Year2006

Redividers (and unfortunate domain names)

Anagrams are the art of rearranging the letters of one piece of text to find something else.

However, a certain class of anagram involves no rearranging at all! The letters in the anagram are in exactly the same sequence as they appear in the subject: the only thing that has changed is where the spaces are!

Two great examples are transforming “Psychotherapist” into “Psycho the Rapist” and turning the US tax collection authority “the IRS” into “Theirs!”

The only term I’m aware for this type of trivial anagram is a “redivider” (which has the additional curiosity of being a palindrome).

I’ve known about these for years but a recent post on the ‘Technknowledgy’ Blog has made me realise that redividers can be a serious issue when it comes to selecting domain names.

There used to be some debate about whether a multi-word domain name should have the words separated out with hyphens (www.anagram-genius.com) or have the words run together (www.anagramgenius.com).

In recent years the fashion has strongly swung in favour of the latter but the post reveals some hilarious examples of where this can lead to very unfortunate ambiguity. The examples listed in the post are:

www.penisland.net
www.speedofart.com
www.therapistfinder.com
www.molestationnursery.com
www.gotahoe.com.

(Pen Island, Speed of Art, Therapist Finder, Mole Station Nursery and Go Tahoe)

The post also lists the highly embarrassing website of First United Methodist Church of Cumming, Georgia which has the domain www.cummingfirst.com but even hyphens wouldn’t save this one…

comfortable and lovable

There is nothing I like more than hearing from people who use my software, especially when the experience is positive. Here’s the start of an email I received this morning (with the personally identifiable information removed):

Hi

this is [name removed] here from INDIA.

I’ve tried your Crossword Maestro solving software demo & felt very “comfortable & lovable”.

I request to let me know two things :

It isn’t often that software evokes those kinds of emotions but when it does I’m very glad to hear about it!

CD published with Anagram Genius track titles

I got an email today from an American composer called Nick Didkovsky (wikipedia page) who tells me that he sometimes uses Anagram Genius to generate titles for his compositions.

He also tells me that a CD containing his music played by a group called the Meridian Arts Ensemble has just been published. Most of the tracks are named from Anagram Genius generated anagrams of the group’s name:

8. Steamier Sinner Blamed
9. An Idle Saint Remembers
10. Terrible As Mean Denims
11. Meanie Master Blinders
12. Beastler Madmen Risen
13. Mere Brains Is Lamented
14. Miserable Sinner Mated
15. Denser Mealtime Brains
16. Last Inane Dismemberer
17. Remedial, Eminent Brass
18. Manliest Base Reminder
19. Able, Saner Determinism
20. A Mean, Dim Terribleness
21. Steamier Limb Ensnared
22. Merriest, Blamed, Insane

Further details of the CD and an option to purchase are on CD Baby.

Terrible Business Slogans

One source of occasional amusement during my travels is the wonderful English language slogans many east Asian businesses chose to associate with themselves.

English is spoken natively almost nowhere in this region but it is widely used as a lingua franca. Furthermore, an English slogan perhaps gives the enterprise an international aura that would be difficult with the native language. In such a context, the actual meaning of the slogan isn’t that important and as virtually all their customers only know English as a second language the nuances and alternative meanings that a native speaker would pick up on are largely irrelevant.

This must explain the hilariously poor choices (from a natively speaker’s perspective) that are so common.

My favourite example is a SE Asian soft goods manufacturer that chose to emphasise the importance they place on their high manufacturing standards by proudly attaching a tiny label to all their products (bags etc.) saying simply:

“The Quality is Basic”

It isn’t just small enterprises either. Lion Air an internal airline in Indonesia (on which I’ve travelled) proudly brands everything they own with their amazing slogan:

“We Make People Fly”

But such a terrible choice of slogan couldn’t affect an organisation in the UK could it? I mean, before any slogan here can be adopted it would have to pass through the critical faculties of numerous native speakers. Very large organisations pay consultancy firms literally hundreds of thousands of pounds (or more) to come up with and carefully test the effect of their choices on their target market even before the board sits down and debates the final decision.

