No billboards, no pop-ups – still brainwashed

There’s not enough people up here for billboards. I noticed that on the drive in. Driving through Nevada, Idaho, North Dakota. The populations of the counties starts to dip, and with it goes the advertising. Its like that old saying about the tree falling: if a billboard is erected in the middle of a deserted road, will anyone see it? I guess that analogy’s filled with holes, but H.G. seemed to agree with me on the way up (Isaac was taking a nap at the time, he’s not much of a thinker anyway). Its kind of pleasant driving around this part of the States. When I trundle off to Thief River, the only distraction on the road is the huge expanse of wilderness all around me. No beaming toothpaste big grins or stern Hollywood grimaces.

virginIts probably for the best really, I’m very susceptible to advertising. My internet went live yesterday, the one modern commodity that I would die without (I have an outhouse about 50 yards from my back door, totally fine with it). A big old satellite dish stuck on top of my little shack in the middle of nowhere, makes me look like a crackpot UFO hunter—I just want the option to watch some Netflix from time to time. Still, getting back on the grid means the return of advertising. I’ve got AdBlockers set up (I lived and breathed Silicon Valley for years, remember?) but the internet’s essentially one big advertising newspaper.

isaacYou see when you launch a search in Google (like you use anything else, right?) little bots run off at the speed of light to diligently bring you back what they think is most relevant. Now they’re quick, but not so smart. A few clever clogs figured this out a few years ago, and found out a way of tricking the bots into thinking that their sites were more relevant to certain search terms than others. This gave them a foot up on the ladder above the other boys and girls who hadn’t been so smart—and so began SEO.

So regardless of the lack of billboards or pop-ads, I’m always being advertised to. Whenever I’m looking to buy a new hard drive or maybe a new toy for Isaac, the first fifteen or so results will have just been manoeuvred there by some SEO company in Liverpool. Patiently seeding the internet with little falsifications to satiate their clients. I’m still going to buy the hard drive and Isaac, well, he always gets what he wants.

From Silicon Valley to Minnesota

Well I’m here now…’Hi Mom!’, or so the old adage goes. The journey from Silicon Valley took three days. If I’d really pushed the rental van I could’ve probably made it in two, but what would be the point in rushing?

The look on my boss’ face was interesting when I handed my notice in. A mixture of disappointment and mild annoyance. The guy never liked me, but I could tell he liked me better than the prospect of having to fill my position. One of the big 3 software companies, there would be internal interviews and inter-departmental squabbling – far more effort than hiring a man to clean your pool, that’s for sure. He limply tried offering me a raise, but it was no use and I could tell that he recognised the look on my face. He could see the wasted look of exasperation in my eyes and it was one he was familiar with – he stared at similar grey holes in the mirror each morning.

server-rack1

I had been so long in the heat and the dust and the wind of the Valley, that I felt like one of our giant servers. Constantly sucking in air to keep my mind cool, but all the while particles of dust would be lodging themselves into one of the labyrinthine nooks and crannies of my circuits inevitably leading to this – a meltdown. I’m being over-dramatic, that’s what my Mom said: ‘You’ve got a wonderful job, more money than your Father and I ever had – stay there, live, find someone!’

Nope. Sorry Mom. I love computers but I don’t want to become one. (‘So overdramatic!’)

I filled a small cardboard box with a couple of novels, a bonzai tree (Secret Santa gift of ’12, never been trimmed) and a stapler (not mine – taking it anyway). There was cake, and balloons – Sandra on reception cried as she does at every leaving do. Then I was in the car, back at the flat, boxes packed and in the van on my way to Minnesota. Happy trails.

nevada-roadThree days of driving, no rush. Just me and the dogs in the front cab, my IKEA futon and wide screen rattling in the back of the truck with the computers and hard drives that comprise my film and music collection. Willie Nelson and James Taylor gave us the soundtrack to our journey, I tend to lean pretty hard on the road trippin’ cliches when I’m driving long distance, I don’t think H.G. or Isaac mind too much. And now we’re here. Home Sweet Home. A shack in the middle of nowhere, mild now but no doubt a frozen wasteland in just a couple of months. I’ll be here for the indefinite future, writing and living.

The door’s open now and I can tell H.G. wants a walk because he’s staring out at the wide expanse with a feverish longing in his eyes. The heat and the dust and the wind of the road has gotten him all hot and bothered. I feel you boy, lets go for a walk.