Google searches aid track resources of foodborne health problem

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 hours or even days later start searching on terms like “nausea” and “stomach cramps,” there is a likelihood of 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 where Google users had eaten.

Chicago has 38 inspectors for more than 8,000 restaurants. Using routine inspections, they find problems only 23 percent of the time, less than half the rate in tests of 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 specific person. They knew only that there had been unnamed people at a given restaurant searching for terms related to foodborne 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.


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 deluxe chemistry set from The first experiment said: “Be sure to have a fire extinguisher.”

Etsy sells unusual items, many of them handcrafted. 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.


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 it includes more than 2,000 pump-friendly locations. The app tells you what the location has, such as refrigerator, sink and privacy wall.


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 operators 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 voice mail back. If you have other questions, write [email protected]


“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 a former cartoon editor for The New Yorker and showcases cartoons from The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, Barron’s and others. shows you where to go to get a medical procedure done anywhere in the world. Costs 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.


Forget about tracking people; Joy struggles to keep track of her cellphone. 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 the phone start ringing at full volume and asks if we would like her to do that. Why else does she think we’re asking?

We have a few other problems, like finding our glasses, our wallet and sometimes our mind. We have tried several devices with the wallet: 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 $16 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.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected] and [email protected]

Business on 11/24/2018

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