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pozorvlak

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Don't wonder [Jul. 26th, 2010|03:50 pm]
pozorvlak
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You know when you idly think "I wonder..."?

Cut that out! You don't need to do that any more. Thanks to the Internet, search engines and Wikipedia, we now have instant access to a huge fraction of the world's knowledge; the chances are good that the answer to your question is both known and easily found out. So don't wonder, look it up.

As an inveterate idle wonderer, I've been trying to cultivate the JFLIU habit¹. I've learned that there's an important side-benefit: when you look something up, you almost always learn something else that's important or interesting or just cool. For instance, today I was wondering about the geographic range of the stinging nettle, having recently had to teach some visiting Americans how to identify it and treat the stings. It turns out that yes, the stinging nettle is found in North America (in fact, that it's found in every Canadian province and American state), but that it's much rarer than it is here in northern Europe; more interestingly, though, it turns out that people use nettles to make textiles, and that the sites of crofts destroyed in the Highland Clearances can be found even today by the nettles that grow on them (nettles preferring disturbed, phosphate-heavy ground). Best of all, I learned about the wonderfully-named ongaonga, also known as the New Zealand Tree Nettle, whose sting can kill horses (and humans).

You'd be right in pointing out that that's trivia (unless you're hiking in New Zealand...), but (a) knowing trivia makes me happy, (b) every so often you learn something that's not trivial; possibly something that makes a major difference to how you view the world.

And it's for this reason that I'm trying to teach myself not to wonder.

¹ Simple example: just then, I thought "am I using the word 'inveterate' correctly? I wonder..." and a quick Google for "define:inveterate" convinced me that I was. No chance of making a fool of myself in public. Hurrah!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: totherme
2010-07-26 04:23 pm (UTC)
I've been playing with another search engine which I find suits my "looking things up" habits a bit better than google.
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[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2010-07-26 05:08 pm (UTC)
I tried out duckduckgo a couple of times, liked it, and then drifted back to using the search engine provided by my browser's taskbar: namely, Google. I should fix that.
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[User Picture]From: necaris
2010-07-26 05:47 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thanks for the reminder. I've added to my Firefox taskbar :-)
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[User Picture]From: totherme
2010-07-26 06:12 pm (UTC)
There should be a link at the bottom of your duckgo page which says "use duck duck go with $BROWSER" where the browser id has been pulled from your HTTP request. Click it, and it should sort you out.
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[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2010-07-26 06:17 pm (UTC)
Sweet! That was easy.
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[User Picture]From: roseofoulesfame
2010-07-26 05:03 pm (UTC)
My dad always used to tell us he had no spine.
It was only later we realised he was an invertebrate liar : P
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[User Picture]From: pozorvlak
2010-07-26 05:08 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't he be a vertebrate liar in that case? :-)
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[User Picture]From: picklgrem
2010-07-26 05:10 pm (UTC)
I spent today looking up bumble bee species. Now I know how to identify them on the lavender.

All I need now is a good plant identification key thing to satisfy my "what is that yellow/blue/red flower" requirement.
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