Sunday, November 18th, 2012
8:49 pm - Odds and Sods  
For the second time in a month, I am sick. Low fever this time with associated achiness along with congestion. I was freezing for most of the afternoon, then took some dayquil and as the tylenol started reducing the fever started roasting beneath all the layers. A couple hours later I appear to have reached temperature equilibrium, at least for the time being. I had a flu shot a couple months ago, so it's probably not flu, just something obnoxious picked up at the elementary school where we play volleyball. I should probably buy some hand sanitizer for Thursday nights.

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Looking out my living room window I spotted two separate tufts of down stuck to the outside, the remnants of a real life angry birds attack. Poor bruised birdies. I get bird strikes on my picture windows quite often. I'm not sure if there's anything I can do about that.

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Things that take me out of stories, item the first:

Note to the writers of Law & Order SVU: Bernardsville New Jersey is pronounced BERnerdsville, not berNARDSville. I rarely watch SVU, but I caught a bit of an interrogation while channel surfing.

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Things that take me out of stories, item the second:

Not so much a pronunciation issue, but the characters on NCIS (original recipe) would never refer to highway route numbers as "the 95." McGee does this all the time, and yet his entire family appears to live close to DC. The proper shortcut term back east is either Route 95, I-95, or just plain old 95. The only exceptions to this rule are named highways: the Turnpike, the Parkway, the Deegan, etc., and the Beltway if one wants a DC specific example.

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Things that make me look dubiously at a non-fiction writer's work, item the first:

I've been reading a lot of naval history recently. One such was Sunk by the Bismarck, by Edwin Hoyt, a history of the the career of HMS Hood, the most powerful ship in the British fleet, which was blown up by the Bismarck at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. It's not a great book. Hood was laid down in 1916, but was massively redesigned after the battle of Jutland because (ironically) so many of the Grand Fleet's battlecruisers blew up during the battle*, and wasn't commissioned until 1920. Much of the book is about Hood's peacetime service, and is really, really boring. The only thing of interest in Hood's career prior to meeting Bismarck is that she participated in the disgraceful attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. The chapters on Hood's meeting with Bismarck are necessarily short. It took Bismarck all of five minutes to dispatch her.

* One of the battlecruisers lost was HMS Invincible, flagship of Adm. Sir Horace Hood, great great grandson of the Hood for whom HMS Hood was named.

The reason I bring this up is because I've read a few of Hoyt's books in the past. I even own a couple. He's done a lot of military history for general audiences. What disturbs me is that he appears to have phoned this one in. The prose is twisted, and the captions of accompanying photographs are often incorrect. One purports to be a photo of Bismarck's forward turrets. Bismarck's eight 15" guns were arranged in four turrets of two, but the photo shows two triple turrets. The only German ships with that arrangement were Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

On the next page he presents an accurate photo of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, Bismarck's consort at the battle, but identifies it as the Austrian dreadnought of the same name. First off, the original dreadnought had been sunk as a target ship in 1922, but even more egregious is that by World War II Austria was a landlocked country and had no frelling navy. Hoyt should certainly know this. I suspect the photos were added by the publisher later, but I think Hoyt should've at least checked them for accuracy.

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My current book is called At War at Sea by Ronald H. Spector. The book looks at 20th century advances in naval technology and philosophy, usually in the context of the actions in which they first appeared. Spector has some interesting things to say, but even he isn't immune to a stupid error. Chapter eight, on the development of naval air power, opens with a description of the scene surrounding USS Saratoga one morning in 1929. The Saratoga was about to launch a proof of concept surprise attack on the Panama Canal as part of a war game exercise. The attack was wildly successful, as was a later attack the ship, along with her sister, Lexington launched against, um, Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the historian's grasp of geography is suspect.

"As the sun rose above the choppy Atlantic, the sailors could see the low volcanic cone of the Galapagos Islands."

Except of course that the Galapagos are in the Pacific. I'm sure it's just a stupid typo, but it's right there in the first sentence of the chapter. Sigh.

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Talked to my folks tonight. They were 13 days without power. The generator was a good idea, at least until they ran out of gas for it. They had to throw out all their perishables. Jane, who lives way out in the sticks, was without power for even longer. Yikes!