Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Post of the Week Created with Sketch. My Life as a Google End User

 

Because of a childhood obsession with illustration and E.C. Comics, I carry with me the memory of the names and the styles of the five artists who illustrated the first issue of Mad Magazine in 1952 (actually a comic book at the time). I asked Google if it knew as much as I do.

Mais oui, bon ami! [Google also speaks French]: The five are Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, and John Severin. Ask me something difficult, simple denizen of the meat world.”

“Um, OK, Google. What are the figures on Munich’s Rathaus-Glockenspiel?”

“I know you’re easily bored, simple one, so I won’t describe all thirty-two of the life-sized figures, but the ones on the bottom are barrel makers dancing the traditional Cooper’s Dance. Are you happy now?”

That’s what Google would be like if it were human. It knows so much more than us that it would undoubtedly be haughty in its responses.

OK, let’s get serious. Perhaps you are writing a book on the rise and fall of Christianity in Israel and you need to know the Christian orders that control the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. In pre-search engine days, you had to drive to your local library, search the card catalogue to see if it had a book or periodical that dealt with the subject, go to the stacks, try to find the book, and flip through the index, if it had one, or pages if it didn’t.

Now with Google, you can stay home and type these words into the search box: “six orders of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” In two seconds (I timed it), up pops, on the first page, a reference work that, with one click, provides you with your answer: Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox. In two forken seconds.

If that doesn’t amaze you, you’re probably under the age of 40 and all excited, right down to the tingle in your lower leg, by Joe Biden’s candidacy.

In 1977, I wrote an article for Fine Woodworking about how to make a woodwind instrument called a flageolet. Just now I Googled my article. Google not only found the article, but it also found a description of the article, written some years later, in the middle of Jim Richey’s 602-page book, Methods of Work. That is one peripatetic web crawler!

Search engines can do what no other research source in history could do. For the past few months, I’ve had a phrase in my mind, “ten years before the flood.” I had no idea where that came from. (I used to teach literature, so I have a jumble of literary images lying about willy-nilly in my mind.) So I Googled the words and discovered that they appear in Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. The words aren’t even much of a quote, not even close to being a sentence, hardly even an image. Just a lowly phrase. Is there anything that Google can’t find?

To check to see if that was merely an aberration, I came up with another literary image, one I was familiar with. This time I purposely misquoted the sentence to make it hard on Google. Here’s the original: “The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold.” And here’s what I typed into the Google box: “Despite his feathers, the owl was really cold.” Google took me to the right place, John Keats’ The Eve of St. Agnes, and offered up the exact words as they appear in the poem. Incroyable! (I don’t know French, but I do know how to look up French words — in Google, of course.)

In 1970, I did research for my Ph.D dissertation by spending untold hours in the bowels of the University of Utah library, where I read mostly forgotten Restoration comedies (most of which appeared only on microfiche) and a few critical essays on those comedies. If I wasn’t in the basement, I was at the main desk filling out forms for inter-library loans for books and original copies of certain plays that were not available at the University library. It was a laborious process.

Nowadays, using Google, I could write a better version of that dissertation in a tenth of the time and a thousand miles distant from any library. The scholarly world has been digitized and is now available to anyone with, let’s say, a small iPad and a search engine. For copies of the plays themselves, Google will point you to a variety of ways of retrieving the primary texts, from Project Gutenberg (which has now digitized 6,448 books, all free) to the Internet Archive, to the Poetry Foundation. I just Googled William Congreve’s Restoration comedy of manners, The Way of the World. In five seconds, I had a copy of the five-act play on my iPad.

A colleague and I used to write textbooks on writing, rhetoric in particular, usually combined with lessons on library research. That was, oh, about thirty years ago. In our books, the readers could find all kinds of helpful information on the card catalogue (ah, the pleasures of the Dewey Decimal System) and how to write effectively about their research. Largely because of Google, our books are now so dated that they’re hardly worth the energy it would take to grind them up for pulp.

After I wrote that last sentence, I became curious about the fate of these texts, so I Googled my name. Three of our texts came up, now located in an internet bargain bin called Thriftbooks. One of our texts that originally sold for $45.11 now sells for $4.99. (That price drop mirrors the arc of my life.). Since this is a research textbook, it’s hard to see why anyone would buy it. It barely mentions the Internet and Google is years into the future.

