How Brandy Got Her Groove Back

I started this blog after living in Hong Kong for four years, and then I immediately lost interest. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is when, A, as exhausting as this career is I am beyond grateful for it; B, I love writing and making people laugh; and, C, I would have LOVED a blog from an international court reporter when I was in school (or after it!) and I’d like to pay it forward! (I know, I know, how selfless of me, talking about myself. much humanitarian lolz).

Last week in Seoul after a haircut in Hongdae. Koreans KNOW HAIR. And it was only KRW30,000 in a super cute trendy salon! (About 30 bucks US)

Disclaimer – I’ve sucked at taking photos lately, so my photos have nothing to do with what I’m talking about. Deal with it 😛

I think I’ve put my finger on why I haven’t been updating this blog as regularly as I would have hoped, and I think it comes down to me being quite burned out this year. I’m coming up on five years in Asia and five years of traveling to different countries multiple times a month. I don’t want this to come off as if I’m ungrateful or that I’m no longer happy here. I absolutely am, but in the past few months when it has occurred to me that I need to write another blog post, I feel kind of “meh” about it because this life has become so “normal” to me!

Rare photo of office staff and the court reporters all in one place at the same time

Well, I take it back. The gorgeous beaches here will never be just “normal”!

Tai Long Wan in Hong Kong where I went camping last month

BUT, that said, when I was in school Facebook wasn’t a thing yet. I don’t even think I was on it by the time I passed the CSR in late 2008. I never went or have been to a convention. Hell, I barely went to school LOL. So when I passed the CSR — (What was that? only 3 errors of the 50 allowable? “Crushed it,” did I hear you say? 😛 did anyone see my humility lying around here because I seem to have lost it during that not-so-humble brag) — I literally knew only one working court reporter: my dear friend Helena who had started working six months prior to me. Ha! All of that to say, I would have loved to read a blog by a working court reporter back then, especially an international one, as that’s what I knew I wanted to do one day! So if even one person finds my life inspiring and wants to try to come play with me in Asia, or at the very least just read about what it’s like, then that’s a good enough reason for me to get my groove back! (After only three posts, was I ever technically IN a groove? lolz)

Last week in Seoul. I was SO excited to need a coat!

So I started brainstorming ideas for posts other than just “I went here, look at this photo, here’s my steno machine, here’s my bowl of noodles,” etc (Though let’s be honest, everyone loves a bowl o’ noodles photos, amirite?)

Tsim Chai Kee, the most delicious bowl of noodles with beef and big honkin’ wontons and fish balls – don’t knock the latter ’til you’ve tried it 😉

One topic I thought of was to write about the court reporting industry in Asia. It’s such a different animal than from taking a deposition in the States. When I moved here, I was completely overwhelmed with how much I needed to improve, and quickly, if I was going to be thrown into international arbitrations and Hong Kong and Singapore High Courts. The standard of quality that is required for realtime is extremely high. Counsel love to stand up and point out mistakes on the realtime. Let me tell you, that combined with not being able to use auto-brief or have the screen refresh makes you the best reporter you can POSSIBLY be reeeeeal quick.

Last month in a bi-lingual arbitration! Here I am with the Chinese stenographer! She didn’t speak any English so I had to pantomime to ask her for a photo 🙂 She was so sweet and did the whole transcript herself each day! What a bad ass! Meanwhile, I had an editor for the whole eight pages or so a day that was in English… ha! That was a good week.

For those unfamiliar with the auto-brief function, if I steno a phrase two or three times, a suggestion on a way to steno that phrase by several key depressions at one time, rather than, say, three or four separate keyboard depressions, will pop up in a little box. When I’m in court or an arbitration here, however, the turnaround time for the clients to receive the final edited transcript is 3 hours after the hearing/trial adjourns. For this reason an editor sits in the room with me with my laptop in front of them so they can edit as the trial/arb takes place. I can’t use auto-brief (very well, anyway, and it’s complicated to explain why it only half-works!) I have no ability to put my hands on the keyboard and quickly fix something if I drop a word (or words lol) or royally butcher a name or something. Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter since the program we use does not refresh the realtime screens! (Not much point when an editor is sitting there editing likely 10 or more pages behind … if we were constantly signaling for them to move to the bottom of the transcript and fix something, we’d never get the transcript done on time!

