Sunday, March 27, 2011

Technical Misunderstandings

So I got a Google Voice account about a year ago. One of its features is that when someone leaves you a voice mail, it will automatically try to transcribe it for you. But Google Voice doesn't know that my parents are speaking Cantonese. So its transcriptions of their messages turn out to be quite entertaining:
Mom (cell): When our mom. He did not send a deadly man planned to do that. They that happy that they might be Hall I. I don't know. Bye bye.
Here is the audio:



Interestingly, she actually said the English word "plan" in that message, but in the form of "planning" not "planned". She also ended her message with the English "bye bye", which Google was able to transcribe correctly. I don't know about this whole deadly man business, though. What are you trying to tell me, Mom?
Mom (cell): Way it out. I'll email and I like that. They they Lisa. If you have about the he had bought the house. I need to have dot, com The. Online. I don't know the phone.

Mom (cell): Hey, if you got busy. My whole life. I cut them. I had a AT from, so on. So in case on and so being from anything on Sunday. So on a thing on the bye bye.

Mom (cell): Maria, pack and I've been on my last. I owe you guys. Okay so my ass a whole. It's on 7 May, lem. I'm 050. I think I'm gonna have to get the not off right there on time on Monday at home today. I'm with us on the hope upon the tower on the mould and everything like that feed off, i'm just towel, so now I'm doing fine looked out it without it up so my god bless. Bye bye.
I started not answering the phone on purpose when my mom called, just to see the transcriptions of her messages and the weird poetry I could get from them.
Mom (cell): May not on the the garbage in my life. The by, that if I don't know. I got bye.

Mom (cell): Went on on it, but I thought the most central data and just well it off, but I'm not goodbye.

Dad (cell): Right. Jimmy Jimmy about not ready. Lila if you got a phone call and give me a joke and bye bye.

Mom (cell): Hello hello hello. All of that on mon. Hey Dad, It's me back bye bye bye hey there. Bye bye bye hi.

Mom (cell): Hey my mom and I'm A, I don't tell you not be able to 1,000 I intended. I expected to see if I don't know if you don't mind it is not the Done. Hi. The. I think that the other thing is that they they said they liked homa la. Simon lack of my house I. I hope that you got it. I have but it's about 510. I'm on my cat harness is 11 films talk to them so important. How fine. A Hi Donna, hey Chinese. Anyway, talk to you at the intended. Hello. I'm not. Bye bye.

Mom (cell): The maximum 10 the Martha. Or might be a M. One last question and some.

Mom (cell): Yes, and on it and I hope that I'm not yet they got it in my on, Hey Jimmy, Lo. Bye.
That last one was weird, because it interpreted something which sounded nothing like "Hey Jimmy, Lo" as "Hey Jimmy, Lo" and why the hell would it think that she said that? Jimmy Lo is my name. So does Google Voice just think that my mom would say my name at this point? Probably Google guesses things based on what it knows about me so things sounding even remotely like my name would probably be guessed as my name. But yeah, weird. Here is the audio of that message:

Mom (cell): Rachel not they come out Sunday and I'm gonna with anyone. They are be 45. Okay, see you about the Monty Hall feedback on the can do. A message that part of it might be in my mouth. I will talk to you or that was the one here are you standing there. I don't know. Bye bye.

Dad (cell): Gimme a. So go ahead. I'm gonna. Thank you. Hi.

Dad (cell): Jimmy call back. Looks good about other.

Mom (cell): Hello. Indiana. You don't have it in my our deadline little now. Bye bye.

Dad (cell): Jimmy, bye bye. Something tells me that and envelope. We're going to have a lot, so you guys are going to send this is the last.

Dad (cell): David about where if you're not gonna behind and stop by pick up the most and that.

Mom (cell): Went along with the S E dot baby are doing on our. I know it by E. I'm on my photo. Yeah savings say bye Walton face. I don't think I found.

Dad (cell): Gary about list from Google, and maybe we can. I love. Pre-approved.
One thing you should probably know is that when it says "Jimmy" at the beginning of these transcripts, that actually is my parents calling me that. They call me by my English name Jimmy sometimes, and sometimes by my Chinese name "Nam Nam". Although in one of those messages up there it transcribed it as "Gimme". Also, my dad doesn't leave as many messages as my mom, and generally when he does, he doesn't say as much. Also, interesting that Google thinks my Dad said "Google" when he said no such thing.
Mom (cell): My name is that may be right. So iPods all but in Idaho and good luck and I. You'll you'll be available date I thought. I hope goes all the with the light up pen back, almost, William comes up and I don't know the new vehicle Golden Gate Dr. So. I'm sorry if I don't know. Hi will give up on it and coming in front of a going fine, I don't know and I thought I'd see if I think. Yeah. Bye bye.

Dad (cell): Okay, I got a lot. Bye bye Seattle purebred haven't bye.

Mom (cell): Bye and I'm dating my last night and hung up. Goodbye.

Mom (cell): Hello help wanted a lot. Bye. Hello testing process. Hello. All, Hello okay. Okay, bye bye.

Mom (cell): Hey. Hello, Well hello.

Mom (cell): The dear. I might be back or what but think about it bye bye.
Mom (cell): Bye, hey i hall. Hey the, well, the telephone with voice up so case with the potluck. Does that sit down with such a fun in fact and where you left. So, is the third party. My not. Bye bye.

Mom (cell): But it on them. I just want to go. It is doing that on something or not it at and Brendan refund that the most. I did lose so I'm glad to drive you know it is man. Bye Daisy's night Sunday that if I miss him on my side. Hey, Chucky, and I've put all I get a basement. At this the program. And I said, I guess I need to know if I I got the reply.

Mom (cell): Waiting on on the history I hit him. Hey, Linda gate and I wanted to see and tell him that bye bye.

Dad (cell): Thank you, that they are doing well and It's other. Do not call her. Hello.
Unfortunately, at this point Google must have changed their algorithm. Now it won't transcribe anything that it recognizes is in another language. Instead, it just says "Unable to transcribe this message." How lame!

Yesterday, I received a voice mail from a computer automated system from Kaiser Permanente. Google Voice took the call and transcribed it. The idea of Google (a computer) transcribing what Kaiser (a computer voice) was saying made my head go in loop de loop circles, but also seemed very poignant. The machine miscommunicating with the machine. Here is what Google transcribed:
Kaiser: Hello Yeah, this is Kaiser Permanente, you calling for you. Yang. Hello we're calling to share some important information, to help make sure you're getting the most out of your new benefits. Yeah, he's call us back yo free. Yeah one. Yeah. 877. You re 57. Yeah 7626. Again, your number is 1. Yeah. 877. You re 57. Yeah 7626. Thank you for your time. And remember. Today is a good day to thrive. Bye bye.
And here is the audio:

Why did Google keep thinking Kaiser was saying 'Yeah'?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Moscow Dogs

"the silence will begin full of dogs" —Julio Cort├ízar
I've been reading articles on the web about this phenomenon in Moscow. Apparently there is a steady population of stray dogs in Moscow who have evolved several different survival strategies. Some primarily hunt mice and other animals, some scavenge for food in dumpsters. But there is one group of strays in particular who have learned how to navigate the city. Every day they commute into the city via the subway. They know when to get on and when to get off the trains, moving alongside humans, and once in the city they know how to cross the street by waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. They've also developed a very intuitive sense of who to beg for food and who to leave alone. Here is a good story about it (but the first part about the crazy woman (though interesting) is kind of distracting to the main point which is how amazing these dogs are): Moscow's Stray Dogs: Exiled or Admired?