After the somewhat strange occurrence of Google suggesting that the entire Internet was diseased (and after CNET's Natalie Weinstein revealing that the company initially placed the blame on a nonprofit organization out of Harvard University), I have delved deep to discover whether there might be other instances of Google error--you know, the sort that might not have seen the light of a million laptops.
This was hard work. But not as hard as one might have thought. There are more than one might have imagined. Here are the Top Five:
1. The Bernie Madoff Scandal. Mr. Madoff, the disgraced money man with long gray hair, will apparently claim a mistaken Google search led to his awful scheme. His story is that he googled 'Fonzi' because he wanted to dye his long locks and copy the look of the famous character from Happy Days. Instead, the search engine gave him results for 'Ponzi' and the rest is history.
Google blamed Vera Stanyan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Idaho for this error. She was, according to the company, an obsessed fan of actor Henry Winkler and had googled 'Fonzi' so many times that the servers temporarily gave out.
2. The Mickey Rourke Incident. A similar tale appears to be unraveling in the case of Mickey Rourke's face. In a moment of weakness, the actor who is now reborn in The Wrestler decided he needed a touch-up to his perfect features. So he googled 'plastic surgery'. However, at that very moment, so many people in Hollywood were googling the same terminology that the Hollywood server--situated in the bunker of the Chateau Marmont Hotel--had something of a heart attack and served up 'drastic surgery'.
Google blamed the error on a bachelor party at the Chateau. Apparently, they made so much noise as to simulate an earthquake of 1.3 magnitude. And, in those days, the servers weren't built to withstand even such an infinitesimal wobble. Naturally, the manufacturer of the servers disagreed.
3. The Case of the UN Weapons Inspectors. Apparently the UN Inspectors who were searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq never actually made it to Iraq. Using an early version of Google Earth, they actually landed in the Sahara Desert and found nothing more than peculiar four-humped camels.
Google blamed the error on a teenage programmer from Dubai whom the company had hired on a four-week work experience program. His name, according to the company's records, was Freddy Krueger.
4. The Tom Daschle Miscommunication. Perhaps one of the most unfortunate incidents concerns the man nominate to be Health Secretary--Senator Tom Daschle. He seems to have forgotten to pay $140,000 in back taxes on a car and chauffeur he enjoyed for some three years. I am told that he was in possession of a Google Android phone and sent a text message (to his chauffeur, it appears) for the tax bill to be paid.
However, Android was having a bad day and the message appears to have disappeared, as some text messages do, into dead air. Google blamed the problem on three children in Wichita, Kansas, who had hacked into Android HQ in search of alien cartoon characters.
5. The Michael Phelps Fiasco. Then there's the latest, and perhaps most painful error. It involves Olympic swim hero and man with remarkably short legs compared with his torso, Michael Phelps. A photograph was released that appeared to show him partaking of a bong.
Well, I can reveal that Mr. Phelps in fact googled 'Bond', as he believes that he would be a natural, and far taller, replacement for Daniel Craig in the next Bond movie. Unfortunately, the search engine made an unscheduled turn and offered him 'Bong.' With such devastating consequences to his potential future acting career.
The company blamed the error on two fans of the movie Pineapple Express in Kabul, Afghanistan. Apparently, they delight in messing with a large Google server in their country with the aim of turning the whole world into raving potheads.
It is never easy to maintain such a sprawling and complex network as Google's. And we should not be tempted into blaming the company for any of these unfortunate incidents.