Aug 302008

The other day the Seattle Times profiled the Microsoft Natural Language team and their challenges in keeping the up with spell-checking since languages are constantly in flux.

Now the paper’s blog asks us “What words would you add to the Microsoft spell-checker?“. Here’s a few quotes:

A friend who works in the sciences said it’s difficult to trust the spell-checker in her field. “You think Bromodichloromethane or 4-Methyl-2-Pentanone are in there? Or whenever we use borehole the suggested correction is brothel…”

A man who works in Olympia had this question: “I’ve often wondered why a corporation based in Washington has a spell-checker that doesn’t include Walla Walla as an acceptable proper noun instead of insisting that it’s a repetition… Apparently, Microsoft thinks there’s a town called Walla, WA — where they grow Walla onions.” (Only half as delicious, I’m sure.)

 Posted by at 9:45 am
Aug 272008

Neal Stephenson has a new book to be released Sept 3 2008 (pre-order on Amazon). writes about Stephenson’s motivations and where the ideas came from for this 960 page novel.

Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced “arb”), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment—sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or “auts,” who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals. Freed from the pressures of pedestrian life, the avaunt view time differently. Their society—the “mathic” world—is clustered in walled-off areas known as concents built around giant clocks designed to last for centuries. The avaunt are separated into four groups, distinguished by the amount of time they are isolated from the outside world and each other. Unarians stay inside the wall for a year. Decenarians can venture outside only once a decade. Centenarians are locked in for a hundred years, and Millennarians—long-lifespanners who are endowed with Yoda-esque wisdom—emerge only in years ending in triple zeros. Stephenson centers his narrative around a crisis that jars this system—a crisis that allows him to introduce action scenes worthy of Buck Rogers and even a bit of martial arts. It’s a rather complicated setup; fortunately, there’s a detailed timeline and 20-page glossary to help the reader decode things.

 Posted by at 10:02 pm