did our smoke alarms go off? That was the question I had to answer
at 2:00 AM. I told my wife I'd investigate. The kitchen stove
was off, I hadn't left a cigarette burning in an ashtray, the
oil furnace was working fine… so what was it? There was only one
place to check: the Internet. As everyone says, you can find anything
on the Internet.
first stop was Alta Vista, where I was told to "Ask AltaVistaTM
a question." Hmmm, OK... I typed in: "Why did my smoke alarms
go off tonight?"
well, well: Alta Vista found 12,530,192 pages for me. I was stunned.
Not only did the Internet contain an answer to my question, it
contained over 12 million answers! But they couldn't all
be the right answer, could they? And even if a number of the sites
contained the answer in a general way, some of them must have
the answer embedded in a lot of other stuff that I didn't need
to know. Furthermore, some of them were probably in Urdu or Bulgarian
or something, and I wasn't up for learning an entire foreign language
just to figure out a false smoke alarm.
I had to refine my search. I got back the following list from
Alta Vista to use in the refinement process:
[ ] Alarms, smoke, fire, alarm, detectors, fires, safety, prevention,
[ ] Appliances, heaters, heating
[ ] Bedroom, fireplace, kitchen, floors
What would help? They all seemed to fit, in a general sort of
way, but I didn't want to get 12 million answers again, so I figured
I'd better refine my search somehow. I chose 'Exclude' on the
'Appliances' row, and 'Require' on the 'Alarms' row.
to 33,622 sites. I had certainly cut down my browsing time with
that maneuver! But since the first site returned came from New
South Wales, Australia, I thought I might be able to do better.
Even if this site in New South Wales did have the answer, they
had to have gotten it from somebody local, now, didn't they? So
I might as well try and find the source. And really, what were
the odds that word of our mishap had traveled to New South Wales
already? After all, it was only about an hour since the alarms
had gone off. I'm a busy man, and I didn't want to waste a lot
of time on this.
the next refine list didn't offer much hope. Maybe I had to rethink
my whole approach. A hypothesis was what I needed. I could then
use my search to confirm or refute it. I added "+poltergeist"
to my search string. Nine web pages! I felt sure I was nearly
first site was titled: No. 37 "Shadow Fall" 6/27/97
What the hell was this about? Some TV show, apparently. I searched
the document for "smoke alarm." It wasn't there! I did
find out that: "Poltergeist:
The Legacy was created by Trilogy Entertainment (executive
produced by Trilogy partners: Richard B. Lewis, Pen Densham and
John Watson) with Showtime and MGM/UA Trilogy Entertainment."
Good to know, sure, but I didn't think it brought me closer to
answering why the smoke alarms had gone off.
I bother looking at: "Legacy of Damnation: A Buffy the Vampire
Slayer/Highlander crossover story. Tons of fun"?
I needed information, not fun! How about: SATYRICON AU GO GO:
Under the Mexican Moon?
clicked on the link, but, amazingly enough, this enrapturing tale
of alien experimentation did not mention either smoke alarms
decided that this whole "Ask Alta Vista a Question" thing might
be a bit of a scam. Maybe I was best off venturing out on my own.
I tried: +"smoke alarms" +poltergeist
documents! I looked at the first one. It contained instructions
on effects for your haunted house. I felt that I was trembling
on the edge of an answer. Every nerve in my body was tingling
with delicious anticipation. Try to imagine my feeling when I
read the following line: "... and you may also have to turn off
any smoke alarms in the area!"
that certainly was what I had had to do! And there, right
in the keywords for the article, was "poltergeist"!
This had to be it. I read on.
the sun busted through a beat-up shade, I returned to our bedroom.
My wife was getting ready for work. She said: "You took a long
time! Did you find out what the problem was?"
We have to use the fog effect more carefully."
it took a lot of work to figure that out. I can't explain further
now. I'm pooped and I need a little shut-eye."
do I love the Internet.