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I've always been a big fan of both Google News and Google Suggest. So in my 20% time, I've worked on a way to bring them together, and I'm now happy to report the launch of Google Suggest on Google News, which provides you with search suggestions specific to news in your country, in real time, while you type. If you're already a Suggest user, you'll see this right away, but it's not on by default. Although Suggest + News is currently English-only, the suggestions will reflect the English-language regional edition you're viewing.

I find that this helps me save time while doing frequent searches (e.g. [google]. And seeing the Suggest list gives me a sense of the most common news queries. Enjoy!

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Last month we told you that @Last Software had joined the Google fold. Today we’re releasing Google SketchUp, a free version of our 3D modeling software, which makes our long-time vision of making 3D accessible to everyone a reality.

We’re still offering SketchUp Pro 5 for design professionals like architects, designers, builders, art directors and game developers. Both Google SketchUp and SketchUp Pro 5 enable you to place models in Google Earth; Pro users get some additional features.

The new Google SketchUp is for the do-it-yourselfer, the hobbyist — really anyone who wants to build 3D models for use in Google Earth. Go ahead and model that new kitchen, or deck, landscape your virtual garden, or impress your teacher with a roller coaster or medieval castle. When you’re finished, place your model in Google Earth. There! The beginning of a virtual world. Warning: don’t start messing with this stuff after dinner because your first experience could be an all-nighter… making an idea come to life in 3D can be very addicting.

And what could be better than that? Well, sharing your work with everyone else through the 3D Warehouse. Accessible through both versions of SketchUp, 3D Warehouse enables you to upload, search, browse, view, and download SketchUp models. Just as you do with Google search, enter some keywords and the 3D Warehouse shows you all your options. Grab the one you want and import it into your model. (Note that the Warehouse is not stocked up yet — so model something yourself and upload it for all the world to see.)

Visionaries, utopians, virtual world builders: your time has come.

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We're excited to announce that we have just launched beta versions of Google Maps for France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. These sites include the full suite of interactive street maps, driving directions, and integrated local business search. This has been a global effort with Google teams in Paris, Hamburg, Milan, Madrid, New York, Mountain View, Kirkland, Sydney, London, Dublin, and Zurich working together for much of the past year to build a truly "local" product.

Accompanying this release, we have greatly improved high resolution imagery coverage for Europe in both Google Maps and Google Earth. Check out the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Olympiastadion in Berlin, and the Grand Canal in Venice.

To give you a preview of what's to come, we've also rendered street maps for many other countries in Europe. Developers, you can incorporate these maps and imagery into your own websites using the free Google Maps API Version 2.

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From time to time, we run live experiments on Google — tests visible to a relatively few people -- to discover better ways to search. We do this because there’s no good substitute for understanding how real people, in real-world situations, actually operate. Theories are fine, but “improving the user experience” really happens best when we understand what people do online.

So to learn more, we sometimes randomly select a group of people to see a possible improvement to search options. Or we may select a group of people and try out a new element while they're searching. If you ever wonder why your Google site looks slightly different from that of the person sitting next to you, this is why.

We are currently testing new ways to refine searches so that, for example, a search for jobs might offer a choice of job location or function, rather than forcing you to continually narrow the terms you type in to a standard Google search.



We’ve run another test to learn more about how people navigate to find the information most relevant to them: how you might find image search or information in Froogle, for example, when that might be just the thing you want. Here’s how that one looks.



And we test ways to enrich web results, such as by offering a "Remove Result" option that would omit particular results from future searches if you decide they’re not useful. You'll see this feature if you're already signed in to a Google service when you perform your web search.



There's no set schedule when we'll roll out these sorts of new ideas (if at all), but these tests help us to improve your search experience.

p.s.: Google is also active in CHI, the major organization on user experience and usability. We're participating in the annual conference this week in Montreal. More here.

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To help spread the word about keeping our planet green this Earth Day, Google has joined forces with Scholastic – the folks who brought us Clifford the Big Red Dog – to distribute lesson plans (and a contest) to middle-schoolers across the U.S.

Using Google Earth, teachers can fly their students around the world to talk to them about issues like climate change and how it has affected places like Glacier National Park, the Chesapeake Bay and Los Angeles. And they can introduce students to community initiatives across the country where volunteers are cleaning up their cities, planting trees and beautifying. Using Google Earth, teachers can show their students placemarks of the towns where outreach projects are taking place and students can get involved in cleaning up their own environment.

