Gmail: Visiting the Google team in its native habitat

I have a love/hate relationship with Gmail. As a foolish youth, I entrusted the free version of Gmail in its early beta days with reams of critical communications. Now I'm permanently wedded to at least partial usage of Google (GOOG)'s much-loved, and recently reviled, online email product.

Now, I've had some problems with Gmail, due to recent global or semi-global outages of its online email access and its online contact management system. (Does anyone write emails without auto-complete anymore?) I've also had problems with seriously slow performance, although this improved after I disabled some of the Google Labs e-mail add-ons that were perhaps less beta and more bleeding edge.