A list of my favorite journals/publications/websites

I regularly read the following journals/publications/websites:

  • Nature (academic)
  • Science (academic)
  • Popular Science
  • Smithsonian
  • Orion
  • Scientific American
  • sciencedaily.com

I also enjoy the Best American Science & Nature Writing anthology. A new volume comes out yearly and with a different editor (and hence different opinion and selection criteria), and I always enjoy reading the article compilations on a very wide range of subjects for all interests and tastes. Truly some of the best!

Although, I never have enough time to read everything I want! So I try to divide my time and focus on the best. By exposing myself to Nature & Science articles, I am hoping to read a breadth of articles and topics and also appreciate the writing and stay on top of new and upcoming trends.

Meanwhile, Popular Science is a very gadget/technology focused publication, and a lot of their articles are very short. I consider this magazine to be entertainment more than anything, and I have a feeling a lot of the gadgets they write about are hidden advertisements in a sense. They must certainly receive some sort of income stream from writing about these different products. But again, I find it interesting to stay on top of new trends and gadgets, since I am admittedly not very tech-savvy or gadget-oriented. I don’t want to become one of those people that doesn’t know how to use a smart phone (or its equivalent) in about 20 years. Maybe I can train my brain to remain young forever ;).

Smithsonian always has a nice balance of science and culture, which I like. They have really excellent articles on conservation and archaeology every once in a while, and the writing style is less academic. I try to expose myself to different writing styles and expand beyond just academic and technical writing, because I think there is something to learn in doing so. A lot of their articles take on an in-depth journalism style.

Orion is one of my favorite publications, and it highlights very excellent nature writing. I would label it more in the realm of fiction writing and personal essays on the subject of nature, technology, and culture. They also focus on sense of place, and some of their writing takes on a descriptive or exposé bent, showcasing different places and their uniqueness. A lot of poetry, artwork, photography, and beautiful imagery are weaved between the pages, and so you also get a little bit of everything.

Scientific American is an interesting magazine because I consider it to be the most scientific of the popular science magazines. Their articles are in-depth and directed towards an educated and interested audience, and they certainly aren’t fluff either. Topics go beyond cliché conservation pieces and delve in a wide breadth of recent scientific findings, from findings on health to the science of sleep to ant sociology.

Two publications I don’t enjoy: Discover and National Geographic. Discover seems to publish a lot of what other magazines publish, several months later and with far worse writing. National Geographic is a beautiful publication and contains wonderful photography and imagery, but they might as well just convert themselves into a photo-log, since I find their topics to be extraordinarily ordinary. Interesting travel pieces, but they follow a very specific formula again, and again… and again.

From sciencedaily.com, I am able to learn about an even wider variety of recent scientific findings. Their topics aren’t limited to “hard science” (I have a B.A., nothing against the softer sciences), and they also have excellent coverage of just about everything. I enjoy reading their topics on anthropology & archaeology, health, and science & society.


Shortest Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Occasionally, I read a book or see a movie that blows me out of the water. I especially enjoy this sensation when I was expecting to mildly enjoy the book or film, yet it far exceeded my expectations. I had this exact feeling while reading this book.

Taking place during World War II, the story outlines the lives of two children who become teenagers during the war and are swept along with it.

At this point in time, I don’t really enjoy war stories, especially anything about World War II. But in a sense, the war itself forms more of the backdrop of the novel, and the lives of a German orphan named Werner and a blind girl, Marie-Laure, take center stage.

It many ways this novel is about human connection and those instantaneous connections that can last a lifetime, and indeed, the ways that we are connected to one another, even by the most minor details and occurrences.

Doerr manages to create a very suspenseful narrative, which is well-balanced between action-packed scenes and musings on the interconnections of the world.

And he delights the senses in his descriptions, especially those of Marie-Laure, perhaps due to his very wise choice of a blind girl as a main character, who is more perceptive of the things that others cannot see.

Doerr is also the official king of metaphors, and his descriptions of the world and in particular, the natural world and the life of the cities/countryside/backdrop of the war, are often so stark and contrasting that it makes you think twice, once again, about the connections between things that are so unseemingly intertwined.

In the meantime, I have also finished another book: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

I really enjoyed the novel and found it entertaining. This is also an extraordinarily suspenseful work of fiction that keeps you guessing – a who-done-it kind of murder mystery.

The only thing I was disappointed in was the inability of the author to render her characters in a more likable manner, which might have been just the point she was trying to make. Her main girl, Rachel, makes a slight transformation throughout the novel from emotionally unstable and crazy to slightly less crazy than before. But there are no heroes – everyone in the novel is depicted in a somewhat unflattering light. It may be my American optimism shining through (and the author is, in fact, British), but I was earning for more substance from her characters, which aren’t much more then deeply flawed.

Despite that detail, I couldn’t put the book down because of all the suspense, and to find out who committed the murder.

On a side note, it looks like a movie based on the book is coming out. I just watched the trailer, and I am actually pretty excited to see the movie. This may possibly be a movie that turns out better than the book – I will have to wait and see!

Currently, I am reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, spiritualist guru, although I am keeping my eyes out for my next work of fiction.

