I’ve been using Google well over a decade now. That’s how I learned that someone skilled and diligent can find out a surprising amount of information about almost anybody. Google therefore has a detailed history of my searches for as long as they actually keep data. This data is potentially available to law enforcement — maybe. It worries me that they might be tailoring search results to give users what are potentially biased links. This might contribute to various ideological “echo chambers” across the nation. Web history can be turned off in Google, and I recommend you use the settings to do so.
I use Gmail. It is very good at filtering spam, I can access it from computers other than my home computer easily, and emails arrive at my phone (more on that in a bit). Just by keeping track of senders and subject lines of emails, Google knows of several places I shop, what mailing lists I am subscribed to, that I receive some emails in Japanese, what sorts of political views and charities I am likely to support, that I have a Twitter account, that I have historically had an interest in real estate, and what colleges I have attended. Remember, they only know more if they are actually reading my email and analyzing it in any way. I’m not as worried as I probably ought to be about this, because my attitude is “Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t read out loud to your mother, your boss, and a judge.” Hi mom!
Thanks to Google Calendar, they also know the rough outline of my schedule and the first names of friends I routinely meet for lunch. Services like Schedulicity are very good at syncing with Google Calendar, so the mothership also knows of certain service providers, how often I see them, and what services they perform for me.
Via Google+, they know of several people with whom I have personal, familial, or professional relationships.
I also use an Android phone. Here’s another way they know oodles about me. It syncs with all those services above, which is horribly convenient since I don’t have to carry a date book or sit at my computer; my phone has my calendar and contact information for people I know, and I can update things on the spot. My phone also has a GPS in it, and can inform me of weather or even how long it will take me to get home. Is this information relayed to the mothership? I must assume it does until proven otherwise. I have a bunch of apps on my phone, of course. The easiest way to get apps onto an Android phone is of course to get them through the Android store. Therefore Google has a very, very good idea what apps I have and am likely to be using, whether they are productivity apps or little time wasters.
If I used Blogger, they would know even more about me and my views!
In Closing: I have a whole bunch of health and diet links today; a few random education links too; ok, here’s some NSA and privacy news, special up-is-down edition; Putin; pro-choice and pro-actual-life; that’s kinda what I thought; at least the White House got one thing right; sure sounds like an excuse to write more prescriptions and make more money to me; gravity and evolution are both theories; keep riding your Congressmouse’s butt on this and that; trolled; on wages and poverty; science fiction; snowplow parents; I doubt the Pope gives a hoot about the views of the “liberal media.”
Okay, I’m not that into country music, but I got me a soft spot for Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
Veteran’s Day was originally Armistice Day, and it was about the end of The Great War — what we would eventually call World War I. Once there was a second great war, we started calling the day Veteran’s Day. Now, few vets of those days remain with us. Even the Boomers who fought in the Vietnam war are getting Social Security checks.
So most Americans will celebrate the day off of work not with remembrances, but with low, low sale prices.
Within the last few years there have been multiple major video games featuring Las Vegas. Since I actually live in Vegas — albeit one not already partially destroyed by war — I’d like to give you a few quick thoughts on two of them. I will not be dealing with gameplay, nor plot despite some logic and physics shortfalls of one of the games.
Fallout: New Vegas
When I saw the map to this game, it looked a lot like a real road map of Las Vegas. The actual grid of the city and the major loop around town are clearly identifiable. Sure, the video game map has a lot more roads to the South of town around the real-life mountains; not all of the action is in town and some places have been rendered uninhabitable by radiation.
Nor was this a case of “take a real map, erase a few lines, and draw some new squiggles around the mountains.” A player can clearly identify landmarks such as Bonnie Springs or the curving highway behind Lone Mountain.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
By way of contrast, we have Ghosts. Easily one of the most anticipated titles of 2013, this game let many people down. Ok, it’s pretty-looking. As much as I could write, I will confine myself to one particular section of the game — the one centered around post-mass-driver-attack Las Vegas. Miraculously, the Las Vegas Strip was left mostly intact, but completely reorganized. Now that’s one heck of a weapon. There’s clear damage at the Bellagio, yet the fountains still work! Several scenes take place in a building that can only be the Luxor, although they didn’t even get the interior architecture correct. From inside the Luxor, the characters have a clear view of many Las Vegas Landmarks: the Stratosphere, Bellagio, City Center, the Palazzo, Mandalay Bay, and some others. Unfortunately, not all of these should be visible from the Luxor, let alone from one side of the Luxor! Somehow, all have been mysteriously teleported down the Strip, some by several kilometers. What an interesting coincidence that our ugliest casinos seem to have vanished! This mish-mash was somewhat distracting for me. Could nobody from Infinity Ward have looked at a map?
