What's in your search history, Mike Isaac?
"But then I thought, well, poop is not white. So something else is happening."
Welcome back to Trashberg’s newest and (for now) only running series, in which I demand the unedited Google search histories of various guests and ask them probing, deeply uncomfortable questions about the things they seek out when no one’s looking. Today, we’ll be going through the Google search history of New York Times technology correspondent Mike Isaac. Mike somehow managed to write the NYT bestselling book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber while living in a perpetual state of disarray.
The resulting conversation, which was conducted via video chat and which you can read below, has been lightly edited for length and continuity. And if there’s anyone whose search history you’re just dying to get a peek at, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Ashley Feinberg: I’d like to dive right in to November 2020, when you seem to have googled "you got a bee on your hat." Do you know what that was?
Mike Isaac: Have you seen The Sopranos?
Feinberg: Of course.
Isaac: Honestly, I had not watched The Sopranos until last year during quarantine. And what got me into it was the "you got a bee on-a you hat" joke. It was Furio on a golf course, where he intimidates that doctor. And then he's like, "You got a bee on your hat!" And he knocks the hat off.
Feinberg: Right, okay. But what were you looking for specifically?
Isaac: I just...I think I wanted to know.…So look, I got asked to go on a podcast to talk about this episode. I'd never seen The Sopranos. So I watched one episode, completely out of order, that made no sense. But the only thing I remembered was "you got a bee on your hat." So, I think I wanted the gif or something. But then I went and watched the whole thing, and then I fell in love with The Sopranos.
Feinberg: I'm not sure if this is keeping with The Sopranos theme or not, but shortly after that you googled "mascarpone" and "ricotta."
Isaac: I think this is The Sopranos because they kept talking about Bobby's wife's ziti, so naturally I really wanted to make a baked ziti. Part of it was, do you use mascarpone or ricotta—"rigot"—in the ziti?
Feinberg: Yeah, because you google "rigot," too.
Isaac: Uh...well, I also wanted to know how to spell it the way that they say it on the show.
Feinberg: Yes, I can see that. Because there's one with a "g," and then directly after that, one with a "c."
Isaac: Yeah, I mean I wanted to know: Do I say "ricot"? Or will that make me sound like an idiot?
Feinberg: Well, I don't think it's the spelling that's going to be the issue there. But anyway, before that, you googled "what if tap water comes out white." What's, uh, what's wrong with your tap?
Isaac: Dude, my fucking sink puts out white water. So I wanted to know whether this was bad. At first I thought we had straight fucked-up water, because they'd been doing all this sewer work around our apartment in the Mission [in San Francisco]. So I wanted to know if I was drinking poop with my water. But then I thought, well, poop is not white. So something else is happening.
Feinberg: Love seeing those investigative journalist skills put to work. But continue.
Isaac: Well, apparently, when I'm trying to get hot water, I think it's maybe oxygenated or something. But our landlord was like, "No, it's cool." Honestly, though, now that I'm talking to you, I guess my landlord saying "no, it's cool" isn't actually that reassuring.
Feinberg: So was this an opaque white?
Isaac: It…well, like, it comes out—
Feinberg: Wait, hold on. Are you saying it's still coming out this color a year later?
Isaac: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But the thing is, it turns to normal water color eventually. So there's a version of this where I could believe it's oxygen or something, and then it turns to normal water? But...now that we're talking about this, I'm kind of concerned.
[Ed. Note: I later asked Mike for photographs of his kitchen sink output, which you can see below. We encourage any and all Trashberg plumbers to reach out to our friend here.]
Feinberg: I feel like you should probably get that checked out. But more importantly, before that, you just googled "Carmela Soprano" and then looked at four different photos of her over a span of two minutes.
Isaac: [nervous laughter] I think I was just...looking at Carm. [more nervous laughter] I don't remember.
Feinberg: I mean, they're nice photos. She looks great.
Isaac: Well, she's a handsome woman. That wasn't at three o'clock in the morning, was it?
Feinberg: No. This was at 11 a.m, which is honestly much more concerning. Now, I assume this is also Sopranos, but you googled, at 7:43 p.m., "what is gabagool."
Isaac: I just...I never knew.
Feinberg: Well, did you learn what gabagool is?
Isaac: I think it's capicola? I think it's a type of ham, just pronounced very New Jersey Italian-y?
Feinberg: Around that time you also googled the following:
What was this about?
Isaac: I think this was actually when I was talking to you about the way you pay taxes.
Isaac: And I needed to know how to do it the opposite way of whatever it was you were doing.
Feinberg: Yeah, fine, that sounds fair.
Isaac: And then, also, I had a really bad accountant for two-ish years who did not give me my tax returns. I paid both them and my taxes, I think, but they just never gave me my return. It was like, "What the fuck?"
Feinberg: That sounds illegal?
Isaac: It was awful! I had no idea what was going on, and it took a year for me to be like, "If you do not do my tax return, I'm gonna have to...do something."
Feinberg: Very forceful.
