Spiritual Reflex


“Life is like a sewer — what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”
– Tom Lehrer.

In Firefox, you can turn off Google’s automatic search suggestions by typing “about:config” into the URL bar and hitting return. Then type the word “suggest” into the filter box; double-clicking the “browser.search.suggest.enabled” line will set it to false, and then you can close that tab.

It’s useful for a lot of people, I’m sure, but I’ve finally had to turn it off. About three times a week I get ambushed when I make the mistake of putting some harmlessly generic phrase at the beginning of my search and Google puts ten of the likeliest continuations of that phrase at the end of it.

This might not be the most common form of brain damage in the world, but when that hits me in the eyes my brain assumes that I’m looking at an actual narrative, a paint-by-the-numbers outline of someone’s story. And then my stupid brain starts to colour it in.

“Should I”, space.

Stay or should I go. Call him. Break up with him. Shave my pubic hair. Get bangs. Upgrade to Windows 7. Get a divorce. Pop a blister. Break up with my boyfriend. Suddenly I am reading the story of some sad, slightly nerdy and unhappily married girl on the verge of doing something terribly self-destructive.

All I wanted to know was whether or not I should delete some machine from active directory before rebuilding it, and now I have a brain full of that. The worst part is that I’m 100% sure that person is real. She’s somewhere in the world right now trying to decide whether to upgrade her OS or slit her wrists, and all I want is to go back to not thinking about her. Whatever happens next, I’ll never know.

But maybe, whispers brain, maybe we can check.

“Did she”, space.

Mention my name? Die? Cheat on me? Mention my name, just in passing?

I admit that I might be uniquely broken this way but honestly, brain, shut up. At three o’clock in the morning I’m alone with what I’ve done. Isn’t that enough? I don’t need you conspiring with my machines to leave all this detritus piled up in there too. That is just patently unfair.


  1. Posted November 12, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I think it is highly awesome that “shave my public hair” actually comes up in the most frequent list of things people wonder about doing.

    It is kinda cool to live in an era where we have daily empirical proof of just how strange people are.

  2. Posted November 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Also, “what if i”… miss a birth control pill, don’t pay my credit cards, drank before I knew I was pregnant.

    Google searchers, I don’t recommend this course of action!

  3. mhoye
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s all bad. Can I, can he, can she. Could I, could he, could she, should I, should she, should he. Horrifying.

  4. Posted November 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    People are VERY concerned about being pregnant. For, you know, good reason, I guess?

    (No guesses what comes up for “am i”…)

  5. mhoye
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Being served? Afraid of the dark? Interested? Bondable? Then you too may be eligible to participate in… God, I don’t know what. Some sort of Silent Hill-related bail-bondsman thing?

  6. kev
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Only thing I’ll point out is that the setting switch you mention affects any search plugins that use search suggests. Some of the providers actually have useful content :)

    Alternatively, and it’s an admittedly bigger kludge, you can edit the .xml file for the plugin to remove the <Url type="application/x-suggestions+json"… line.

    Additional trivia I get to deal with on a daily basis.

  7. Posted November 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    In that case, whatever you do, don’t go here: