So this week, Ken and I went to a Google conference. Well, I went to the Google conference, and Ken went to several wineries, craft breweries, and visited a local historic home, which was totally unfair because HE’S the one who loves technology, and I’M the one who loves wine. But it was important for work that I learn about the Googleverse since, one day, Google will own everything, including your soul.
I arrived to be greeted by overenthusiastic Google people who directed me to a table where I could “decorate” my name tag with stickers and sparkles and bedazzle-y sh*t. I wrote my actual name in purple marker as a concession to being fancy, and was proud at having resisted the temptation to put “Bob” in large capital letters, like they do for me at Starbucks. I am NOT a sticker person, being grown up and whatnot, and also I was grumpy because a) I had to be around people I didn’t know early in the morning and b) Ken snored all night and I was really, really tired from constantly having to wake up and punch him. Also, the only swag was a small cardboard box. At the last conference I went to, the first thing they did was give you a tote bag with all kinds of stuff in it, including a water bottle, pen, keychain, hand sanitizer and such. All I got was a cardboard box and nothing to carry it in.
Rating: 5/10 for having stickers and no swag
There was a picture of the keynote speaker on the huge screen in front of the stage. In the picture, he was wearing a really nice purple, pink, and blue plaid shirt. When he stepped out onto the stage, he was wearing the same shirt. Later in the presentation, he showed a video of himself from last year and remarked, “Gosh, that’s embarrassing—I’m wearing the same shirt today that I wore in the video.” The next morning, he introduced the second keynote speaker, and he was still wearing THE SHIRT. His speech was very entertaining and funny, but I was completely distracted by questions I desperately wanted to ask, like “Do you not own any other shirts? Or do you just have more than one of that style? Does Google MAKE you wear that shirt? Or do you just really like that particular shirt, and if so, do you wash it every night, and if so, how do you keep it looking so fresh and unfaded?” And all the time, I kept thinking about how Ken was sampling wine that he didn’t even like, while I was obsessed with someone else’s wardrobe.
Rating 8/10 for the presentation…6/10 for the shirt (only because it was a nice shirt, despite its ubiquity)
As an accompaniment to us sitting and waiting for the first session to start (because ironically, the wifi was down—at a TECH CONFERENCE), the presenter was playing loud music. The first song was “Rehab” by the late Amy Winehouse, and next up was “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls. It was confounding, particularly at 9 o’clock in the morning. Then she started by having us follow along with a “calming breathing exercise”. Instead, I scrolled through Twitter on the grounds that if I actually focus on my breathing, I get superanxious that I’m not breathing properly, and then the breathing gets louder and louder in my head, and then I can’t get enough air…trust me, Twitter was more relaxing. The rest of the presentation, which was supposed to be on the relationship between technology and emotional intelligence, consisted of a slide deck with links to websites and apps, like “If you want some neat meditation mantras, you can go to this cool site” or “Here’s an app that puts an inspiring saying on your laptop screen when you log on….”
Rating 4/10 for bad musical decisions and forcing me to think about breathing
Sessions 2 and 3:
Both of these were pretty good. One was for Google Draw, where I learned how to search for transparent images (I didn’t know you could do that), and the other was for using different programs to make videos, both of which will come in handy at work. I also learned that if you hit ‘Control-Shift-T’ on someone’s computer, it will open all the tabs that they have minimized. So if you suspect that one of your co-workers is secretly looking at porn but shuts it down whenever you walk by, now you can just stroll over, hit those keys, and yell, “Bom chicka wow wow” when ‘Big Bouncy Boobies’ magically reappears. I have the most notes for these two presentations.
Rating: 8/10 and 9/10 respectively for being practical
You remember how I said the only swag was a small cardboard box? This session was about the box, which, when you put your phone into it, becomes a 3D viewer. I was with one of my colleagues and we spent the whole session riding rollercoasters, swimming with sharks, and flying around space. So I should probably go back and re-evaluate The Arrival since the swag was actually pretty sweet, but at this point, I was even more annoyed by the people whose name badges I couldn’t read because they went so overboard on the stickers, like “What the hell, Martin? You’re a grown-ass man—do you really need to dot your damn ‘i’ with a sparkly daffodil?”
Rating: 10/10 for living vicariously
The keynote speaker was Australian, so that was good for no other reason than he sounded like comedian Jim Jeffries. Actually his presentation was excellent, on top of the Australian-ness.
Rating: 9/10 plus one bonus point for Australia
Sessions 5 and 6:
The morning started off well. The first session was about English Language Learners, and it was good, except the presenter was only about 30 and she kept referring to things then giggling and saying, “I guess I really dated myself there” or “Gosh, now you know how OLD I am!” Frankly, there’s little more annoying than really young people talking about how old they are, when most of the room has at least twenty years on them. Also, she played us the video of the Micromachine Man and said she had to be careful, because she was really passionate about her subject and didn’t want to talk too fast like she “normally does”. Which would have been fine, except her normal speaking voice was paced more like comedian Emo Philips than Robin Williams. The other session was on making animated videos using Google Slides, and I was super proud of the 2 second short I made called “Titus Waits For Cookies” which was basically a cartoon dog sliding back and forth in front of a cartoon oven. “It’s simple, but highly accurate,” I told the instructor, who was like, “Well, that’s just super!” and I choose to believe that she was being sincere and not highly patronizing.
