Archive for category Society
The Danger of Secret Alcoholism
High-functioning alcoholics are often hiding in plain sight—and they’re often more dangerous than drop-dead drunks.
January 8, 2013
“He was never drunk when I interviewed him,” the late writer Truman Capote’s biographer told me.
“It was just a mistake. He didn’t hurt anyone,” a friend said of an acquaintance who got a DUI last year.
“She doesn’t drink much,” my husband said of me when a therapist asked about our drinking habits. “Just a little white wine.”
Alcohol is confusing. For one thing, it is selectively addictive. Some people can drink safely; others can’t. For another thing, although alcohol is a depressant, especially in large doses, new research shows that in moderate doses it can also act as a happy stimulant. The first few drinks make the world a better place. The next few have the opposite effect: The drinker “may not be able to grasp the thread of a conversation; his reflexes will be somewhat delayed, his speech slurred, and his gait unsteady,” writes Dr. James Milam in his classic study Under the Influence.
Because ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, is a very simple and very tiny molecule, it is the Speedy Gonzales of addictive substances, zooming right through the protective blood/brain barrier and delivering an immediate punch. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it triggers a series of responses that can last 24 hours. Many heavy drinkers are always in some stage of inebriation or withdrawal, and this changes the way they engage with the world. There may be hours—entire mornings!—when they appear to be “normal,” but there is no “normal” in the body or brain of a heavy drinker.
Alcohol is metabolized at the approximate rate of one drink per hour. Someone who has two drinks before dinner, three beers with dinner and two nightcaps may pass out and wake up six hours late still drunk. If they sleep longer, they wake up with more alcohol out of their system but often in a painful state of withdrawal (along with dehydration and other nasty symptoms caused by the toxins that your body churns out as it processes the ethanol). Hangovers, which arguably have a greater effect on mood than alcohol itself, are the body’s scream for more. Soon enough, driven by a cellular level craving, the heavy drinker with a hangover will have that beer or that brandy in the coffee that quiets the disturbance, at least for a while.
Someone in withdrawal is even less likely to seem drunk than someone who has had a few drinks. But the effects can be deadly. “The strange truth that alcoholics are often in worse shape when their blood alcohol content is descending than when it is at its highest level is an extremely difficult point to grasp,” write Catherine Ketchum in her bookBeyond the Influence. “The withdrawal syndrome represents a state of hyperexcitability, or extreme agitation in the nervous system. “ Ketcham uses the tragic example of Henri Paul, the driver of the car in which Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in 1997. Paul, who had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit when his body was tested after the accident, had been waiting around the Ritz for two hours to drive during which he had little to drink. “Paul was drunk and he was in withdrawal,” Ketchum writes. “Both facts sealed his doom and the fate of his passengers.”
In Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, Sarah Allen Benton makes the case that the image of the archetypal alcoholic—the stumbling Bowery bum—has obscured a much more common and infrequently treated type of alcoholic—the alcoholic who can function in the world and appear to be fine. Perhaps because high-functioning alcoholics do not tax government systems and cause social problems, they get far less attention than more dramatic drinkers. Although these high-functioning boozers sometimes do not meet the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, they are desperately in need of help. Examples abound: from former First Lady Betty Ford to actor Robin Williams and musician Eric Clapton. Dr. Mark Willenbring, an addiction specialist, told Benton, “[High-functioning alcoholics] are successful students. They’re good parents, good workers. They watch their weight. They go to the gym. Then they go home and have four martinis and two bottle of wine. Are they alcoholics? You bet.”
I was one of those confusing invisible alcoholics. I didn’t stumble or slur. I didn’t break out in handcuffs. No one ever told me to stop drinking. There were no emergency rooms or rehabs. Most of the day, I considered myself sober. From the outside all was well: I had a loving husband, two terrific kids and an enviable career. From the inside I was hollowed out by despair. I got through the mornings on coffee and sugar, promising myself that I wouldn’t drink again. In this twilight state I lived my life—driving cars, arguing with the IRS, complaining about my marriage. By evening there only seemed one solution to the unbearable hammering of the hours—a glass of white wine, and then another. I felt entirely alone. Now, 20 years later, I realize that I had a great deal of company.
