Thundercloud and Eightball RANT - Cloudeight Internet LLC

Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #190 - June 8, 2007

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Get A Life

Unless you've been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, you've undoubtedly heard that Google's Streetview is causing quite a ruckus. All that I can figure is that people these days too many people have far too much time on their hands.

These latest "much ado about nothing" is being fueled by journalists who think they are technology experts simply because they use the Web, or are technology experts who are intentionally omit factual information in order to sell newspapers.

Our own forum is another example, where people are in a frenzy about Streetview. Some have even gone as far as to put the blame for Google's Streetview on President Bush (fodder for another rant on  another day).

Anyway - many people are in a real tizzy about Google's Streetview. A lot of them are referencing one particular New York Times article. Now, I don't know about you, but I feel that quoting the New York Times is almost the same as quoting the National Enquirer. In case you've been out-of-loop recently, the National Enquirer is the tabloid that writes stories like the one about giant genetically-engineered, cabbages giving birth to human twins who were fathered by aliens that just so happened to resemble very large stalks of broccoli with several big eyes.

As usual in this "rant", we're going to cut to the chase and tell you the way it really is. We're going to tell you why Google's Streetview is no more a threat to your privacy than the New York Times or pulling into your local Wal-Mart parking lot.

I write this with all due respect to the New York Times - we all know it's a slow news cycle - but I think I'd rather read about the ninety-eight year old woman in Brazil who ran a marathon in less than three hours,  with a basket of bananas strapped to her head, that some litigious nutcase in California looking for some easy money. And to think, she's using her poor little cat, too!

Here's the truth and you can either believe it or not. You should believe it because, unlike the National Enquirer branch of the New York Times, I'm not sensationalizing this to sell newspapers like the above referenced newspaper-cum-tabloid.

There's a nutjob in California (where else?) who is suing Google for an image that appears on Google Maps (and Streetview). It  apparently shows her cat sitting in the window of her apartment. Whew! I don't know about you, but if my cat hadn't died last summer, I'd have been upset if someone other than me saw him.

Here's the picture that has her in a litigious frenzy.

Can you see the cat? Would you know it was her cat? Would it really matter if you did? What's it all about, Alfie?

What's really hilarious about all this is in the picture the New York Times published (resized and cropped to fit this page) you can REALLY see the cat, the woman, and her apartment. Not only that, but her name, her husband's name, and the name of their street are all, right there, in the article. Now, I am going to guess that a lot more people have seen a clearer view of her cat in the New York Times and in the Blogs-Du-Web-O-Mania that this article has created, than ever would have seen her little kitty if she would have gone about her life and forgotten about the cat on Google. But, maybe she doesn't have a life. Maybe she needs to get a life! Or maybe she's just another opportunist looking for an excuse to sue someone with vast reserves of wealth. Hmm...maybe she has a life and her motto is: "I want some of that"?

The picture above clearly shows the woman and the cat and part of the woman's apartment.  Hmmm what do I see outside the window? Is that a car going by? That might be mine! Wait, mine's not silver, it's rust-colored - another story for another time.  But, I think I see a dog in the window of that car!

Here's an eye test for you. Look at the pictures below. Which looks clearer to you: Cat A or Cat B?


Cat "A"

Cat "B"

If you choose cat "A" you have better eyesight than 99.9% of humanity. If you choose cat "B" then you chose the cat in the picture published by the New York Times. I choose cat "B". I can actually see that it looks like a cat not a pterodactyl landing on a chicken - which is what Cat "A" (the Google cat) looks like to me. If you stare at it long enough, it could look like anything you want. For sure though, the animal labeled cat "B" above is a cat. No doubt about it.

Some more hilarious stuff: We'll probably get sued by the New York Times and the loopy woman for using these pictures without permission (and for calling them both names :-) ). If the New York Times sues us, we'll be famous. If the woman sues us she will be greatly disappointed because we don't have any money. So, to them both I say, "bring it on"!

