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Midland, Texas, United States
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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Doves + Food + Gravel

We put out leftover bread and tortilla chips, as well as bird seed--just pretty much anything grain-based--for the birds. It may not be the healthiest thing for them--the stale cookies, perhaps--but with a drought like this and as many birds as hang around, there's no way we could feed them all the bird seed they want. We'd be putting out a huge bag every day. It would require, like, a loan. Also a station wagon to go on Seed Buying Runs.

There's water for them in a  plastic box. OK, it's a cat litter box, all right? But cleaned! In fact, I don't think it was ever actually used as a cat litter box. It just holds more water but is still shallow: they like to get in and splash around. So we use this:

for the food. Actually, mostly we use the top of the water meter cover, but food falls down inside, and horrible nasty bugs (aka water bugs, aka roaches--aieeeee!) get in there and creep me out.

There were a TON of birds eating here the other day, and then there wasn't a speck of food left. But what's this?

I know it's something from the doves, but what? It looks like cat litter, but surely not. I've noticed it before where they eat, and I realized this is something I should know but don't.

So I googled "dove food gravel," and I discovered that doves have to have small bits of gravel (or large grains of sand) with their food. It's stored in their gizzards and used to grind seeds with hard shells.

Cool, huh?

I don't want to know why it's in the place they eat coz if they're throwing up gravel while they're eating, that's just way, way too nasty. So I just go "Lalalalalalala" and don't think about it.

So anyway, I found out what I was looking for, and now I know the answer. But I was thinking about how I did it--how I googled the words for what I wanted to know, went right to it, read it, and went away--nothing at all like how I used to find out stuff, where you'd get the encyclopedia and look up the shorter entry on doves, and it would lead you to the longer entry, and while you could skip to the section about food, you would usually look at the photos and then read something else and maybe get hooked into finding out about nesting behavior. Like, for instance, did you know that mourning doves are monogamous and mate for at least a nesting season? Or that both parents feed the newly-hatched young with "crop milk," which is secreted from the walls of the crop, in the throat, just in front of the breast bone? I didn't know any of that, and I could well have missed it today.

What I'm thinking is that this is a problem for us in the 21st century, when everything has become so narrow and specialized. We have no Renaissance People any more. There's so much information available about everything that no one can know it all, and it's so easy to zoom in and find out only that information you need without having to read--or even skim--everything else. You google something, and it gives you results related to your location and what's closest and what you've googled before. Everything is distilled for you before you ever even see it. Think specialty magazines and newspapers and newsletters--you get stuff tailored to you, but even then there's way, way more than you can keep up with.

I think we've lost opportunities to mosey through books, to wander through new information and follow enticing trails of ideas and random facts, to spend time finding out more about something just because we didn't know anything at all about it when we started. We've become a species of specialists, but specialists in what? Celebrity--quick: name someone from a current tv show! Someone who released an album in 2011! (No, I can't do either one. Sorry.) Popular culture--what's hip and current. Politics, maybe--at least the politics with which we agree. Gossip. Advertisements.

But who knows other stuff? Who's learning stuff they didn't know before? I mean, if you have an amazing memory, you may know a ton of stuff from when you were in school. That doesn't count. Sure, you know stuff; but you're not finding out about *new* stuff, and that's what I'm talking about here.

I want us all to learn new-to-us stuff. Random stuff. Useful stuff. Entertaining stuff. Here's a good place to start. I always buy these books--I wait and buy them used when they're cheap, so I'm while I'm behind on Learning New Stuff, I do read all the essays and am often enticed to find out more, either online or by ordering another (used, cheap) book.

Let's talk about this. Are you curious? Do you research stuff that interests you? How? And what do you do with what you find out? Does it inspire you to learn more, or do something with what you've learned? And--here's something I'd love to hear about: what's the coolest/most interesting/most amazing thing you've learned recently? Tell us about it, please! I, for one, would LOVE to hear everyone's stories~~

Thanks for coming to visit~~XO


Ellen said...

