Journalist | Educator


March 12, 2007 | The Sacramento Bee 

Me, myself and my google twin; Love 'em or be annoyed by 'em, someone -- likely many someones -- shares your name

By Lisa Heyamoto

Right now, Lynn Keane is out there somewhere, going about her business, being Lynn Keane.

Which Lynn Keane finds a little weird.

Even weirder, there are three or four Lynn Keanes walking around in their respective Lynn Keane worlds, living completely different lives from the Lynn Keane in question - the Lynn Keane who is a 42-year-old real estate investor from Gold River who, until recently, hadn't even considered the possibility of there being a band of rogue Lynn Keanes.

One of them, she knows, is in her 30s and lives on the East Coast. Another is a 50-something sports psychologist who puts on a benefit 10K every year. A third lives in Britain, but Keane doesn't know much about her.

How does she know any of this stuff at all? The same way any of us know anything these days -- she Googled it.

More accurately, she Googled herself -- performing that quiet act of vanity we all undertake when we think no one's looking, just to see where we rank in the World According to a Search Engine.

It's a very human impulse, says Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York and, he might add, one of three Robert Thompsons at Syracuse alone.

"There is this natural tendency that you want to know that you're part of the record," he says. "One Googles oneself for the same reason one gets up really early in the morning in subzero temperatures and stands in front of the window of the 'Today' show, so that someone might see you waving a sign (on TV)."

But what starts as an act of validation can sometimes end up being just the opposite.

Rebecca Roush Googled herself, expecting to be rewarded with a laundry list of her own accomplishments. Instead, she was introduced to some other Rebecca Roush, a limelight-stealing, attention-hogging, clearly overachieving Rebecca Roush who selfishly dominated the entries.

She had discovered her Google Twin -- that person who shares her name and her Google entry, and with whom she is saddled in the annals of Internet history like siblings forced to share a room.

"There is something offsetting about finding your Google Twin," the Davis resident says in an e-mail.
"It's like all of your attempts at individuality get swept away."

Most people will probably never meet their Google Twin. Some are only children. And some, like Thompson, have so many twins that it's not even worth it to care. Unless, of course, one of them is stealing your identity.

But those with an unusual but not-too-unusual name know all about their twins, and they develop odd little relationships with them whether their duplicates know it or not.

Sometimes, we've got nothing but love for them. Sacramentans Aleta Carpenter and Amy McAllaster, for example, feel a certain affinity for their digital döppelgangers because they share unusual names and spellings.

Sometimes, we wish they would keep their distance.

Karen Sandler, a 52-year-old novelist from Cameron Park, is slightly bitter at her Google Twin, who snapped up the preferable domain name and stuck her with a dreaded dot-net address.

And sometimes, we're downright resentful of these impostors who have stolen the glory that is rightfully ours.

"I started to get angry at my Google Twin," Roush says. "What right did she have to be more popular than me?"

No right at all, she ultimately decided, and began bombarding her own Web site with hits in an attempt to outrank a twin who, in her mind, had begun to qualify as evil.

OK, so now it's starting to feel a little like sibling rivalry. But, even stranger than the way we feel about our Google Twins is how much we sometimes have in common with them.

The Gold River Lynn Keane is a triathlete. So is the East Coast Lynn Keane and the sports psychologist Lynn Keane.

The Sacramento Jeff Byrd attended the same college at the same time as the Florida Jeff Byrd, and both have three sons the same age.

And the Mary Watanabe of Elk Grove, like the Mary Watanabe who works at Stanford University, is white but has a Japanese surname by marriage. And -- get this -- they both have red hair.

Whether these similarities are pure coincidence or the mysterious workings of fate is, of course, up for debate. But for his money, Thompson is going with the former.

Some people might be looking for a parallel, he says, or could even be distantly related to the person who shares their name.

But in the end, Google and the Internet have widened our concept of community and given us access to unprecedented information, enabling us to make connections that would never have been possible before.
"As humans, we may be (as individual as) snowflakes," Thompson says. "But an awful lot of us have the same name."

April 19, 2006 | The Sacramento Bee

The designer jean pool: Why can't premium denim be as durable as it is pricey?

By Lisa Heyamoto

Heartbreak comes in many forms, but losing a good pair of jeans? That's the stuff of true tragedy.

It starts with a torn belt loop or a tiny breach in the inseam. But pretty soon, you've blown out a knee or lost a crucial button. And before you've steeled yourself against that most lamentable of fashion fatalities, you find yourself face to face with the ultimate death knell of denim - the hole in the crotch.

