Check Your Google Web History

The EFF posted an article with screenshots on how to remove your Google web/search history. This is because their new privacy policy exposes what you have searched for in the past to your connections. They say to use the Remove all Web History button. Instead, I am using this as an opportunity to learn about myself. Not only does it have my searches, but it also has the sites on which I clicked.

    • My web /search history goes back to Nov 20, 3007.
    • Wikipedia is a common click.
    • I suck at spelling.
    • I search about myself.
    • Pretty sure this history is missing quite a bit.
    • Expanded search has no entries; Limited has too much to review everything.
    • If at first I do not find something, new variants pop up over several days.
    • About a tenth of my listed searches were in support of an active conversation.
    • Surprised my phone searches were not included in this history.

Responses to my Facebook post about this earlier today were a couple friends who found it already turned off. I found a number of 2007 and 2009 articles advocating turning it off. Even Google’s help on Basics: Web History says:

When you create a Google Account, Web History is automatically turned on.

I’m thinking more and more I need separate Google accounts for work and personal lives.

If Google is going to publicize what I search for to my friends, then it would be nice for me to have filters. Maybe I want any clicks I make to urbandictionary.com to be private? My vulgar vocabulary is weak, so it is a good source for understanding what a few friends mean. But I would be mortified for Google to tell my Mom to go there because I did.

Underground Back Channels

During first couple years at my first real job post-college, a friend of a friend would IM me questions about how to solve computer problems for which he could not figure out the answers. These requests started as me doing the work for him with dubious promises of doing the same for me. (I knew he’d gotten a job over his head and making 2.3x more than me. I also knew he did not know anything about my work and could not help me.) When I did not bite to do this, he shifted to giving him the answers and settled for all that I was willing to do: point him in the right direction. Having worked in a library, pointing patrons and friends in the right direction was something I was used to doing.

This conversation was not officially sanctioned by either of our employers. Neither of us told our bosses about these conversations. Was I leaking the intellectual capital of my employer? Was this friend of a friend leaking his employer’s intellectual capital to me? In any case, it would probably be considered an underground interaction. My boss at the time encouraged my professional participation on web technology email lists as helping others with my knowledge and experience gave me access to others who could do the same. The difference was the lists were sanctioned while the friend of a friend was not no matter how similar.

The Learning Black Market suggests students today use Facebook as a private back channel to classmates for pointers in the right direction on how to work on class assignments. They also secretly use Wikipedia despite it being forbidden as a source. When I was a student, the same sort of back channel activity for pointers would happen but face-to-face in the hallway was the preferred place not Facebook. Instead of Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica was the preferred first source. (Gosh, I am old.) Just like students today are told Wikipedia is not an allowable reference and not to ever use it yet they do anyway, EB was not an allowable reference and yet I saw my classmates using it to figure out terms that would help them find allowable references. Students today sometimes use Wikipedia for the same reason.

Educators want the students to take their time and deliberately work through the assignments the hard way so they learn the most through the process. Students want to get the assignment done in the least amount of time while still making a good grade. Educators lack the oversight to force students to behave except to detect plagiarism or cheating in the produced artifacts.

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

Prisoner’s Dilemma Denim Style

At work denim was removed from the acceptable dress code. No worry to me because I could not remember the last time I actually wore jeans to the office. They are not clothes I wear often away from the office either. Even in “cold” weather (above freezing, below room temperature) I sweat in them. I find them uncomfortable to wear while sitting. So I pretty much only wear them when I am going to spend time in freezing weather and not at the office. Losing the authorization did not bother me much.

Your area has been assigned a denim dollar collector for “Denim Days” starting ******.   Each [certain weekday] your denim dollar collector will visit to see if you or everyone in  your area is wearing denim.   If everyone in your area is wearing denim the cost will be $3.00 per person, if not, the cost will be $5.00 per person.

I wonder if people know this is a more complex version the Prisoner’s Dilemma in game theory.

