Wherein I Explain My New Jzzzzz…

Okay, so this won’t be the most exciting of posts, but if you’re wondering how the wide world of online transcription works, you’ve come to the right place.

ICYMI, I finally found a work-from-home (or wherever, really) job! I started working as a paid transcriptionist for a company called Rev, which does audio transcription and video captioning.

“How does this new job work?” I can hear you all asking from the edges of your seats. I’ll break it down for you:

Customers have recordings they want transcribed and send those to Rev. Rev posts these on their site, and transcriptionists pick and choose them on a first come, first serve basis. These recordings can be by anyone and about anything. Sadly, I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t go into details of specific jobs, but I’ve done everything from interviews with famous musicians and Hollywood insiders, to product test focus groups, to medical discussions, to a person who literally just had a mic on as s/he went through the day. Some things are more interesting (discussion about an as-yet-unaired season of a popular TV show) than others (somebody vacuuming during the recording), but overall, it’s a pretty fascinating gig.

When jobs are posted for one to choose from, they are categorized by length, number of speakers, the name of the customer, the duration, and the subject (sports, religion, medical, etc.). You can preview everything, even to the extent of listening to an entire project, but you then run the risk of somebody else snagging the job while you’re listening. To that end, you can claim a job, and if you decide you can’t do it or don’t want to do it after all, you can “unclaim” it within an hour without it counting against you. Actually, you can unclaim it any time, but after an hour, it affects your metrics.

Those metrics show how you’ve been doing with your jobs, and include scores on accuracy, formatting, on time submissions, and so on. The higher your scores over X period of time allows you to advance, which in turn allows you to have access to jobs sooner than people lower down the ladder, earn more money, and take on extra work like grading other transcriptionists and doing closed-captioning. I wanted to advance as quickly as possible, so I burned the midnight oil for two weeks to max out the numbers and get to the top, earning the title of “Revver+.”

I’ll admit, the job is more challenging than I thought, and takes a combination of skill, strategy, and, memorization. My typing has never been consistently great, and it goes down a peg when typing something I’m listening to, but it’s been improving since starting this job. I’ve learned a number of keyboard shortcuts built into the Rev editor, and got a foot pedal that I use to start, stop, and scroll through audio. These have all helped to increase my speed, and speed is money.

My three biggest challenges are:

  • Not typing what I hear. There are two kinds of projects: Verbatim and, um, not-verbatim, I guess. In the case of verbatim, you write everything, from coughs in the background to the “ums,” slang, and stutters people tend to sprinkle their speech with. In regular projects, you ignore all that and write the core of what the subject is saying. (“It’s, like, um, challenging.” = “It’s challenging.”) I tend to get in a zone and write what I’m hearing, at least as far as dialogue goes.
  • Typing what I didn’t hear. An issue I didn’t know I had until I’d done some proofreading of my own work is a tendency to fill in blanks and hear things backwards. I’m not sure if this stems from dyslexia, a lack of listening skills, or what, but if the speaker says “I thought about going to the mall downtown,” I might write “I thought about going down to the mall.”
  • The APS, CMS, and MWDEU can, apparently, kiss it. Transcription grammar rules seem to be a mix of stylebook standards and total nonsense. I’m sure the stuff that seems ridiculous actually makes sense in some transcription-specific way, but not in the way things are correctly written in any other setting. For example, numbers need to be either numerals or spelled, regardless of the quantity of digits. My biggest issue is that they are rigid in the notion that sentences should never, ever start with conjunctions, whether every style guide for the English language says it’s okay or not. Usually, sentences can be edited with punctuation or omission to avoid starting a sentence with conjunctions, but it can be slightly annoying.
hair

Slightly.

That said, my written grammar and spelling have been improving, as even knowing rules doesn’t do a lot of good if you don’t practice. (Because I just wrote that, I’m sure this post is riddled with errors.)

Overall, the toughest part of the job is also the best part: flexibility. I don’t have to show up anywhere and punch a time clock, so I can work when I’m free. If I’m ever free, which I’m not, at least not as much as I’d like. The benefit to working away from home is having to be there during certain times; no distractions, no other obligations, no temptations. You’re there for however many hours straight, earning money without needing to work around anything.

As it stands, I’ve had a harder time lately than when I started out, since I neglected other things to crank out as much work as possible during the first few weeks, but mostly because right after we decided to give this whole thing a shot, we started transitioning the boys from cribs to beds. For the last few weeks, naps have been non-existent (except for a few in the car), so I lose the possibility of that work time.