- The Danger of Secret Alcoholism (alternet.org)
- Digital Ice Cubes Designed To Monitor Alcohol Consumption (positivelygood.net)
- CDC: Binge drinking among teen girls increasing (csmonitor.com)
- Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It’s Cold Out? (mentalfloss.com)
- Are Women The New Problem Drinkers, Because They Are Lady Binge-Drinkers? (theawl.com)
- Idaho inmates blame it on the alcohol (newsfixnow.com)
- Health News: Having a word can help cut dangers of alcohol (walesonline.co.uk)
- Binge drinking warnings ‘overstated’ (stuff.co.nz)
- CDC: 1 in 8 U.S. women binge drink 3 times a month (cbsnews.com)
- Dieters `often ignore alcohol calories` (indiavision.com)
The NRA’s insane idea about more guns in schools
Posted by Eugene Robinson on December 21, 2012
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Absurd, unbelievable, tragic, obscene — I grope for words to describe the National Rifle Association’s proposal for how the nation should respond to last week’s slaughter in Newtown: More guns in the schools.
The idea is so insane that as far as I’m concerned — and, I hope, as far as a still-grieving nation is concerned — the NRA has forfeited the right to be taken seriously on matters of public policy. Newtown is still burying six-year-olds and Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s chief, wants more freaking guns in the schools. Wow.
LaPierre’s rationale, that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” led to his suggestion that there be “armed police officers in every school in this nation.”
Where to begin? Let’s assume, for the moment, that we decide to pay the multi-billion-dollar cost of placing one gun-toting officer in every school. What would the officer’s orders be? Shoot anyone who looks suspicious? If not, the officer would wait until an assailant — someone like Adam Lanza — displayed a gun or started firing. What sort of arsenal, and itchy trigger finger, would the officer need to be certain of shooting the assailant before the assailant shot the officer? How many twitchy, furtive, suspicious-looking UPS deliverymen would be tragically cut down in error?
So I guess there could be multiple officers in each school. For a glimpse of that dystopian future, recall the shooting a few months ago outside the Empire State Building. A gunman began firing, uniformed NYPD officers responded, they tried to take the gunman down — and nine innocent bystanders were wounded, all by police gunfire. Now imagine that sort of thing happening in a school, and think how many children would be killed by errant shots from police officers’ weapons.
Now consider the profile of these mass shooters, such as Adam Lanza. These disturbed young men are meticulous in planning their unspeakable crimes. Does it occur to the NRA that if a would-be shooter knew there would be armed police officers at the school (or movie theater, or grocery store), he might be sure to wear body armor? So will the school cops wear body armor, too? Do we require students to wear uniforms of Kevlar too?
The NRA will never, ever admit that the problem is too many guns, not too few. As Post columnist Fareed Zakaria pointed out so eloquently in his recent column, there is mental illness in all industrialized countries. There are violent video games in all those countries, too. But we’re the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud.
This may be the word I’ve been looking for: evil.
- NRA doubles down: New gun laws won’t work (edition.cnn.com)
- Twitter calls Wayne LaPierre crazy, repugnant, a tool and more (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- NRA chief: Media wrong to ‘blame guns’ for every tragedy (thehill.com)
- Lobbyist holds his ground as Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence releases plea from parent of Sandy Hook survivor (steppaz1961.wordpress.com)
- NRA’s LaPierre blasts calls for gun control (usatoday.com)
- NRA: Public wants armed guards in every school (sacbee.com)
- Unwavering NRA opposes any new gun restrictions (metronews.ca)
- NRA: Public wants armed guards in every school (charlotte.news14.com)
- The NRA Responds to Newtown: America Needs More ‘Good Guys’ with Guns (swampland.time.com)
- VIDEO: NRA’s LaPierre Says No To Ban On Large Capacity Magazines (wnyc.org)
Raging Moderate, by Will Durst
It’s only human nature to want to take action after such a harrowing traumatic event. To do something. Anything, to protect our kids. And make sure that Newtown never ever happens again. Here. There. Anywhere.