I'm not sure I follow you on this post. I find that I am learning more because of "googling." If I have a little time, I can learn a small amount of information on a subject and if I have more time, I can study more on that subject or a related subject. I can also get differing information (viewpoints) on a topic and then decide which I value/believe.
As for my new piece of information, I did not get it on the internet. I was talking to an orthopaedic doctor and he told me that a male's height is mostly determined by his mother's relatives. A female's height is determined by both the mother's and father's relatives. Interesting, eh?

Jeannie said...

I love to research. I thought the perfect job would be a research assistant for a group of scientist or professors with varied interests. I really am not a geek, but I love to solve problems, mysteries, etc. I used to like to go through the card catalogue at the library. I liked that I could see a summary of what the book was about and if it sounded interesting, check it out. Now, I will look on the internet, but as Ellen said, you may get differing opinions. The library is still my source for learning. I can see what books they have or can get on inter-library loan and make my list. Recently I learned about owls, how they can be heard over a mile away. Now, I am reading about Norwegian folktales. It was a clue on the crossword puzzle the other morning that prompted that diversion. I will always want to learn and read things other than what is found on the internet.

Kim G said...

LOL, I was the one who had trouble writing research papers in high school and college because I lost myself in the library and couldn't focus on the subject about which I was writing.. There were just so many other interesting things to read in the encyclopedia.. (Yes, I'm that old. We didn't have the Internet in college).

ChrisF said...

My problem with googling things (which I do all the time) is that on the internet the "one thing leads to another" is a very dangerous rabbit hole to fall down.

Ricë said...

My problem with the internet is that I don't trust the information there. Oh, some of it, sure. But much of it is just out there, with no way to check who put it there or whether or not they have a clue about what they've posted. Forums are the worst--I've read the most idiotic stuff on forums. About cats, for instance. Since I worked in that field for 6 years and have had cats since birth, I know stuff about them, and the stuff people post on forums, as if they know what they're talking about, is staggering. And makes me question everything else I read, too. Alas.

Dora said...

When I was in college as a nursing student, I used to get side-tracked while looking for information on one topic by finding other more interesting topics in the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL). Now it is online and you only get what you ask for and I think that students get short-changed.

I am also not impressed by the quality of some of the information on the internet. Some of it is so poor as to be dangerous some of it only humerous. However, there are times when I do appreciate being able to type in a request and get immediate satisfaction without having to drag out numerous texts or journals. I do miss the days when I could find more interesting things than that which I originally searched.

Steph said...

When I'm interested in something, I try to learn as much as I can about it... through books and through the internet... Both ways are good for me... And about trusting the internet I think the same goes with books... you have to cross check the info...and that is maybe something most people won't do because it's much more easier to rely on wikipedia and stuff like that...

Anonymous said...

Hi Rice,

Two interesting things I have come across lately are:

1.) A fascinating book called, "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge, M.D. about the neuroplasticity of the human brain. It shows how our brains are adaptable and not static, as was once believed.

2.) One of my favourite artists, Laurie Anderson and her new album, "Homeland" especially the piece, "Only An Expert". I love this woman; I love how she thinks and, especially, that she makes me THINK.

Thank you so much for your wonderful blog and your insightful "rants". You too have made me THINK about a lot of stuff.


Stories They Tell said...

When I was a kid, I used to read the dictionary--seriously!-- and when I was home sick from school I would gather several volumes at a time of my parents' Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia to read. Just random choice. So I've always been an information omnivore. My husband is like that too. Since we are historical reenactors, we devour all kinds of arcane subjects: teas from plants, how to grow linen in Vermont, building a clay bake oven, etc. Although I am a mixed media artist with an emphasis on polymer clay, my newest and favorite information has come from books/articles on paper cutting and ways to recycle old books. Don't know where this is going yet, artistically, but it's very intriguing!

Anonymous said...

You couldn't always trust what was in a book either. Misinformation about "the princes in the tower" or that "everyone thought the world was flat before Columbus" were pretty prevalent before the internet.
But there is still no single place where "everything" is. I find that reassuring.
Marilyn the (mostly former) Research Librarian

jinxxxygirl said...