As for the contest, students write their own environmental stories by researching a topic of interest and illustrating it with Google Earth images. Following detailed instructions, they can create their own Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files which they will send to us for review. The top three environmental story creators will win prizes for themselves, their class and their teachers, including a week at Earth Camp, technology grants and Lenovo laptops for the classrooms.

This Earth Day project goes to 30,000 middle school teachers across the country in poster form (with placemarks on the front and lesson plan suggestions on the back), and it’s also being emailed to 100,000 more teachers. There’s a Scholastic website for teachers and a special Google Earth page too.

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From time to time, a resident physician at Google headquarters weighs in with her thoughts on healthy living. This is not medical advice, and you should check with your own doctor before pursuing any particular course of action.

There is a Chinese saying that "To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short." In other words, how long can you tap on that keyboard or sit in that chair before you hurt yourself. We’re not designed to remain as sedentary or perform the fine motor movements for the long uninterrupted hours that we have to do in so many of our jobs. Evidence suggests that prolonged abnormal posture and repetitive movements contribute to neck, limb and back pain. These conditions are collectively known as overuse syndromes, or repetitive stress injury (RSI).

RSI is no small matter. It accounts for 34% of all lost-workday injury and illness — and costs almost $20 billion annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that an estimated $50 billion is lost by businesses every year from sick leave, decreased productivity and medical costs linked to repetitive stress disorders. The Academy has published two reports since 1998 which directly link repetitive motion to workplace injury.

The damage sustained from RSI is due to structural changes in the muscle fiber as well as due to decreased blood flow. Nerves can also be involved. The immobile tissue and surrounding inflammation compress the nerve which can cause numbness or tingling and eventually weakness if the nerve is damaged severely.

For those of you who need evidence, see this study on "Overuse Syndrome." In this study, biopsies were taken from hand muscles of injured and normal subjects, which demonstrated the structural damage in the muscle fibers and correlated the damage with the severity of the injury. In another study, biopsies were taken from neck muscles, and reduced local blood flow was found in the injured areas. The greater the pain difference, the greater the reduction in blood flow.

Some of the most common RSI injuries are tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Work-related carpal tunnel syndrome now accounts for more than 41% of all repetitive motion disorders in the United States, says this study. And here's a telling title: "Hard work never hurt anyone: or did it?" -- it's a review of occupational associations with soft tissue musculoskeletal disorders of the neck and upper limb.

So what should you do? The key to treatment is prevention. Research shows that injuries decrease and productivity increases when employers encourage stretch breaks and stress the importance of ergonomics. See for example this one at at Ergonomics Now.

Here are a few tips:

-- Breaks should be taken every 30-45 minutes for at least 5 minutes. If you need assistance there are free downloadable timers that will help remind you to do so.
-- Stretch your arms, hands, neck, and back during breaks. This yoga site demonstrates some exercises. Other sites are listed below.
-- Maintain posture alignment. Don't slouch on the couch with the laptop.
-- Work stations should be reviewed initially and with each office move. Adjust your chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse, laptop. Alternate keyboards and mice periodically.
--Shift your gaze from the computer screen to the distance. And don't forget to blink!
--Limit non-essential computer use. This may be heresy -- but do give the surfing, gaming, emailing, and text messaging a rest.
-- If pain occurs or persists, see your doctor, who may recommend wrist brace, ice packs, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and most importantly, rest to allow healing. Don't procrastinate in addressing your symptoms -- the sooner you tend to them, the better off you are.

And finally, here are more sites that may be helpful:
Safe Computing Tips
Alternative Pointing Devices
Alternative and Ergonomic Keyboards
Harvard RSI Action
RSI exercises
RSI Page

Update: One more: Boston U.'s Ergonomics Self-Help Guide (Flash)

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On April 6 and 7, Google India celebrated the coding community in Southeast Asia by hosting the second Code Jam competition. At nearly 15,000 entrants, this year’s registrations topped last year’s. The annual software coding fest consists of two online rounds, in which participants competed to solve three coding problems more quickly and accurately than their competitors. The top 50, who came from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Singapore (and included one female finalist, by the way), were invited to compete in the onsite finals. (We made a video about the finals.)

Though it was incredibly close, last year's winner, Ardian Kristanto Poernomo, from Indonesia, snagged the grand prize once again. Abishek Kumarasubramanian from Chennai, India was less than 3/100ths of a point behind him.

The two-day event also featured of team building activities and Google engineering presentations. We’re especially delighted that over half of the finalists expressed their interest in working for Google. And if you’re one of those, go here.