Rating: 8/10 for pacing and dubious complimenting
Then the day fell apart, as the next session was boring AF. I would have left, but I’m very self-conscious and that would have involved making people look at me. Also, the presenter was very nice, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So instead, I did some emails, posted some stuff on Facebook, and got into a Twitter debate with some super-racist Trump-humper, as one does. My parting shot was “The lady doth protest too much methinks” and he didn’t respond, so I WIN, because that’s one of the rules of Twitter Fight Club.
I DID walk out of the last session, which was on something called “Classcraft” and I thought it would be a cool teacher-y version of Minecraft, but no—it was a not-very-cool version of World of Warcraft. The imagery was violent and the whole game seemed like a very bad behaviour management system where you could take ‘Health Points’ away from children for infractions like “not having a pencil” or “being negative in class” until they died. In the game. I felt it necessary to clarify that, because a lot of people in the room seemed OK with it being either way. In fact, the presenter asked the room what a student might GAIN Health Points for, and one bright star said, “For sitting quietly and not talking?” Oh, hell no. As a former classroom teacher for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the whole room is quiet, that’s usually a sign that they’re plotting something. Believe me, it’s much better when they talk. Mostly because this isn’t the 1920s, and if you don’t want your kids to talk, you shouldn’t be teaching. I left the session because I was afraid I was going to say something rude like “I have a better idea—why don’t you just zap them with a cattle prod when they aren’t paying attention?”
Rating 0/10 for a bizarre punishment model
Overall though, it was a great learning experience and Ken DID buy me several bottles of very nice wine. But I got to thinking—what are some other things that Google should invent?
1) Google Cat: When you install this app, a pair of eyes appears on your screen and stares at you until you throw a stuffed mouse at it. It will also randomly hiss, or press keys on your keyboard while you’re working, just like a real life cat is walking on it. There’s also Google Dog where, any time you eat in front of the screen, simulated drool obscures it.
2) Google Benedict: This program overlays the faces of any men on the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. Enough said.
3) Google Zap: Anytime anyone posts anything stupid, like “Vaccines cause autism” or “There’s no such thing as global warming” or “Donald Trump is a great president”, an electrical current will run through the keyboard, electrifying it and shocking the user. I got this idea from the last session I attended, because as much as I like it when children talk, there are a lot of adults who should just shut up.
4) Google Finger: This is an add-on for the driverless Google car. It can automatically sense when another driver cuts it off and a giant LED hand flipping the bird appears in all the windows.
5) Google Smell: It’s a really fancy and expensive air freshener. You can program it with any smell you want, like you could make your whole house smell like steak and drive your dog crazy, or make your bathroom always smell like roses, or program ‘new baby smell’ so that when your teenager hasn’t showered for three days, or keeps wearing the same damn shirt, you can close your eyes and pretend…
Titus and The Frog
Me: What the hell is wrong with you?
Me: Every time we go outside, you head straight for the pond and stand staring at it.
Titus: There’s something in it. I’m not sure what it is.
Me: You mean the fish?
Titus: No—I know what fish are. We’ve had a couple in the house. One of them fought in ‘Nam—
Me: NO, he did NOT. And the other one NEVER attended a salon with Dorothy Parker. Fish are notorious liars. Wait—are you talking about the frog?
Titus: Frog? You mean that thing there? Yes! It’s driving me crazy!
Me: Why? It’s not doing anything—it’s just minding its own business.
Titus: (whispers) Yet it taunts me so…
Me: It’s not “taunting you”. It’s just doing what frogs do. Leave it alone.
Titus: But it’s so green!
Me: How the hell would you know? I thought you were colour blind.
Titus: And I thought we weren’t allowed to say that anymore.
Me: You can say it if you actually ARE colour blind. Otherwise, you have to respect all colours.
Titus: So what you’re telling me is, if it’s not hurting me, I should stop worrying about it?
Me: Exactly. Besides, one day, you might fall in the pond and that frog could save your life.
Titus: Hmm. Wait—is this one of your clever analogies? Because I think I outweigh that frog by about 90 pounds.
Me: It IS clever, and it wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t eat so many damn cookies.
Titus: Cookies? Can I HAVE a cookie?
Me: Are you going to leave the frog alone?
Titus: Sure. I think we can live together in peace and harmony.
Me: Is that one of YOUR clever analogies?
Titus: Hey man—I’m just a dog looking for a cookie.
Me: Maybe Google has an app for that.