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.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year End Personal News And Notes

Thanks again for to all the readers of TSSBP for all your support throughout the year. It's been a busy week here at the Bubblehead house; I wanted to fill you in on what's going on:

1) This morning, I finished my radiation treatments in preparation for the cancer surgery I'll be having in a month or so; the chemo finished up yesterday. Everyone says I came through the radiation treatments (5,040 rads to my gastro-esophageal junction) about as well as anyone they've seen, in that I've been able to eat and drink normally throughout the treatment; one nurse said she's only seen one person through their office (a Marine) also make it through without having to tube feed. I credit the extra shielding I have (although I did lose about 15 lbs of that during the treatments.) I'll be starting back to work on Sunday, and hopefully will get the surgery scheduled in Seattle very soon.

2) Farewell, Faithful Friend: Yesterday, we had to say good-bye to our beloved cat, Hercules. It was a very emotional moment for all of us. A loving companion to our whole family, Hercules blessed our lives more than we could have hoped for, both with his affection and humor. Some of the "Best of Hercules" can be seen here; a more recent picture is here:

Thanks for sharing your life with us, old friend.

3) For the 3rd year running, I've been selected as a finalist for the "2008 Weblog Awards", this time in the "Best Up and Coming Blog" category against 9 worthy competitors (including the blog that cleaned my clock last year). I finished 2nd in 2006 and 3rd in 2007, so hopefully we'll be able to reverse the trend this year. I'll post more information as we get closer to the start of voting on January 5th (and maybe even another "Completely Impartial Voter's Guide"). As always, your support is appreciated; the "competition" has always been a lot of fun.

4) Go Big Red!

Happy New Year to all!

Update 2312 01 Jan 2009: Thanks to CDR Salamander and ninme for posting about Hercules. It means a lot to us.

Monday, December 29, 2008

SSBN CO Relieved For Cause

The Commanding Officer of the Gold Crew of USS West Virginia (SSBN 736), CDR Charles "Tony" Hill, was relieved for a "lack of confidence" in his ability to command, according to this report from the Florida Times-Union. Excerpts:
Officials at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, where the West Virginia is ported, said there was no specific incident that led to the removal of Cmdr. Charles “Tony” Hill. The decision was made by Capt. Daniel Mack, commander of Submarine Squadron Sixteen/Twenty.
Hill completed his first deployment as commanding officer aboard the West Virginia in November. He was commanding officer of one of the two crews that alternate patrols aboard the Trident submarine.
Hill has been temporarily assigned to Commander, Submarine Group Twenty, Navy officials said. He will be replaced by Capt. Stephen Gillespie, a former commanding officer of the USS Rhode Island. Gillespie is the deputy for training at Submarine Squadron Sixteen/Twenty...
...No commanding officer has been relieved of duties the past five years at Kings Bay, but Rebarich said she couldn’t check beyond that time period because much of her staff is on vacation for the holidays.
I didn't find any more information on any of the official Navy websites, and I haven't heard any word on the street yet about what might have happened. I'll let you know if I read anything useful.

Staying at PD...

Update 1100 30 Dec: Here's the Navy Times update on the story; it has some of CDR Hill's biographical information, but not much new data. Here's the first official Navy announcement, which has even less new info.

Update 1010 01 Jan 2009: Based on the comments here, and the "word on the street", it appears to me that Big Sub Force did the right thing with respect to CDR Hill and the 736G crew. Based on what I'm hearing, the Sub Force leadership noticed problems with the boat, conducted a fair and thorough investigation, and took appropriate action. I'm thinking that by getting ahead of the story, the Sub Force will avoid some of the negative publicity they had from the USS Florida / CDR Alfonso story back in the 90s. (Some of my thoughts on previous stories of domineering submarine COs can be found here, including some links to the Alfonso DFC.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Movie Non-Review: Valkyrie

Normally, I'd go see a movie like "Valkyrie"; I like WWII movies, and I like murder conspiracy movies. In this particular case, however, I'm not planning on seeing it for one reason, and one reason only -- it stars Tom Cruise. In the previews, he looks so unsufferably bad that I'm convinced he's made a film that's about Tom Cruise being an "important actor", rather than an historical figure.

Are there any actors/actresses/directors who will make you avoid a movie you'd otherwise see?

