Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Google Search Tools Have Moved

I just noticed this yesterday. There was nothing in the left column of my search results on Google. I often look there to change my location or the time frame of search results. Sometimes I use the "related searches" to find similar search terms that might be more appropriate for what I want to search for. Now that I know those options are still available that's great. They are on the top of the page rather than on the left side. They're hidden as well. You simply click the "Search Tools" button in the upper right to get them to appear.

Why are these options important? Many people probably have never noticed or used them. Here's some reasons why they are useful.

1. The time setting. The default is "any time". This is very useful if you are looking for something and it's important that what you find is not old. There is a lot of out dated information on the Internet. This setting allows you to filter out that old information and find current information. You can find information for the past hour, the past 24 hours, the past week, the past month, the past year, or enter a custom date range.

2. The results setting. The default for this one is "All results". Options are Sites with images, Related searches, Dictionary, Reading level, Nearby, Translated foreign pages, and Verbatim. I've most often used the Related searches option. This will show you related search terms that can give you ideas of better search terms to use.

The sites with images option shows you images from websites that match your search. This is a fun one to try! When I tried this using the search term "web design mn" the first search result showed images from several different websites. The rest of the search results showed images from individual websites, for example there were about 4 or 5 thumb size images from each website. Some had text below them but many did not.

The dictionary option will vary depending on what you type in. If you enter one word you'll get a definition of that word from Google followed by links to other definitions on other websites. You'll also get a list of synonyms and a translator function on the right side of the screen.

The reading level option can be extremely useful. According to Google this allows you to filter search results to find websites that match the reading level you are seeking. If you are looking for information from expert scientists you might choose to use the advanced reading level. If you are an elementary teacher looking for information for 1st grade students you might use the basic reading level option.

The nearby option triggers a local search. In other words this will show you local businesses if your search term applies. For example, when searching for the term "plumbing" without using this option you won't get a list of local plumbers. But if you use the nearby option with this search term you will get a list of local plumbers. This list will include plumbing businesses from Google's local business directory which will correspond to a map that appears on the right side.

Using the translated foreign pages option will help you find websites that might be better results that happen to be in another language.

The Long Shadow of the State

If a movie starts off with a burglary in the middle of a rainy night, it must be film noir. So it is with Ve Stinu (In the Shadow), the Czech Republic's entry for Hollywood's 2012 foreign language Oscar. It's the story of an honest cop fighting the system, only instead of being tossed into the meat grinder of Stalinist Czechoslovakia, he willingly walks into it.

The year is 1953 and there are rumors about a currency devaluation, which the government denies. Of course, the film ends with the devaluation and disillusioned people tossing their worthless money out the windows. But before we get there, Captain Hakl has a huge problem.

His investigation of the burglary turns up a conspiracy by the police, state security and the Soviet Union to discredit what Jews are left in the country after the Holocaust. Adding insult to injury, the case is taken over by a captive ex-SS officer named Zenke with orders to stand before a show trial and declare that the Jews are engaged in supporting "Zionist terrorism". For that, he can go home. Otherwise, it's back to Siberia, never to see his family again. Hakl, who neglects his own family as the case progresses, preys on Zenke's conscience. What, six million weren't enough?

In the end, Zenke does what he's told and is allowed to go home with evidence that Hakl secretly gave him proving the innocence of the Jews. (The phone call to stop him comes just seconds after he crosses the border. Who would've guessed it?) All that's left is to take the good captain to the basement and beat him to a bloody pulp before dispatching him. The last scene shows his young son, fresh from dad's funeral, threatening two bullies in the street. The face that stares into the camera reassures the viewer that, yes, the fight for truth and justice will go on.

It's easy to see why this film was entered for Oscar consideration. The name of Václav Havel, so beloved in America for his dissident activities, will surely be evoked when discussing the merits of the film. The true shadow of director David Ondricek and writer Marek Epstein's story involves Stalin's purge of the Jews after World War II. Czechoslovak president Klement Gottwald, always eager to demonstrate his loyalty, followed suit by staging his own show trial for Jewish members of his government, with his good friend and party chief Rudolf Slansky the first to hang.

None of this is ever revealed. We learn of Zenke's SS past only through a chance glimpse, and the show trial and Soviet role in the affair are strictly cameo. Highlighting the currency devaluation instead may seem laughable, but it's meant to show the government lying to the people the whole time. The point is to follow the captain from the scene of a petty crime to the criminal policy of the Politburo. Unfortunately, there's very little gripping suspense along the way and the forensics basically comes down to, "Do me a favor, will you?"