Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
HMS Superb Back In The UK
HMS Superb (S 109) returned to Plymouth under her own power this week after suffering a submerged grounding in the Red Sea last month. She stopped at Souda Bay for temporary repairs on the way home, after originally pulling in Aqaba, Jordan to evaluate the damage; word on the street was that the bottom half of the sonar dome was ripped off, she was down about 2 feet in the bow, and had a 3 degree list to port as she pulled into Jordan. Looks like the temporary repairs did the job of getting her home.
Meridian Library And Censorship
Chris at The Unequivocal Notion had a post last week about a rumor that my local library here in Meridian had been pulling material off the shelf in response to the decision by the Nampa Library Board to put some "Joy of Sex" books behind the counter. A commenter had left this on his website:
Now, a few certain staff members at the Meridian library (just a few miles down the road) have begun to remove "unrated" DVDs and possibly other "controversial" items from their shelves. This act of self-censorship is troubling because no one from the public has challenged these items. The Meridian library board may not even be aware of the decision. Meridian has tried (and failed) many times to pass a bond for a new building, so maybe this self-censorship is an attempt to avoid public scrutiny before it begins.Like most people who love the 1st Amendment, I'm always concerned about censorship by government entities, so I when I went to the Meridian Library to check out some books, I asked to speak to someone about the allegations. Patricia, the Library Director, came right out and said that, yes, she was aware of the controversy. (Portions of the post linked above had been printed in the local paper's "Other Voices" section.)
Patricia explained that part of her job is to do "deselection", in which she goes through the entire library's holdings a section at a time to see if there are items that could be replaced by something more popular, and last month she was scheduled to review movies. In doing so, she noted that there were several unrated movies (many of them in VCR format, which rarely get checked out). She says she did remove them from the shelf to evaluate those movies. Most of them are now back on the shelves, and for the ones that she found inappropriate for a public library, she's ordered the "R"-rated versions of those movies from Amazon; they'll be on the shelf as soon as they arrive. Personally, I don't have a problem with not having what are basically NC-17 movies on the library shelves if there's an R-rated version available, and I think most people would agree. Patricia went on to say that she never removes books because of perceived controversy, and if she thought she should she'd definitely go to the Library Board. I'd like to think I have a pretty good internal B.S. detector, and it seemed to me that she was being completely honest. I can report that the Meridian Library doesn't seem to have the problem that we see in our neighboring town.
Friday, June 27, 2008
And The Submarine Capital Of The Navy Is...
A little over two weeks ago, the outgoing Base CO at Naval Station Kitsap had a throw-away line in his Change of Command speech where he said:
"The new submarine capital of the Navy is Kitsap," Tanaka told about 200 invited guests during a change-of-command ceremony that was chased into the Bangor theater by threatening skies. "There are more submarine crews in Kitsap than in any other place."Since the boomers and SSGNs stationed there have two crews, he's actually correct -- even though Subase New London has 2 more full-sized submarines assigned (plus NR-1). He also noted that Bangor has all three types of submarines there (SSBNs, SSGN, and SSNs), whereas only SSNs are stationed in Groton. He could have also pointed out that the three newest SSNs in the Bremerton area could wipe out any group of ships (up to and including a complete Strike Group, or a complete submarine squadron) in the world without breaking a sweat. Things move slowly up Groton way, but they've finally responded to this "heresy":
After the staff in Groton heard about Tanaka's remarks, Ginda said “there were no emergency meetings to figure out how we were going to counter this blasphemy, if you will” because Tanaka has a “tough road ahead of him” if he wants to continue to call Kitsap the new capital.Captain Ginda is actually right in this "controversy". Whiile Kitsap might have more capable and varied submarines, the fact remains that the vast majority of Submariners pass through Groton at some point in their careers -- everyone goes through training there before getting to their first boat except the enlisted nukes. Plus, the Nautilus is there, as well as the company that built USS Holland (SS 1). In my mind, as long as the Submarine School and Submarine Force Museum remain in Groton, it will be the "Submarine Capital".
”We have the natural synergy of the base and Electric Boat, right down the river, where the latest class of subs are built,” Ginda said. “We have sub school, where officers and enlisted cut their teeth on a submarine profession that started here, as the first submarine base, and continues on as the submarine capital of the world.”
The Puget Sound is a lot prettier than the Long Island Sound, though...
