The last few days in my land have been marked by brief, yet intense summer storms. The lightning that laced the orange sky was so frequent as the storm receded that both Mme. Ross and I tried to get pictures of them, but our efforts were met with very different levels of success. Mme. Ross has a consumer-grade DSLR camera to work with, while I have my iPhone, and I think that might have had something to do with the speed of her success. I held the camera still and snapped hundreds of photos as electricity zipped across the sky, calmly trying to track the explosions of ancient wars across the whole my view, only being able to catch a quarter of that view at a time and so hoping that I was not shooting a dark section while another was lighting up.
Lightning is quick. The whole thing occurs in the fraction of a second, so if you’re not close enough to be struck, then by the time you see it it’s already gone, and that’s the challenge in capturing it. As the arc is formed between the sky and ground, the air column in its path is transformed into a plasma — the electrons stripped from the oxygen molecules, making that column a conductor. The light of the arc begins travelling toward your eyes at the speed of light. The heat of the arc causes the air around it to explode thunderously. As the light travels in a wave toward the sensor of a camera, the options for capturing a pretty picture of a lightning strike come down to quick timing.
With fancy cameras it’s a very attainable thing but when you’re shooting with an iPhone you enter the realm of probability. Hundreds of shots, I think, are likely to yield at least one good photo. Because as I noted while going through those shots, deleting all the lookalikes as I went, when you’re too late you mostly come up with phantoms: large fields of diffusing purple light. Less frequently you get the arc in its full brilliance and it washes out the camera sensor because in all reality, it’s only an iPhone. Fancy phone, ho-hum camera (in the grand scheme of cameras, I mean.)
Like any wave, you have to time it just right.
In hundreds of shots, I got two hum-dingers. It was so worth it.
I keep trying to think of ways to spice up the routine here on Rob’s Surf Report, but then life interrupts me with dumb things like work and sleep. I made a photo post this past Sunday for the first time in forever, which was a refreshing change, but sometimes it seems like something more drastic could really get the juices flowing — like, what if I switched blogs with someone for a week?
This isn’t something real I’m doing, but consider the implications: a different blog is a different frame for the writing impulse. First of all, if you are a serious blogger posting to someone else’s blog, you’d be more likely to post regularly over the course of the week. You’d also be more likely to craft posts of a higher quality than usual. Is it a competitive streak that compels you to do so, or the wish to respect the other blogger’s space? Does that really matter? We are so often the first to let ourselves lapse. As unforgiving as we are to ourselves sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to giving up, or rationalizing inaction in our own lives; but to work in another blogger’s space then holds you responsible for what they find when they return, and so over the short term this could spark a renaissance in work ethic for a floundering blogger.
Of course, this is where Murphy’s Law can come into play. I could be that person that — with all good intentions — orchestrates a switcheroo, only to be forced by unforeseen circumstance to forego blogging for the duration of the week. Whoops! “No big deal,” they say. “Don’t worry though, I took good care of your blog for you. Great idea, by the way.” Only slightly better would it be to be that person who does the right thing, only to find that their counterpart has not blogged at all, for whatever reason. In that situation you get your money’s worth in a mental change-up, while your own blog languishes.
All that aside, though, who would I like to switch blogs with?
I’m not even sure where to start. To avoid a Freaky Friday of blogging, I’d want to pick something where I’m comfortable slipping into someone else’s shoes. JED’s Okay, What If? is worth a mention, since I have been trying to curate a list of topics for a while: stuff that I never get around to addressing, but that would make good What If fodder, like ‘what if an entire football team was body-snatched?’ or ‘what if an army of shoemaking elves decided to protest Footlocker?’
Now that they’re down on the page, I’m not so sure they’re all that great, but those are just two I threw down; so I think I could enter the What If arena if I only had the time. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself though, since last weekend was Easter and the last I knew, I am able to contribute to that site already. I should do that soon.
To avoid the risk of going overlong here, though, I’m just going to say that there’s already a certain element of the stage to one’s own blog, let alone to assuming control over someone else’s. That would involve getting into a different character, and then interpreting another’s work through your own work. Maybe I could trust myself to do that for another, maybe not. Maybe I could trust him or her to do a good job with my blog, or maybe I’d chew my nails the whole time. If I were given the option to switch blogs with someone for a week, I think I would do the right thing and decline, saying:
I linked to the Daily Post, since my post was inspired by the daily prompt. Unfortunately, it never appeared in their list of responses. I tried tweeting them, which never got me a response even though they appear to respond to others. Their recent redesign has taken comments out of the equation altogether, which means I can’t tell them in the comments that my pingback was somehow lost in the ether. What’s a guy to do? All night long I was checking the responses to see if my post had been added, but no dice.
There was no “saved by the bell” there, I’m afraid. Thank you Daily Post, for not allowing me to be part of the discussion. Whatever it is I have done to upset the gods of blogging, I am so very regretful; perhaps in their mercy, they will see fit to rewind time and find out how even after several tries of editing and reposting that post, it has not appeared in the response stream alongside those of my blog buddies and others. If I have somehow wronged or broken convention, I will try to amend my ways.
I understand that as far as “sticky situations” go, that’s a pretty tame complaint, but it represents a very real issue: can they hear us over at the Daily Post? What happened to the social aspect of the site? How are we supposed to communicate with them regarding the issue of faulty pingbacks? I’m willing to bet that my pingback was heuristically filtered into spam by the (usually) genius Akismet; that happens from time to time, but isn’t there someone over there monitoring the machine, or is it on fire-and-forget mode?