Back to business:  Is the point of all this to keep your cat out of your front window and off Google? No. The point is that we live in a world where TV cameras, city Web-cams, and cameras attached to traffic lights have become ubiquitous. If you're ignorant of this, there's not much we can do.

When you pull into Wal-mart's parking lot, are you paralyzed with fear that you are being recorded by surveillance cameras that comb every inch of the parking lot? When you walk into a convenience store do you smile, knowing you're being photographed?

It's only common sense that when you walk down the street it's very likely someone is going to see you. If your cat sits in your front window and the curtains are open, anyone who passes by can see your cat. Yes, it's true, really. My cat was nice and I didn't care if someone looked at my cat. But I don't live in California either. I wouldn't sue anyone because they saw my cat sitting in the front window of my house. If I didn't want anyone to see my cat, I would leave the curtains closed and keep my cat out of the front window. Duh. That makes too much sense.

And, what about this nutcase and her cat? Maybe this woman is not aware that cars passing below can see her cat? The Google cat picture really looks only vaguely like a cat to me. If she is so concerned about her "privacy" why did she let the National Enquirer, er, I mean, the New York Times, publish a picture of her and her cat? Why did she let them publish her name, the name of her street and the name of her husband? What do you think?

Now every lunatic in Oakland, California and New York City (and there are plenty) has this woman's face, cat's face and address memorized for whatever lurks in the hearts and minds of California and New York City lunatics. If it were me, I would have rather people see picture "A" than picture "B". Picture "A" was more like a Rorschach test - one could even imagine a budding zucchini plant if one were to look closely enough. It really might be a pterodactyl landing on a chicken though. What do you think?

The one thing I know for sure, the world has gone crazy. Common sense is poof! It's gone. Hypocrisy is rampant.

The cat is just the tip of the Google Streetview iceberg. There are endless blogs and news articles on the Web about it. Some of them complain because you can see a man picking his nose on the corner. Some are griping about a drunk, sleeping or passed-out in an alley. Others yammer on about a man entering an "adult book store" (they're all thinking, no doubt, "Gee what if that were me and my wife saw it?:). Some were incense because they could read the license number on a car. But, pardon me if I'm wrong, if I walked down the street in any big American city, wouldn't I see the same things?

Google's Streetview, is not, as some would have you believe, an Orwellian Big Brother. Many people would be shocked to learn that Google is not a government. But can you believe that a blurry image of a cat has created such an uproar? 

Here are some facts. I know these facts, not because I am such a fount of knowledge but because I have some common sense left. Maybe only a little, but still I have some.

When I drive down the street anyone can see my license plates. My little town of about 15,000 has a city Web cam perched on top of the courthouse, constantly peering down upon people going about their daily lives and cars passing by, people picking their noses (probably - but I've never looked at the city cam), and maybe even (Heaven forbid!) a couple teenagers in a car kissing!

Maybe the problem is that people have too much time on their hands these days. And there is a real lack of common sense these days. The worst thing is that more and more people look up to the moronic segment of our society and actually look up to these crazies. And let's not forget that great Pot 'O Wealth: The frivolous lawsuit.

People have too much time on their hands. They really need need to get a life.

Google's Streetview is no more sinister than a city's Web cam, or TV camera's filming away at some event with passers-by and cars (license plates and all) whizzing to and fro in the background. And Google's Streetview is probably far less intrusive than the Traffic Cams that many big cities use to catch motorists who violate traffic laws. We don't know all the neat things those camera's catch, because so far, city employees haven't (as far as I know) posted them on the Web for all to see. But, just wait, some disgruntled former city employee will post some of the more "interesting" shots taken by these traffic cams. It's only a matter of time.

Many big and little towns alike now have Web cams streaming live images across the Internet and therefore the world. If you walk in one of these towns your visage will appear on the Net and be broadcast all over the world. If you decide to stop and pick your nose, guess what anyone watching is going to see? Are city Web cams a violation of your privacy? Or does common sense tell you that when you're out in public that you're going to be seen? Hmmm, I think that's why they call it being out in "public".

