Tuesday, May 13, 2008

genius: fish and home

I’m reading a history of whaling in America, Leviathan, which the author makes clear is a purely on topic history and not a trial on whether or not whaling is, or was, a good idea. With that you know what you’re getting. Aside from the great yarns woven by the whaling world and its great influence on colonial commerce for a hundred years, the book has little asides from history that jump up and make me wonder about just where it was that I learned some of my history. I know I should be able to provide a basic window of opportunity for when the Mayflower landed in America but somehow its arrival has been blended in somewhere near (within 20 years?) the Santa Maria, the Pińta, and that other ship. I’ve fallen into the trap of American Elementary History that meshes the pilgrims with, or near, Columbus’ ‘discovery’ or our continent. I picture a bunch of Brits sitting in caravans about the piers of Southampton awaiting word of the discovery before they set sail, en masse, to the Americas. I’m generally embarrassed. I asked X when the Mayflower came to America and she used the establishment of Harvard as her guide and backtracked from there; she’s so strange – I can almost hear another answer, “well yes, I imagine that the death of Oliver Cromwell must have been around the time of the Baroque period because the great Dutch painter and engraver Adriaen van Nieulandt the Younger was born late in the the 16th century in Antwerp but he must have been in Amsterdam by then because he was a student of Pieter Isaacsz and Frans Badens. I’d guess about 1655 or so for Cromwell’s death.” One other item that begat a laughing fit was this, “No one was more surprised at the failure of England’s whaling industry than the English.” I’m never surprised by my failures, fully expected.

There was an unassisted triple play last night, only the 14th in history, and I can’t quite figure out how there have be so many fewer of those than no-hitters. The numbers are staggering: there have been 255 no-hitters. I’m sure the statistics and probability gurus could point out the real issues and data involved but it seems to me that having men on first and second with no outs happens at least as often as pitchers taking the mound every day. Let’s see, there’s a max of twelve or so games per day in baseball so we’ve got 24 pitchers with a shot at a no-hitter – I’d guess that the first/second/no out situation happens at least 24 times through the 216 top and bottom of innings that day so we’re on level pegging there. Of course, dude at bat needs to drill one right at the second baseman who’s probably moving to cover some kind of double steal, etc. etc. Still, I’d think the numbers would be closer than 18-to-1. Pitching a no-hitter requires an unbelievable number of contributing factors: no seeing-eye singles, no bloopers, no bunts, hometown scoring on possible errors, and on and on. The pitcher is probably throwing 100 pitches and not one of those can be put into play and make its way through some slight infield gap manned by a chunky shortstop with a weak glove who can’t move to his right.

The Eleven secured a 20-year old Jacobsen lawnmower from a classic 1970s Americana painting over in Vienna last night. This house was a dead ringer for all the ‘60s-built suburban places across the country that have the single garage under the bedrooms and the split-level flipside with living room window facing the street and an avocado or yellow kitchen hidden around the back side. I’m not sure if it had a basement, but if it did it certainly had some old decrepit ping pong table and/or mini air hockey table that’s sat idle since the kids left for college. The husband gave me the lawn mower basics: two-stroke engine, gas, oil, used to be self-propelled, spark plug history, and storage background. I tuned out at two-stroke engine because I know nothing about engines and I was daydreaming about my mother reminding me to sweep the driveway after mowing and trimming our yard in Omaha. Don’t forget to sweep. We gave it a start, it cranked on the third pull (as he predicted), exchanged the fifteen bucks, and headed back to our less suburban home.

News of the World…


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