But while the rest of the nation grieves, familiar opponents on The Gun Issue are focused more on making sure their groups’ messages don’t get trampled in the anticipated tsunami of sorrow. So they preemptively are trying to drown out each other with battalions of bellicose bullhorns, and it doesn’t matter they can’t hear each other because neither side is listening anyway.
That’s the crossroads at which we find ourselves. Again. The intersection of Guns, Guns and Guns. Too many. Too few. Too big. Too small. Too scary looking. Waiting periods. Background checks. Magazine sizes. Access. Transportation. Construction. Registration. Who decides and who abides.
All the old buzz phrases are dusted off. “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” “Increased gun control means aiming better.” “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Actually, it’s those darn bullets that puncture the skin and bones, creating holes for the blood to leak out of way too fast.
The NRA is busy pumping out press releases arguing that if the teachers had been armed, this tragedy could have been averted. Yeah, there you go. That’s what we need. MORE guns in schools. The major problem with school shootings, are schools. There’s your answer, boys. Want to cut down on school shootings, get rid of the schools. A solution many states are busy implementing as we speak.
Besides, why just arm the teachers? Aren’t we forgetting about our kids? Surely they have the right to defend themselves. The only question is where do you draw the line? Middle school? Fourth grade? Does the Second Amendment guarantee the rights of Toting Toddlers? Should kid-proof trigger guards be illegal? Maybe get Fisher Price to equip classrooms with plastic Day-Glo under-desk holsters.
The left is also once again questioning whether military-type assault weapons have a place in today’s society. To which the right vehemently argues semantics. “Semi- automatic rifles aren’t assault weapons and the left obviously has no experience with guns or they wouldn’t mislabel them and their ignorance on the subject disqualifies them to comment or have any opinion whatsoever.” Known in gun control circles as the “neener neener” argument.
An argument that totally misses the point. Doesn’t matter what you call them. Semi-automatic rifles. Military-type horizontal handheld ordnance. Futuristic flintlocks. Agitation resolvers. Magic wands. Disputatious caramelized pump-action fruit rolls. Stick a feather in their muzzle and call them macaroni if you want.
The basic problem is, the only reason to own a macaroni that can fire hundreds of pieces of lead faster than the speed of sound in mere seconds is to kill PEOPLE. Yes, of course they can be used as legitimate hunting rifles. You can also use a flame thrower to light a cigarette. If you think about it, a hand grenade will signal the end of recess. Need to cut some butter, just pull out the trusty old chainsaw. Of course, be prepared for it to get a little messy around Muffin Time. And right now, we’re smack in the middle of an especially messy Muffin Time.
- Guns, Guns and Guns (Guest Voice) (themoderatevoice.com)
- NRA president compares assault rifles to baseball bats (rawstory.com)
- LaPierre refuses to back new gun curbs – NBCNews.com (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Gun enthusiasts pack shows… (reuters.com)
- NRA: Public wants armed guards in every school (sacbee.com)
- COPS IN ALL SCHOOLS: No Other ‘Immediate’ Step Would Work, NRA Says (foxnews.com)
- After defiant stance, NRA prepares for battles (nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com)
- Outrage! (tomtribby.com)
- Gun Shows Packed In National Assault Rifle Buying Spree (patdollard.com)
- Owners of military-style weapons defend their guns (stltoday.com)
The N.R.A. Protection Racket
By RICHARD W. PAINTER
For years, protection rackets dominated dangerous urban neighborhoods. Shop owners and residents lived in relative security only by paying off or paying homage to organized criminals or corrupt cops. Anyone who dared to stand up to these “protectors” would not be around for long.
The Republican Party — once a proud bastion of civic and business leaders who battled Southern racism, Northern corruption and the evils of big government — has for the past several decades been itself the victim of political protection rackets. These rackets are orchestrated by fringe groups with extremist views on social issues, which Republican politicians are forced to support even if they are unpopular with intelligent, economically successful and especially female voters. Their influence was already clear by the time I joined the Bush White House staff in 2005, and it has only increased in the years since.