(In defense of "Valkyrie", Dennis Mansfield did see it, and liked it.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

God Bless Us, Every One

Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a joyous holiday. In honor of this day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wanted to share with you the words to my favorite Christmas song, What Child Is This?:
What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
As we celebrate together with family and friends, I feel it's important to keep in mind the Reason for the Season. However you and yours celebrate the holiday, I hope you find joy and happiness. And please keep in your thoughts and prayers those who defend us in distant lands, who aren't able to be with their families today so that we may do so in safety.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa's On His Way

As always, you can track Santa's progress at the NORAD Santa Tracker; when I just checked, he was in Cambodia. They have some new videos this year (the one of his visit to China features the "Bird's Nest"); hopefully, he'll visit the boomer in the Atlantic like he does every year.

Update 2107 24 Dec: Unfortunately, it looks like they've gotten rid of both the traditional visit to the SSBN, and they also didn't have Santa visit an aircraft carrier this year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home For Christmas

One thing I've noticed is that the Navy in general, and the Sub Force in particular, does pretty well is to get as many ships as possible home for Christmas. (The Sub Force also does a good job getting as many boats as possible into port for the Submarine Birthday Ball.) This year, USS Ohio (SSGN 726) returned from her 14+ month deployment (two crews) on Monday, and USS Providence (SSN 719) returned to Groton on Friday from a six month deployment that featured a trip to the North Pole to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nautilus' 1958 trans-Arctic journey. Here's a picture that shows a "visitor" they picked up at the Pole:

This story from The New London Day features a video of the homecoming:

My only Christmas homecoming on a submarine came not following a deployment, but following one of those "weekly ops" that turned into a three week cluster****. Here we were, onboard USS Topeka (SSN 754), in December 1991. We went out during the 2nd week of December to provide services for USS Chicago (SSN 721); this was to be our last underway prior to the Christmas stand-down. During the week, Chicago somehow turned her diesel into a seawater pump, so she wasn't going to be able to fulfill her obligation to head up to Nanoose for a Mk 50 OpEval. (Maybe Midwatch Cowboy will be able to fill us in with details from the Chicago's side.) The powers-that-be (correctly) decided that the Topeka would be a good stand-in, so we identified the people who were going on the first Christmas leave period and did a BSP at San Diego to drop them off; it was about a third of the crew. Due to various circumstances, we kept getting delayed from returning home, but when we finally got released, SUBPAC gave us the highest SOA I've ever seen to get home by December 23rd. (I ended up with duty that night, and that's how I came to finally believe in the concept of Decay Heat -- but that's a different story.)

Do any of you have any good stories about returning home in time for Christmas?

Update 1128 24 Dec: USS Boise (SSN 764) also got back from deployment just in time for Christmas. This story from The Virginian-Pilot has a video and some pictures of the homecoming.

Update 2141 24 Dec: Pictures of the return of USS Boise to Norfolk can be found on the official Navy website: here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

New York Times Doesn't Like New Submarines

Not surprisingly, in an editorial about how President-elect Obama should "reform" the armed forces, the New York Times says we should "(h)alt production of the Virginia class sub". Also not surprisingly, the New York Times was able to fit several inaccuracies and falsehoods into two short paragraphs, thusly:
Ten of these unneeded attack submarines — modeled on the cold-war-era Seawolf, whose mission was to counter Soviet attack and nuclear launch submarines — have already been built. The program is little more than a public works project to keep the Newport News, Va., and Groton, Conn., naval shipyards in business.
The Navy can extend the operating lives of the existing fleet of Los Angeles class fast-attack nuclear submarines, which can capably perform all needed post-cold-war missions — from launching cruise missiles to countering China’s expanding but technologically inferior submarine fleet. Net savings: $2.5 billion.
Let's count the ways this statement is untrue or misleading:

1) "Unneeded attack submarines": Combatant commanders need more, not fewer, submarines to fill the vital role submarines play in the prosecution of the GWOT. Because these missions are classified, though, they don't show up on the pages of the New York Times, so the editors there apparently believe they don't exist.

2) "Modelled on the cold-war-era Seawolf": In fact, the Virginia-class boats are a complete re-design of the attack submarine. The Seawolfs were the culmination of Cold War submarine design (in that they have more and bigger of everything), and they're the best submarine in the world. The Virginia-class was specifically designed for littoral warfare and to cost less than the Seawolf. Saying the Virginia is modelled on the Seawolf is like saying the Prius in modelled on the Hummer, in that it came later and they both have 4 wheels.

