June 2006

News & Culture & Punditry28 Jun 2006 09:09 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

Financial Search Raises Privacy Fears

Court signals loosening of the last reins on police

Bottle of Viagra lands Rush Limbaugh in Trouble

News & Culture & Punditry20 Jun 2006 06:29 pm

Here are tonight’s news items that I’ll be talking about on when I join my friend, David Lawrence, for my weekly segment on his radio show, The David Lawrence Show:

Credit ‘Freeze’ Protections Under Fire

US Govt. Sues New Jersey Over NSA Wiretap Investigation

Sen. Clinton Calls for ‘Real’ Privacy Czar

Trojan Horse Captures Oregon

Miscellany & News & Culture11 Jun 2006 07:52 pm

A friend called me this week to say he’d scored some tickets to see Leslie Jordan this weekend. I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure who she was. :-D Turns out, she’s a he… and he’s a big ol’ queen in a little tiny package.

If you’ve watched Will and Grace, or Boston Legal in the last few seasons, you’ve seen the diminutive (4′ 11″) Leslie in some brilliant performances. Dedicated queer-watchers will remember his occasional appearances on Will and Grace as the character Beverley Leslie, Karen Walker’s nemesis.

But he has a lengthy and impressive career as a character actor, including an old performance from the 1980s with comedian George Lopez… an experience which he credits during the show as helping him to survive a stint in the LA County Jail.

In his one-man show, Like A Dog on Linoleum, he takes his audience through selected swaths of his life, from his Army father who died when he was age 11, to his escaping from rural Tennessee to various southern gay meccas like Miami, Key West, and Atlanta, and his eventual arrival in Hollywood to pursue his acting dreams. Along the way he did a lot of drugs, had a lot of sex, and eventually learned some powerful things about himself.

The show is hilariously funny, brutally honest about his crazy past, and clearly carries a message from a deep place in his heart. If you have a chance to check out his show before it leaves San Francisco on July 2, you’re in for a treat. Tickets are reasonably priced and the intimate venue is perfect for his very personal show.

Privacy & Security & Sillycon Valley Biz06 Jun 2006 03:04 pm

Today Google launched “Google Spreadsheets,” the latest in a long line of ideas tossed out the door before it was done cooking — I think the term is “half-baked” — and slapped with the “beta” complaint-deflector. Already the uncritical fawning has begun, with predictions of mass self-immolations in Redmond, WA, soon to follow.

According to C|Net’s News.com, it’s Google’s intent to make Microsoft quake in its boots, fearing that an advertising-littered web-based spreadsheet will be more attractive to consumers than Microsoft’s overpriced Office suite. So the theory goes, once Google can win over millions of consumers, enterprises will be forced to adopt it, and then the days of the villainous paperclip will finally be over.

Setting aside for a moment the abysmal history of consumer-oriented web companies who tried to create enterprise versions of their products, I think the deeper question is: Who in their right mind would trust their critical personal and financial data to the data mining machinery of Google? And assuming you could find individual takers, what company would do the same?

Google makes its money by sifting through the world’s data and dotting it with advertisements. Assuming you want to be bombarded with ads while you’re wrestling with some amortization formula (and no doubt thinking to yourself, “wow, a mocking advertisement for lessons in using spreadsheets would be handy right about now!”), all that data will be residing on Google’s servers, where it can be sifted through looking for advertising opportunities.

Even if you assume that Google keeps true to its “don’t be evil” mantra, there’s still the small matter that systems get hacked, employees get greedy and larcenous, and government investigators get overzealous and demand service providers keep data for two years.

Will that data include your “undos”? Think about the time when you entered in bogus tax data into a spreadsheet, just to see what your finances would look like if you didn’t report some extra taxable income. Would that be introduced as evidence of intent to defraud?

What if their algorithms, while searching through your spreadsheet to find relevant ads to serve, discover you have indeed been cheating on your taxes? Will they serve up ads for tax attorneys and bail bondsmen before the Feds come after you? Will they know the Feds are coming because they turned over your records to the IRS in one of the government’s regular subpoena “fishing expeditions” and illegal warrantless search and surveillance schemes?

These are not insignificant questions, and Google doesn’t have a track record of inspiring faith in their foresight and thoughtfulness on the tough questions of how data will stay private and secure. These are critical questions that Google will have to answer, not only to the satisfaction of clueless consumers and analysts but also to corporate privacy and security experts, before Google Spreadsheets can be taken as a credible alternative — much less a threat — to Microsoft Excel.