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Monday, February 6, 2012

Plethora of Useless Information

Does reading make you geek? 
There are those who read for pleasure and those who don't, very rarely does a person pick up a book and descend down the path of becoming an avid reader by per chance.  I have seen the non-reader get coerced into reading the occasional book and then start reading the other books in a series, or following books by that author.  Most generally we develop a love affair with books doing our school years and it just gets worse as we mature and our minds expand to question or seek other areas to explore.
Reading has taught me more things than all my years of schooling combined.  I would dare say I have learned as much from reading as life has taught me through hard knocks.  Only life teaches us useful common sense stuff we need to survive, to keep our jobs, and hopefully how to hang on to our relationships with others of our species.  Books teach you vital stuff along with a plethora of useless information you may never use again in life.  My wife accuses me of having such a storehouse of information and counts on it to help us win different social games in which seemingly random questions and statistics about people and events moves you forward in the game.
For those that follow along with my blog posts you already know I have a deficiency in music knowledge spanning over twenty years, during which time encompassed the British Invasion, Classic Rock bands, everything from the early seventies, Disco, and into the early eighties.  That coupled with absolutely no interest in sport statistics of any kind from any era.  Leaves a pretty big hole for most questions asked of these types of games.  So consequently in spite of this store house of useless facts and trivia from the dawn of time to date we still lose these games more so than most couples.
I learned at a young age to love books and appreciate them as store houses of information, awesome escapes from reality, and tales of history since before the time people recorded stuff in books.  I primarily read for enjoyment but love to read inspirational, motivational books, love history and non-fiction informational stuff to learn how or about subjects to satisfy my endless curiosity.  As I think back on all the stuff I have learned from reading books it dawns on me that I have done more reading and research for things I want to write.  Probably most of my useless knowledge was gained in researching ideas for stories or blog posts I was preparing to write. 
Many times my story ideas start with ideas and have more to do with the subject matter, piece of equipment, or the things the characters will be dealing with than it does with the characters themselves.  As I am still new at writing novels I know I want to work at defining more dimensional and multi-faceted characters as I work on developing my skills as a writer.  The initial ideas for stories come from the news, life experience, or thoughts about aspects of stuff I have read.  The ideas cause questions and finding the answers to the questions lends to hypothetical situations in which somebody would have to know this or that, or use this knowledge in this way in order to accomplish something else.  If the trail of thought is crazy enough, intricate enough, or starts spiraling out of control into many different facets then I might have a decent story idea.  I find the research insightful and fun as it feeds my brain new stuff to make connections with the pile of useless stuff I have already collected.  I sometimes find the research as much fun as crafting the elements of the story.
As you research things you would like to think that it answers all your questions and makes things clearer, but more often than not it muddies up the water and leaves you with more questions.  The more you seem to learn the more you realize you don't know.  Not knowing something is being ignorant of it.  Ignorance is different than stupidity.  You can learn about what you don't know, whereas you can't really fix stupid!
I will end this post with a piece of worthless information you won't find on any game card!
In the old days of ships with sails if they used cannons for protection or other not so nice means, it was important to keep the implements needed to fire the cannon close to the gun or guns.  This would include the implements used to load the gun, to swab the barrel and make sure there are no burning embers in the gun before you rammed a package of gun powder down the barrel.  You would obviously need gun powder and cannon balls.  In books you see pictures of the cannon balls stacked on the deck with three or four on the bottom and one sitting on top of the three or four. 
What kept the bottom cannon balls from rolling around the deck?
A Brass Monkey!  A brass monkey was the brass ring that would be tacked to the wooden deck of the ship to corral the bottom cannon balls and keep them in place while the ship rolled through the sea.  As metal gets cold it shrinks.  If it gets cold enough these brass rings would shrink enough to allow the cannon balls to come out over the top of ring.  Hence sailors had an expression, "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."
I wouldn't use that in church or anywhere you don't have time to explain it!  I also don't technically know at what temperature is cold enough to freeze the balls off of a Brass Monkey.
In the immortal words of Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers, "Whatta want for nuttin!"
Keep reading, Keep writing, and may God bless you!

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