Monday, September 04, 2006

At bat

Last night, my parents' street had its annual block party. I lived on that street long enough that I am an honorary resident there, so I usually go back (a whopping three miles) to catch up with everybody and be astonished at how much all the kids have grown. On a cul-de-sac with 10 houses, 9 come out and have this pot-luck barbecue each year. They put a few little traffic cones at the end of the street and the one anti-social neighbor does something else that day.

One of the kids, Jacob, had a tennis ball and a kid-sized plastic baseball bat. He let the ball bounce a couple times and then smacked it off down the street. Now, I don't know that much about baseball, and I haven't played baseball or softball in years, but I do know that it's much more fun if somebody throws the ball to you. The adult conversation slowed down about then, so I excused myself and offered to go pitch for him, cautioning that my pitching might be unskilled and inconsistent.

It turns out that I can pitch a tennis ball with at least enough accuracy to suffice for a 10-year-old batter, provided I don't think about it too hard first. He managed to hit most of my assorted throws, anyway. (I realize that this is not the purpose of competitive pitching, but I am satisfied that my unskilled arm put the ball mostly over where the plate would be and only walked him a couple times.)

Eventually, we traded places. He asked me if I knew how to bat. I said that I knew to stand facing the plate and not facing the pitcher--my cousin saw to that when I was young. In the next ten minutes, he told me more about how to hit a baseball than anyone ever had before. Hold the bat at the end, with the hands together, like so. Line up these knuckles with those ones so the bat can swing all the way around. Start with the bat back here, close to the ear. Watch the ball hit it. Step forward a bit with the left foot; dig in and pivot with the right.

He coached me on the details through a few practice swings and then threw out some pitches. He was right: my distance and consistency improved immediately.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fire season

California is a hot, dry place in summer. According to a long-time wildland firefighter here, it is easy to tell whether it will be a bad fire season here.

If it has been a wet year, a larger-than-usual crop of weeds and smaller plants will grow. When they dry in the heat of summer, they will produce an excess of light fuel, and it will be a bad fire season.

Conversely, if it has been a dry winter, all the heavy fuels will dry out and contain less moisture, and it will be a bad fire season.