Down the Rabbit Hole

It starts innocently enough. You’ve got a few minutes free on a Sunday afternoon and you remember that the car needs an oil change. You flip open the owner’s manual just to doublecheck, and yep, sure enough, it calls for 5 quarts of 5W-20. Right. Easy. Just run to O’Reilly’s, grab five quarts of oil, you’ll be back home and done with the project in forty minutes.

But then you start thinking. “5W-20. Can that be right? Maybe for a winter oil, but it seems pretty light for hot weather.” So you fire up the internet and just check, real quick, to see if there’s a better option. We’re coming into summer, after all, wouldn’t a slightly heavier oil be better?

And right there, as soon as you open the browser, you can pretty much write off changing that oil.

In the first five minutes you’ve forgotten all about oil weight. You clicked on the first search result, which took you to a forum based on your particular model of car where they were, ostensibly, talking about oil weight and their preference.

But then that conversation deteriorated pretty quickly into a fight over conventional vs synthetic and a brief stint of (poorly punctuated, but informative) pedantics on the difference between the two. Before long denizens of the internet were arguing about how often you really do need to change the oil, mostly citing old episodes of Top Gear and their Uncle Bert, before proposing that the 3,000 mile cutoff really is a conspiracy perpetuated by the Rothschilds.

And then, naturally, you wonder what the Rothschilds have to do with anything here so you open a new tab and search for “motor oil rothschild conspiracy” and ho man now you’ve done it. But then holy crap that search returned 1.64 million results and it only took 0.59 seconds and how does that even make any sense so you ask Google how it works and sure enough on the first page of results (after a bunch of tutorials on how to use Google) there’s a thing called “Inside Search” and an article called “how search works.”

And that’s exactly what you’re looking for so you give it a click and sure enough it’s not all that helpful. It’s got a few tidbits of trivia on how many websites there are and some fancy Greek prefixes for really big numbers but mostly they gloss over the meat of what you’re looking for with a bunch icons that look like this:

and you think “gosh that’s a little insulting” because you’re, like, a smart person, and you don’t need to be talked down to about string theory, and physics, and whatever the hell a p-brane is. So you go to brush up, just a little bit, on your string theory but now Google is kind of on your nerves so you just go straight to Wikipedia this time and after a few minutes you’ve got a pretty good handle on string theory and follow links for Theory of Everything, then pre-Socratic philosophy, and pretty soon you’re out of physics and no one’s even talked about Nazis once.

But so then the next thing you know you’re learning all about Protagoras founding this idea of philosophical relativism in which truth only exists insofar as it is perceived by any individual and you’re like “ho man have I got a POTUS for that guy” and then you remember both that you haven’t read the news in a while and that you really have been trying to maintain a better balanced news diet (and get out of that echo chamber) so you fire up a few tabs and see what The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, Fox News, and Al Jazeera America are opening with.

And then by the time you make it through the breaking news, feature pieces, op-eds, op-eds disguised as feature pieces, and horrifying anecdotes from small towns in the Florida panhandle you’re feeling pretty damn depressed and start thinking that you really do need to just take your mind off all this and there’s nothing better for that than fresh baked cookies.

But what recipe?

And before you know it, you definitely have not changed the oil in your car.

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