Scarlet Boggs of Sacramento knew she'd lost her favorite pair of Lucky Brand Jeans when her husband asked her the kind of question that just might haunt a girl for life:

"My husband said, 'Babe, are you supposed to have a hole in (the) butt (of your jeans)?' " the 46-year-old recalls.

Anthony Kim suffered the indignity of his loss in the bathroom, of all places, when one of the buttons on the 26-year-old's 7 For All Mankind jeans popped off into the urinal, eliminating all hopes of retrieval.

And for 19-year-old Kristin Bogush, it was death by Swarovski, when the coveted crystals on the back pocket of her designer jeans began to fall off, one brand-name fleck at a time.

"They were really cute, so I was kind of bummed," Bogush says sadly. "I totally loved them."

It's hard to love and lose, especially when it comes to that bond between a proverbial Brooke Shields and her proverbial Calvins. But, there was something about these particular losses that hit Boggs, Kim and Bogush a little, ahem, below the belt.

Each pair of jeans had cost their owners close to $200. And they had owned them for less than two months.

Of course, jeans that cost that much are nothing new. The premium-denim market has been going strong for years, ever since the fashion-sense-endowed discovered the superior fit, the drool-worthy distressing and the hint of exclusivity that comes with whatever's scrawled across the back pocket. Jeans lovers had found paradise, and it cost $179, plus tailoring.

"If you just try it, you'll know why," says Lisa Watrous, manager of the Sacramento boutique Dara Denim. "It's kind of like diamonds. Once you get a diamond, you want another one."

And yet, for all its magical derriere-flattering properties, it would seem that the Achilles' heel of premium denim is that it sometimes lacks the one quality upon which jeans have staked their legacy - durability.

"For like, $160 ... I kind of figured they would at least outlast a pair of Levi's," says Kim of the pair that lasted him just one week.

It's true that denim has traveled a long way from its steer-ranglin' days. But, if we're still dealing with the same basic fabric and the same basic idea, why so many broken hearts and belt loops?

Retail and apparel industry analyst Jennifer Black is willing to take a guess.

"If they're too tight and they've got any distressed places on them, they're going to be ripping and falling apart," she says from her Lake Oswego, Ore., office.

Indeed, consider what went into creating a perfectly distressed pair sold at local boutique Barby K at 2312 K St. In order to secure their omigod-these-are-so-cute status, the three-digit jeans had to be dry-aged, cured, brushed, painted, exposed to natural sunlight and oxidized in a vacuum chamber.

"There's a huge process involved," says owner Barby Vasilj.

But the results, alas, are why we're in love. And if the tendency to fall apart is the dirty little secret of premium denim, we have one of their own: We'll keep buying it, anyway.

Niki Ortiz Levy, 29, bought her first pair of 7s three years ago after some serious misgivings. But she, like most folks who move over to the dark-wash side, was an instant convert.

"I don't feel right in any other pair of jeans," she says. "The fit (is great) and the denim is really soft. They already kind of feel broken in when you get them."

But, she acknowledges, that's probably why they required nine patches over the course of two years. And probably why, despite being so consistently burned, she wants another pair.

Both Boggs and Kim went right back out and purchased the same jeans after their first pair failed them. And neither were surprised when version 2.0 went out the same way.

"It's so hard for me to get a pair of jeans that fit," says the 6-foot-2 Boggs. "(So) when I find something that fits, I will buy it (no matter what)."

But maybe, she says, she'll get a less-distressed pair next time.

Vasilj of Barby K offers a few other pointers when it comes to getting that longer-lasting pair. She suggests looking for a certain amount of stretch in the fabric, making sure you can move comfortably, and then taking special care of them when you get them home. Which, yes, means washing them sparingly and eschewing the dryer.

Bottom line, she says, if you buy jeans with that perfect little hole in the thigh, you need to remember that the hole is probably going to get bigger.

"They're cotton at the end of the day," she says. "No matter how much money you pay, jeans are meant to distress in some form or another."

But before you despair the inevitability of sending your favorite pair of jeans out to a nice family with a farm, consider this: A company called Denim Therapy feels your pain.

Francine Rabinovich started the New York-based company with a partner after a nasty tear in her favorite pair of AG jeans had rendered them unwearable.

For $7 an inch, Denim Therapy will undo damage by actually weaving new fibers into the fabric. The result is more like a scar than a patch, Rabinovich says, and customers are hailing it as a second life for their deathbed denim.

"Everyone is, like, 'It's so amazing, I can have my pair of jeans again,' " she says.

A good option, perhaps, for Ortiz Levy, who keeps her ruined 7s in the back of her closet because she just can't bear the thought of parting with them for good.

And really, jeans, it would seem, don't actually die. They just fade away.