Even if the boys do nap, it can be tricky work that requires listening and focus will come to a screeching halt if there are toddlers to deal with. These jobs are all on a deadline, and getting interrupted can potentially wreck any productivity. In fact, I’m finishing this post instead of working because the boys are being more high maintenance than usual and I have appeased them with Elmo (more on that later).

Speaking of skipping naps, it has also taken its toll on me; I never realized how even a short nap on their part can be very rejuvenating for me. Being with awake two-year-olds for 12-13 solid hours with no break for at least five days a week can push me to  the point of physical and mental collapse. I’ve gone to bed (and actually fallen asleep) a few times over the last few weeks before ten, which is unheard of, and I’ve basically lost my infamous 10:00pm second wind, which has for years has been my most productive time. This loss of night work time completes the circle of not being able to keep up on jobs as much as I’d like.

There’s also more familial obligation than working away from home. Yes, I get to see the family more, but it’s hard to say to my wife, “Good luck, I’ll be in the basement, don’t bother me,” when the boys are being difficult and I’m right there. We’re trying to get in a groove, balancing this job with family time, but there’s a learning curve, especially since the boys aren’t napping now.

All in all, I’m glad we’re taking a shot at this. If nothing else, I’ll get to add something to my résumé and have a story to tell the kids about that time I tried something and failed, so they probably shouldn’t try new things because life is failure and pain and loss. But maybe this’ll be awesome and go smoothly. Either way, I’m having genuine fun at a job for the first time in a very long time, and that’s worth the challenge.

Advertisements

Grandma!

The boys’ grandma (my mom) managed to survive another year standing between a whiteboard and a kloib* of middle-schoolers (not to mention surviving Kansas, in general) to make it out here to Washington for a visit. It had been a year since she last made it out, so from the first visit till now the babies went from screaming poop beasts to screaming poop beasts that can walk. Luckily, besides pooping and screaming, they now also know how to laugh and hug and say “hi” and manipulate their environment and wave and stuff, so that’s nice.

Don't forget looking badass.

“We also know how to look badass.”

No, Skyping just isn’t the same as actually holding your grandkids or, conversely, being held by your grandma, so we were all glad she could get back out here. One of the problems with having family spread across the country is the difficulty in getting together more frequently, so we cherish the visits we receive and that we get to make.

The boys are in that awkward age (read: 0-3) where they’re too old to just kick it in the living room all day, but where it’s challenging to find things we can do with them that meet the following criteria:

  • stay in line with nap/bed times
  • don’t involve over-exertion for any parties involved
  • are affordable
  • don’t require attention spans or comprehension skills greater than those of a cicada

“Hey, that’s not very…um…ooh, a fence post!”

This can be tougher than it sounds. Luckily, for one day Grandma took us to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium as an early Father’s Day gift to me, and the boys actually had a pretty good time, considering they think every animal is a kitty.

“Meow.”

We also got some time in at a nearby “spray park,” something that was new to me when I heard of them but which are kind of a big thing around here. You know running through the sprinkler in the yard? That, but if it was at Dr. Seuss’ house.

Splooshtambulous!

Splooshtambulous!

M got blasted in the face by water the last time he was at this park, so he was a little hesitant to play in it this time, but C was all about it.

“Yeeeeeaaaaagh!”

“Peace!”

“I am AMPED, braugh! *pant pant* That was a choka macker; thought I was gonna wipe out there *pant pant*, but…oh, I gotta get back in there, those waves are choice!”

“Can we please go?”

She also managed to do on her second day here what we’d been putting off since the boys’ birthday: assemble their Radio Flyer scooter bike things.

bike

We tried them out in the driveway for the first time, and the boys did about as well as you’d expect (or maybe better) for one-year-olds on scooter bike things for the first time. Honestly, every time we get in the driveway or front yard, we spend a lot of time stopping one or both of them from running into the street, which seems to be most desirable place to be ever. They also got to wear their scooter bike thing helmets for the first time. As you may recall, M has that big old round hydrocephalus head of his and we needed to go with a helmet meant for kids twice as old, and it still fits a little awkwardly, but he seems to actually enjoy having the thing on. I think they get a little proud when they accessorize.

