This is a story about growing up. Coming of age. In 2018, I will have been a stenographer for 18 years – my career will be an adult. Whereas before it could only drink Stolis (that its dad had purchased) in the backyard, soon it will be able to legally walk into the pub and order whatever it likes. Whereas before it had to try to sneak into clubs in preposterous high heels and misapplied makeup, soon it will be able to walk in with nonchalant laissez-faire and whatever shoes it likes, almost (because it is Australian, like me, and we like to wear thongs, and reputable establishments prefer not to have thong-clad careers entering, regardless of age. DISCRIMINATION!)
It’s generally been an epic, undulating journey, kind of like this first view of 2017 but not always with so many paddy fields…
Best in views from the sky:
heading out of Suvarnamhumi Airport, Bangkok
In the year 2000, when I was steno-born, I caught the 55 tram through Royal Park every day with my Smartwriter in a purple Kmart suitcase. Because the seats were full, I usually sat on the stairs with an unfolded tissue under my bum to protect my one Country Road suit. I hauled that purple suitcase into the old County Court complex, marked for demolition, where the courtrooms still had ashtrays built into the bar table.
These days, it’s not cool to smoke in court while prosecuting cases; it’s not cool to smoke anywhere really. Lungs4lyf! (<<it is still cool to say [something]4lyf, I asked my kids and they didn’t answer so I’m taking that as a yes. Yes4lyf). Apart from not smoking in court anymore, there have been many changes in steno, including that we take way more pictures of steno views, and every year I like to put them together in a blog post.
So here is a monthly summary of some of my favourites from 2017, with the usual caveat that this is just a brief selection of the non-confidential ones (caveats4lyf) (confidentiality4lyf).
An early start to great views with this amazing “hometown” Hong Kong panorama seen while taking a deposition. One day this will be the bullet train all the way to Beijing.
Best in construction site views – Yau Tsim Mong, Hong Kong
Some stadium captioning, also in Hong Kong, including most mythical deskmate of the year (the dragon); worst in fitness (me hiking to the back of the stadium to relieve nerves); and most stressful in bilingual switching (click on pics for details).
The month ended on a loving note with these two lovehearts flashing on across the harbour during a contentious arbitration.
Most inappropriate in Mareva injunction lightshows
After staying home most of January, things got busy in the passport department this month. But first, a long arbitration about chemistry, with both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, the SI ladies sitting right behind my head.
Most inconsiderate in room lay-outs
Then, after a very long journey through Dubai with a crew of 10 stenoventurers, we arrived in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress. Hola and buenas noches!
Best in bedroom views – for now (Carrer de Ballester, Barcelona)
The day before the Congress opened, we journeyed up to the summit of Mount Tibidabo looking for a place to ask for divine intercession for the job. We found Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor.
It’ll do, I guess.
Best in places ask for divine intercession for a job/have coffee in the forecourt of
Then it was off to work. The first thing that struck on the work side was the irony of using steno machines to facilitate the media reporting of the biggest tech launches this year.
We criss-crossed the city in taxis to cover speeches in many venues…
The best work venue was the Casa Llotja De Mar-Custo, built around 1370(!!). Don’t worry, they’d tech-ed it up by adding a floating cloud in the main entrance. Because THE FUTURE.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the other venues, with many of them, although centuries more modern, having the advantage of a cerveceria in the middle of the exhibition floor which tended to attract more interest than the new products (NOT BY US, WE WERE CONSUMMATE TYPING PROFESSIONALS AT ALL TIMES).
Best in working next to a beer hall
We stayed up day and night at this extremely tough job, but when all was said and done: oh Spain. Que bell pais.
And in conclusion:
Best in post-work feasts. 10/10 would eat every night for rest of life.
After washing a few pairs of undies, it was straight off again, this time to Singapore for some stadium captioning.
This job gave me my favourite work pic of the year for a while. I struggled on this one, feeling food-poisoney and too hot and unsure of my fingers. Seemed like I had to work for every word. But I met an English-as-a-second-language lady in the lift afterward who said how much the subs helped her. So I also felt a bit proud deep inside, just under the intensely churning area of my stomach.
Best in appropriate captioning
Back in Hong Kong for a few days to wash those undies again and pick up the… auth… authori… [picks up right thumb with left, attempts to forcefully depress z key NO I CAN’T SPELL IT LIKE THAT YET] authorisation for a trip to a US territory. Said authorisation approved, me and my uncooperative and surprisingly fat thumb were on the move again.
..to stunning Guam for some depos.
