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.)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Day By Day" In Boise Newspaper

The 'net comic strip Day By Day has been a huge favorite among mil-bloggers over the last several years (the writer, Chris Muir, did a strip for Project Valour-IT last November); while there's no doubt that it's a "conservative" commentary, it's smart -- it doesn't need to hit the reader over the head with the points it's trying to make.

The other main "conservative" comic strip out there is "Mallard Fillmore". Personally, I've always thought that strip lacks one thing I normally look for in my comics -- humor. Our local Boise newspaper has been running Mallard Fillmore alongside Doonesbury on the editorial page for some time; I've always hoped that Day By Day would try to make the transition to hard copy, and hopefully replace the duck here. However, our paper, the Idaho Statesman, is a little bit "slow" when it come to web-based content (the few "blogs" they have on the paper's website don't even allow comments or have blogrolls; of course, we in Idaho are spoiled by the excellent Huckleberries Online up in the northern part of the state), so I didn't expect them to be an early Day By Day adopter.

Therefore, I was happily surprised today when I saw in my morning paper that Day By Day had replaced Mallard Fillmore on the "right" side of the editorial comic strips; the change was accompanied by an explanation that they were testing the new strip. I figured that everyone would immediately recognize the superiority of the new offering.

I guessed wrong. Kevin Richert, the Statesman's editorial page editor, posted on his blog today that the initial response he had gotten was negative -- the people who were writing in wanted the duck back:

One e-mailer suggested we're dumping the duck in an attempt "to enforce your liberal agenda on us even more." (Not so. "Day by Day" actually strikes me as a pretty good counter to "Doonesbury.")
One e-mailer suggested we were caving in to a couple of milquetoast critics who don't like "Mallard." (Also not so. We've run "Mallard" for a shade over a year, and I've been surprised at the number of calls and e-mails I've gotten criticizing the strip. No scientific polling, but "Mallard's" negative approval rating seems to run much higher than "Doonesbury.")
Anyway, I'm hoping you give "Day by Day" a close look; as we've said, this is a trial run. Just judge it on its merits and give it a fair shot. I'll look forward to hearing from you.
Thinking about it more carefully, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Idaho has a lot of "Bill Sali Republicans" (represented in the Idaho blogosphere by Trish and Halli) who share the following characteristics: they generally lack military experience, have a pathological distrust of the U.S. government (to the point where they think that President Bush is trying to give away our sovereignty to a "North American Union" and that he ordered the 9/11 attacks), and lack a sense of humor. I figure these are the types of people who would oppose Day By Day and would want to keep the duck.

If you live in southwestern Idaho and don't consider yourself to be this kind of person, I urge you to contact Kevin Richert at the Statesman and tell him to keep Day By Day. If you're a liberal, I'm sure you won't, because Day By Day presents the conservative case much more effectively than Mallard Fillmore ever could. However, if you're not a liberal, and you have a sense of humor, you'll want to send that E-mail.

Update 0029 04 Jun: Adam defends the duck! He indicates that he, if fact, does have a sense of humor, but likes Mallard Fillmore anyway. He also risks his membership in the 101st Fighting Keyboardists by saying he doesn't like Day By Day. Completely absent is any indication that his sense of humor extends to understanding the concept of "sarcastic hyperbole" with respect to my description of "Bill Sali Republicans". (He didn't seem to understand my "SPUD-LIB Initiative" either, so he's consistent. An alternate explanation is that, as I've suspected for a while, I'm just not that funny. I think the latter is more likely.)

Boise And The Rest Of The World

I really love living in the Boise area; it's a nice-sized city, with good schools, and wonderful outdoor recreational activities for those who enjoy them. (I'm not one of those people -- as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that I really was meant for the age of heating and air conditioning.)

The people of the Boise area seem have an inordinate interest in what the rest of the country thinks of us. Lately, we've had fairly good news -- Boise was recently named to one of the "Top 10 Places To Live" lists, and of course the Boise St. football team beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Another thing we've been proud of has been our very own bowl game, which was very good this season.

Unfortunately, the local bowl game has turned from a source of civic pride into a potential fount of abuse in one day. The bowl, originally called the "Humanitarian Bowl", has been called the MPC Computers Bowl for the last several years. Since the title sponsor has been hemorrhaging money, however, they decided not to renew their contract, so a new title sponsor was needed. The new title sponsor was announced yesterday, resulting in a hue and cry throught the Valley the likes of which hasn't been seen since the design of the Idaho State Quarter was announced.

