Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Attn: Naval Academy Midshipmen And Staff

I understand that being at the USNA is tough duty, what with having to deal with all the wannabe martinet seniors who don't realize that they're about 8 months away from becoming the 2nd most useless thing there is in the Navy -- an unqualified Ensign. (The most useless thing? A Naval Academy midshipman on their 1st Class cruise.)

That being the case, I'm sure there are some of you who like good music. If so, you're in luck -- the world's greatest geek troubadour is coming to Annapolis tonight! If you're 21 or older (or have a fake ID) you need to go see Jonathan Coulton at the Rams Head On Stage at 7 p.m. tonight. To understand why JoCo is the musical hero of geeks everywhere (and let's face it -- if you're at the Academy, you are a geek, whether or not you want to admit it) go to this page and listen to "Code Monkey", "The Future Soon", "Skullcrusher Island", "Re: Your Brains", and "Mandelbrot Set". (The links in the song titles go to YouTube videos a fan put together. "Code Monkey" is clearly the most famous of his songs, but I probably like "Mandelbrot Set" the best.)

So, if you're in Annapolis tonight, it's well worth the $20 to see this show while he's still playing in small venues. Give into your inner geek -- the pay's pretty good. And when you meet JoCo after the show (which you will) make sure to tell him Bubblehead sent you -- and to get his butt to Boise on his next tour!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Congratulations To The Sub Report!

In becoming the best source for submarine news around the 'net, Eric at The Sub Report has earned a devoted following; I check out his page a couple of times a day. As an example of how much interest there is in submarines, check out TSR's Sitemeter, and you'll notice a milestone just got passed.

Eric got his one millionth page view sometime yesterday -- that's quite a feat! Even though his site started recording visitors probably a year or so after mine did, he beat me to 1,000,000 page views with a couple weeks to spare. (I'm still in the lead with unique visits, and will probably be passing the 500,000 visit mark about the same time I pass the 1,000,000 page view plateau sometime next month -- not that blog traffic is a competition or anything; after all, submariners are never competitive, right?)

Congratulations, Eric!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

LDS Dating: A Study In Complicatedness

I didn't grow up in the Mormon Church -- I married into it. Since my own kids started dating a few years back (dating doesn't start until the kids turn 16), I've found that there seem to be a lot of expectations in our culture that, had they existed for my group of friends when I was growing up, would have probably made dating just too complicated to consider.

I've found that, when asking someone to a dance, it's expected that simply preparing the invitation will require several hours to plan and put together. Here's a web site that gives LDS daters some ideas of what they can do. For example, my oldest son just asked a girl from our Ward to the school's Homecoming Dance. He got a cooler and some flowers, typed up an invitation that started "Now that the ice has been broken...", laminated the paper and rolled it up, filled the cooler with water, and froze it into a block of ice with the paper and flowers inside. The answer came in the form of a 100 piece puzzle with the answer (basically, "Yes", in this case) on the back. Both were delivered using the time-honored "doorbell ditch" method. (As the "doorbell ditch" driver, I had points taken off for putting the mini-van in "Park" while waiting for my son to run back to the car after ringing the doorbell.)

Here's my question for those of you with dating kids or recent dating experience yourself: Is this just an LDS thing, or are other people doing it? If so, how long has it been going on? Had this requirement started back in the early 80s, would it have been the end of human existence on earth?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

JFC In Yoko -- A Study In Black And Brown

USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) arrived in Yokosuka today for a port call; here's a picture, with USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) in the background:

It seems like this is a fairly standard picture that Fleet Support in Yokosuka sends out for every submarine that arrives; check out the similarity to this picture of USS Chicago (SSN 721) pulling in there back in June.

There's one difference between the two pictures, though -- check out the vent line by the aft cleat in both places. The hull by the runoff from Chicago's topside vent line is clean; here's a blowup of the same area on the JFC:

So what did JFC put into their seawater systems to make that mess? Was it something that attracted some really, really big birds and gave them diarrhea? Did they cross-connect their sanitary system in some horrible way? Was it a prank? Some disgusting whale mating mistake?Have I just completely forgotten what that connection is supposed to be used for, and it's actually just a horribly mispaced san overboard fitting? You decide... and let us know in the comments. Whoever comes up with the best and/or funniest explanation gets the admiration of their peers.