The most blatant protection racket is orchestrated by the National Rifle Association, which is ruthless against candidates who are tempted to stray from its view that all gun regulations are pure evil. Debra Maggart, a Republican leader in the Tennessee House of Representatives, was one of its most recent victims. The N.R.A. spent around $100,000 to defeat her in the primary, because she would not support a bill that would have allowed people to keep guns locked in their cars on private property without the property owner’s consent.
The message to Republicans is clear: “We will help you get elected and protect your seat from Democrats. We will spend millions on ads that make your opponent look worse than the average holdup man robbing a liquor store. In return, we expect you to oppose any laws that regulate guns. These include laws requiring handgun registration, meaningful background checks on purchasers, limiting the right to carry concealed weapons, limiting access to semiautomatic weapons or anything else that would diminish the firepower available to anybody who wants it. And if you don’t comply, we will load our weapons and direct everything in our arsenal at you in the next Republican primary.”
For decades, Republican politicians have gone along with this racket, some willingly and others because they know that resisting would be pointless. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the N.R.A. spent almost $19 million in the last federal election cycle. This money is not just spent to beat Democrats but also to beat Republicans who don’t toe the line.
But the last election showed the costs to Republicans of succumbing to the N.R.A. and to other groups with extremist views on issues like homosexuality and stem cell research. The fringe groups, drenched with money and the “free speech” that comes with it, have stood firm, and become even more radical, as the population as a whole — including many traditional Republican voters — has moved in the opposite direction.
Gun violence in particular frightens voters in middle- and upper-income suburbs across the country, places like my hometown, Edina, Minn. These areas, once Republican strongholds, still have many voters who are sympathetic to the economic platform of the Republican Party but are increasingly worried about their own safety in a country with millions of unregistered and unregulated guns. Some suburban voters may keep a hunting rifle locked away in a safe place, but few want people bringing semiautomatic weapons into their neighborhoods. They also believe that insane people should not have access to guns.
A few clicks on the N.R.A. Web site lead you to the type of weapons the group wants to protect from regulation. Many are not needed for hunting pheasants or deer. They are used for hunting people. They have firepower unimaginable to the founding fathers who drafted the Second Amendment, firepower that could wipe out an entire kindergarten classroom in a few minutes, as we saw so tragically last week.
This is not the vision of sportsmanship that soccer moms and dads want or will vote for, and they will turn against Republicans because of it. Who worries about the inheritance tax when gun violence may kill off one’s heirs in the second grade?
Republican politicians must free themselves from the N.R.A. protection racket and others like it. For starters, the party establishment should refuse to endorse anyone who runs in a primary with N.R.A. money against a sitting Republican. If the establishment refuses to support Republicans using other Republicans for target practice, the N.R.A. will take its shooting game somewhere else.
Reasonable gun control legislation will then be able to pass Congress and the state legislatures. Next, Republicans should embrace legislation like the proposed American Anti-Corruption Act, which would rid both parties of their dependence on big money from groups like the N.R.A. The Republican Party will once again be proud to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And voters will go back to feeling that their children are safe, their democracy works, and they will once again consider voting Republican.
- Krugman: ‘Partisan Gridlock’ Argument Is Protection Racket (crooksandliars.com)
- Opinion: Want to Get Rid of Grover Norquist for Good? Vote in Primaries (wnyc.org)
- Paul Krugman: The Blackmail Caucus (economistsview.typepad.com)
- “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Obama Legitimizes Morsi’s Protection Racket. “It is astonishing that American… (pjmedia.com)
- Partisan gridlock: the GOP’s protection-racket politics (seattletimes.com)
- Copyright Troll Voltage Pictures Takes Aim at TekSavvy – Brings Copyright Protection Racket Circus to Canada (dslreports.com)
- “The Blackmail Caucus”: Republican “Vote For Romney Or Else” Protection Racket Politics (mykeystrokes.com)
- Because they don’t want democracy to work (prairieweather.typepad.com)
- Gerrymandering: as it declines – surprising results (davidbrin.wordpress.com)
- Gilmore’s Old Network Protects Reilly Care Racket (misebogland.wordpress.com)
Apple loses another unreleased iPhone
An Apple employee lost yet another unreleased iPhone in a San Francisco bar last month, leading to an investigation by San Francisco police and Apple security, CNET has learned.