This is what I thought until last weekend when I decided to make a quick trip to my local Royal Mail sorting depot to collect a package they hadn’t been able to fit through the door the day before.

I arrived a couple of minutes before the closing time shown on the card and was about to step through the door to join the (smallish) queue that had built up of people collecting their mail only to have my way blocked by a disgruntled looking Royal Mail employee who without any form of apology or further explanation other than the words “we’re closed” literally slammed the door in my face as I was trying to step through (almost breaking my fingers in the process).

I was joined a few seconds later by two other members of the public who had also turned up to collect their packages. They too were rudely turned away, they too were sure they had arrived before the closing time on the card and they too decided to politely press the matter rather than meekly going back home empty handed. In response to this I had the experience of witnessing the worst behaviour I’ve seen in any public employee, ever. That useful American phrase “attitude problem” doesn’t even begin to do him justice.

It would have cost him just a few seconds to let us in and collect our packages but instead he chose to stand in the doorway while the other members of the public in the queue was still collecting theirs and systematically abuse the three of us including repeated threats to call the police and have us arrested; refusal to bring the manager down to talk to us; refusal to tell us his name or how we could complain; repeated patronising lectures about how the UK ran on GMT and how he was surprised that none of us had heard of it (I chose to ignore the fact we are actually on BST at the moment); refusal to tell us the name of the manager that ran the sorting office; classic “job’s worth” speeches about how he had been working since 7am, how he didn’t care about us but how he wanted to get home as early as possible etc. etc. etc. etc.

He managed to reduce all three of us to state of cold fury and meant that in addition to having a wasted trip I felt compelled to waste another hour of my time drafting a complaint to Royal Mail in the hope it might do some good. The last I saw of the other two poor Royal Mail customers was them also desperately trying to scrawl down some details from the notices displayed outside the building in the hope it would give them an idea who to complain to.

On going home I took a closer look at the “sorry you were out” notice that the postman had put through my door.

There, right at the top, proudly displayed under the Royal Mail logo was the organisation’s latest slogan. Here it is in all its glory (scanned straight from the card):

“With us it’s personal”

I can’t imagine a better four word summary of that employee’s attitude to his job!

Carol Vorderman’s laugh (or “no I’m not Des Lynam”)

Years ago, when I ran an email-based anagram server, I used to get a lot of misdirected email from people who would reply to the server thinking the reply was going to their friend who made the request (and typed their email address into the form). I would promptly reply with a standard paragraph suggesting they forward the message to the correct recipient. Usually the content was fairly innoccuous. On one occasion (at least) it was profoundly embarrassing to the sender. I also made one extremely good friend this way.

Recently, my diet of misdirected emails is limited to the tiny numbers of people who manage to (1) watch Channel Four’s Countdown television show; (2) go to a search engine to find an email address for the show; (3) find and visit crosswordtools.com (4) somehow manage to think that crosswordtools.com is the official Countdown website despite it very obviously not being; (5) miss all the disclaimers explicitly saying that we have nothing to do with the show; (6) find and navigate to the feedback page; (7) somehow miss once again the prominent text on the page saying “We have no affiliation with the Countdown television programme. If your feedback is about the show, please contact countdown@nullchannel4.com” and then (7) Write and submit their message still in the belief that it will find its way to Channel 4.

Needless-to-say, navigating all these tests, requires a particularly “special” kind of person…

Today I received a classic which I’m reproducing here (with all personally identifiable information removed). The message gives a tiny glimpse into the kind of correspondence that Countdown receives (and the abuse that poor Carol Vorderman gets from time to time):

Dear Des,
I admire your programme and I think you are doing a great job. But it is a pity that it is spoilt by
Carol Vordemans laugh. Aften there are jokes and funny stories told during the programme and they
are interrupted by a false hee hee from Carol, if you watch tapes of the programme you will notce,
She is there to put up the letters and try and do the numbers which lateley she finds this difficult..

