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Google's weird questions

If you have a Google Map's profile, from time to time it asks you questions to help refine the accuracy of the information provided.

Here are some of the strange sorts of questions you might be asked:

Why is this weird? Because it is vague. For me, "imaging services" normally means things such as printing digital photographs and photocopying. However, it's a hospital. Hospitals also provide "imaging services" - from X-rays to MRI and PET scans. For what it's worth, CHU Rennes does it all.

Two now:

I lump Halal and Kosher together as they are special dietary restrictions for religious reasons. In this respect, while Halal is understood and supported in this part of France (Kosher apparently less so, no doubt due to the fact that I'm not away of any Jewish community), the religious based food requirements have not entered the mainstream. Certainly places like McDonald's (often serving options "with bacon") and Buffalo Grill (rack of ribs...) are not going to be serving Halal meat and - if my understanding of Kosher certified is correct (two kitchens for complete separation of meat and milk dishes) then there's no way these places will ever qualify.

To be honest, I think what Google needs here is to have better subcategories and to understand that a place like a kebab shop run by Turks is going to cater for Islamic dietary requirements, while mainstream eating is not. That's not to say Muslims cannot eat at McDo, I see them there quite a lot. They just can't go in with the expectation of Halal meat...

Another vague question. Yes, you can get furniture at a garden centre. Garden furniture. If you're looking for a reclining deck chair or one of those awesome looking canopy-swing chair things, Jardiland has you covered. If you went a three piece sofa set, you'll need to look elsewhere.

This has got to be the dumbest question I've seen in a long time, given that Google Maps does actually recognise Jardiland as a "Garden centre"...

And finally...

This must be some trendy San Francisco thing that Google thinks applies to the rest of the world (like the questions of "Can you get great coffee here?" - what do you call "great"?). It seems as if, recently, Google has asked me this about every bloody place I've been.
To answer your question Google - I had to ask mom what the hell is a churro (sort of like an extruded doughnut - looks like it'd be greasy as hell - apparently it's a Spanish thing).



I didn't write anything on my b.log last weekend because I got myself a DVD box set of a TV series from around 2006 (or so) called Surface. Imported from Germany, it was region 2 with German and English audio. Since I picked it up on Amazon "like new" for something like a fiver, it would serve to be a distraction for a weekend.

And so I marathoned the series. All fifteen episodes. Eight (discs one and two) on Saturday, and seven (discs three and four) on Sunday.

Unfortunately the series was cancelled (as is typical for media where ratings seem to be all that matter) leaving us with so many unanswered questions and practically zero resolution that you have to wonder why they even bothered. All of the expense of putting those episodes together, to begin to tell a story, and then it just gets dumped.


  • What were those sea creatures?
  • Where they really designed by people? Why?
  • If they were designed, what was all the "green things falling from the sky" in the earlier episodes?
  • Was their attacking the sea bed to cause earthquakes part of the design, or a side effect?
  • While the "train to the Mariana Trench" was utterly preposterous (it's between Japan and Australia; about 9,500km from Los Angeles), the question remains as to why people were heading deep underground.
  • The earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the American east coast. This, plus the deep underground train, plus the title, make me wonder what was supposed to happen on the surface?

It is entirely possible that the series didn't have a clear vision and got canned because it was ceasing to make sense - even for a programme involving rampaging sea monsters (which would already have required a high degree of suspension of disbelief); however I do wish that networks cancelling stuff would commit to two or three further episodes to try to give some sort of closure to those who are following the series. Otherwise, the question must surely arise - why did I waste my time watching this?
It's okay, I knew the series aborted. I had all these questions when I first saw the series on broadcast TV a decade ago. The point still remains, though.