3) "Ten of these... have already been built": Actually, only five have been "built"; 11 of them have been named, and the tenth won't be "built" enough to join the fleet until 2014. I think they just made that number up.

4) "Little more than a public works program": Actually, it was the last two Seawolf-class boats (the ones I was the initial manning Eng on) that were the public works projects to keep Electric Boat alive. The Virginia-class submarine is needed to replace the aging fleet of Los Angeles-class submarines to keep us from dipping down towards a fleet of 20-30 submarines we'll have in 2025 unless we build more boats. The "public works" aspect of it shouldn't be discounted, however; we need to keep specialists like nuclear welders proficient. That's a skill that would take years to reconstitute if those workers ended up leaving to fix slot machines.

5) "Navy can extend the operating lives": Here's why you don't want journalism majors deciding things that need to be left to the engineers. Submarines dive and surface as a part of operating; each surface and dive, and change in depth, causes strain on the hull. After a certain number of cycles, the hull becomes weaker, and there's more danger that the hull will break. With many components, you can reset this strain curve by annealing the piece of metal involved; however, submarine hulls are just too big to anneal. Sure, you could keep the old subs operating by reducing the engineering safety margin, but I'm sure the New York Times wouldn't write an understanding editorial if some old LA-class boat suffers a hull crack and loss of crew sometime in the 2020s.

6) "Net savings: $2.5 billion" : This is another number they just made up. Each Virginia-class boat costs about $2 billion, and there are 18 more to be built beyond those authorized. Refuelling an LA costs about $400 million. No matter how you slice it, it's a made-up number.

Luckily, I have a feeling President-elect Obama won't be listening to the New York Times; I think he'll like the "public works project" aspect of sub building for "blue" states (especially the new "blue" state of Virginia), and that will be good for the Submarine Force.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Finally Gave In

I finally succumbed to all the peer pressure and signed up for a Facebook account; my profile is here. Anyone who wants to be my friend is more than welcome to add me. (Yes, I admit it... I'm bored sitting here at home during the last few weeks of radiation and chemo. I'm going back to work at the beginning of next year, but until then it's pretty much just me getting on my wife's nerves as I mess around with her normal routine by being home constantly. She asked last night when I was going out to sea next.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

"I'm Sorry, Dave, But I Need To Launch The Missiles Now..."

The Royal Navy announced earlier this week the successful of the Submarine Command System Next Generation (SMCS NG) system on the last of their 12 nuclear-powered submarines, including their entire SSBN force. This Command System is based on Windows, resulting in a not unexpected outpouring of (somewhat) humorous concern; a good round-up of reactions can be found here.

I'll admit that I was one of those people who didn't think that the shift to COTS (Commerciall Off-The-Shelf) technology for submarine computer systems was a very good idea, but it appears to me that it's been pretty successful. With any program, though, there are bound to be hiccups. What are your most entertaining stories about computer screw-ups onboard submarines that you've seen or heard about?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ready For Christmas

We've pretty much finished up getting ready for Christmas here at the Bubblehead household; just a few more gifts to buy and wrap, and we'll be done. For those who are interested (Hi, Mom!) here's a picture of our tree:

...and here's a picture of our house (complete with roof inflatable):

As before, we've gone for the "gaudy" look for our yard; the only thing we added from last year were the two large inflatable Christmas "ornaments" hanging from the maple tree.

If you'd like to see some of the "best" Christmas houses around the country, check out the "Tacky Christmas Yards" website that featured us last year. The people profiled on that site are True American Patriots standing up to all that's "classy" and "dignified", and I honor them for their individuality.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Idiocy