What was the cause of this despair? It turns out the new title sponsor of the bowl game is Roady's Truck Stops. I don't understand what the fuss is about; I mean, c'mon, do you really think that coastal sportwriters and TV announcers are going to make fun of a bowl game named after a truck stop in Boise? You do, huh? Yeah, you're probably right.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

USS Boise Coming Home

Back in December, I blogged about the trip USS Boise (SSN 764) made across the Arctic on her way from Norfolk to a WestPac deployment. It looks like she took the long way home; she'll be arriving back in Norfolk later today following a trip around the world:
The crew demonstrated the Submarine Force('s) ability to make full use of every asset they have in the most productive way possible. Boise deployed on October 30(,) 2006 and transited under the (Arctic) ice.
While deployed, Boise completed a wide range of joint requirements supporting national security in the Pacific and Central Command Areas of Responsibility before returning through the Suez Canal and then home via the Mediterranean and Atlantic completing the circumnavigation of the globe on Nuclear Power.
During the deployment, Boise's crew members served as ambassadors for the United States Navy during port visits to Yokosuka, Japan; Guam; Singapore; Limassol, Cyprus; and Toulon, France.
[Parenthetical spelling, punctuation and grammar corrections mine] Now those last three are some decent port visits! Welcome home, men of the Boise -- get some rest, you deserve it.

Update 2247 30 May: She made it home; some pictures are at this link. It appears that her "around the world" deployment wasn't in the original plan; they used Boise to fill in for USS Newport News (SSN 750) in the Fifth Fleet AOR after Newport News' January collision.

Update 2237 31 May: Navy NewsStand photos of the Boise's return are here and here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

USS San Juan In Souda Bay

Navy NewsStand has some pictures (here, here, and here) of USS San Juan (SSN 751) heading into a port call last week in Souda Bay, Crete. Here's one of them:

I've never been to Crete, but I've heard it's a good liberty port. Does anyone have any good Souda Bay stories?

Military Affairs Live-Blog For Idaho Senate Candidate

Alan (who also writes the milblog MREeater) is hosting a live-blog for Larry LaRocco, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate here in Idaho, over at Idablue.

I was able to jump in with a question about whether Larry would support an increased attack submarine buy rate (as is included in the current version of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act, over the Navy's objections); here's what Larry said in response:
I would be supportive of the stepped up schedule for the production of the Virginia Class subs. Senator Jack Reed and I entered Congress the same year. Jack is a couple of years younger than me but we're the same height and many people used to confuse us.... in the early days. We became friends because we were both US Army vets. I value his opinion on matters dealing with the armed services and I think he is on the right track here. Yes, I'm concerned about how we pay for larger weapons systems but we have put a great deal of emphasis on land based forces and we have neglected other areas. It looks like the House and Senate are on the right track here. (I do recognize that Rhode Island has a lot to gain from this acceleration but so does the nation and our defense.)
Sounds pretty promising. You can read the rest of the liveblog questions and answers here.

Navy Updates Fraternization Policy

Navy NewsStand has a story about how the CNO recently issued an updated "Navy Fraternization Policy" instruction. The new policy (an HTML version can be found here; the PDF file is here) has supposedly been updated to reflect the more "joint" nature of 21st century military service; apparently, the previously-issued policy hadn't been clear enough that a Navy officer can't bang an enlisted person just because they're in the Army or whatever.

While all of us think back to how we have never seen officer/enlisted gambling (especially not in the form of NCAA Basketball pools), I want to direct your attention to an example the article uses to illustrate a potentially prohibited behavior:
For example, the executive officer (XO) of the command holds a Monday Night Football party every Monday night during football season. She invites the wardroom and the chief's mess. She is guilty of fraternization because the XO is in a leadership position, and she is creating an unduly familiar relationship with members of her command. However, if she held a Super Bowl Party annually and invited the entire command, or the wardroom and the chief's mess, this would not be fraternization as it would be considered a social event, not unlike a holiday party. However, the XO cannot invite only selected enlisted members, as that constitutes disparate treatment and it would be prejudicial to good order and discipline.
So what are they saying here? To be honest, the real point flew over my head -- I personally don't see anything wrong with a weekly get together -- because I was fixated on the story using a female XO as the "guilty" party. How did this get past the Diversity Directorate at NavPers? It seems they wouldn't want to make people think that female XOs just go around breaking rules, but this article could lead one to that conclusion. Or did they decide it's more important to make people think that a female XO is completely unremarkable, and they use little stories like that to reinforce this point? The world wonders...

Monday, May 28, 2007

DVD Review: Letters From Iwo Jima

Finally got around to watching Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated film Letters From Iwo Jima tonight. I had wanted to see it in the theater, but it only showed in the artsy-fartsy theater downtown here in the Boise area, and I never got around to it. I wish I had seen it on the big screen.