On my want list:

The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2015, edited by Rebecca Skloot

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard

How many words does a translator translate per day?

I have read and heard from several different sources that a professional translator can translate 3,000–3,500 words per day, as an average figure.

However, this range can vary a lot. I think this number of words is very doable in translating from one Romance language to another (Spanish to Italian) or from a Germanic language to a Romance language (English to Spanish), but I imagine this number of words might not be possible when translating between two very different languages (i.e. Arabic to English and vice versa).

I am able to comfortably translate 3,500 words a day, or even more, when I am working with colloquial or informal text. However, when working with technical or academic translations, I average a little less at somewhere between 2,000–3,000 words per day. Technical translating takes more time due to formatting considerations and field-specific terminology. I might be able to translate 6,000 words or more a day, but then I will need an additional day to edit or review this text. So overall, my translated words per day balance out to around 2,000–3,000.

Usage of indefinite (a/an) and definite (the) articles

Articles (a/an/the) are used to describe nouns (so they are placed right before a noun).

Examples:        the boat, a mother, the bees, an antelope, the computer, an hour

Some of the most frequent corrections I make during editing involve articles and their usage. But, I promise that article usage is really easy once to understand once you get a little bit of practice. Spanish also has indefinite and definite articles, and their usage follows a similar pattern to English. However, I think where many English as a second language (ESL) learners get unnecessarily confused is with the, which may be used in slightly different ways in English.

But first things, first.

The indefinite articles are a/an, and these are used to talk about any nonspecific object/noun or to make general statements. In particular, they are used with countable, single nouns (we will get to plural, later).

A is used before consonants (s, n, t, etc.), while an is used before any word with a vowel sound or that starts with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u). Just remembers that consonants are basically any letter and its corresponding sound that are not vowels. In any case, pronunciation takes precedence – you’ll see this in the examples below.


an hour (h is silent in this case, forming a vowel sound, and so an is used)

a horse (h is pronounced in this case, forming a consonant sound, and so a is used)

an enemy (e/vowel sound)

a woman (w/consonant sound)

a purple penguin

an interesting movie

Now, what exactly makes something nonspecific and deserving of an indefinite article (a/an)?

Something/someone is nonspecific if you have never met them or seen them/it before, or if they are one of many. It isn’t something that you have immediately at hand and is removed from you, either physically or figuratively. Nonspecific also means that you aren’t referring to a specific individual, thing, or animal. This can be best illustrated with examples.


I saw a cat yesterday.

(While you certainly saw one, specific cat, it may be the first time you have seen this random cat walking down the street. Never met the cat before!)

I watched an elephant eat a monkey.

(Again, this is some crazy weirdo elephant that you have never seen before, you don’t know his name or who his owner is, you don’t know his current whereabouts or even where he comes from.)

A cup of coffee makes everything better.

(Here, you are speaking in general about coffee. You aren’t referring to a single, specific cup of coffee that you have in your possession at this very moment.)

The duty of a worker bee is to gather pollen.

(Again, this could be any worker bee. In general, all worker bees do this. You aren’t referring to a specific worker bee that you hold in your possession. If you hold her in your possession, please let her go!)

However, if we slightly modify the above examples and use PLURAL nouns instead of singular nouns, articles are no longer necessary.


I saw several cats yesterday on my street.

I watched elephants at the park.

Cups of coffee were sitting on the table.

Worker bees are hard at work.


Meanwhile, definite articles (the) are used to describe specific nouns. Specific nouns/things/people/animals may be definite in the sense that you know them or are familiar with them already. You are referring to a specific, known person or object, or perhaps a person or object or event that occurred at a specific place, date and time.


I saw the cat yesterday.

(This is a cat that you habitually see, perhaps it is the same cat always hanging out your neighborhood. You know exactly which cat you are talking about.)

I watched the elephant at the San Diego zoo eat a banana.

(This again, is a specific elephant. Not any old elephant, but the elephant in the picture that you took at the San Diego zoo.)

I watched an elephant at the San Diego zoo eat a banana.

(This is also correct, but the context changes slightly. You are referring to one of many elephants, and any one elephant in particular wasn’t very memorable.)

The cup of coffee is on the table.

(You are referring to a specific, single cup of coffee, that is physically at hand/at reach.)

The worker bee flew back to her hive, full of pollen.

(Again, here you are referring to a specific worker bee, not one of many.)

The best shoes are always found on sale.

(The often modifies superlatives: best, biggest, tallest, etc.)

Yesterday, I met the tallest man I had ever seen.

I purchased the most beautiful dress I could find.

So, perhaps an interesting perception from these examples is that the/an/a are also interchangeable in many cases, yet the meaning/significance of the sentence will change, ever so slightly.


In addition, abstract nouns (faith, love, hope, inspiration, hatred, etc.) often do not require articles (except in certain instances). This is different in Spanish and English, for example:

  1. El amor es difícil. (article required)


  1. Love is difficult. (no article required)

Here are some examples differentiating when an article would or wouldn’t be required:

  1. Hatred was nothing new to Joe. (hatred in general, Joe just happens to be a hateful person)


  1. The hatred Joe held for his distant relative never seemed to cease. (hatred for something specific/over a specific event or perhaps due to lifelong events).


