Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Week in Entertainment

Busy, busy week. Kind of spent the weekend with TV on while I did some prep for class.

TV: Grimm's next to last episode for the season. They didn't kill Sean, but they did do some terrible things. Next week's ep should be tremendous. Serenity, which I love even though they killed Wash. A marathon of Columbo, which included the first one I ever say (Ray Milland helping Bradford Dillman fake his own kidnapping and then killing him). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - the new one with Martin Freeman, which I hadn't seen before; it was fine. The Court Jester (with Danny Kaye), which is great fun.

Read: More of Traitor to His Class. Up to his election as president.

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Friday, May 08, 2015

Nice job, Bing. I'd give you a B+

Oh, Bing. Sooooo close.
ПП: Сьогодні український народ та Збройні сили єдині як ніколи.
Ми переможемо, бо добро завжди перемагає зло!

Bing:
PM: today the Ukrainian people and the armed forces are United as never before.
We'll win, because good always overcomes evil!

Google:
PP: Today Ukrainian people and the armed forces are united as never before.
We will win, because good always triumphs over evil
Google is almost completely correct. I'm not at all sure why Bing translated Poroshenko's initials as PM; surely it wasn't recognizing that it was the Prime Minister? I mean, if it's that smart, why did it capitalize United? Also, in a solemn speech such as this, I don't like "We'll win".

But Bing gets something right that Google missed: it's not "Ukrainian people", it's (as Google has it) "the Ukrainian people". Народ (narod) isn't the plural of person, it's the collective, political-or-ethnic group. The people, the nation.

But otherwise, nice job, Bing.

ps: Note Poroshenko's profile picture: a stylized black-and-red poppy, used in Ukraine for VE Day for the first time, since the old George Ribbon is irredeemably tainted by its association with Russian aggression and separatism.

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At 11:26 PM, May 11, 2015 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

If programs are inconsistent in their ability to produce accurate translations, they're not worth much (and that's being charitable).

 

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Pronouns... why the trouble?

"У цьому році я мріяв відсвяткувати 9 травня зі своїм внуком лейтенантом Національної гвардії, але він загинув у бою при захисті своєї Батьківщини", - каже 97-річний ветеран.


Bing translated this as: "This year, I wanted to celebrate may 9 with his grandson, Lieutenant of the National Guard, but he died in battle while defending their homeland," says a 97-year-old veteran. 

 And Google was virtually identical: "This year I wanted to celebrate 9 May with his grandson Lieutenant of the National Guard, but he was killed in battle in defense of their homeland," - says 97-year veteran.
 
Why do they both just completely miss how to translate свій? WHY? Its very definition is "one's own" - it always goes to the subject of the clause it's in. It cannot be "his" or "their" if the subject is "I' and "he".It exists to eliminate the ambiguity of "John gave Bob his book". Its entire purpose is totally subverted by both these programs. WHY?
 
MY grandson. HIS homeland.  
 
So very simple. ... So apparently impossible to derive an algorithm for.
 
(There are other issues here, like Google's odd punctuation and  the fact that neither one translated мріяв as "dreamed", but let it go, let it go...)

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At 11:25 PM, May 11, 2015 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Google Translate often exhibits similar pronoun problems rendering Portuguese into English. This makes me wonder if there's a wider problem with either translating algorithms or the general nature of languages and their contexts.

 

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Week in Entertainment

Live: Un Ballo en Maschera, the last opera of my season. Dmitry Hvorostovsky and Sonja
Radvanovsky, with Ricardo Tamura standing in for the ill Piotr Beczała as the king. An excellent cast in a very iffy production (stark and at the same time over the top - yes, yes, the king is Icarus, we get it. We don't need to see the painting in every scene).

TV: Caught up on Grimm, of which there were quite a few stacked up on the DVR and which is building to a heckuva climax, that's for sure. (If they kill off Sean Renard I shall be pissed off.) (Also, note to production staff: If you end an episode with Nick being forced to shoot Monroe, saying desperately "I can't stop it!", and then go to black and the sound of a gunshot... don't show Monroe hale and healthy in the promos for next week.)

Read: The Forgotten by Bishop O'Connell, a sequel to The Stolen, in his American Faerie series. I like it much better than the first one, which was enjoyable enough. Mitigating Jeopardy, a collection of short stories first published in the 1950s, which was not to my taste though YYMDV; just a kind of humor I don't care for. Also began Traitor to His Class, H.W. Brand's new biography of FDR.

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At 10:43 PM, May 04, 2015 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

When you said you'd read a book called "Mitigating Jeopardy," you can guess my initial assumption -- until I saw the date the stories were written. Oh well... ;-)

 
At 6:19 AM, May 05, 2015 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Ha ha that didn't even occur to me!

 

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A few thoughts

For what they're worth...

First, I am sick to death of people saying violence doesn't solve anything. Of course it does. We might not like the solution or the manner of arriving at it, but it does. American Revolution, anyone? Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War, Viet Nam, Boston Tea Party? For crying out loud, what a stupid thing to say.

And related to that, if the only violence you condemn is the rioters, you support the murders by police officers.