This Is One Reason Drinking Aboard Ship Is A Bad Idea

Did you know that just being drunk and stupid while onboard the boat, even if you're not on duty, was one of those general Article 134 offenses? A lot of those little rinky-dink General Article offenses seem a little bit silly, but it turns out that there's a reason you might not want drunk people onboard the ship -- even though we've all seen enough guys being hauled down the ladder, or been a little tipsy coming back from liberty ourselves.

Check out this story that purports to tell why the CO of USS Halsey (DDG 97) got relieved for cause earlier this year. Excerpts:
Cmdr. John J. Pinckney Jr. was relieved after a Navy inquiry revealed how he encouraged other officers and sailors – even those on watch duty – to drink during and after the Nov. 2 reception aboard the Halsey for dignitaries in Kagoshima, Japan.
The investigation also indicated that Pinckney changed a report to hide the seriousness of the fire that damaged one of the ship's two main reduction gears, which help drive the propellers.
The Halsey returned to San Diego on Dec. 24 without further incident. But the Navy linked an explosion and fire in the same gear the next month to Pinckney's incomplete account of the first fire...
...Two officers said Pinckney insisted that they drink alcohol even though they told him they were on duty.
“The (command duty officer) and I realized we may be the only sober line officers on the entire ship,” the duty operations officer that day said in a statement to investigators. “I was fed up, and this situation was totally (unsatisfactory).”
Shortly after 10 p.m., alarm bells signaled a fire in a dehumidifying unit of the No. 1 engine room. The duty officers became angry when only about 15 members of the firefighting team responded, several of them too drunk to put on their gear, investigators said.
One officer said he randomly grabbed sober-looking sailors to help out. The blaze was extinguished within minutes, but not before it spread to the main reduction gear.
The duty officers said they had trouble reaching Pinckney, who had retired to his stateroom. Over their objections, he ordered them not to enter the burned area until morning and not to send a report up the chain of command.
While the main problem here was obviously the CO's decision not to inform the chain of command about what really happened, it made me ponder what might have happened some nights on the boat when most of the crew was pretty much unusable. It's probably not something we can fix (unless you tell the crew they can't drink while on liberty anymore unless they have a place in town), but I'm wondering how close to disaster we've come from similar situations. Does anyone have any sea stories they'd like to relate?

Bringing Submarine Life Home From The Boat

No, this isn't a post listing the ways you can make your house seem more like a submarine (or even one listing the reasons why working at McDonald's is better than being a nuke) -- this is a post about how, if you act today, you can buy -- on E-Bay -- a piece of submarine memorabilia that will make your old boat friends curl up in a corner and go all fetal on you.

Here's what's being sold: 12 unrolled TDU cans, complete with lids and bottoms (TDU weights not included):

Bidding ends today, so you'll have to hurry. (Note that although the seller thought the cans are shot out of a boat's torpedo tubes, a commenter already set him straight about concept of the Trash Diposal Unit.)

Now you won't just have to tell your wife and kids about how you used to get your fingers all cut up rolling the cans -- you can show them!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hyperbole On The March!

Check out this opening for this story from the Salt Lake Tribune -- there's no judgment being passed in this news story:
Vice President Dick Cheney will speak to a super-secret, conservative policy group in Utah on Friday during his second trip to the state this year.
Cheney will address the fall meeting of the Council for National Policy, a group whose self-described mission is to promote "a free-enterprise system, a strong national defense and support for traditional Western values."
The organization -- made up of few hundred powerful conservative activists -- holds confidential meetings and members are advised not to use the name of the group in communications, according to a New York Times profile of the group.
"The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before [or] after a meeting,'' a list of rules obtained by The Times showed.
[Emphasis mine] Whoa -- a "super-secret" organization! That supposedly doesn't want the list of speakers at their events given out, even after the meetings! Secret combinations, meeting in Utah! Scary stuff...

And imagine what the writer would be calling it if this "super-secret" organization didn't actually have its own web site (complete with transcripts of speeches given at past meetings) -- he probably would have called it a "super-duper-secret" group.