Gosh this job has been shithouse over the years. View from bedroom while prepping. TO DO ALL THE SWIMMING.
Hip-and-shouldering Barcelona out of the way for current best bedroom view
There’s a depo? Where?
The deposition room had a blackboard! The taxi had a golden-bodied spider strung across the back seat! They didn’t know what a cappuccino was so I just asked for coffee with milk, and they brought a cup of black coffee and a cup of milk. Did I manage to combine the two without disrupting the genteel ambience of the dining room? Only the guy whose issue of Pacific News I pilfered to mop the floor while he was going for a hash brown top-up will ever know.
It wasn’t just the Spanish bedroom losing its “best of” title – see here also the famous Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica, about the only landmark in Hagatna, from the deposition room window. Very convenient multi-tasking.
New “best in places to ask for divine intercession”,
which I can’t believe is a category this year
As we crossed from March to April, it was home for just long enough for my sleeping tablets to wear off from the flight, and then up to Beijing for an arbitration. In the taxi home I realised I would have to choose between packing and sleeping and inevitably would choose sleeping, so I hoped the northern capital would brace themselves for my imminent arrival in a swimsuit made out of coconuts and prepare their city accordingly. (And I know from past experience there’s simply a TONNE of work to be done to embluen Beijing’s skies, enfrangipani its streetside plants and infinitise the area pools.) But in this case, they did have the prettiest in blooms:
Though the worst in bus station maps:
But we got there in the end.
The rest of April was spent in good old civilised court in Hong Kong.
(Except for this one trip into a southern mainland Chinese city for another tech roadshow where this glowing journalist mysteriously appeared in the pic.)
Ghostliest in apparitions.
May saw me back in Singapore for a really long run of consecutive work days, including seven in a row at a 30-connection arbitration, which was totally worth it for this bit of transcript…
Immediately the closing submissions were on the record, it was a cross-town race to a captioning venue, where I stayed in my booth for the next three days, finishing up with a 4.5-hour session on Sunday evening. I know I can write for that long but can I last without going to the toilet that long…? *throws out every drink in vicinity*
I was so tired after that, I didn’t quite manage to have a bath in the glorious Ritz Carlton tub.
Sitting in bath in clothes, too tired to run water.
Most regretful in “ones that got away”.
I stay in a lot of hotels on all points of the spectrum. RC really truly is the best in any city. Views from my suite…
June started off with some individual CART for a corporate banker. It’s always a great feeling to work just for one appreciative person. When I wasn’t invited to the three-hour networking lunch because confidentiality, instead dispatched to the buffet, that also invoked a great feeling.
Then, an even greater feeling – at last, at last, the call to work for Cartier!
The phone rings.
Client: Can you come and caption an exhibition opening for Cartier?
Me: CAN I. I have been waiting for this call for 17 years, 17 tedious years of arbitrage, demurrage and other topics not even necessarily ending in the -age suffix. Now you ask if I can come and write about diamonds. This is the very reason I got into the game! 🎼Square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks don’t lose their shape…🎼
Client: Can you do it or not.
Me: Tiara. I mean yes. Packing and flying to this dream job will be for me the work of an instant.
Alas, it turned out to be an opening of their art collection and no jewellery was seen at all. Despite this, and the intimate, awkward setting that saw us sitting backstage in the catering tent, the feeling at the end was one of deep satisfaction . This was a unique opportunity to caption French speakers alongside Korean stenos. I even got a chance to fingerspell “Année France-Corée” and don’t f it up.
The main challenge was synchronising our steno screens, because our English text scrolls left to right and their Korean characters scroll top to bottom.
Despite having to fly there through the first typhoon of the year, this was one of my favourite assignments in 2017.
Most concerning in airport views.
**We are now halfway through the year. I can barely continue uploading, so if you’re still reading, kudos and THANK YOU, I appreciate your dedication** (dedication4lyf)
Kicking off a run of trips to five countries in five weeks, these post-typhoon views over my own city were gorgeous and made me forget how much I’d miss my bed. Momentarily.
First stop, Guangzhou. You can tell by the blue skies lolol. No really, this actually is Guangzhou – downtown Futian, lovely and cleaned up for the Party conference.
I was honoured to be there to caption for a Sino-European arbitration summit which was held at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, with this ridiculously incredible feng shui element in the forecourt…
Biggest in architectural mandates: go huge or go home la!
See that building in the background? That’s the epic of somewhat anomalous Ping An Insurance Tower, seen below from the window of the South China Arbitration Commission. 115 FLOORS OF INSURANCE. Well I’m ready to jump off the top.
