There are many, many things that I am not good at. Basketball. Painting. Putting down books and DS games when it's time to go to bed. Not deciphering things that turn out to be human language.

One thing I am particularly awful at is not Googling interesting people. I understand that this provides a lot of entertainment for the blogosphere when I do it to celebrities -- speaking of which, have a picture of Robert Downey Jr gnawing on Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gwyneth Paltrow being so used to this after three Iron Man films that she basically doesn't notice -- and I try not to tie myself into knots over wanting to know more about people who make art and/or science that I enjoy. Paparazzi photos ick me out, so I stay away from those, and my conscience doesn't bother me.

I'm also terrible at not Googling random people I meet face to face. I'm horrible with names, and embarrassingly prosopagnostic out of context, but I have this weird smart-dar that can pick out the other genius kids at 500 paces before they even open their mouths. There's like a compass arrow hovering around the edges of my awareness that suddenly swings around to point at someone else, and a flashing alarm that goes, "Hold up... YOU are INTERESTING."

[Actually, if you want to get pedantic, what it usually says is, その方のことがオモシロイです。Which is "that person over there is interesting", but intoned like a mad academic who has just happened upon an unusual experimental result, and phrased in such a way as to echo the typical Japanese indirect declaration of stupid-crush-ness when used with the adjective that means "to like" instead of the one that means "to be interesting". It's... weird to explain, and is a symptom of having a load of different vocabulary sets in there, with the words sorted by denotative and connotative meaning rather than language family.]

It is at this point that I begin to remember things like full names, addresses, work hours, hobbies, college majors, and shoe sizes, if someone happens to mention it in my presence. I get the feeling other people do not do this. It's very Sherlock-y, and I have the sense not to mention it to the interesting person at least until they decide to talk to me first, but once it starts happening it's basically just a matter of time before I have sufficient information to feed the Google-monster and start getting other potentially relevant stuff back.

Did I mention that I once worked as a search-and-removal specialist for a tech startup? It turns out that in order to have people taken off of public listing sites, you first have to know how to find where those listings are. I had insane Google-fu when I got there; now I can do online skip-tracing without really thinking about it. This is not terribly endearing to most people -- although to be fair, the ones who think this is an awesome skill and ask me about it are the ones I really want to be friends with in the first place.

This is what I mean when I say that it can sometimes be disruptive to not be able to not know things. Skip-tracing -- and the psychological equivalent, cold reading -- are difficult if not impossible to turn off once they become so ingrained as to become automatic. If you've ever struggled not to spill about someone's surprise birthday party, you know how difficult it can be to remember you're not supposed to know about something, especially when you're staring right at the person you're not supposed to know it about. People can start getting squeamish around the time you start remembering their regular coffee order, and get outright alarmed when you start guessing the things they're not talking about out loud.

As a general rule, it's only the other Sherlock-y types who think this is neat rather than terrifying. They have a good grasp on the idea that there is a process behind it that I haven't explained, which would make perfect sense if I did, and that the odds that I am doing anything more evil than maybe seeing if they're on Facebook are quite low.

Comments

  1. Oh, I *so* do that too. At least the skip-tracing; not so much at the cold reading.

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    1. Cold reading is basically skip-tracing thoughts. It's the same idea -- just figure out where they've been before, and where they're likely to go in the future, using a general knowledge of where other people go in those situations as a starting point.

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  2. I am so tempted to ask you to teach me your Google-fu and your skip-tracing strategies.

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    1. Stay tuned for that. I'm trying to work out what kind of thing I could run as a subscription blog channel on Amazon Kindle. I was thinking that might be worth $0.99 or $1.99 or whatever their monthly charge is.

      In general, Google-fu depends on realizing that the best set of search terms to use is the weirdest possible collection of words that MUST be on the page you want. It sounds simple, but sifting those terms out of what you think you want involves a lot of thinking that most people do not train themselves to do.

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  3. Oh, please not Kindle. I don't have a Kindle and don't want to fuss with Amazon, and Paypal has taken against my credit card. But if you'll email me entries or post here, I will mail a check to the address of your choice. How much Google-fu and skip-trace-fu would $50 cover?

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    1. You don't need a physical Kindle to get Kindle subscriptions -- any Kindle reader will do, including any of the phone apps. And don't worry about it too much, either. Kindle blog subscriptions draw from open RSS feeds, which means it needs to go into a feed-able blog to begin with. I just wanted to offer the option to pay me money for the content of my brain if you were so inclined, and this here blog itself is a bad source for basic e-reader content, because of all the embedded A/V content.

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