Another Active Duty Submarine Blogger

Please head on over to Blunoz' Random Ramblings and welcome Kevin to the submarine blogging fold! An active duty officer for 13 years, Kevin should have the current submarining perspective covered from an interesting angle. Welcome aboard!

Update 1009 26 Sept: You can read another submariner's blog over at Twelve Fluid Ounces. Matt has a link to the story about the unfortunately-shaped barracks at the Amphib Base on Coronado.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Dress Uniforms

Navy NewsStand is reporting that a few "lucky" Sailors are going to start wear-testing of the new dress uniforms; here's a picture:

Long-time readers will know that I'm quite curmudgeony when it comes to the new Navy uniform initiative, but I'll admit that I like the concept of the Service Dress Khaki -- and I'm not alone. Unfortunately, in all the pictures of the new uniform, everyone is wearing pisscutters. I'm sorry -- not to be too metro here, but pisscutters do not look good with a jacket. Come to think of it, they really don't look good in any situation. (The only halfway decent thing about them is that you could stick it in your belt and not lose it in situations where you had to carry your cover around.)

As far as the new Service Dress Whites for E-6 and below -- I like that they've made it machine-washable, but the new piping on the cuffs and flap just doesn't look right. It's not bad, it's just not an improvement, and probably detracts from the overall look -- but it's still way better than the damned dress dungarees.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

EXCLUSIVE! Photo Of "Britney In Idaho"! Must Credit Bubblehead!

While I was away in Texas, apparently rumors started flying around the Boise area that Britney Spears was hanging out in southwestern Idaho. From the Idaho Statesman:
Rumors ran wild Thursday and Friday that the troubled singer was lurking in the Treasure Valley. Callers to pop radio stations claimed Spears was in town to see a concert by the Young Dubliners at Taco Bell Arena. (You just know Britney loves Irish-rock.) Others thought she’d be at The Big Easy for a show by rapper E-40.
The most common spot Spears was allegedly spotted? Nampa...
...Radio station Kiss 103.3 FM was the first to receive a call from a female listener Thursday claiming that Britney was in Idaho. The calls soon multiplied — at Kiss before spreading to its competitor, Magic 93.1 FM — and continued Friday.
Rumors claimed Spears would be going clubbing at China Blue/Dirty Little Roddy’s Thursday, which had fans breathlessly eyeing every limousine that drove down Main Street.
While Britney's publicists are claiming that the young dancer was not in Boise, my sources say otherwise! The same elite Bubblehead Photoshopping Investigative Team that brought you the picture of the Zamboni in the Boise Burger King Drivethru has undisnonreliable photographic evidence that Ms. Spears had recently visited the most recognizable landmark in Boise:

Take that, mainstream "flea"-dia! A blogger just totally scooped your butts! Boo-yah!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where Do We Get Such Men?

On the front page of the USA Today I got at my hotel today was a story of such stunning power that I was left teary-eyed and shaken. While the story is focused mostly on the guilt survivors may feel when heroes have sacrificed their lives for them, I was drawn to the word portraits of the lost heroes themselves. An excerpt:

Last September, Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, 25, of Garden Grove, Calif., fell on a grenade that landed on a rooftop in Ramadi, where he and two other Navy SEALs were stationed as part of a sniper team. Monsoor saved the lives of the other two.
"You think about him every day. And everything pretty much revolves around what he did," says a 29-year-old Navy lieutenant with the SEALs, married and the father of one... "You'd like to tell yourself that you'd do what Mikey did. But until you're faced with that situation, you really don't know."
That's the part of the story that really got me; all of us who are or have been in the military know that there are circumstances where we might have to sacrifice ourselves for our buddies, or shipmates, or whatever we call our brothers in arms. Most of us never have to actually face that choice, of course; the heroes in this story did, and in the most sacred tradition of the U.S. military, met their fates with dignity and honor.

Submariners nowadays don't normally have to make those choices, but back in WWII, they did. The submariner who most closely fits the profile of the heroes discussed in the article is CDR Howard Gilmore, CO of USS Growler (SS 215), in early 1942. His Medal of Honor citation says it best:
In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat's heavy machineguns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, "Take her down." The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.
CDR Gilmore knew that his crew would try to save him if he let them, but in doing so would risk the loss of the submarine. Like the heroes in Iraq who covered grenades with their bodies to save their brothers, he freely sacrificed himself to save his crew. And as CDR Gilmore's memory was honored by a grateful nation with the awarding of our highest decoration, so too should the sacrifice of the more recent heroes be honored.