You Rice when i first read your post i agreed with you wholeheartedly. But then i'm a big book reader. And i haven't crossed over to all things digital. Nothing like holding a good book in your hands. But as i read thru your comments and read the arguments i say it makes me think. The internet sure is alot easier. And i don't know if the info in books is anymore accurate than the internet. Sure i can pop in and get a quick answer but if i'm interested i can poke around and get more info.

Ricë said...

Don't get me wrong: I love the internet. I love finding info there and do it every day. I wouldn't have taken time to go to the library to look up doves + food + gravel (esp. since I'm boycotting the library and have been for almost a year now). I used to have a set of Encyclopedia Britannica--I was so proud of them, buying them brand new when we first got married. I grew up with Encyclopedia Americana because my mother figured Britain didn't have anything on the US--anyway: a Good Set of encyclopedia was a must-have. But then the internet came along, and it no longer made sense to try to keep up with new volumes of EB. Things were no longer valid--maps of the USSR, for instance. Sections on technology. So, yes, indeed, I love the internet. And I think you can learn a ton of stuff there; I just don't think most people do.

Maddie Can Fly said...

I miss the old card catalogs from the libraries. You could just open a drawer and start browsing through the cards and find titles or subjects of books that you didn't even know you were interested in until you saw it. Now you have to know exact title, author name, etc. -- boring.

Sharon Robb-Chism said...

I love the internet for gathering information, but always back up what I find, or go to many different sites to get a good overview of what I'm interested in. LOVE the library. It's like my second home. I'll just stroll down the shelves of books looking at titles. Never know what I'm going to find.

As for recent insights/discoveries...they have to do with dealing with horses, so I won't bore you. One was a training issue, and one was an outlook kind of thing. Both were very "slap my forehead and go 'Duh'" moments. :=D

But, over the last year especially, I've had those "Duh" moments with jewelry making and drawing...all accomplished via the internet, or a good book.

Carol said...

Oh my God! You too! I was so happy when two years after we got married (1992) we bought a brand new set of Britannica Encyclopedias. Anyway, I love to learn and research new things. After following Mary Ann's (Dispatch from LA) blog posts about her trip to San Cristobel de las Casas, Mexico, I've become fascinated with southern Mexico and the history of the area. I have spent a lifetime knowing hardly anything about Mexico except its location. I've googled it, and then not being satisfied, I've combed the library and today I order three used books from Amazon. One about Mayan history, one about Chiapas and lastly a novel(Song of the Hummingbird). I can see an obsession starting. I like the internet, but books are my primary learning source.

Michele said...

I don't think the information delivery system has changed basic human psychology. Those of us who used to (and occasionally still do) get sidetracked by random "interesting" stuff in the library will get sidetracked by odd links on the internet. The "other people" who wouldn't be convinced by the evidence before won't bother reading anything that contradicts their worldview.

Jukebox said...

One of the most interesting facts I had ever come across was part of a conversation on the radio in the 1980's. Some one had said that Native Americans did not invent or use the wheel until Europeans came over. With my recent obsession with googling, I was able to find lots of reasons and theories explaining this.
I use Wikipedia a lot, mostly for my amusement and curiosity. So I'm not worried about 'misinformation.' There are always references at the bottom of each entry if one would want to verify the truth or basis of their facts.

Enelya said...

This is such an interesting subject. I think there is a tendency to just zone in on one piece of info & then leave it at that. I know I'm guilty of it. At the same time, I can get totally hooked on researching & learning practical knowledge. Just recently I've been looking into soapnuts (aka soap berries) & their uses. I'm attempting to get as far away from the chemical laden products everyone uses nowadays & find healthier alternatives. Soapnuts seemed like a good place to start because, as the name suggests, you can use them as natural soap for all kinds of things. I currently have a handful spinning around with laundry in the washing machine & am boiling some in a saucepan to make liquid soap- pretty cool! And they're easy on the old purse strings ;).

I relied solely on the internet for this knowledge, but I looked at several different sites & checked many testimonials. I can now return that knowledge in some form by documenting what I've done at home & posting it for others to see.

