Sunday, August 17, 2008

Of Toads and Encylopedias

I remember back in the dark ages . . . when I was a kid. For my school research paper I had to, gasp!, actually go to the library and check out books to include as my references. Now don't get me wrong. I loved going to the library. But I got to thinking yesterday about what an amazing world we live in today, in 2008.

If our parents had a question about something they had to go look it up in an encyclopedia, and even then there was no guarantee of an answer. What do we do? Hop on over to Google or Wikipedia.

Case in point. Yesterday I had to remove two toads from my yard. My dogs have this fascination with the creatures, and since they can cause irritation to the mucous of a dog's mouth and throwing up if eaten, for everyone's sake (especially the toad) I have to keep my eyes peeled for the little buggers. If I can't see my dogs for more than two minutes, it's time to find out what they've found. Yesterday morning it was a toad. I faithfully picked the toad up and took him/her to the far edge of my yard, depositing it in the field adjoining. All is well.

Or so I thought. Late that night I find my doggies congregating around the same tree roots I'd found the toad nestled inside before. Yep. Another toad. Or was it? Had the same one come back already? Not knowing much about toads, what did I do? Pull out my Encylopaedia Britannica? Page through my World Book?

What, are you kidding? I pulled up a chair at my computer that's what. I typed into Google, "Do toads return to the same place?" Within seconds I was reading an article from a 1934 journal called "The Aquatic Migration of the Toad". Apparently they do indeed return to the same spots, sometimes even the same pond in which they were born to raise their young. Okay . . .

This isn't about toads. I am often amazed at how much information is available at our fingertips. If I have a question, in seconds I can have an answer. (I've recently discovered Yahoo Answers, too. Don't visit if you don't want to waste, er . . . "enjoy" an hour or two fooling around.)

Certainly not everything you find online is going to be accurate. But for a writer like me, tracking down one little piece of research has become so much easier.

I better go check my yard again for that toad . . .

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