Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Pam Burke 

Rifling through the pages of the Internet


"I read the dictionary once. I thought it was a poem about everything." — Steven Wright, comedian.

When my parents retired early, sold off most of their stuff and went on the road in their fifth-wheel trailer and pickup, I said fine, good riddance, but I want my inheritance now: The 6-inch thick tome of a dictionary that they'd had since I was a toddler.

I have loved that book since my earliest memories. When I was too young to read, but asking my dad what words meant, he'd sit down with me and the dictionary to look them up. Of course, he knew what the words meant already — it's not like 4-year-old me was asking what a pantisocracy is — but it was time well-spent to train me to look things up on my own later. Smart man.

Because I soon added "how do you spell [insert word of choice here]?" to "what's this [word of interest] mean?" as a favored question. I got really good at using dictionaries.

My dad would've killed or died to have the Internet when I was a child. He very well might've given up his favorite pastime: beer-and-softball league, to keep me supplied with ready Internet access to Google — that magical search engine that empowers the inquiring mind.

Any given week, I'm likely to search topics as varied as the year the space shuttle Challenger exploded (1986) to prostitution laws in Spain (totally legal).

Among the varied things I needed to know this week are:

1. Darius Rucker. Who doesn't want to know more?

2. What is the name of the paving machine in the movie "Cars"? Bessie, and according to the movie maker's website, http://pixar.wikia.com, the name is derived from the initials of the machine's title: Basic Service Equipment — BSE. Now you, too, can be popular with nerdiest youngsters.

3. Rorschach tests. You know those odd, squiggly images that psychiatrists in the movies hold up for patients and ask: "What do you see?" Don't ask.

4. What do box elder bugs eat? Despite the fact that the bugs seem to live off the passive solar heat radiating from the south-facing surfaces of your home (and thrive off the thrill of startling you when they whir into your face), box elder bugs live off the sap from the bark, leaves and seeds of the box elder tree. Sometimes they will slum it with silver leaf maples and a few other varieties of leaf trees. They do not harm the trees so, awesome, they'll be able to come back to feed again the following year.

5. Octogenarian. Not that I needed to know what an octogenarian is (a person in his or her 80s); I wanted to know what similar term was used for people in their 90s, but didn't know what terminology to use to ask about that. Searching octogenarian was a shot in the dark that paid off with a list of terms for people in all the age-brackets.

Ninety-year-olds? Nonagenarians. I never would've guessed. My grandpa and my great aunt are nonagenarians — and for their sake, I wish the word sounded cooler.

Other highlights: People in their 50s are quinquagenarians, which sounds either Chinese or space alien, but I'm going with alien.

People in their 60s are sexagenarians, which sounds awesome, just, y'know, keep it in the bedroom.

And, going along with my sentiment that children are not full-fledged humans, "people" under 10 don't have a -narian designation, but as a pay-off for turning 110 and older, they become supercentenarians which should earn them a billowing cape and a full-color, superhero graphic novel memoir of their life.

Want to know how much an adult blue whale weighs? How to make a tricorn hat? Where to find the public library in any city? What kind of fungus growth is caused by fumes from whiskey kegs? Go ask the Internet gods.

(I searched the Internet once, and I thought it was a portal to everything at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)


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