A lot of the reviews of the film when it came out said that it was a surprisingly powerful "anti-war" film. To me, it wasn't "anti-war"; it was an "anti-suicidal war" picture. The movie, which tells the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective, shows that there are a lot of similarities between our Japanese adversaries of WWII and our terrorist enemies of today: An "alien" culture that is hard to understand, an eagerness to die for a greater power, no hesitancy to violate the Law of Armed Combat, and a steadfast belief that, all evidence to the contrary, theirs is a holy cause.

Of course, one of the main goals of the movie is to make us realize that our adversaries had (and have) the same dreams, hopes, and fears as we do. Those without military experience seem to have a tendency to believe that American servicepeople don't understand this, but we do. While it makes it easy to think that you're destroying an "aimpoint", or ship, or some other inanimate object, we all know deep down that our enemies are people like ourselves. It may be difficult for us to understand their motivations, but we certainly try -- it makes us more effective in opposing an enemy if we know who they are.

This movie is well worth your time if you want to see a cinematic masterpiece that helps you really understand one of the darker sides of human nature. While Americans have a hard time understanding why someone would give up their life when they have better choices, it's important to know that not everyone thinks like we do. It also provides hope; if we can be good friends with a people against whom we fought an unimaginably vicious war not long ago, maybe in a generation or two we can reach the same understanding with the Muslim world. Letters from Iwo Jima gets 4 starshells out of five.

Update 2021 29 May: The inimitable ninme tried to leave a comment, but for some reason Blogger has a vendetta against her, so she wasn't successful. She was kind enough to E-mail me her questions / comment, however:
Did you see the first one? And if so, do you think the second one stands alone well enough that you can watch it by itself? Cuz I'm not keen on watching the first one, but I am keen on the second.
I did see the first one (Flags of our Fathers), but if you haven't seen it, it won't in any way lessen your enjoyment of Letters. The two movies, while covering the same subject, are really independent of one another.

SecNav Memorial Day Message To The Fleet

From the Honorable Donald C. Winter:
Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of rememberance for those who have died in our nation's service. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on Union and Confederate Soldiers graves in Arlington National Cemetery. Ever since, Americans have set aside a day in May to observe Memorial Day and pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our great nation.

In December of 2000, the "National Moment of Remembrance" Resolution was passed, reminding Americans of the true purpose of this day of reflection. The resolution asks all Americans "to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps" at 3:00 p.m. local time. This year, as we reflect on the achievements and sacrifices of all who have served, I encourage you to remember and honor all those who have lost their lives defending this nation's ideals of freedom and democracy, not for just a moment, but rather throughout the day. We owe them a debt of gratitude for preserving the blessings of liberty that we claim as our birthright.

To our Sailors, Marines and their families, I once again thank you for your contributions, dedication and service to the Navy, Marine Corps, and the United States of America. May God bless all of you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Boise Area Memorial Day Weekend Garden Update

It's a great time of year to be in southwestern Idaho. As I was driving south of Boise today, I saw that the first cutting of brome grass had been taken in, and I was still able to see snow on the tops of the Owyhee Mountains to the south. In suburbia, the flowers are really starting to bloom in full force. Since my last update, the "wild" roses in our yard have really taken off, thusly:

We call them our "wild" roses because they're the only flowering plants in our backyard that survived the water being turned off for 11 months by the bank that owned the house before they sold it to us. As a result of their hardship, they have a little bit of an attitude, and won't stay in the nice pretty shapes into which SubBasket tries to mold them. I still like them, though.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Chap Finds A Winner

Chapomatic found what appears to be a video of Taiwanese submariners doing... something... on stage that is not to be missed:

As Chap says:
I know that submariners have a lot in common, but I don’t remember any other submariners doing something like this sober. I guess you have to be pretty hardcore, and a little nuts, to drive around in Guppies these days.
I really like the rendition of the Submarine Song, though…
Their version of the Submarine Song is very similar to ours, except they probably don't get arrested for singing it in public like we do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

