Google is spying on you. So is the government. And Amazon, and almost every single website you visit … even if you don’t actually visit it but just pass briefly through a photo that’s linked to the site. Every bit of raw data is collected by some database (search engine). Usually more than one. I know this because I helped build these databases. No kidding, I really did.

So unlike most civilians who didn’t think all this data mining would get personal, I figured it would inevitably spread to pretty much everything.

google-search-screenGoogle was the winner in the search engine war because it was, from the beginning, better than its competition. It still is. No one has created a better search or data mining engine, though this doesn’t preclude future competition. Technology never stops trying to build a better whatever.

Google built an empire on their engine. The best, fastest, most complete database in the world. Knowledge is power, so it is said. Google has continued to add to that base and use it in many profitable ways. Mostly, by making advertising personal.


Does Google spy on us? You betcha. ALL the Databases everywhere are collecting information about everyone around the world. Don’t think for a moment it’s just an American phenomenon. Not hardly. Google does it better and more thoroughly and more openly, but spying via computer has become the way the world turns.


google is watching you

Information gathering is a million times (or more?) faster than it was in the early years. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. But does that translate to everyone knowing your secrets?


Not really. Your buying habits are public even if you don’t shop online. Those discount cards and other store ID cards track every purchase you make using any kind of plastic, including your debit card. This information is mined by a parent company, sliced and diced and sold to other companies. Data mining a huge industry and you are both a product and a target. (Think about that for a while.)

But as for the rest of our lives …

Just because we can accumulate information at warp speed doesn’t mean we have the ability to do much with the raw data. The ability to collect information has far exceeded anyone’s — Google’s or the government’s — ability to analyze and make sense of it. Piles of raw data are accumulating on servers, but it isn’t doing anything.

I laugh at the idea that the government is tracking each of us. Personally. They are so buried in their own data, they are barely keeping their collective and individual heads above water. By trying to monitor everything, they effectively wind up monitoring nothing. The amount of data collected by satellites alone is overwhelming.

The terrorist they caught the other day wasn’t on the radar and probably, neither will be serious future threats. There’s so much information it has effectively become no information. Huge heaps of raw data is the same as no data. To make that data useful, an army of analysts would have to start working on it yesterday. No government is hiring an army of analysts, which means the data will grow old and meaningless without anyone having so much as skimmed it.

drone spy

Solving crimes and dealing with terrorism will continue as it always has. Live agents, police, the military — aka people — will use the same forensic methods “as seen on TV” to get the job done. They will rely on informants and citizens to report suspicious activity. They will follow clues, leads, and try to find people who are doing dangerous stuff. Let’s hope they are successful.

Relax. They are tracking your shopping, but they don’t give a hoot about the rest. If there’s information about you out there? Odds are no one will ever see it or be able to find it. You would have to do something to bring yourself to their attention — which I highly recommend you not do.

Meanwhile, all the information gathering engines are busily gathering everything.

Everything is, practically speaking, identical to nothing. Your secrets are safe from everyone except companies who want to sell you stuff. They can always find you.


First off, this isn’t a blog about “Senior Moments”. You know, like when you get up and go into another room and the second you enter the other room you can’t for the life of you remember why you’re there.

The annoying part is that the only way to remember why you went in there is to go back to the room you started in. As soon as you do, you immediately remember why you got up in the first place.

“Oh right. I really have to pee.”

No, this blog is about memory and memories. Why does my brain work the way it does? Why do I remember some things and not others?

Let me explain.

I went to college. I was a biology major and pre-med. I took lots and lots of science courses; biology, physics, math, and chemistry. I got good grades. All A’s or B’s.

I learned lots of stuff. I knew calculus. I knew what a derivative was. No, not the financial thingies that caused the global crash of 2008. But equations that started with dy/dx, or something like that.

Notice the past tense in these last sentences? I “knew” all these things. Today, all that information is gone! Vanished, like I never took any of those courses. Actually, I do remember that there was something called the “Krebs Cycle.” It had to do with respiration or metabolism. I know it’s something we all do that’s very important. If we don’t do it, we die. But that’s all I remember.

Yet, with no effort at all, I can recite all the words to the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Mr. Ed!!!

mr ed

“A horse is a horse of course of course, and nobody can talk to a horse of course. That is of course, unless the horse, is the famous Mr. Ed.” I could go on to the second verse.

But I won’t.

Hell, I can even recite the words to “Car 54 Where Are You?” And I didn’t really watch the show that often!

