November 21, 2008

Virtual Weather

I get my email through google's "gmail." Today, gmail introduced a new "theme" feature, which allows you to select from various different color schemes and backgrounds for your email. One had a picture of a tree, so I selected it, and then noticed that on my email screen, the background showed a misty sky with a tree silhouetted at the bottom of the screen. Nice.

Later in the day, I went to check my email, and noticed that the misty sky had been replaced by a partly cloudy sky, with soft white clouds against a light blue background. I thought that a little strange, but I was about to continue with my day when all of a sudden, it hit me.

I went to the window of my office and looked out. The fog that greeted me when I went to get the paper this morning had been replaced by partly cloudy skies.

I went back to the computer and brought up the theme settings. I changed my location to "Cleveland." The email page showed rain falling on the tree. I changed it to "Seattle." It showed snow falling on the tree--and accumulating on top of my inbox. (Strange, I would have expected the snow in Cleveland, but oh well.)

On the one hand, this seemed kind of cool. On the other hand, it's also kind of scary. Are people going to start relying on their computer screens to tell them what the weather is like right outside their own window? That sounds a little ridiculous, but then again, many already rely on the computer for the majority of their social interaction, so who knows...

I've set my theme back to Signal Hill/Long Beach. It shows a hazy blue sky. The same as what I see when I look out my window.

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