Category Archives: Rants

Don’t force website localisation

Just because I’m in Russia doesn’t mean I really want to read your website in Russian. Especially not if it’s in some kind of unfathomable machine-translated approximation of Russian.

I might not understand the language of the country I’m located in. I might be passing through, or I might be a hapless expat who’s managed to survive for decades without learning much more than the bare minimum required to order a beer.

Conversely, I might be natively or otherwise fluent in the local language, but not in the particular ‘dialect’ of free-online-translatorese that you chose when localising your website.

Please, PLEASE stop forcing localised versions of your web content onto your visitors. The assumption that everyone visiting your site from a Russian IP address (or with a browser that says it will accept Russian) is capable of understanding Russian or your crappy pseudo-translated Russlish is about as valid as asserting that everyone in the Sahara desert must be able to absorb moisture from the atmosphere.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you gave the option to switch languages. But when you make it comepletely impossible to escape the lunacy, then it becomes frustrating.

I would have expected better of MIT, for example In my browser, this site is full of beautiful nonsense such as “что ремиксит сообщество” that just might make sense if you can detranslate it and work out what the original was. This makes the content understandable to a pretty select audience.

You see, that’s the only way to understand many of these sites. On the surface they kind of seem to make sense… but not completely. As a native English speaker and Russian translator with plenty of experience I can, at a pinch, make my way around these sites by detranslating back to the original text to get a rough idea of what will happen when I click a particular link or button.

Hewlett Packard – also guilty. Their massive support website is awesome and it does pretend to give me the option to switch languages, but unfortunately in my experience that didn’t work.

Forcing a ‘translation’ of your site based on the Accept-Language header is antisocial at best.

If you’re using Chrome, you could get around this embuggerance by using this browser extension to modify headers (thanks Lorna Jane). Oddly I find it easier than messing with browser settings.


Head x-ray returns 404 brain not found

Morning visit to the doctor (not the one that gave me the telepathic diagnosis)  gave me a clean bill of health and a closed sick note. Get back to work young man! But since the ENT chap said you should get your head x-rayed, go and do that anyway (although they won’t find anything, I think your sinuses are fine).

Afternoon visit to the x-ray machine gave me a stunning view of not much brain and very much sinus fluid. Back to the ENT tomorrow.


Sinus infections really suck

For about the last five months, I’ve gradually been getting more and more tired.

It probably started with my first ever jet lag, in October 2013. It seemed to be taking ages to go away, but that was understandable owing to the fact that external circumstances had conspired to thwart all my attempts at getting a proper night’s sleep.

The very day I arrived home from the states, my two-year-old (it was his birthday) got sick with a very high temperature. He’d just recently started kindergarten, and if I remember correctly, this was his first kindergarten respiratory virus. With lots of snot.

This went on for at least a week; he would wake up every the night crying with a fever. Then it got better and he went back to kindergarten. Then he got sick again, and so it went on.

Winter set in, and he started sleeping in our bed. Our apartment was like a refrigerator. We all huddled together to keep warm. My acrobatic two-year-old ensured that we didn’t sleep. Soon I could hardly get to sleep at all, laying awake until well after midnight. Then I would find myself waking up again very early in the morning and unable to get back to sleep.

By the middle of winter, It seemed perfectly natural to me that I was constantly exhausted and there was no reason to suspect that anything other than sleep deprivation was the culprit. Sometimes I would come home from taking junior to kindergarten and collapse into bed. I would just lay there, unable to get back to sleep and unwilling to get up again.

I did, however, notice that on rare occasions I might actually sleep for nine or ten hours straight, and when this happened I still felt like I hadn’t slept. Doubts began to creep into my mind.

In early December I gave up smoking, aided by the desperate hope that it might help me to get better quality sleep. I had smoked a pack a day for ten years and all previous attempts at quitting had failed.

This attempt was a roaring success, because I got so sick from withdrawal symptoms that I didn’t even want to smoke. I spent a couple of days on the toilet and then several weeks clearing my throat of catarrh. I certainly felt no better; in fact I felt much worse than before. I put that down to quitting smoking and moved on.

Then, last week, I got the mother of all colds with a crazy temperature. After the most evil of the symptoms passed, I was left with crippling fatigue. One evening I picked junior up from kindergarten and did a few other things. An hour after I got home I was lying on the couch, feeling like I had been cast into cement.

I began to suspect glandular fever, my old nemesis that once knocked me flat for six weeks and left me with constant tiredness for months to follow.

As a New Year bonus, the company I work for had arranged very generous employee medical insurance. So I booked an appointment at the nearest clinic and started wondering how I was going to explain my implausible symptoms. I even began to wonder if the whole thing was all in my head.

I needn’t have worried. I began explaining to the doctor that right now something was up with my throat, and that was about as far as I got.

“You get tired very quickly,” she interrupted, looking straight into her computer monitor, and then proceeded to list just about every other complaint I’d had in the past few months. All I could do was nod my head – I was awestruck.

How did she know? Had she overheard me mumbling in the corridor? Had I volunteered any of this information to the dispatcher when I booked the appointment? Was she psychic? I have no idea, but she listed almost all my symptoms before she even looked at me. She even found a completely unrelated stomach problem while she was at it.

And so, the current theory is that I’ve had a sinus infection for almost six months. And it seems to fit.

Some trawling of the interwebs suggests that fatigue might be a much more typical symptom of sinusitis than the pain or discharge I would have expected. A lot of people have it and don’t know about it.

My symptoms (fatigue, inability to concentrate, itchy eyes, confusion, poor memory etc. etc.) were impossible for me to distinguish from jet lag or just plain old lack of sleep, and so it went unnoticed. I had no idea I was sick and getting sicker; I thought I was just tired.

Assuming the theory is right, there’s still some way to go. The symptoms of sinus infections take a while to let go, but at least now I have some light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow I get an x-ray to check for inflammation.

I’m going to treat myself to a weekend out of town when this is all over. Fresh air and a couple of days of sleep.

Chrome, please restore scrollbar arrows

Seriously Google, I can’t take much more of it.

I like to work on my netbook, which has a teensy little screen. It’s now impossible to get fine control over scrolling on a small element that has lots of overflow without using the arrow keys, and that’s only possible when there’s whitespace (e.g. no links) inside the element that you can first click on with the mouse.

Try it, it’s infuriating. Especially in the Styles panel of the developer tools console. FireFox and Opera haven’t looked so promising for years.