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Last October, we merged our local search site with Google Maps. At that time, we thought it was most appropriate to name the integrated product "Google Local" to emphasize the broad searching capabilities of the site and that it was much more than an ordinary mapping site. But we underestimated how much people loved Google Maps. Many have continued to refer to the site by the previous name, and many have explicitly asked us to "bring back Google Maps." Since it's most important to us to give our users what they want, we've decided to change the name officially to Google Maps.

Does this mean that local search is no longer important to Google? Absolutely not! Google Maps continues to have the killer combination of maps, driving directions, and local business search. And local search has become a fundamental part of the Google search experience; it's now embedded within a number of our products, including Google web search, Google Earth, Google SMS, and Google Mobile.

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My mother wanted a site for her law practice that potential clients would find when they Googled her. My professor needed a place on the web where he could post assignments and readings for Psych 131. My friend Casey was excited about creating an online encyclopedia of Big Lebowski trivia.

All of them wanted simple web pages that looked great, but none of them wanted to take the time to learn HTML, wrangle with complex tools or shell out cash for a designer. They managed to cajole me, their nerdy technically-savvy friend, into becoming the neighborhood techie -- but what if you don't know one? Why isn't making a web page as fast and easy as using a word processor?

These frustrations stayed with me when I started working at a California company full of friendly neighborhood techies that encourages its employees to devote 20% of their time to scratching their intellectual itches. So I gathered a team of engineers and designers passionate about using their 20% time to make it easy to publish useful, attractive web pages.

After many months of focusing on designing a product that our friends and families would enjoy, and politely coaxing web browsers into doing things they were never meant to do, we're happy that "Google Page Creator" is now part of the Google Labs family. Labs is Google's technology playground, a place where we can experiment with new services that have us excited, but that aren't all grown up yet. We rely on constructive feedback from early users to help us nurture these experiments from intriguing ideas into mature products.

Google Page Creator is just a small step in helping people get their words, pictures and ideas on to the web. But it's nice to know that when my friends want to share their experiences from a Venetian monastery, or coworkers feel compelled to give their appropriately-named bowling team a web presence, I know where to point them.

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As a graduate student at the University of Maryland years ago, I took an interesting course on quantum computing. The topic intrigued me and, from time to time, I like to go back and and see what is new in the area (for all I know, Google may some day need quantum computers to extend search into the intergalactic domain :-) ).

Today we're launching a feature of Google Scholar which will make it easier for researchers to keep up with recent research. From quantum computing to copper binding in prion protein. It's not just a plain sort by date, but rather we try to rank recent papers the way researchers do, by looking at the prominence of the author's and journal's previous papers, how many citations it already has, when it was written, and so on. Look for the new link on the upper right for "Recent articles" -- or switch to "All articles" for the full list.

Scholarly endeavors are about learning what has already been done and building on it. We hope this feature will help researchers worldwide learn from and build on the latest advances.

Update: Clarified new feature by adding new sentence to end of second paragraph.

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Last week, there was Google Calendar. This week, developers can start writing code that uses it. Enter the Google Calendar data API, which can be used to write external applications that query, create, and update Google Calendar events, so they're available to Google Calendar users or other API-enabled applications.

Find more details here.

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We added OneBox functionality to our Google Search Appliance today, which means you can now find just about anything through your friendly Google search box. Lots of folks have been asking us - is this going to kill the corporate portal market? For the record, we have no desire or plans to kill anything. But it's clear to us that people prefer search to having every possible piece of information thrust at them willy-nilly. And they like having search front and center on their screens, not buried, as it is all too often inside company intranets. As industry-watcher John Battelle explains, search is so powerful because it responds to an expressed intent by the user. Shouldn't corporate portals do the same?

Google OneBox for Enterprise is cool because it takes a completely understood and tested design metaphor and extends it to another domain. Um, what I meant to say was, employees already know how to get movie listings, weather forecasts, and flight information through simple Google queries. So it won't surprise them (in fact it may delight them) to learn that they can get real-time contact info, sales forecasts, and customer information the very same way. We launched an initial set of OneBox modules with Oracle, Cognos, SAS and Salesforce.com; some of these partners talk about that here.

And there’s one more thing. We're also introducing an all-new Mini that's 25 times faster and half the size of its predecessor!

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Back in college, I had this idea of an Internet-based puzzle extravaganza. It would have one thousand puzzles of various types, more than anyone could ever expect to solve in the time limit provided. It was all going to tie into a central theme and an intricate story.

I got to about two hundred before I got exhausted (in both senses of the word).

Almost a decade later, that dream has come true: a small group of us at Google, in cooperation with Sony Pictures, have managed to create 12,358 original puzzles for The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google.

