A Day in the Life of a Common Googler
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

Back in the Dark Ages, when we were kids, there were three universal sources of information. The first of these was “Ask Mom and Dad.” Mom and Dad knew everything, and if they didn’t know an answer they could make something up and we’d be just as happy. The second source was the good old encyclopedia, which smelled like mold because it had been sitting in the bookshelf for so many years. The third source (when all else failed) was the Magic 8 Ball. This was a plastic miracle that could answer any question in the world – as long as the question had a yes or no answer, and as long as you didn’t rely on the Magic 8 Ball for any degree of accuracy. Often as not, the 8-Ball told us, “Reply hazy. Try again.” Then we had to go back to “Ask Mom and Dad” or the trusty encyclopedia to clarify whatever issue we had in mind.

Now that we’re in a shiny new century, those of us who grew up in the Dark Ages may no longer have a mom and dad to ask those thorny questions of life. The encyclopedia was thrown out decades ago because the mold and mildew had consumed the bookshelf and taken over the family room. And the Magic 8 Ball was no doubt sold for cash on eBay (there were 22 of them were being featured, ranging in format from Magic 8 Ball telephones to charm bracelets, the day this column was written).

But all is not lost. As long as you’ve got a computer, you’ve got access to anything you want to know. A good search engine is “Ask Mom and Dad,” the family encyclopedia, and the Magic 8 Ball, combined. All it doesn’t do is bake Mom’s cookies, although it might provide you with the recipe.

When search engines were first introduced, people used them to find websites. You know that the IBM Corporation and the LDS Church both have websites, and a search engine can find them quickly if you don’t happen to remember the website address (or the URL, in geekspeak). Search engines are still used that way, technically speaking. But often enough, a searcher doesn’t care so much about the actual website other than as the provider of the information he needs. If you can’t for the life of you remember whether it was Bobby Vee or Bobby Vinton who sang, “The Night has a Thousand Eyes,” a search on Google (www.google.com) will tell you right away that Bobby Vee was the singer. But you can also see some of the sample lyrics, the name of the songwriters, and the name of the poet who wrote the poem on which the song was based, and a few couplets from the poem in question. All this can be accomplished without ever going beyond Google, because the information is provided right in the Google website summaries.

If you’re going to use a search engine, you might as well use the best. Google is our favorite, but it remains the favorite of people whose opinions count – the people who study search engines for a living. Google may not pay you to use its website, or enter you into fabulous contests, or offer prizes if you “hit” one of their randomly chosen target sites, but Google does the job a search engine is supposed to do. It tells you what you want to know, and without any of those annoying pop-up ads to obscure what you’re trying to read.

If you don’t use a search engine a half dozen times a day, it’s probably because you don’t know how versatile a search engine can be. So as a public service, we’re going to show you a day in the life of a common googler. We’re the common googler, and here are some of the questions we’ve answered in the past day or so:

   A friend recently bemoaned the fact that he hasn’t been able to find olive oil made from a specific olive in the United States. Searching Google for luque + “olive oil” turned up two candidates – one whose oil came from the city in Spain that gave the Luque olive its name, and one that featured the oil from the Luque olive. We were able to order two bottles of the olive oil to give as a late Christmas gift that will knock the socks off this hard-to-buy-for friend.

   A total stranger recently wrote to Kathy, asking her how he could learn if his ancestor lived in Nauvoo at the time of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. As moderator of the Nauvoo LDS bulletin board (www.nauvoo.com), Kathy gets these questions all the time – even though the site specifically says it has nothing to do with the city of Nauvoo, and Kathy has never even been there. She did a search on “ariah coates brower” and came up with enough information to tell her the ancestor had indeed been at Nauvoo during the time period in question. When she told the gentleman where she had found the information, he did his own Google search and actually found his great-grandfather’s written history.

   Our olive oil friend recently raved about a Bing Crosby biography, and Kathy wondered if Crosby had provided the voice for the cartoon character of Sugar Bear. Clark did a Google search on “Sugar Bear” + “Bing Crosby” and learned that Sugar Bear’s “Bing Crosby-like voice was provided by Sterling Holloway.” Bingo!

   Speaking of old television commercials (Sugar Bear was the spokesman for Sugar Crisp), we couldn’t remember what product was associated with the flavor “Goofy Grape.” A Google search on “goofy grape” revealed that Goofy Grape was a pitchman for Funny Face drink mixes. It also reminded us that other spokesmen were “Chinese Cherry” and “Injun Orange” until protests from the politically correct squad of the mid-1960s inspired a name change to “Choo Choo Cherry” and “Jolly Olly Orange.”

   A friend sent Kathy an instant message, saying he had to go to a restaurant in Seattle in five minutes, and he didn’t know where to go. A Google search of zagat + seattle yielded dozens of excellent restaurants, rated by cost and cuisine and decor.

   Kathy cut a recipe for grape nuts cookies off a cereal box and then lost it. She did a search on “grape nuts” + cookies and got about a zillion recipes for “cat poop cookies.” Horrified, she refined her search to read “grape nuts + cookies + oatmeal” and got the recipe she was looking for – one that had nothing to do with the feline digestive tract.

   Clark found a cache of U.S. Postal Service “H” stamps, but didn’t know how much postage an “H” stamp represented. He did a Google search on “USPS” + H stamp and learned the stamps are worth 33 cents apiece.

   One Google pastime that some people enjoy is “ego-surfing,” where you can look up your own name on a search engine and see how many hits you get. Be sure to put quotes around the name you want to search, as you would around any searchable string of two words that should stay together. This way your results are a lot purer. Doing a search on Gordon B. Hinckley, for example, yielded 31,700 hits on the day this column was written. Adding the quotes around his name, a search for “Gordon B. Hinckley” weeded out the chaff and came up with only 19,800 hits. (We guarantee you that unless you have a name like “Donny Osmond” or “Orson Scott Card” or “Stephen Covey,” you’re not going to be nearly so successful in your own ego-surfing attempts.)

   Speaking of President Hinckley, this is a good time to tell you that Google also searches for pictures. At the top of the google.com page, you can click on the word images and then do a search. On the day this column was written, an image search on “Gordon B. Hinckley” yielded 120 hits.

   Kathy was excited to read that the pre-Raphaelite painter Annie Swynnerton was just as good as the Only True Artist, Auguste William Bouguereau. Doing a Google search on “Annie Swynnerton”, she quickly viewed Swynnerton’s art and immediately saw that Swynnerton is not in Bouguereau’s league.

   Google is a great place to find listings of secrets for computer games. Even though Return to Castle Wolfenstein has only recently been released, a search on “Return to Castle Wolfenstein” + secrets already yields lists that will help players find secrets they missed.

   When the Brambleton Ward choir sang “Who at My Door is Standing,” a Google search on “Who at My Door is Standing” yielded the lyrics – and more important, the location of places where sheet music for the song could be purchased for other ward choirs.

   Finally, when we started writing this column and wanted to quote the Magic 8 Ball, a Google search on “Magic 8 Ball” gave us the spelling of the product. But more than that, it gave us all 20 of the sayings that are found in the vintage Magic 8 Ball (ten positive, five negative, and five abstentions). It even told us how to dismantle a Magic 8 Ball, should we be so inclined. (Safety glasses are required, and the blue dye will permanently stain your hands.)

The Savior advised us to “seek and ye shall find.” Although we all recognize the spiritual implications of that advice, perhaps it applies to temporal knowledge as well. Certainly those who lived in ancient days would envy our ability to have the knowledge of the world literally at our fingertips. Thanks to search engines such as Google, hidden treasures of knowledge (or kernels of trivia) are only a few seconds away.

 




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