Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Endangered Internet Species

Who here remembers the Google Whack? There are many variations on the Google Whack, but the way I've always played is that you must enter two words, no proper nouns, without quotes, into the google search engine producing a search with 1 google hit. That's the purist form. Other variants allow proper nouns, and in another, the goal is to get as many hits as there are characters in the two words.

At its onset the Google Whack was an extremely rare phenomena, but you could do it, if you knew a handful of obscure words and some chemistry terms. But like the unicorn, the Google Whack is and was an endangered species. Sites emerged that collected them, and news outlets did stories on them, but of course once they were recorded that Whack ceased to exist. Other websites emerged that seemed to simply catalog vast swatches of words. Google Whacks are a web phenomena that may soon be extinct. If it's not already. I haven't thought about them in a while. In fact, the last I found was a few years ago. On 8/3/06 I found this gem:

popsicle triskaidecagon

The same google search today yields 19 hits. This is compared to

Methuselah bobbysocks

(yes, I know I broke my own rule and used a proper-noun) which was once a Google Whack and now inexplicably yields 448 Google hits. has what they claim to be an up-to-the-minute and unindexed Whack List, and yet I've tested several of them and not one of those supposedly fresh whacks is even below the century club, several have more than 1000 hits.

... Anyway, yesterday I was using Google image search to find illustrations of emotive monkeys. There are plenty of enraged, happy, sad, and even "sarcastic monkey" (with quotes in the search) yields 400 hits. But a search for "sardonic monkey" yielded a singular hit (not even of a monkey), it's own sort of Google Whack.

Honestly, I'm surprised, I suspected by now monkeys and monkey illustrators would have uploaded images with titles covering all possible monkey attitudes. However, without the quotes sardonic monkey yields over 10,000 hits.

If you're hunting a Google Whack I've found in the past that you should

1) avoid words that could be near each other in the dictionary
2) avoid common favorite words like defenestrate
3) pair two words from two radically different highly technical professions
4) pair something innocuous with a highly technical term
5) pair a word no longer in common usage with a highly technical term

Can you find any Google Whacks, traditional, or your own variation?

If you find a true google whack you can post it in the comment section with dashes between the letters so as to preserve the thrill for future Whackers. Honorable mentions for single digit returns, or for bizarre word combos that return far more hits than expected.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Last night my flatmate Eric and I went to the IKEA in Stoughton, MA. Several months ago we made a similar trip in the middle of the day. It was the first time I'd been to an IKEA store since we went to one in Philadelphia for my brother who was in college. I remember it being fun and exciting, with lots of people and bright colors. I might have even eaten a swedish meatball, but that's probably a fantasy. it's far more likely that I experienced an even more intense disorientation than I did when I went with Eric months ago.

We didn't really have a plan, and maybe that was the problem. We were both interested in upgrading our bedrooms. Eric had made a couple of trips to IKEA already, but wanted a desk and bureau other than the somewhat industrial chrome and wire ensemble he had been using. I'd been sleeping on a mattress on the floor since I moved in and doing my writing at a rickety coffee table while seated on one of those camping chairs that can collapse into a tube. Not ideal.

But when we got to IKEA we were, surprise-surprise, overwhelmed. We wandered aimlessly through the kitchen appliances, wishing our landlord would feel compelled to upgrade. We shuddered at the feel of the synthetic-lambskin throws. We pondered various beds and desks, ultimately realizing that we had taken no measurements before we left home. In the end the only purchases we made were at the IKEA grocery store, where I just barely resisted buying the "Prawn Cheese Spread."

Instead I bought a six pack of frozen Swedish Princess Cakes, which Eric and I wolfed down on the car ride home. They were good frozen. Like a novelty ice cream.

--That was months ago. Last week Eric's mother was in town and she took him on an IKEA shopping spree. One of the bureau's he wanted wasn't in stock, so he got a giftcard and that's why last night after making the necessary measurements, we returned to IKEA.

Even at 8:30 p.m., half an hour before closing time, the parking lot was still filled with dozens of cars. We went inside and browsed idly for a while, but we both knew what we were getting and so around 8:50 we headed down to the warehouse to get our boxes. Then with an announcement that the store would soon be closing the 8:55 migration began.

The checkout aisles were clogged with people with carts of nondescript boxes. Eric and I listened pretty closely and I think we may have been the only native English speakers there. Truly, IKEA brings together an international shopping community.


As is so often the case, I found myself thinking about the impending zombie apocalypse. What would you do if you were in an IKEA?

And on the heels of that, has anyone ever been snowed in at an IKEA? Do they have backup generators in case of power outage? I can just imagine hundreds of people getting free meatballs (or rib roast if it's a Wednesday!) and then curling up to sleep in the IKEA demo beds.