Archive for July, 2015

Unintentional Haiku in New Scientist’s Medical Frontiers: The Movie

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?I’ve made a new version of Haiku Detector. The main changes are:

  • Performance improvements
  • Tweaks to which haiku are identified when punctuation is pronounced differently depending on line breaks and other factors (this includes a workaround for the ‘all numbers pronounced as zero’ bug I found in the speech synthesiser.) In my test data the list of haiku identified is better now.
  • Bug fixes.

To celebrate the new release, I fed in the text from the latest New Scientist ‘Collection’ issue, on medical frontiers. The funniest haiku arose when the last sentence of one article joined up with the headline and byline of the next. For example, this looks like the tagline of a movie about an underappreciated superhero, fighting to save anti-vaxxers from diseases of yore:

They will not thank you.
Small shot, big impact

After the opening credits, we see our hero Dan Jones in his lab, and the subtitle announcing his first challenge.

DRUG: Chlorotoxin
SOURCE: Deathstalker scorpion

His superpowers come, of course, from vaccines:

Some vaccines seem to
provide us with a host of
extra benefits

But not everybody is happy with that:

Several groups have been
trying to develop drugs
that block these signals.

These groups spread propaganda:

Half an hour or
so later, you’ll feel a lot
better. Or will you?

They work around rules:

“Because we use cells,
not field-grown plants, we don’t come
under the same rules.”

And they target humanity by zapping the very microorganisms they’re made up of. Here’s a quote from the evil mastermind:

There are more cells in
your body than there are stars
in the galaxy.

These cells can then be
killed using a laser that
penetrates the skin.

And just when Dan thought he had the solution, the problems compounded to the point of suspension of disbelief, precipitating a crisis. The mastermind had cooked up her own microbial minions:

Those microbes can be
in the environment or
a vaccine syringe.

To make matters worse,
there is a shortage of new

The sequel, which may or may not be a Doctor Who crossover, features a heroine who will live forever:

“Just endless.” Helen
Let’s get physical

Yep, it’s definitely a Doctor Who crossover. Here’s a quote from that movie:

“I’m the doctor. I’m
going to tell you what your
feelings really mean.”

She discovered that time, and specifically time travel, is the best cure for a broken heart:

If we can’t fix hearts
with stem cells there might be an
even better way

As the animal
was slowly warmed, it began
to return to life.

But however clever the TARDIS is, there’s one thing Helen Thomson isn’t sure she can do:

But can we ever
turn the clock back to a world
without HIV?

It turned out, weirdly enough, that the answer was in making sure there was enough shelf space for one’s awards. So she went home to Britain to save the Officers of the British Empire:

On her return home,
she applied those lessons in
British hospitals.

So far, two patients
have had OBEs, but neither in
a room with a shelf…

While we’re making sequels, let’s revive an old favourite, which never had any sequels:

The matrix holds a
dazzling array of future

But what is the matrix?

Normally, matrix
is harvested from human
or pig cadavers.

I guess you have to see it for yourself.

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Video: Journey Into the Dishwasher

Dishwashers. They sure seem like they’re on our side. But what are they really after? What do they really do behind those closed doors? I sent my waterproof camera and waterproof torch to find out.

Okay, so maybe I was trying to figure out why my dishwasher didn’t wash very well and the relative positions of the camera and torch didn’t lead to any useful data. But I think the result still looks interesting, up until the torch turns off, and it sounds pretty cool too, from about 1:40 onward. I wonder if it would be pleasing to people who experience ASMR, or supremely annoying for people with certain kinds of misophonia. Or perhaps it’ll just be good ambient sounds for relaxing.

The music at the beginning is part of something I was working on a while ago in order to experiment with weird chords. Eventually I’ll probably turn it into a ‘song’ about space shuttles.

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Snack Bar (Black Star parody)

You might recall that I was a fan juror on the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music this year. Well, the winners were announced at FuMPFeST, as I watched via video stream. The winner of ‘Outstanding Parody Song’, after a tie with Weird Al Yankovic was broken by Dr. Demento, was Devo Spice (featuring Power Salad) with the song ‘Snack Bar‘. That song is a parody of ‘Thrift Shop‘, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the title was Radiohead’s ‘Black Star‘. So the day after the awards, I wrote a Black Star parody about the temptingly-convenient yet unhealthy snack bar that I heard was available at FuMPFeST. It’s probably about time I posted it. I haven’t recorded it, because singing isn’t really a thing I do, but here are the words:


I have to admit that after con I’m not as fit as what I
think I might’ve been.
I know that the food I eat does not have lots of vitamins.
Look at the plight I’m in.

Look horrified, I mean.
Blame it on the snack bar.
Blame it on the processed food.
Blame it on the multitude of junk at hand.

A snack in mouth, and a snack in hand, I try to understand what I’m eating for.
I know that I am full, but I still treat myself, my self that I am treating poor.
I eat not needing more.
I can’t fight greed anymore.

Blame it on the snack bar.
Blame it on the processed food.
Blame it on the pulchritude of starch and fat.

I get in the line and I just stand about now that food is made for me.
I see it displayed and I just salivate; I want the food pureed for me.
Is it too late for me?
I’ve gotta cut down.

Blame it on the snack bar.
Blame it on the processed food.
Blame it on the pulchritude of junk at hand.

This is killing me
This is killing me

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