So there you have it. Search engines have opened a passageway to a world of knowledge and art for kings and peasants. We’re living in an amazing world, folks.

Postscript: Mrs. @She is of the opinion that the only reason people read my posts is the expectation that I will post a photo of Bob the dog.

Although it is true that the number of Likes for my posts dropped precipitously at the same time that I stopped including photos of Bob, I believe that the relationship between the two events to be merely coincidental, not causal. I continue to believe that I’m loved for myself and not for Bob the dog.

I will not pander!

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  1. John H. Member
    John H. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Maybe if somebody wrote a poem with the line “How many people are in intensive care right now?” in it, Google would answer the question, or at least give the next line of the poem. 
     

    • #1
    • March 26, 2020, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. EB Thatcher
    EB

    It was an interesting post. But Bob was a nice addition.

    • #2
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:00 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I’m pretty sure that my first husband has that copy of Fine Woodworking with your article in it. We were subscribers back then.

    • #3
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:03 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Old Buckeye Member

    He’s sooooo cute! Oh, and interesting post, too, Kent. 

    • #4
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A friend recently gave me this fascinating address: archive.com, and I haven’t gotten any serious work done since.

    Thank you for the Bob photo. I always look for the charming Bob when you post.

    • #5
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Ilan Levine Member

    You might think that you are alone in seeing the day when your work becomes outdated, but just about all knowledge becomes outdated (I have started to see it too), eventually – if you were after immortality, you should have set up a MySpace page.

     

    Cute dog!

    • #6
    • March 26, 2020, at 9:55 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I’m pretty sure that my first husband has that copy of Fine Woodworking with your article in it. We were subscribers back then.

    RushBabe, boy I loved that magazine. For a few years, I read every word of every article and of every ad.

    My article appeared in the Fall, 1977, issue of Fine Woodworking. It was reprinted in a special Fine Woodworking edition called Things to Make in 1986.

    • #7
    • March 26, 2020, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Old Buckeye (View Comment):

    He’s sooooo cute! Oh, and interesting post, too, Kent.

    Thanks, Old Buckeye. He is a cute dog, isn’t he? He’s also a mellow dog. Hardly every barks. 

    • #8
    • March 26, 2020, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    A friend recently gave me this fascinating address: archive.com, and I haven’t gotten any serious work done since.

    Thank you for the Bob photo. I always look for the charming Bob when you post.

    Hi Jim. I’ll look into that address.

    • #9
    • March 26, 2020, at 10:22 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Ilan Levine (View Comment):

    You might think that you are alone in seeing the day when your work becomes outdated, but just about all knowledge becomes outdated (I have started to see it too), eventually – if you were after immortality, you should have set up a MySpace page.

     

    Cute dog!

    The internet really has become a disruptor, hasn’t it?

    • #10
    • March 26, 2020, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. JoelB Member

    I am amazed that I have not been able to find some charts by one of my professors, Richard Rice, who plotted curves for velocity, capacity and fuel use on some kind of a logarithmic scale. He said that it gave an indication of why some transportation technologies were hits (the Boeing 747) and misses like (The various forms of supersonic transports). These were based upon 1960s technology, but would probably still hold true today. Anyone seen these around? My Transportation Science notebooks were lost long ago.

    BTW. Kent, I love Bob the dog, but I think your present avatar photo makes him look a bit… porcine. Could you upgrade?

    • #11
    • March 26, 2020, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Ilan Levine Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Ilan Levine (View Comment):

    You might think that you are alone in seeing the day when your work becomes outdated, but just about all knowledge becomes outdated (I have started to see it too), eventually – if you were after immortality, you should have set up a MySpace page.

     

    Cute dog!

    The internet really has become a disruptor, hasn’t it?

    The internet just makes you aware that time is the true disruptor. ;)

    • #12
    • March 26, 2020, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Unfortunately, my college years coincided with that transition period when online resources were available but still distrusted by teachers. So online sources could only point the way to “real” sources.

    • #13
    • March 26, 2020, at 12:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Welp, to reward your compliance, I just delivered the “like” that should put you over the top. Form following function. Or maybe it’s QED. Or something.

