All posts by Jim

steel decks and glass ceilings

About my book

This website continues to be updated. i hope i and Walker Hicks , the brains behind this website being as good as it is, plan to have the update complete by the first of next week. Then, there will be a page for comments about my book, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings. But i wanted to share three comments from good folks who have read it:

I have just completed a most marvelous journey and I wish to thank you for taking me with you! What a well crafted narrative. I now truly believe you when you say, “I’d rather be driving ships”. This book was much more than a chronological narrative. Who knew that an “old salt” SWO could gain satisfaction and much more from a tour on a tender. You deserve a “Literature ‘E’. BZ. — Marty Linville, Maj., USA (retired), Awarded Silver Star for his service in Vietnam.

My tour in Yosemite was my most rewarding and far away my favorite. BZ! You did a great job as XO and as the author of this most interesting book. — Francis J. Boyle, Captain, USN (retired) and the Commanding Officer of the USS Yosemite.

I have now immortalized CAPT Boyle’s admonishment regarding the inclusion of female personnel on board the USS Yosemite: “We don’t have men on board this ship; we don’t have women on board this ship. We have sailors aboard this ship. And we are going to act like that.” Oh how I wish there was a Chief in the US Border Patrol that would have enunciated that same sentiment about Border Patrol Agents back in 1975 when I entered on duty and began knocking on that impervious glass ceiling.. a great read, wonderful insights into a sliver of naval history, all sprinkled with valuable management lessons. — Chris Davis, Border Patrol Officer, executive level, retired.

Almost a Great Day

The vagaries of proper book marketing had me at my wits end Tuesday morning. Hidden buttons to push, menus that led me to a labyrinth of dead ends terrified me with threats of losing data, or worse, closing me out of the site and into web la la land. Pulling my hair, which is a tougher thing to do for me as there only remains two to four pull-able hairs requiring at least a month of no hair cutting.

So i gave up, walked to Maureen’s work room in the front of the house and said unequivocally, “You have three choices: walking the beach, going to the zoo, or going to Balboa Park and the museums. Think about it and let me know which one.”

Rather surprised at my rare abruptness, but pleasantly so given her options, she thought for about 1.2 nanoseconds and came back to my office up the hall. She queried, “The Mingei has reopened, hasn’t it?”

“Yes,” i responded, “It was open when i was in there at Christmas time. Remember, that was were i saw the shawls that you might like to use as a runner on the dining room table.”

“Is their new restaurant open?” this San Diego all things expert probed the goofball from Tennessee who is real good at baseball news but pretty much a washout on any other subject.

“Well, let’s find out,” i exclaimed as i turned to my trusty laptop.

The “Artifact” the restaurant on the main floor was, in fact, open.

So just before noon, we headed out, parked on the street about the state of Rhode Island away from the targeted Mingei and trekked. It was wonderful. i could spend about half a day several times a week just walking around Balboa Park. Walking past the wonderful fountain at the south end of El Prado and through the beautiful and classic architecture of the original buildings built for the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition. That’s not considering actually spending time in the many and varied museums in the park. Nor does it consider dining at one of the unique dining spots. There is a special joy in just walking around and taking it all in.

We did. After crossing Plaza de Panama, we entered The Artifact, and is our custom, sat at the bar. The menu was small but astounding. Maureen ordered an “artifact house tonic I gin + fig+ lemongrass + cardamon+ seltzer” from the bar list. i, remaining much less complicated than my bride, ordered a sauvignon blanc.

Now, i come from a Tennessee meat and three world. i ‘ve grown a bit from that with my travels and certainly, my time with Maureen has increased my appreciation of fine food. Well, that lunch (still dinner to me) Tuesday was in another stratosphere.

i had “achiote berkshire pork + tehachapi grain project taco + salsa macha + pickled red onion + cilantro lime crema + rancho gordo beans + rice.” She had, of all things, a dumpling described as “pork flower shumai + lapsang souchang + star anise + black vinegar + ebiko chili oil.” Then Maureen, the dessert maven, ordered “coconut tapioca + mango + macerated blackberries + yuzu granite.” i am not a tapioca kind of guy. But this stuff goes beyond my conceited, look-down-the-nose-at perception of tapioca. i’ll order it again.

Now if you know a majority of the ingredients in the items above, then you have eclipsed me in food knowledge. On that basis, i remain a solar eclipse. All i know is that this was one of the better lunches i’ve had in a long time.

As an aside when finished, we actually went inside the museum. They have renovated, and this was a great experience. The international art was well displayed, some astounding. My favorite part was the library, roomy with intriguing books on all things art. Wish i could have taken it home.

Finally, we went to the scene of the crime. Maureen saw the shawls or throws i had mentioned six months earlier. She bought one. It is now a decorative runner on our dining room table. She also bought three artist carved wooden bowls that sit atop the runner, artfully arranged. Thus, i will not be buying a Tesla for quite a while.

Tuesdays, it turns out is a day when most of the museums are free. Our targeted other museums had waiting lines this fidgety old man cannot abide. So, we walked back to the car, again a lovely experience in beauty under the Southwest corner skies, mid-70s with a slight breeze.

