April 29, 2009
Google unveils its newest toy — Google Public Data
Free, as always from the cynosure of the early 21st century virtual world.
Watch the video up top and learn how to pick up the newest clue phone.
Google Unveils New Tool To Dig for Public Data
Google launched a new search tool yesterday designed to help Web users find public data that is often buried in hard-to-navigate government Web sites.
The tool, called Google Public Data, is the latest in the company's efforts to make information from federal, state and local governments accessible to citizens. It's a goal that many Washington public interest groups and government watchdogs share with President Obama, whose technology advisers are pushing to open up federal data to the public.
The company plans to initially make available U.S. population and unemployment data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively. Other data sets, such as emissions statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, will roll out in the coming months.
Google is one of a number of Internet properties, including Wikipedia and Amazon, that has been trying to make it easier to find government information on the Web.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has urged agencies to write their own "wikis," or self-edited entries, that can make government information and processes more accessible to the public. Amazon created an open data repository so developers and researchers can share data and collaborate on sifting through it. Google's Washington employees have spent the past two years visiting government agencies to urge them to make their Web sites, records and databases more searchable.
The E-Government Act of 2002 required government agencies to make information more accessible electronically, but users have complained that many agencies do not organize their Web sites so they can be easily indexed by search engines. And some agencies, Google has said, embed codes in their sites that make certain pages invisible to search engines.
"Information from government sources has been one of the thornier areas," said David Girouard, president of Google Enterprise, which includes the federal team. The new tool "is taking data, reformatting it so it's immediately consumable . . . so people don't have to go through rows and rows of data."
With Google's new tool, a Web user can search for a specific piece of data -- unemployment rates in Maryland, for example -- and a box appears at the top of the search results displaying the available relevant public data.
Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs, a project within the Sunlight Foundation that uses technology to improve government transparency, said he's encouraged by Google's new tool, although he has not yet used it.
He cautioned, however, that there is no guarantee that government data is free of typographical and other errors.
He added that specific pieces of data could be misleading without a full understanding of how it fits with other information that may not be visible. For example, a Google searcher may not know enough about campaign contribution laws to spot inaccurate data entries or statistics.
Data tools should allow user feedback, Johnson said, to alert agencies to flawed data. Sunlight Labs is urging Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra to implement a feedback loop on Data.gov, a site he has proposed that would catalog public data.
"There's a lot to be wary about," Johnson said. "We don't live in a world free of typos."
There goes the day.
What is it?
Answer here this tomorrow.
[via Virginia Moore]
'Printed White Pages start to bite the dust'
The headline at the very top of this post is that over Rebecca Kern's story on page 3A of today's USA Today.
Long story short: "So far... less than 3% of residents [in Austin and Atlanta] have requested printed White Pages."
Gee, didn't I read something predicting this trend about six months ago?
Even a blind, anosmic pig finds an acorn every now and then.
Bricks and Mortar
Delirium Tremens — World's best beer name?
Never having tasted the Belgian brew I can't vouch for its taste, but perhaps there are those among you who will report on this aspect of the beer, the subject of Greg Kitsock's April 22, 2009 "Beer" column in the Washington Post Food section, excerpts from which follow.
He [brewmaster Alain De Laet] spent four days in the United States in March to mark the 20th anniversary of his flagship brand, Delirium Tremens, the beer with pink elephants, green gators and purple dragons on the bottle.
Delirium Tremens was first brewed in 1989 for the Italian market. The label was designed by an art student who had flunked graphic design; he received two cases of beer as remuneration. The unusual opaque gray bottles came from a German brewery that had overstocked and was willing to dispose of the extras cheaply. By the time the first run of bottles had sold out, the beer had become so popular that the brewery didn't dare change the design.
"It's probably the most unconventional beer label you could ever imagine," says importer Martin Wetten, who despite occasional resistance to the name has gotten the beer into 48 states.
Delirium Tremens pours a hazy gold, with notes of apples and lemon and a soft, sweet spiciness. De Laet notes that a pinch of coriander goes into the beer, but much of the flavor comes from the yeast. Three strains are used, and the beer undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. There is some bitter hop in the aftertaste and an alcoholic warmth. The beer is assertive enough to accompany most fowl and red meat dishes, and it would pair as well with Indian or Thai cuisine as with traditional Belgian fare such as beef carbonnade.
Like so many other Belgian beers, Delirium has its own brand-specific glass [top]. It's goblet-shaped, slightly tapered at the top and suitably adorned with pink elephants. The "balloon glass," as De Laet calls it, is voluminous to hold the thick foam and wide enough at the brim to stick your nose in. Serve him with a different vessel at your peril. "I was in the middle of Wisconsin where I got a pint glass of Delirium," he says. "I said, 'This is not a Coca-Cola I'm drinking!' "
Derma-Safe Folding Utility Knife
Derma-Safe Folding Utility Knife
A modern replacement for the classic pen knife, this pocket knife has a thin, 1.5-inch, razor-sharp blade that cuts boxes, cord, tape and tough plastic wrap without effort. Half the charm is its disposability: It costs about as much as a can of soda, so if you get to the airport and have forgotten it's in your pocket, ditching it is trauma-free. I've found the handle grip to be excellent. The slipjoint blade stays in position open or closed. The slim, short design packs a lot of cutting power into a package with about half the volume of a pack of gum. A functional design with aesthetics worthy of MOMA. Derma-Safe also produces a hacksaw version they say will cut through metal as well as wood, which I've not tried.
$1.50 (note that this online store calls it the "Pocket Skinner).
Slice Lounge Chair
born in Denmark and currently residing
in Sweden and the UK.
Aluminum; 29.5" x 35.1" x 26.8".
Part of the show "European Design Since 1985,"
up through June 21, 2009 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Dishwasher-safe glazed ceramic holds 12 oz.