Neptunus Lex also commented on the story, and adds this highly appropriate conclusion:
We must instead remember them, tell their names, tell the stories of those who loved so much that they gave their own lives. There will be many, of course, too many to list. But we can start with these:

Jason Dunham
Michael Mansoor
Ross McGinnis
Rafael Peralta
James Witkowski

John 15:13
(Links above were added by me.) That verse is the most appropriate way to describe these heroes. As Christ gave his life that all of us could have eternal life, these men gave their lives so their brothers could continue in this life. Greater love has no one, indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Target-Rich Environment

My earlier post of a good periscope photo of a destroyer in the crosshairs inspired an old college buddy of mine to send in a TOF shot from his boat during Rimpac '02. How'd you like to see this through the 'scope?

There was also a fifth ship in the formation that wouldn't fit into the field of vision. From the E-mail accompanying the photo:
BTW, the skimmer “judge” said it was a miss on all targets!!! (We were shooting the oiler, but figured “what the heck”, the mayhem of hitting any of the five was worth the lack of separation.)
Skimmer "judges" are funny. I remember during my first deployment, we were doing an "opposed unrep" against the Ranger Battle Group. We had the carrier, oiler, and a destroyer all sailing along tied up together, with us 4nm ahead of them, about 2000 yds off track. The carrier guys we had riding us said they'd been told that there was no way a submarine could ever get in that position because of the "protective ASW blanket" surrounding the carrier. We laughed and laughed, shot off our flares, and radioed in that we'd be back in 30 minutes to do it again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Trip Report: Penny Arcade Expo, Seattle

During the last weekend in August, I went to Seattle with my two sons to attend the Penny Arcade Expo, a three day get together for "gamers" of various types. And believe me, there were many types of people there. Without further ado, here are some lessons learned and observations from my foray into the world of gamers and the people of Seattle:

1) Of most interest to bloggers and those who read them, we actually met and had lunch with the incomparable ninme!
The boys and I met ninme and her partner Peter for lunch; since they're locals, they knew a really good, non-touristy place in the bowels of the Pike Place Market. Good conversation and good food was had by all. While it's well known that ninme doesn't want to trade in on her good looks for increased blog traffic, I can report that she easily could if she wanted to. My oldest son rated her as "hot" -- and he's very selective when giving out that label.

2) There were probably over 30K people at the Expo, and while there were quite a few of the stereotypical "gamer" guys who would be recognized as "nerds" from miles away, there were a surprising number of "regular" people -- mostly, they seemed to be tech workers at various Seattle companies like Microsoft. The ratio of guys to girls seemed to be about 4:1; a good proportion of the girls seemed to be dressed in what I can only describe as a "goth schoolgirl" style. Short plaid skirts with dog collars made for an interesting visual.

3) The gamers themselves were divided into video gamers and table gamers; there were quite a few people clustered around tabletops with arcane symbols and playing pieces, with die of between 4 and 20 sides flying around everywhere. While I admit to having played "Dungeons and Dragons" back before I joined the Navy, I found myself hanging out more with the "video game" people (since my sons were in that category). Here I am kicking butt on Guitar Hero 2 -- (Level of Difficulty: Easy):

4) "Geek music" and "Nerdcore rap" are actually pretty good. One of the best parts of the expo for me was discovering a singer named Jonathan Coulton, an ex-computer programmer who now writes and performs songs about various things that interest geeks. Do yourself a favor -- if you ever see that Jonathan Coulton is coming to your town, go see him. He's coming to Austin tonight, so I'll be there. The various geek celebrities (including keynote speaker and celebrity gamer spokesman Wil Wheaton) made themselves available to their fans throughout the weekend. Here are the boys with nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot:

5) Despite what some on the right might say, the gamers I saw there were anything but anti-social. If your kids like video games, it's not a bad thing. If you like video games yourself, don't be ashamed. Just see if you can get your kids to take you on in some of the old games, and kick their butts.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Three Candles

It's my third blogiversary here at TSSBP; who woulda known it would make it this far? Over the three years I've been posting here I've generated almost 1800 entries (this one is #1795), and I've gotten over 478,000 visits with over 956,000 page views -- probably about half of those visits in the last year.

