Sign up for a 2019 course this month, and receive a free consultation

As 2018 rolls to a close, I wanted to remind you about a special offer associated with my 2019 online courses. Sign up for any 2019 class before December 31, and you’ll receive a half-hour individual consultation with me, at no extra cost. You can use this time to discuss your translation business strategy, professional development plans, marketing materials, or anything else. Additionally, the following discounts apply at any time: –ATA members, $15 off with coupon code ATA
Returning students, $15 off with coupon code ALUM
New students, $10 off with coupon code NEW Here’s what’s on tap. All courses run for four weeks and include live sessions (recordings provided if you can’t attend live), individual feedback on four homework assignments, group question and answer sessions, and ongoing access to my monthly alumni question and answer calls. Registration is $365 until one month before the class starts (unless it sells out), $380 thereafter. January: Holly Mikkelson’s Spanish to English Translation Workshop class is sold out, but we’re taking a wait list for a potential April session. E-mail me at if you’d like to be on the wait list. February-March: Karen Tkaczyk’s Editing and Proofreading for Into-English Translators, covering four important topics: proofreading, monolingual editing, bilingual revision, and self-editing, including information about how to add editing to your range of services. April: Getting Started as a Freelance Translator, with me. My flagship course for beginning and aspiring translators, including self-paced videos, and individual feedback on your translation-targeted resume and cover letter, marketing plan, rates and billable hours sheet, and online presence. May: Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo’s Copywriting for your Business and for your Clients, focusing on an often-overlooked skill that can improve the quality of your translations, attract new clients to your business, and open up new income streams. June: Dorothee Racette’s Organization and Productivity for Translators, back by popular request! Featuring information tailored just for our profession, Dorothee’s course will help you get off the stress-chaos-feast-famine hamster wheel and get more done while enjoying your work more. Or, as a past participant put it, “stop flailing.” I’d love to have one of these courses be part of your professional development plan in 2019! Just let me know if you have any questions! The post Sign up for a 2019 course this month, and receive a free consultation appeared first on Thoughts On Translation.

Contra Costa Animal Services Offering Free Pet Adoptions Through December 15th

If you’re looking to adopt a pet this holiday season, Contra Costa Animal Services has waived adoption fees from now through Saturday, December 15th.

You can adopt for free at the Martinez (4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez, CA 94553) and the Pinole (910 San Pablo Ave., Pinole, CA 94564) Adoption Centers.

Before adopting, it is encouraged that you visit the shelter and spend the time with the pet to better understand their temperament and how it interacts with family members.

December 6th Support Team Meeting Summary

Starting with a quick reminder: It’s OK to take a break, everyone’s been a bit on edge with this release, remember that you are volunteers and have no obligations here, walk away and unwind instead if you feel like it, we’ve got this covered. And as always with major releases, please keep general banter in the #forums Slack room to a minimum to avoid us missing important shared information after a release. We hope to have the revised support guidelines released this weekend if all goes well, input is still welcome via GitHub though, and we’ll get it moved to a more appropriate location once the first iteration is out. The Master List has been updated and is ready for the upcoming release, with the modifications proposed in the associated p2 post.

Checking in with international liaisons

Representatives from the Swedish, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian and Urdu communities took place in our preparational meeting this week!

Open floor

Some questions for the new editor may need various answers we don’t have a predefined reply for, in those cases you can also reference the plugin sticky topic we’ve used before the release. Read the meeting transcript in the Slack archives. (A Slack account is required)