    • #14
    • March 26, 2020, at 12:40 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. The Reticulator Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    A friend recently gave me this fascinating address: archive.com, and I haven’t gotten any serious work done since.

    I’ve been using it for years. My findings there have inspired a few Ricochet posts that I’ve never written, because I keep getting distracted by other things to be found there. 

    But not everything can be found on the internet.

    There are locations of township halls that cannot be found on the internet. I have a bag of tricks for finding a lot of them, but there are some counties in the Great Lakes region where they are still quite reclusive.

     

    • #15
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Unfortunately, my college years coincided with that transition period when online resources were available but still distrusted by teachers. So online sources could only point the way to “real” sources.

    Aaron, I know what you’re talking about. Teachers were a conservative lot when the internet and search engines were young. They were like those today who say, “Well, if it doesn’t have paper pages, it’s not a real book.”

    • #16
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    Welp, to reward your compliance, I just delivered the “like” that should put you over the top. Form following function. Or maybe it’s QED. Or something”

    She, I was just playing with you a bit. BTW, I have no idea what you are talking about in your response. I looked up QED again. (I look it up about every month or so.) I still don’t know what you’re talking about. 

    Wait, I’m beginning to get a vague idea about your response. Nothing very definite. I think I’ll visit your response every now and then in the months ahead to contemplate the meaning of your words. I know I can understand them if I’m just given enough time. 

    • #17
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:25 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester: In 1970, I did research for my Ph.D dissertation by spending untold hours in the bowels of the University of Utah library, where I read mostly forgotten Restoration comedies (most of which appeared only on microfiche) and a few critical essays on those comedies. If I wasn’t in the basement, I was at the main desk filling out forms for inter-library loans for books and original copies of certain plays that were not available at the University library. It was a laborious process.

    You’re telling me. My first year in graduate school, our Eighteenth-Century Drama professor assigned each of us a play almost no-one had ever heard of (for a couple-hundred years, anyway) and we had to put together a biography of the author, a review of the play, a review of any criticism of the play we could find between “then” and “now” and an annotated bibliography of all references to it or the author we could find.

    My play was Wild Oats, by John O’Keeffe. The process I followed was pretty much what you’ve outlined above, as I was only a few years after you. I’d add the adjective “gruesome” to “laborious” to describe it.

    But, for a short time, I was probably the world’s greatest expert on Wild Oats. Shortly after I did my paper, it was revived (briefly) in London, but of course, I didn’t know that was coming up at the time.

    Now, all you have to do is google “Wild Oats” and “John O’Keeffe” and Wikipedia will take you straight to it. Where’s the fun in that, I ask myself.

    The other really arduous grad-school class was English 500, which was the baseline course which taught a student how to do the sort of research you’re talking about. That was a monumental chore, too, as we frequently got lengthy lists of things to go “find out,” all of which were exceedingly obscure and difficult to discover. I wonder how they teach it now.

    • #18
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:32 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I’m pretty sure that my first husband has that copy of Fine Woodworking with your article in it. We were subscribers back then.

    We were too! And I have all the back issues. Will have to check. I used to look forward to every issue.

    • #19
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  20. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I am amazed that I have not been able to find some charts by one of my professors, Richard Rice, who plotted curves for velocity, capacity and fuel use on some kind of a logarithmic scale. He said that it gave an indication of why some transportation technologies were hits (the Boeing 747) and misses like (The various forms of supersonic transports). These were based upon 1960s technology, but would probably still hold true today. Anyone seen these around? My Transportation Science notebooks were lost long ago.

    BTW. Kent, I love Bob the dog, but I think your present avatar photo makes him look a bit… porcine. Could you upgrade?

    Joel, my wife also thinks Bob is too fat. I say he’s just stocky. I love to give him treats, and he looooves his treats. Marie doesn’t want me to give him so many treats. Maybe I’ll taper off on the treats. Bob is not going to be happy. 

    • #20
    • March 26, 2020, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I’m pretty sure that my first husband has that copy of Fine Woodworking with your article in it. We were subscribers back then.

    We were too! And I have all the back issues. Will have to check. I used to look forward to every issue.

