Some terrible personal news

Cindy Cutts, my wife and best friend, passed away earlier this week. While I was traveling for work recently, Cindy went to visit her family in Omaha, Nebraska. On Sunday, while enjoying time with family, Cindy started having trouble breathing. Her family quickly called 911 and paramedics took Cindy to the hospital, but Cindy lost and never regained consciousness. She passed away on Monday.

Cindy didn’t want any callouts on my blog, so I always just referred to her as my wife. But I’d like to tell you something about her. She loved her family and her cats, Emmy and Ozzie. She danced in the Bay Area with a fantastic troupe of kick-ass women for years. She ran a half-marathon once and then decided that she never needed to do that again. She sang in show choir in high school and could still rock a karaoke room with an Adele song. She wrestled with anxiety and depression at times, as so many people do. We should all talk about mental health more to lessen the stigma for other people who think they’re alone when they’re not.

Cindy enjoyed falling asleep to Parks and Rec. She liked re-reading William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition. Cindy made quilts for her family and crocheted scarves. She kept me healthy and on track and moving in the right direction, and I paid her back with occasional head rubs. Cindy was whip smart, with a particular gift with languages, from French to Chinese. I tackled small details like paperwork and license plates and paying bills, but she was the one who looked at the big picture. Cindy was the person who said “Let’s go try this Google thing for a while.”

Cindy and I knew each other for 23 years and we were married for 18 years, which is no small thing. I’m unmanned and unmoored without her. I’m just going to tackle the details in front of me and count on time and family and friends to pull me back on course at some point.

If anyone wants to send flowers, the service is at Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler at 7805 W Center Rd in Omaha on Saturday, March 10th, starting at 3pm.

For the people who didn’t get to meet her, Cindy looked like a movie star:

Cindy movie star

She loved hanging with her family, like her sister and niece and nephew:

Cindy with her family

She had the best smile and amazing green eyes:

Cindy smiling

And her cat Ozzie adored her as much as I did:

Cindy and Ozzie

Please give your friends or family a hug for me. We never know how much time we have with someone, and sometimes it’s all too short.

Staying with the US Digital Service

A few months ago, I took a leave of absence from Google to do a stint with the US Digital Service. A lot of people know about the US Digital Service because they helped rescue the healthcare.gov website. But you might not realize that the US Digital Service has helped veterans get their health benefits, brought bug bounties to the federal government, and helped the IRS protect taxpayer info.

USDS logo

When I joined the US Digital Service, I only planned to stay for three months. That quickly turned into six months after I saw the impact of the USDS. In the last month, I made a big decision. On December 31, 2016, I resigned from Google. I’m currently serving as director of engineering for the USDS. Mikey Dickerson, the first administrator of the USDS, is a political appointee, so he’ll step down on Inauguration Day. When that happens, I’ll serve as acting administrator of the USDS. The work that the USDS does is critical to the American people, and I’m honored to continue that tradition.

If you’re reading this blog post, odds are that you might be a tech geek yourself. I’d like to ask you to review what the US Digital Service has accomplished in just a few years. If you’re a more visual person, you might enjoy this short video:

Working for the government doesn’t pay as well as a big company in Silicon Valley. We don’t get any free lunches. Many days are incredibly frustrating. All I can tell you is that the work is deeply important and inspiring, and you have a chance to work on things that genuinely make peoples’ lives better. A friend who started working in this space several years ago told me “These last five years have been the hardest and worst and best and most rewarding I think I will ever have.”

If you have experience in the tech industry, there’s a decent chance that you have skills that can benefit the American people. If you’re considering joining the US Digital Service, please fill out an application.

A brief update

Over the last couple years, I’ve seen more and more people in technology trying to make government work better. They’re idealists who are also making a large impact. These are people that I respect–some of them worked to fix healthcare.gov, for example. From talking to many of them, I can tell you that their energy is contagious and they’re trying to improve things in all kinds of ways.

I want to see whether I can help too. So for the next few months, I’ll be taking a leave from Google. I’m joining the US Digital Service family, specifically the Defense Digital Service at the Pentagon. I’ll be moving out to Washington, D.C., as part of the change. If you’re in the area, please say hello! And if you’re interested in the US Digital Service, you can find more information at usds.gov.

Thanks, Amit

Amit Singhal just announced that he’s retiring toward the end of the month. Amit has been a formative part of Google’s search team, but he’s also a good friend. Last year, after he marked 15 years with Google, I wrote this about Amit’s contributions:

Amit Singhal, one of the unsung heroes of Google, just celebrated 15 years at the company. If you’ve ever gotten a magical answer from Google, you probably have Amit to thank for it.

I can’t think of another person who has taken on so many different roles–individual contributor, manager, and head of search, not to mention dealing with press–and done such a superb job in each role. When a regular person hits a wall and gets discouraged, that’s when Amit is just getting started. 🙂 It’s always fun to see how he cuts to the root of a problem and solves it. I’m proud to call him my friend.

Billions of people have benefited in some way from Amit’s insight and judgment. Google will miss you, but thank you for everything, Amit. I’m also thankful that the leadership of search remains in excellent hands, including an experienced group of contributors and leaders in core ranking.

Buy Viagra online?

Working in webspam, we sometimes use the phrase “buy Viagra online” as an example of a search query that might be spammy. That’s why I noticed and remembered the 2013 announcement that you can officially buy Viagra online.

As this Time article points out, you’ve actually been able to buy Viagra online through legitimate pharmacy websites for quite some time. In May of 2013, Pfizer announced the process would become more direct through a collaboration with CVS.

What about “generic Viagra”?

To the best of my knowledge, some patents on Viagra haven’t expired in the US. Consequently, a generic version of Viagra has not yet been approved in the US. So I believe there’s no exact thing as “generic viagra” in the United States.

Interestingly, there is a drug called Revatio which is also sildenafil. The patent for Revatio expired in 2012 and so there are generic versions of Revatio. Revatio is intended to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, but your doctor could legally prescribe generic Revatio for an “off label” usage.

It’s even more interesting to read about generic Viagra in other countries. For example, Canada invalidated Pfizer’s patent on Viagra, so there is a generic version of Viagra in Canada. Likewise, the patent on Viagra has expired in many countries in Europe. It also looks like India makes a generic version of Viagra. However, at least in the US it appears that there’s still not a generic version.

What about “herbal Viagra”?

I believe “Viagra” is a brand name, so it’s not correct to refer to “herbal Viagra.” The term may be internet slang for wide variety of different things, but it’s not Viagra as such. As a result, you should do your research and exercise caution with anything that claims to be “herbal Viagra.”

What about Cialis?

As long as I was doing this research, I was curious about the situation with Cialis, which is a similar drug to Viagra. In case you were wondering about how to buy cialis online, you can find official information about that here. It looks like if you get a prescription, then you can order official Cialis from legitimate online pharmacies.

If you see something that I got wrong, please let me know.

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