Always learning

All my life I have taken a delight in learning stuff. I do not mean that I particularly like many hours of intensive study – learning does not need to be that hard. To learn, you just need to be inquisitive and not shy about asking questions. How does that work? Why is that like it is? Sometimes finding answers can be challenging, but that can be part of the fun. Other learning just happens …

When I was a kid, I was always asking questions. I became good friends with my science teacher at school, who would patiently chat for hours after the end of the school day, when I would hang around to interrogate him. I wrote a while ago about my Dad. I used to ask him endless questions. When I was little, he knew all the answers and I assumed that he just knew everything. At some point [I realized years later], I started asking about things outside of his areas of knowledge. He responded in two ways. Often, he would make up plausible and [to him] humorous answers. And he bought a big set of encyclopedias, which got many years of heavy use and started my habit of following themes and cross references that I still use to this day. [Of course 30+ tabs open in a browser is nothing …]

I have always been a reader and normally have at least one book on the go. Nowadays I endeavor to alternate between non-fiction [I am reading a biography of Bill Gates right now] and fiction. When I read fiction, I still hope to learn stuff, so I am fussy about the integrity of the author. There is one, very popular thriller write [whom I will not name], who commonly uses technical things in his books that are completely impossible according to the laws of physics; I do not expect to learn from him. In another author’s very well thought-of book, which is set in World War 2, a character hears a radio broadcast from Pakistan [a country that did not exist until 1947] and a soldier is using a ball point pen, which were not on the market until well after the war. Care is needed.

My wife and I recently started a fun project called “What did I learn today?”. The idea is that we simply make a note of something we have learned each day – no matter how trivial or profound. On a Sunday evening we compare the week’s “catch”. Here are some examples of mine:

  • It costs an extra £1 to get a letter/package signed for.
  • A corniche is a road in the side of a cliff, particularly on the coast.
  • Football teams in some towns have religious affiliations. [I mean soccer in the UK, of course.]
  • The wife of a friend of ours was an undercover cop who posed as a prostitute at Kings Cross. [A station in London notorious for such “trade”.]
  • Today is the international day to end violence against women. [Monday 25 Nov – sad that there is such a thing]
  • “Immolation” means “kill or offer as sacrifice, especially by fire”.
  • There are moves to ban personal ownership of fireworks in Germany.
  • The word “software” was not coined until 1958.
  • Early color movies used 3 separate films for yellow, magenta and cyan.
  • Bill Gates has three sisters; the youngest is called Libby. [This is my wife’s name.]
  • Our cleaners are sisters and one of them lived in the US for many years.
  • Bill Gates’ headmaster was called Dexter Strong. [What a cool name! We have a grandson called Dexter.]

I dread the day when I conclude that I have learned nothing new. But I cannot see that happening any time soon …

Feel free to comment about anything that you learned today!

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