Another interesting point that is particularly relevant to scientific or academic writing is that the is often repetitive and unnecessary. That’s right, the isn’t even always necessary, even in cases where it would be correct to use it. I believe this responds mostly to technical and scientific writing conventions. Let’s take the following example:

  1. The samples were taken from the rivers at point A and point B, during the dry and rainy seasons. (with articles)


  1. Samples were taken from rivers at point A and point B, during dry and rainy seasons. (without articles)

In general, I prefer the second statement, even though both are correct. Imagine that prior to the second sentence you had already talked about the rivers forming part of the sampling process. In this case, it is clear, even in the second sentence, that you are referring to specific rivers that are forming part of your study (and not rivers in general). This responds to a more direct, clear and succinct writing style.




Will a robot take your job?

Will a robot take your job? The BBC has developed a tool to figure this out, based on data supplied by Michael Osborne and Carl Frey from Oxford University’s Martin School.

Check out the web page, here.

When I first saw this article I was immediately worried. Automatic translations and translation tools abound, and I was afraid I might see translation near the top of the list.

However, I was happy to find the resulting score for translation to qualify it as “not very likely” to be replaced by a robot.

Whenever I think of anything being replaced by a robot, I just imagine my frustration every time I try to get customer service on the phone and am met with an automatic message system. But, apparently receptionists and related professions are high on the list – so now I can just imagine my future frustration tripling every time I will try to check into a hotel staffed by robots!

Although honestly, I suppose this highlights the “humanness” of language. It would be difficult to program a machine to manage nuances in human meaning and language. Just imagine their difficulty with idioms! These would have to be programmed one by one. As I once heard, machines produce machine translations.

Writing and translation are also highly subjective. Two different translators will always produce different translations for the same text. I think the main goal of translation tools in this context is to aim to achieve a certain consistency across translations, especially in use of terminology. Although tools will never serve as a replacement for good, human translations.

What am I doing in Hackberry, Arizona?

Several people have asked me what I am doing in Hackberry, Arizona.

I ask myself the same question every single day, mind you!

It is an area that you could consider the middle of nowhere, backwoods, boondocks, back country, hinterlands of Arizona, the lion’s den, the place of no forgiveness and no return. It is also literally cow county – the zoning permits this. On my daily walks I frequently come across savage, wildling cows and their calves, coolly munching at grass and the other savage things that they eat, giving me those side-eye glances that say “I am watching you, Allison.”

Ok, perhaps that it is a bit extreme.

But I am along for the ride in my parents’ wish to retire to a sustainable, middle of nowhere ranch. They bought a property out here and with some solar energy, a water well, a recently finished home, and several baby chickens, are well on their way to becoming sustainable and also ready for the ever imminent apocalypse.


Although I do have internet and a nice workspace, which are my main requirements 🙂

Here are some interesting sightings:

A rogue pronghorn antelope


A deer at sunset


A strange looking seed pod


An alien footprint


A little family of javalis off in the distance..


And lots of semi-arid scenery!


The Shortest Book Review: El Amante Japonés (The Japanese Lover) by Isabel Allende


I very much enjoyed this book, it mildly but consistently kept my attention from start to finish.

I have a slight obsession with Isabel Allende, and it is much in the same way that I admire Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. A large part of my love for their work is due to the fact that they are women and apart from being authors, they both are charming, charismatic, and lovely ladies who have led very interesting lives.

My admiration for Isabel Allende is usually met with one of two extremes – a lot of people out there are also fans while others see her as having become too mainstream. This same phenomenon has occurred over and over again with a lot of “creative professionals,” including musicians, poets, and actors.

Although I take a lot of interest in the mainstream and believe that it is also deserving of admiration, pride, and glory. The mainstream is just as interesting as the obscure to me, as it reflects the state of our society, our tastes, and how excellence comes to be or be defined as such.

And there is no denying that Isabel is an excellent writer – I love her ability to strike a balance between the beautiful and the informal in her writing, between what is exquisite and what is simply entertaining. She masterfully includes ordinary, almost insignificant details at times in her writing, yet this contributes to the nuanced sceneries throughout her works.

I also enjoy the fact that this book takes place in California, her adopted homeland, as I am also from the Golden State 🙂

I consider this book to be somewhat of a primer in magical realism for English speakers. And while this book is largely not magical, there is a wonderful twist at the end.  You will have to find it out for yourself, and you will only understand after arriving at the end of the novel!

Currently, I am reading All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. I am excited that this book was available at my local library and will publish my thoughts, shortly.

Spring and the unexpected

One of the things I like about spring is finding little surprises – for example, the blossoming flowers all around that suddenly decide to pop up and present themselves.

On my walks in the area I was very unimpressed by this average looking yucca:

yucca average

The banana yucca, or Yucca baccata, has a blueish tint and usually grows in groups, just like a little family.

But now that spring has come, several plants have a gorgeous, amazing inflorescence and flowers that hang down like a bunch of bananas, where I suppose its name comes from.


Very impressed!

I enjoy the unexpected, sometimes.