USS Nevada Officer Does Good

Check out this Navy NewsStand story about a LT(j.g.) from USS Nevada (SSBN 733) who recently saved a woman's life while on liberty. Excerpt:
Lt.j.g. Travon Santerre carried Jennifer Stiffler to his car and drove her to the hospital while she was having seizures, April 15. The doctors said his actions directly contributed to saving her life.
“I was out in town when a couple approached me and said a friend of theirs had hit her head and was in trouble,” said Santerre. “While I helped Jennifer, the other girl was getting sick and the guy was frozen with shock from what was happening.”
When Santerre approached Stiffler and began helping her she said to him, “I don’t want to die.” He said that’s when his Navy training kicked in.
“My training directly contributed to how I handled the situation,” said Santerre. “I was able to take control and remain calm. In the submariner community, we are trained to handle high stress situations on an everyday basis, so I never once got overwhelmed or felt there was nothing I could do. Though I’m no doctor, I kept her airways clear and got her to the center as quickly as I could.”
The article goes on to say how LT (j.g.) Santerre sustained a back injury during the rescue that's kept him LIMDU ever since, and says how his shipmates have been supporting him. I've never done an "off-crew", but I'm guessing laid up in bed isn't the best way to spend it. So, for doing the right thing at the cost of some quality liberty, I salute you, LT (j.g.) Santerre!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End

We finished up our May Movie Spectacular Triple Crown tonight by seeing the 8 PM showing of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The theater was about 80% full for the first showing, but I heard from someone in the lobby afterwards that the 8:05 PM showing was only about 1/3 full. (Our local theater had five (!) showings starting between 8 and 8:30, and another five starting between 11:30 PM and midnight.)

If you're thinking of seeing PotC3, one thing is sure -- don't even think about going unless you saw the 2nd one. The story picks right up where that one left off, and they don't even try filling in the backstory for those who didn't see "Dead Man's Chest". I don't want to give away too much, but parts of the movie I enjoyed were the "ultimate trim party" and really good CGI. I also laughed at the monkey a few times. Keith Richards wasn't as good as I had hoped, but he was still a highlight.

I can't really say it was a disappointment, because I honestly didn't expect too much out of it. The Y-chromosome-lacking members of my household are really big Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom fans (one for each) so they seemed to like it. I normally like longer movies that use the time to develop the characters (or blow extra stuff up) but the three Pirates movies have always made me think, "This thing is still going on? Why?"

I don't mind suspending disbelief, but only if it serves a purpose. The script of this movie had 17th or 18th century people using sail travelling between the Caribbean and Singapore in essentially no time flat. I could see them doing it if there was a purpose, but in this case it only seemed to be so they could have Chow Yun-Fat as a pirate, and since he's Asian, they had to have him live in Asia. If you're featuring Davy Jones' Locker as an actual place, why not say Asian pirates set up a base in the Caribbean? It was distracting to all the people in the audience who have actually sailed across the Pacific a few times.

When we were driving home, my youngest son said, "Well, the three "3" movies in May were sure a disappointment. If The Simpsons Movie and Transformers end up sucking, I'm going to give up on summer 'blockbusters' forever." (Re: the "Three 3s", we both ended up agreeing that Spiderman 3 was the best of a mediocre lot, and Shrek 3 was the worst.) I've been through enough bad "summer smash movies" (read "Godzilla") to know what he was talking about, but this movie still had enough going for it for me to keep some faith in Hollywood. Overall, I give it three unnecessary plot twists out of five.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

When Will The Next Sub Be Named?

A couple of weeks ago, the SecNav announced the names of the next two destroyers -- USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and USS Spruance (DDG 111). This got me thinking back to a post by Midnightwatch Cowboy last month wondering about what the Navy will name the next Virginia-class submarine, the SSN 780. Since it's been 2 1/2 years since the last one, New Mexico (SSN 779) was named, it seems like it should happen fairly soon.

Interestingly, Wikipedia already lists the name of the 780 boat as USS Massachusetts; of course, since pretty much anyone can edit a Wiki, I wouldn't accept that as the gospel. One of Midwatch Cowboy's commenters said they had heard USS Puerto Rico floating around; personally, I think California is past due (although, deep down, I'm rooting for Idaho).

What have any of you heard about this mystery?

Bell-ringer 2337 24 May: Edited to correct an embarrassing typo on Midwatch Cowboy's name, and to add a link to Vigilus' musings on a potential USS Idaho.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vote "Yes" Today In Idaho's Treasure Valley

For my readers who live in the Boise/Meridian/Nampa/Caldwell area of Idaho, please remember to go to the polls today and vote "Yes" for the Community College initiative. A few extra dollars a year is a small price to pay to ensure the youth of our area have an affordable choice for post-secondary education outside of Boise State.

Also, for those in Meridian, please vote "Yes" on the library bond. Our growing city desperately needs a library in the southern part of the city, and it will cost the average homeowner less than $15/year over the next 13 years. Investing in the education of our community is a vote for a better future.

Update 2253 22 May: The Meridian library bond got a slight majority, but it needed a 2/3 supermajority to win. And while a local TV station reported the community college vote failed to get its needed 2/3 supermajority, the newspaper website is still reporting that the votes are still being counted.

