Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Google, the obsessive boyfriend

I’m starting to think that Google is like that classic overly-controlling boyfriend, the one that starts out knowing exactly what you want and need because he spends hours scrolling through all your Facebook and Twitter posts. He’s always there with exactly what you want, exactly when you need it – the weather for the week, movie times, whether you could find those gorgeous shoes somewhere else for a better price – and you start letting yourself trust him. Letting him do everything for you he wants to until he becomes a huge part of your life. Yahoo Search was a youthful fling, and we all know what a disaster Bing was, but Google … he just seems so perfect.
Then, of course, the trouble starts. First, he starts watching your searches, keeping a record of all the details and saying it’s all for you. He just wants to remember what you like, so he can help you even more than he is now. Then he gets jealous of Facebook – you should be on his social network, the one he made just for you, even if no one else is. You guys talk about shopping so much – why not have him to the shopping for you? He’s got a money account, just like this PayPal thing you always go to. You should be trusting *him* with your account information, not this other guy. It’s not like he doesn’t already have every single other piece of information you own.
Of course, the other option is Bing. So … I’m in trouble.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making our own worlds

What you believe in determines the reality around you. Optimists do really live in a world where the sun is always just around the corner, simply because they’re so certain of this that they’ll see that sunshine in whatever ends up actually showing up. Pessimists, on the other hand, really do never have anything good happen to them, because everything that happens is seen through the filter of that pessimism. If they won a million dollars, all they’d think about is how much they have to pay in taxes.

Self-help gurus label this “The power of positive thinking,” or whatever the buzzwords are these days, and make it seem like belief can be changed as simply as flipping a switch. Things not going well? Simply imagine them changing, imagine a can-do spirit and a determination never to give up, and boom! Suddenly, this will all be true.

But the kind of belief that shapes the world doesn’t care what’s logical, convenient, or sometimes even what you desperately chant to yourself every morning as a life mantra. The belief that makes us who we are is deep inside us, down in our bones and blood and so fundamental that we don’t give voice to it for the same reason we don’t think about gravity all the time. It’s just there, either holding us steady or keeping us from flying.

It all depends on what you believe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lies my brain tells me

My brain lies to me. It convinces me to talk to attractive members of the opposite sex by promising me that, this time, I will say something intelligent. Only a sentence or two – planning on actually flirting would be like getting myself helicoptered halfway up Mount Everest with nothing more than a set of toothpicks – but it assures me that I will be able to get those sentences out with something approaching dignity. I will not ramble. I will not let words slip out that I didn’t mean to have slip out. I will not ask embarrassing questions. I will stay just long enough for him to make some random appropriate return comment – extra points if it’s not about the weather – and then I will gracefully make my exit.
Occasionally, I’m dumb enough to listen to these promises and actually try to talk to some random attractive guy. At this point, my brain laughs like the most annoying child in elementary school and sits back to enjoy my abject humiliation.
This is especially horrible for those of us who make our living with words, who pride ourselves on wrangling the slippery little things well enough that someone is willing to pay us to do the job. We know a thousand words for every occasion, and can tell you the subtle differences between two of them that mean one of them is the lightning while the other is just the lightning bug (Mark Twain – look it up). But when it comes to the moment we actually need the words, when they’re a climber’s rope instead of pieces on a chess board, we’re as hopelessly lost as someone who doesn’t even speak the language.