The thing that's bugging me, mind you, is the bit about the Mariana Trench. Assuming, of course, that such a thing is even technically feasible! Why? Well, the deepest point is "about 11,000 metres" and the question of accuracy is because 11km of water exerts a pressure of around 15,750psi (or 1,086 bars - 1 bar being the standard pressure at sea level). Given these sorts of pressures, the idea of any of us "living" at those sorts of depths is ridiculous. Even if under the ocean, there's gravity and the weight of what's above to contend with. Plus if these "creatures" are planning on messing with the tectonic plates, then pitching up home in/around the deepest trench on earth in one of the most tectonically active places is... really stupid.
Maybe they planned to instead have us believe that if some weird stuff was going to happen to the crust, then mankind is better making a special (sci-fi definition of "special") hideaway just below the fragile crust of the earth? Well, herein lie many more problems. If we ignore the liquid rock at temperatures in the order of 1300°C (the sort of stuff that squirts out of volcanos from time to time); we cannot ignore the fact that the asthenosphere (the upper mantle just below the crust) is liquid rock, and as such is slowly moving. It may only be centimetres per year, but it's these slow convection currents that give rise to the movement of the plates that form the lithosphere (the crust).
Furthermore there is potential critical research failure here. Because the earth is a spinning ball of gloop (melty rock, water, mud, llama poo, etc), it bulges slightly in the middle. So if one wanted a quicker and simpler way to head into the core, one might suggest that the crust is thinner at the poles. If we then discard the South Pole (it's a continent, so there's a land mass there under the ice) this leaves us with the frozen ice on top of water which forms the North Pole. A place where the crust/core boundary is around 13-14km deep, shallower than the Mariana Trench, plus not in the middle of a geologically active region.
But, then, what can we expect from a series where the woman - when trapped down in the spooky undersea column in their makeshift sub, gave the coordinates of her location as something like 46N, 50W. Congratulations, that's a bit of the Altantic ocean just off Newfoundland; rather than somewhere like 46N 130W which is in the Pacific ocean just off Oregon - and more in keeping with the diagram drawn on the map.
I mean, if they can't even manage to crack open an atlas and read something approximating the right coordinates...

You know what?
I think I'm overthinking this.


Amazon Prime Video

There are quite a number of interesting things to watch on PrimeVideo. One of the biggest problems, however, is that the listings absolutely suck. Sure, current trendy stuff and new releases are highlighted, but other things... other things you might spot in the "People who watched this also watched" list, or simply by throwing random words at the search to see what comes up. "How I Met Your Mother" (which I've actually never watched), "Heroes" (which I've only partially watched) and "Who killed Daigoro Tokuyama?" (which sounds interesting) were found simply by exploring. I also came across stuff like "iCarly" (weird kids thing) and "House" (weird medical thing) along the way. None of this stuff was easily found.
As for movies, "Children of Men", "Stardust", "The Cable Guy", "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and more. But by searching and random keywords.
n short, I actually have no idea what's actually available on PrimeVideo. I kind of feel like I'm looking at a photograph of the inside of a video rental store (remember those?) knowing that there's more but not being able to see.
So with that in mind, I think PrimeVideo really ought to have some sort of global listing (even if it's just a plain list of titles with no pictures and stuff) that can be browsed. Or, if such a thing exists, make it easier to find.

Next up, there should be a "preferred language" option. It seems that in France, there are quite a few budget movies which are only offered with French dub. It would be nice if there was an "original audio" option (since most of these movies are British/American). I'm guessing it's something to do with licencing why they aren't? At any rate, quand je peut parle et comprendre la française, if I'm watching a movie simply for enjoyment value, it would be much more pleasant to watch something in my own language. That's why the series "Just Add Magic" is in my watchlist. If I wanted to think, I'd watch "Man on Fire" or any other of Denzel Washington's intense performances. But other times? Other times I don't want to think. Times when I'm happy watching a series with three magical girls, or "Death Race" where Jason Statham is parodying himself and cars blow up.
As such, it would be simpler for finding stuff if I could say "if it's not in English or subbed in English, don't bother showing it to me".

