Google’s My Activity

“Google’s My Activity is a new tool that will show you everything from the Netflix programs and YouTube videos you’ve watched to sites you’ve visited, the things you’ve searched for, as well as the Google products you have used. The tool’s detailed results will show you your search terms, the times and frequency you visited web sites, as well as what device and browser you used for the activities.” [More at C|Net]

My first thought was, “This is pretty cool.” My second was, “Why is Google doing this?” It really drives home just how much Google knows about what we do online. I jumped back to look at what I was up to on July 1, 2014. It’s all there. This goes waaay beyond browser history. Check this out and tell me what you think.

The Cell

A little horror/sci-fi/thriller from 2000, staring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn. For my money this was one of only two J.Lo I liked. She was really good in Out of Site but that had great characters/story thanks to the late Elmore Leonard. But, as is so often the case, the star of The Cell was the serial killer played by a young Vincent D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio gave us the bonkers Pvt. Pyle from Full Metal Jacket but I’ll always remember him as Edgar, the alien bug many from Men In Black. For a simple little movie, The Cell had some spectacular visual effects.

Crime Wiki

“A Wikipedia is impossible, but here it is.” This was one of many insights from Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable that has stuck with me. I think he’s saying that with enough people using the right technology, anything is possible. I like that idea and agree that Wikipedia is a perfect example. Against that backdrop, I’m imagining a crime Wikipedia. Anything and everything you might ever want to know about crimes and criminals. I’m tempted to limit writing and editing to the criminals but we should probably let law enforcement types participate.

Wouldn’t you like to read what professional burglars have to say about breaking and entering? There would be page after page on locks alone. Think of all that could be learned about robbing banks, from the really smart bank robbers… and the ones that got caught. Of course there are many crimes that are so horrible and unspeakable that you and I wouldn’t want to read it. But for this thought experiment, in for a penny, in for a pound.

And let’s ignore all of the reasons why a criminal might not want to share his/her best tricks. I’m just imagining a prison full of knowledge and expertise in a Wikipedia format. Who would benefit most? Young crooks-in-training? Or law enforcement?

The question that brought this on was: Would a burglar be less likely to hit a place at the end of a dead-end street? As a civilian, I’d be inclined to say “not enough information” to answer the question. But a thousand experienced burglars would know what those are and could probably come up with a useful answer.


Smartphone users in the United States can try to help catch sex traffickers with *a newly introduced app designed to identify hotel rooms where victims are held*. The app, TraffickCam, asks users to upload photos of hotel rooms where they may be staying and compares those to photos by law enforcement that depict suspected sex trafficking. […] TraffickCam uses an algorithm that matches hotel rooms by comparing features such as carpeting, furniture and accessories. (Reuters)

Let me see if I have the right. I’m staying at the Day’s Inn in Pissant, Kansas. I take some photos of my room with this app. Up they go to cloud where they’re compared to photos some sick fuck has posted online. If there’s a match, authorities at least now know where those were taken. I do love me some Big Data. Like any tool, can be for good or evil.

How I use Google Calendar

Barb recently started the process of transitioning from MS Office to Google apps (Gmail, Calendar, etc). I’ve been using Google Calendar for years (I’m hardly a power user) so I made this short (9 min) video. If you’re already using Google Calendar you probably won’t find much new here.

Does Frugality Matter If You’re Rich?

“A 2015 study showed that one-third of American households with an income of $75,000 or more live paycheck-to-paycheck … and 44 percent of those households claimed that lifestyle purchases were to blame for their lack of financial progress.”

“According to a 2015 poll, which surveyed 1,044 investors, one in five respondents with investible assets of $100,000 to $1 million dollars agreed they carried too much debt and said they live paycheck to paycheck. Worse, 1 in 10 respondents with assets of $1 million to $10 million were in the same boat.”

“In the same poll, 45 percent of respondents with investible assets of more than $100,000 worried they wouldn’t have enough money to last through retirement.”

Personal Capital Blog

The Big Picture

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. By Sean Carroll

Life is a process, not a substance, and it is necessarily temporary.

For a long time, there has been a shared view that there is some meaning, out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered and acknowledged. There is a point to all this; things happen for a reason. […] Gradually, our confidence in this view has begun to erode.

“Life” and “consciousness” do not denote essences distinct from matter; they are ways of talking about phenomena that emerge from the interplay of extraordinarily complex systems.

At a fundamental level, there aren’t separate “living things” and “nonliving things,” “things here on Earth” and “thinks up in the sky,” “matter” and “spirit.” There is just the basic stuff of reality, appearing to us in many different forms. […] We will ultimately understand the world as a single, unified reality, not caused or sustained or influenced by anything outside itself. That’s a big deal.