WordPress 5.0 marks a new era for the world’s most popular CMS

WordPress 5.0, “Bebo,” is a shift of the highest order for the platform. Block-based editing, under the name of “Gutenberg,” is an entirely new way to publish content. It adds a world of flexibility when writing, and it opens the gates for transforming much of the broader WordPress experience moving forward. TinyMCE has been the core of the WordPress writing experience for, well, forever. Users will be able to continue using TinyMCE with the Classic Editor plugin, which will be especially useful for those web applications with significant amounts of structured content that will take time and reprogramming to fit the new editing experience. The need for a new editor has been a wide-held concern in the WordPress community for a long time. Gutenberg has been more than two years in the making, and it involved dozens of full-time or near full-time contributors at times. Automattic, the company behind and other popular WordPress products, has invested a great deal in Gutenberg’s development, as have many other companies and individuals — but the bulk of development and decision-making has been by Automattic employees. There have been critiques that the process for decision making has been too closed off and rushed toward the end of the development cycle for the purpose of delivery by WordCamp US despite ongoing concerns, particularly around accessibility. 5.0 had to ship eventually, and the process has been a long one. It was a complete shift from the traditional development cycles, which I discussed with Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp US two years ago. I have personally held the view that now is as good a time as any to release 5.0, though the exact timing is a burden on folks traveling to WCUS, particularly considering that it was just a few days notice; it is putting a kink in the plans of many. Timing aside, Gutenberg is, I believe, an important step and a big test for WordPress. It is imperative that the platform evolves to be both more powerful and easier to use — an enormously difficult dual challenge that I have advocated as an important feat to accomplish for several years now. WordPress is the easiest full-featured content management system to use. But it is more difficult than many alternative publishing platforms — particularly hosted ones. Drastic changes, like Gutenberg, are necessary to continue being a preferred platform for end users. Being easy to use and customize got WordPress to the dominant position it is in today, and I believe it is extremely important to continue in that trajectory to maintain that position. At the same time, as WordPress is being used in ever more advanced applications, developers need powerful, scalable solutions. WordPress has made great strides over the years to accommodate this use case, from various APIs to assist in new data structure creation, to the REST API. Gutenberg offers much promise to continue this trend, as it is quite extendable and also flexible for deployment on the web, in native apps, and on both front-ends and backends. I believe 5.0 is a huge step forward for the platform. The journey is not without its issues, and there is much work to do, but WordPress needed and continues to need big changes and advancements to maintain its position at the top of the content management food chain. People are using WordPress for all sorts of things, whether traditional publishing, eCommerce, application frameworks, and much more. I’m excited to see what Gutenberg brings to further these applications. Strictly as an editor, it’s far from perfect, but it’s an important step in the right direction.

Get familiar with WordPress 5.0

Here are some links to places to learn more about the new editing experience and WordPress 5.0.

How To Break Into Comics: The Chuck Wendig Way!