Navy Times has an article about feedback they received after writing about the Navy's planned new rules for the wear of the new Navy Working Uniform -- the "blue cammies of death". The Navy put out a message saying that the new working uniforms would not be allowed to be worn off base, not even for "brief stops" allowed with the current working uniforms:
The new rules are more restrictive than the regs covering the to-be-replaced utilities and wash khakis, as well as the current woodland cammies and flight suits.
Current uniform regulations allow sailors to make brief stops — such as pumping gas, picking up prescriptions and dropping off kids at day care — in the current uniforms. None of this will be allowed once sailors and officers begin wearing the Navy Working Uniform, which will be available to purchase in the Norfolk, Va., area next month...
...At the time of the message’s release, Navy officials told Navy Times that the commuting rules for the NWU were identical to the rules for all current working uniforms. Those officials have since corrected themselves, saying that the current rules for utilities and wash khakis do allow for brief stops.
Navy Times, on Tuesday morning, requested further clarification on the reason for the rule change from the office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
The rule change will likely cause problems for deck-plate leaders who need to enforce them.
That’s because once the NWU begins its two-year rollout, there will be two sets of uniform rules on the street — one for the NWU, authorizing no routine stops, and the current, and more liberal, rules for the rest of the uniforms.
Dukerulz has more on this story, including a report of a quote from the CNO on this issue. I think the Navy runs into this problem because they populate the various "Task Force" groups with people who are never going to sea again, and don't have the guts to retire; they'd rather take up office space and sit around talking about the Big Picture when they're not going to have to live by the ridiculous rules they're promulgating.

I'm hoping the new MCPON, a submariner, lets the CNO know that he got bad advice when he put the original message out, and will retract it as soon as possible.

(Among the "Big Picture" items the asshats who worry about these things came up with is a description of the "emblem" that is embedded in the pattern of the Navy Working Uniform. From the message: "EMBEDDED THROUGHOUT THE FABRIC ARE MINIATURIZED FEATURES OF THE SEAL OF THE NAVY FLAG WITH THE LETTERS "USN" DIRECTLY BENEATH IT. THE SEAL INCLUDES AN ANCHOR, A THREE-MASTED SQUARE RIGGED SHIP, AND AN EAGLE. THE EMBLEM WILL BE ABBREVIATED "ACE", WHICH STANDS FOR ANCHOR, USS CONSTITUTION, AND EAGLE." Seriously, who in their right mind gives a rat's ass about the abbreviation for an emblem on a seal on a uniform?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Navy Retiree Gets Free SWAG

I've always figured one of the most annoying things a Navy Recruiter has to put up with is old retirees coming into their office to talk about their time in the Navy; well, last night, I was That Guy. The Navy opened up a new recruiting office here in Meridian, so I stopped in to wish the recruiters there a Merry Christmas. They were very kind to me, and even dug up some SWAG to give to an old retiree:

Since the guys were so nice to me, I figured I'd do what I could to send some business their way. (I'm already talking to my kids of the benefits of a Navy career.) So, if you're between the ages of 17 and 34 (or 39 for prospective Reservists), and you're looking for a rewarding career, and you happen to be in or around Meridian, please stop by and see Petty Officer Hegemeyer or one of the other guys at the new Navy Recruiting Office just across the street from Mountain View High School. Tell them Bubblehead sent you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Retiring From Sea Duty Vs. Shore Duty

One of my classmates from SOAC, CDR John Kropcho III, was relieved as CO of USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) on Friday, and retired at the same ceremony. John's career was fairly unique, in that this was his 3rd sea tour aboard the Jacksonville; he had also done his JO and XO tours on the boat.

I haven't heard from John in a while, but I'm intrigued by his decision to retire at the end of a sea tour, especially considering the boat just returned from a six-month Atlantic deployment about 4 weeks ago. Normally, you see people retire from shore duty; this gives them a chance to do some job hunting while they're still on active duty, as well as making the scheduling of the required seminars / medical appointments easier. On the other hand, it would seem that being a CO might give one good connections within the boat's namesake city/state, and this could lead to some good opportunities. I'm sure John did what was right for himself, and I wish him Fair Winds and Following Seas as he embarks on the next phase of his life.

So what do you think? From what type of duty is it optimal to retire? Are there advantages to retiring from sea duty that I haven't thought of?

Update 0646 17 Dec 08: Pictures from the change of command / retirement ceremony are here and here.