Meanwhile, inside the summit, some perfect examples of what captioning in China looks like: pink, red, flowers, fancy LCDs but imperfect aspect ratios, disrupted line of sight, inability to communicate, and adrenaline.
At least the audience could see. That’s the main thing. I guess.
Then it was back off to South Korea, to get punched in the face by a conflict-of-laws arbitration with 7pm adjournments. 10/10 would do it again for the gigantic Bento box and coffee cup wearing bowler hat.
Beautiful Seoul views abounded as usual…
And there was a new contender for best hotel view.
“Erect something welcoming outside the hotel.”
“I got you.”
“With pants dammit, PANTS!”
Back in Hong Kong for a run of depos. The first one was late at night in a business hotel. Counsel were all phoning it in so it was just me and the witness gripping onto the table like the rails of the Titanic, trying to keep our heads above water. It’s like James Cameron had a back-up screenplay in mind if no-one went for Titanic, working title ‘Depositions: The Briny Depths’, IT WRITES ITSELF.
Never let go.
The next round of depositions was much fancier, complete with the prized 118th-floor view of the harbour…
…and a mirrored ceiling. I mean what do they usually use this room for? dontask4lyf
Questions unanswered, it was straight up to Tsinchu, the first trip to Taiwan for the year.
In my opinion Taiwan is the most generic place in Asia, with little interesting to see, so I was delighted to be staying right next to its famed Taipei 101 tower, once the tallest building in the world.
Except my room faced the wrong way.
The not-famed apartment block around the corner from Taipei 101.
Still, flying in provided a contender for best in air views. Like any responsible air traveller, when at 10,000 feet or below, I surveil land masses for shipwrecked sailors. When not knocked out by benzos, my eyes are keenly peeled for SOS signs made out of shells with bedraggled maroonees tripping over their beards as they run, waving, along the shore. I’ve never actually seen one yet. But then nor have I seen a giant pair of titties laid out on the sand – until this trip?!
While we’re talking about ladies, what about this girl versus the city on the walk back from the job? I loved her!
Finally, worst in dinner options (from the 7/11, after we stayed on the record too late even for eateries).
And to round out the month, one more trip for a nation-state arbitration. This pic reminds me to remind all my CR friends who don’t live in Asia need to rush to the nearest Chinatown and get around this. I always have one in my handbag. No coughing, no drowsiness! (Well obviously drowsiness that’s a given, but not from pseudoephedrine, from staying up too late f’ing around online like a healthy person).
An interesting month, country-wise, beginning with my first arbitration with Finnish antagonists.
This is an accent I am unfamiliar with. When the first witness began speaking, my brain simply gave me nothing – not a feeling I’ve experienced on a job for a long time, and not one I want to experience again any time soon. But all involved were delightful, and I was sad to see them go back to Helsinki, even with their requests to render ä and ö when fingerspelling in the realtime feed. (In case you’re wondering, the answer was a resolute “Ei voi tehdä sitä” – “Yöu’re having a laugh whät”).
There are countless mysteries in life, questions we’ll never know the answer to, like why are we here? What happens when we die? Do birds wee? And how far would I travel for the most beautiful tabbouleh? Now I know the answer to that one at least: 3,711 miles on Oman Air. From one new experience to another, it was off to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, for an arbitration where the Saudi rules of evidentiary procedure reigned supreme. I have now done a Saudi arb and a North Korean arb and I don’t know what to say about that except…it’s a long way from the Melbourne County Court.
We sat really, really long days…
..but they also just kept serving up mezze platters and there’s no blow that can’t be softened by cheese am I right.
Due to the long work days, not much time was spent outside, which was for the best because outside was the desert. See here hotel room view of fire station.
Can you imagine being a firefighter in this place.
“Hello fire brigade.”
“Fire!! Hurry up there’s a fire!!””
“MA’AM JUST CALM DOWN, WE ARE ALL ON FIRE HERE IT’S OUR NATURAL STATE”
My husband got to come for this trip. We had time for a late dinner before the airport run. With apologies to all concerned for unauthorised sighting of elbow, also for not ironing scarf.
Lastly in September, some event captioning at home in HK.
With the absolute best in ideas probably ever – asking my tech guy to give this chair a faulty “fault”, in a number of languages, so no-one would steal it. SUCCESS! cuidado4lyf
You know what I did in October? NOTHING, I MOVED HOUSE. No-one needs to see pictures of me shouting at my kids to pack boxes faster and as there’s no obvious link to stenography in any way, let us move swiftly forward to November. You’re almost there!