    You saved all your back issues of Fine Woodworking? You’re not one of those hoarders I’ve seen on T.V, are you?

    • #21
    • March 26, 2020, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    A friend recently gave me this fascinating address: archive.com, and I haven’t gotten any serious work done since.

    I’ve been using it for years. My findings there have inspired a few Ricochet posts that I’ve never written, because I keep getting distracted by other things to be found there.

    But not everything can be found on the internet.

    There are locations of township halls that cannot be found on the internet. I have a bag of tricks for finding a lot of them, but there are some counties in the Great Lakes region where they are still quite reclusive.

    Other things that are not on the Internet: 

    All the field notes of the federal surveyors who divided the rectangular survey portions of the country into townships and sections. Some of them are online, but it’s a very slow project, and it will probably be quite a few years before they’re all on line. Every once in a while I check parts of the country in which I have a particular interest to see how it’s coming along.

    The correspondence between settlers or would-be buyers of land and the General Land Office. Historians have said that’s a huge, untapped resource, but last I checked, they hadn’t been microfilmed, much less digitized, so you have to go to the National Archives in Washington D.C. to access them.

    But for the field notes, the Internet has still been very useful. It was nearly 20 years ago when I noted how it was now possible for an amateur historian like myself to use finding aids online to narrow down what I was looking for, and go to a historical archive and very quickly specify what I wanted. For example, I was interested in finding out exactly where in Dane County, Wisconsin the surveyor John Mullett had ended his survey when he decided the Black Hawk War made it too risky to continue work on his contract. The story had been told by one of his fellow surveyors, and there was correspondence about it in the microfilm archives of the General Land Office, but I wanted to find his field notes to figure out exactly where he left off. I’m not sure if this was still back in the AltaVista days or if Google had already achieved dominance, but I found out from the Wisconsin Historical Society web site how to specify exactly what microfilm reels I needed at the archives in Madison. I was able to stop in for a few hours on our way to Minnesota to look at those records. In older times a researcher would have needed a budget to have time to stay a few days and learn his way around the archives, which would have put such a thing out of the reach of an amateur like me, who was just using a bit of time on vacation from a full time job.

    • #22
    • March 26, 2020, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I am amazed that I have not been able to find some charts by one of my professors, Richard Rice, who plotted curves for velocity, capacity and fuel use on some kind of a logarithmic scale. He said that it gave an indication of why some transportation technologies were hits (the Boeing 747) and misses like (The various forms of supersonic transports). These were based upon 1960s technology, but would probably still hold true today. Anyone seen these around? My Transportation Science notebooks were lost long ago.

    BTW. Kent, I love Bob the dog, but I think your present avatar photo makes him look a bit… porcine. Could you upgrade?

    Joel, my wife also thinks Bob is too fat. I say he’s just stocky. I love to give him treats, and he looooves his treats. Marie doesn’t want me to give him so many treats. Maybe I’ll taper off on the treats. Bob is not going to be happy.

    “Well covered” was grandma’s phrase. Bob is “well covered.” I don’t know what kind of treats you give him, but Levi and Xena, who love “Pupperoni” and “Beggin Strips” don’t seem to notice if I break them in half.

    • #23
    • March 26, 2020, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    So Kent, you make the observation that: “Nowadays, using Google, I could write a better version of that dissertation in a tenth of the time and a thousand miles distant from any library.”

    It’s possible the dissertation an individual would write using Google would be better than the one written pre-internet, but if you take into account the amount of time spent watching cute cat videos, risque videos, social media entanglements and what not, that new dissertation might take even longer.

    And don’t mention to Bob my interest in cute cat vids. Tell him I am more interested in dog behaviors than those of the cat.

     

    • #24
    • March 28, 2020, at 2:27 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. kedavis Member

    How about this? (Do I need to note this as “explicit?” at the very end?)

    There’s a whole series of them!

    • #25
    • March 29, 2020, at 5:42 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  26. kedavis Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    And don’t mention to Bob my interest in cute cat vids. Tell him I am more interested in dog behaviors than those of the cat.

    Have you heard of Grandpa Mason? There’s a bunch with him, too.

    This one is a good start:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AaZN-WiNi4

    • #26
    • March 29, 2020, at 5:52 PM PDT
    • Like