Okay. OKAY. I’ve seen on Twitter the whole thing going around and around — “How do you break into comics?” and a lot of really smart people like Mags Visaggio and Ed Brisson and Chris Sebela have been answering that question. So I figure, ha ha, oh ho, I should offer up my suggestions on this particular front, clearly laying out an easy-to-follow map that is guaranteed to WIN YOU A LIFELONG COMICS CAREER. Buckle up. Let’s get comicky. Comicy? Colicky? Whatever. STEP ONE: Don’t forget to take a selfie and turn it into something that vaguely looks like a panel from a comics book. This isn’t really essential, but it makes you feel cool, and feeling cool is definitely a part of writing the fuck out of some fucking comics. Example, where I took a usual shitty selfie and made it look like I’m some kind of BROODING ASSASSIN WIZARD: STEP TWO: Write novels. STEP TWO POINT FIVE: Have those novels published. STEP THREE: Those novels will get the attention of someone at DC Comics and that someone says, “Hey, you should write an spec issue of Batman just to see if you’d be a good fit,” and then you write an issue in which Bruce Wayne gets cancer, which is a villain he can’t really fight, and then if I remember correctly he has to fight Anarky as Batman? Whatever. STEP FOUR: Have DC Comics tell you, “We can’t give Batman cancer, the fuck is wrong with you?” STEP FIVE: Know Alex Segura, who is a novelist, but also works at Archie Comics. Just know him. Know him well. Intimately. Hunt him in the night with night vision goggles to learn his habits, then ingratiate yourself into his life as a “friend.” When he has finally fallen for your ruse, it’s onto STEP SIX: Alex will ask you to reboot an old comic called The Shield with your other good novelist friend, Adam Christopher, and you do it, and you gender-flip that shit, because why not. Then when they publish the comic they’ll put both of your last names on it, but it’ll look like one guy named CHRISTOPHER WENDIG wrote it. Anyway it’s collected, go buy it? STEP SEVEN: Have a wonderful editor named Katie Kubert call you from Marvel, and she’ll ask you to pitch a comic. And she offers you to pitch for either a well-known comics called Agents of SHIELD or for a comic nobody probably wants called Hyperion, and you choose the latter because there’s more freedom in fringe projects (also less chance anyone is going to buy that series, but we’ll get there.) Also don’t forget to ask why they invited you to pitch in the first place. “Is it because I wrote this great comic called The Shield?” you eagerly ask and the editor answers, “What? No, it’s because I read your weird criminal underworld meets the literal monster underworld urban fantasy novel, The Blue Blazes, and I liked it.” Oh! Which reminds me, we need to rewind: STEP TWO POINT SIX: Write a weird  criminal underworld meets the literal monster underworld urban fantasy novel called The Blue Blazes and get it published, and then when the publisher goes south, engage in a year of shenanigans to get the rights back so you can self-publish the thing and its sequel, but don’t forget to make sure that the third book will never see the light of day, thus forcing the second book to end on a really weird bummer note. Okay, jumping ahead again… STEP EIGHT: Pitch Hyperion. Get the gig as you land and turn on your phone to go hang out at Phoenix ComicCon. Get excited. You work for Marvel now! STEP NINE: Have Hyperion canceled the day before the first issue hits shelves. Ha ha, comics are fun, L O L. Don’t worry, it’s nothing you did, because nobody’s even read your stupid comic yet! At least you got to work with Nik Virella, who is great. STEP TEN: Have the very fine people at Marvel Star Wars ask you to write a Star Wars comic, in particular, the adaptation of The Force Awakens, which ends up being a thing you pitch as an adaptation but is a thing that they want to be, instead, “Just take the words from the script and put them in comic book format,” which means less an adaptation and more a direct translation, but whatever, it’s cool, and you do it, because it’s fucking Star Wars, and also it’s Jordan White and Heather Antos. Don’t forget to ask why they invited you to write it in the first place. “Is it because I wrote Hyperion?” And they say, “What? No, it’s because you wrote Star Wars: Aftermath!” Oh, which reminds me, another rewind — STEP TWO POINT SEVEN: Write a trilogy of Star Wars novels. As to how you get to do that? Well, shit, I guess I need to rewind a little bit again… STEP TWO POINT SIXTY NINE NICE: Tweet about wanting to write a Star Wars novel. STEP ELEVEN: Write a bunch of other comics, like Bucky Barnes in Year of Marvels (that’s right you forgot I wrote that didn’t you), and a revamp of Turok, and a cool Darth Vader annual. STEP TWELVE: Get hired to write more Star Wars comics, whee, two more series — STEP UNLUCKY NUMBER THIRTEEN: Congrats, now you live in a pseudo-fascist dystopian state where Donald Trump is president ha ha what that can’t happen OH YES IT FUCKING CAN, and that will make you very mad, as it should, because you’re human and not a goblin draped in human skin, so! You continue your usual pattern of rage-tweeting about the Current American Situation, like, for instance, when credible accusations of sexual assault are hand-waved away to make room for an untrustwothy Supreme Court Justice — don’t forget to do this just as you’re about to walk to New York Comic-Con for the day where they are going to loudly announce your new Darth Vader series. STEP FOURTEEN: Get booted off those books for your vulgarity and your politics, neither of which are new, but hey. Bonus round: your being booted will be the result of a recipe of fun ingredients, including the butt-stung Comicsgate movement, a passel of right-wing clowndicks, and a glut of Twitter bots and sock-puppet accounts. Congrats, you were at the center of a miniature info-war! The future is now! And the future is really fucked up! Ha ha whee! STEP FIFTEEN: Fuck it, go back to writing novel… and as to how you do that, well, shit, that requires us to rewind again, I guess? Time to nest a smaller map inside the larger map, HOW TO BREAK INTO PUBLISHING NOVELS: STEP ZERO POINT FIVE: Spend a decade-plus writing freelance game design materials for pen-and-paper roleplaying games and then write five junk drawer novels and then win a screenwriting competition in the hopes of having the screenwriter help you adapt your piece-of-shit novels to the script page so you can then use the script as an outline to turn it back into a proper novel and along the way write a script with your writing partner that takes you to the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and the following year you will have a short film premiere at Sundance and eventually you’ll co-write this cool thing called Collapsus and then eventually you’ll get a become a movie producer and help produce a movie on the SyFy channel based off of your shitposting tweets with fellow novelist Sam Sykes but that’s beside the point we were talking about novels right, okay, then you get an an agent and a publishing deal and you write 20-plus novels across a variety of genres and age ranges and also this blog god, jeez, don’t forget the blog and then that podcast and uhhh And that is how you break into comics. And novels. And movies. A simple, easy-to-follow map. You are welcome.