Suffice it to say my first year here was extremely stressful… And I am SO THANKFUL for it. I learned when I moved here that I really wasn’t very good compared to what the girls are like here. I remember editing for Jade King (My steno idol and very dear friend!) for the first time and having to fix, like, a comma every ten pages or so. The reporters here are UN-REAL and I have learned so much from them! It’s taken five years but I finally feel among their league. I can honestly say that it took until this year for me to be 100% comfortable and actually feel pretty darn good about my skills that I’ve developed over the past half decade in Asia!

Random photo – I don’t know why I look like a freakin’ mime but this is rush hour on the subway in Seoul! The guy standing next to me reeked of whiskey… almost vom’d (PS I initially wrote “wreaked” and had it up on this site for like five days? COURT REPORTER FAIL)

When I speak of the expectation of perfect realtime, I’m talkin’ quote marks, single quotes, parentheses, square brackets (if you can tell when someone speaks outside of the quote within a quote … you can’t always tell, obviously) proper capitalization when necessary, examination headings, finger-spelling unfamiliar words (rather than just phonetically stenoing it out and having gibberish [to the layman] come out on the realtime). I didn’t do ANY of this when I moved to HK. So if you’re reading that going, “holy shit,” trust me, I get it lol. But look at me now! I know this is such an unhumble brag, but my point is this: This job can take you literally anywhere in the world, but you HAVE to work for it. Getting so comfortable that the aforementioned things come naturally was no easy feat, and I still have days where I’m pretty sure I’ve never touched a steno machine in my life, but it’s also one of the things I love most about this profession – that we can continue to improve FOR-EV-ER.

As for job security in a world of ever-increasing technology, I can safely say our jobs aren’t going anywhere in Asia. The lawyers, many of whom in Asia speak English as a second language, are absolutely glued to the realtime screen, watching it like a hawk … a hawk who graduated cum laude from law school. If a connection goes down, unless we’re severely in a time crunch, we adjourn to fix it. They can’t function without it!

My cousin Geneva and her husband in Hong Kong last month. I had only met her once or twice, and the last time was 25 years ago!

Another notable difference is that in court and arbitration here, we aren’t encouraged so speak up if we don’t hear something or are not sure if we heard it. We’re very much in a “seen not heard” role. So different from the US where we are taught in school to speak up if we don’t hear something properly! I still speak up now and then, but it’s handled a lot differently. Usually I’ll speak to the arbitrator on a break and ask if he’d please remind everyone to speak one at a time.

My favorite thing about arbitrations and court is that we record audio on a server and each counsel has a table mic in front of him or her. We record on separate channels so that when people overspeak, the editor can isolate their microphones with a hotkey and pick up those missed words. It’s the best! I’m usually in the corner or even sometimes behind and to the side of the arbitration panel, but with noise-cancelling headphones and the clear audio from the microphones, I can hear everything perfectly! Well, if I can understand their accent, I can hear perfectly … in Asia that’s definitely not always true!

I’ll end here with a couple more photos. My photo of noodles has made me hungry 🙂 Thank you so much for reading! If I was cool enough to know how I’d post a poll, but does anyone reading have any input on what they’d like to read about from me? Ie, court reporting-related stuff, traveling, food, everyday life in Asia, books I recommend (I became a very voracious reader this year!) Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts 🙂

My friend/colleague Kim and her daughter and I in Hawaii a couple months ago. BEST WORK TRIP EVER!

I’ll sign off with this adorable photo of my sister Dana and her son (my nephew) Malcolm. I love and miss them and can’t wait to visit California in January!!

S R/ A EU / SPHREPB / D EU D / DA EU 🙂

(Have a splendid day :))

Around the World in 80 Days: Asia Edition

Since my Taiwan job was a big ol’ bust, I headed off to Singapore.  Have you guys listened to this podcast?  I listened to the ENTIRE THING on my flight.  I never do that.  Usually I nap or watch trash TV episodes I’ve saved on my laptop.  I highly recommend it…. The Dirty John podcast… and watching the Kardashians at 30,000 feet.  Somehow being up in the air makes them more palatable.  Or maybe that’s the free white wine talking 😉

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It was a balmy 80 degrees with 87 percent humidity in Singapore.  It’s like a free facial, except you want to punch the aesthetician Mother Nature in the face.  Also, I had to google how to spell aesthetician.  Shit.

