All This Useless Data

I need more memory.

Though I suspect the real problem isn’t storage capacity, it’s a cluttered hard drive. Just as my iPod refuses to load new apps because it’s out of drive space, my brain struggles to add new knowledge because it’s clogged with information – and too much of it is useless data.

Not to pass the buck, but it all started with the 18-year old version of me, a guy who was an absolute idiot when it came to loading the mental hard drive. As is common when a person has a device with seemingly endless storage capacity, 18-year Bill refused to consider the value of the data he was constantly adding to the memory banks. He just kept uploading indiscriminately.

As a consequence, huge amounts of my storage is devoted to information that is absolutely valueless outside of Tuesday Trivia at the local pub or impressing my pre-teen daughter when we watch Jeopardy. My daughter looks at me like I’m the Greek Oracle reincarnate, while my wife thinks, “You can name every goddam member of the Go-Gos and you can’t remember our anniversary?” She doesn’t seem assuaged when I say, “It wouldn’t be a problem if I had learned the date of our anniversary when I was 17.”

Here are just a few examples of the crap that clogs my neural passages:

Every member of Aerosmith. I don’t remember memorizing their names, but at some point I did, and I have never forgotten them. What does a 46-yr old father of two need with this information? Hell, what does anyone need with that information? Music “knowledge” is definitely the biggest space-hog in my memory, because in my teens and twenties, music was my primary focus: I played in bands, I read about bands, I talked about bands, and apparently, I had no effective firewall for stopping every member of Van Halen, Def Leppard, and Journey from nestling in for eternity, each with a clause in their tenant agreement that apparently makes them impossible to evict.

The roster of the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers. If you ever need someone to settle a bar fight about who was playing power forward during Andrew Toney’s rookie year, I’m your man. (It was Caldwell Jones. Duh.) Worst of all, I was a Celtics fan! Sixers stats should never have made it past the buffer, yet I could still pick Darryl Dawkins out of a police line-up, which means I’m using graphics-level storage capacity on a chump I barely liked even then. For more than 30 years, Bobby Jones has been freeloading around the country in my synapses, yet I can’t remember a single word or idea from the two James Joyce books I read later in life. My college advisor would be horrified.

Hours of irrelevant advertising jingles. I will take the “Name that Tune” challenge against anyone when it comes to identifying annoying little ditties about antacids, soda pop, frozen vegetables, fast food, or any other product that was advertised in the 1970s. Those jingles are embedded in my DNA, and I have never found a valuable use for them. I even work in the advertising industry and I can’t find an advantage to knowing what bologna’s first name is. Conversely, speaking French would be really useful, but I can barely remember enough from my four semesters of college French to walk a duck into the green shoe store.

I recently read several short stories from Phillip K Dick, and I was intrigued by his futuristic visions of how our memory banks would one day be accessed in order to eliminate specific memories or specific periods of memories. I have read these stories looking for clues, though I have no interest in trying to forget a trip to Mars or my service as an international spy – I just want someone to get in my head and and remove Roland Gift. You know, lead singer for the Fine Young Cannibals, the band that featured English Beat alums David Steele and Andy Cox? (Not to be confused with General Public, which featured English Beat alums Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger.) I want him gone because the pride of being able to answer my coworker’s query about a one-hit-wonder 80s band is dwarfed by the shame I will feel as I forget 90% of my closest friend’s birthdays this year.

There is so much knowledge that I want, but I can’t seem to absorb it: I have studied my Trees of the Northwest book many times in an effort to improve my capacity to identify a tree by its bark or its leaves, but retaining what I’ve learned is like trying to contain smoke in a colander; I want to be able to identify a few astral constellations beyond the big and little dipper, but an hour after studying the star map, the sky just looks like a randomized Light-Bright; I would love to remember the names of the myriad nuanced hues that exist in the slivers of space between the secondary and tertiary spaces on the color wheel, but I can’t even remember if carmine leans more toward red or orange. Yet I have flawless recollection of every band Paul Carrack played with. (Don’t forget Ace, you Squeeze fanatics.) I’m pretty sure even an rookie Project Manager would recognize that as poor data management.

I hate it, but I don’t know how to free myself from the burden of this pointless minutia. I wish Philip K. Dick was alive so I could contact him and ask for his help, though maybe it’s just as well that I can’t, because it would break my heart if he said, “Look fella, I write science fiction. What you are asking for is more complicated than that.”

If you think you have a solution, I would love to hear it. You can find me at the pub for Tuesday Trivia. I’m the guy in the back who’s winning – and sobbing as he does.

2 response to "All This Useless Data"

  1. By: h Posted: 04/14/2013

    actually, I am pretty sure that PKD would leave you a note that said JUICE STAND.

  2. By: Willreagan Posted: 04/15/2013

    H, I apparently haven’t read enough PKD to know what that means….though I like the cryptic-ness.

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