Submarine Comms At Depth And Speed

To me, one of the most fascinating areas related to submarine operations is how to communicate securely with the outside world when the submarine is at depth. Unfortunately, this topic is shrouded by secrecy, so we really can't discuss it in an UNCLAS forum like this. That being said, here's some information on a new initiative that looks like it might have some promise:
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center and Raytheon recently tested a new system that will allow a submarine to “send a page” to surface ships or command and control centers or vice versa without having to surface or stop its engines.
Raytheon Co.’s Deep Siren tactical paging system is part of the Navy’s communications at speed and depth program. The contractor and SPAWAR conducted a series of tests this year that uses a buoy ejected from the submarine’s trash chute to establish a communications link to the outside world...
...After the buoy is ejected from the trash chute, it hovers at a predetermined depth as the submarine continues its journey, explained Barry Murphy, director of undersea networked communications at Raytheon.
When the submarine is far enough away, the buoy ascends to the surface, deploys floatation devices and sends a message to a command and control center through an Iridium satellite.
Once a link between the buoy and the command center is established, it then lowers an antenna deep into the water.
A transducer takes messages, translates them into acoustic energy and sends a pulse out through the water in an area greater than 50 nautical square miles.
How many miles and how deep the transmitter operates are classified, Murphy said.
Sending these pulses through ocean waters that have different thermal layers, with different consistencies was one of the challenges.
“Adjustments on the fly are the tricky part,” he said.
The transmitter sends out multiple signals to overcome this problem, he added.
After a predetermined number of days, the buoy either self-scuttles, and drops to the ocean floor, or the surface command center sends a message to the buoy ordering it to cease operations and allow itself to sink.
Before that, the submarine and command center can send hundreds of text messages if needed...
...In April, an initial test demonstrated that a ship could deploy the buoy. The system works both ways. If a submarine has orders not to surface, but a command center wants to contact it, the buoy can be dropped from an aircraft or tossed over the side of a ship.
Once the transmitter is deployed, it can send out the pulse so the submarine can establish a communications link.
In June, a Navy submarine deployed 12 buoys at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center’s deep water range in the Bahamas, according to Raytheon. The buoy established a link between the submarine and a command center in Norfolk, Va.
A military utility assessment was conducted in August, and results from that test were expected in December.
“We would like to see it migrating from Iridium into other communications bands and other communications satellites,” Murphy added.
“It is a desirable capability and it’s the first capability for communications at speed or depth,” Murphy said.
Interesting stuff...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nativity Camel In Meridian, Idaho

Our Ward did its annual "live Nativity" on Thursday night; it was very popular, as usual. One of the reasons I think it's so popular is that, in addition to the live sheep and goats you see at most Nativity presentations, we have access to an honest-to-goodness camel -- an animal normally not found in Idaho. (Here, you're more likely to see llamas in everybody's yard.) Here's a picture of the camel along with a Shepherd Tour Guide (Sean, left) and Joseph/Innkeeper (Robert, right; he alternated between the two roles):

Friday, December 12, 2008

Get'yer Bookmarking Finger Ready...

...and check out the new U.S. Naval Institute blog. Like the more established Milblog Ring HQ, this blog will bring together the best and the brightest of Naval bloggers in looking at the Navy from a non-official point of view. Check out the list of guest bloggers, including Chapomatic, CDR Salamander, Eagle1, Galrahn, Springbored, and Steeljaw Scribe.

I expect great things from this new blog.

PCU New Mexico (SSN 779) To Be Christened

The sixth Virginia-class submarine, PCU New Mexico (SSN 779) will be christened at 1000 EST Saturday at Northrop Grumann Shipyard in Newport News, VA. A live webcast of the event will be broadcast at this link. Here's the New Mexico Council of the Navy League's boat page, and here's an earlier post I had about the competition to design the ship's crest; a follow-on post about the winning design is here, and the symbolism is discussed here. And last but not least, here's a picture of the star of Saturday's show taken in May just after she passed the "Pressure Hull Complete" milestone:

One of my old shipmates is the Nav on the boat; I certainly hope that he and the rest of the officers and crew enjoy the ceremony and shipyard-provided food.

Update 1746 13 Dec 08: A couple of photos of the Christening ceremony can be found here and here. I also liked the photos accompanying this article from the Virginian-Pilot about the preparations for the ceremony; this one, showing the covered-up propulsor and the dihedrals, is especially good for those of you who haven't seen what the aft control surfaces look like on the newer submariners.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Just A Guy Thing...

Idaho über-blogger Clayton Cramer frequently posts entertaining articles about his various projects, including work he's doing on his telescope. Now that I'm off work for a couple of weeks as I enter the last half of my radiation/chemo regimen, I figured that I might have time to post about some of my home repair efforts in the hopes of amusing my readers.

My oncologists are always asking if I'm having problems with my bowel movements; it turns out that this is one area where I continue to excel. This weekend, after making quite a substantial deposit in the First National Bank of Crap, I found that my toilet wouldn't flush properly; no matter how much plunging I did, or how many hot water/dishsoap solutions I poured into the bowl, I just couldn't get any water to drain; my handy snake just couldn't make it around the 180 degree turn in the internal water path. Being a good nuke, I did my research, determined the Probably Faulty Function (big ol' turd stuck in the furthest reaches of the drain line), and got my procedure in place. Eventually, I got to #11 on the list of immediate and supplemental casualty actions, and I realized it was more than a one-man job job to continue. It was time to remove the toilet and do the "reverse snake".

