Friday, November 28, 2008

The Google Threat

We saw the movie "Eagle Eye" recently - a movie where a rouge, "Big Sister" computer system gets morals of its own and decides to remove the President ET AL from office by taking control of pretty much everything than runs on electricity. All very physical stuff to allow for the prerequisite car chases and pile ups that the movie going audience seems to depend on.

In reality, however, the framework for a real life Big Brother takeover is being built this very moment - to the delight of most Internet users - including myself - who marvel at all the latest bells and whistles and eagerly adopt them into our web lives. The title of my post probably gave it away - but I am talking about the Google.

I don't think Google or the folks who run Google have an evil plan to take over the world and demand ... One Million Dollars ... but they are sure creating a setup that would make things a lot easier for somebody who did...

Consider the awesome power of the Google:
  1. As the most popular search engine, it controls the dissemination of information - i.e. it shows you what it thinks you should see...
  2. As online commerce grows, so does the power of the Google grow in that it can control to a large extent which companies make money and which don't. If it wanted to...
  3. Many companies, including large and well known companies willingly hand over their sales data to Google via the Google affiliate program, Froogle and probably a few others I am unaware of. Google knows which companies are selling which products and how many of them they are selling.
  4. They know who is buying them too, and whether that person has enough money in their checking account to cover the purchase and whether their credit card is maxed out - probably their credit limit too. How? Google Checkout. The Google's answer to Paypal.
  5. Google knows that you want an iPod for Christmas - (it read that in your email - for now just to display Google Ads to you in the hope that you click on an iPod ad- enabling them to charge Apple a nickel - unless of course the Google knows that Sony has more money to pay for Google Ads so it tries to convince you to buy a Sony Walkman or whatever they are called these days).
  6. Google also knows where you live, your telephone number, and probably other little bits of trivia you may or may not want to share.
  7. Google knows that you have the ugliest house on the block and that you rarely mow your lawn. Google knows that your home is easily accessible from 3 sides and that good cover is provided on two. Google also knows that you needed directions from your house to some cheap motel on the other side of town and that there are 4 other better hotels within a 5 mile radius of your home that you could have needed directions to, but didn't.
  8. Google knows that you often search the Internet for the keywords "naked women", or that last week you needed information on some exotic communicable disease.
So, what mischief could somebody make who knew your name and personal information, where you live, what your house looks like, the street you live on looks like and the distance to the nearest police station, where you bank, your bank account number, your personal spending habits, the gossip you shared with your best friend and your deepest, darkest secrets?

Uh Gee George, I don't know!

How much do we trust the Google? Just who has access to what information?

Let's play "extremely paranoid weirdo" for a second and come up with a crazy scenario just for kicks... Let's say Osama bin Laden bought a big chunk of Google stock - through a front company - say Aunt Betsey's Cookies & Tractor Parts, Inc. - enough stock so that he could influence and make demands on Google management (via his henchman, Aunt Betsey).

If Osama bin Laden had access to all that information about you and half the country - do you think that would be a good thing or a bad thing?



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yoox Coupon Code

March 5th, 2010 Update: Here is a coupon code from Yoox for 15% Off!

Wonder Woman: an EXTRA 15% OFF and Free Shipping The YOOX CODE - valid until March 8th, 2010 at midnight - that allows you to access the offer is: WOMAN@YOOX

Finally! I thought they had given up!

Hope you find something you'll like!


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Friday, November 14, 2008

Sycamore Canyon Fire - Take Tea

Funny how certain things stick in your mind when you are a kid. I remember the "Sycamore Canyon Fire" in 1977 like it was yesterday. Not that I ever saw any flames, we didn't live close enough, but I remember sitting under a huge cloud of smoke for days and watching the fire fighting efforts on the local news channel.

Houses burning in the Tea fire - November 13, 2008
I remember feeling really embarrassed and kind of dumb because I called up our swim club and asked them if they were open - I had heard the fire department on TV telling residents to use as little water as possible to keep the pressure up for the fire hoses - so I thought the club might be closed - and I wanted to go swimming.

"Yeah - why wouldn't we be open?" The guy had said in 1977.
"Uh.. OK, Thanks, Bye" I had said and hung up as quickly as I could without slamming down the phone.

The 11 year old me was mortified at having asked such a dumb question.

That is what was running through my 2008 brain as I stood on the balcony and watched the homes of at least two families go up in smoke. As tragedies go, our Santa Barbara fires are on the lesser end of the scale - the wealthy areas are the ones that get hit the hardest and people who live there know they are at risk - but I am sure that for those families who are presently watching their worldly possessions go up in smoke - it doesn't feel like that.

Some friends of ours most likely lost everything - they were only able to grab a few photos before they were forced to flee the encroaching flames.

That's what people take in such a situation - memories - the mementos of lives lived, family stories.

If nothing else, the light from those red hot fires lets you see with unusual clarity what is important and what is not. And a new generation of 11-year-olds is experiencing the events - from the terrible to the trivial - that they will remember 31 years from now, also with unusual clarity.


Landscaping tips for the fire prone

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Monday, November 10, 2008


I must say that a bit of nostalgia set in while watching the FOX news coverage of the election. I was reminded of another "Fair and Balanced" News agency that I had watched on occasion when I was 19 or so and was doing a year abroad in West Germany.