That's right, 12,358 (I'd make a joke about Fibonacci numbers, but that would be too obvious), all designed to honor both a fanatical puzzler’s sheer love of a mental challenge and the labyrinthine spirit of The Da Vinci Code itself. They'll be released over the next 24 days, in the form of six different challenges at four difficulty levels, with enough variety that I think everyone will be able to find something they like and play it over and over -- although if you're in the U.S., you'll want to try to complete all 24 and make it to the Final Challenge, where I hear there's a pretty nice prize package awaiting the winner.

I'm rather pleased with how this project fulfilled my youthful dream, and very proud of how well our team's creative synergies were able to mesh with the world of The Da Vinci Code, the cinematic version of which will premiere just as the Quest wraps up. Yes, we'll have to turn the puzzles off then -- after all, how else are we going to get you all offline to join the rest of us in the multiplexes?

Good luck, and more importantly, have fun!

P. S. Okay, this wouldn’t be a Da Vinci-related post if I didn’t give you a clue: if you really want a mental workout, try solving the Chess Challenges by looking only at the board, without using the multiple choices to help you. The training you get may very well prove helpful should you turn out to be one of the elite few who reach the Final Challenge.

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We're all busy people. Whether it's work or play, school or family, every day is filled with stuff that takes time. Keeping track of schedules isn't easy, and frankly we haven't been too happy with the tools available. So we invite you to try Google Calendar -- a tool that simplifies keeping track of events, special occasions, and appointments -- whether they’re on your own agenda or on the calendars of contacts who opt to share their schedules with you.

First, we tried to make it fast and easy. You can add events just by clicking and entering one line of simple event information. No muss, no fuss, no cumbersome forms to fill out. And it’s integrated with Gmail so you can add events mentioned in messages to your calendar with just one click.

Second, we wanted to make sure you could use it to see all the events in your world. It’s drop-dead simple to see calendars from your friends and family, or calendars you find with the built-in calendar search tool, right next to your own calendar. You can choose to share as much or as little of your own calendar, too.

Third, we focused on helping events come alive. You can turn any event on your calendar into an invitation just by adding the email addresses of your guests. They can see and respond to your invitation, whether or not they use Google Calendar themselves. Event reminders by email and text message to your mobile phone help you remember what’s on your agenda.

Finally, we kept it open. Google Calendar supports the iCal standard so it cooperates with many other calendar applications, enabling you to easily get event data in and out. Also, webmasters can add customized Google Calendar event reminder buttons to their pages, letting visitors quickly add copies of events to their calendars.

We thought it was about time to let you take a look.

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From time to time, we like to reflect the world we live in through the logo designs on our home page. These Google 'doodles' are designed exclusively by the original Doodler, Dennis Hwang. Here in the UK, we wanted to let Dennis have the day off and give someone local the chance to get their artwork in front of millions. After a successful pilot competition in 2005, we're pleased to tell you that our 2006 "Doodle 4 Google - My Britain" competition is now open and accepting doodles from pupils ages 4-18 in all schools across the UK.

A panel of experts will judge, narrowing the submissions down to a Top 30 and the public will vote for their favorites. The winning doodle will be hosted on the Google.co.uk home page for a day, and also bag the artist a trip for four to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. To get your (again, UK) school involved, please check out Doodle 4 Google - My Britain.

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It's that time of year when we happily announce the winners of the 2006 Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. We're awarding 19 $10,000 scholarships to these outstanding young women -- graduate and undergraduate students who are completing degrees in computer science and related fields -- with our congratulations:
  • Brianna Bethel, University of Colorado - Boulder
  • G. Ayorkor Mills - Tettey, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Gillian Rachael Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Himabindu Pucha, Purdue University
  • Karen Fullam, University of Texas at Austin
  • Kristen Walcott, University of Virginia
  • Kristina Chodorow, New York University
  • Laura Rouse, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Marta Magdalena Luczynska, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Megan Olsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Michele Banko, University of Washington
  • Neven Abou Gazala, University of Pittsburgh
  • Parisa Michelle Tabriz, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Rebecca Nancy Nesson, Harvard University
  • Shana Kay Watters, University of Minnesota
  • Sharmishtaa Seshamani, Johns Hopkins University
  • Soumi Sinha, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Tracy Westeyn, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Vinithra Varadharajan, Carnegie Mellon University
And we also recognize these 28 highly qualified finalists, who will receive $1,000 awards from us:
  • Alicia Avelon Permell, Michigan Tech University
  • Anagha Mudigonda, Polytechnic University New York
  • Anna Tikhonova, University of California, Davis
  • Annie (Hsin-Wen) Liu, University of Washington
  • Ashima Kapur, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cindy Rubio Gonzalez, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Delphine Nain, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Divya Arora, Princeton University
  • Emily Grace Christiansen, University of Minnesota-Morris
  • Emily Shen, Stanford University
  • Erika Chin, University of Virginia
  • Eva Mok, University of California, Berkeley
  • Evelyn Mintarno, Stanford University
  • Gina Upperman, Rice University
  • Hayley Nicole Iben, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jiayue He, Princeton University
  • Jing Chen, University of Pennsylvania
  • Laureen Lam, San Jose State University
  • Lingyun Zhang, University of California, San Diego
  • Lu Xiao, Pennsylvania State University
  • Meeta Sharma Gupta, Harvard University
  • Moushumi Sharmin, Marquette University
  • Neha Rungta, Brigham Young University
  • Rachel Weinstein, Stanford University
  • Sunny Consolvo, University of Washington
  • Tanya Lee Ann Crenshaw, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Valerie Hajdik, Texas A&M University
  • Xiaonan Zhao, Northwestern University

