Writing Right with Dmitri: Despise Not the Day of Small Things
That title's from the Bible, you know. And we can learn a lot from it. The other day, I was talking to my brother-in-law about something, and I said, 'Have you seen that Youtube video about…?'
'No,' he replied. 'I have better things to do with my time than look through Youtube videos.' I agreed that there were many better things to do in life than get lost in everybody's favourite time waster. But Youtube's a good repository of information, if you know how to use it, and the video in question was one I'd found elsewhere while researching the topic in question. Despise not the day of small things. The work I do requires me to noodle around the internet all day, trying to use it for its intended purpose, which is to be the world's library. And I find surprising things, some of them even in Youtube videos.
Right now, I'm near the end of a day of doing research on this and that. On the way, I've discovered the following possibly irrelevant but nontheless intriguing facts:
- DNA research has been found to be useful in filling out historical details. For example, DNA research has turned up some interesting data about the gene pools in England and Wales. Judging by Y chromosomes, Celtic males in England didn't contribute much to the gene pool after the 7th Century. This looks suspiciously like the Anglo Saxons got all the girls. Hm… On the other hand, some other researchers are claiming this proves that Anglo Saxon is a much older language than previously supposed…and they might have been there before the Romans…hey, this is fun…and it would put a kink in Grimm's Law…
- Atlantic correspondent James Fallows has 5% Neanderthal genes. He claims his wife looks at him differently now that they've found this out.
- From Fallows, I also learned more about the origin of the pre-World War II 'announcer accent' so ubiquitous in US newsreels.
- Some remote-controlled-plane hobbyists apparently have a pet squirrel who's a real ham. Check him (her?) out.
- World War III almost broke out in 1979 due to a computer glitch.
- The Gough Map, a medieval map of Britain, is available online, searchable. Find your town. Or demand an update.
- The Thuggee were the world's most successful terrorist organisation, being possibly responsible for as many as two million deaths over 600 years. The man who broke up this weird murder cult was an Englishman who, among other things, discovered a dinosaur fossil in India and studied feral children.
Now, all this is small potatoes on a research day. I frequently range much farther, and collect more data. But it gives you an idea. If these potentially useless but tantalising titbits could come my way on a sleepy afternoon, what other treasures might the internet hold? No, you don't want to spend your life trolling Youtube. You need to have a bit more discipline than that. But you never know when some of these facts might come in handy, whether you're writing a report or making up a Post quiz. Or looking for a sourceyou’re your next imaginative story.
So, yeah, like that. Despise not the day of small things. Go looking in the archives. What can you find out about:
- Ancient road systems?
- The connection between lactase persistence and the history of Europe?
- The influence of Neopaganism in modern Lithuania?
- The question of whether Doggerland constitutes a little lost Atlantis in the Channel?
- Anything else your fancy can dream up?
You know what they say: a mind is a terrible thing to waste. So are itchy google fingers.
Have fun, and if you find any juicy titbits, please share! Except for cat videos. Keep those to yourselves. That's carrying coals to Newcastle, that is. Now, I wonder about that expression…try looking up 'owls to Athens'…