Harvard’s Public Health Center is using Google tracking to find restaurants that make people sick. This is how they do it:

If you’ve been to “Mom’s Diner” and a few hours later start searching on terms like “vomit” and “stomach cramps,” there is a likelihood there’s a problem at Mom’s. In Harvard’s tests in Las Vegas and Chicago, health inspectors were sent out when the searches turned queasy. Over half the time, 52 percent, they found a problem at the restaurant the person had been to that day. Chicago has 38 inspectors for more than 8,000 restaurants. They find problems only 23 percent of the time, less than half the probabilities inferred by Google tracking.

Reading this, you might worry that Google Maps knows where you’ve been and is reporting it to the authorities. But researchers at Harvard used data that was unconnected to any person. They knew only that there had been unnamed people at a given restaurant searching for terms related to food borne illness. If you want to look at your own location data, you can do so; go to Joy did that and boy was it boring. If you don’t want your locations saved, click “Manage Location History” and toggle “Location History” to the off position.

Getting Started on Etsy

Bob wanted Joy to have a deluxe chemistry set for her birthday, considering that there are considerable gaps in her knowledge of the subject, at least compared with Bob’s. She chose a cheap set on Amazon but returned it when Bob was aghast at the contents. They smelled of lawyers. That led him to buy her a $500 “Ultimate Chemistry Set” from The first experiment said: “Be sure to have a fire extinguisher.”

Etsy sells unusual items, many of them hand crafted. If you like crafts and have some to sell, there are various fees involved, amounting to 8.5 percent of the sales price. So if you sell something for $100, including shipping, you’ll receive $91.50.

Get started by clicking “sell on Etsy” from the home page. The site walks you through how to describe your item, and you can even sell digital copies of art you’ve made. For more info, see “How to Set Up an Etsy Shop,” from

App Happy

Mamava” is a free app for mothers looking for private places to breast feed. It offers a map of those nearest to you, which, if you’re flying, is usually the airport.  Other common locations are at department stores, and the app keeps adding new ones. Currently they have over 2,000 pump-friendly locations. The app tells you what the location has, such as fridge, sink and privacy wall.

The Creep Who Leaves Voice Mails

A reader writes in exasperation about a man who constantly calls and leaves her messages. AT&T cuts them off after four minutes, but it’s still annoying. She blocked him, but the voice mail continues.

An AT&T “help” assistant told her to call 611, which she did three times. The 611 agents told her they can’t stop voice mail. Bureaucracy is a sometime thing.

One solution is an app called “No More Voice Mail.” It simply blocks all voice mail. Reviews of the app are evenly divided between those who love it and those who hate it. Some couldn’t figure out how to get their voicemail back. If you have AT&T and want to turn voice mails back on again, dial ##004#.  For Verizon, dial *73. If you have other questions, write


  • Happy Birthday, by Beethoven? Bach? Mozart?” Search on that phrase to find Nicole Pesce at the piano playing “Happy Birthday” in the manner of classical composers. She plays upside-down at one point, as Mozart would sometimes do, showing off. Joy has been posting this on Facebook when a friend has a birthday.
  • has a New Yorker style Caption Contest with a cash prize of $100. The site is run by the former cartoon editor for the New Yorker and showcases cartoons from Esquire, Playboy, the New Yorker, Barron’s and others. Now … did they fire him or did he quit?
  • shows you where to go to get a medical procedure done anywhere in the world. Cost are lower. No, it’s not outer Mongolia; hospital room costs in Australia are one-tenth what they are in the U.S.
  •, or the Maps app on your phone, now shows the locations of electric vehicle charging stations. Just search on “ev charging.” We know a guy whose job was setting these up for Tesla; they fired him.

Find My Whatever

Forget about tracking people, Joy usually can’t remember where she left her cell phone. So the most common interaction we have with the Google Home device is “Hey Google, Find My Phone.” Then Google informs us that she can make it start ringing at full volume, would we like her to do that? Why else does she think we’re asking?

Now we have a few other problems, like finding our glasses, our wallet and sometimes our mind. We have tried several devices: A company sent us an “Ekster Parliament wallet” to try out. It has a “TrackR” card inside. You set it up by pairing it with your phone and forever after, they say, you can find your wallet on a map. The wallet is $99. Despite their assurances, we had trouble pairing it with our phone.

We had no trouble with the “TrackR Pixel,” a $20 tracking device the size of a quarter. Joy put it in her glasses case. When she fired up the TrackR app on her phone, it made the TrackR pixel start whining. It made a shrill noise that you wanted to stop as soon as possible. If you’re not in the same room, however, you’re going to have trouble hearing it. We couldn’t hear it in the next room with the door closed. But the map on our phone said it was “nearby.” Very encouraging. Maybe the dog could hear it.

There are several “tracker” devices on the market, and several makers. So far we have not been satisfied. There may be a song about that.


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