Tis the Season for Googling Product Reviews

Monday, November 30, 2009

As evidence that we have entered the season of buying things, BlogPatrol tells me that over the last week, of the 20 visitors who found my site through a Google search, 15 were looking for some variation on “Canon PowerShot SD1200.”

I wrote my product review in June, five days and 300 pictures into owning my SD1200, so perhaps it is time for an update.

I’ve lost count of how many pictures I’ve taken over these six months, but I continue to enjoy this camera and have grown to trust it. (My G3 used to accidentally power-on while riding in my zippered waist pack. This on-button avoids that problem.) The small size means I am comfortable carrying it almost any time I leave the house. That, in turn, means I have it with me almost any time some image catches my fancy, for example, this ground fog I spotted on my way to work one morning.

After 30 years of using film, I continue to marvel at a digital camera’s ability to capture low light or overly bright situations (or the two existing in the same frame), and at the ever-more-compact memory cards (the tiny unit in the SD 1200 carries more than the five larger cards I carried through China, in 2004, for my G3, and multiple times more than the 40 roles of film I carried through Europe, in 2000). Maybe these things color my conclusions. Maybe some jaded techie who never shot on film or lugged around a bulky SLR can find something to complain about on this mighty-mite camera, but I can’t.

Lance, Forty-three Years Later

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On September 16th, I mentioned it would have been my cousin Lance’s 60th birthday, had he not drowned when we were both 17. I quoted a haiku I wrote the day after his death, and promised a post once I had taken some time to ponder the matter.

Like linked syllables
from the same word—now parted—
all my meanings change.

After two months of thinking on the subject, I’ve concluded that my thoughts haven’t fluctuated much over these 43 years. I’ve only gained the supporting details to confirm my immediate impression. When Lance died, indeed, all my meanings changed.

I’m guessing this family picture dates between Thanksgiving, 1962, and Easter, 1963. About then, my aunt and uncle returned from two years in the Congo and began inviting African foreign students to our family get-togethers. Lance would already be 12, and I turned 12 between the two holidays. I was in 7th grade.

Until age four, Lance and I lived in houses next door to each other. Until age ten, our large extended family got together monthly at Grandma’s house, or at my aunt’s. We also shared
an avocado orchard near Fallbrook, a cabin at Mt. Baldy village, and an annual week-long camping trip to Kings Canyon. We spent a lot of time together.

It’s not surprising that we’re posed next to each other. Until 7th grade, when I fell in with a group of boys at school, Lance was my closest friend.

In the picture, it looks like I might have had three inches on Lance, but the athletic prowess was all his. When the cousins played football in the park beside Grandma’s house, I got pushed aside by rushers while Lance ran for touchdowns. I shied away from sports, while Lance played a year above his age in Little League, and led his league in home runs. During picking season, he
climbed stronger and faster, and dared avocados further out on the branch. It was that athleticism and daring, in fact, that led to his death, scuba diving in kelp beds off Laguna Beach.

It was an idyllic childhood. While our parents sat for their monthly corporate ranch-board meeting, the cousins played Hide and Seek outside, or Murder-in-the-Dark or pillow fights in the back bedroom. During work weekends in the orchard, we pulled weeds for
an hour or so and then ran off to catch lizards and frogs. On summer days at Grandma’s, we’d dig a big hole in the sand and cover it with a piece of plywood to make a fort. At Baldy, we’d spend a weekend in the snow or a Fourth of July moving rocks to dam up the stream. By junior high, we’d sold the ranch, but Lance’s family had moved to a rural house near Fallbrook. Days we rode a raft on a nearby pond and nights we played flashlight wars in an acre-or-so of feral bamboo. Lance always knew how to come up with a new activity.

Mostly, it was fun play without mischief, but I do remember an incident from the era of this picture. My parents had gone shopping, leaving Lance and me in charge of my four younger siblings. For some reason we were trying to fool my youngest brother into believing my middle brother was injured. Lance picked up the telephone and hollered, “Quick, send an ambulance! Devin is hurt bad!” Then he went pale and hung up the receiver. In an amazing coincidence of timing, my parents had been calling to check on us. The connection had been made, though the phone had not yet rung. Needless-to-say, it did ring immediately after he hung up. It’s the only time I ever remember us in trouble.

It was my childhood that ended when Lance died (even if adulthood didn’t arrive right away). The protective coating had been stripped away. Though we were more attuned than most children to problems in places like Africa, and my grandparents had suffered a serious automobile accident, our clan had been spared so many of life’s ravages. That ended when Lance was wrenched from our midst. Then, while I was in college, a flood devastated the house at Baldy, and Lance’s parents separated. The idyll was over.

The first change I saw after Lance’s death was that we all hugged more. Coming from New England Puritan stock, we had not been very demonstrative in our affection. Now we hugged the people we loved while we still had them.

Lance drowned in the spring, in the middle of track season. In high school I had discovered an ability to run long distances, my first athletic success. The second change I observed was a loss of purpose in my running. I suddenly realized how much of my inspiration to excel in track came from a desire to impress and compete with Lance. A pulled muscle also hampered me, but it was my most disappointing track season. I ran competitively two more years, and eventually got my mile time down to a pretty respectable 4:32, but without Lance, I never again had the need to prove myself athletically.

I can’t prove the connection, but the third development that shook my family after Lance drowned was religious. Growing up, we had all been part of the Methodist Church. Yet within five years of Lance’s death, half of the family had moved to more conservative churches, while the other half had found something more liberal, or stopped attending altogether.

Death brings to the surface a host of religious questions, and my family had been a long time without a death. We would continue so. Forty-three years later, of the 27 family members in the photograph, only Lance, my grandparents, and a cousin of my mother’s are missing today. For myself, I suddenly had to wrestle with questions of God’s fairness, and of my own mortality.

I was almost 23 before I reached spiritual equilibrium by placing my faith in Jesus Christ. For me, that has been a very happy result. It has led to virtually all of the deep satisfactions I have enjoyed in the intervening 36 years and gives me promise of even greater joys to come. Over the years, though, I sometimes mourned the price Lance had to pay for my propitious wake-up call. Not any more. I recently heard from his sister that in an old box of Lance’s things, she and her mother discovered a testimony, from just a few months before his death, of the same decision I’d make later. While I have been here, Lance has been in the very presence of the risen Christ.

I do not know why God chooses to take some to Heaven young, and leave others on Earth to grow old, but I suspect it has less to do with the nature of this life than with the variety of individuals with whom God wants to populate Heaven. Scripture tells us they will be from every tribe and nation. Experience tells us they will be from every age and experience. God, who created all diversity, must delight in it.

I praise God for the part Lance played in my life while he was here, and for the changes wrought by his leaving. I praise God for the hope of seeing Lance again. Looking back 43 years, and not expecting to live another 43, I am closer to seeing Lance again than to the last time I saw him. That’s change I can believe in.