Being a submariner, I prepared my job site with care. I went to Home Depot and got a new wax ring with brass install kit ($5.97 plus tax -- significantly less than the $103 the plumbers wanted to come out with their super-whamodyne snake. Yes, my wife called; I think she was starting to doubt my home repair prowess.) I found some rubber gloves and a plastic sheet, pulled my Shop-Vac out of the corner of the garage, brought up my most trusted tools, and called my two strapping teenage boys to help their old man out. After I Shop-Vac'd out the remaining water and got everything unbolted, the boys pulled the toilet out, and when I ran the snake up from the underside of the toilet, it came back brown.

At this point I should digress and talk about how one's childhood experiences relate to our reactions to poop as we age. I grew up on a farm with cows, horse, pigs, chickens... you name it. I've dealt with crap -- literally. We used to dig up barnfuls of it and spread it on the alfalfa field. My kids, on the other hand, we mostly raised in the city (except for a couple of years in the wilds of Ledyard, CT, where we'd have deer wander though our yard). Their reaction to turdsign was somewhat disappointing to this old farmboy -- it makes me wish I'd exposed them to more animal poop when they were younger.

Anyway, at this point I decided that we'd best get the obstruction cleared if we took the toilet downstairs and out to the backyard, where I could use the hose to really get it cleaned out. The boys muscled it down the stairs (its odd shape, combined with my injunction against using the tank for support -- since it was only connected by two bolts to the bowl -- made moving it tougher.) The hose did it's job, as the boys gave me abuse for generating such a remarkable specimen. I was proud of my accomplishment, however; maybe it's just a "guy thing" that's gone out of style with the new generation.

The boys got the toilet upstairs, unaided by their old man; in fact, I was detrimental to the proceedings, since I made them laugh and have to put down the toilet by choosing to demand that "From now on, you will call me 'The Turdmaster' " as they were coming up the stairs. After installing the new brass bolts and positioning the new wax ring, the boys were able to lower the toilet into position in the cramped corner of the bathroom where it resides, and I did the final bolt tightening and water line hookup. The subsequent retests were SAT, and I left with the feeling of a Job Well Done.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Royal Navy: Just Giving Up?

This report from the Conservative opposition that the British government is potentially thinking about delaying plans to build two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers seems to me to be an admission from the the Brits that they're not even going to pretend that they're a world-class naval power anymore.

I'm betting that Admiral Horatio Nelson is spinning at about 2000 RPM in his crypt right about now.

Bell-ringer 1533 12 Dec 08: Here's a discussion of the official announcement of a "one to two year" delay in carrier construction.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Remaking The Navy's Officer Culture?

William Lind, best known recently for being completely wrong about his prediction that the U.S. would attack Iran in 2006 and for completely misunderstanding the significance of the "Chinese Song vs. Kitty Hawk" episode, is now holding forth in a new book about what he sees are needed changes in the U.S. Navy. Not surprisingly, given his previous distaste for understanding how the world works, he wants the U.S. to be more like the British Navy:
Lind, who wrote the book’s Navy chapter, contrasts the dominance of engineers in the Navy to what he describes as the preference for tacticians elsewhere. All U.S. submarine skippers are nuclear engineers, “in strong contrast to Britain’s Royal Navy, whose submarine commanders have nuclear engineers where they belong, in the engine room,” Lind wrote.
The first step to remaking the Navy’s officer culture is remaking the Naval Academy, Lind says. The curriculum at Annapolis should focus on “war-fighting,” he writes, rather than engineering, and male and female midshipmen should be educated separately. Co-ed classes create a “stultifying air of political correctness,” Lind wrote. He also recommends sweeping changes to the fleet. The Navy should mothball its Aegis warships, he wrote, because it will never fight an open-ocean war against a peer competitor such as China or Russia. It should use aircraft carriers as cargo ships, carrying supplies or helicopters, if needed, rather than fixed-wing planes.
Lind also recommends the Navy develop its own carrier-launched low-level ground-attack aircraft. The F/A-18 Hornet isn’t built to orbit a battlefield and carry heavy ordnance loads, he wrote, even though that mission will be in ever greater demand.
So what do you think? Should we follow Lind's advice and become more like the Royal Navy? Or are we doing a fairly good job as it is?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Submariner Picked To Be New MCPON