Secondly, following from that, I am amazed at the number of people who qualify their condemnation of the riots by saying that "of course police who break the law will be punished" (sometimes "should"). In what reality? The Wall Street Journal (how's that for sourcing?) says that there were at least 2718 "justifiable homicides" (defined, oxymoronically, as killings that no cop was indicted for) and 41 officers actually charged (they don't say how many were convicted) between 2004 and 2011. In Maryland alone 109 people have been killed in the past four years, more than 30 in Baltimore. (That's "at least" because police forces aren't actually required to keep track and report those killings.) So most cops who kill aren't punished. The overwhelming majority aren't even indicted. Mostly they're barely even investigated, just getting a few days of paid leave suspension.

Thirdly, I'm sickened by the number of people who think that a criminal record - particularly one held by a black man in a deeply poverty-stricken neighborhood - is grounds for execution. Apparently, for some folks, a 12-year-old boy brings on his own death by not obeying a cop fast enough. Running away from cops because you're terrified of a notorious "rough ride" is not grounds for death. (By the way, harking back a paragraph, Baltimore's police chief claims he never heard of "rough rides", aka "screen tests", even though the city's been sued over them in the past. So yeah.

Fourthly, I'm tired of media who spend all their time chasing ratings by emphasizing the reactions and ignoring the causes. "Equating broken windows with broken spines" is harsh but fair, as they say.

Another thing is all the people asking "why do they destroy their own neighborhood?" Well, why do white people destroy theirs to celebrate football games? Unfair? Then ask yourself this: in what meaningful way is Mondawmin Mall "theirs"? This is old, but might be of interest.

And finally, Freddie Gray is just the last straw: Last year "the Baltimore Sun published a searing 2014 article documenting recent abuses that are national scandals in their own rights. ... $5.7 million is the amount the city paid to victims of brutality between 2011 and 2014. And as huge as that figure is, the more staggering number in the article is this one: "Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil-rights violations." What tiny percentage of the unjustly beaten win formal legal judgments?"

More than that, of course, is in play. It's not just brutal policing to keep people down. It's the place they're being kept down in. From Forbes: "About a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate in zip code 21217, where the riots broke out on Monday, was 19.1% in 2011."

Rioting is never "right". But sometimes - to paraphrase MLK - it's the only voice that people have.

If we don't want riots, we have to stop lying about fixing the system. Because you can only keep the lid on so long before the pot boils over.

....... Okay, so more than a few. Also: note to self: stop reading the comments on Facebook. And newspapers, too, for that matter.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Week in Entertainment

A rather crazy couple of weeks at work, so not a lot here ... the dvr is piled up, but I didn't get to any of it.

DVD: Finally got around to Scott & Bailey series 4. Very enjoyable, though I am going to miss Gill (assuming there's a fifth season, that is). Good character development. Series 2 of Der Kommissar und das Meer, also very good. Also a few eps of an extremely funny German series called Crime Scene Cleaner (Der Tatortreiniger) - the one with the man who axe-murdered his wife was hilarious, and the one with the psychotherapist was pretty damned funny, too.

Read: A whole bunch of Charles Stross's "Laundry" novels and some novellas, too.

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Things can be tricky even when they don't look it

At SLON.ru, Oleg Kashin has an article called Почему Россия проиграла войну на Украине, or Why Russia has lost the war in Ukraine.*

The article itself is fascinating, but I'm just interested here in one little phrase: не чета. Чета is couple or pair, often referring to a married couple. Не чета means is the negative: not a match is how it's usually translated. But there's a problem with that ... See how he uses it, talking about Putin's calling the dissolution of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century":
Может быть, Путин имел в виду несколько локальных войн, которыми сопровождался распад СССР – Карабах, Приднестровье, Таджикистан, Абхазия? Войны – это плохо, но в ХХ веке было много других, гораздо более кровопролитных войн, то есть в этом случае катастрофу распада СССР никак не назовешь крупнейшей. Распад Югославии тоже никому не придет в голову называть геополитической катастрофой, хотя уж там-то воевали не чета даже Карабаху.

Maybe Putin had in the various regional wars which came along with the fall of the Soviet Union - Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, Tajikistan, Abkhazia? Wars are bad, but the twentieth century had many others, much bloodier; that is, in this situation you simply can't call the dissolution of the Soviet Union the worst. Nor has anyone ever been tempted to calls Yugoslavia's collapse a geopolitical disaster, though the fighting there was no match even for Nagorno-Karabakh.
That seems a bit odd in English, doesn't it? A isn't a disaster, nor is B even though it's not as bad as A.

The problem is that although literally не чета means "not a match", Russian and English approach that concept from different angles. In English, "you're no match for him" means "he's better than you" (or, if what you're measuring is the bloodiness of wars, "Yugoslavia's no match even for Karabakh" means "Yugoslavia's less bloody even than Karabakh"). But in Russian, it means "you're better than he is" (or, "Yugoslavia's bloodier even than Karabakh").

