During discussions I often hear someone ask a question. For example, I was discussing how my friends and I would classify the women at the bar by what type of ship they would be. Yes, I know, I was rather mean in my youth. Anyway, the young guy in the shop said something along the lines of "What about the Titanic? How could they not see that iceberg?" I know the answer to that question. The third guy involved in the conversation looked at the young guy and said "Dude, don't open that can of worms." The third guy had suffered through a thirty minute lecture on the Olympic class ships. He knew how I was capable rambling on for almost any subject.
These conversations, after I'm done spewing things that the other people don't care to hear, I'm asked "How the hell do you know so much?" Simple. I read. A lot. Props to my kindergarten teacher and my family for teaching me to read. I acquired my basic literacy skills in the '70s. There was no internet, no Google, no cell phones. I had newspapers, National Geographic magazine and libraries. Whenever I wanted to learn something I would ask a teacher. If the teacher didn't have an answer I went to the library and searched the card catalog for a relevant book. I would then borrow a book, or two, and read it. Whatever sparked my curiosity. With the advent of the internet, and its seemingly endless resources (I love Google Books), I devoured everything I found. A large proportion of the information I take in will, most likely, never be used. It was simply answering a question that popped into my head. I once read a book that contained "crafting" types of things and one of the projects was about how to turn an old pair of jeans into a skirt. I'm never going to do that, but I'll be damned if I don't know how to do it. Mom taught me how to sew when I was a kid. On to a more relevant, and current, example.
I read an old, circa 1902, machine shop practices book a couple of years
ago. In it was a section about making a tool to resurface valve seats
(water valves) and I thought "Ha, ha. Who would need to do that these
days?" Well, when I took the stems out of the faucet for my basement
laundry sink, I found a slightly chowdered seat for the rubber seal. I
have an old house and my first thought was that I was going to have to
replace the damned thing. Then that book I had read popped into my
head. "I'll be goddamed..." Whipped up a tool on the lathe, resurfaced
the seats, reassembled with new seals and new gland packing. Good as
This past Christmas, at my Sister's, some music was playing over the TV and, while my Brother was skipping through channels, I heard one little snippet of the soundtrack from James Cameron's "Titanic." I asked the people in the living room if they were familiar with RMS Olympic. I received blank stares. That was enough to lead me into what became an hour and a half lecture on Titanic, Olympic, Britannic, Lusitania etc.
So there you have it. I read a lot of books. I also watch a lot of documentaries. There's no reason you can't do the same. I'm not particularly smart, I just retain a lot of information. Any time you wonder how something works I urge you to research that subject. Answer that question.