I think the library people made a tactical mistake with this election. Last November, a similar bond issue failed, but got over 61% of the vote --this was when we voted in our normal precincts. This time, they only held the election in the main library, and didn't publicize too much that you could only vote there. One problem with this is that one of the reasons they were pushing the new library is that it really is a pain to get from the south side of town to the north where the library is, especially during "rush hour". As a result, I'd guess that most of the people who made it to vote for the initiative lived in the north part of town, and they won't really get much benefit out of the proposed new library. Those on the south side of town went to their normal precinct house to vote, and were surprised they couldn't vote for the library bond (or didn't even know about it), and figured it'd be too much of a hassle to drive all the way across town. This is one time when they shouldn't have tried to "game" the system by trying to "shape" the electorate to include mostly those people who use the service (like they do for school bond elections where they have voting only in the elementary schools).

Update 0625 23 May: It turns out that the Community College vote did get the required 2/3 "Yes" vote; the TV station that called it for "No" last night was saying this morning that there were a lot more absentee votes than normal (not surprising, since one of the strategies of the initiative's proponents was to get supporters to vote absentee) so that's why they were confused. We'll now be able to expect a lot of letters to the editor from anti-tax people saying that absentee ballots are un-American somehow.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heroes Season Finale

The final episode of the season of Heroes pretty much completely ruled. While the final resolution of all the storylines (assuming everyone who wasn't actually dead survives) wasn't as complicated as it could have been (one of my sons had mentioned this particular possibility about halfway through the season) it served the purpose of both resolving this season's crisis in a satisfying way and setting up for next season.

From the last bits, it's fairly clear to me that the samurai Hiro saw in 1671 carrying the "Heroes symbol" flag is his father, who must have the power of immortality. (And now we know where the eclipse seen in the title art comes from.) Sylar will probably survive somehow, considering the trail of blood leading to the sewer, and Hiro not cutting off his head when he had the chance; did he take possession of the cockroach we saw at the end? Will Linderman be able to heal himself, and then restore Sylar? Who is the boogeyman who's "a lot worse" that GPS-tracking girl talked about? (And why doesn't anyone ask her to find Osama bin Laden?)

Now I just have to twiddle my thumbs until September. No new Heroes until then will make this summer even less enjoyable than just having the normal "no football" malaise.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Church Shootings In Moscow, Idaho

Submariner Dale at Right Mind is blogging from Moscow about the shootings in the Presbyterian church there. I'm sure he'll have updates and links throughout the day as the situation develops.

Update 0823 20 May: Reports from the scene indicate that police have entered the church, and reportedly found at least the shooter dead inside. Area residents are being allowed to leave their homes.

Update 2226 20 May: The story has gotten even sadder. The shooter, who comes from the town just south of where I live, killed his wife at the beginning of the rampage. The policeman he killed, Lee Newbill (who is the first officer ever killed in the line of duty in Moscow) was a former Army officer.

This tragedy should highlight the problems of gun ownership by those with histories of domestic violence, as the shooter, Jason Hamilton, did. (Sara from F-Words, who's also in Moscow, discusses more on the domestic violence angle on her blog.) While most people recognize that gun ownership is an important right, there are times when people's actions should necessitate removing that right from them until they demonstrate they're no longer a danger to the community. (Not that it would have done much good in this case, since he was already under a judge's orders not to own guns, but he obviously didn't turn them in.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Submarine Shout-Out On The Colbert Report

Earlier this week, I read somewhere about how The Colbert Report had mentioned the USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740). My sons Tivo the episodes every night, so I asked them if they still had it -- unfortunately, they'd already watched and deleted it. "Darn, double shoot," I thought, "there goes my chance to look over the what he said and expose any errors."

Luckily, CDR Salamander doesn't give up as easily as me, and he found the video clip of the Shout Out:

CDR Salamander noted that Colbert messed up with the picture he showed (which was of a Russian Typhoon) and the mention of the "new vertical launch tubes", which confused the Tomahawk tubes on a converted SSGN with the normal tubes on the an unconverted Trident. Even so, it was a good bit, and I hope Colbert keeps up his relationship with the Rhode Island's crew.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Movie Review: Shrek The Third

Much the same as with the Spiderman franchise, I admit I'm not the biggest fan of the Shrek movies. Sure, the first two had some pretty funny parts, but I never really found the Donkey character amusing as much as just plain annoying, and I've always had a real problem enjoying any movie featuring the "talents" of Antonio Banderas.

Still, I had high hope for the third of what will probably be an endless series of Shrek movies, Shrek the Third. The previews had some funny scenes, and I figured they'd continue, or even improve, on the cultural references that make the movies worthwhile for adults. They also brought Eric Idle on board, and I figured he'd probably be pretty funny.