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) Christened
PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) was christened at Electric Boat on Saturday. New Hampshire resident and 9/11 widow Cheryl McGuinness was the ship's sponsor. Looks like she did a good job of making sure the champagne bottle was well and truly broken:
Video of the christening can be found on this page of the EB website. (Clicking on one of the links on that page will open up your default video program.)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Be Stupid, Get Punished
This story is in the paper today talking about what happened in the town just south of mine:
A 16-year-old boy was charged with a DUI early Wednesday after a train hit and demolished a pickup truck he got stuck on railroad tracks in Kuna...There must be something about 16 year old boys and pickup trucks. Three weeks after I got my license, I was driving my parent's truck around the gravel roads in our rural part of the county when the three of us in the cab decided to drive over "Highwalker's Hill" -- a very steep hill on a dirt road that has a very sharp crest. I went over the top of the hill at a much higher speed than was safe, the front two wheels went airborne, and -- the truck being empty -- the loss of friction from the front wheels caused the truck to veer to the left; when the wheels landed, we were at about a 20 degree angle relative to the road, heading towards the ditch. I swerved back and forth all the way down the hill and halfway up the next before I lost it. The truck almost cleared the ditch, but didn't, and did a full roll back onto the road. The frame was twisted, and the wheels were frozen onto the hubs -- we ended up only being able to salvage the rear-view mirror. My parents weren't happy. Luckily for me, alcohol wasn't involved, and no one got seriously injured.
...The pickup, which was thrown about 100 feet by the force of impact from the train, was destroyed.
The boy told investigators he was driving the pickup southbound on Swan Falls Road when he attempted to go around some railroad cars that were blocking the road on one set of tracks.
But the pickup got high-centered on that set of railroad tracks and another set of tracks next to it.
A short time later, the boy heard a train coming from the east on the other set of tracks, so he and his passenger, an 18-year-old man, jumped out of the pickup and ran away before the train hit the truck. No one was injured in the crash, according to reports.
The bottom line: I have sympathy for this poor kid in Kuna, and hope he learns his lesson about drinking and driving, and I'm glad no one was hurt. I also really, really wish someone would have filmed this accident, 'cause the visuals I'm getting from just reading the story are hilarious.
Friday, June 13, 2008
USS Providence Gets Their Burke On
USS Providence (SSN 719) was formally presented with her Arleigh Burke trophy for 2007 in a ceremony yesterday by LantFleet Commander ADM Jonathan Greenert. What makes the Burke award special this year is that submarines won the award for both fleets -- USS Key West (SSN 722) won for PacFleet. Having submarines be named as "most improved" ship or squadron for both fleets is a good thing, I suppose... although I also suppose that they had to be not so good at one point to have a point to improve from. In any event, BZ to the officers and crew of both ships!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Huge!!!1!!1!! New Navy (U)Niform News
The official Navy website has a couple recent stories about new Navy uniform goings-on that are sure to have a huge rippling effect throughout the service. First, they announced with appropriate fanfare that the Service Dress Khaki wear test had commenced. Here's the CNO wearing his SDKs; somehow, he ended up being one of the Beta testers:
I've always been a fan of the return of the Service Dress Khakis (and I'm not alone), but I admit that there's one thing that bugs me just a little about it. The concept of being able to quickly switch from informal Service Khaki to Dress Khaki just by adding a tie and jacket is good, but you still have something that, IMHO, violates one of the basic rules of Good Uniform Design -- too many visible rank insignia. No other uniform, other than the Women's Service Dress White worn by Officer Candidates for their first uniform inspection, has two complete sets of rank insignia visible -- both shoulder boards (or the traditional one crow for CPOs) and metal collar devices. It's nit-picky, I know, but it strikes me as overkill. Still, it'd probably be more tacky to make people remove the collar insignia and have two (or more, depending on how old the khaki shirt is) holes plainly visible on each collar tab. Overall, I give this uniform a big thumbs up.
The far bigger news, of course, is the unveiling of the prototype Official Navy Running Suit. If you think I was excited about the initial issuance of the Physical Training Uniform, that's nothing compared to how much I support this new Running Suit. Check it out!
They haven't said anything about it, but I suspect that this will be an optional accouterment to the required shorts and shirt (like the headgear, "official" running shoes, and compression shorts mentioned during the early announcements). More than just a Physical Training Uniform, this complete Suit says about the wearer that he or she is willing to go the extra mile to show that they're a complete Dig-it. It's important that such people stand out, so their peers know who they are.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
(Re)-Learn To Fly
Back until sometime in 1999, I always enjoyed flying. I was never very good as a passenger in a car after I was in my first car accident (I always wanted to be in control of the vehicle after that), but I did great as a passenger in a plane. Then, something happened to change that -- I learned what makes flying actually work.
In between shipyard Eng tours, I got "shore duty" on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff, deployed on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). As part of qualifying Flag Watch Officer, we had to learn a lot about flight operations, and working in the Operations Staff "barrio", I heard a lot of sea stories from the pilots with whom I served. As a result of learning more about what could go wrong in the air, I found that I was, frankly, kind of scared to fly -- every unexpected dip made me unreasonably afraid something bad was going to happen. Of course, I ended up flying more in the next 4 years than I ever had before (including six trans-Atlantic flights and two carrier take-offs). I'm doing better now the few times a year that I fly, but I'd still rather drive if I could.