The good news (a.k.a. the short story) is that they’re going to have a developer look at it. I love this miracle of technology, the ability to find venues of communication that enable troubleshooting over the ponderous distances between disparate people on this planet. Now I see that there was no harm done on either side; just a letter lost in the post, I suppose.
Yay for feedback! But will my post ever make it in time for others to care? Or will it be the last one added to a heat-dead universe of ideas? Find out next time on . . .
Rob’s Surf Report!
No offense is meant against anyone who works for, or is affiliated with, the Daily Post; just help me out and I’ll get over it.
First: obsolescence is one thing, while extinction is another. I have two portable typewriters in my office, a light blue and white model from the 50’s or 60’s, and a black one from 1944.
I have other things too; I’m a casual collector of the retro useful, the forgotten flotsam of old ways in faded days. Some things are tchotchkes, like three pair of old brass binoculars — two of which were added to the lot when we found them in our new house. We have a three-foot stack of vinyl records and a record player. I like to save these things because they’re links to the past, and they have a retro appeal to my senses.
In point of fact, they inspire me with their very existence.
Rather than talk about technologies that are “extinct”, maybe it’s more useful to put them in the context of their function in our lives: to play music — surely a most ubiquitous function in the modern world — we use our phones; phones that supplanted digital music players, which competed with CDs, which squeezed out cassette tapes, which trumped 8-track cassettes, which had a short run alongside vinyl records, which are just an improved vehicle over Victrola and gramophone records, which came after cylinders, and before that . . . well heck, we just sang and played instruments. If anything out of that lineup is more or less extinct, it happened to be made in the 1940’s or earlier.
Here’s the point: when I try to think of technologies in my time that have gone the way of the dodo, I think of things like VHS and cassette tapes, boomboxes, landline telephones with corded handsets, pocket calculators, laserdiscs, minidiscs, microcassettes, 5 1/4-inch floppy disks, 3 1/2 inch floppies (which weren’t floppy on the outside, you might know), cathode ray tubes (CRTs), electric typewriters, pencils, et cetera. But the thing is, what’s to miss when nothing is gone?
Think about it: all of these technologies represent things we are still doing: watching videos and movies, listening to music, communicating by voice over distance, storing data, writing essays, making music . . . anything we could call “extinct” has merely had its functions migrated to something whose function is improved in some way. In the case of vinyl records, they’re not extinct at all, but live on as a niche product for professional DJs and audiophiles. In many cases, we have seen the consolidation of these functions onto single devices: computers and mobile phones, which really shouldn’t be called phones anymore. This is a good thing, yes?
Well . . . maybe what we miss about the old things are the memories and associations we have attached to them; we grew up with them and learned with them — made them our friends in a very real and tactile way. As we progress toward a more ethereal future, with software taking up much of the work for what has previously required something physical, something real — I think we miss the touch, the smells, the sounds, and even the familiar curves, colors, and colloquial styles of the golden oldies. That’s why I like to rescue and adopt old things: they speak to me, give me ideas and familiar feelings of comfort . . . like the lighthouse in the picture above, they guide me to a safe place; back to a time when nothing was all that pressing; when you hung out and nobody’s attention was stolen by a sounding or vibrating device; when you had dozens of telephone numbers memorized, and you could pick up the phone and dial someone without even thinking about which numbers to press; when you would sit down and write a letter by hand, put in in an envelope whose flap would stick firmly down, lick the stamp and stick it to the envelope and put it in a tall blue box (not that blue box!) for the mailman to pick up . . .
Basically, a time when doing something was still a matter of craft.
We used to be so crafty!
Putting all of these functions into a flat, rectangular chunk of matter that has just a few buttons pushes their importance into a grey area where even the very question of their existence becomes somewhat foggy. Hell, its an insult to call our old technologies extinct considering I can touch them and use them any time I want to. I refuse to call them extinct; I’ll rationalize them into something valid if I have to —
You know what I really miss? Peglegs and monacles. What the heck happened to those?
This is what my daughter said to me last night, a wondrous look on her face as she held up a part of a graham cracker for me to see. I had just gotten home and was sorting out the weekend’s receipts for entry into the ledger. The mere fact of the cracker’s existence is but a dust mote in the mind of an adult, but my daughter is approaching two years old and so it is hers; and she wants to show it to me and let me know it’s hers because she’s proud of it.
I don’t remember it, unless it’s in dreams, and then I wouldn’t even recognize it if it came up; but I know it may be the most impulsive thing I have ever done.
I’ve never asked anyone about it – the way it went down, the build up and the aftermath, the long moments in between where destiny hung in the balance. To be honest, I’m can only say that I know with certainty the identity of one other who was there with me; the rest are all either maybes or now lost to the wiles of time.
Although it was monumental, I probably have never, and can never appreciate enough that accomplishment, as common as it may seem; I have, however, always been proud and respectful enough to protect the fruit of this labor with as much of my will as possible, unlike some – some of whom have also been lost.
I don’t know if I was hanging upside down or not, but I do know that it was the most crazy, outrageously impulsive thing I’ve ever done; in response to several environmental factors previously unknown to me, possibly with the additional insult of being struck by another human being —