 If you stand in your window, in full view of the public, doesn't it seem probable that you will be seen by the public? If you want privacy close your curtains. I doubt very much if you'd stand in the window while taking a shower then complain to the police because a passer-by on the sidewalk saw you. If you don't want someone passing by your house to see you then don't stand in the window, facing the sidewalk and the street, with the curtains open. Oooh! It really agitates me when people don't use common sense.

If you don't want someone to see your cat, then don't let you cat sit in the window facing the street and and sidewalk. Someone will see your cat. Duh!

Our society is running on empty when it comes to common sense. The woman with the cat should try using curtains if she doesn't want the outside world looking into her apartment. It's just common sense, isn't it? Maybe she never expected her cat to show up on Google's Streetview but she must have known that anyone driving by could see her cat in the window. Well, maybe not. It appears she just wanted to sue someone and finally found her reason. Or thinks she has.

Google's Streetview isn't even comprised of live pictures. The way some people talk you would think these satellite images are being beamed live from space and you're going to see real-time shots of people picking their noses, oh my! Scratching places they shouldn't scratch in public, oh my! And other unsavory things like that. But Streetview images are not live images, they're collages of images taken over time.

To the woman with the cat, I say: "Hey, nutjob! If you're so worried about your personal privacy so much maybe it would be good idea to keep your curtains closed. And, come to think of it, it probably wasn't the greatest thing for your privacy (or your cat's) to have your picture, your name, and your address published in the New York Times, ya think?"

This woman is using some fuzzy picture of  her cat to trump up another ludicrous, frivolous lawsuit. She smells easy money. And that's the only reason this is all happening.  Maybe she should have tried dumping hot coffee on her lap and suing Starbucks instead. I find it impossible to imagine any jury nutty enough to award this loser a penny. But, you never know. Juries have been known to do some nutty things.

Duh! Snooping neighbors have been around since man lived in mud huts. If you don't want someone to see your license plate, don't drive your car. If you don't want people to see you walking around, don't walk in public. If you don't want someone to see your cat, don't let you cat sit in your window with the curtains open facing a busy sidewalk and street.

Maybe the REAL only reason why people are in an uproar over Google Streetview is because it's Google. Google has been wildly successful. There's a conclusion that some people automatically reach and it is: No one can be successful unless they cheat or step on other people. Back in the days before the death of common sense we would have said that they were jealous. But we can't say that anymore.

Maybe the REAL reason why the New York Times published this stupid article is because they're jealous. This once, great icon of the American press, has now become another, yawn, newspaper gasping for air in an increasingly electronic world. Lowering its standards to that of grocery store rags such as the National Enquirer, isn't going to save this behemoth from its ultimate fate. I wonder if they ever considered reporting real, unbiased news? Now, that's a novel idea.

In a society that is becoming increasingly short on common sense and increasingly long on hypocrisy, maybe the real reason behind this absurd brouhaha is  that people simply have too much time on their hands.

Maybe it's too late for common sense to make a comeback. But I hope people like this woman someday get a life.

It seems to me that the news media no longer report the news, rather they try to create news where no news exists. Journalism isn't about reporting what happened anymore, journalists have become propagandists endeavoring to teach us how to think and what to believe.

After reading this New York Times article, I don't see common sense coming back anytime soon. The mainstream media has been almost totally successful in leading people away  from common sense and from thinking for themselves. They love to tell people how to think. It looks like they've been very successful.

The media: the shining, guiding light of hypocrites, is a beacon to all those who are unwilling, or unable, to think for themselves. If the New York Times survives long enough and is ultimately successful in creating the society it seems so desperate to create - the society without common sense, in which introspection and independent thought is not tolerated - the irony will be stunning: Eventually there won't be anyone left who will be smart enough to read the words the New York Times prints.

Maybe that won't be so bad after all.

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