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Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 00:38
So...our ski club hosts a lantern ski two evenings a year, so people can putter along enjoying the trails and the twilight. They used to use oldschool kerosene lanterns, but the club got rid of them a few years back. It sounds like they were getting dirty and rusty, and nobody was quite sure how to make them less so.

Unfortunately, the candle lanterns that replaced them don't work very well. They don't provide any substantial illumination, and in the winter, the candles burn out quickly -- they don't retain enough heat to melt their own wax well, and burn down the middle instead of across their entire width.

I went looking for a better solution, and was surprised to find that new kerosene lanterns are actually still a thing sold in North America. Like, ones for real use, as opposed to collectables or antiques that are just supposed to sit on a shelf and look nice. So I ordered one.

Dietz #30 'Little Wizard' lantern

Now, I don't believe in the magic of amulets or talismans per se. But certain objects have a way of making me feel a little more safe in the world. This one immediately joined the ranks of my GPS, compass, and weather radio.

It's reassuring to have a portable light source that's not directly dependent on electricity -- not the electrical grid, not batteries, not electricity in any form at all. Moreover, there is something comforting on a primal level about carrying actual fire with you -- the reassuring warmth of the lantern in your hand; knowing you could start a campfire if you needed to. While LED flashlights are brilliant in their way -- cold and efficient -- the lantern's radiance carries a warm, cheery feeling with it.

Although it doesn't exactly crank out a ton of light -- 9 candlepower, about the same as a 15 watt candelabra bulb -- it's quite adequate for finding your way along a hiking trail at night, especially once your eyes adjust to the darkness. It's also a handy thing to have in the city after dark, so as to be visible to cars. A flashlight certainly works for this, but I think the all-round light of a lantern is even harder to miss.

I've started making a point of going for a walk in the evenings, as well as the occasional early morning, before sunrise. You quickly realize that there isn't very much night left in the world, at least not in cities. All of the light sources that out-compete your humble lantern become very obvious. But I'm confessedly amused when I encounter modern electric lights that aren't working while my kerosene lantern -- technology of more than a century ago -- quietly shines.