I went to the 6 o'clock showing at my neighborhood cineplex; the theater was about 2/3 full. First, the good -- the computer-generated animation was incredible; I sometimes forgot I was watching CGI. Now, the bad. The movie is billed as a comedy, but at the end I realized that I hadn't laughed once. It turns out that essentially all the funny parts were in the trailers, so I didn't see anything that surprised me in a humorous way. The target audience (8 year old kids) seemed quite amused, but even my teenage sons didn't really see any real humor in the story. The new characters (Merlin and Arthur) were incredibly badly written, and actively detracted from any enjoyment I had watching the film.

This is a movie to watch in the theater if you're a really big Mike Myers or Eddie Murphy fan, or if you have pre-teen kids who like Shrek. Overall, the only thing that keeps me from giving this movie "the finger" is the incredible animation; because of that, it gets two unfunny ogres out of five.

"Hey Everybody, We're All Gonna Get Lei'd"

Navy NewsStand has a picture from the commissioning ceremony of USS Hawaii (SSN 776). Not surprisingly, the whole crew is (are?) wearing leis:

If you download the high-res shot, you'll get a good look at the boat's photonics masts.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

In Modern Submarines, Duty Officers Do NOT Have A "Standby" Switch...

... even though they seem to in the 11th episode of the very popular "Hey, Shipwreck" video series, posted earlier today:

For more from the creator of the series, Patrick Hrabe, check out the interview he did with Wendy and Marie of

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

CO Of USS Helena Relieved For Cause

Navy Times reported last night that CDR William A. Schwalm was relieved as CO of USS Helena (SSN 725) for "loss of confidence". Excerpts from the article:
(Commodore) Jaenichen made his decision based on “just a pattern of performance over time that was consistently not meeting the standards” expected of a commanding officer, Myrick said. The captain lost confidence “in his ability to maintain the Helena crew’s proficiency and level of readiness.”
Schwalm had assumed command of Helena on June 9 and led the submarine on a two-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command region. He has been temporarily reassigned to a position at Naval Mine and Anti-submarine Warfare Command in San Diego, Myrick said.
Jaenichen assigned Cmdr. Daryl L. Caudle, his deputy at the submarine squadron, as the temporary commander of Helena until a permanent skipper is named. Caudle most recently had command of the fast-attack boat, Jefferson City.
Schwalm, a native of Petersburg, Mich., who was commissioned into the Navy in 1987, has served on five submarines, including the fast-attack submarine Philadelphia, where he served as the executive officer, according to his official biography. His other submarine assignments include the Daniel Webster, Sea Devil and Alabama.
The official Navy press release is here. I knew Bill Schwalm as a fellow Shift Eng and later Materials Officer at NPTU Charleston. He was always very professional; I'm sorry to see him lose his command.

Update 2312 20 May: Navy Times reports that five Navy COs have been fired in the last five weeks. Looks like a bad trend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gettin' Noisy In Boise

Just got back from watching the Idaho Steelheads win the National Conference title series for the ECHL, essentially hockey's AA minor league. (My wife asked for tickets for the whole family to the game for her Mother's Day present -- I'm like the luckiest guy in the world.) They closed out the series against the Alaska Aces tonight by winning 3-2 in the fifth game of a planned 7 game series, and will face the winner of the Dayton-Florida series for the Kelly Cup.

The game was really good. Tied 2-2 after the 2nd period, Idaho scored a short-handed goal about 5 minutes into the 3rd, and then when the Steelheads' goalie stopped a penalty shot (unfairly awarded to Alaska by the blind refs) with just over 5 minutes left, the crowd knew the Steelheads would pull it out. There was some excitement during the last couple of minutes, but in the end Idaho had the win.

All in all, an excellent way to spend a Tuesday night in downtown Boise.

What's In A Name?

Interesting article in today's New London Day about the name of the Sub Base there; here's an excerpt:
Naval Submarine Base New London is the Navy's formal name for the base that is physically located in Groton and Ledyard.
“It is confusing to people,” Groton Town Manager Mark R. Oefinger said.
If an idea floated around the Subase Realignment Coalition meeting Monday gains any traction, “Groton” may be added to the title.
Coalition members discussed renaming the entire installation Naval Station Groton and keeping the name of the lower base, where submarines are docked, as Naval Submarine Base New London.
The article goes on to discuss possible problems with this "solution" -- New Londoners not wanting to give up their one current claim to fame, and the possible desire of Ledyard to be included. My compromise: Just call the whole thing "Submarine Base Connecticut" and make no one happy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Heroes Prediction

The next-to-last episode of the season of Heroes is about to start in the Eastern and Central time zones, so I'd better put my prediction about this episode out there so I won't be accused of cheating.

