I, Googlophile. Or: Yes, There Still Are Free Lunches

Recently I was at the Google headquarters at Mountain View to give an Authors@Google talk (now up on You Tube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPbSw5Yo2TA)--and I have to say, I was quite charmed. The "campus" is appropriately named. Watching numerous blue-jeaned young men and women ride their bikes (provided by Google) from one building to another, or pause their day's work to play a game of chess or frisbee, or walk their dogs (Google allows employees to bring pets to work; how cool is that?) took me back to my days at the University of California at Berkeley. There was the same air of intellectual curiosity, excitement at being on the cutting edge, mingling of cultures and high spirited iconoclasm. (I suspect Google has worked hard to create this attractive, quirky, anti-corporate atmosphere). But there was one significant difference. As my wonderful and witty guide Ross Peter Nelson pointed out, a hefty chunk of the under 30s crowd milling around us in the cafeteria were millionaires!

Ah, that cafeteria--one of several on the campus: it was like an "it's a small world after all," with stations serving dishes from China, Japan, India, Italy and others that I didn't even get to because my plate got over-full. There was a huge salad bar; there was a place for vegans; there was organic food (some of it grown right there on the Google premises) and a decadent desserts counter. And yes, folks: lunch is free. So are breakfast and dinner. Plus I'm told they do your laundry for you. (A brilliant move, actually, on the part of the founders, to reduce the hassles of daily living so their employees can pour more attention into their work). Munching on my delicious seaweed salad, I couldn't help fantasizing about how much more writing I could get done if only someone would do my laundry and cook my meals.

Seriously, though, Google has already helped my writing life immensely. Because of Google, my research has become exponentially easier and faster. Where before I would have to make  trips to the library and search the stacks, or go through newspaper archives on microfiche readers (remember those, folks?)  that I could never work properly, or request books through inter-library loans which would then take weeks to arrive, now I can just point and click.

Thanks for that, Larry and Sergey.