Posts tagged ‘google’

The internet has amazing uses

This past weekend, Scott, Ronnie, Nick, Jerry, and I hung out. During part of the evening, the conversation turned to brazil nuts (don’t ask me how that happened; I have no clue). A discussion of brazil nuts and a search for the only brazil nut plantation in the world →


Hells yeah! The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the group in charge of domain registrars (who are in charge of keeping track of who owns what domain names) changed some boring policies, and my personal work indirectly affected the entire Internet. →

XKCD: an inside perspective

Randall Munroe, creator of the hilarious webcomic XKCD, gave a talk at work last week, and it was pretty interesting. I bring this up because he discussed the current comic in his talk. When the Google Labs Aptitude Test came out, Randall decided he was going to apply, but he didn’t want to turn it in until he had gotten all of the questions. He couldn’t get the resistor question, and eventually asked his physics professor about it. They filled up an entire blackboard without getting anywhere on the problem (see the alt text in the comic). Randall gave up on the GLAT and never turned it in. However, he eventually looked up some literature on the resistor problem: it wasn’t actually solved until the 60’s, and wasn’t solved elegantly until the 90’s. Both proofs required math so complex that he didn’t recognize it. He no longer feels bad about not solving the problem, though.

One of the other things he mentioned in the talk is that now that people read his comic, he has nothing new to talk about at parties; everyone has heard all of his stories and jokes already.

Fantastic developments!

Back in November, I watched a bunch of videos from TED, and I’ve been raving to my friends about the first one ever since. It’s by Hans Rosling, who displayed a really neat way to represent statistics and other large sets of data in a simple, intuitive, and basically useful way. Well, it turns out I wasn’t the only one who was impressed: his software, GapMinder, was acquired by Google earlier this week! It would be really cool if we could all use this to look at more pieces of data more easily. You can already play around with a demo. Sweet!

I’ve already learned stuff from it: I had not heard of Comoros or Seychelles before playing with it today. They’re both countries north of Madagascar, apparently. Also, GDP and rate of economic growth don’t appear to be correlated, which surprised me. People in Luxembourg make a lot of money.

Oh, and by the way: it turns out there’s a Firefox plugin to support GPG in GMail. I might start using GMail full-time if this turns out to be easy to use.

Google knows how to throw a party

I just flew in from Reno, and boy are my arms tired. The ironic thing is that it’s totally true. Here’s what’s happened in the past 48 hours:

The first party →

It’s good to work at the Google

I realize it’s old news at this point, but President Bush is still out of touch with the world.

This evening after work, Dustin, Josh, Caitlin, Dave, Dominic, Nick, Nick’s boyfriend whose name I never caught, and I went out to dinner at Houston’s. We then walked around the Third Street Promenade for a bit, looked at the Puzzle Zoo (a game store), got some gelato, and went back to Google. Why would we go back to work at 9:00 in the evening on a Friday, you ask? On the second floor, we have a lounge complete with pool table, ping-pong, foosball, 2 XBox 360’s, a GameCube, a PS2, an Atari, and probably some other video game systems (I should point out that the video game systems are all owned by individual Googlers who have permanently lent their stuff to the lounge; I don’t think even Google would buy that stuff for its employees). This is enough entertainment to keep all of us, along with several other people who stopped in, busy for the whole night. I left work around 1:15 AM, and there were still 4 people playing foosball when I left. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to be working at such a great company, with such fantastic benefits and perqs.

One of the coolest parts of the evening was how nerdy everyone was, but at the same time how intelligent and comfortable they were with their nerdiness. Some very nerdy examples →

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Some not-so-bad news

Today the Senate voted down a gay marriage amendment, 49-48 (it needed 60 votes) (thanks to mikasaur2000 for the link to the article, which is a rather good one). I watched the Daily Show yesterday, in which John Stewart debated the topic with Bill Bennett and made some excellent points. For instance, Mr. Bennett claimed that marriage was threatened by this, and gave a slippery slope argument that if we allow gay marriage, we might eventually need to allow polygamy and other commonly disliked practices (he also noted that in every religion and culture, marriage is between men and women). Stewart turned this around and made the opposite slippery slope: if the government can ban gay marriage, they could then go further and ban interracial marriages (which are also looked down upon in almost every religion and culture).

The thing that bugs me about this issue is that proponents of such an amendment say it’s necessary because otherwise judges will strike down the current laws banning gay marriage as unconstitutional. If such laws are unconstitutional, my first impulse is not to change the constitution to fit my whims, but to question my viewpoint and wonder if it could be incorrect. Imagine what would have happened if, instead of fighting a civil war, the government had simply made a constitutional amendment to allow slavery, since the majority of the country at the time was for slavery but could see a vocal and growing number of people opposing it? If we can make constitutional amendments for laws that would otherwise be unconstitutional, what keeps us from making constitutional amendments for all laws? It seems like the proponents of the ban are attempting to keep the courts out of the battle because they know the courts will strike down any such law, and that by making a constitutional ban, they can circumvent the courts entirely.

On an interesting but less significant note, China seems to be blocking Google and a number of other websites from the outside world. Although this in itself is not new, this time they’re causing a lot of inconvenience and people are starting to complain. In particular, Google has been censoring the results on but not on (which until now could still be accessed from China). This is certainly not a surprise, but it’s interesting to note that this is starting to stir up a lot of discontent.

With any luck, there will be more news posts now that summer is in full swing.

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More news…

I suspect this case will grow to be as big a Right To Die issue as the Schiavo case was. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. Time will tell what happens…

In other news, Google has refused to comply with a federal subpoena asking to see search requests it handles, presumably to learn more about who is looking at pornography (shocking as this may seem, some people search for, and find, pornography on the internet!). Google, standing firm under its motto to “do no evil” claims that divulging this information, even if it contains nothing that links any searches with actual people, would be a violation of the privacy of the users of its search engine. Google seems to be the only company who has stood up to such requests. I have more and more respect for Google as the days go on. The only thing I see wrong with Google is its ongoing legal battle against the shopping website Froogles. At this point, Google and Costco are the only companies with my admiration.