What a time I had! - Though there were a few minor annoyances that put somewhat of a damper on my fun.

One in particular stands out quite clearly in my recollections of the time. It was a warm day in May, perhaps the 1st of May and I had just returned home to my WG from the cafe. My housemates were huddled around the small, black and white TV and one was busily trying to adjust the rabbit-ears to get reception.

I knew something was up because the use of that TV was normally limited to watching the "Sportschau" - (The Sports Watch - yes, men are the same all over the world) - and as it turned out I was right; a nuclear reactor I never knew existed had gone boom in a town I had never heard of somewhere in the Soviet Union. I came to know its name very well in the days and weeks to follow: Chernobyl.

Not only did this stupid thing explode, but it sent all of this radioactive stuff high into the air where a passing storm picked it up and carried it westward, only to rain it down on the head of one poor unsuspecting exchange student from California (and everybody else, too). Talk about bad neighbors!

In the first few days that followed, we watched the news carefully because those storms were raining down radioactivity all over Western Europe - and it was critical not get caught in one - or eat any fresh fruit, vegetables or drink fresh cow's milk - because they ate the grass that was caught in the rain.

At one point I remember somebody switched over to a TV station from the DDR - the former East Germany and we watched in amazement as their news program reported on everything BUT Chernobyl. I remember watching girls dancing around with ribbons and hula-hoops and thinking to myself - Wow - Don't they care about the health of their own people?

The answer of course was NO, they didn't give a hoot about anything but furthering their own political agenda - and anything that detracted from that - was just left out. Dirty Commies.

Thank God I live in the USA where our news will report what is important and not just that which serves its own agenda.

After watching FOX news reporters gloat about how stupid Sarah Palin is, and knowing that they knew all of this before the election, I am choking on those words.


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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

I just got back from voting for Barack Obama. I couldn't wait to get to the polls this morning - it was the first thing I did. There were no long lines at my polling center, more due to good organization than lack of interest; it was busy and one of the staffers was announcing first-time voters - everybody clapped. They were also serving coffee and there were big bowls of candy - a little reward for doing one's civic duty.

On the way there I happened to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I have to say I am not much of a fan because all he does is rant and everything he says is predictable. A reasonable person, a thinking person, would have a few surprises up his sleeve once in awhile, because life is more complex than he seems to think it is.

On the other hand, for everything else on my ballot today, I voted like the right-wing extremist that I learned that I am. I didn't know that before, but when one stays home and answers the phone one finds that there are people who will call you and tell you such things.

For example, I voted for the proposition that says doctors have to tell the parents of a girl before giving her an abortion. I don't understand why this is even an issue. If my daughter wanted to get an in-grown toenail removed they wouldn't do that without my or her father's consent. Parents are responsible for their children until they are 18. Period.

I also voted for Proposition 8 because I am tired of people trying to make up be down and down be up. Marriage is one man and one woman - and is primarily there for providing a stable environment for having and raising children. Two people of the same sex cannot do this without some sort of twisted intervention by a third party. All men are created equal under the eyes of the law, not all couples. Nature or God or whatever made it that way.

Before you start squawking about gay and lesbian rights to this or that, ask yourself who gave them the right to decide that any child they might create doesn't get to have a mother or a father? At least one partner will not be the biological parent of the child, and while for some this may not be an issue, saying that such a situation is equal to a child being born with two parents who have a biological imperative to care for it is a load of horse apples. Not equal.

Finally, on the way home I stopped by the "Senior Living" facility to see whether anybody there needed a ride to vote. It was all locked up tight and after ringing the bell, the property management lady showed up at the door and looked at me as if I were crazy when I told her why I was there. She totally blew me off and told me "she can't let me in" - I didn't really want "in" so I just left my phone number with the message that any of the residents could call me for a ride. I felt kind of dumb and I am pretty sure she threw my number in the trash. I sure hope I don't wind up in a place like that.

So that was my morning, folks! Don't forget to vote - I don't care who ya vote for - just vote!


On How Prop 8 Won't Affect Schools
  1. Sacramento Kindergarten Hosts Gay Day Without Advising Parents
  2. Revealed: 'Gay' Plans To Target 2-Year-Olds - 5Th-Grade Students Could Be Handed 'Coping With Sexual Orientation'
  3. Gay & Lesbian Studies in Kindergarten
  4. Teacher's Unions Exposed
  5. Teacher's Union Donates 1 Million to fight Prop 8
  6. You decide - OK to hand out in schools? Massachusetts thinks so
  7. Here is a course that teachers will get professional development credits for - i.e. taxpayers will have to pay them more money - Massachusetts state government employees are the instructors. To be honest, I am in shock. This is just flat out disgusting and everybody involved belongs in jail. I lived in San Francisco and have been to two of the gay parades. I rather enjoyed the colorful floats with dancers and disco music, made for a festive atmosphere. However, the parade ended at the civic center and the scene there made Fellini's Satyricon seem like an episode of Sesame Street - that, it seems, is what they feel is appropriate subject matter for children. If my kids were entering school these days, they would not set foot in a public school. It is borderline child abuse.

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Monday, November 03, 2008



and remember...

When you are in the voting booth, all they can see are your shoes!