Yours Sincerely.
(name removed) of pershore Worc’s

Ouch.

How to get random hilarious anagrams as your Bugzilla quip list

Bugzilla has a feature where you can get it to display a random "quip" or one-liner at the top of each list of bugs.

Follow the instructions below to add an exceptionally large selection of hilarious anagrams of your company name or product name as your list of Bugzilla quips!

(1) Download Anagram Genius and install it. The free trial version is sufficient unless you want to do a great deal of experimentation or particularly care about the precise quality of the anagrams (in which case download the full software).

(2) Start up Anagram Genius and enter your company name into the "text to anagram" box. The variants which work best are reasonably long with a good mix of common letters. Feel free to experiment by adding or removing appendages like "incorporated" or "limited" from the end.

(3) Select the "Business" and "Computer" custom dictionaries. Set the number of anagrams to keep to something appropriate (anything up to a million may work but a thousand or so is probably sufficient).

(4) To avoid embarrassment, possible sexual harassment lawsuits and dismissal from your job, switching off the Vulgar words option is highly recommended.

(5) If you want to do a good job, click the Word button and search for/promote the most relevant subwords for your business and then click Weed. If you want to be lazy, just click Weed

(6) From the Save menu, select "Save raw anagrams…" and save out the text file. (Alternatively, you can produce a much smaller list of better anagrams by meticulously weeding the best ones out and saving out the report.)

(7) Export the list of anagrams into the ‘quips’ table (in bugzilla’s database). The text goes into the "quip" field, approved should be set to 1 (which appears to be the default field value with 2.20.1). As you are using bugzilla I’m assuming you are sufficiently technically proficient to do this step without further guidance. (We managed using phpMyAdmin "insert data from textfile into table" without having to modify the file or even use the mysql command line.)

(8) Ensure that quips are set on in the bugzilla user preferences.

That’s it! Forever on, you will now see a random amusing anagram at the top of each bug list.

Anagram Genius powered chatterbot

I’ve just found out about a chatterbot powered by Anagram Genius called Sternest Meanings.

Whatever you say to it, it responds with a perfect anagram (and thus waits for you to open the conversation, unlike every other chatterbot I’ve seen).

The program is the work of Ian Li who is a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ian appears to have had it running on internet chat for a while but recently migrated it to the web and someone reported it to digg.com resulting in huge amounts of traffic today. Judging by the comments it looks very popular with their readers. The story easily made it to their front page.

After playing with it, I wondered what would happen if this chatterbot were to put in touch with another, more conventional chatterbot. It seems that the author had exactly the same idea. Ian Li’s blog reports a surreal conversation between an ELIZA like chatterbot and Sternest Meanings which begins:

Eliza: Hi. I’m Eliza. Tell me your problems!
Sternest: Moralize repel humility. Slob me.
Eliza: Perhaps you would like to talk about a problem?
Sternest: Weak, spoutlike, proud tally-ho. Up rambo to able.
Eliza: What does this mean for you, saying “Weak, spoutlike, proud tally-ho Up rambo to able”?
Sternest: Sure-footed, womanish hasty. Up gawky, poetlike dinosaur. Halo to ambulatory pleb.
Eliza: I understand!

AI (Artificial Insanity) at its finest.

More anagram craziness

Though perhaps not quite on the scale of Dan Brown, I got contacted today by a Professor of Psychology from Chicago, Dr Jon Smith, telling me about a book he had written using Anagram Genius.