Dukerulz at No Slack, Fast Attack (who has had some interesting posts lately) posted a link to a Navy Times article announcing that Fleet Master Chief (SS/SW) Rick West has been named the 12th master chief petty officer of the Navy. Excerpts:
A career submariner and 27-year Navy veteran, West was tapped by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead on Friday. Roughead was West’s former boss at Fleet Forces Command and Pacific Fleet before the admiral became CNO.
West served for 11 years as a command master chief and has seen duty onboard five submarines and one destroyer.
He will take over for retiring Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa on Dec. 12, when Campa departs on terminal leave. Campa shocked the fleet Nov. 3 when he announced he was leaving, saying he was concerned about losing his connection with the deck plates and becoming a lame-duck MCPON. At two years and five months, Campa will have served the shortest tour as MCPON in the 41-year history of the job...
...(Master Chief West served) tours aboard the ballistic missile submarine Ethan Allen from 1981-82; the boomer Thomas Edison from 1982-83; the fast-attack sub Sea Devil from 1984-86; worked for Commander, Naval Activity United Kingdom from 1986-89; served aboard the boomer Tecumseh from 1989-1992; worked for Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet from 1992-95; served aboard the fast-attack submarine Portsmouth from 1995 to 1997; worked for Commander, Submarine Squadron 11 from 1997 to 2000; worked for Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific Fleet from 2001 to 2004; served aboard the destroyer Preble from 2004 to 2005; worked for Commander, Pacific Fleet from 2005 to 2007 and became Fleet Forces command master chief on June 30, 2007.
Did anyone serve with Master Chief West who would like to share any sea stories about him? As expected, I'm very hopeful that the new MCPON will be able to use his influence to bring the best of the Submarine Force to the Fleet as a whole, while protecting Submariners from those new initiatives that won't work in the special world of undersea warriors.

Friday, December 05, 2008

USS Scranton Navy Spirit Spot

In preparaton for tomorrow's Army-Navy game, the wardroom of the USS Scranton (SSN 756) put together a great Spirit Spot, playing on the fact that the hit TV show "The Office" is set in Scranton:

For those who haven't seen "The Office", this video tracks closely with the opening credits of the show. BZ, men of the Scranton! (Unfortunately, since the game will air on CBS, and "The Office" is an NBC show, it's unlikely they'll show this spot during the game.)

Welcome Home, Men Of The Asheville!

USS Asheville returned home on Wednesday from the boat's 7th WestPac; here's a picture of the homecoming:

I'm trying to decide if the beginning of December is just about the best time to finish a deployment, and I think it might be. The only problem is that the last part of your I & I gets folded in with the Christmas stand-down; on the other hand, it makes it much less likely that Big Sub Force will be tempted to cut back on your post-deployment down time.

In any event, Welcome Home to the returning warriors!

Virginia-Class Submarine Homeports

Senator Inouye has confirmed that USS Hawaii (SSN 776) will be shifting homeports to Pearl Harbor next year, ahead of the planned arrival of USS Texas (SSN 775):
Officials hope the namesake submarine can take part in the 50th anniversary of Statehood Day, which is celebrated on the third Friday in August. On Aug. 21, 1959, Hawai'i became the 50th state in the union.
Pearl Harbor is expected to receive three of the first four of the latest-generation subs to be built after the lead ship in the class, the USS Virginia.
The Hawai'i, Texas and North Carolina would be based here and augment and begin to replace the 15 older Los Angeles-class attack subs that operate out of Pearl Harbor.
The Texas was projected to arrive first in 2009, but the arrival of the Hawai'i has now been moved up ahead of the Texas. Officials said the flip-flop is a result of some political clout working to bring the USS Hawai'i to Pearl Harbor as fast as possible and the need for some work on the Texas.
With the Navy's emphasis on the Pacific, it's not surprising to me that 3 of the first 4 Virginia-class boats will go west. I expect we'll see the numbers end up about 60% for the Pacific and 40% in LANTFLT when it's all said and done.

