Auto-subtitling of winter olympics broadcasts

The auto-subtitling for the broadcasts of the winter olympic games on Australian television (provided by an independent company) seems to have three approaches to rendering the many different names of competitors from many different countries.

The first is to leave them out completely, which sometimes leaves a gap in the sentence. The second is to take a wild guess at it. Several times. It tried four times to spell the surname of the eventual winner of the men’s luge David Gleirscher before, obviously, a human overrode it, after which it was rendered correctly. The third is obviously when a human has provided the names already, for example Saturday night’s speed skaters Carlijn Achtereekte, Sjinkie Knegt and the unfortunately named Semen Elistratov. (It’s a perfectly good Russian/Ukranian equivalent of Simon. Most sources give his name as Semen, but Wikipedia renders Семён as Semion.)

So obviously there is some level of human programming of some different names from some different countries. The competitor list has been available for days or weeks or months (and these people have been on the competitive circuit for years), so why don’t they use it?

In 2012 Victoria Azarenka won the Australia open tennis championships. During the presentation ceremony, the auto-subtitling referred to her as ‘Victoria as a drinker’. Surely it (or the humans behind it) can do better than that.

(I’d like to make it clear that I don’t fully understand how auto-subtitling of live programs works, and that the humans behind it do a much better job than I would be able to do.)

(added 17 Feb: last night in the women’s aerials, the commentators were saying the names of the Chinese competitors family name first, but the autosubtitling was giving them given name first.)



The Union enema

Crash Course is an excellent series of educational videos on Youtube. The originators and hosts of the first videos are the author John Green (who did the humanities-based series) and his brother Hank (who did the sciency ones). Later series have different hosts and cover a wide range of topics.

I recently discovered the series on mythology, hosted by Mike Rugnetta. I watched what was available, then have watched the last few as they have been posted. The latest video has a problem with the sound quality (one of the rare glitches in an otherwise well-produced series, and which about a quarter of the commenters haven’t commented on), so I turned the subtitles on. They are obviously auto-generated and not checked by a human (at least for this video – the next one I watched, in another series, was perfect). Among other things, there are no capital letters or punctuation. There’s a lot else, but I’ll focus on three. Continue reading


Two days ago I went to an automated teller machine to withdraw some money. I inserted my card, entered my personal identification number (PIN), selected “withdraw”, selected the amount, touched “Display balance on screen” (that is, don’t print a receipt) and touched “No” to answer the question “Do you want to save this as your favourite transaction? – at which point the machine told me that I had had entered my PIN incorrectly. Right, then, why didn’t you tell me that immediately after I’d entered it? In fact, I had entered it correctly, but I’d used my credit card instead of my cash card. (It was Monday morning and my two cards are the same colour.) Continue reading

Singing in Korean

Sometime about the beginning of November, my wife arranged with the conductor of her church choir that I could join them to sing in a cantata on Christmas Day. (My church choir is singing at a very early service, and I just can’t get there in time.) I have been attending Sunday afternoon rehearsals for about six weeks, and learning the words by myself on the train. The music is straightforward enough, but the words are entirely in Korean. I’ve sung (actually performed) in other languages before; lots of Latin, some German and French, a sprinkling of Italian, Spanish and Welsh, one movement of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in Hebrew and all of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers in Russian. As far as I can remember, the words for the Bernstein were given in transliteration, but the words for the Rachmaninoff were in Cyrillic and transliteration. (Hebrew is written right-to-left, and would not naturally fit into in a musical score. I have seen a hymn in Arabic for Arabic-speaking Christians, and the whole score is reversed.)

Continue reading

Courtesy titles

Last week I applied for an administrative job at the university closest to where I live. Applying online first required creating a user account on the university’s website. Among the personal details was a choice (from a drop-down list) of:

Dr – Associate Professor – Mr – Brother – Mrs – Colonel – Miss – Dame – Ms – Dr – Prof – Father – Lady – Miss – Mohammad – Mr – Mrs – Ms – Professor – Reverend – Sir – Sister.

Given that choice, I am ‘Mr’.

Several clicks later, I arrived at the place where I actually applied for the job. There was another drop-down list with a different choice of courtesy titles, overlapping with the first:

Captain – Ambassador – Assistant Commissioner – Associate Professor – Brother – Colonel – Dame – Distinguished Professor – Doctor – Emeritus Chancellor – Emeritus Professor – Father – Judge – Justice – Lady – Lord – Miss – Mohammad – Mr – Mrs – Ms – Professor – Reverend – Sir – Sister – The Honourable – The Honourable Justice

Given that choice, I am still ‘Mr’.

Continue reading


While I was making the bed just before, I noticed that the summer quilt we’re using has the very Konglish brand name SHE’S CLUB.

This immediately reminded me of a dress shop I’ve seen in the medium-sized suburb of Strathfield (which has a large Korean community) named SHE’S … something. Is it SHE’S BOUTIQUE? No, that’s in Downers Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago (with no indication of Korean ownership on the shop front).

Google Maps Street View to the rescue. (I don’t usually give free publicity to corporate entities, but I really gotta in this case.)

Continue reading

“Make someone ugly cry”

Last year I downloaded a trial version of one of programs of a major software developer (no free publicity), and have since been receiving marketing emails, despite unsubscribing several times. The latest one had the subject: Make someone ugly cry. [This major software developer] can help.

At first reading, this is Make (someone ugly) cry, but the text of the email reveals a different story. I’ll put the page break here so you can think about it.

Continue reading