Tucker began with a little story, like this: two burglars, Bob and Al, are captured near the scene of a burglary and are given the “third degree” separately by the police. Each has to choose whether or not to confess and implicate the other. If neither man confesses, then both will serve one year on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. If each confesses and implicates the other, both will go to prison for 10 years. However, if one burglar confesses and implicates the other, and the other burglar does not confess, the one who has collaborated with the police will go free, while the other burglar will go to prison for 20 years on the maximum charge.

The strategies in this case are: confess or don’t confess. The payoffs (penalties, actually) are the sentences served. We can express all this compactly in a “payoff table” of a kind that has become pretty standard in game theory.

In this case, cooperation is both confessing (example) and wearing denim (situation). Defection is both not confessing (example) and not wearing denim (situation). Unlike Prisoner’s Dilemma there is not a middle point where both defecting has the second best result. Also, one has to anticipate whether 3-30 people all cooperate not one other. According to game theory, it is in everyone’s interests to cooperate which means wear the denim.

Unfortunately, there is a plausible third choice which may derail the whole thing: refusing to pay anything. Wearing jeans and not paying would still be unauthorized as the point of the activity is to raise money by letting people participate. However, forcing people who do not wish to participate seems like a Human Resources disaster waiting to happen. Yet, the game is predicated on universal participation. Hopefully, when there is push back from people like me they just strike those refusing to play along from the activity as non-participating and do not punish all the members of the group by making them pay for a non-participant.

BTW, Denim supposedly could mean “de Nîmes” aka “of Nîmes” a city in France. (Wikipedia / Yahoo news) I didn’t go into scholarly research to determine whether that is true.

Legacy of A Name

There is a legacy of my name most people may not be aware.

Ezra the Scribe made all the men of Israel send their foreign wives back to Persia. See, the people had been living in Babylon in Persia (now Iraq). Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, allowed them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (the same one whose current ruins form the basis of the animosity of Islam vs Israel) following a dream. His grandson, Darius, allowed the Israelites to return. One of the better known repercussions of reconnecting the people with the Word was to make the men give up any foreign wives to send back to Persia.

10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.

This is definitely about separating different races, seeking to accomplish the same thing as what Loving vs. Virginia overturned. So there is a certain amount of irony being indirectly named for an anti-miscegenationist when just a couple years prior my parents found difficulty getting married over them being of two different races. Of course, my mother was proud of making John C. Calhoun roll over in his grave by having me… So….

DDoS of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and other sites all admitted to suffering from a DDoS attack. It seem to me the purpose of a Denial-of-Service attack (DoS) against a web site is to flood it with so much traffic the site becomes unusable. The DDoS is where multiple other computers are coordinated into launching the attack.

All three of the above mentioned sites have had recent issues keeping up with growing usage. The USA inauguration and Iran demonstrations peaked traffic so much the sites seemed like they suffered from a DoS. Already at the edge, an attack tipped the barely making it social media sites over it. Some users abandon them for less popular (so more stable sites). Those who stick around suffer from learned helplessness.

Causing all this hullabaloo over a single user seems odd to me. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know if this guy from Georgia (the country) deserved it. Also, it is almost the one year anniversary since Russia invaded Georgia. During the invasion, DDoS attacks disabled Georgian web sites. So, maybe this is to show Georgia the Russians are still capable of causing problems? This is why security evangelists want us to be able to deal with threats.

Various computer viruses over the years have turned millions of computers into zombies for botnets. So… If you are upset about your favorite social media site getting taken down, then maybe you should act on ensuring your computer and others in your social network were not enlisted into a botnet?

Turnitin.com

I’m surprised I have not blogged here about the student lawsuit against Turnitin.com? An anti-plagiarism service, Turnitin has students or faculty members upload papers into the database. By comparing new papers to the database, it gives ratings as to whether it is likely a student plagiarized.

