Google Guide: Making Searching Even Easier  is a great online tutorial for getting below the surface of Google's deceptively simple search box. Although I knew Google didn't use proximity operators, I learned from this tutorial that Google does consider proximity.
Just as online classes require self-direction in the student, so does this tutorial that you can download as a 138 page PDF document for the princely sum of $1.99 (a great reason to set up a PayPal account if you haven't already). If you haven't been able to make Joe Barker's new workshop Extreme Googling  this is a great way to get inside Google's simple shell.
At the very least, make it your home page for searching as a new tip from the tutorial pops up every time you reload the page! Painless learning.