Sep 21, 2010

Google as a Verb: Does It Replace "Remember"?

Driving from the Oakland Airport into San Francisco last week, I saw a huge billboard on the freeway advertising the show "Tales of the Maya Skies" at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center.

Being a Maya astronomy junkie, naturally I was intrigued. But I'd never heard of the Chabot Space and Science Center before, and I was traveling about 65 mph, in the car alone.

A couple of years ago, maybe even as recently as two, I would have fumbled around in my purse for a pen and scribbled the web site URL displayed on the billboard onto whatever scrap of paper I could find. Or maybe I'd just jot down "Cabot Science Center, Oakland" and call information, or look it up online later. Instead, I found myself speeding past the sign, thinking, "Oh, I'll just Google it tonight." I figured inputting "Maya" "museum" and "Oakland" all together would net the desired result--which it did, a few hours later in my hotel room when I remembered to look it up.

Now, you might think, What a cool thing technology is! How great that we have Google for this purpose! I'm not so sure about this, though. Because instead of writing down what I needed, or god forbid bothering to commit it to memory, I willfully chose not to remember information I knew I would later need. And it makes me wonder what such an automatic and cavalier dependence on search engines might do to my memory, or anyone's, over time. Will we not bother to remember certain pieces of data that were once natural for us to commit to memory? If so, will the vacuum be filled by something else, something useful or fulfilling? Or will we just naturally start devaluing the power of memory and instead evolve into a species that lives in a continuous present, with limited or radically different powers of recall? Would we be better off for this, or not?

As a memoirist, this intrigues me, and as a human being, well, it kind of disturbs me to think about. (Though over dinner in SF that night a friend pointed out that I still needed to remember to Google the keywords. So at least there's still that.)
I rely heavily on my powers of recall every day, but what if--assuming I were a frequent blogger which, as you've probably noticed, I am not--instead of having to remember the details of what happened last year, or even last month, I could just go into the search function on my blog and pull it up? I look at my daughters, ages 12 and 8, and can't help wondering: what kind of people will they become if they don't have to memorize data to succeed? If, in fact, your ability to retrieve data quickly and efficiently becomes more important than your ability to store it within your own mind? It seems to me that the way we use our brains will change. To some degree, I suspect this has already started to happen.

And don't even get me started about what texting has done to this next generation's communication skills and fluency with language. U really don't want 2 know.

Sep 7, 2010

The Target Story

Everyone's been asking how the Target selection occurred. Well, I don't really have an answer. From my point of view, what happened was one day I got an email from my editor saying "Good news! Your book was chosen as a Target breakout book for the fall!"

I can see how some writers might get the scared deer look upon hearing this. Target? Not a retailer exactly known for its literary prominence. Sheet sets, yes. Memoirs? Not so much.

But me, I was beyond happy. “Excellent!” I wrote back.

You see, I happen to love our local Woodland Hills Target. And the one in Coralville, Iowa, too. It's my family’s premiere source of one-stop shopping. Where else can you find ballet clothes, computer paper, blow-up mattresses for sleepovers because the old one just sprang an inconvenient leak, Brita water filters that really should have been replaced a month ago, tube socks, and classic rock CDs all under the same roof?

Well, probably at Wal-Mart. But I wouldn't know. Because I'm loyal to Target.

My excitement, it lasted for about half an hour. That’s when I got the email from calling for a boycott of Target. (Sheesh, I couldn’t even get to celebrate for a whole day?) Seems that Target’s corporate HQ donated $150,000 to a group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who's known to be anti-gay. And then my gay friends started emailing me to say, "Congratulations about Target. BUT." And coming from a family with several gay members, for me, it's a pretty significant BUT.

So I hope this all gets sorted out soon. Because I really do love shopping at Target. And I'm pretty sure no one at my local Woodland Hills Target was involved in the donation. But I voted against Prop 8 here in California. And I'd vote against it again and again.

If you’re boycotting Target, please consider buying The Possibility of Everything somewhere else. If you’re a committed Target shopper, please wave at the book when you see it there. Drop one in your cart if you’d like. Most of all, please enjoy the read.

Sep 6, 2010

The Possibility of Everything--newly out in paperback

In stores now. Online. And at your local Target. With a beautiful new cover, and an author Q&A and questions for Book Clubs inside.

The paperback retails for $15, which IMO is a much more reasonable price point for readers. Truth be told, I hardly buy hardcovers any more myself. But paperbacks, I can't resist. So here's hoping that potential readers of POE feel the same way.

Please help me spread the word! Here's a link to help you order the book online. You can also read more about the book here.

Huge, huge thanks to all the book's readers and fans. I know it states the obvious, but without all of you, authors are just...sitting around in our pajamas, drinking coffee, rearranging words on a computer screen that no one would ever see.

Well, our spouses and our grandparents would say what we wrote is good. But that's about it. So thanks for being around.