Sunday, February 28, 2010

Of Namesakes and Mandrakes: T9 Dictionary Collisions

I've always been fascinated/bemused by the mixups that happen when you use T9 predictive typing on your cell phone. While it is quite good overall, it can lull you into a false sense of security and if you don't actually make sure to read every word, you might text a friend asking if they'd like to go watch 'some mother' instead of 'some movies.' Because, of course, 668437 is the T9 code for both 'mother' and 'movies.' Bus ride can become cup ride, Jordan can become Korea, and (fittingly) kiss can become lips.

I decided to put my Computer Science degree to use and look for other fun "collisions"--cases where the same T9 code produces multiple words, preferably humorously. While I couldn't code in the humor criterion, I did create a simple Java program that prints out all the T9 collisions in a dictionary text file*.

Perusing through this file of 4717 collisions, I found a few I probably would have never stumbled across on my own. Namesake & mandrake are equivalent according to your phone, as are enemy & endow and imam & hobo (please don't hate me, Muslim fundamentalists--I love Islam and am only reporting what I found. Wage jihad against Tegic Communications, the heathen company that developed this godless technology).

Of course, there are a lot of boring collisions, like producer & produces, but there are some fun ones to find as well. I uploaded the output of the program to a public Google doc--check it out and see if you notice any particularly funny or unusual ones (I have only glanced over random sections of it).

After doing all this, I found this page that analyzes T9 collisions for numeric codes with the most words associated with them, which is also interesting, but he never would have found out that pennant & remnant go together, so I like my approach too.

So have you ever had any good mixups using T9 predictive typing? Did you find any gems from my list that I missed?

* I wish I had access to the actual T9 dictionary they use in phones, but I couldn't find it online, so I just used the default linux (American English) dictionary. I also didn't count one-letter words, because they are stupid, and I ignored any words that include anything other than the letters A-Z.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Talent Midrash

I remember thinking up this midrash on my mission, though I didn't know it was a midrash at the time.

Matthew 25:18 But he that had received one [talent] went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

This servant was rebuked for not trading with his talents and getting an increase, as the other two servants had, but in his heart he was resentful for the rebuke because he had, after all, worked harder. The first two had invested the money and let interest do all the work while they sat at home doing nothing. The last servant had traveled to the desert and found a hiding place away from the beaten track. He had dug a deep hole all by himself, buried the money, and replaced all the earth perfectly so no one would be able to discover the cache. He then had to go retrieve it when his master returned. It was all a laborious process, much more intensive than the passive "work" performed by the two servants who the master praised so well.

This scripture shows us that working hard is not the goal. Effectiveness is the goal. Magnifying your calling does not need to mean you stay up to all hours of the night putting together flyers for every class or planning who will read which quote or organizing every detail. We need to prepare, but it is not something to stress about or overdo. Spending time with friends and family, taking a walk through the woods, or reading a poem can be the best preparation for a lesson. Look for ways to let your efforts go farther--to gain the interest of the Spirit on your investment of time--rather than doing everything yourself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

I went on a tour of George Washington Law School today, but as I often do I got there way too early (OCD tendency of mine: fear of being late). I noticed, though, a church across the street from the admissions building. I walked in and sat in the back and read from Romans 9, where I had read the night before, though the NRSV translation they used in this church was a bit plainer in places. The pastor came back and asked if I would like to receive ashes. After asking what exactly that meant and his explanation, I said I would love to.

The pastor read excerpts from the sermon on the mount (again, I love modern translations sometimes) and a few other passages about forsaking sin and our need for a Savior. He talked about how we need to prepare for Easter; if we just walk in Easter Sunday to the joyful church building celebrating Christ's resurrection without having meditated on his death and sacrifice beforehand, we will have missed something. He described Lent as a journey towards Easter in beautiful words. He also talked about how the Resurrection is a challenging concept that we should grapple with. It does not make sense for all of us who were born and die. It transcends logic and intuition.

As he put an cross of ash on my forehead he repeated the words of Genesis: "Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return" and enjoined me to remember my baptism "and be glad." It was a lovely ritual.

As I took the tour of GW and walked back to the metro, I saw a handful of other people with ash smudges on their forehead. As Mormons, we generally wear our religion privately, but it felt interesting to be openly and easily identified as a Christian at first glance, reminding me in a way of Jews wearing a yarmulke or Muslim women a covering of some kind. It felt strange at first to be so open (this coming from a guy who spent 2 years trying to convince pretty much everyone he met to be Mormon!) about religion, I don't really know why. But I liked it.

There is a term known as 'holy envy,' coined by Swedish theologian Krister Stendahl (and according to that wikipedia page it came about when he was defending the LDS Church's right to build a temple in Stockholm!), which I think is a great idea. To me it means that, while remaining committed to your own faith and religion, you can look at and enjoy and, on some non-sinful level, be envious of the traditions and rituals and doctrines of other churches or philosophies. That is how I feel about Ash Wednesday. I don't think there are any reasons why we as Mormons don't commemorate it other than simple cultural ones, and it was fascinating and edifying to participate in another church's remembrance of it. I felt a little bit more connected to the larger Christian world knowing that thousands and thousands of other people were doing the same thing today. I'm glad I was early and stumbled onto the chance to finally take part in this wonderful tradition.

It's a beautiful day today to confess your sins to God and remember the sacrifice of Jesus for each of us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ask me no Questions

I really really hope Obama succeeds in ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. It's dumb, discriminatory, and based on baseless fears. And thank goodness for parody to fully illuminate just how ridiculous it is:

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Troop morale? You've got bigger stuff to worry about when you're getting shot at and blown up by roadside bombs than whether the guy next to you thinks guys are hot. Sorry, it will be a minimal problem, if at all, and even then certainly very temporary.