And my final complaint. Hey, I'm British. We whinge first. ☺
My final complaint is that while it appears to deactivate the anti-blue filter (night mode) when playing a video (I saw this yesterday, a notable hue shift when playing), it seems that there is no control over the screen brightness.
Pretty much every other player I've used (and evidenced by the stock video player and MXPlayer) have vertical drag zones on each side of the screen. The left side controls the brightness, and the right side controls the volume.
The PrimeVideo app needs to be able to control the brightness. Especially when the phone is set to automatic screen adjustment and you're in a dark room. And, no, turning that auto adjustment off is not an option. MXPlayer (etc) can control and lock the brightness, so should PrimeVideo be able to.

Now for the good stuff. The first is that the quality is generally pretty good. While it can break down to be poor if there's a problem or hiccup with the stream, it recovers quickly and is pretty adaptive. One of the reasons that I download animé instead of using a service such as CrunchyRoll is that CR never really impressed me with a service that seems to work as streaming adverts, but fell apart when expected to stream anything else. Buffering...buffering...buffering...buffering... This isn't the case with the PrimeVideo app, which tries to offer HD1080 images when it can, and with a meagre 4MB rural ADSL connection, actually manages to pull it off. Most of my streaming and reception issues are due to the WiFi dropping out, not Amazon's streaming.
So count me impressed on the technical side.

While this is a small thing, I also find the "X-Ray" quite useful. There are varying levels of support for this (the basic is just a list of who is in the film/programme); while the bells-on-top version actually tracks scenes to give you information on the principal characters on screen at that moment. So if I'm watching something and I'm like "who is that girl, it looks like such-and-such from...", I can tap, get a list of people (with thumbnails), then tap it again to get information on the actor/actress.

It amuses me the number of captions (yeah, I'm one of those weird people that tends to watch with subtitles on) spell a certain four letter word as "fuáá". Why an acute accented a? Still, if you're not going to bleep or mute the word in the audio, why do you munge the subtitle? Are deaf people more easily offended?

I would like to add that there's a good range of things available, but the question is in finding it... I hope a forthcoming update may address some/all of these issues.



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Jeff Doggett, 11th June 2018, 22:59
4MB doesn't sound at all meagre to me. Unless of course, you mean 4Mb
VinceH, 12th June 2018, 00:02
Surface: I remember this from when it was first broadcast though I can't remember if I thought it was any good at the time. Looking on IMDB, I see it has a 7.2/10 rating, and the "storyline" section mentions long term story arcs, so I'd guess I probably enjoyed it. Probably. 
Amazon Prime: A few things to look out for (assuming it's the same selection in France as here in the UK) include Vikings (which is brilliant), Battlestar Galactica (the new version - brilliant), and possibly Orphan Black (also brilliant - but I'm not sure if it's on Amazon Prime or Netflix). 
You've also got The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead - up to but not including the latest season or two of each, which are rent or buy until the *next* season appears. 
There's other stuff - but I can't remember offhand (and in particular which service many things are on), but that's a reasonable selection to start with.
David Pilling, 12th June 2018, 03:31
You mean that Google finds stuff out by just asking people. And none of them think it is big and clever to make up misleading answers.
Rick, 27th July 2018, 23:50
David - it will use heuristics. That is to say, it will ask 'n' people the same question, and essentially go by majority vote. It works on the logic that the majority of people that are going to CHOOSE to respond (you need to be known to Maps, signed in, and select to answer questions about places you've been) are not going to troll the system. And if some people do, their answers will conflict with everybody else's. It may even be possible to run a weighting on the user and how often their answers conflict - so that somebody who repeatedly answers incorrectly can be tuned out automatically, whereas a person who normally answers accurately can have that specific answer either tuned out or flagged for review (has something changed? did they misunderstand the question?). 
After all, it isn't as if EVERYBODY is going to organise themselves to answer "no" to "does JardiLand sell plants?". 

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