Update 1405 05 Dec: Here's the official Navy announcement on the homeport change.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sean's "Twilight" Rant

In my review last month of the Mormon teen sensation "Twilight", I mentioned that my youngest held forth on his opinion of the movie in the theater lobby, ranking it among the Bottom Five Movies of All Time. In this 100 second video, Sean expands on his comments in his own inimitable style:

This video pretty much shows what life is like in the Bubblehead household; when Sean is home, we're never bored.

Update 2230 05 Dec: Here's another humorous video featuring Sean; this one is scripted. Yes, I'm a proud father.

Veterans And Saluting The Colors

I went to the Wyoming-Boise State basketball game last night (BSU beat the previously undefeated Cowboys 86-85 on a last-second basket off an inbounds play -- very exciting!), and I got my first chance to exercise a new right -- the right of a veteran to render a hand salute during the playing of the National Anthem, even when not in uniform. From the VA website:
Veterans and active-duty military not in uniform can now render the military-style hand salute during the playing of the national anthem, thanks to changes in federal law that took effect this month.
“The military salute is a unique gesture of respect that marks those who have served in our nation’s armed forces,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. “This provision allows the application of that honor in all events involving our nation’s flag.”
The new provision improves upon a little known change in federal law last year that authorized veterans to render the military-style hand salute during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, but it did not address salutes during the national anthem. Last year’s provision also applied to members of the armed forces while not in uniform.
Traditionally, members of the nation’s veterans service organizations have rendered the hand-salute during the national anthem and at events involving the national flag while wearing their organization’s official head-gear.
The most recent change, authorizing hand-salutes during the national anthem by veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel, was sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, an Army veteran. It was included in the Defense Authorization Act of 2009, which President Bush signed on Oct. 14.
The earlier provision authorizing hand-salutes for veterans and out-of-uniform military personnel during the raising, lowering or passing of the flag, was contained in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which took effect Jan. 28, 2008.
As I expected, it felt kind of weird saluting while not wearing a hat; I think I'll get used to it, though.

Old Shipmate's Wife Is Singing Star!

One of the things I like best about writing TSSBP is that it gives me a chance to re-establish contact with old friends and shipmates; they search for something about submarines, find my blog thereby, and shoot me an E-mail. This week, I got an E-mail from the wife of one of my old JOs from USS Connecticut (SSN 22). It turns out that she's now a singer, and a pretty good one at that! Check out the MySpace page for Paulette Dixon, where you can hear her amazing voice -- and if you're going to be in the Philly area around Christmas, you can even go see her in concert.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Not Feeling Like Myself Lately

When I announced last month that I had cancer, I said that I'd do my best not to turn TSSBP into a cancer blog. I'm still committed to that, but I'm finding that my treatment is causing me to make some changes in how I interact with others online. Since my last update on how my treatment's been going (at the bottom of my Thanksgiving post), I ended up having a bad day after Thanksgiving until I got rid of some bad humours. (It was pretty impressive.) Feeling about 100x better, I celebrated by running around the blogosphere spreading my own particular brand of truth and light. Reading over those posts later on, I realized that they ended up being much nastier and condescending than I intended them to be. Not to make any excuses, but my thought processes seemed somehow "strange" and frenetic to me.

In a moment of clarity, I realized that as my body fights to repair the damage being caused by the radiation treatments I'm getting each weekday morning (just finished #8 of 25 planned today), it's gotta be wreaking havoc on my normal processes. I've gotten over 1,600 rads of x-rays to my stomach/esophagus over the last 12 days; I could see my body concentrating more on cell repair rather than brain chemical regulation. (Plus, I'm sure the chemo chemicals didn't help that much.)

Bottom line: Until I'm sure that it's the real "me" that's posting, I'm going to do my best to avoid any emotional topics online. I expect this will be a few months; who knows what the painkillers might do to my cognitive functions once I start taking those. I'll still post here, and maybe leave innocuous "good post" or "happy blogiversary" and especially "your prayers/good thoughts are appreciated" comments elsewhere, but I'm going to do my best to avoid going beyond that. (Can't promise anything, of course; some especially ridiculous comment by the Kooky Local Simpleton might set me off, or Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.) might post another article about submarines, and no one can truly predict the future.)

And to all those I offended over the weekend, please accept my heartfelt apology.

Update 1415 05 Dec: I decided to modify my "policy" on non-substantive comments to include allowing myself to correct obvious factual errors in a non-emotional manner. I was on the verge of tearing out my armpit hair trying to keep myself from commenting otherwise.