I bring this up because I'm flying off to visit family today in Nebraska -- the Land of the Dial-Up Internet Connection. As a result, expect light posting for the next week. Please use the comments on this post as kind of an "open thread"; I suggest telling about when you were most scared aboard a submarine. (A reader suggested this a while back, so now's as good a time as any.) For me, I was probably most scared during my first deployment on USS Topeka (SSN 754), when we were doing an Opposed Unrep exercise with USS Ranger (CV 61) and her skimmer escorts in August 1992. (For long-time readers, I first talked about this episode here.) We'd done our first "attack" on the ships, gone deep to reposition, and were coming back up to PD to take a look around and re-engage. I was on Fire Control, and was stacking dots when the OOD noticed a sharply breaking DIMUS trace on the AVSDU. We did an emergency deep when we got to about 80 feet, but, looking at the dot stack I had and the really small range I was coming up with, I thought for sure we were gonna get hit. As it was, we were saved by the "Big Ocean, Small Ship" principle. Never again did I fear for my life when on a submarine; even the flooding that got called away during our initial dive on USS Connecticut (SSN 22) didn't worry me too much -- probably because I was aft, the "flooding" was forward, and we were in shallow water.
What's your story?
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
May Movie Reviews
I ended up seeing all four "big" May movies last month (no, I don't consider "Sex And The City" a big movie), and was gonna review all of them, but never found the time. (I did review "Speed Racer" earlier, and ended up deciding I liked it a little more than the initial review implies.) Since I don't have time for decent reviews, here are some synopsii, in order of how much I liked them:
1) "Iron Man": I wasn't really expecting to like this one; I've never read the comic book, and I'm not a big Robert Downey, Jr. fan, but this one was really good. It combined good manly action with a surprising amount of humor that just made for an really enjoyable movie experience.
2) "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": My third favorite of the four Indiana Jones films ("Last Crusade" is my favorite, then "Raiders"), the movie suffers only in comparison to the previous good films in the franchise. The action is good, Harrison Ford does a great job, but let's face it -- "Crystal Skulls" just don't match up to the Holy Grail or the Lost Ark as the subject of a good quest. Had this been a stand-alone movie, it might have made the top of my list for May, but loses out only because I had a nagging feeling that it could have been much better.
3) "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian": I actually liked this film better than the first one in the series. I thought the story flowed more smoothly, and the kids weren't nearly as annoying; I really liked how they quickly brought the story up to speed and effectively showed how returning to their own world after their first Narnia adventure changed the Pevensie children. I was disappointed with how they portrayed Aslan in the first movie; in this one, they didn't back away from the Jesus parallels, they accepted them with open arms. That, and a more "believable" story to work with, made this one a really good film.
4) "Speed Racer": The more I think about it, the more I enjoy it; my earlier review is here, and nothing much has changed, although I've convinced myself in hindsight that the good overweighs the "blah" enough that I'm raising my rating to a 4 out of 5 -- the same as the other three movies.
Now This Is A Decent Ass-Chewing!
HMS Superb (S 109) was in the news recently for grounding in the Red Sea; today she's back in the news for something that happened back in January. It seems that one of the sub's crewmembers was found asleep on watch; this resulted in the XO ripping the crew a new one. That's not that big a deal; what is unusual is that one of the submariners being bawled out caught the whole thing on his cell phone. From the BBC article:
During the six-minute address, which is peppered with expletives, the officer strongly criticised the sleeping watchman, the removal of safety ropes around storage tanks and the turning off of fans.The video, appropriately bleeped, can be seen either at the link above, or here. If you haven't been yelled at by an XO in a while, watch the video and relive the old days! (Of course, I'm sure many of us have been ripped into much, much worse -- especially my old shipmates on USS Topeka during the '91-'93 reign of "He Who Must Not Be Named".)
He told the men: "The incident last night is entirely f***ing unacceptable.
"You know far better than to allow stuff like that to happen. As submariners, you accept responsibility for yourselves and your shipmates.
"Getting your f***ing napper down while watching a f***ing DVD and swigging lager isn't accepting responsibility for your shipmates.
"It's throwing that responsibility away and saying, to me - I don't give a f*** what happens to my mates on board the boat and I don't give a f*** what happens to the boat.
"That's the worst example I can f***ing think of, but it stirs up some of the other things that have been going on."
Submarine CO/XO Screening
Blunoz has up the list of submarine officers who screened for CO and XO this year, at the end of this post that also has a fairly good explanation of sub officer career progression. Going over the list, I noticed at least three guys who were my students at NPTU Charleston back in '93-'95 are on the CO list -- that was enough to make me feel pretty old. On the other hand, I know that it'll still be at least a couple of years until they actually get command, so I can make myself feel somewhat younger by realizing that it's my peers who are in command now -- like my old SOAC classmate who just took USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) out on deployment. (Interesting tidbit: CDR Kropcho is on his 3rd tour on the Jacksonville; he also did part of his JO tour and his XO tour on her.) I sure hope they get a better mid-deployment voyage repair port than USS Dallas (SSN 700) scored; she has to spend her upkeep in Diego Garcia. At least there's little risk of liberty incidents there.