<b>It takes a licking and keeps on ticking</b>
One would have to be as old as the space program itself to remember when that Timex Corp. slogan first hit the air waves. But it still applies, at least to one relic of bygone NASA days. When Voyager 1 left the Earth's orbit in 1977 — the same year that "Star Wars" hit the screen — it was built for a four-year picture-taking mission to Saturn.
If it survived, the VW Bug-sized probe, equipped with an eight-track tape deck and computers with 240,000 times less memory than an iPhone, would be catapulted to the outer reaches of the solar system. It not only endured those initial years, it's still going and has achieved interstellar status. Scientists say that Voyager 1 has now become the first man-made object to exit the solar system. A big thumbs-up to a spacecraft that still captures our nation's imagination — some 36 years later and 11.7 billion miles from home. A continued bon voyage to this hearty space bug.
<b>Look who else is spying on you</b>
Before any revelations about the government vacuuming up phone records and snooping on email, some people already had concerns about electronic surveillance by Google and other Internet providers that make money by collecting and selling information their users.
This past week brought a reminder that, despite the expressions of shock about the government's activities, some of the biggest Internet companies surreptitiously collect information, too. A federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Google crossed a boundary when it gathered email, user names, passwords and other unsecured information from inside people's homes. Google harvested the information from unsecured wi-fi networks while driving through neighborhoods taking photos for its "street view" mapping feature.
Too bad we can't count on a similar ruling against the NSA.
<b>Reopening the courthouse steps</b>