Thanks for sticking with me over the years, and I hope to be able to continue providing the submarine-and-snark content you're looking for.

Staying at PD...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Perpetual (E)Motion

Check out this article in a British newspaper about what some people are calling the next big science breakthrough -- a 12" tube that violates the First Law of Thermodynamics! Excerpts:
Even the makers of the device are at a loss to explain exactly how it works - but sceptical independent scientists carried out their own tests and discovered that the 12in x 2in tube really does produce far more heat energy than the electrical energy put in.
The device seems to break the fundamental physical law that energy cannot be created from nothing - but researchers believe it taps into a previously unrecognised source of energy, stored at a sub-atomic level within the hydrogen atoms in water.
The system - developed by scientists at a firm called Ecowatts in a nondescript laboratory on an industrial estate at Lancing, West Sussex - involves passing an electrical current through a mixture of water, potassium carbonate (otherwise known as potash) and a secret liquid catalyst, based on chrome.
This creates a reaction that releases an incredible amount of energy compared to that put in. If the reaction takes place in a unit surrounded by water, the liquid heats up, which could form the basis for a household heating system.
Normally, you'd figure that any reputable government would laugh and point if asked to back such a scheme, but not the British government. The onetime world leader in pure science is now being taken in by perpetual motion machine "inventors", providing government "backing" to the company. (If the thing really heated water without taking the energy from the irreversible breakdown of the "secret liquid catalyst" -- which takes more energy to make than it produces by breaking down -- one could convert the hotter water to electricity which could run the machine; hence, perpetual motion.)

I like that they are theorizing that the new force involved comes from the "sub-atomic level within the hydrogen atoms". Maybe it's those darned-elusive "fractional quantum states" I blogged about earlier!

I just wish there was some ethical way to make money from recognizing that there really is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


While chatting with my son today (the 'net is a wonderful thing) the subject of what I've always euphemistically called "PM D-1R" came up (guys say these things to each other). My son asked what "PM" stood for, so I figured I'd send him a link to an MRC card -- and, to make it potentially more humorous, I searched for one that had to do with a toilet. The one I found, clearly written by a submariner, had everything I was looking for and more. Excerpts:
1. Preliminary
a. Inform Work Center Supervisor of personnel’s desire to remove himself from an able status. Ensure permission is granted.
b. Ensure person performing D-1R is not on watch, maneuvering watch is not set, and decontamination station is not set (as denoted by copious amounts of yellow material).
c. Verify that Sanitaries are not pressurized as noted by signs hung stating, “WARNING! BLOWING SANITARIES.” If pressure exerted on lower abdominal region is too great, consider performing R-5 (Emergency Bowel Movement Using Plastic Bag)
WARNING: Entering stall before verifying stall is empty may be hazardous to continuation of life.
2. Verify stall empty
a. Knock three times on stall door and ask potential occupants of their presence.
b. If stall is occupied, move to next stall and repeat step 2.a.
c. If all three stalls are occupied, wait until an occupant has removed himself from the stall, and then continue to Step 3. Remove reading material and review while waiting.
NOTE: Stall #2 has shown signs of becoming clogged during performance of D-1R. If emergency, perform PM using stall #2. Otherwise, continue to wait until either stall #1 or #3 are clear.
d. If greater than 5 minutes have passed and all three stalls remain to be occupied,
reperform Step 2 in its entirety to verify occupants are awake. Use colorful language such as “Hey. You. Pinch it off. I need to drop a deuce.”
3. Entering stall
a. Open door to stall by moving handle either clockwise or counterclockwise from the centerline position.
b. Inspect stall for presence of toilet paper. If none, do not continue with maintenance action. Inform WCS.
WARNING: Do not substitute any other material such as kim-wipes, socks, and magazine pages for toilet paper. Your anus will thank you.
c. Open door 90 degrees until door rests flush with wall.
NOTE: Maintain positive control of head door. Releasing door will potentially cause a “noise transient” denoted by a loud banging noise. If “noise transient” is heard, back out of MR, inform the Chief of the Watch (COW), and proceed to Step 1.
d. Position yourself between toilet and door.
e. Move door 90 degrees back to original position and ensure Primary Locking Device(PLD) mates with Frame Locking Mechanism (FLM).
f. Slide Secondary Locking Device (SLD) until it mates with the FLM. The stall is now secure from unauthorized entry.
WARNING: Opening bowl flush valve while sanitaries are pressurized will cause loss of cleanliness, friends, and respect.
g. Open toilet drain valve. Verify that water exits the bowl with no “burping.” If burping exists, or water does not drain at all, inform A-Division LPO and proceed to Step 2.
WARNING: Performing bowel movement while having a waterless bowl will lead to “stinkbowling” the occupants of the FCML Head, and will cause your reputation to diminish.
h. Open toilet fill valve until proper level in the bowl is seen. Experience has shown that 3 – 4 inches above the bowl bottom is required.
4. Disrobe
a. Using Inventory Sheet (Table 2), take inventory of all items in port and starboard, forward and aft pockets (including breast pockets), belt, and all items attached to belt.
b. While maintaining positive control of belt buckle, unclasp belt buckle. If belt does not maintain it’s position while unclasped, remove all tools, articles, and TLD from belt, remove belt, replace all items removed back onto belt, clasp belt buckle and hang belt from a convenient location.
NOTE: Visually note that TLD is present throughout this step. If TLD is not present, exit stall and inform LELT/Corpsman.
The references to FCML and COW make it obvious that it comes from a submariner. Read the whole thing -- it's hilarious.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chilean Submarine In San Diego