We started off in lovely low-key steno style with a visit from Cheryl! ❤ How nice to have a Sai Kung lunch before we all headed off to different parts of the world to tap on our plastic boxes again!
No tapping, just tapas! Or gnocchi, whatev.
Right *cough* With Cheryl off to LA and Brandy off to Seoul, I was off to Beijing to caption the Microsoft Tech Summit. I stayed in the venerable Beijing International, which has all the stuff…charming/depressing hutongs out the back, Tiananmen Square out the front, and a virtually complete lack of internet.
Food was almost as challenging as the internet.
Breakfast. A petite server glides over, her bun secured with a silky red hairnet that matches her embroidered slippers.
Server, melodiously: What you want fam.
Me: Something light and brainy please. In an hour I’m going to caption the Microsoft CEO for a hallful of dignitaries plus 35,000 on the livestream. High folate content would be ideal.
Server: Say no more.
Me: If I could actually say one more thing though: please no trotters, gizzards, organs, blood and related filthy byproducts. No meat whatsoever.
Server: Get out now. Talking about no gizzards.
Another server, sotto voce and with disdain: PSST! THE “COLD PORRIDGE”!
Server: [Slops “cold porridge” into a bowl, throws in some sultanas, I think that’s the folate.] There Missy. No meat.
Me: I don’t know if it’ll be enough to get me through the 3.5-hour first session, but I’m so grateful, would it be okay if I kiss your slippers.
Me: No fair enough.
Then, with cold porridge rising but fingers on fire, it was time for the big event: Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, launching Azure Stack in China.
Great times on the deck! Steno forever, or at least until we get superseded lol.
Going fast! There aren’t many times I lament being a writer-outer, but this session, where “democratisational” came up over and over again, was one of them. (phoenix4lyf)
One final trip to Seoul for one last arbitration. I’m sure I’ve never been to Seoul any other year as many times as this year! And as followers of this blog would know, I continue to take the same picture of this view from the Seoul International Dispute Resolution Centre. What can you do. Is a nice view.
And now, with the coldest trip of the year out of the way, it’s time to finally roll into December, to finish off with possibly the most shocking experience of my whole career to date. Yes, it is even more shocking than the socks/shoes picture above at Incheon Airport. Marginally. thongs4lyf…oh. Except in Seoul in winter dammit.
Arriving in Bangalore, India, at 4am. I knew I should have waxed my chin before I arrived.
Man to man I’m delirious, get me to my hotel brother.
I’ve been to India (and indeed Bangalore) a number of times before, but always for arbitrations, and this time it was for captioning. And it was quite challenging, where “quite” means “almost infeasibly”. But we took it on and worked so hard in less than ideal conditions…and it feels like we nailed it.
Even the crew lunch nailed it, cooked as it was on a dilapidated bbq. When most of your crew lunches are eaten in China, where 90% of the food is chicken’s feet or gizzards, you relish a non-foot meal cooked on a dilapidated bbq. You do. gizzardsnot4lyf
And of course, despite the undeniable difficulties of working in India, there’s beauty everywhere.
Oh wait, here’s some more beauty! See the puffy face, the welts, the half-closed eye!
I posed a question on my FB as I waited for my flight out. The question was wtf happened to my head and the available choices were:
(a) I got in a punch-on with everyone associated with the substandard “lounge” at Kempegowda Airport, I lost, it’s only to be expected I’ve been awake for 21.5 hours so far, also I don’t know how to punch?
(b) I never stopped eating gulab jamun for the past four days and instantly contracted type 2 diabetes, WORTH IT THOUGH?
(c) A nest of bees fell on my head at the job, they stung me everywhere, I mostly kept writing except once when one went inside my glasses, I’m now extremely regretful/maybe allergic?
An unbelievably insulting majority picked (b), but I must report it was (c). I don’t even think I’ve been bitten by a bee since I was 5. On that occasion I was pretty upset so dad sat me on his lap and said there there, some people die from beestings, calm down. His words rushed back this time, 32 years later. Was I about to become one of those other people, from the comforting anecdote, who died? Who knows how tough Indian bees are after all. There are a lot of floral mandalas around for them to feed on. They’re probably super hardy, every stripe an iron rod of poison.
The first sign was just one little guy who landed on my glossary.
He was cute but I asked the production guys next to me, Vired and Syed, to get rid of him. You know a tenet of Hinduism is not killing living things, but as the bees steadily increased in number, it became less convenient for Vired and Syed to carry them outside individually on tissues. Soon they were sweeping groups of them into paper cups and passing them out down a production line of the production line.