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In Wi-Fi terms, I can go just 19 steps from my front door and still get coverage. The nearest coffee shop seems within reach -- but signal strength-wise, there's not enough power to pick it up. And the signal def­in­itely isn't strong enough to get to the res­taur­ant kitty-­corner from my place. Frankly, my home Wi-Fi connection works just enough to let me use it in the middle of oncoming traffic (especially dangerous considering that I live on a Muni line). As soon as I take that 20th step, I either lose signal altogether, or have to pay some crazy amount of dough to jump onto the Internet at a paid hotspot.

So when I'm out and about, how am I supposed to stay current on the filming of M.C. Hammer's latest videos in downtown San Francisco? Of course, I also need constant connectivity to keep tabs on the inventory of pirate supplies at 826 Valencia. And without Wi-Fi, how else can I check in on craigslist missed connections in real time?

This is why I am especially excited to hear that the City and County of San Francisco just chose the bid from EarthLink and Google to offer citywide Wi-Fi access. If all goes well, construction will commence this year on a network that would provide it for free to virtually the entire city at speeds up to six times dial-up.

I can't wait for Wi-Fi everywhere. Who knows? Pretty soon I might even be able to wirelessly place an order with the Tamale Lady. But first, I need to dodge this streetcar bearing down on me -- yikes!

Update: Revised first 3 sentences for clarity.

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Here in the Kirkland, we've had one of the rainiest winters in a long time, giving me extra time to work on the latest release of the Google Toolbar for Firefox. Today, we're happy to release the beta version of Google Toolbar 2 for Firefox. If you were wondering what we were doing with that extra time indoors, Toolbar for Firefox is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux -- and in 16 languages.

This new release includes feed integration with the Google Personalized Homepage and a number of other feed readers. We've made searching better by including previous queries, spelling corrections, and suggestions for popular choices. Gmail fans might appreciate having the mailto: links in Firefox open a compose window in Gmail -– no more copying and pasting email addresses. And to combat the ever-increasing threat of phishing, we've integrated the Safe Browsing extension into Toolbar to alert you when a page is trying to steal sensitive information. Check out everything in the new Toolbar here.

As a dedicated Firefox user, I think that the latest version enhances an already innovative browser. Meanwhile, you IE Toolbar 4 fans may notice that the feature sets aren't identical. That's because Firefox and IE users have different needs. Rest assured that we're working to get the most popular features in both versions.

Here's my new customized Firefox Toolbar, showing my Google Personalized Homepage (built from feeds I discovered using the feed feature). It also gives me history, popular queries, and query corrections in my search box, which I moved to the upper right with the new custom layout.

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The personalized homepage has a new directory with more content and more ways to browse, search and add it to your Google homepage. A lot of content owners have been asking for ways to drive adoption of their feeds and modules. One option is the "Add to Google" button you can add to your website as a way to quickly connect fans to your content. Enjoy all the new stuff and as always, feel free to discuss.

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Ever been on a date and wondered "What on Earth am I doing with this person?" Or perhaps you wished there was a way that you could instantly find your perfect match, and then go on a date during which everything just went right?

Wish no more: Google Romance, a beta product currently incubating in Google Labs, uses cutting-edge personal search algorithms to help you find your soulmate, then sponsors your first Contextual Date with said soulmate-to-be in exchange for showing you highly relevant advertising that just might help Cupid's arrow find its mark. Does it really work? Ask our internal beta testers -- if you can find them, that is. Not a single one has shown up for work in days.

So why not give it a try yourself? You've got true love to gain, and only your faith in psychographic and contextual advertising software to lose.