I’ll say this for 8 below zero — when the temperature finally rises to 20 degrees, as it’s forecast to do tomorrow, it’ll be time to go for a walk in shirtsleeves. Nothing like relativity to reset your head. Don’t ever say, “It can’t get any worse.” It can always get worse. (I learned this in the newspaper business, and look what’s happening — it’s getting worse.)
Today, after dropping the carpool off at school, I swung by the lake to see what sunrise looks like over fresh water at minus-8. It looks beautiful, it turns out. There was some sort of light-distortion effect going on, with a second, weaker sunrise in progress a few degrees north of the actual one. I groped in my coat for my camera, and discovered I’d forgotten it. Groped for my camera-equipped phone. Forgot that too. So no picture of this remarkable phenomenon. But it could have been worse — someone could have rear-ended me while I gawked, and I wouldn’t have been able to call for help.
Of course, sometimes it could be worse. Ask all those people standing on the wings in the Hudson River yesterday: Will you be seeking a claim against the airline for the ruination of your shoes? I was reading the accounts of the non-disaster in my daily pile of newsprint, and reflected for the millionth time what a pleasure a well-edited newspaper is. When breaking news is doing so, most editors throw everything into the mix, flood the zone, and to some degree this is what you should do. But every battle needs commanders, and in situations like this, editors are more important than ever. This is one reason I’m not looking forward to the thousand-eyes-on-the-ground future of journalism; it reminds me too much of working for a lousy paper, when the main story went on and on and on with quote after quote after quote, and at some point you just didn’t care about another eyewitness account, you wanted information. I got more from this passage in this story than I did from all the yakking heads on CNN yesterday:
Ditching can be tricky. The first step is to extend the slats and the flaps, the movable surfaces on the front and back edges of the wings that allow the plane to fly more slowly and to descend to just over the water’s surface.
Another step is to hit the “ditching button,” which seals the openings in the plane. One is the intake, where the engines grab air to pressurize and force it into the cabin, essential to high-altitude flight. Another is the valve at the back that lets air out.
When the plane is flying low enough, it will generate its own cushion of air, a phenomenon called “ground effect,” that lets it fly even more slowly.
I have no particular interest in aviation beyond the obvious one of hoping my flight doesn’t crash, but that was interesting. I never knew of the ditching button, and now I do.
Yesterday Wolf Blitzer, that giant dirigible of atomized bullshit, asked a question of one of the passengers. It ran something like this: “Now that you’ve been through this incredible experience, crash-landing in this icy river, going through this rescue, seeing it all, a thought?” (It went on much longer, however, and droned in that Blitzerian way.)
A thought? The passenger said: “Wow.” Somewhere in heaven, Shakespeare weeps.
(The best after-a-near-crash quote I ever read ran something like this: “Two hundred fifty-three people on this airplane, and it wasn’t anybody’s day to die.” And that came from a regular-joe passenger, not a poet. So it’s possible.)
Speaking of regular joes, let’s segue to the bloggage with a Medal of Valor to Roy Edroso, tracking Joe the Plumber’s perambulations through the Middle East. By my count Joe’s handlers have now compared him to Stephen Crane, Ernest Hemingway and now, Roy discovers, Abraham Lincoln. I only wish I were kidding. My thought: Wow.
Via Jezebel comes word that Amy Poehler’s new sitcom will have her playing “a mid-level bureaucrat in an Indiana city parks and recreation department who’s looking to get ahead,” and who “finds her love of the democratic process tested as she faces defensive government workers, selfish residents and real estate developers.” Actually, that could be pretty funny. I know some people who would sign on as technical consultants in a Hoosier minute.
Finally, while I love Anne Hull’s work in the WashPost, I have to say this: Must every visit to rural America only serve to underline what Barack Obama meant when he made that “clinging to guns” comment? Tell me what you think.
I have a phone interview in five minutes. Later!