Nor does the silliness end with the single player. The multi-player maps include a slum that signage would seem to indicate is north of what most people would consider the Las Vegas Strip. The landmarks are laughably bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some cheap, crappy hotels between The Strip and Downtown. However, if this particular neighborhood exists, it’s to the East, perhaps down Fremont a couple klicks.
Summary: If you like paying for the newest, hippest, hottest game, Ghosts is already on your wish-list if not your gaming machine. But if you are using video games as a map, you’d better dig New Vegas off the shelf. Remember, the super mutants are not real.
It used to be that the saying “the elephant in the room” meant “the big thing that’s really important but nobody wants to talk about.” And that’s the sense that Time Magazine meant this week: the Republican Party might be controlled by its far right wing, yet voters would rather elect more centrist pragmatists like Chris Christie.
For a nice double play, the elephant is the mascot of the GOP. Get it? Elephant in the room? And he’s a Republican? Ha.
And ok fine, Chris Christie is overweight. Even Chris Christie knows he’s overweight. The triple play is that he’s [not quite] big as an elephant [and shrinking]. But you know what? I bet the first time he looked at that cover he said to himself “Yes! Made the cover of Time!” rather than “Aw, Time Magazine made a fat joke about me.”
Maybe some people need thicker skins.
In Closing: Here, enjoy the latest crop of NSA, Snowden, privacy, and assorted related issues links (heaven help me, I mostly agree with Richard Stallman); heh, how dare she say pro-life people should care about the living; on health insurance and the ACA website; Too Big To Give a Damn about the Law; neuromuscular junctions; the truth about the economy, with pictures; unwritten rules; on President Obama; Millennials; Deming = Roswell?; poverty; and Japan’s other nuclear reactor.
In Closing: It looks like ENDA will pass the Senate — thanks to of all people, Nevada’s own Dean Heller, who knows Nevadans will sooner elect a crook than a nutcase — but it doesn’t matter because Speaker Boehner might not let it reach the House floor; not that being Gay should matter; ok, can somebody explain to me why a campus health center should be expected to deal anything more complicated than strep throat? Do these same students get upset that they need a real hospital to deal with broken bones?; I wonder how the customer will get screwed on this deal; Uh oh, made Google mad; the irony is how badly child care workers are paid; won’t touch this; pro-drone propaganda; and prosthetic hand on a budget.
On one hand, enough it known about “America’s Secret Agencies” to devote a special issue of Time to the topic.
On the other hand, enough Americans want to know what the heck is going on that this can be at the checkout stand right next to cover stories about the Kardashians and Prince George. These issues aren’t going away.
In Closing: oh, you know I wouldn’t skip an opportunity to share some really choice NSA, Snowden, and privacy links!; TSA and LAX; Megabus; by the corporations, for the corporations; yeah, maybe an armed Neighborhood Watch isn’t such a good idea; well, he’s a Democrat so obviously the system works [/sarcasm]; prison reform; completely unprepared; food stamps; and the filibuster.
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
In Closing: enjoying the view; don’t forget that Yellowstone is essentially a giant, flat volcano; organized crime; family tree; I’m willing to take it as a police failure that Target feels it needs it’s own crime lab; reforestation; how does one get electricity into an underground drug tunnel??; Google Glass; deficit; Obamacare; GOP has a problem; sardines; ingenuity; television; and Happy Halloween.
Ok. There are some people — millions of them to be honest — who are unhappy that their insurance policies are being cancelled. The policies were reasonably priced, the consumers argue. What these consumers fail to understand is that they were crap policies that were inexpensive because they didn’t actually cover much of anything! If any of these people ever actually had a claim, they would have discovered just how bad those policies were, and would probably be far less satisfied. Obama’s claim that if you liked your insurance you could keep it? That assumed you had coverage rather than an insurance fig-leaf.
So getting mad at the government for forcing predatory insurance companies to stop issuing “insurance” that didn’t actually cover much of anything is like getting mad about a crib recall notice because after all, your kid didn’t die.
And for the record, the real way forward is still Medicare For All.