“There’s a hold up in the Bronx,

Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.

There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.

There’s a scout troop short a child.

Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.

Car 54 where are you?”


I swear I wrote those from memory. They flowed effortlessly from my brain, like crap through a goose. I didn’t Google them.

Which brings me to my next point.

We live in an amazing age. We have all the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Any question you could possibly think of can be googled. It’s gotten so easy that you can type the most rambling of questions and still get the right answer.

For example, a while ago I got into a conversation about time travel and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen a long time ago. It was about an aircraft carrier that went back in time to just before Pearl Harbor. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name so I typed the following sentence into Google:

“There was this movie a long time ago about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time to just before Pearl Harbor and ….”


At this point Google popped up “The Final Countdown.” It listed the cast, the plot, and where I could buy it. All before I could finish typing a full sentence! Wow!

It made me realize something. I could use the internet to bring back all that science knowledge I once had!

But I don’t.

I use it for far more important stuff. Mostly, finding out the name of the actor my wife and I are currently watching on TV. We know we’ve seen him or her on some other show. But we can’t for the life of us remember either his/her name or the show’s name. Google it! Go to IMDB!

“Oh, right! She was the head doctor on that show we used to watch back in the 90’s!”

“Right! She was married to … what’s his name?  He was on … what was the name of that show?”

Back to Google.

So in the end, I still don’t know why my brain works the way it does. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Kreb’s Cycle.

When I started reading it, I actually remembered most of it. Although I gotta admit. It was pretty dull. Mr. Ed was a lot more fun.

Hmm, maybe I do know why my brain works the way it does.


I’m walking around laughing at the gigantic fuss, furor, and scandal over the latest invasion of our privacy. I think this months villain is Microsoft. Last month it was someone else. Government? Corporations? Amazon? Google? They are all spying on us. You knew that, right?

So last night, when we were nicely tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry:

newspaper1“Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”

He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering … or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control.


“I think the way it works is this. First, we invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Next, they invent a secret police so they can keep on being the head of state. The only thing that seems to change is the technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”


72-Alien Computer_03

“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those emails and phone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under data. Lots of jabbering kids yakking with friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all. Our email is pretty dull too.


black and white wires power lines

Americans have an ongoing need to be outraged about something. We require a constant level of civic hysteria, maybe to keep from being boring. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to joke about. It gives liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will.

I’m wondering how long this is going to stay on top of the news. It has been years … at least five so far and I see no end to it. Apparently it never gets old.


Nothing will change. Governments spy on citizens. Citizens are outraged. The outrage is ignored. Eventually, everyone moves on — until it pops up again.

I’m having trouble getting myself worked up over this.

I remember Richard Nixon. I even remember J. Edgar Hoover. I’ve read history. I know traffic cameras track us. If anyone is looking for me — or you — I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding us.


My government spies on me. Corporations spy on me. Everyone collects my personal information and uses without my permission. That’s the price I pay for being connected and computerized.

They were spying on us during the 1960s, albeit less efficiently. They were spying on my parents and their friends in the 50s and 40s.

Obama didn’t start this. Bush didn’t start it. FDR didn’t start it. Abraham Lincoln didn’t start it. It’s been going on as long as there have been governments and it will never end.


I had one of Those Days yesterday. I got up feeling pretty good. A bright, sunny day suggested I might want to take a few pictures. I went to open the window … and the shade did a cartoon thing, snapping itself all the way up and curling tightly around the wooden roller. When I tried to unroll it, it fell down and landed in a heap at my feet.

I should have taken that as a sign, but I shrugged it off. Just an old shade to replace No biggie. Thus the day progressed through some electrical? Software? glitch which deleted all my saved emails addressed to me from me. All the saved information carefully put in labeled folders … trashed. Thank you Google! At least you didn’t erase them. You have to be grateful for what didn’t happen. Keeps things in perspective.


I was still  working on sorting out the mess at midnight when the WiFi went out. We recently replaced the router and since then — about two months — haven’t had a minute of trouble with it.

I sighed. “Guess I’ve got to reboot the router,” I told Garry, who was deep into deciding what to record on the DVR and had problems of his own. I rebooted the router. Came back, but still no WiFi. Went back, did it again, and realized the modem looked unhappy. The lights were blinking, not emitting the steady, solid green glow I have come to associate with a happy, healthy modem. I unplugged it, counted slowly to 25, plugged it back in. Nope.

