okay.  A Magnum Steno take practiced twice counts as two times, but if I repeat it again it still only counts as two times.  One legal opinion take a day is optimal, but I'll probably get sick of the few dictations I have, but then again, I'll get ninja awesome at those and probably reinflate my legal brief arsenal, won't I?

The final practice take will be done at 9 pm, and I've set an alarm on my phone for that time.  This final practice may be skipped if:
  • I'm physically at an event like a movie, work, or a friend's house. 
  • I'm sick where I can't practice effectively.  If it's just a cold, too bad.
  • I just finished a late job where my arms are killing me.

After Christmas (or a few days after Christmas because it's Christmastime), the minimum amount will increase to four takes a day, the last two being at 5 pm and 9 pm.

After the spring semester is done, the minimum will increase to five takes a day.

Practice may be skipped entirely if I have a job where I write 5+ hours in one day.  I've already got some nerve thing happening in my arm -- don't want to wear out the organic equipment.  (My schedule this fall does have two days of five-plus work hours, but I should still be able to get in two practice sessions.)

Once a week, probably Saturday or Sunday, depending on stuff, I'll test myself on a leg and post the APPROXIMATE results here.  This will be a BALLPARK result, because I like my weekends.  But I will go through my test and give me a rough pass/fail.  I'm not going to test EVERY leg each week because, jeez, that's five five-minute takes to go over; three to fully transcribe and grade and two to grade. I'm not doing that every week because I don't want to.

Ready?  Begin!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Fairly Reasonable Goal

Greetings, everyone!  It's been a while, yes, and last time I wrote a blog post it's been a while.  I'm going to do another blogging adventure through this coming year, because my goal this time is NOT to achieve 370 wpm, but rather to pass all NCRA contest legs in one sitting.  All the speed, all the realtime.  I've passed all the legs (except for the testimony realtime) of the contests before -- just not all in one sitting. Fairly reasonable, right?

I'll do much like I did for the Guinness attempt, blogging once a week with my progress.  Starting tomorrow, my goal will be to have three practice sessions of five minutes each, with my final practice at 9 pm.  I'm going to set an alarm in the evening, like I did for the Guinness attempt.

Addendum:  This is what I look like on the first day of the NCRA annual convention:
Cersei Lannister, all regal and dressed up and hot.
I assure you that my husband and I are in no way related.
And this is what I look like on the last day of the convention:
Jeff Bridges as the Dude, bathrobed and boxered in the grocery store with a hangover-hiding pair of sunglasses.
I'm not even kidding.

So stay tuned!