His career seems mostly to be related to writing about stress and how to conquer it, but recently he has taken to writing “parodies of religiosity” about a god called The Flying Spaghetti Monster (“the world’s first carbohydrate-based deity”). I must confess I had the author labelled as a possible crank until I typed “Flying Spaghetti Monster” into Google and found that it was discussed on almost one million web pages

The deity was conceived for the very serious purpose of debunking Intelligent Design in the United States. The idea is that instead of beating one’s head against the wall trying to engage directly in the debate with its proponents, one should debunk their ideas by making precisely the same arguments for a ridiculous religion and thus reveal the flaws in their position, reductio ad absurdum. Much more can be found on the Flying Spaghetti Monster Wikipedia page.

Intelligent Design is a philosophy put forward as a genuine scientific theory in competition with Darwinian Evolution. It asserts that life as we know it was created by a supreme being instead of coming about via evolution. The debate in the US centres around whether it should be taught in schools alongside Darwin’s theories (and whether it is a genuine scientific theory or simply theology masquerading as such).

The description of the book on his website reads:

1,000,000 Verses Direct from the Flying Spaghetti Monster
This remarkable book contains exactly 1,000,000 verses direct and uncensored from the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That’s 600 pages and 5,000,000 words. Revolutionary computer techology and groundbreaking artificial intelligence software from Europe have searched nearly 3,000,000 verses and identified 1,000,000 as most profound. All are RANKED for meaningfulness, a claim no other world religion can make about its scriptures! Useful tool for intimidating disbelievers and squashing religious dissent. Excellent bedtime reading for insomniacs. A beautiful coffee table book or door stop. Close your eyes, and poke any page with a pencil to obtain your own personalized Spaghetti “reading.” (Research yet to prove FSM readings less accurate than readings from astrology, Tarot cards, the Book of Revelation, or pig entrails.) WARNING: THIS IS AN ABSURDLY GIGANTIC HOLY BOOK GUARANTEED TO BAFFLE AND BEMUSE THE MOST SOMBER AND PIOUS SEEKER.

The “groundbreaking artificial intelligence software from Europe” is, of course, Anagram Genius and what the above is saying is that the entire book was generated directly by my software. (The bit about being “ranked for meaningfulness” is a reference to the Anagram Genius scoring function.)

As the scripture is the word of the deity, as it also came directly from Anagram Genius and as I am the creator of Anagram Genius, I asked him where this placed me….

The response was that in this metaphysical hierachy I was “The Grand Programmer” who was “the ultimate source” of both scripture and god. It isn’t often one gets flattered quite so profoundly (even if it is a “metaphysical hierachy” that includes a deity with meatballs for eyes, lots of tangled spaghetti for a body and many “noodly appendages”….!)

Official website of the Da Vinci Code movie is an anagram

I’ve just noticed that the official website of the Da Vinci Code movie is www.sodarktheconofman.com – i.e. one of the Anagram Genius generated anagrams.

It redirects to a section beneath www.sonypictures.com but it is the URL that is being used in their advertising and the official URL of the movie listed at www.imdb.com

I’ve now seen the Da Vinci Code movie

The worldwide launch of the Da Vinci Code movie was today and I’ve just come back from seeing it.

I won’t write a long review as others will have a lot more to say about it generally, but I enjoyed it. It was a very visual movie – lots of very beautiful cinematic shots and ghostly flashbacks into history. I also thought the casting was really excellent.

From a personal perspective something I was very surprised (and pleased) to see was that despite having a budget of $125 million for the movie’s production, they chose to faithfully lift all of “my” anagrams straight from the novel unaltered, apparently unable to improve on that part of the plot.

In fact they appeared to go even further than what I remember from the novel. One of the Anagram Genius generated anagrams, So Dark the Con of Man, was referenced several times beyond the scene in the Louvre as a reference to the wider conspiracy. Robert Langdon asked Sophie whether she had heard those words in her childhood and the “dark con of man” seemed almost to be used as the official name for the wider plot.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not in the movie credits: my contribution was covered by the writing credit to Dan Brown (who in turn thanked me in the novel) but I’m still delighted.