Friday, October 15, 2010

Into the tunnel

It's getting cold around here. Yesterday, for the first time, I lit the woodstove during the day when it became clear that the sun would not emerge to warm up the house. And we're now down to a pitifully small selection of remaining ripe tomatoes from the garden. Later today I think I'll go down and gather the reasonable sized green ones. I expect we'll be getting our first frost any day now. There's also a picking of Swiss Chard down there.

I'm happy to report that the good guys appear to have triumphed once and for all over the naysayers at Wikipedia. The entry for Xenopus now correctly states that African Clawed Frogs can live into their twenties. There was a period a few years ago when I went back and forth several times with a denier at the site who refused to let my editing of that page stand. In the course of checking on the matter recently I found that at least two others have reported on their own long lived Xenopuses (Xenopi?) on the web.

Assuming those web sites are to be believed, William the Frog lived to be 21 years old and the unnamed frog at Downend School lived to 30 years old before dying in 2001. My Xenopus is now about 23 or 24 years old so he (or she - I remain too lazy to check on the matter) may now be the oldest in the world. At the least my frog appears to be the oldest one in the world that is memorialized on the web.

For the record he's still quite spry and active over there in his bowl, still quite capable of moving the rocks around and splashing noisily to get attention when he hasn't been fed for a while. And he's still possessed of plenty of energy and will to present a problem when it's time to put him back into the bowl after I change his water. One of these days I need to give him the run of the house again to see how high and far he can jump.

On to other business. I've been rereading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels over the past few weeks. And the other day I came across his assertion that Admiral William Mitchell of the Royal Navy had not only started his career as an enlisted man but had moreover managed to rise in rank after having been flogged around the fleet for desertion. According to the words O'Brian puts into the mouth of Captain Aubrey, Mitchell was an impressed man at the beginning of his career and he deserted his ship multiple times in order to continue a liaison with a young lady ashore. After having been several times been recaptured and punished with moderate floggings by his captain he decided to go the sea lawyer route and demand, as was his right, a court martial. Big mistake! The court martial board turned out to be a bloody minded one that decided to make an example of him in order to deter others. He was sentenced to receive five hundred lashes in a boat that was rowed from ship to ship so the sailors of the whole fleet could view his punishment.

The Wikipedia entry confirms that Vice Admiral Mitchell originally joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman; but it casts doubt on the flogging around the fleet story, saying that no official records exist of that event and that it's only provenance is a story told several years after his death. It remains potentially true however, because according to Wiki a whole chunk of Royal Navy records covering the early years of Mitchell's career are missing.

This interested me because when I served in USS Enterprise from 1970 to 1972 my boss was Lieutenant Commander Jack Henrizi, who said he was (at that time) the most senior unrestricted line officer in the navy who had started his career as an enlisted man. As I recall Commander Henrizi was careful to mention that he had worked his way up to Chief Petty Officer before becoming a commissioned officer; so it may be that there was a more senior grade officer who had started as seaman and then had immediately (more or less) been recommended for Officer Candidate School on the basis of test scores or such.

Jack Henrizi was nn interesting man with quite an extensive and colorful vocabulary. I vivedly remember the chewing out he gave me and the Fourth Division officer after the party pavilion at Subic Bay Naval Base somehow came to be burned to the ground during a joint party we had convinced him to let us hold for the nearly one hundred men of our two deck divisions, much against his better judgement. That was some party. And Commander Henrizi was some stand up guy. He took the whole brunt of reporting the incident to Captain Peterson, who never mentioned the matter to me or Mike Murphy even though he saw us every day on the bridge when we stood OOD watches.

Shortly after he retired from the navy in about 1974 or so Commander Henrizi was killed by a drunk driver who lost control of his car and came across the center lane of an expressway in California.

Update: I'm not the only one in the world with too much time on his hands. Behold - sheep fireworks - The nighttime sheep game of pong is neat, but you have to watch to the end to see the fireworks.


Carol Dranginis said...

Hi Sully!
Thank you for posting the fond memories of my Uncle Jack Henrizi. (he was my Mother's brother) I always enjoyed spending time with him, which wasn't too often as we lived on the East Coast, they on the West Coast. It's nice to know that he is "gone, but not forgotten!"
Carol Dranginis, Manassas, VA

Sully said...

Your uncle was a great boss Carol. And he had an interesting quirk that makes me think of him occasionally and smile even at a nearly forty year remove. Once in a while when sugaring a cup of coffee I remember the way he would pour an amazing amount of sugar into his coffee every time he filled it. He liked his coffee completely saturated with sugar. At the end of the day there would be an inch or two of sugar at the bottom of his cup.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sully:
Thankyou for sharing a wonderful story about my dad. He was an amazing father and a wonderful sailor who loved his country. He was killed 11-18-81, by a drunk driver driving on the wrong side of the freeway. He was still active duty with 33 years in the Navy. I read your post to my cousin Carol, what is funny is I remember him drinking is coffee, "black, like I like my women" Thanks again for sharing, is is missed daily, even after 29 years! God Bless, Lori Jayne Henrizi-Hays