I started to feel little crawling legs in my plait and on my ankles. Eventually a couple of bees stung my neck. The stings weren’t too bad and I was able to finish the current speech, but I was on edge and when, soon after the next speech began, one rudely stung me on the thumb, that was it.
Someone asked me afterwards if I thought any of the Googlers in the audience noticed. I was behind a wall but only a metre away from the front row, so if the lack of captions didn’t give it away, the screaming and involuntary St Vitus’s dance did. I mean I guess.
Syed and Vired rushed to deny their faith and began furiously stamping on the hundreds of fuckers gathering around my tripod.
We turned all the backstage lights off and the bees began to migrate to the spotlights on stage, now attacking the confused speakers. Only a few minutes had passed and I nobly decided to continue on, after spraying a whole canister of my own bug spray around and killing most people in the vicin along with any remaining bees. I then wrote in the darkness with venue staff standing in a circle around me and periodically slapping the back of my head.
Soon Bee Uncle arrived with his fumigating chemicals.
He shuffled down our line, dousing everything with toxic liquid, including all our computers and my Luminex. I tried to suggest perhaps he could step back a bit or turn down the flow slightly but Bee Uncle was 90, he didn’t care.
Next they installed an insect zapper at my feet. This was effective although distressing because I had to watch bees writhing to their slow deaths for the next six hours. Resolved to “convert” to Hinduism immediately after job to assuage guilt.
On the second day, the insect zapper caught on fire because India, so they had to remove it. I immediately lapsed in my newfound religion, now longing to see bees writhing to their slow deaths again. Hundreds of them returned to avenge their brothers’ death and I guess it was Bee Uncle’s day off or he died so I just had to sit there in the dark getting stung.
Incidents like this are definitely why I got in the game, I’m saying.
Stings: 8-10 over two days
Missed captioning minutes: 6! *proud*
Crew lunches which lay down their lives to the cause/bug spray: all. Sorry.
Offerings Vired and Syed will have to make to atone for their part in the massacre: 350
Current operational eyes: 1
After the long flight back from India, I washed some undies (it’s kind of the theme of my life) and headed off on another long trip – to Perth. I just knew when I got there they were gonna be like “Sorry ma’am, our borders are closed to aliens” and I was gonna be like “What this is an outrage, I am an Australian citizen” and they were gonna be like “Yeah that’s not what we’re talking about”, but luckily my eye opened up on the plane and I entered my homeland without difficulty.
I CAN SEE
Of course, in the eight years we’ve been living in Asia, we’ve been home to Australia many times, but this is the closest I’ve been to home with a steno machine in all that time. It’s not still a Smartwriter, and I have a lot better luggage these days, plus I can’t fit into the Country Road suit anymore, but still! Home! Steno childhood! Actual childhood! All I’d have to do is hire a car, not be jetlagged, drive all the way from one end of the Nullarbor to the other and then keep going, and then 40 hours later (minus toilet breaks, so say 74 hours give or take) I’d be there!
This seems an appropriate place to drop the most common steno view of my year/life:
I dunno man. I’ve had two 10-pound kids.
But anyway, I didn’t drive across the wide brown land; I stayed in Perth.
And I captioned, in a beautiful art deco theatre, the blue skies of almost-home outside, and two functioning eyes. Who could ask for more?! LET’S GO
And I left that home, and came back to this home, and finished off with a couple of weeks of depos.
Party on the outside…depo on the inside…
COURT REPORTER: YEA BOIII
COUNSEL: Who said that wholly inappropriate interjection
COURT REPORTER: What I didn’t hear anything
A depo in Hong Kong is about as relaxing as things get for me work-wise these days. The spectacular views are just a bonus; the content being about diamonds is just a super bonus.
On the last work day of the year, we all wanted the lawyers to get into the spirit and finish early, judging by the use of the ISIS backdrop as encouragement.
Alas, it was a night-time finish, but who could possibly regret it when this is the final work view of 2017 and indeed steno minority!?
So there it is. My last year in career before I become a steno adult. I’m excited, calm, retrospective, grateful for opportunities – and mostly really ready to start the whole thing with a few weeks off. And I can, because I’m an adult now, and adults make their own decisions.
Also I’m really tired and my hands look like this.
Thank you for reading, and I hope wherever you are in your career lifecycle, 2018 is everything you want it to be, and also may a nest of bees never fall on your head.
In conclusion: I’m a big girl now.