Took a nap. Perfect day, only ruined by turning on, briefly, the Major League Baseball All-Star game, which is not a game at all but a schlocky, chest pounding excess into…how do i say this?…Sorry, i can’t come up with polite…shitty self-promotion. Turned off the sound. It was still bad. And there were folks in the stands who paid a minimum of $303 up to $15,750 to be there. Ugh! Turned it off. Ahh…

We read in silence. Perfect. Perfect Day with a minor 15 minute blip into excess.

We plan to go back to Balboa and our other museums next week and not watch any all-star game.

Inaugural Ballers

Inaugural Ballers

I just finished reading Andrew Maraniss’ book, Inaugural Ballers: The True Story of the First US Women’s Olympic Basketball Team. It may be hackneyed to use this phrase, but I honestly could not put it down.

You may have read some of Andrew’s other books. Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South was the first I read because I was there when Perry began his historic entrance into SEC basketball.

Inaugural Ballers was equally intriguing.

Maraniss, with his usual impeccable research, captures a story of prejudice and misogyny being overcome by hard work, persistence, and athletic ability. He gives you a personal glimpse of the players and coaches while they succeed against the odds to make women’s basketball a viable sport pursuit at all levels. Wonderful read.

He traces the beginning of the sport through the tough journeys of the women that started it all and refused to quit, detailing how they brought women’s basketball to the fore in our country and the world. The route of the basketball players parallels the history of women’s struggle for equality. If anything, the women athletes faced a tougher task.

Maraniss captures the personalities and the highs and lows of the team and its members as they move toward their final goal.

Blunt Billie Moore, the head coach, is a female basketball Bear Bryant in her toughness and demand for her players to be in top physical condition. Along with Sue Gunter, the calm and analytical assistant, the pair reminded me of a commanding officer and executive officer on a Navy ship.

Andrew captures the spirit of Pat Head. She’s better known as Pat Summit, the eventual coach at Tennessee where she became the winningest coach in women’s college basketball.

Nancy Lieberman, a daughter of divorced Jewish and Catholic parents in Far Rockaway, New York, is a cocky, feisty, and never-quit personality that added her element to the team.

Luisa Harris is a black player from Delta State and a force in the forecourt. In spite of even more prejudice than many of the other players, Luisa united her hometown in Mississippi with the team’s accomplishments.

Each player had a story. Maraniss captures them all.

The story resonated with me. There is similarity between what the team experienced on their journey and my experience on Navy ships. When goals and the task at hand are the focus, teams and ships put cultural, racial, religious, and personal differences aside to work together toward a common mission, miracles can happen.

Andrew Maraniss reveals this miracle in captivating style.

I recommend everyone read this book.


For several years, our Independence Day was spent at the Hicks’ manor in Sonoma, a comfortable home to which they moved from San Francisco after Alan retired. Alan and i, among other friends, would claim our spot on the plaza and Maren and Maureen would join us later. The parade, as you can see below, was local and wonderful. Miss it. With no energy yet from the scourge, my post will be short, but that’s okay: there is no shortage of posts and articles about our Independence Day.

i will keep my comments short today, but as you celebrate, i do hope all of you will remember the reason for the season and drop all of the politics George Washington warned against and thank those who made our Freedom possible. The ideas of equality and freedom expressed by those men were limited by their culture, time, and knowledge, but the idea remains in its totality, its underlying essence of liberty, freedom, and independence.

i again refer to Major R. Kenneth Morgan, my Latin professor at Castle Heights Military Academy, who defined “Freedom” as “The freedom to do anything you want unless it restricts the freedom of someone else.”

May you have a wonderful Independence Day.

Old Man Singing

i have been absent here for a few days. The Southwest corner Jewell’s finally got caught. In spite of all the boosters and relatively safe practices, we came down with COVID. Maureen is back in battery after her ten-day hiatus. My tenth day is tomorrow. It has not been a lot of fun but undoubtedly would have been a lot, lot worse without the inoculations

Last night after Maureen had gone to bed, the below, out of nowhere, came into my head. i checked the song lyrics this morning, and here it is:

did you hear the old man singing
“bringing in the sheaves”
when he realized the river ford
was not as shallow as he perceived?

did you hear the old man singing
“swing low sweet chariot
coming for to carry me home”
as the current carried him
away to another home’s distant shore?

did you hear the gushing waters
of the ford that belied his fate
swishing through the channel
as if no one had waded through
its deceptive waterway gate?

well, i heard the old man singing:

…Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves,
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
My spirit grieved but knew he’d bid me welcome.

I heard him change his tune as he was swept away:

I looked over Jordan and what do I see
A band of angels coming after me
Coming for to carry me home

…Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home.

I sang with him, hoping he could hear:

If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home
Tell all my friends I’m coming too
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot.

that was long ago;
i now sit in my rocking chair
with the fire in the hearth a’blazing
remembering the treacherous river
where the ford was not a ford
to mumble under my breath,
i will be rejoicing bringing in the sheaves;
tell all my friends, i’m coming too;
swing low sweet chariot.