Dear Google

Dear Google,

I am simultaneously elated and disappointed in you.

In fact, I haven't been this conflicted about someone since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came came to my aunt's 20th wedding anniversary.

I can remember it clearly. My aunt Cindy was sitting next to her husband-of-then-twenty-years (a.k.a my uncle Randy) on that aging striped couch of theirs. She was nibbling on a chicken leg absent-mindedly while Uncle Randy talked to my dad. Most of the men in the house were eating on couches and lay-z-boys, huddled around the TV, watching football. The majority of the women had cloistered themselves in the kitchen and were talking loudly about something. Every few minutes you'd hear a round of cackles, or a sharp laugh all by its lonesome come echoing out of the kitchen. Likewise, the men would groan or cheer together in turn.

Aunt Cindy looked up at me, still chewing on the chicken leg, and attempted to say something. Sadly, I'll never know what it was she wanted to say because instead of saying something she started choking, and coughing up little bits of chicken. It was strange, because for a second she seemed calm and looked directly at me while she choked, like she thought she was talking. Then her eyes went a little bulgy, and she started to get excited. I just sat there with an open mouth, but Uncle Randy realized something was up and turned Aunt Cindy around in his arms. "She's choking!" Someone yelled. Everyone got out of their seats, but no one knew what to do. They just crowded around the aging striped couch and yelled and grabbed things- someone grabbed Aunt Cindy's leg. Someone grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. Someone grabbed the back of the striped couch. Someone grabbed Uncle Randy by his shoulders and shook him too, just for good measure.

"Someone call 9-1-1!" a man said.

"She's choking," my dad reiterated. Aunt Cindy's eyes were the size of baseballs, and she looked like she was trying to mime someone puking, only nothing came out.

Dr. Jekyll came storming into the living room from the kitchen, moving as quickly as I've ever seen a human being move. His jaw was set and his eyes were dead calm. He pushed two or three men out of his way as if they were sacks of straw, grabbed Aunt Cindy and turned her around so that she was kneeling on the couch, facing away from him with his hands around her waist. For a brief second I wondered if Dr. Jekyll was only taking advantage of the situation to give my aunt Cindy one last farewell fuck, doggy style; but then he pulled up powerfully under her sternum with both hands and a mighty grunt. Aunt Cindy's throat made a grotesque noise and a chicken bone went flying across the room and hit a stack of DVDs under the TV.

Dr. Jekyll was a hero. There was a toast afterwards. All the adults lifted their glasses in his honor. I looked up at his cool, competent face and wanted to be just like him when I grew up. I think a little story might even have been written in the local paper about the incredible Dr. Jekyll. Of course, two weeks later he gutted Aunt Cindy with a butterfly knife and a pair of needle-nosed pliers under a bridge on her way home from work; so that created some cognitive dissonance within the family. On the one hand we figured at least Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde had given her two weeks she wouldn't have otherwise had, but then Uncle Randy pointed out that the pain and suffering of being eviscerated alive under an over-pass had to be factored in to the moral equation somewhere, so in the end most of us consider it a wash.

You did something similar last week, Google. First I checked my Gmail and was delighted to find a new, streamlined look. It's just breathtaking. I can't tell you how beautiful it is to me. I was an early adopter of the beta version, and this is the culmination of all things good. It's simple. It's intuitive. The animations are smooth and tasteful. I mean- just look at it.

It's a damn triumph of engineering; like a Mercedes-Benz or a Macbook Air. No bugs. No weird, quirky shit. It's as stable as the old Gmail. It works the way it's supposed to, flawlessly, ever time. I can only stand in front of this monument to minimalist perfection, mouth agape, and wonder about the brilliant minds behind it all. It's all I can do to stare, slack-jawed and astounded, and silently appreciate the subtle genius at work here. Like most great innovations that reach a state of ground-breaking simplicity, it has been made to seem so easy in retrospect. Why did it take us so long? Why did I have to use Hotmail and Yahoo and Outlook for all those long, painful years? Why- dear God why, did my e-mail platform have to be hideous and garish and cluttered for the last decade- a veritable chimera of tabs, switches, buttons, half-baked icons, drop-down menus and ill-fitted windows?

Gmail is now like my online zen room. I come here to rest and let the mind reflect on the simplicity and beauty that life can be.

This same week, however, you also updated Blogger and introduced new Dynamic View themes. I was pretty excited. It seemed as if you were attempting to take the same minimalist approach you brought to Gmail and extend it to Blogger. The thought of giving this blog a face lift and remaking Open Letters in a more minimalist image got me all hot and bothered. With eyes a-sparkle, I began the transition.

Things started out smoothly enough. I put up my old decrepit-letter background and changed the theme colors. Then I changed the font size and hit "apply." Nothing happened. Then I tried to change the font color. Once again. No response. Apply. Save. Preview. Refresh. Log out. Log-back-in. Close browser. Reopen browser.

Using the new Blogger Template Designer is like telling a dead person that you love them- everything seems normal at first, but after a couple of minutes you start to realize something is up. It felt like the 1990s all over again, and I was back in the bush league days of the internet. What a sorry excuse for a roll out, and from Google no less. My ancient Xynga account was more professionally executed.

Thanks for rolling out these exciting new changes, but I have a better idea. How about you take this bug-infested, half-assed attempt back to the fucking lab, and then let me know when it's actually out of beta. Hell, this isn't even beta; more like gamma or delta.

Your two-faced ways have me conflicted, Google.

Sebastian Braff


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