I predict that Hiro's dad has a power himself -- the power to manipulate metal. He'll be able to fix Hiro's sword.

I also predict that, rather than resolving the current plotline this season, Heroes will have a very exciting, but frustrating, season-ending cliffhanger.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The New West Coast Music Scene

Blogging was light this weekend because I was fixing our fence; the posts were about to fall down, so we had to take them out, expand the holes, and do manly concrete work to make the poles more snug.

While we were doing Home Depot runs, I listened to a couple CDs of my sons' favorite musically genre - Nerdcore. It's basically white guys rapping about geek topics. My sons really like MC Frontalot and Optimus Rhyme (Transformers fans will get the reference to that name). There were a lot of songs where the rappers bragged on their computer skillz, but the one I liked best was one called "I Hate Your Blog". Some lyrics:
I hate your blog.
It’s incredibly
terrible and bad.

I hate your blog. You own a dog, and you feed it.
You post about it. I get to read it.
Plus: five paragraphs on the socks you bought
and your thoughts on whether Nicole Ritchie’s hot or not.
You got no reason to be typing, yet you persist.
Hit each key with your fist till you punch out your top ten list
of all the things that ever happened in your life.
Number one: met Michael Jackson’s second wife.
Number two: got Curly on the Which Stooge Are You
Poll, as the GIF proves. Click for the link-through!
Three: saw puppy pictures on a web page,
kittens in a nest egg. The idea gestated:
Why not open up your own?
So you bought the account and yet I hope you don’t
put the payments in on it every month like they want,
‘cause then you’ll disappear off the internet, haunt
just the Wayback Machine like a ghost.
And I won’t be like, “How come you don’t post??”
I promise I won’t.
Those lyrics just hit too close to home.

Friday, May 11, 2007

USS Frank Cable Steam Rupture Report Finished

Both Navy Times and Stars and Stripes have stories out today discussing the "recently completed" investigation into the steam rupture aboard USS Frank Cable last year. This accident was back in the news recently when the death of MMC Delfin Dulay was announced, more than five months after the accident.

From what the articles say, it looks like the investigation confirms the incredible heroism shown by the Sailors in the engine room as it filled with steam. From the Navy Times article:

Walsh makes several recommendations, including improved training and the formation of a board to “review the actions of all personnel involved in this tragedy and determine if personal awards or recognition is warranted.”
He commends the sailors on the scene who “displayed courage and resolve in the face of extraordinarily difficult circumstances by staying their watch and securing the boiler before exiting the boiler room. Their heroic actions exemplified Navy core values of honor courage and commitment.”
The report also apparently found problems with the highest levels of the ship's chain of command. From the "Report Recommendations" listed in the Stars and Stripes article:

The following are recommendations endorsed by Command Submarine Group, Pacific Fleet for the USS Frank Cable.

1. The commanding officer and the chief engineer errors in judgment allowing the ship to steam No. 1 boiler in order to perform safety valve maintenance before determining the cause of chemistry concentration and abnormal feedwater consumption of the number one boiler should be reviewed for administration or disciplinary action.
2. The executive officer and chief engineer’s failure to conduct proper mainspace (fireroom) and evacuation training may have led to more serious injuries and said failure should be reviewed for administrative or disciplinary action.
The thing that jumped out at me the most, though, was this statement from the "timeline" provided by the Stars and Stripes. After stating that the MPA and EOOW got permission from the Chief Engineer to conduct the test at 1900, and that the accident occurred 1930, the entry for 1950 states that "(t)he Commanding Officer, executive officer, chief engineer, and boiler division officer are recalled to the ship."

[Emphasis mine] Now, I know they do things differently on surface ships, but as a served Engineer I cannot have fathomed my ship ever doing steam relief valve testing without me on board. Some evolutions are just that critical.

I'll be interested to see if they release the whole report to the general public. In the meantime, the families, friends, and shipmates of the men in the Engine Room that night can know that there's now no doubt that the lost and injured Sailors were, and are, truly the heroes we knew them to be.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bubblehead Vs. The Detailers

Molten Eagle has the inside intel on my continuing battle with Submarine Officer detailers as they go after a poor innocent retired guy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

CNO On USS Pasadena

Navy NewsStand has a picture of the CNO and MCPON on the mess decks of USS Pasadena (SSN 752) in Pearl:

You can download the hi-res version here and see what kind of condiments they're including in an SSN crew's mess nowadays.