Isaac: Well, I didn't want to say I'm going to sue you, because then you sound like an asshole. But it was bad. So I finally got someone to answer my emails, and I got my tax return. Then I got a new accountant who was more expensive, but I guess I'm paying for someone who actually gives me my tax returns.
Feinberg: Okay, now we're in April-ish of 2020. You googled "quinoa stomach ache." Would you like to elaborate on that?
Isaac: Um, so I definitely think we had quinoa that night for dinner, and it fucking gave me a bad stomachache.
Feinberg: Are you sure it was the quinoa?
Isaac: It had to be, because I've had this happen multiple times. So I wanted to know, does quinoa give everyone a stomachache? Does it only give me a stomachache? Apparently, some people can be allergic to or have some sort of irritation with quinoa in particular, and it can give you a stomachache. And that's why I don't eat quinoa anymore.
Feinberg: Not too long after that, in immediate succession, you googled "peloton" and then "guillotine" three times. Do you know why?
Isaac: I was probably considering buying one, but also, is that being a class traitor if you spend $2,000 on a fucking bike? Will I get guillotined if I buy a Peloton? I would guess that was my line of thinking.
Feinberg: Well, you're still here. But maybe that will change. Now, I'd really like us to work through this next one. First you google "best flour for bread," which is fine. Then you google "is raw flour edible." Why were you trying to eat raw flour?
Isaac: Well, I just kind of liked the taste of it when I was making some of the bread. I definitely licked my fingers.
Feinberg: What did it taste like?
Isaac: I mean, it tastes like...powder. I guess, like bread-y powder. I loved it. But apparently it's very bad to eat raw flour, and there's all sorts of fucked up shit in it. Like poop and bugs.
Feinberg: That doesn't sound remotely true.
Isaac: I think that's what it said!
Feinberg: Well, later you googled "what is a breads crumb."
Isaac: I think I was trying to figure out if all bread crumbs were just bread, crumbled, or if there was a particular type of crumbling technique to make a bread crumb. Honestly, I think I wanted to make my own bread crumbs, but was worried it was more complicated than just squishing bread.
Feinberg: Okay, so you first googled "is raw flour edible" at 5 p.m., but then you did "is raw flour edible" a second time at around 1 a.m. Did you forget in those eight hours?
Isaac: So, it's possible my stomach hurt later in the night, and I wanted to make sure that I got the proper answer and didn't miss something. I do a lot of stomach pain googling.
Feinberg: Yes, that's apparent.
Somewhat on that same theme, you also searched "how to use can opener." Now, you're a star tech reporter for the New York Times. You have a best-selling book. You're working on a Showtime series. Am I to understand that you had never operated a can opener before?
Isaac: I, uh, I honestly don't know what was I thinking. Maybe—oh, wait! I do know. I read some Twitter thread on proper can-opening technique. And it was something about how everyone was doing it wrong.
Feinberg: It sounds like you're making this up on the spot, frankly.
Isaac: I swear to god! It was about how you've been doing it wrong, and that there's a different way to do it. I don't know. Maybe I open cans wrong or something, but I think there was a better way of doing it. This is very embarrassing.
Feinberg: I'm just going to show you a series of Google searches that happened from 8:48 a.m. to 8:54 a.m., and I’d like you to respond:
Can you walk me through what happened here?
Isaac: Oh god, that was a whole fucking journey.
Feinberg: Just to be clear, this was all over a period of less than 10 minutes.
Isaac: I think I was trying to buy a Supreme crowbar.
Feinberg: Sorry, I hate to interrupt, but: why?
Isaac: Because I'm a consumer idiot. I'm also the type of person who bought a Best Made axe. I still have that sitting by my bed.
Feinberg: Have you ever used it?
Isaac: Only once. I thought I heard someone breaking into my house, and I was like, "Well, time to go downstairs with the axe." And nothing happened. I did not have to use the axe. But this was a similar line of thinking, the having a crowbar. Anyway, I'd never really bought anything from Supreme, and the purchase wasn't going through. Apparently I'm very new to Supreme purchases, because what I later learned is that, if it doesn't go through, it means that they sold out. So I was not able to buy my Supreme crowbar.
Feinberg: I was really hoping you'd maxed out your credit card on Supreme outdoors gear.
Isaac: God, I hate thinking about this.
Feinberg: In general, I see you google your own New York Times stories a lot. That would seem to speak to a poor search function on the New York Times website. Is this true?
Isaac: I think, uh, I think they've talked about trying to improve that over the years. But I have found that's the easiest way to look up my own stories, for linking purposes. Still, I greatly respect the tech team, and I know that they're improving things every day. I would never ever speak ill of them. I love my job.
Feinberg: We're getting a little more recent now. This was just a few months ago, and it's another one where we're going on something of a journey.
I feel like I understand what you're doing, but it seems like there has to be a more efficient way to accomplish this.
Isaac: Well, if it wasn't obvious, I bought a 1992 Ford Bronco without a spare tire. And I think the thought process was, since it's a big truck, does it have to be a specific type of tire? Or can it be a shitty doughnut? But I think I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for.