David Keck: Five Things I Learned Writing A King in Cobwebs

“A gritty, medieval fantasy full of enchantment” (Publishers Weekly), David Keck’s epic Tales of Durand trilogy concludes with A King in Cobwebs

Once a landless second son, Durand has sold his sword to both vicious and noble men and been party to appalling acts of murder as well as self-sacrificing heroism. Now the champion of the Duke of Gireth, Durand’s past has caught up with him.

The land is at the mercy of a paranoid king who has become unfit to rule. As rebellion sparks in a conquered duchy, the final bond holding back the Banished break, unleashing their nightmarish evil on the innocents of the kingdom.

In his final battle against the Banished, Durand comes face to face with the whispering darkness responsible for it all―the king in cobwebs.

* * *

Of Daughters & Day Jobs

I learned a little about writing and time while I worked but on The Tales of Durand. The final book, A King in Cobwebs, was a wee bit late — it really ought to have been published in the 1850s. And, for this inordinate delay, I would like to blame my family. When I was an unattached, semi-employed youth, I had a special sort of time. There were whole days and evenings and weekends when time yawned like the sea and I could jump right in. If I wanted to work out ideas and build stories (or worlds) over months and months, I could do it. Magic. Now that I’m a proud parent with a real job and various responsibilities, I’ve noticed some fairly obvious things about writing in scattered fits and starts.
First, if you don’t keep nudging a story along on a nearly daily basis, the whole architecture of the thing tends to fade from the imagination. (I want to use the word “palimpsest” here, or maybe some metaphor with watercolors and drizzle, but I’d better not). When the interrupted writer returns to the work from a long break, the story has become a strange place. And it can take real time to find the blueprints and collect the tools. So, clearly, a monastic life of penury and solitude is the way forward. (Although now that I think about it, there are advantages to love and regular meals which ought to figure in the balance. You may wish to draw your own conclusions).

The Magic of the Jouster’s Armpit

The Tales of Durand is a harrowing story, but researching the books was a great fun. For me, the best finds were those telling, unexpected bits that make a person feel that the past is a real, weird, particular place you’ve never been before. They popped up everywhere. I remember reading a First World War memoir and gathering stories of mud and fleas. A crowd of school kids and I heard an old castle guide explain time (with sundials and bits of dangly jewelry). And modern day jousters? They use the internet to grumble about how a well-struck lance chews up the lancer’s armpit. How can you not collect these things? I suppose the notion is that readers will, for a second or two, feel like they’re meeting the real people of some real place (at least as peculiar as our own).

Squashing My Orcs

There is great fun to be had in catching cliches, and I caught a few while I was working on Durand.  (I imagine every writer fights with them). If you can spot one of these terrible things — and squash it — the resulting splatter of new and interesting ideas can be immensely satisfying. Of course, it isn’t always easy to catch the things: they will often arrive disguised in little bits of superficial creativity. I remember, as a teenage writer, feeling quite proud of the unique qualities of “my orcs”, for example. And, to this day, I keep a forest of cunningly disguised elves hiding just off camera. Fantasy is full of such temptations. But, when you do manage to catch a cliche, what fun you can have! I’d planned a scene where my hero would ride up to a strange castle and call for the man in charge. You can picture a castle wall. Guards on top. A big gate. Fortunately, before I tried to reupholster scene, I caught myself. What if there was no one at the castle? What if everyone has vanished? What if they’d followed their leader into the hills? It could be a pilgrimage! What sort of holy place could it be? Why would they go? In the end, I was very pleased with the little world of motivations and repercussions that popped up when the story left the well-trodden path. (There’s a scene now where a doomed father grieves a lost but once-promising son in a strange gorge of hanging rags). Splat!