2015-06-10 05.58.59 2015-06-10 06.00.03

“Hey girl…”

I had to work one day, so my mom and Kat went to a nearby Wiggleworks franchise. Wiggleworks gyms are basically hybrids of playgrounds and padded cells (or maybe Dr. Seuss’ home gym), and the boys absolutely love it there. The timing also worked out because the place sort of stresses me out, as the boys are little enough that you still have to chase them around, which is hard and awkward in this place.

"Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people." - me about Wiggleworks/God about Israel

“Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” – me about Wiggleworks/God about Israel

"This Millennium Falcon is going to be epic."

“This Millennium Falcon is going to be epic.”

We all got out of town on Saturday and headed for Fort Worden State Park and Port Townsend on the peninsula in the upper-left corner of the state, a couple of hours away but worth the drive even with two toddlers. The park’s pretty interesting, a former military base that stood guard over the entrance to the Puget Sound, but which now offers great views of the Sound and mountains, has a museum, marine science center, trails, campsites, woods, “ruins” of gigantic cannon turrets and other concrete and steel kill-structures, and buildings that have been converted into everything from rentable cabins to rec centers to votech classrooms. Port Townsend, the cute little Victorian town nearby, was also having their big farmer’s market that day and the sun was shining throughout our trip.

The boys didn’t care about any of it except for the gun batteries, and only because we let them run free (more or less), so that pretty much made their day.

At a gun battery in Fort Worden State Park.

At a gun battery in Fort Worden State Park.

"I can totally make this. I just need to wait until they're not paying attention."

“I can totally make that distance. I just need to wait until they’re not paying attention.”

"In my new life I think I'll be a haberdasher."

“In my new life I think I’ll be a haberdasher.”

"Tra-lee, tra-la, I love strolling through the grass on a sunny day."

“Tra-lee, tra-la, I love strolling through the grass on a sunny day.”

"Short grass!  Short grass! I like strolling through short grass!"

“Short grass! Short grass! I like strolling through short grass!”

Between distance, scheduling, practicality, and finances, we don’t get to see family as often as we’d like, so it was really special having my mom here for a week, and even if the boys don’t remember, I’ll get to enjoy the memories of watching them squeal and laugh with their grandma.

*Science FACT: A group of middle-schoolers is called a “kloib”.

Building Blocks

The boys turned one year old a couple of weeks ago.

Holy crap.

I’ve already talked about my evolution as a dad, but it’s even more startling when I look at them and see how much they’ve evolved, from gross noise-beast pupae to intelligent, walking, talking* mini-mes. Gobots to my Transformer. Micro Machines to my Hot Wheel. Tiny capsules soaking in water to my already fully-formed sponge dinosaur.

No, you’re dating YOURself.

No, you’re dating YOURself.

These guys have opinions, likes and dislikes, habits, skills, and annoying individual traits.

I have been watching them grow over the last year, delighting as they told developmental roadblocks and hurdles, one by one, to suck it. Since one boy or the other usually did something new first, we’d begin watching and prodding the other to start doing that new thing. Then we’d bring up all the stuff this baby did first, and remind ourselves that we shouldn’t worry that he isn’t doing this or that yet, constantly reassuring ourselves that the boys are each where they’re supposed to be at developmentally. Confused? I am. I had always expected a much more orderly, predictable progression of development for babies.

Turns out I read the wrong guy's baby books.

Turns out I read the wrong guy’s baby books.

That said, I have this new perspective. See, we (Humans. Every single one.) look at growing kids like Lego sculptures, getting more and more fleshed out as each block is added.

They say God is something of a...*puts on sunglasses*..."maniac".

They say God is something of a “maniac”.

There’s a quote (attributed to Michaelangelo but probably not by him) that I’ve always enjoyed which goes something like “When carving [a sculpture] I just chip away everything that doesn’t look like [the subject].”  Now that we’ve come along a bit, that’s how I see the boys; they have everything they need to become the men that they’re going to be. They each learn things when they need to learn them, and their genes are locked and loaded. The things that aren’t them – like hourly projectile vomiting and falling face-first into every [insert noun] they go by – are slowly but surely being chipped away. Assuming I don’t screw them up, they’re on course to be pretty well-rounded people.

My best unicorn impression!

My best unicorn impression!

Our kids might be in trouble…

*babbling incoherent nonsense**

**still more coherent than a lot of people I encounter on any given day

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changing…

…turn, and face the graffiti-covered stall door.

