Friday, January 22, 2010

Be an instant expert, courtesy of the internet

Today a friend rang me up and said "come get some fish, I've just got back from the coast and have a chilly-bin full of schnapper".

Almost before he'd hung up, I was at his back doorstep, clutching a fist-full of plastic bags in which to carry off these tasty creatures.

With fresh fish costing over $50/kg in the supermarket, there's no way I was going to turn down the chance to get some for free -- but there was one problem. These weren't supermarket fillets, they were "real fish" -- with heads, tails, fins, skin and bones, albeit without their guts.

Now I'm not the least bit squeamish, my father taught me to gut fish when I was just a kid and I've never forgotten how to do it -- but I've never actually filleted one.

"Hmmm" I thought to myself, "how will I learn to fillet fish?"

Then it dawned on me, this is the 21st century and just about every thing you could ever want to know is available online -- so off to YouTube I went.

Within a few short minutes, I'd watched several "how to fillet..." videos and grasped the basics. Now we'll be having some rather nice boneless fish fillets for our Saturday night dinner.

How on earth would I have managed in pre-internet times?

I'd probably have had to trot off to the local library and find a book on the subject. Then I'd have to come home, read it and try out the lessons -- without getting my fishy fingers all over the pages. That's nowhere near as easy or effective as just watching a video.

When my wife had an accident a few months ago, I used YouTube to teach me how to cook some basic (but tasty and nutritious) meals. It was like having my own private cooking instructor right there at my fingertips.

Next week I have to change the cambelt in my aging Toyota ute -- or pay a mechanic a king's ransom to do the same.

So what did I do?

Simple, I jumped on the net and found a wealth of information that shows me exactly what's required, how long it will take and even includes videos of other people doing exactly what I'll have to. Again, in the pre-internet era I'd have had to fork out for a Haynes manual or some similar chunk of tree-flesh to guide me through the process.

So really, there's very little you can't learn by spending a bit of time behind a keyboard these days.

There are some places that even offer full degree courses through YouTube. These cover a huge range of disciplines including civil engineering, physics, chemistry, electronics and a raft of other subjects.

Just think about it -- if you're ever at a loss for something to do (if only!), you can now plonk yourself down in front of your computer and actually learn something new and interesting -- at no cost!

Although I do it often, I still marvel and chuckle with delight every time I use the Net to help learn a new skill or assimilate new knowledge.

While some may use it solely for online gaming, downloading ripped CDs/DVDs or searching for somewhat less savoury content, I think the smarter folks amongst us know that time spent learning from the material that's online is an investment which can pay huge dividends.

This is better than having the world's biggest library in your own living room.

Now that you've finished reading this, go hunt out some information or an educational video on a topic you've always had an interest in but never actually gotten around to studying. You might be surprised how quickly the time passes and how much you enjoy the process.

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