I do believe there's a sort of lethargy in most people today when it comes to learning & skills. In a world where everything's done for you, many people are just content with going to work, coming home & sitting around watching TV. I find at my regular job I have very little common interest with my co-workers because all they ever talk about is celebs, gossip & TV (gah!). I don't even watch TV anymore.

There's very little interest in how things work, how stuff is made & developing a skill, or if there is it's only on a base level & no one wants to learn how to do something well themselves. Which is bizarre, because a lot of information is so much more easily accessible now via the internet. Even finding someone to teach you via classes/workshops is much easier.

I'm in the UK so this is just my opinion of how I find some (or a lot of) people here to be :). I'm sure there's loads of enthusiastic, knowledge craving & curious folks out there ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone

I'm posting this anonymously, because I'm going to talk about my day job, and, well, you know...

I've worked as a fact checker/researcher for a publication for over a decade now. When I first started, the internet was not allowed as a primary source. Now it is, but we pay close attention to where the info comes from. Wikipedia is not allowed as a primary source; it is a good place to start, but since anyone can post to it, and say what ever they want, we don't view it as reliable. We've found mistakes.

Encyclopedia Britannica is fact checked, edited, and copy edited. I think that makes it a pretty reliable source, although I'm sure there are mistakes there too.

That said, books can be just as rife with error as the internet, especially since they are usually not fact checked. The truth rests on the author, who, of course, never makes errors or mistakes. mmm hmm.

I am appalled at how little research writers do to back up their articles and their books. So I suggest that anytime you read something (especially about medicine!), better do some other research on your own. Familiarize yourself with websites that are reliable, and always find other voices. And if you are a writer, remember that you'll be a better writer with good research (Ricë, I am sure that you are a darn good researcher).

I love research, and can easily get lost for days in the library or online, and can go off on a tangent on just about any subject. If I had a life to live over again, I'd be a dramaturge, a career that I never heard about until recently, but seems like it would have been my cup of tea

Ricë said...

I'm loving this conversation! Thank you all SO much for chiming in. (My word verification (and, yeah, it sometimes makes even me do that--why, I have no idea, since it's random) is "flying.")

Anonymous, oh, HOW I'd love to hear stories. But I understand The Day Job. I hate research, but my degrees were in English, where you live and die by The Research Paper, so--sigh. In fact, hating to do those is the main reason I didn't go on for the PhD: I couldn't bear any more of them. But, yeah, it's pretty ingrained: it took me forever to quit feeling like I needed to have footnotes for everything.

Ricë said...

I love research for its own sake. It's the research papers that made no sense to me. Everything you could think of to write about Hamlet had already been written dozens of time before, so what was the point?

Holly W in TN said...

In my experience, intelligent people tend to be curious people - they just can't help it. Whether they choose the library, the internet, or any source - inquiring minds want to know. While following a trail this morning, I found something completely different, but fascinating nonetheless. See what YOU think -

Ricë said...

Oh, wow! That is AMAZING. I watched it and still have absolutely no idea how it works. Oh, sure: I got the part about the super-conductive material, about the layer of gold and the sapphire crystal and the liquid nitrogen. But that means nothing at all to me. What means something is: things we belief are impossible are not necessarily so. We don't need miracles; we need a better understanding of the possibilities of the natural world. More money for scientific research by people gifted on both sides of their brains--artists/scientists could come up with such marvels!

Laura Tringali Holmes said...

Birds fascinate me. It started with buying a "Squirrel Buster" feeder on an impulse and then monitoring who was bellying up to the bar. This prompted me to ID the birds, which got me Googling and learning about spread sheets, as I attempted to track my visitors. I added a nyger feeder and a few suet feeders--learned that woodpeckers like to feed upside down, but bully birds usually don't. Which led to further readings in library books and my habit of checking out the Nature Table first in my book-sale prowls. Just lately I was wondering about why there are so many birds at my feeders as soon as dawn breaks, but no woodpeckers. So I began to learn about that and now I know...which, well, makes me feel really good. The knowing, that is. And now I am looking at joining a party of bird-watchers to experience a crane migration....