You look at a Russian-English dictionary (such as Multitran and you get "no match". That is right in one way and yet totally wrong where it counts - in what it actually means. But if you go to Russian-Russian sources and get a definition, you'll get Не чета кто-что кому-чему (разг.) - не ровня,лучше кого-чего-н. в каком-н. отношении. Ne cheta kto-chto komu-chemu, someone-something is no match for someone-something (colloquial) - not equalling, better than someone-something in some quality. The Russian dictionary tells you what the translation means - and in this case, tells you (if you are a native speaker of English, any way) that the translation is wrong.

I tell my students to use Ozhegov or some other Russian defining dictionary rather than relying on translating dictionaries, or at least to go to Ozhegov when something seems a bit hinky in your translation.

Unfortunately, they don't always listen...


* He concludes thus:
Политическое и военное поражение России на Украине (а зафиксированное в Минске требование «особого статуса отдельных районов» – это уже поражение) – это только следствие смыслового и ценностного поражения, случившегося тогда же, еще прошлой весной. Государство начинается не с армии и не с аппарата, а с идеи, со слов. «Мы пришли в Донецк, чтобы…» – а дальше тишина, дальше сказать просто нечего и приходится нести ахинею про хунту и бандеровцев – впрочем, и эта ахинея теперь звучит все тише или вообще не звучит.

Этот год показал, что удел России – вечно пережевывать советскую победу 1945 года и радоваться кадыровскому миру в Чечне, любая дополнительная идея обрушит Российскую Федерацию. Именно поэтому война за Новороссию быстро превратилась в войну ни за что, а войну, которая ведется ни за что, выиграть просто нельзя – особенно если противник воюет за родину. Время переписать черновики будущих президентских посланий. Крупнейшая геополитическая катастрофа – это не распад СССР, бог бы с ним. Год украинской войны показал, что сама Россия теперь – крупнейшая геополитическая катастрофа, которая всегда с тобой.

The political and military defeat of Russia in Ukraine (and the demand put on the record in Minks for "the special status of specific regions" is a defeat already) is just the consequence of the defeat in meaning and values which took place back in last spring. A state begins not with an army and not with institutions but with an idea, with words. "We came to Donetsk in order to..." - and the rest is silence, there is simply nothing further to say and they are forced to carry on with their drivel about a junta and Banderist fascists - drivel that is, by the way, heard less and less now if it's heard at all.

This year has shown that it is Russia's fate to relive forever the Soviet victory in 1945 and rejoice over Kadyrov's peace in Chechya; any other idea will tear down the Russian Federation. And that is why the war for Novorossiya quickly turned into a war for nothing, and a war which is waged for nothing simply cannot be won - especially if the enemy is fighting for their homeland. The time has come to rewrite the drafts of future presidential Messages*. The worst geopolitical disaster** was not the dissolution of the Soviet Union, let that go. The year of the Ukrainian war has shown that Russia itself is now the worst geopolitical disaster, and one that is always with us.

* Russia equivalent of the State of the Union address
** An allusion to Putin's statement in Minsk that "for the EU, the time has come to rewrite the history of Crimea before someone else does it for you"

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At 11:08 PM, April 26, 2015 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Likewise, I sometimes get my best help from a Portuguese-Portuguese dictionary. Occasionally I then need to cheat by copying/pasting the definitions into Google Translate, but shhhh, don't tell anyone ;-)

 

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Who asked whom, Bing?

What the hell, Bing?

see text«Я в берлоге», — Евгений Плющенко попросил общественность забыть про него
"I'm in a den," the public has asked Evgeny Plushenko to forget about him

Come one, Bing. This is straightforward. Masculine noun, masculine verb, feminine noun. Subject-Verb-Object. For crying out loud. (Plus, in yours, who's "him"?) Interestingly, Bing does get the aspect right - perfective Russian verb becomes English perfect.

Google seems to get it more correct but it makes a crucial mistake: it's not "it" he wants them to forget, it's "him". The translation sounds like he's asking the public to forget about his going into the den.
"I'm in the den," - Yevgeny Plushenko asked the public to forget about it

My translation: "I've gone to ground," Yevgeny Plushchenko has asked the public to forget about him. (I could be talked into "holed up" or "hiding out" in some contexts, but here Plushenko wants to be left alone as he prepares for the World Championships and then probably the Olympics; he's not retiring, he just doesn't want to be a distraction... or distracted himself.)

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At 2:40 PM, April 22, 2015 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Google Translate also often confuses pronoun genders, being apparently unable to differentiate between the female and male given names to which they refer in context. I've accumulated quite a few of these howlers on my list.

Another error that Google Translate sometimes makes is translating subject-after-predicate construction (more common in Portuguese than in English) as the direct object -- again something that's obvious in context to the human translator.

Have you asked those knowledgeable in other languages if they too encounter these problems with translating software?

P.S. Plushenko had a lot of back trouble at the Sochi Olympics, so is likely healing and rehabbing in hopes of competing again at the 2018 games. He's also married, with a couple of small children (IIRC), so may be enjoying family life staying home, instead of being on the road so much, as he was when actively competing.

 

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