August 31, 2011 12:45 PM PDT
Cava22, the San Francisco bar where another unreleased iPhone apparently went missing.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)
In a bizarre repeat of a high-profile incident last year, an Apple employee once again appears to have lost an unreleased iPhone in a bar, CNET has learned.
The errant iPhone, which went missing in San Francisco’s Mission district in late July, sparked a scramble by Apple security to recover the device over the next few days, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype was bought by a gadget blog that paid $5,000 in cash. This year’s lost phone seems to have taken a more mundane path: it was taken from a Mexican restaurant and bar and may have been sold on Craigslist for $200. Still unclear are details about the device, what version of the iOS operating system it was running, and what it looks like.
While Apple has not publicly announced any plans for future phones, unconfirmed reports in the last few weeks suggest the launch date for the iPhone 5 is likely to be in early October. Otherreports from Taiwan have set the date at September or October. (See CNET’s iPhone 5 rumor roundup.)
Apple declined to comment after being contacted this morning. A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department said the company did not file a police report based on the loss at the bar. Craigslist did not respond to requests for comment.
A day or two after the phone was lost at San Francisco’s Cava 22, which describes itself as a “tequila lounge” that also serves lime-marinated shrimp ceviche, Apple representatives contacted San Francisco police, saying the device was priceless and the company was desperate to secure its safe return, the source said.
Cava22, in San Francisco’s Mission District, where another unreleased iPhone apparently went missing last month.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)
Apple electronically traced the phone to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, according to the source.
When San Francisco police and Apple’s investigators visited the house, they spoke with a man in his twenties who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night the device went missing. But he denied knowing anything about the phone. The man gave police permission to search the house, and they found nothing, the source said. Before leaving the house, the Apple employees offered the man money for the phone no questions asked, the source said, adding that the man continued to deny he had knowledge of the phone.
In an interview this afternoon, Jose Valle told CNET that neither the police nor Apple security ever contacted him. Valle, who owns the bar with his family, said however he does remember a man calling multiple times about a lost iPhone about a month ago. He told the man he would call him back if he ever found the phone.
“I guess I have to make my drinks a little less strong,” Valle said.
After last year’s embarrassing loss, Apple reportedly has taken extraordinary steps to protect its prototype devices from leaks. Next-generation iPhones are sent to carriers for testing “inside locked and sealed boxes so that the carriers can carry out checks on their network compatibility in their labs,” according to the Guardian.
Apple developers have been given new iPhones with an upgraded processor — the one that is used in the iPad 2 and is expected to appear in the next-generation iPhone. But the device “is virtually identical to the iPhone 4, and there is no way anyone can tell it’s not an iPhone 4 based on the phone’s exterior,” a report at 9to5Mac.com says. Even last year’s prototype wasenclosed in a case designed to make it look like an iPhone 3GS.
Last year’s prototype iPhone went missing when Robert Gray Powell, an Apple computer engineer who was 28 years old at the time, left it in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif.
In early August, San Mateo County prosecutors filed misdemeanor criminal charges against two men, Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, for allegedly selling Powell’s iPhone 4 prototype to Gawker Media’s Gizmodo blog. An arraignment is scheduled for tomorrow.
Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be–but “appropriates such property to his own use”–is guilty of theft. In addition, a second state law says any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.