The only reliable way of learning about the world is by observing it.

The world is just the world, unfolding according to the patterns of nature, free of any judgmental attributes. The world exists; beauty and goodness are things that we bring to it.

(The) answer to the question “What determines what will happen next?” is “The state of the universe right now.” […] The entirety of both the past and the future history are utterly determined by the present.

The universe is something like a computer. You enter input (the state of the universe right now), it does a calculation (the laws of physics) and gives you an output (the state of the universe one moment later).

Conservation of Information – implies that each moment contains precisely the right amount of information to determine every other moment.

Realistically, there never will be and never can be an intelligence vast and knowledgeable enough to predict the future of the universe from its present state. […] To simulate the entire universe with good accuracy, you basically have to be the universe. […] The future may be determined by the present, but literally nobody knows what it will be.

We don’t know any way to predict what a person will do based on what we can readily observe about their current state.

The Principle of Sufficient Reason: For any true fact, there is a reason what it is so, and why something else is not so instead.

Just as there is no reference to “causes” in the fundamental laws of physics, there isn’t an arrow of time, either.
There are over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and at least 100 billion galaxies. By coincidence, the number 100 billion is also a very rough count of the number of neurons in a human brain.

The Big Bang itself, as predicted by general relativity, is a moment in time, not a location in space. It would be the moment prior to which there were no moments: no space, no time.

Information about the precise state of the universe is conserved over time; there is no fundamental difference between the past and the future.

Different moments in time in the history of the universe follow each other, according to some pattern, but no one moment causes any other.

Belief (is) anything we think is true regardless of whether we have a good reason for it. […] The beliefs we choose to adopt are shaped as much, if not more, by the beliefs we already have than by correspondence with external reality.

The universe evolves by marching from one moment to the next in a way that depends only on its present state. It neither ames toward future goals nor relies on its previous history.

Most of the interesting things it is possible to know are not things we could ever hope to “prove,” in the strong sense. […] Math is all about proving things, but the things that math proves are not true facts about the external world.

Science has a simple goal: to figure out what the world actually is. Nat all the possible ways it could be, nor the particular way it should be. Just what it is.

All of the things you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life — objects, plants, animals, people — are made of a small number of particles, interacting with one another through a small number of forces.

What we see when we look at the world is quite different from how we describe the world when we’re not looking at it. (the fundamental feature of quantum mechanics)

There seems to be no obstacle in principle to a universe like ours simply beginning to exist.

To a poetic naturalist, “mind” is simply a way of talking about the behavior of certain collections of physical matter, just as “heaviness” is.

To imagine that the soul pushes around the electrons and protons and neutrons in our bodies in a way that we haven’t yet detected is certainly conceivable, but it implies that modern physics is profoundly wrong in a way that has so far eluded every controlled experiment ever performed.

Life is a way of talking about a particular sequence of events taking place among atoms and molecules arranged in the right way. […] What is “life” anyway? Nobody knows. There is not a single agreed-upon definition that clearly separates things that are “alive” from those that are not.

Our brains construct models of their surroundings, with the goal of not being surprised very often by new information. Subconsciously, the brain carries with it a set of possible things that could happen next, and updates the likelihood of each of them as new data comes in.

We are all just complicated collections of matter moving in patterns, obeying impersonal laws of physics in an environment with an arrow of time. Wants and purposes and desires are the kinds of things that naturally develop along the way.

What you can see has a dramatic effect on how you think.

Episodic memory and imagination engage the same neural machinery.

What we call a “thought” corresponds directly and unmistakably to the motion of certain charged particles inside my head.

The human brain contains roughly 85 billion neurons, each of which is connected to a thousand or more other neurons, so we’re talking about a hundred trillion or more connections in total.

Memories are physical things located in your brain.

Like “entropy” and “heat,” the concepts of “consciousness” and “understanding” are ones that we invent in order to give ourselves more useful and efficient descriptions of the world.

Who “you” are is defined by the pattern that your atoms form and the actions that they collectively take, not their specific identities as individual particles. It seems reasonable that consciousness would have the same property.

Our mental experiences or qualia are not actually separate things, but instead are useful parts of certain stories we tell about ordinary physical things.

If consciousness were something over and above the physical properties of matter, there would be a puzzle: what was it doing for all those billions of years before life came along? […] Some things just come into being as the universe evolves and entropy and complexity grow: galaxies, planets, organisms, consciousness.

(Meaning, morality, and purpose) aren’t built into the architecture of the universe; they emerge as ways of talking about our human-scale environment.