A problem faced by parents of multiple children (born at once or not) is juggling multiple babies when one needs to be changed in a public place. Before the boys were born, if you had asked me what I expected regarding changing them in public, I would have admitted that it sounded like a challenge, of course, but that if I could do it at home, or in a van in a rainy parking lot, or anywhere else, I could certainly manage a Safeway restroom.

gross

It’s a grocery store. They sell food there.

It's a grocery store. They sell food there. Also sold: trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning products.

 Also sold: trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning products.

I had absolutely no idea of just how challenging this can be. Any women reading this and nodding and chuckling about how true this is, slow down; I can only address this from a man’s perspective, but I promise there are different – not necessarily worse, but different – challenges. This was, again, something I wouldn’t have thought of before actually having to do it. Changing tables are changing tables, restrooms are restrooms, and changing multiples just means being able to hold on to one child with one arm and changing the other child with the other arm. Piece of cake, right?

Anyway, I wish I’d sought out or gotten more information about the hazards of changing multiples in public venues, especially by dads. That said, over the last year, this is what I’ve learned:

1. Shopping carts can’t go in.

Assuming a public restroom can physically accommodate a shopping cart, you’d be a jerk to bring one in, and if it’s full of unpaid merchandise, stores frown upon you doing so anyway. This might not sound like such a problem, but if you have both children in a shopping cart, even if only one needs changing, you are faced with the task of bringing both into the restroom by hand. Some restrooms in baby-heavy places like Babies-R-Us have special seats you can buckle the third wheel into while you take care of business, but your run-of-the-mill can will only have a changing table and an air of dread. Now, maybe your kid is to the point of standing or even walking on his own, so you might be thinking that a toddler leash is the way to go. They’re great, but…

2. …men’s rooms are obstacle courses of grossness and awkwardness.

If you aren’t familiar with the layout of a gentlemen’s  w.c., they range from very small, with nothing but a toilet, to a bit bigger with a urinal added, to large, with multiple stalls and urinals. Leash or not, your kid’s going to be able to reach something you’d rather not have her touch, which means keeping her out of toilets and urinals, from crawling under stalls, from grabbing onto the leg of some poor sap who’s trying to relieve himself, and from just getting on the floor in general. You have no idea how gross a men’s room floor can be; I’ve been doing unspeakable things to them for weeks just to drive this point home. Having all those urinals and toilets so close to the changing table is almost unavoidable because…

3. …a lot of men’s rooms had those tables installed after they were designed.

OK, this is true of a lot of women’s restrooms as well; changing tables didn’t enter on the scene until the mid-80s, so restrooms built before this (and many after) don’t make any space accommodations. This is why you find a number of them in the large handicapable stalls; there’s simply no room anywhere else. In a men’s room, odds are that you’re on the wall opposite or right next to the urinals, and given the tight spaces, you might practically be rubbing back-to-back with guys trying to do their business. Women’s rooms might be pretty tight too, but you aren’t dealing with dudes with their members in hand urinating into what your kids see as shiny white water tables. Such limited space means you could really use a hand, but…

4. …men aren’t as prone to help.

Yes, in spite of a new enlightened age of stay at home dads, mannies, and other male caregivers, a lot of guys are less patient about things like infants shrieking in their private spaces and men taking up room with toddlers and related accessories. It’s really as if Full House taught us nothing. Now, in full disclosure, I have had a guy offer to hold one baby while I changed the other. He was a twin himself, and had twins himself, so there was some camaraderie, but still; most guys are hesitant about helping. Some still look on it as “women’s work,” some might just assume that you’ve got handled or that they’re bruising your ego if they offer to help, and some are worried about coming off as a child molester. Of course, doing it by yourself is even harder when…

5. …there isn’t a changing table at all.

Now, to be clear, I have encountered exactly one men’s room that didn’t have a changing table, and after a cranky Tweet to the proprietor, they had one installed. That said, I understand from some of my fellow dads (and Ashton Kutcher, I guess) that many men’s rooms still don’t have tables, apparently assuming that the women will be changing babies while the men smoke cigars and discuss big game hunting or whatever. Again, I can’t speak much to that – maybe the Seattle area is ahead of the curve on this – but I can’t imaging having to muscle my way with multiple babies in to a restroom, only to find lavatories and stink.

I don’t pitch petitions much, but please take a minute to sign this one asking restaurants to install changing tables, if for no other reason than to avoid parents changing their kids on the table next to yours while you eat. Don’t make us resort to that.