Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ghostwriting No. 18: Wiki Edit Me, Please

Everybody knows some stuff about a lot of stuff, and if they have had good and interesting education and experiences, they may know a lot of stuff about some stuff.

One of the reasons that I chose book dealing as a line of work is that I like to learn lots of stuff about lots of stuff. I don't claim to be an expert on anything not involving the purchase and sale of some types of used books, but I love simply by sitting at the counter and listening when people choose to share something about what they know. I can learn so much. Patrons here have taught me things as diverse as the discoveries of archaeology in Croatia, who/what Oulipo is, why pressboard is bad for the environment, what the fine print of the new health care reforms includes, and how to use a certain powder-based drink to clean stains on sinks and other ceramic objects.

And, less specifically, I think it is incredibly important for people to have conceptual outlines of major ideas and some specific information about a scattering of subjects. Not only does this permit people to understand political, social, and personal issues at home, at work, and in the news, but it also gives us a wide variety of perspectives - and a wide variety of problem-solving methods from which we can devise ways to solve new problems.

Knowing how, for example, an archaeologist documents layers of physical information might help one to figure out a means of documenting one of those insidious workplace problems that started too small to notice and got too big to ignore. Knowing the scientific method helps people to evaluate certain clumps of information, e.g., if people notice a trend of feeling icky after drinking milk, they can test a different fat percentage of milk for a week, and soy milk for a week, and repeat until they have a sense for what, specifically, makes them feel icky. If it does, they can stop consuming that, thereby improving their own lives without the need for medical diagnostic procedures.

The more ways you know to deal with information, the more informed your decisions can become. This is important for everybody, since we're all mostly making educated guesses most of our lives. It's also particularly important for people who need to adapt really quickly, like entrepreneurs, e.g., me.

So today, for various reasons, I'm thinking about all the stuff I don't know, and I'd like to ask those of you who drop by, email, or otherwise keep in touch with the store to share if you happen to know things from my current Checklist of Stuff to Research:

1. Um... this is embarrassing, but I'm not exactly clear about the current state of literary criticism. I'm still a little shaky in my understanding of postcolonialism and have no idea whether there are other, recent schools about which I should learn. Help!

2. I tried to read an article this morning about Chinese currency being undervalued. I didn't get it. Can someone explain this to me?

3. Zoroastrianism. What, who, where, when, and how's it going now?

4. Does anyone know what the 1/2" round-bodied, dark-colored spiders with pink and white legs are? I've seen three now and don't know what to make of them, but the cats keep eating them before I get a chance to look closely.

5. If I want a small electrical job done at my house - the installation of a new outlet in a room that doesn't have any - whom should I call?

6. My musical tastes don't really run to the Romantic, but I'm fond of solo piano concertos. Composers? Performers? How about solo violin?

7. What's your favorite free science podcast? I'm a devout listener to Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm and Mike Duncan's History of Rome but need more variety in my audible diet. A good, authoritative news podcast (not Amerigocentric please) would be helpful, too.

8. What is an "iPhone app," and is there any reason I should have one? (Hint: I don't own an iPhone and still don't know what a Droid is.)

9. What are the most important books in current analytic philosophy?

10. Any sign of a fourth wave of feminism yet? If not, what's up with the third wave these days? I failed to pay attention after a bunch of different sources tried to make Ally McBeal the third-wave poster person, so I'm pretty out of date now.

There's a start, anyway. Even posting a link to an authoritative website would help me start learning - can you help me out?

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