- Lost Nexus 4 proves taking device prototypes to bars is stupid – CNET (blog) (news.cnet.com)
- Lost Nexus 4 phone proves taking device prototypes to bars is stupid (news.cnet.com)
- Lost Nexus 4 proves taking device prototypes to bars is stupid (oddonion.com)
- Smaller iPad expected Tuesday, but at what price? (sacbee.com)
- News Summary: Smaller iPad expected Tuesday (seattlepi.com)
- Burglar uses iPhone as flashlight, accidentally records the crime (news.cnet.com)
- Apple Sued Over Antitrust; Plaintiffs Want AT&T iPhones Unlocked (gadget.com)
- iPhone 5 call quality wanted, then join Sprint (phonesreview.co.uk)
- Sprint’s iPhone 5 Leading The Way In Call Quality: Study (iphone5newsblog.com)
- iPhone 5 Has Better Screen Than the Galaxy S III, Says Cnet (pocketnow.com)
A Web of Answers and Questions
By HENRY ALFORD
Published: October 26, 2012
IT starts with a lowering of our shoulders. You and I have just befriended each other, and now we are well into our first cocktails on our first-ever get-together. We’ve bonded over a mutual appreciation of Roald Dahl, and now you’ve endeared yourself further with your comment that the name Real Simple sounds like a manual for people with learning disabilities.
Then we hit our first lull in the conversation, I try to bridge it by asking you about the two years you lived in Boulder, Colo.
“How did you know I lived in Boulder?” you ask, darty-eyed.
“I Googled you last night. I’m sorry.”
“No, no. I’m, uh?… I’m flattered?”
You are? Which is what I was hoping for? But suddenly the tiniest shred of doubt is implied by all the tonal upticks.
“It’s perfectly natural and almost always appropriate,” said Kate Fox, a social anthropologist, about the practice of Googling social or business contacts before getting together with them.
“Obviously, one is always going to have to be discreet when talking about what you’ve found,” said Ms. Fox, a director of the Social Issues Research Center in Oxford, England. “But our brains haven’t changed since the Stone Age, and humans are designed to live in small groups in which everyone knows one another. Googling is an attempt to recreate a primeval, preindustrial pattern of interaction.”
But by the same token, doesn’t taking this shortcut to a primeval, preindustrial pattern of recognition sometimes rob encounters of their inherent mystery? The song is called “Getting to Know You,” not “I’ve Already Researched You.” Sometimes it’s better not to pore over the dossier handed to us, even if it comes from a natural blonde with the State Department in a sweater set and pearls.
Worse, sometimes our online research lands us in thickets. Tina Jordan, an executive in book publishing who has the same name as a former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, said, “I typically tell any blind dates before I meet them that they probably shouldn’t Google my name, otherwise they’ll be sorely disappointed when they meet me.”
Masami Takahashi, an associate professor of psychology at Northeastern Illinois University, used to use Japanese characters for his name whenever he delivered papers at academic conferences in Japan, until a colleague who had Googled him pointed out that Mr. Takahashi shared the same name in Japanese as a pornographic-film star. Mr. Takahashi said, “Since then, I use only the English alphabet for my name.”
Indeed, to Google is often to create expectation. A friend of Dean Olsher, a public-radio host and a musician, wanted to set him up on a date with one of Mark Morris’s dancers this year. Mr. Olsher promptly went online and started swooning over a gorgeous portrait of the dancer by Annie Leibovitz. But on the evening that Mr. Olsher and his friend trooped to Brooklyn to see her perform and to meet her, Mr. Olsher’s friend became distracted and never engineered the fix-up.
The disappointed Mr. Olsher said: “I don’t regret Googling her at all. I’m so baffled by this idea that we’re not supposed to Google people. Why would there be a line? Like everyone else is allowed to know something but I’m not?”
In business, the line described by Mr. Olsher barely exists, if at all, because Googling is expected. Job applicants who reveal their ignorance of the doings or leadership of the company they are interviewing with can expect to meet with no enthusiasm. “I always Google my prospective clients,” said Janet Montano, a real estate agent in Tampa, Fla. “The mug shots come right up on the top. ‘Not going to get in my car!’ ”
But Ms. Montano said she would never tell a potential homebuyer that she had Googled him. “It’s not very polite,” she said. “I don’t go there.” In one instance, she said, the search worked in a homebuyer’s favor. “It was someone who I probably wasn’t going to work with,” she said. “But then I checked him out and saw who he was.” When she learned he was a popular radio disc jockey, she realized he was a qualified buyer.
