How Cheery

You know, back in the old days, if I didn’t have a clue what to blog about, I could always count on Google. The top searches were an almost guaranteed source of inspiration. And on the rare occasions where that didn’t help, Google News filled the gap.

But that was in the long-ago, happy days of 2015.

Now, not so much.

Google News is a disgusting pool of mass shootings, nuclear dick-waving, racism, sexism, climate change denial, and petty aggravations elevated to the level of national disasters.

And the top searches aren’t much better. As I write this, Number One, the only search term to top 100,000 searches is “Sia”. Apparently, someone is trying to sell nude photos of the singer–so she’s giving away her own nudes to depress the market. Oh, and to advertise her upcoming album of Christmas songs.

How inspirational.

Other uplifting items from the top ten:

Elizabeth Smart is filming the story of her kidnapping.

Kristina Cohen has gone public with rape allegations against Ed Westwick.

A shuttle bus driver in Texas has been arrested for shooting at a co-worker.

The third “Fifty Shades” movie is coming out in February.

The only thing that gives me any hope is that people are searching for election-related information. “Voting Day 2017” and “Where Do I Vote” are both in the top ten searches.

Please, if there’s an election today where you live–there isn’t one in my county–get out there and vote. Send a message that the world needs fixing.

So I can find something in the news we can share a laugh about.

Short Cuts

Following up on Tuesday’s post, it seems that Cyber Monday isn’t quite as obsolete as I thought. According to Associated Press reports, it’s been the single largest online shopping day for the past six years, with online spending topping $3.1 billion this year.

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on here, of course. Retailers schedule big sales because they expect people to be shopping heavily that day, and people shop heavily because they get big sales–without sleeping in a parking lot–that day.

But my I stand behind my recommendation: let’s kill off Cyber Monday as a discrete entity. Fold that big sale into Black November: “The last sale of the Thanksgiving Season!” The income potential will be the same, and the rebranding will allow retailers to slide gracefully into Quiet Time. While we, the consumers, are catching our breaths and allowing our credit cards to cool off, you retailers can be fine-tuning your plans for the December sales and beefing up your server capacity to handle the expected onslaught. Win-win. Who’s with me?

Moving on.

On Thanksgiving, I suggested that Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto should take the day off. I’m pleased to see that he took my advice. Not even a hint of a trade on Turkey Day.

But you can’t keep a trader out of the market forever. Tuesday, the Mariners traded the Trumbone to Baltimore. Last June, I likened the usefulness of the Mariners’ acquisition of Mark Trumbo to repainting the Bay Bridge. I stand by that. The Ms needed base runners and relief pitchers, and what they got in Trumbone was a man who hits home runs and strikes out. And, unless your name is Nelson Cruz*, Safeco Field isn’t a good place to hit home runs.

* Mark Trumbo’s name isn’t Nelson Cruz.

That said, watching him bat was–once he got past the first month-plus of horrible performance–a lot of fun. Put him in a park more suited to his bat, don’t try to make him play the outfield, and he should do much better than the 0.8 WAR he put up for the Mariners last year.

Jackie, I know giving you guys the Trumbone doesn’t make up for grabbing Cruz last year, but I hope it helps a bit. Enjoy the show (now less than three months away, figuring to the first Spring Training games).

Moving on again.

For the past few days, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about how horrible the news is lately–terrorism, flooding in Chennai, rampant insanity among political candidates, etc., etc., ad nauseum. At least one radio station here has been asking listeners to send in suggestions for music to brighten people’s spirits.

Let’s not get carried away. There’s a lot of sucky news, yes. But no more so than any other time in the past. I suspect an epidemic of Post-Thanksgiving Syndrome. We’ve been focused on our blessings for a week or so, and now that we’re starting to look outward again, the same problems we had in mid-November look worse now than they did then, simply by contrast.

Don’t get me wrong. The bad news is bad. People are dying. But complaining that there’s more bad news than ever doesn’t help, especially when it’s not true. You know what does help? Contributing some time. Contributing some money. Being there for someone who needs a shoulder to lean on.

Then do something good for yourself. Pat a cat. Watch the rain take a tiny bit off the edge of the drought. Heck, go buy yourself something nice in a Cyber Week sale. Whatever it takes. Hang in there.

Musing on Current Events

Blame it on the World Cup. Sports have almost completely taken over Google’s Hot Searches list. Of the top ten searches for Monday, seven are sports-related. Five of those seven are related to the World Cup–the other two are “LeBron James” (basketball) and “Wimbledon 2014” (tennis). Total World Cup domination is expected. What’s more interesting is the three non-sporting items in the list.

At Number Seven, we have “Teen Wolf”. Yeah, more than 50,000 people are looking for information on the fourth season of a TV show based on a thirty-year-old Michael J. Fox movie*. Ah, America, I weep for you! No, actually I’m glad to see it. As long as the general public continues to show interest in Teen Wolf, True Blood, and Twilight, it means there’s still a large audience for urban fantasy. Despite Laurell K. Hamilton’s best efforts to destroy it, I think it’s a sub-genre that still has some room to do interesting things.

