||[Jul. 26th, 2010|03:50 pm]
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!