Daily Archives: 26 November 2014

Vain Imaginations, Reinterpreted

Booksreadr scrapes the web and creates a digital library from whatever PDFs and probably other ebook formats it finds. They grabbed my book and added it to their library. (I sincerely hope it was only the 20% free version, but I’m not willing to give them my credit card information to validate my address so they can give me a free account, as I’m skeptical of them and their product, based on how little contact information they give.) But they apparently didn’t like my summary. It appears they took my description written in native English, machine
translated it to some other language, and translated it back to English, making for a rather amusing though ridiculous rendering of the description. From http://booksreadr.org/ebook/vain-imaginations on 26 November 2014:

Imaginations is just an assortment of verses created within 2000 to 2014’s span. The verses variety in character from heart-wrenching to heart, from unique to governmental felt, to inventive from term play. There’s a workout on avoiding while looking through the banned windows many tales up the exterior stairwell of the mindset building on the college university, Jumper, followed closely by the light a brand new although medical undertake the topic, Vapor Space. A few of the animals highlighted are leaders and gnats, ostriches and finches and kangaroos and politicians. In these websites, springtime winter, and drop can be found; summertime are you able to discover? Demise exists: the demise of family members and also the demise of feelings. You ll discover systems and resources: fax devices and teapots, metronomes along with a smartphone; garbage and books. Should you seem cautiously, you’ll find Orwell and Theodore; serenity, and finally.

My actual description from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/481054:

Vain Imaginations is a collection of poems written over the course of 2000 to 2014. The poems range in nature from whimsical to political, from heart wrenching to heart felt, from word play to imaginative. There is Jumper, a thought exercise on escaping while staring through the barred windows several stories up the external stairwell of the psychology building on a university campus, followed by the lighter Steam Room, a fresh albeit scientific take on the subject. Some of the creatures featured are gnats and giants, ostriches and finches, foxes and kangaroos, wasps and politicians. In these pages, winter, spring, and fall are present; can you find summer? Death is present: the death of emotions and the death of loved ones. You’ll find tools and technologies: metronomes and teapots, fax machines and a smart phone; textbooks and trash. If you look carefully, you can find Teddy, Bradbury, and Orwell; and at last, peace.

There was a famous attempt at machine translation in the early days of artificial intelligence (well, famous in the field of AI). The phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was translated to Russian then back to English. The result? “The vodka is good but the meat is rotten.” So this Seattle, WA company (at least, that’s where their terms of use agreement says court cases will go; the domain is registered in Panama) is doing about as good as circa-1960’s MT. Way to go.

P.S. If anyone has a booksreadr account and can tell me how legit they are, I’d be interested to know.
P.P.S. Whether the actual phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was put through an MT system in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s is a bit apocryphal. But there were MT systems that translated from English to Russian, and from Russian to English, which made similar messes of idiomatic speech.