Now the search goes out for any student who has a paper that’s being held by TurnItIn that they did not upload themselves. Students Settle with TurnItIn

In theory I could be someone in this situation. Back in 2005, a coworker asked my mother if someone by my name was related to her. This coworker was taking some classes at the university I attended. Turnitin had threw up a cautionary flag on the Originality Report because it was somewhat similar to something with my name on it. The problem is this product came into use at the university after the time I was a student. So I never submitted anything to it. The department from which I got my degree kept a copy of my papers (many submitted by email) and used this product at the time.

Another possibility is this tidbit about the product: Over 11 Billion Web Pages Crawled & Archived. I was actively blogging before and at the time of the incident. Assuming it could identify my name out of all that content, this match could have come from my blogging.

When I contacted Turnitin about this back in 2005, they told me I would have to remove my paper. I re-explained that I didn’t submit the paper. So Turnitin explained that whoever did put the paper in the system would have to remove it. The guy acknowledged the difficulty of the situation in identifying who posted it.

TED Talk: Dangers of Serotonin

He’s associated damage to the temporal lobe with psychopathic killers. The epigenetic effects, brain damage, and environments appears to be an MAOA variant on the X chromosome with experiencing violence around 3 years old.

Males only get the X from their mother. Men are much more likely. Girls get one X from mother and one from father which dilutes. Bathing the brain in serotonin too early makes the brain insensitive to the calming serotonin later.

Interesting.

TED Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer

I’m blogging this.

Elizabeth For about eight months I have participated in a group called the Brunch Bunch here in Athens. We get together to eat and talk. Many conversations drift into the nerdy (my forté?). The locations vary so I have gotten to try new (to me) restaurants. Elizabeth (pictured right) vouched that I am a great guy. Well, these are great people.
🙂

Elizabeth also brought a friend of hers from out of town, Claudia. Claudia, smartly has a newer version of my Canon Rebel. I have the XT. She has the XSi (two models newer). The newest is the T1i.

Downtown Athens is a great place to shoot photos. So, we walked around for an hour or so looking in stores to get out of the heat. This is the hat Elizabeth bought from Helix who also had some cool stone candle holders. Native American Gallery had some interesting petroglyph jewelry and gray flower pottery. I’ve got some ideas for gifts to give for upcoming birthdays, holidays, etc.

One of the employees at Helix and Claudia both asked if I had a blog. I’m sure it was because of my shirt! I only admitted to this one and blogging about Blackboard. Though, I guess I have diversified somewhat here. I probably should blog more about local stuff as well. That would mean getting out more as well.

I'm blogging this.For years, I have been collecting teeshirts from thinkgeek.com. At present the collection consists of:

Some others are on my wishlist. I do have some shirts from other places. By far the most popular is the xkcd sudo comic. I’ve added a few others from xkcd to my wishlist as well.

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects people from malicious actions by state and local governments to prevent people from voting. Yes, we have a president of African-American descent. Yes, the United States Supreme Court took no action. However, the majority opinion statement that, “We are a very different nation,” suggests it could be repealed. The argument against maintaining the law seems to be since governments are behaving now no law is needed.

Are they? The DOJ disallowed a Georgia program to cull voters from the databases who might not be citizens. This strikes me as just like the Florida Central Voter File program in 1998-2006 to cull ex-felons from voter lists. Since they just used names, it was highly inaccurate and wrongly disenfranchised thousands in 2000… in Florida… the state which made international headlines as the place unable to count ballots. When Congress renewed it in 2006, “It held extensive hearings and produced voluminous evidence that minority voters continue to face significant obstacles.” [NYT] I may have to go looking for this in the Congressional Record.

With the protests happening in Iran right now about voter irregularities, is this the time to repeal one of the few deterrents against future abuses to erode the significant improvements over the past 40 years?

Cosmological Constants

Guess I am pretty dense. As many books and TV shows as I have read or seen about Einstein, physics, and cosmology, I just understood something for the first time since it was extremely plainly laid out for me. An ever expanding universe requires one or more forces to push matter further apart: cosmological constant. Forces attract or repel. Gravity attracts matter. Yet there is something, still unknown, repelling matter.