aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, January 28, 2007
From Google Webmaster Central:
We wanted to give a quick update about “Googlebombs.” By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs. Now we will typically return commentary, discussions, and articles about the Googlebombs instead. The actual scale of this change is pretty small (there are under a hundred well-known Googlebombs), but if you’d like to get more details about this topic, read on.
First off, let’s back up and give some background. Unless you read all about search engines all day, you might wonder “What is a Googlebomb?” Technically, a “Googlebomb” (sometimes called a “linkbomb” since they’re not specific to Google) refers to a prank where people attempt to cause someone else’s site to rank for an obscure or meaningless query. Googlebombs very rarely happen for common queries, because the lack of any relevant results for that phrase is part of why a Googlebomb can work. One of the earliest Googlebombs was for the phrase “talentless hack,” for example.
People have asked about how we feel about Googlebombs, and we have talked about them in the past. Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven’t been a very high priority for us. But over time, we’ve seen more people assume that they are Google’s opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That’s not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception. So a few of us who work here got together and came up with an algorithm that minimizes the impact of many Googlebombs.
A philosophically interesting question
We are always ready to find dignity in human beings, including those whose mental age will never exceed that of an infant, but we don’t attribute dignity to dogs or cats, though they clearly operate at a more advanced mental level than human infants. Just making that comparison provokes outrage in some quarters. But why should dignity always go together with species membership, no matter what the characteristics of the individual may be?
Ok, in a crass attempt to rebuild traffic after a blog host and software switch killed my Google ranking (and with it, my traffic!) I am reduced to posting a story that’s been around the
block web a time or two, even if it only made it to Gary, Indiana today:
ANTWERP, Belgium—Mozart, an iguana with an erection that has lasted for over a week, will have his penis amputated this weekend,
Veterinarians at Antwerp’s Aquatopia had sought to treat the animal’s problem, but decided removal was the only solution because of the risk of infection. The good news for Mozart and his mates is that male iguanas have two penises.
Mozart, sitting on the shoulders of his keeper as camera crews focused on his red, swollen erection, seemed unperturbed by the news.
“It doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t know what amputation means,” said vet Luc Lambrecht, adding that Mozart’s sexual activity should be undimmed by the operation.
“I don’t think so. That’s all in his head.”
No word yet on whether or not the procedure was successful.
What to eat?
This will (probably ) be my last excerpt from Michael Pollan’s important Times Magazine piece out today, Unhappy Meals. In it he discusses how we’ve moved from a “food culture” to a “food science.” Once we received our guidance on what to eat from national, ethnic or regional cultures ("culture is really just a fancy word for Mom"). Today:
The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating. You would not have read this far into this article if your food culture were intact and healthy; you would simply eat the way your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents taught you to eat. The question is, Are we better off with these new authorities than we were with the traditional authorities they supplanted? The answer by now should be clear.
It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society - estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs - is unsustainable.
What to do? He opened his essay with a simple rule, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He closes with an elaboration:
...Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food… Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims… (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.)… Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number… Get out of the supermarket whenever possible… Pay more, eat less… Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation… Eat mostly plants, especially leaves… eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture… Cook. And if you can, plant a garden… Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet.
I can’t say that there will be radical change in the way I eat. But there has been and will continue to be slow steady progress at moving in that direction. And to help keep me tuned in and aware, I’ve added a Food category to my blog!
BONUS VIDEO: Michael Pollan on Fishbowl with Bill Maher talking corn.