Time, Tide, and Disappearing Horses

In the future, I may write a novel set entirely in a single room. In my favorite stories, the landscape is alive. It is its own character, and it has the power to conjure up boatloads of awe and dread and wonder. I’m thinking of the cold, claustrophobia of the Icelandic sagas; the majesty of the Tolkien’s broad spaces; Sherlock’s moors; or Shelley’s arctic wastes. It’s all good fun. If you are going to take your readers through a few good landscapes; however, you are almost forced to put your characters on horseback and send them trotting all over creation. (This is unfortunate).
Horses are ticklish things. Anybody who knows anything about horses will tell you that nobody knows anything about horses. I gathered useful hints about personality and maintenance from guidebooks and handbooks and conversations with actual people, but no practical amount of research could ever do the job. There is a neat and frustrating divide among historians, for example, about whether a medieval charge was a galloping affair or only a grim and resolute canter full of razor sharp points.  Worse, horses have a curious tendency to disappear from the pages of a novel. During the revision process of The Tales of Durand, horses popped in and out of existence more times than I am comfortable admitting. I suspect that this is where centaurs came from. When there’s a lot of traveling, time soon becomes a challenge as well. In The Tales of Durand, time is measured by the movements of the sun and moon. In fact, the moon has a new name each month (based on timeless cycles of the agricultural year, because it’s a fantasy novel and people expect things). Sadly, all of this created a record keeping issue. Over the course of the series, I’m not sure how many times I put two full moons in the same month, two sunsets in a single day — and I’m still not sure I understand tides. (Thank goodness for editors. Really).

Little Actual Exploration

The seed of this trilogy was a flawed little short story about a fellow who felt miscast in the role of hero. He did the job, but he didn’t feel that he deserved the accolades. That was the idea, but I’m not sure I could have told you precisely where the story was going; the notion of the doubting hero felt like something I wanted to explore. Three novels in, I’ve started to see more clearly where my head was. The reader meets quite a number of tortured souls in these pages, and, typically, their wounds are self-inflicted. People hang onto their guilt or doubt or anger no matter how it hurts them. And, because we’re in an enchanted world, their suffering renders them monstrous and tears at the landscape. Thankfully, by the end, some of my favorite characters are beginning to come to their senses. (They might even have a chance at happiness). Maybe what I’m saying, in several hundred thousand words is that we should cut ourselves some slack. And be careful with our armpits.

* * *

David Keck is a New York based writer, teacher, and cartoonist who grew up in Winnipeg, Canada. David Keck: Portal The Tales of Durand: Print | eBook

Arwen Elys Dayton: Five Things I Learned Writing Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful

THE FUTURE IS CURIOUS. This novel in six parts is a look at the unlimited possibilities of biotech advances and the ethical quandaries they will provoke. Dayton shows us a near and distant future in which we will eradicate disease, extend our lifespans, and reshape the human body. The results can be heavenly—saving the life of your dying child; and horrific—the ability to modify convicts into robot slaves. Deeply thoughtful, poignant, horrifying, and action-packed, this novel is groundbreaking in both form and substance. Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful examines how far we will go to remake ourselves into the perfect human specimen, and what it means to be human at all.

* * *

Writing a novel in six parts may be easier than writing a novel in one huge part

The six sections of this book are interconnected so that I consider it one complete story. Each piece can, to some degree, stand on its own, but not fully. The six parts are necessary complements that tell, in the end, one united narrative. And yet… Because there were six sections, there was freedom to tackle each separately, as I would with a series of short stories. I wrote them out of order, however the whim took me, which happened to mean that I wrote the last section first and the first section last. This unintended sequence was serendipitous because A) it’s always helpful to know your ending when you write and B) and it’s much easier to write a good beginning when you already know how the rest of your story will unfold. But it was more than writing out of order that made this book easier. There’s the mechanical factor that editing something short involves dealing with fewer “ripple effects” than editing something longer. This meant I could work on discrete chunks and not worry about the whole story for long stretches of time. This novel fits together like an extravagant domino pattern with enclaves that wouldn’t be knocked over by a general domino-pocalypse. Those enclaves were places I could work without all the other sections of the book peering over my shoulder, as it were. I don’t know if this lesson is useful, because unless I’m planning to slice up all future stories into many distinct parts, editing this book was a surprise vacation that may never happen again.