Feinberg: A little before that you googled "Ford Bronco power steering leak." Where did you get this car?
Isaac: That was a Craigslist special. It was definitely from this old dude who wouldn't meet me at his house for some reason. He was like, "Let's meet in a park." And I was like, "Nah, I can just go to your house." Then he was like, "Yeah, let's meet in a park."
Feinberg: I mean, if some guy named Mike on Craigslist was trying to insist on coming to my house, I would also want to meet in the park.
Isaac: Well, I guess that's fair. The car is in good shape, but not great shape. It still needed a couple more grand in work after the fact. So yeah, it was not cheap; it fucking sucked.
Feinberg: Let's see what else we've got here. You googled “Henry Kissinger age." What was going on with that?
Isaac: I just know he's very old, and a lot of folks are often surprised that he's still around and kicking. I think he's in his 90s.
Feinberg: Uh huh, and are you glad he's still alive?
Isaac: I have no opinion on that matter. I have zero opinion.
Feinberg: All right, now we're going to go to the most recent set. And we'll begin with: "Irish moving company San Francisco." Why are you looking for a specifically Irish moving company?
Isaac: [Nervous laughter] Uh, this has nothing to do with—
Feinberg: This feels racist.
Isaac: This is NOT racist, nor is it a preference for a particular ethnic group as it relates to moving. I moved last year. Someone tweeted that they were looking for movers. I'd forgotten the name of these movers, but I knew it was Irish and that they did a good job. So I was like, “Hm, who were they? Irish moving company.” And then found it. That was all I remembered, that they were Irish.
Feinberg: So are you saying that the Irish as a people are more predisposed to manual labor as opposed to skilled labor?
Isaac: I respect the various range of abilities possessed by the Irish as a people. Nothing limits them—the world is their oyster.
Feinberg: That's good to know, thank you. Moving right along, we have "what grocers to buy" and then "what groceries to buy."
Isaac: I did not want to buy a grocer that operates a store. I mean, do you not ever wonder just, like, I don't know, what to buy at the grocery store?
Feinberg: Well, I look inwardly rather than externally for those answers.
Isaac: Look, I just think that if there's a solid list of "here are the staples that you need"—because I always get home, and I'm like, "Fuck, I forgot plums."
Feinberg: Well, it sounds like you know what you want. And that the problem is just that you aren't making a list of these items.
Isaac: I mean...whatever. You don’t get it.
Feinberg: All right, well, next we have a search for "Instagram under 18."
Isaac: Oh, Jesus.
Feinberg: I'm just going to let you elaborate as you see fit here.
Isaac: That is literally, they made an under 18—okay, that is a work thing where they made restrictions for people under 18. To be clear, I write about Facebook and Instagram for my job. I am completely—this is on the level in every way.
Feinberg: Alright, well, before that you also searched "formica sticky."
Isaac: Jesus christ. Okay, I have this vintage TV stand, but the top was replaced with formica. I got some crap on it and started trying to clean it with a paper towel, but then it got all sticky. So I was wondering, basically, is this a normal thing? LIke, I used Windex. Should I not have used Windex?
Feinberg: Right, because we have "how to clean formica" right before "formica sticky."
Isaac: Yeah! And I think I basically learned that you're supposed to use water. And not to use Windex.
Feinberg: One search I found particularly interesting was "what to ask authors in book interviews." Can you, a reporter, elaborate on that?
Isaac: I was doing a favor for a friend who had a book come out and asked if I could interview him.
Feinberg: And did you read the book?
Isaac: I—I did eventually, yes. At that point, I think I had to catch up really fast. And so I was trying to figure out some boilerplate questions to ask. But they were absolutely terrible, as questions go. They were just very dumb and bad suggestions. I would not recommend this search.
Feinberg: You also, at one point, just googled the word "dissonance."
Isaac: Oh, yeah, that was just another one where I was using it in a sentence. It's one of those things where you know the meaning, but also...do you? I just want to make sure I'm not embarrassing myself.
Feinberg: I respect your dedication to adulthood education.
Okay, so this is going back a bit; I forgot to ask about this one. You googled "central park karen," which is fine. But then you looked at a total of 18 different photos in the image search results of “central park Karen.”
Isaac: Huh, I think I was just trying to figure out what was going on...?
Feinberg: Through nearly identical photos with only the slightest variations?
Isaac: I think it was that she had a common name, and maybe there were a lot of photos of her, so I had to figure out which person it was?
Feinberg: I mean, they are all very clearly the same woman. It's basically 18 screenshots of her from the same video, just with her arm bent at slightly different angles.
Isaac: Uh, maybe I was just piecing together a reconstruction of her violent behavior. I honestly have no idea.
Feinberg: Oh, and one last thing: You just googled "press freedom." Twice.
Isaac: Well, you know, the press has gotta be free, baby.
Feinberg: A very inspiring note to end on. Thank you for your time.