I LOVE the Singapore airport.  I’m pretty sure everyone does.  Look at those non-immigration lines!  *insert heart eye emoji here*

I had to prep for my job when I got to my hotel.  Here’s some actual steno talk for ya.  This was all a brand new world to me when I moved to Asia, and don’t think this type of work exists in the United States outside of maybe high profile murder cases.  And even then I’m not sure.

I’m sent my documents which are on an FTP site.  I download them and make a glossary.  I then write my steno next to each glossary term.  This can be many pages long, so on the day of the job I place it out in front of me like a poster so that each time a proper noun is used, I can quickly look down (or hopefully I’ve memorized a lot of them so I don’t have to) and see my steno, and voila, perfect realtime.  We also have a three-hour turnaround for the final transcript, so an editor sits next to me with my laptop in front of them, editing as the day goes.

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A room service burger helps steno prep.  It’s science.  (Yes, I am a burger scientist)

I get this question a lot, and it’s definitely one I had when I moved here:  What the F do you do if they say a word not on your glossary?!  FINGERSPELLING is your friend in this job.  It is of utmost importance to be able to fingerspell like the dickens!  It’s like stitching, except it comes out without the hyphen.  Of course there’s a big chance I’m not spelling the unknown noun correctly, but it’s better than random steno coming out on realtime to a room full of people.  After I fingerspell once, auto-brief comes up with a brief for me.  It’s seriously live-saving.

Lovely Singapore and me.  That sweater I’m wearing isn’t doing me any favors, but I love my dress from Banana Republic!  That’s most of my work clothes.  We don’t have them in Hong Kong, so every time I go home I go in and buy out the freakin’ BR store.

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I can’t take photos inside the courthouse, but Google it if you get a chance.  I’d post a photo from the Internet here, but I’m not sure what’s legal to post and what’s not; if I just need to give credit or what.  Much blogger, very write.

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Me enjoying my free facial while waiting for a taxi.

My Singapore tripped was short-lived as a day of closing submissions was confirmed for a case I was on for two weeks in November in Beijing.  From 80 degrees to 30 like that!  Back on the plane I went, this time for six hours.  I normally don’t have flights that long  for work!

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I thought it was HILARIOUS that this plane had chatrooms.  Maybe they all do and I just never notice.  I decided to be creepy and go in a “Movies” chatroom and ask people if they liked scary movies

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Unfortunately, no one else entered the chatroom.  Probably because it isn’t 1994.

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Enjoying the morning paper at breakfast.

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Rare photo of me not sweating.

I had a full day of closing submissions, one side giving their submissions in Mandarin.  I wear headphones and get interpretation via a man sitting in a booth in the back.  I don’t know how they do it!  I’m sure they think the same about us court reporters 🙂

I headed home to Hong Kong the next day.  Thank Buddha!  But not before… IT SNOWED!  I was WAY too excited.

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People were taking photos of me because I didn’t have a jacket.  I thought it felt good outside, ha!

Not happy to be back on a plane, but happy to be going home.  This lady’s ensemble was speaking to my soul.

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I read this book the whole way.  I AM LOVING IT.  It is a true crime novel written by Patton Oswalt’s wife, who died last year 😦 A friend of hers finished writing the book and it just came out.  I’ve finished half of it in two days.  I must read everything by her after this!

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It was so nice to take the weekend to do NOTHING.  Got a week of depos ahead for me, and then back to Taiwan next week.  Though I’m sure that plan will change approximately 38.2 times before then 🙂

 

 

 

 

Taiwanna tell ya about my week so far

It’s very common for depositions to cancel last minute.  The problem is that in international reporting, instead of maybe getting a phone call while you’re still home, or at the very worst having arrived to the job a car ride away, I’ve packed my life plus seven ipads, a steno machine, two laptops, gone through immigration, taken a plane, gone through immigration and customs, taken a taxi, checked into a hotel, and then found out … yes, the job has canceled.  It doesn’t happen as often, but it still does!

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FACT:  I will ALWAYS watch Arrested Devleopment on a plane, drink white wine, and laugh loud enough that I’m probably “that girl” on the flight.  We all have our cross to bear.

I arrived in Taipei early enough that I walked to the night market.  I just had food poisoning in late December so I’m majorly stomach shy.  I stuck with a good ol’ roasted corn on the cob.  I love Taiwanese food in moderation, but everything tastes like it has cinnamon in it.  I don’t know what that flavor ACTUALLY is, but even this corn had it.  I’m not into it, folks.  It looked nice, though?IMG_5724

I am still getting a hang of this whole blog thing so I forgot to take many pictures, except this one.  You really don’t need a sign advertising stinky tofu.  You can smell it from three blocks away lolz.

