Playing Detective

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Did you ever play detective as a kid? I grew up playing/watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and reading Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown books, which admittedly were a bit before my time, but were some of the best reading material around, in my opinion. Doesn't everyone fancy themselves a gumshoe?

Once upon a time, my dad and I played actual detectives. I was probably 11 or so at the time, and
we were out walking during the winter and somehow found a Wisconsin Heights High School class ring near our house in a snowbank. There were initials engraved into it, so we pulled out the neighborhood telephone directory, did a little bit of sleuthing at the library and online via AOL (told ya this was a long time ago), and my dad talked to a coworker of his who attended that school. The accounts may slightly vary depending on who you ask, but the long and the short of the story is that we finally reunited the woman, a complete stranger, with her class ring. Does it ever feel great to solve a mystery!

As professional stenographers, we often get to play detective. We do our best to ask for all spellings at the end because we've diligently hit our mark stroke/button as we hear a name or place or unfamiliar term we're questioning, you know, whether it's Steven or Stephen, Kris or Chris. (We are using the mark button, aren't we? I digress.) Despite our best efforts, though, some names, places, and titles slip by our notice, and we end up having to search online to find out what we need to know. The things only court reporters care about, huh?

As a freelance court reporter, I have learned the most random things about all kinds of subjects, including about running a dairy farm, how printing press/binder machines work, and all sorts of accounting tidbits, etc. I'm always hearing new words and looking up terms like chisel plow, haylage, silage, flow-through entity, myofascial pain and the like. I guess this makes me a jack of all trades and a master of one!

Here are a couple go-to resources besides Google that I use for finding out what I need to know.

OneLook an awesome multidictionary search. I usually go with the Merriam-Webster spelling/hyphenation if it's available, but beggars can't be choosy. Check out the search tips on the landing page. You can associate a partial spelling with a synonym and do other special searches.

WhitePages not as effective as I'm sure it once was, as most people only have a cell phone nowadays, but you'd be surprised how many people still have land lines. It's solved many a mystery for me.

Facebook surprised this made the list? Don't be. This is where people who only have cell phones congregate. Facebook has found me lots of names where WhitePages has failed.

people.yahoo.com another pretty good people finder, and I think it does some public records/Internet search

And last but definitely not least, you can pose a question or volunteer an answer on Lend Me Your Ears forum on depoman for all your stubborn technical terms.

There's tons more, and it'd be redundant to list 'em all, but this should get you steno sleuths started.