Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If you don't know what you're looking for, but are sure you'll know it when you see it

I was going through some of my Big Sur photos from 2003 for an upcoming post on Henry Miller when I came across this photo of a butterfly I shot on the path down to Partington Cove, which is directly below the ridge where Miller lived for nearly two decades in a shack perched 1,000 feet above the sea. The butterfly looked familiar. I thought it was a Painted Lady but wasn't sure. Better look it up. The question was, how? Somewhere we have a butterfly book, but I didn't know where it was, or whether it even included butterflies you might find in Big Sur. I turned to Google, but my searches were ineffectual -- other than quickly establishing that it was not a Painted lady. Not even close, really.

How do you search for something when you don’t even know how to ask the question? How are butterflies classified, anyhow? Should you search by geography? Color? Size? Eyespots? I was about give up when I thought of searching Google Images. Just type in "butterfly" and scroll through the pictures. It worked. A picture similar to this came up on the sixth screen, along with the caption Buckeye Butterfly.

Google Image -- the search tool for people who don't know what they're looking for, but are sure they'll know it when they see it.

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