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I got up at 6:30 a.m. and had a subpar breakfast at the hotel.  Asian breakfast buffets are, well, not exactly palatable to an American.  They eat lots of vegetables and soup and things for breakfast.  I’m more of a sourdough-toast-egg-over-easy kinda gal, but I’ve been at this for four years so I know how to make it work!  I’ll spare you the picture of my soupy scrambled eggs.

Shortly after that I learned that my job for the week had canceled.  B U M M E R.  But, that’s how this career I’ve chosen is, so no use getting angry over spilt depos.  Or something.  The weather is FABULOUS here today so I took the opportunity to take a long walk around.

In a change of plans, I’m heading to Singapore tomorrow to work in court for a week or two.  I haven’t been there in a year or so, so I’m actually looking forward to it!  If you’re not aware, Singapore has the same weather practically 365 days of the year: Sunny.  The hotel I stay at it right next to a large street filled with restaurants and bars, lush greenery, and a river.  If the work wasn’t so incredibly hard there, I’d call it paradise!

I’ll be there for quite a while, though, and I’m gonna need to buy some more underwear.  I’ll spare you that photo as well.

Have a great week!

The Stullnographer: a breakdown

I’ve been living in Hong Kong and working all over Asia since February 2014, so I figure it was about time to start a blog.  I love writing and making people laugh, and I’d like to think I have a pretty unique life so I want to share it all!  However, I’m not sure what the tone or main focus of this blog is going to be yet.  I can’t write too specifically about my job, but I can talk generally about where I am and what each job expects of me.  I also can tell you about all the food I eat, obviously, and all the trials and tribulations that go into traveling alone with what feels like a million pounds of steno crap and navigating foreign countries where I don’t speak a word of the language!

A little about me for those who do not know, I am a court reporter and have been since 2008.  I sit and type on a magical machine called a steno machine, taking down every word that’s said in a deposition, arbitration, or in a trial in a courtroom.  You’ve probably seen someone like me in a movie or TV show at some point, no doubt looking incredibly fake.  We don’t place our steno machines on top of the table and type away letter by letter or have paper in our machines.  We’re portrayed on TV like we probably looked in the 1960s!  So that’s me.

About five years ago I met my STENO IDOL, who has become one of my very best friends, Jade King.  I started steno-stalking-fan-girling her, messaging her asking her dumb questions and probably annoying her a whole lot 🙂 A year later or so, her company needed an editor in Hong Kong as they were short on people and she knew how eager I was to get a shoe in in Hong Kong.  I jumped at the chance.  A couple months after that I was invited back to edit again, only this time Jade got incredibly sick and I had to take over her trial as the official court reporter in Hong Kong High Court.  They wear white wigs and black robes and it’s all incredibly formal, incredibly British, and incredibly realtime.  I had hardly ever done realtime in my life.  Thankfully it went well, and I ended up working on that trial for another couple weeks.  A kind of long story cut short, I ended up staying for six weeks that trip and then was invited back to live, and I made the move on February 10, 2014.  The rest is dumpling-filled history!

Some photos from that first trip of mine in 2013.

In addition to work in Hong Kong, I also travel all over Asia for arbitrations and depositions.  I’ve been to mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, and India.  I think that’s it!  If I had to choose a favorite, I’d say Japan.  I’ve been probably 15 times and I never tire of picking a random neighborhood and walking around staring at everything.  And eating ramen and sushi every day of my life.  I swear I come back 20 pounds heavier every Japan trip.  I regret nothing!

It’s really hard to pick just a few photos since I’ve been in Asia for four years (with one surprise trip to England when our London office was slammed) so here’s, like, a million.  You can tell which country I’m in by what kind of beer I’m drinking LOL.

I guess I should say, for those of you who don’t know me, Stullnography is a mix of my last name and stenography.  The world’s first Stullnographer!  And as I remember, I almost got arrested for those business cards.  (Any Arrested Development fans?  I apologize in advance for any and all Arrested Development jokes, for there will be a lot. )

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Hopefully I haven’t “made a huge mistake.”  Thank you for reading!  Please feel free to comment about things you’d like me to write about!  I’ll just be flailing around for a while until I get my footing 🙂