This is the most awesome thing ever!

Truly, Google Earth now gets major props as a WONDER of the web.  Not only is this internet giant committed to helping those in need (Google’s philanthropic wing, with the goals of raising awareness around international issues like poverty and climate change, was started in 2004), it’s also using its technology and innovations to serve a variety of nonprofit functions, such as the new feature which tracks the movement of refugees.  It also allows for some in-close views of specific refugee sites as well as data about the camps and the work being done by various nonprofits there.  Not only does this new function allow for current publicity for tons of grassroots organizations that otherwise might go unnoticed in the public eye, it will also most likely become a way to identify and clearly see teh extent of trouble spots around the globe.

I’m all for fun and games and innovation, and Google does both of these things well.   I enjoyed their April Fool’s pranks this year with Virgle and the associated commentary on the way our world is going environmentally.  I love the innovations that seem to be constantly coming with Gmail and associated services – first Gchat, then offline chatting and continuously updating email conversations, and finally AIM on Gchat.  But when something comes along like this that not only innovates, but also specifically targets those most in need and gives the wider world clearer understanding of that need and how to help – that’s something truly touching.

Google, you rock.

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Babies!

There is an international rule that babies are cute.  Of course, this is not always actually true, but we say all babies are cute as a kind of acceptable lie.  Many babies in fact look like little old people – but then, little old people are considered cute and given all kinds of special permission to break social norms.  Except for dirty Frenchmen.  It doesn’t matter how old they are, they still think they have a chance, so you can’t afford to let them hit on you.

There are also the related corollaries that have to do with certain features of the infants resembling that of their parents or grandparents.  While others (thank you, Sarah) may think this is just an accepted lie perhaps to assure the legitimacy of fatherhood, there are other possible reasons behind the early commentary.  An offhand example is the ‘got your nose’ game.  What child would realistically ever be fooled that his uncle’s visible nose was replaceable with his own cute little button unless he’d heard from infancy that he had Uncle Hershel’s snoz?

But what I’d really like to mention is the puppy corollary.  Even the word itself is cute – ‘puppy!’  How can an infant dog not be adorable, even if it does grow up into a disgusting-looking bulldog?  I mean, look at those biggly paws!  And this really applies to the entire animal kingdom.  Baby polar bear?  Cute.  Baby panda?  Cute (I have video evidence I’ll try to include later).  Baby giraffe, all gangles and purple tongue?  Still cute.

Why?

I am usually not a follower of current events for a few reasons.  First, most news is bad news.  It’s depressing and enraging.  It frustrates me to watch the world beat people down yet again and be powerless to stop it.  Second, the stories don’t often change.  I can read a book written in 2003 and it tells last year’s story of a crisis in Burma.  I can read a book written in 1950 and it tells the story of the agony of African nations like Sudan.  Currently I’m reading The Map of Love, which is primarily about Egypt and was written in 1999.  it also was a Booker Prize finalist.  It’s totally applicable to the issues of the day – the hubris and double standards of the West, the Jewish stance on Palestine and Arab anger at it, our own interests in Iraq reflected somewhat in Egypt’s relationship with Britain.

It makes me wonder if we can ever make any progress forward at all.  I feel accountable.  Why can’t we commit to taking our troops out of Iraq.  Even if it’s slow, even if we need to be reasonable about this untenable situation we’ve gotten our country into, why can’t we at least offer an olive branch of not dominating the rest of the world?  I am proud to be an American, but at times I am also embarrassed to be one.  The fighting is getting heavier in Iraq, and now we’re withdrawing troops.  Why?  Because people are so angry here that they’re willing to overthrow their political leaders?  Because ‘progress has been made’, and by that nebulous definition of progress we can bow out without losing too much face?  Come on, smarmy politicians – you’ve already lost.

It’s just upsetting.  I would like to live in a world where we did not have to be surprised by the accepting Muslim fundamentalist or the broad-minded Christian or the honest politican.  IS that really so difficult to achieve?

Boy hits concrete pillar-saves lives.

I recently read this story about a bus driver in Ohio who broke a bunch of rules and probably had his bacon saved by an 11 year old kid.  Bus driver man, who holds a commercial license but was not registered with the state as required for school bus drivers, was off the bus buying gas when it started to roll.  He’s not supposed to get off any time during a route while there’s still kids inside, but maybe they forgot to tell him when he registered to be a bus driver.  Oh wait.

My favorite part of the story is about the little 11-year old boy who saved everyone.  He tried to pull the emergency brake once the bus started rolling, but evidently that didn’t work.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t even know where the emergency brake on a school bus is.  Good thing I’m not 11.  And hopefully school bus man knew enough to put the brake on before getting off the bus, but who knows.  Anyway, finally the kiddo just took the wheel and steered the bus into a giant pillar.  Plonk.  While expedient, it amused me no end.  Steering into giant pillars is why we don’t let 11-year olds drive.

Finally, there was the ending paragraph of this little article.  I will quote it here in its entirety for your amusement:

Officials at the school declined to comment. The bus is operated by Aqua Limousine Ground Transportation, he said. A message seeing comment was left with the company.

Ok, I know the standards of the Associated Press have been falling, and that we’re all under a deadline here, but really?   ‘He said’?  WHO said?  Was it that giant conglomeration of officials that refused to comment that somehow got turning into a singular pronoun?  Or were you trying to refer to the bus driver who isn’t mentioned in this paragraph at all?  And I would like to find any message that has the ability to see.  Are we using carrier pigeons?  Are they themselves the message, rather than simply message bearers?

Sigh.