Navy NewsStand has a couple of pictures of the newest participant in the Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) as she arrived in Point Loma -- the Chilean Type 209 CS Simpson (SS 21):

CS Simpson seems to be replacing the Swedish submarine HMS Gotland as the U.S.-based allied DESI participant. According to the article accompanying the pictures, the Chileans will be at Subase Point Loma for three months. From what I've heard, the Chileans are either the 2nd or 3rd best submariners in the Western Hemisphere (it's between them and the Canadians for 2nd place, and I wouldn't bet against the Chileans), so they should provide a high level of training for our Navy. I'm sure the American submariners in San Diego are giving their Chileans brothers a good primer on the places to go and things to see while they're in town!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Angles And Dangles

Remember those 30 degree up and down angles, and how you'd never quite be able to lean over far enough to touch the floor while keeping an erect posture? And remember how crap would fly out of the damn'dest places after an upkeep? And remember how you never ever slid down some long straightaway on a grey blanket, like the Missile Compartment on a boomer or past the starboard side of Maneuvering in a 688? Ever wanted video proof that, yes, you did lean that far over? Check out these guys from what looks like a Trident (bad word warning!) doing a 29° up-angle:

Good times...

Update 0100 12 Sep: Here's another one -- not quite so dramatic -- that looks like it was taken in Crew's Mess on USS Alaska (SSBN 732).

A Submariner In Afghanistan

Today, as everyone knows, is the 6th anniversary of the attacks that woke most people up to the existence of the War on Terror. I'm still haunted by the images of that day:

While remembrance is important, it's also important to remember that the world goes on, and each tragedy brings forth important work to do. One person doing that work right now is LT Kenneth Cooke. LT Cooke is a submariner; he did his JO tour on USS Boise (SSN 764), and went to SUBLANT for his post-JO shore duty. One of his old Boise shipmates sent me an E-mail to let me know what Kenneth is doing now. Excerpts:

He's spending 400+ days in Sharana, Afghanistan, in the Paktika province. It's on the SE border, not too far from Pakistan. His job there is to oversee the construction, reconstruction, and subsequent employment of Afghanistan. The PRT contracts out for roads, schools, dams, etc. to local construction companies. Ken, since he's an expert, is the engineer that signs off on many of the projects. As such, he deals directly with many of the town and village elders, visits many of the religious leaders, and sees a lot of the countryside.
This also means he drives HUMVEEs through some pretty rough places. He's seen running firefights, he's ordered his soldiers into battle to relieve a Polish force that was under heavy fire, and had his FOB overrun. Yes, this is a submarine nuke...
Recently, LT Cooke's PRT suffered the kind of tragedy that happens too often in war. The E-mail continues:

Recently, his PRT lost three soldiers to enemy action. During the memorial service, which ran the "whole nine yards: roll call, 21 gun salute, Amazing Grace on bagpipes, and taps," General Pace showed up to "express his thanks for (Ken's) leadership."
General Peter Pace is the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I'm assuming this visit took place earlier this month; an article about the visit is here. The E-mail goes on to say that LT Cooke got a chance to meet GEN Pace, who gave Kenneth a coin. Here's a picture of the submariner and the Chairman:

LT Kenneth Cooke, your service, like that of all submariners fighting the War on Terror at home or aboard, is deeply appreciated by those of us safe here in our houses. Whether it's submariners at sea doing more "traditional" submarine missions, or trailblazers like LT Cooke and CS2(SS) Matthew Julian, all of us "old-timers" are proud of you, and happy you're carrying on -- and expanding -- the best traditions of those of us who wear dolphins.

Undersea Warfare Magazine Article On Virginia-Class Submarines

I'm not sure when it got posted, but the Winter 2007 edition of Undersea Warfare magazine is online now. The "newest" version has a really good article on operating USS Virginia (SSN 774) at sea that submariners of all ages will like. I especially liked one passage that described how inventive submariners are in figuring out some uses of installed equipment that designers never envisioned:
Each photonics mast has three cameras in it; a high-resolution black and white camera, a color camera, and an infrared camera. Virginia’s designers did not originally envision that the infrared camera would be used 24 hours per day, as it was designed as a night-vision camera. However, Cmdr. Cramer and his crew quickly discovered how versatile the photonics system is. While transiting down the Thames River to Block Island Sound during the day, “we would use infrared on the surface, and my team became accustomed to using it because it allowed us to see lobster pot buoys much quicker than the naked eye because the markers reflect heat differently than the adjacent water does, so the ship could easily maneuver around lobster pots or debris in the water.”
It's kinda the same way the designers of the scuttle from lower level berthing to the wardroom on a 688 never figured the crew would use it to listen in on "secret" officer meetings.

What "new" uses of installed equipment did submariners on your boats come up with?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I'm A Lucky Guy

For our 22nd wedding anniversary yesterday, check out what SubBasket got me:

Isn't she the best? It's what every submariner should want. (I'm not sure if her recent taking of a job at a children's toy store had anything to do with the selection of these particular presents.)

On a Blog Admin note, I'm heading down to Texas tomorrow on a business trip for the next couple of weeks, so I either won't be posting or, if my hotel has internet access, I'll be posting quite a lot. I'll keep you informed (or not, if I don't have 'net).

Update 2320 (CDT) 09 Sep: I have internet access here in Austin. As I got out of the airport building, the air hit me like a weight; I'm not used to all this humidity anymore. However, they do serve sweet tea here in restaurants (which I haven't had since I was stationed in Charleston), so that makes up for it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

So What Changed In 19 Months?

A short story on the Navy NewsStand website reminding officers that they need to get their official photographs in to NPC by Sept. 30 made me wonder when they had gotten rid of the requirement to have a photograph on file. I did some research, and discovered a little drama I'll call "A Tale of Two NAVADMINS":

It was the jest of times, it was the reversed of times. Back in September 2005, the then-Chief of Naval Personnel, VADM Gerald Hoewing, released NAVADMIN 224/05, which eliminated the 20th century requirement that all officer service records kept in D.C. have a relatively current full-length photo, thusly:
After careful review, it has been determined that the requirement to maintain an official photograph in the Officer Military Personnel File is no longer necessary, as adherence to physical standards is commented upon fitness reports and technology permits rapid transmission of officer photographs when needed. In addition, elimination of the requirement to maintain a photograph in the official service record will help streamline and modernize record management.
This actually makes sense. It's the 21st century, and while they didn't say it, it eliminated the questions that might have existed if someone didn't get promoted because they "looked different" (read -- "ethnic") when the picture was put up on the screen during promotion boards.

