Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mardi Mishmash

It's too late for a Monday Mishmash. But it's never too late for alliteration. Alors, aujourd'hui je vous présente le "Mardi Mishmash."

***

It's a tough life, being an umpire. Strange plays. Tough calls. Hostile fans. Angry players. Earl Weaver. Sometimes I'm jealous of officials in other sports. If things get a little out of hand, football referees can throw a penalty flag. Basketball referees can call a technical foul. Tennis officials can assess code violations. But umpires have no middle ground available. It's either an argument or an ejection. Or both.

This time of year, though, what's worst for me is the weather. Sunday morning I tossed my uniform - which, I hasten to add, is shorts and a short-sleeved shirt that breathes very well, great for a hot summer day - in the car and went to my other job, concerned not at all about the morning chill.

Come the end of the day, I got into uniform and took off for the field. The first indication of trouble ahead was the stiff headwind en route. The second indication was when I got out of the car and felt that wind blowing hard across the field. Not a good sign.

The sun was down quickly and the mercury followed it. I don't know for sure, but I'd say it was in the 40s very early. That wasn't the worst, though. The worst was the wind, blowing from right to left, kicking up dust clouds so fierce that at times we had to turn away and wait for it to subside. Blowing pitches off course. Keeping anybody from hitting the ball very far. Getting me worried about frostbite in my fingers, until I was finally able to borrow some gloves. Howling through my facemask. I am not even kidding. It was like having my own personal ghost.

And frankly, when you see a very large formation of geese heading south, it's time for the season to be over.

***

I have a mouse! Well, I had a mouse before, but now I have the mouse I wanted, thanks to my father, who tracked one down for me in New Jersey after all the stores around here came up empty. The unloved Kensington goes back to the store today or tomorrow, and the little Apple Mouse sits there happily. Thanks, Dad.

***

The Inner Columnist has books scattered all over his apartment, and the most recent one he read is called "The Battle to Save the HOUSTON," by John Grider Miller. Originally published in 1985, last year the Inner Columnist acquired a copy of the 2000 reprint and has finally gotten around to reading it.

It's good. It's not edge-of-the-seat reading, but it is a fascinating and quite detailed book on the light cruiser USS HOUSTON (CL-81). Torpedoed off Formosa in October 1944, HOUSTON and her crew embarked on a months-long struggle to save their ship from both the Japanese and the sea. The book is a bit dry in places, and HOUSTON's Commanding Officer is virtually absent from the book - it is dominated by her Damage Control Officer, who was one of the primary sources of material for this book - but the technical details, well-illustrated by photos rarely published, are plentiful without being overwhelming. Recommended.

Also recommended: "We Will Stand By You: Serving In the PAWNEE, 1942-45," by Theodore C. Mason, who was a radioman in the fleet tug PAWNEE, which towed HOUSTON clear of the battle area. Mason's memoir is extremely candid and noteworthy for the youthful perspective it retains, despite being written so many years after the fact. His "Battleship Sailor," about his prewar service in the battleship CALIFORNIA, shares this characteristic, and both are well worth reading more than once.

***

Logic not doing the job for you? Try The People's Progressive Truth Generator! Here's what it says about me: "Inner Columnist, you are an exploiting rube because you don't root for Cuba!"

Au contraire, mon ami. I do root for Cuba. For a free, democratic Cuba. You know. Like the one being built in Iraq. Which, as you may or may not have heard, voted on the new constitution just the other day. And already there are accusations of fraud. Hey, maybe they are just like us!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read "The battle to save the HOUSTON" a year or three ago - the UC library has a surprisingly good collection of military history for a state school.

I, too, found it dry. I thought it was mainly a case of the Langsam Library being stuffy and having dry air. Ugh.

I know you recommend KAIGUN, by Peattie and Evans (it's a possible for my BN card) for the development of doctrine in the IJN, but any recommendations of books to read on the development of how the USN was going to fight the IJN?

~Rob

6:08 PM  
Blogger Theodore said...

There really isn't a single-volume treatment of the USN's plans to fight the IJN. Not one comparable to "Kaigun," anyway. The closest is Miller's "War Plan Orange," but that book focuses primarily on strategy and pays very little attention to tactics. Bits and pieces of USN tactical thinking can be gleaned from assorted books and articles, but there is not (yet, anyway) one book that covers it. I'm hopeful that some of the researchers currently working in the field will eventually produce one.

10:29 PM  

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