What’s Google Up To?

OK, there has been a lot of buzz about Google recently, and part of the buzz has been its Google Secure Access offering. Basically, this is like a wireless VPN to Google’s servers, who then fetch what you need, encrypt the results, and pass it back to you. Interesting idea – and with a very limited rollout currently – but what does it all mean?

I have two take-aways on this, and I could be totally wrong on both, but here goes:

  • Geo-Contextual Ads: You search Google today, and ads are brought up that make sense according to your query. Let’s add another layer of refinement to this – where you’re located – to serve up more relevent ads. Google know what access point you’re hitting, so if you search “San Francisco pizza” it know to serve up those restaurants on the west side of town before the eastern ones. That turns Google into a more effecient Yellow Pages, which is very powerful for some searches (services/purchases, for example. Hey, it could give you all the plumbers in a three-mile radius from your access point).
  • Metrics: If a lot of people start using this service, the data Google can collect will be immensely valuable. They’d be the Nielsen’s of the Web. Even in aggregate (and I hope to god they don’t store that I searched for strippers, just that a person who reads CNN and Slashdot also searched for strippers…), this is information businesses would kill for. And Google can use this info in the same way, to offer up more targetted ads for your profile.

Is this the direction they are going? I dunno. But with all the dark fiber they have purchased over the last few years, and all the money in the bank they have – and the incredible ability to essentially make supercomputers out of clusters of gray box x86, boxes, why the hell not?

E-mail Really IS Broken

Today was a typical day; approximately 700 spams and four real e-mail messages.

The spams were caught by filters (all except four, not a bad ratio), but still.

Look at the bandwidth waste.

The time-waster of occasionally checking these filters to make sure no false positives were found.

Just sad…and e-mail was the killer app of the Internet.

Now it’s just the killer.

Bring Out Your Dead!

Went out this morning to feed the birds, and found one less bird to feed: A dead thrush right at the back doorstep, probably a gift from the cat next door. Oh well, that’s what cats do.

I scooped the the bird up and headed towards the bushes along the back of the property (hey, let’s recycle!) and passed the shed along the way. The door of the shed was cracked, and – out of the corner of my eye – I spied a squirrel tail.

A dead squirrel’s tail.

That one went it the garbage, double-bagged.

Fine way to start the morning…

What I did on my Labor Day Weekend

Well, this is one of the things I did this weekend. Put a new bed in the backyard.

What’ll go in it?

I dunno. We’ll decide that as we go along. The plan for now is to have the far end of the bean bed mounded, so we can have layers of stuff with which to view from inside the house. That may happen; may not. Whatever.

But this manual labor thing is cutting into my coding time…

Credit where credit is due: Romy did the final one-third of the clearing after I tuckered out yesterday after doing the outline and then killing two-thirds of inside. A little after the middle picture was taken.

Apologies for the weak pictures – through several layers of glass (our new windows!) – and just handheld without looking through the viewfinder. Documentation; not art.

Weasel Words

One of the issues I had planned on putting in my last post (Not Proud to be an American) was my continuing frustration at the way all the other issues I was frustrated about were being responded to with a flood of lies, obfuscations and just plain weasel speak: From the White House, from federal agencies, from the Pentagon and so on. Just remarkable.

And today there is just another gem, from the current head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertof. According to Chertof, the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was “breathtaking in its surprise.”

Surprise? WTF? Are my tax dollars paying this guy? How can a storm the size of the frickin’ Gulf of Mexico sneak up on you?

Not Proud to be an American

Don’t get me wrong – the US of A has a lot going for it and, in spite of its faults and screw-ups, still has a lot positive going for it in many different areas.

It’s just that, over the last few years, there have been so many serious – *ahem* – stumbles that country has taken that, taken all together, really leaves a bad Taste of the USA flavor in my mouth.

  • Iraq War – Back in the 1990s, when Sadaam Hussain had the nerve to invade a foreign country (Kuwait), the US got its undies in a bunch and helped push him out of that country that was not his. How dare he! Flash forward a decade, and the US is invading (Iraq) – and we expect to be greeted with open arms and applauded by the rest of the world. How’s that working out so far?
  • 2004 Presidential ElectionThis is why people like me hate politics. Attack ads, half-truths and outright lies, a street fight broadcast 24-hours-a-day by every cable channel available. Blech. If James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were alive today, they’d be booking passage back to England.
  • Abu Ghraib – Call it what you want, we are torturing people there. Period. Yes, Iraq, this is the type of democracy we’d like to foist upon you. That’s a big thumbs up, right?
  • Guantanamo Bay – Holding prisoners for months without charging them, giving them no legal representation and so on. Disgraceful. Yeah, there could be bad guys there – but bad guys here, such as the BTK serial killer, get their day in court, a judge, a jury, a lawyer. OK, maybe they’re not prisoners, they are instead enemy combatants. Again, we’ll withhold basic democratic rights from you to help uphold our country, which champions basic democratic rights. I think my logic meter just had a seizure.
  • The Clusterfuck that was and is the “relief effort” to help those harmed by Hurricane Katrina

The last one – the nearly week-long delay before large-scale efforts were made to help the folks down south was somewhat the last straw for me. It leaves me frustrated and exhausted. Frustausted.

It’s not like this disaster sprung out of nowhere like an earthquake or series of tornadoes. We were watching this storm system for days – it was as big as the fucking Gulf of Mexico, fer christ’s sake. With that size and trajectory, it was going to hit something (a lot of something) in the US, and whatever it hit was going to basically evaporate.

How come there were not trucks with non-perishable food and water lined up a few hundred miles away, so they could start heading in as soon as the storm passed? Convoys of troops on bases just waiting to go in. I mean, what the hell? They knew what to expect.

I’m not even (at this point) interested in the blame game. Was it FEMA’s fault? Was it FEMA’s fault, but they were hamstrung because of budget cuts? Leadership failures by mayors, governors or the president?

Who really cares? Even if you find someone to blame, it’s not going to put those meals missed Monday – Friday in the bellies of people holed up in the hole that is the Superdome in the Big Easy. It’s not going to unrape victims of the chaos that followed the hurricane or bring the dead – that didn’t need to die – back to life.

I just really don’t get it. Maybe we could have prevented 9/11 if we had done this or that, I don’t really know. I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that one.

But this hurricane was anything but a surprise. If formed relatively (a week, not in an hour) slowly, moved slowly, and the airwaves were saturated for days with various vacuous talking heads saying this was going to hammer the Gulf Coast. The mayor of New Orleans ordered the mandatory evacuation of this very large city.

People knew some serious shit was about to hit.

Yet it happened, and it seems like everyone stood around going, “Damn!” but didn’t respond with help.

Not a good decade to be an American.