Apparently, this didn't work out for some reason, because a short 19 months later, the new CNP sent out a new NAVADMIN (103/07 for those keeping score at home). It said:
This NAVADMIN announces the reinstatement of the requirement for officer photographs in the official military personnel file (OMPF) maintained on the electronic military personnel records system (EMPRS) and cancels Ref A. This initiative will reemphasize the integral elements of military bearing and physical fitness to service professionalism. This policy will align military bearing, physical fitness/appearance and overall service professionalism within DON.
So what happened? Did the original NAVADMIN misalign military bearing and overall service professionalism within DON? Or, is it more likely that the new CNP, as a prelude to his highly anticipated "Required official PT Uniforms aren't completely lame at all" initiative, decided to return the Navy to its 21st century Core Value of "The way to win the War on Terror is not to be smarter, but to look better in uniform than the terrorists"? Way to go, Shore Warriors! You might have screwed the pooch when it came to taking care of Individual Augmentees, but at least the people still in the Navy will look good before they get promoted or retained!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Urban Legends, Nuke Style

Even better than shore story urban legends are the ones that supposedly happen at sea. One that popped into my head today was the "Legend of the SCRAM Switch Chicken Game".

"SCRAM Switch Chicken" was supposedly played by Reactor Operators, wherein they'd rotate the SCRAM Switch as far as they dared towards the "SCRAM" position (obviously without actually making the contacts) and leaving a pencil mark showing how far they'd gotten if they surpassed the old record. To make the game interesting, it would have to be done while the reactor was critical -- otherwise there was no risk. (You have to assume here that the EOOW was one of those officers who wanted to be "one of the guys".)

One story I heard about the game going too far involved a guy standing his last midwatch SRO before he got out of the Navy. This urban legend goes that he didn't much like his division mates, so he erased the old pencil mark and replaced it with one that was just past the "make" position of the switch. The story goes on that the next RO who tried the game underway got more than he bargained for when he tried to set a new record.

(Interestingly, a website of stories from the Enterprise has a similar account -- maybe that's where the submarine version came from.)

Similar Nuke Urban Legends tell of the dirty pictures put underneath various placards on the RPCP, along with the story of this message written on the back of isolation valve switch covers: "If you had a leak right now, you'd be screwed". (For the non-nukes out there, the only way to get the cover off was to take the handle off the switch.)

Midwatch SROs have a lot of time on their hands.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Can Submarines Help Enforce Immigration Laws?

Looks like USS San Juan (SSN 751) had an interesting port egress from Gibraltar this week:
Four Moroccans hoping to make an illicit crossing to Spain to join thousands of illegal migrants there suddenly found themselves alongside a US nuclear submarine, reports said Sunday. Crew of the 110-metre-long USS San Juan discovered the Moroccans' flimsy boat bobbing at their side as the huge sub was easing out of Gibraltar, El Pais newspaper said.
The US crew informed Spanish coastguards via the submarine's base in distant Norfolk, Virginia, and a Spanish rescue boat was sent. However, a Moroccan patrol boat arrived first - and repatriated the would-be migrants.
That's probably one of those things you don't cover during the piloting brief for leaving port -- "OK, and if we see a refugee boat, we'll prepare to repel boarders and contact Spanish authorities on Channel 17; if that doesn't work, we'll call up SubLant and let them deal with it."

I'm wondering if the people whining about the San Juan's visit earlier in the week were happy that they were available to help enforce local immigration laws? Probably not...

Football Is Back!

Seeing football games that actually meant something this week means that the year is finally entering its most interesting phase. Our youngest son saw his first action on his high school's JV team on Thursday in a 23-0 win, then we watched the Mountain View HS varsity beat the same team 58-0 on Friday night.

On Saturday, we watched Nebraska dismantle Nevada 52-10 -- showing that despite Boise State's win over Oklahoma in last year's Fiesta Bowl, a top 4 Big 12 team is much, much better than the average top 4 WAC team. While I really enjoyed seeing Michigan lose to a 1-AA opponent at home, I think the thing that jumped out at me most this week was the performance by Hawaii QB Colt Brennan late last night after most Sunday papers had gone to press. Brennan (admittedly playing against a weak opponent) was 34 for 40 for 416 yards and 6 TDs passing -- in the first half. While I'll be the first to admit that WAC football can't stand up to the best teams on a week in and week out basis, Brennan still deserves mad props for that performance.