On a whim, I looked at the telephone. “No line,” it announced. The green light was out.

Charter Communications was down.

I couldn’t call on the phone since the phone runs on the WiFi that we didn’t have. I found Garry’s cell phone, looked up Charter’s number in my paper notebook. After the last few fiascos when I couldn’t get to my contacts because they are online and there was no “online” to get to, I’ve gone retro. I keep a notebook with handwritten contact numbers. The electric company. Charter. My doctor. The two pharmacies. The septic guy. The well guy. My best friend. My cardiologist. Our dentist.

I called Charter. Got the robot. I shouted my answers into the phone, probably waking all the people in the house, but not disturbing the dogs. They are never bothered by whatever mom is doing when she has that thing in her hand. It’s not edible, so it isn’t their concern.

An announcement came. “There’s an outage in your area that might be affecting your service. We assure you we are working as fast as we can to resolve the problem. Would you like us to call you when the issue is resolved? Say “yes” or “no.”

“YES,” I shouted.

“Is there anything else with which we could help you?”

“NO,” I yelled.

They started to babble on about something else, but I’d had enough and disconnected. Closed my computer. Turned out the lights. Went into the bedroom where Garry was settling down to watch something recorded using the big Sennheiser earphones.

“It’s Charter,” I shouted. He didn’t have his hearing aids in.



“Good old Charter,” he said.

I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “They won,” I said between laughs. “They beat me. Charter. Google. Everything. They can break things faster than I can fix them.”

“Give up,” advised Garry. “Tomorrow …”

“Is another day,” I finished. But I kept laughing until I fell asleep. I had been defeated. Just one of those days. Thank you Charter. Thank you Google. Thank you for reminding me I can’t fix everything and sometimes, the only thing left to do is throw your hands in the air and surrender.



happy birthday from google

The weirdest and funniest “happy birthday” of the day? I opened Google after midnight and there was a picture of a birthday cake and other goodies. So I said to myself, I wonder who else’s birthday it is?

When I hovered the cursor, it said (still does) “Happy birthday, Marilyn.” I think it must only work on my computer, but that’s the picture.

How do they do that? It’s kind of spooky, but cute! I know it’s software, but still … out of the millions of people using Google, how do they know to make that header show up on my computers?

Isn’t technology grand?


Two years of blogging: February 4, 2014

So I was sitting here, watching one of the last Jay Leno Tonight Shows and suddenly it came to me. I thought “I must be approaching my blogging anniversary.” So I went to look it up, which turned to be more difficult than I expected.

Finally, I went to the trophy thingie on WordPress and saw that I had an anniversary icon … dated today.

It’s exactly the same as my one year icon. Identical. Be that as it may … it’s been a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad couple of years:

  • 126,000 hits
  • 1,927 posts
  • 1,677 blog followers — not including followers via Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Google and comments.

My top post in terms of hits is still that odd post about the TV show, Criminal Minds. It scored a whopping 10,135 hits, something I don’t think I’ll match. It was a fluke that Google put me on the top of their search engine for that show. You can read it and wonder — along with me — why in the world it was so popular: The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

I finally got Freshly Pressed. It was a lovely surprise, especially since I didn’t expect it. After all that blogging without having gotten the nod, I didn’t think it would ever happen. Never say never. You can read about it in HOLY EXPLETIVE! I AM FRESHLY PRESSED! and WRITING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. The post that did it was most uncharacteristic of my usual stuff — by far the creepiest thing I ever wrote: GONZO GEORDIE HAD AN AX.

I posted at least once per day for all of last year, not counting that unfortunate week on Cape Cod when I had no WiFi.

Thanks to all of you who’ve been my faithful friends and to all my new friends. I hope we can all celebrate when the next anniversary rolls around!

HARRIET TUBMAN (1820 – 1913)

98f/41/hgmp/12611/mp306From Google, this is dedicated to Harriet Tubman, Activist, humanitarian, African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. (See Wikipedia for more.)

She was born in 1820 in Dorchester County, MD and died on March 10, 1913, in Auburn, NY. Married to Nelson Davis (1869-1888) and John Tubman (1844-1851), she had one daughter, Gertie Davies. She was the child of Harriet Greene and Ben Ross.

There is a huge amount of information about Harriet Tubman available in libraries and across the Internet. Today is the first days of African-American History month. Google Harriet Tubman to find out wonderful things you will love to know.

Not all heroes wear uniforms.