Monday, October 15, 2012

Wending My Way Through the Internet and Avoiding Krakens

Have you ever been driving somewhere and suddenly turned off of your track on purpose?

As writer, I frequently find myself going "down the rabbit hole," as a friend put it last week.  At the time she said it, I was researching for a new short story.  I got on YouTube (fatal mistake) looking for videos of sharks beaching themselves.  As I kept getting distracted by the exciting titles of other videos that turned out to be *nothing,* I clicked my way right into an hour of "kraken sightings."

I had to laugh at myself.  Ultimately, I'm sure a kraken will show up in one of my stories as a result.

But today was different!  As I was driving around on the internet highway, I saw a great big souvenir shop with the words "FAMILY HISTORY!" in neon lights.  I jerked the car onto the next exit ramp intentionally.  Want to ride with me?  Here's how it happened:

1.  I was checking a link on a government website, because it was included in an article I wrote in January.  When you write articles for the internet, it's a really good idea to update them and make sure your links are still good from time to time.  But instead of this one being about National Hot Tea Month, the page was now some announcement related to hydroelectricity.  Instead of simply updating the link and moving on, I listened to that voice in my head that said, "Oooh!  Something shiny!  Pull over; pull over!"

2.  I thought of my great-grandfather, an engineer, who built the first hydroelectric plant in North America (Canada, specifically), or so I thought.  But right there in black and white, it said that Thomas Edison had built the first such plant in the world, and it was in Appleton, WI around 1880.  That is definitely in North America, too.  And it's definitely 40 years or more before my great-grandfather's project.  All right, I said to myself.  Gotta get my facts straight.  Right now.  Al Gore did not invent the internet, and my great-grandfather didn't build the first hydroelectricity plant in North America.

2.  I Googled my great-grandfather.  I clicked on an article on file in a SC library where a historian had synopsized letters between my great-grandfather and a couple of his brothers.  I learned that one of my grandfather's first cousins was institutionalized in various Sanitariums.  I learned that while my great-grandfather and family lived in Charlotte, the farm house back in SC was rented to a man who had to be turned out.  Reason?  96 broken window panes.  I'm guessing that the man was shooting up the house.  That's just the "fun" stuff.

3.  I decided I needed to send this link, by email, to my cousins.  Their grandfather was quoted in the article, too.

Now I was faced with a decision, though . . . continue meandering and proceed to, or get back to work?  Work, it was.  (Here's the part where I impress myself.) I actually clicked back through every stop I had made along the way, and without getting lost.  What's more, I accomplished my business at each stop.  And, here at the end of the work day, I have actually posted a new article online and managed to get some work done, despite rabbit hole diving!  No kraken sightings today.

So, I found out that what my grandfather's father built was most likely the first hydroelectric plant in Canada, not North America.  (I probably could have just asked my dad, but then it would have been over with in 60 seconds or fewer.)  I learned more intriguing family history.  I made contact with some dear family members.  I proofed old articles and updated them.  I wrote and posted a new article on the internet, and am working on the next one already.  And now, friends, I have also blogged.  It's a good day in this writer's world.

1 comment:

  1. What I remember your grandfather saying is that his father was the head engineer on the largest hydroelectric plant (at that time) in North America, and that it still serves most of eastern Canada and even parts of northern New York.