Sometimes science fact is so amazing that you have to remind yourself why you’re writing science fiction

Writing about human genetic modification and medical advances that will allow us to rebuild ourselves and vastly extend lifespan…well it’s frankly such an enticing topic in real life that I found myself repeatedly up against the dilemma of what to include in the story. I’ve read hundreds of articles on CRISPR, growing human or human-compatible organs in livestock, advanced prosthetics, life extension, you name it. I’ve also interviewed researchers on the forefront of the science—people who are figuring out how to edit and reprogram our immune systems, for example, in order to combat or even cure diseases like HIV. Not in the distant future, but within the next few years. I mean, holy shit! There were a days when I wanted to go back to school and study biology. And there were other days when I was absolutely certain that I needed to include some tidbit of medical reality in the book because it was so incredible. I had to reel in my excitement about the reality and channel it into the imagined future. The medicine, the gene editing, the drastically extended lifetimes…they simply aren’t important in fiction, unless they are the context for an intensely personal story that allows you to follow a human being (or a version of a human being) that you care about. This was harder than it sounds and there are so many great ideas lying on my metaphorical cutting room floor. But they were abandoned in service of the six main characters and what mattered to them. Essentially I had to remember whose story this was—not mine but theirs.

A character will only do so much, unless…

And speaking of characters, I got to re-learn a lesson I’m taught in every book: a character will only do what she is meant to do intrinsically. If that doesn’t happen to include what you believe that character should be doing, then there are two possibilities: 1) the thing you’re asking the character to do doesn’t make a lick of sense and you should get your shit together and change things around or 2) you don’t know that character as well as you think you do. For me, it’s 2 a surprising number of times. Trouble writing the story I see in my head frequently boils down to not having a true feel for who a character is, what made her the way she is, the formative experiences and relationships of her life, and what, if she ever took the time to think about it, would be her personal philosophy. A legal pad and nice pen and six or ten pages of backstory usually do the trick.

Sometimes it’s okay if the tail wags the dog

When I’m coming up with new ideas, I usually see the characters before I see the world they’re in. But in this book, I understood the world first. I knew I wanted to write stories that involved the genetic and medical future of humans as a race and the experience of growing up and discovering who you are when the very essence of ‘you’ is changing. That idea wasn’t originally connected to any specific protagonists who would carry the story on their shoulders. Yet it turns out that these snippets of context were enough, and in a short time the characters began to show up to live in the house I was building. I guess the take-away here is that there are many potentially workable ways of staring at a blank page.

Write something meaningful to you, regardless of imagined commercial implications

This one is hard. As I began putting this book together, with its unusual structure and its potential for being categorized incorrectly as an anthology, I couldn’t help wondering: Who will buy this? Could a publisher get behind it or will it be too odd? Is this what I “should” be writing? Will this be a waste of a year? I stopped asking. Or at least I tried to. Because the thing is, there aren’t valid answers to those questions until you’ve written the book. Unless your name is so huge that your publisher is going to buy whatever you pitch them, no matter how vague the idea, isn’t it better (I asked myself) to simply write the story you want to write? Then you can show people a completed novel. And it will speak for itself. So that’s what I did. Because the simplicity is this: every publisher in every country of the world, and every reader who has ever existed, wants the same thing: a good book. That’s all. I don’t think I can write a good book if I’m writing to chase an idea of what people might want. And besides that, who wants to spend time on something that doesn’t make you want to jump out of the bed in the morning so you can get to work? Happy writing to all of you!

* * *

ARWEN ELYS DAYTON is the best-selling author of the Egyptian sci-fi thriller Resurrection and the near-future Seeker Series, set in Scotland and Hong Kong. She spends months doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid at Giza, Hong Kong and its islands, the Baltic Sea. Arwen lives with her husband and their three children on West Coast of the United States. You can visit her and learn more about her books at and follow @arwenelysdayton on Instagram and Facebook. Arwen Elys DaytonWebsite | Twitter Stronger, Faster, and More BeautifulPrint | eBook

Reduced privacy risk in exchange for accuracy in the Census count

Mark Hansen for The Upshot describes the search for balance between individual privacy and an accurate 2020 Census count. It turns out to not be that difficult to reconstruct person-level data from publicly available aggregates:
On the face of it, finding a reconstruction that satisfies all of the constraints from all the tables the bureau produces seems impossible. But Mr. Abowd says the problem gets easier when you notice that these tables are full of zeros. Each zero indicates a combination of variables — values for one or more of block, sex, age, race and ethnicity — for which no one exists in the census. We might find, for example, that there is no one below voting age living on a particular block. We can then ignore any reconstructions that include people under 18 living there. This greatly reduces the set of viable reconstructions and makes the problem solvable with off-the-shelf software.

To combat this, the Census is looking into injecting more uncertainty into their published data. The challenge is figuring out how much uncertainty is too much and what level of privacy is enough. Tags: , , ,