I've been defeated in my quest to make the map faster (at least for now). It's not too bad in Firefox (about 10 sec) but it takes about a minute and a half to load in IE. Although zooming is fast once the map comes up. Google really needs to work on some things, but maybe I can find a way around their problems when I have more time.
RE privacy concerns (not that I thought anyone was complaining) the only information that went into the map markers was city, state, and country. Not even zip or postal code. So for most cities or towns the marker is over some arbitrary downtown location. Of course, if your town is small enough it may be close to your house!
If you think it's creepy having your house appear in the satellite maps, take a look at the street views (for San Francisco and a few other places) -- go here http://maps.google.com/maps then click on street view and then click on one of the cameras. A lot of people are finding pictures of themselves doing things that they'd just as soon not have made public (though the good news is that Google will take the picture down if asked). In some cases you can see in the windows of people's houses. Very creepy.
I kind of wondered about the "you can see my house" thing. The red X is no where near my house, but I have always recieved my orders, so I was curious. Thanks for the info. These maps are fun to look at. When my daughter was in Germany recently we googled her village, and if you do it from your own house it seems so much farther away!