Oh What a Fabulous Web We Weave

I was trying to re-attach the exhaust hose on our clothes dryer to the exhaust vent, a hugely frustrating endeavor requiring duct tape and small muscle control, only one of which I had in any quantity. As I was in my usual home improvement position, squatting on my haunches and cursing, a flapping crowd of black wings careened by within inches of the window. Even in that brief moment, I could sense that this was no random fly-by. Something was definitely up in the world of tooth and claw. I thought: Even as I’m sitting here immersed in the banality of human life, the wild world is simmering just beyond my walls. And then I thought: I better go check it out.

I knew the chances were that if indeed some Animal Planet drama had been unfolding, I had almost certainly missed it. But I went anyway, stepping out on the back porch. At first I saw nothing of note, but then the large cherry tree to my left exploded. An immense brown projectile shot from the upper branches, pursued by three impressive crows. The brown missile resolved into a huge bird — an owl! The wings spread at least three feet across as it shot toward a pine tree at high speed. But the crows were on it. The lead crow was actually diving down on top of the owl, slashing it with his talons. The owl didn’t bother to fight back. It just fled to another tree as the crows swarmed after it, again body slamming the owl, who pushed off once again and swept away out of view, crows in hot pursuit.

The owl was twice the size of the largest crow, but it was no match for all three in concert. Plus, as I later learned, it had been rudely interrupted during nap time, and was no doubt still groggy.

This I discovered when I got back to the computer keyboard and typed “crows chasing owls” into Google, and got this link, which answered every one the questions forming in my head almost before I could articulate them.

I don’t think we’ve begun to understand the implications of  the constant and instant availability of the world’s collective knowledge, now always a few taps of the fingertips away. In this case, it put the exhilarating scene I’d been lucky enough to witness into full context — and then some.

Which reminded me — you know that add for Bing.com, an upstart competitor to Google? Someone starts spouting randomly connected nonsense in an acutely annoying manner, which is supposed to represent the meaninglessness of information overload you get with a Google search, presumably compared to the directed answers you get from Bing.

The ad comes across as pathetic desperation — on Bing’s part. The problem is that the supposed flaw they are attacking in Google doesn’t in fact exist. You want Google to tell you why crows chase owls, and it tells you. End of story, and end of market opportunity.

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