Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Need To Know Basis!

I've posted before about my father and the veritable gold mine that was his brain. He was the go to man for any sort of information, however obscure, and if he didn't know it, he knew where to find it.

My approach to life used to be somewhat different. I was always in favor of tests in school being open book, mostly because LIFE is open book, and not everyone can memorize things as well as others. I've managed to get by and indeed grow a whole career now, based on the knowledge that something is possible, I just had to figure it out.

Let me elaborate upon that... I am an I.T. guy, or a computer geek, if you will. I get computers and software to do things for people who need to produce something. Fulfilling this role does not require that I be intimate with every piece of software that I support. It only requires that I know what the users should be able to do. For instance, I know that graphic designers need to be able to create things like advertisements, so I know they're going to need an array of fonts to choose from.

I know enough about how it works that I can generally figure that somewhere in the options, or preferences, or some other area in the software, I can load fonts. For me, (sometimes...) a general idea is enough to get the job done. This is OK for someone who is going to help you download your email. This is not OK for someone who is going to remove your tumors, or put someone on the moon... but I don't plan to do either of those things.

Still though, I apparently have enough of my father in me that I tend to absorb information about things that interest me, and lots of times the information that sticks isn't what would be traditionally called "useful"... The sort of stuff that sometimes comes up in conversation, and when you share your thoughts, everyone has learned something, but no one really knows what to do with it, so everyone just says "Oh!" or "Huh, how bout that!" and nods, followed by a brief and awkward silence...

For instance... Did you know that hot air actually does NOT rise... Cold air falls, displacing the hot air. Because the cold air comes down, the hot air has nowhere else to go but up. It doesn't rise, it's pushed up.

Or did you know that cold is the absence of heat... There is never a presence of cold...Things do not grow cold, they simply continue to lose heat. You do not absorb cold from a block of ice, the block of ice absorbs heat from you.

And now you're going "Huh, how bout that!" with your eyebrows raised and the corners of your mouth stretching down toward your chin.

Occasionally, I come up with a fact that actually is useful, but instead of regarding me with looks of impressed reverence, I get a lot of "Why the hell do you even know that?!". Well excuse me for being informed!

It's one thing to not expect someone to know something... it's quite another to expect someone to not know something, and worse still to ridicule them when they do!

The fact that the Internet is bursting at the seams with information has really made information far less of a commodity, I think. I have witnessed first hand a company hiring someone based on the results of a test, in which the employee was to look at a drawing, and reproduce it. The job did not go to the person who drew a similar drawing the fastest. The job went to the person who happened to notice that along the bottom of the diagram was the network path to the drawing file. Right at the bottom it said something like F:\Jobs\Blocks\Boiler.dwg. The kid followed the path, opened the drawing, and said he was done. Boom: new hire.

It seems like people these days are in many ways encouraged to cut corners like that. Yes, it's faster. Yes it's more productive, but what happens when the infrastructure has a flaw, when someone mis-labels a drawing file, and this whizkid is forced back to the basics he was so flagrantly disregarding, and was IN FACT HIRED FOR, but based on the fact that he could circumvent their use...?

Perhaps the fact that I'm still in my very early 30s doesn't entitle me to store these tidbits of information in my head? I could borrow them if I needed to write a paper, or apply them to a situation, but I'm supposed to let them fade from my consciousness because I know I could always just retrieve them from Wikipedia again some other time?

If that's the case, I humbly apologize for accidentally bringing your ignorance to bare. My bad. What age will I be able to stop pretending to be vapid and devoid of thought?

...Sheesh! Now I sound bitter.

Have you ever been looked at sideways for knowing an answer, or being right? Have you ever gotten that "Oh, good, here comes this guy with all the answers" look, and just wanted to poke them in the eye? Ever just wanted to shout "If you don't want the answer, don't ask the question!"

Do you feel that people are being let off to easily these days without actually having to know what they should know?