|When I was a child, long before the game Trivial Pursuit was invented, my father prided himself on knowing thousands of tidbits of information on a wide variety of subjects. He was extremely intelligent, naturally curious and ready to be amazed by the things that surrounded him. He used to say, "My head is filled with useless information," and then proceed to teach us kids something fascinating.
No matter how long we live, we keep learning – at least, one would hope that's true. It may be intentional (taking courses or reading up on subjects of interest), or it may be that by walking through life with your eyes open, learning simply happens. I’m sure of one thing: Your hard drive is never full.
I thought about this recently when I looked back over the unexpected education I've been getting since I started writing professionally. Working on Web site and brochure copy for clients in a variety of fields, I've learned:
• California's highways are often constructed out of crushed concrete that used to be old highways, bridges and airport runways.
• Human scent is as individual as DNA, and it can be used in criminal cases as evidence.
• The spectacular movie explosions we watch on screen are created by the same devices that are used by the military and police for training exercises.
• Alpacas are the smallest members of the camel family, and they have a temperament somewhat like a domestic cat – curious, intelligent, sometimes loving, sometimes aloof.
• Coffee beans were discovered by accident when an Ethiopian goat herder noticed that his flock was strangely stimulated after nibbling on the fruit of a nearby bush.
• When it became the rage in Europe, coffee fell under harsh criticism by some officials of the Catholic Church, until it was learned that the Pope himself was a coffee drinker.
I'm sure many writers will tell you the same thing: Every project provides us with an education. Do you need to know this stuff? Hardly. Will there be a test? Nope. Is it fun? You bet.