Posts Tagged ‘selection’

Head Apple

5 October 2009

Dear J-

I suppose I haven’t been headlight shopping lately (put it this way:  the last ones I replaced were sealed-beam units, meaning bulb, reflector, and cover glass all in one, almost twenty years ago), but like any good consumer must, I’ve done plenty of reading after the purchase.  The ones I selected are supposedly brighter and closer to daylight temperature (as a photographer, the claim of 4100K is appreciated and noted), but with a dramatically shorter life span — they estimate twelve months, not the twelve years I got out of the Subaru’s OEM bulbs.  In Sylvania’s line, they’re not the most expensive, but they are right up next to the top of the line (this goes back to the apple story* I read as a boy); for the price I paid in the store to have them in my hand, I could have gone through an on-line retailer and gotten the full-blown SilverStar Ultras.

This is the nature of peer reviews and anecdotal evidence; someone will be very unhappy and warn you away, and someone will act the part of unpaid shill and proclaim them the best product ever.  The truth is always somewhere in between.  I do like the new headlights, but I also like driving with two bulbs, not one; the question is not whether some headlamp is better than another but rather how we want to classify them — are they safety equipment or fashion?  Should they be dead reliable and not stretch the design, or should they run on the margin and risk potential sudden failure?  And why do people buy bulbs that throw a visibly blue-tinted light (if you’re planning on converting to arc lights, you may be better served by finding a car that already has them)?

I am not necessarily against frequent bulb changes, except for the added burden on landfills, but I wonder what the manufacturer thinks beyond the equation more frequent changes = more profits.  I suppose that fancy bulbs are a luxury item, and worrying about whether that means forgetting to change them as recommended might leave me stranded probably implies that I’m not a good candidate for fancy bulbs in the first place.  The things we sell ourselves saying that the upgrade is worth it aren’t always ruled by logic though.


* The Apple Story (paraphrased from memory; I read it in a book of Bible stories sitting in my doctor’s waiting room when I was seven).

At dinner when they passed around the plate of turkey slices, Michael picked the biggest, juiciest piece for himself before passing the plate on to his grandfather.  His parents frowned but said nothing, and the grampa shook his head — wisely — and with a wry smile, helped Michael’s brother before serving himself.  Afterwards, as the fruit was going around, Michael again helped himself to the biggest, reddest, ripest apple; anticipating a mouthful of crisp delicious, he instead bit off a mushy, soggy, rotten mess (and in his mind’s eye, somewhere in the brown cave his mouth left, he thought he could see the track of a worm).

Grampa spoke next, the first words since turkey time.  “Now MIchael, do you understand why God gave you that apple?”

“I picked this apple, though!”

“He gave you a choice, and you wanted to take the best one for yourself.  It was your pride — which you deserved — that led to that apple.”

Unconvinced, when pie came around afterwards, this time in reverse order, Michael chose the last piece; his family, by now wearying of the opportunity, left the biggest slice for him.  And in transfer from pan to plate, the spatula slipped, dumping pie in his lap; everyone else shrugged and went back to work on their dessert as Michael’s lesson finally hit home.

* * * * *

I still have a hard time picking fruit in the store.


Aquarium Lens

22 June 2008

Dear J-

As part of the campaign to find air conditioned spaces in San Diego (the four major malls closest to us — University Towne Center, Fashion Valley, Mission Valley, and Horton Plaza — are all outdoor malls) we spent part of the afternoon going through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  When I was younger my imagination was sparked by the romance of the sea, specifically treasure-hunting sunken-ship divers like Mel Fisher (who discovered Atocha) and, later, folks with a more scientific bent like Robert Ballard (Titanic and Bismarck).  Dr. Ballard worked for Woods Hole, who always maintained a friendly rivalry with their West Coast counterparts, that same Scripps we visited today.

But onwards to the lens; put simply, bring along the fastest lens you can lay your hands on.  Today, I used a f/1.8 lens wide-open at ISO 800 and still found myself wishing for a bit more speed for some situations.  The angle of view was equivalent to a 100mm lens on 35mm film (10 degrees, horizontally), which turned out pretty much perfect to frame most of my shots without getting in anyone’s way, or getting anyone else’s fingers in my way.  Maybe for 10% of the shots I would have chosen something a little wider — the octopus in full fury, cruising along the glass was a sight to behold, and some of the larger sharks would have been nice to get a full-body shot of up close — but the humble little Nikkor did the trick today.  In fact, the only thing that would have been better would have been a macro lens — thus the Digital Zuiko 50 f/2 I keep telling myself I need to save for.

It’s a nice aquarium to visit; not so huge that figgy got bored halfway through; this time she delighted in pointing at the numerous fish all capering seemingly for her entertainment.  The crowds were thin enough that we never had to wait an interminable amount of time for our turn at the window.  Funny how all at once it strikes you, sometimes; I asked theVet several times today when it was that we had this daughter.  For some reason it feels both like forever and forever new, all at once.