Ms. Jordan said: “On a professional level, it seems prudent to optimize one’s knowledge about a person, as long as you don’t make them feel like you’re a cyberstalker. On a personal level, though, it could be loaded. Sometimes best to let sleeping Google-surfing lie.”
Indeed, those of us prone to researching our new friends and acquaintances might profit from the realization that very little, if any, of what we hounds dig up in the garden needs to be presented to our masters. The devil, after all, is in the details. If we tell a new friend that we’ve read her LinkedIn entry or her wedding announcement, it probably won’t be perceived as trespassing, as long we bear no ulterior motives. If we happen to reveal that we’ve read her long-ago abandoned blog about her cat, we’re more likely to be seen as chronically bored than menacing.
But if we let on that we know how much she paid for her home, or who she made campaign contributions to, suddenly her ears might prick up.
These small bouts of alarm are only natural, according to Ms. Fox, the social anthropologist. “We’re getting back to life in a village,” she said. “It’s as if you’d returned to a small village and you started learning things about your neighbors while buying a pint of milk. It would feel uncomfortable at first. But at the back of your brain, it wouldn’t. It’s how we’re wired.”
Nevertheless, you can hire companies now to alter what comes up when people Google you, a fact that speaks to the public’s anxiety about the valance accorded search results. Under pressure from big media companies eager to combat online privacy, Google recently agreed to alter its search algorithms to favor Web sites that offer legitimate copyrighted movies, television and music; is a nonbusiness version of this advent in our future?
In an ideal world, we would all use Google to be better friends by having better recall. There’s nothing more flattering than the person who can summon from the depths of time your mother’s name or your wedding toast; you’ll warm your niece’s heart when you appear to have “remembered” her yearlong stint working at Macy’s.
Some of us have even been known to operate as unsolicited Google elves: earlier this year, hours before having dinner with a group of writers and editors, I found myself e-mailing two of the editors to remind them that their publication had printed one of the writers’ accounts of having recently lost her husband.
Consider the case of Joe Cramer, an auto detailer in Wyoming, Mich. He contracted carbon monoxide poisoning from an industrial accident in 1978, and for two years lost his memory and his ability to empathize. “I had to be guided like a little child,” Mr. Cramer said. “We didn’t have Google then.” His wife sat him on the couch and showed him pictures of family and friends, explaining who each was. His sister-in-law stood next to him at his shop, whispering prompts and reminders into his ear.
When his memory and empathy returned two years later, “I was inundated with waves and waves and waves of guilt,” he said. “The sadness of not knowing what result I’d get from responses from people was devastating. I lost a couple friends because of my inability to remember stuff or to get into the feelings of various situations.”
Mr. Cramer added: “I use Google constantly now. Oh, heavens, it would have been so much easier for me if I’d had it back then. I wouldn’t have been such a lost soul.”
- A Web of Answers and Questions (nytimes.com)
- Tsunami Warning for Hawaii After Canada Quake – NYTimes.com (2012indyinfo.com)
- To Ireland, a Son’s Journey Home – NYTimes.com (drweb.typepad.com)
- To Google Friends Or Not To Google, That Is the Question (tech.slashdot.org)
- Poll Addict Confesses – NYTimes.com (rightcoast.typepad.com)
- A Swedish Stonehenge? Stone Age Tomb May Predate English Site (livescience.com)
- The Island Where People Forget to Die – NYTimes.com (lynnbeene.wordpress.com)
- Obama was wrong on Auto Bail-out: Let Detroit Go Bankrupt – NYTimes.com (riehlworldview.com)
- BITS – Seeking Some Privacy In a Networked Age – NYTimes.com (sectorprivate.wordpress.com)
- David Haskell Finds Biology Zen in a Patch of Nature – NYTimes.com (spiritintheworld.org)