* It’s probably germane to mention that Fox’s character played basketball…

Number Nine is “Alaska Earthquake.” Good to know that people are paying attention to what’s going on in the real, non-sporting world. Here’s an interesting fact: According to the USGS, the continental United States has survived 53 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or above in the past week. Of those, 31 (58%) were in Oklahoma. You think Mother Nature might be a little annoyed at Oklahoma? I’ve been trying to think why that might be. I doubt it has anything to do with the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, and it seems unlikely that it has anything to do with the state’s unique perspective on marriage. I can’t help wondering how much of Oklahoma’s current miseries have to do with the amount of oil and natural gas that’s been mined in the state. Come on, people, think! Anyone who’s ever played Jenga knows you can’t pull all of the bottom pieces out of the stack without toppling it…

Number Ten. Um. Well, this is where we start getting back to America’s usual fascinations. “Frances Bean Cobain” squeaks into the tenth slot, just ahead of “Robin Thicke” and “Hayden Panettiere.” Think about this for a moment: those three searches cover celebrity, death, sex, and (preferably female) skin. All the topics we normally see cropping up in the Hot Searches list. The World Cup isn’t so much distracting America from its usual preoccupations as it is compressing them.

Update: While I was writing this piece, the search statistics for Tuesday started to appear. The first search to garner enough traffic to make the list? “Luis Suarez.”

Suarez is a member of Uruguay’s World Cup team, and he’s in the news because he apparently bit an opponent during a game today.

Yeah. Bit him. Folks, this is clearly the ultimate news story for the week. We’ve got your sports, we’ve got your celebrity violence, and we’ve even got your urban fantasy–clearly Mr. Suarez is under the impression that he’s a vampire: this is at least the third time he’s been accused of biting someone during a game. The only thing we’re missing is an earthquake. Fortunately for Brazil, all of the South American earthquake activity recently has been in Chile, on the opposite side of the continent.

You know, I just got a great idea for a story…

In Today’s News

Americans, I’m proud of you.

Over and over we’ve looked at your top searches on Google and seen you searching for half-dressed women; sporting events; and death, destruction, and explosions.

Today, I look at the search results for this week, and what do I see? Of the top 20 searches Tuesday, four were directly related to the US Government shutdown, and another four, including the two of the top three were for news venues. I’m so very proud to see that you’re taking an interest in what’s going on in the world. So proud, I’ll even largely overlook the fact that the top search was for Fox News.

OK, so three search topics in the top five that were not for news sources were for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cleveland Indians, and Grand Theft Auto V. But you know I’m not going to ding you for taking an interest in baseball. Video games, well… But I’ll give you a pass on that one because GTA V only narrowly sneaked in ahead of breast cancer awareness.

So, a good start. And then what happened? You got distracted. On Wednesday what do we see in the top ten? Half-dressed women (Rihanna’s new music video, Michelle Rodriguez sexual orientation, Britney Spears’ new music video, Jennifer Lawrence’s diet, Monika Jakisic hooking up with George Clooney, Rebel Wilson’s weight, and Mia Farrow’s indiscretions with Frank Sinatra). Death and destruction (Tom Clancy, mummified birds at Lake Natron, and the FBI takedown of the Silk Road website).

Today, you’re doing even worse: Kate Upton without makeup, the President’s Cup (a golf tournament for those like me who weren’t aware), and Tesla (whose stock is sinking in the wake of a video of one of their cars exploding into flames). Oddly enough, nobody seems to be noting that the government shutdown is dragging the whole market down, not just Tesla. But then, a Wall Street flameout isn’t as visually appealing as a literal one.

Focus, people, focus. The government is still shut down, with neither side budging an inch — though I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that the NSA is taking to Twitter, Google+, and Facebook to let us all know that this is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. They want to be sure that we thank them for keeping us safe from cyber crime and terror attacks. Thanks, guys! Remember, every dollar and employee minute you spend on publicity is that much less you can spend on reading our email.

There’s other stuff going on too: Tropical Storm Karen is moving towards the Gulf of Mexico. It may or may not cause much damage (it isn’t clear whether it’ll reach hurricane status before it reaches the coast), but because oil companies are shutting down drilling platforms, gas futures are headed up. Yup, higher prices at the pump are coming — even though there’s a 1.85 million barrel inventory to draw on.

Lest I sound too negative, there’s some good news out there that you’re missing out on: a small plane made an emergency landing on the freeway in San Jose and there were no injuries. Too bad there doesn’t seem to be any video of that, as it would have been rather more heartwarming than the Tesla video.

OK, so my pride is tempered a bit. I’m glad to see that a significant number of people can pay attention when necessary. But I’d like to see y’all work on your attention spans now.