Seeing the Sailors in their dungarees brought back all the discussions on the old boat of why they always made us put away our poopy suits when some bigwig came onboard. I could almost see the reason for it back in the early '90s -- when poopy suits were submarine-specific -- but now that the whole fleet is wearing them, I'm not sure why the Sub Force feels they need to hide from the CNO and MCPON the fact that Sailors wear coveralls when they're onboard.

Off-topic: Seeing the picture of the crew's mess on a submarine reminded me of a sig line on an E-mail I got from a sub guy who had gotten out, went to work for a vendor, and became a rider:

(If you're over 30 but don't have teenagers, so you don't know why that's so funny, here's some background -- bad word warning!)

The Newest Brit SSN

Ninme does some high-quality sub-blogging in discussing the roll-out of HMS Astute (S-119), the lead ship of the new class of British attack boats. She appears to be about the same size as an LA, but with a much smaller crew (only 98). There are lots of photos of the boat and her crew here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

For SW Idaho: Community College YES!

"This valley desperately needs a community college to train workers for high-demand jobs. Our economic future depends on it."
– Steve Appleton, Chairman, CEO and President, Micron Technology, Inc.
In two weeks, voters in Ada and Canyon Counties here in Idaho will go to the polls to vote on establishing a new community college district in the Boise metropolitan area. The Greater Boise area is the largest urban area in the country without a community college. My youngest son is in the 9th grade; of his classmates, current trends predict that only 34% will go to college.

As the Boise area continues to grow, we need to attract big companies to provide needed jobs. Employers will only move to a new area when there is a large enough pool of skilled candidates to work for them. The Boise area needs young people skilled in trades like welding and electronics to keep the economy growing at a fast enough rate to maintain our standard of living. A community college can fill this need.

I encourage all voters in Ada and Canyon Counties to vote "Yes" for the community college on May 22nd. Civic and business leaders have from groups to provide voters with the information they need to make an informed decision; you can find this information at Community College Yes and Community College Now. The investment we make in educating our youth will pay off manyfold in the long term -- a "Yes" vote is a vote to ensure the prosperous future of the Treasure Valley.

Update 0610 08 May: Adam Graham adds his thoughts on the community college.

Update 1653 08 May: Also adding their support are Julie from Red State Rebels, Tara A. Rowe from The Political Game, and Rep. Branden Durst.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Hey, Shipwreck" Article In Navy Times

Navy Times has a good article on the excellent "Hey, Shipwreck" space submarine video series and its creator, Patrick Hrabe. Excerpt:
Except for the music, which is composed by collaborator John Seguin, Hrabe makes “Hey, Shipwreck” himself. He comes up with the bits that will make up each edition, writes the dialogue, and then records it in a studio in his basement.
The vocals then go into a computer to get the effects that create the different characters. The supporting cast includes an archetypal hard-case chief; a prissy nuclear technician (“Why must my vast intellect curse me? My intellect is but a shackle — a shackle to my existence!”); and an evil alien cyborg assassin, who didn’t get any lines.
When the voice track is finished, Hrabe then begins animating the episodes with a program similar to the one used to make computer games, which produces video that looks similar to the Xbox game Halo.
Because of technical limitations, and because he’s doing it all himself, Hrabe has to put his characters in space suits with helmets, but he aspires for future episodes to take place inside the ship and for the characters to have animated human expressions.
As a bonus, the Navy Times article even mentions me!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Idaho Garden News Update

The tulips are pretty much done here in the Bubblehead garden (actually, it's pretty much entirely SubBasket's, but I get to do manual labor), but that's OK, because this week seems to be iris-blooming time here in the Boise area. Here're our first iris blooms:

This week we also spotted our first baby tomato:

The first rosebuds of the season are also in evidence:

All in all, a wholly satisfactory day of gardening.

More Wacky Time Stuff

As I logged on the computer this afternoon, I noticed it was 1234 on 5/6/07. As I pondered that, I remembered a post Retired Geezer put up over at Blog Idaho a couple of weeks ago, when he pointed out that earlier this morning, it was 02:03:04 on 05/06/07.

This got me to thinking (it's a Sunday afternoon, so I'm not thinking any lofty thoughts) and I realized that we're pretty much going to have sequential time combinations come up quite frequently until about 2012. After that, we'll have to wait every 11 years or so for "amazing" sequences (like 2222 on 2/22/22). Of course, it won't be until 200 years after than when we'll get the "mother of all 2's" time: 2222:22 on 2/22/2222.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Tiny" Bubbles Needs To Sign Up For The Amazing Race

A guest post from SubBasket:

Being the big fans of The Amazing Race that we are, I mentioned to "Tiny" Bubbles that we should apply for the next race. He said, "It would be interesting." This usually means, "No, I don't want to do this." Have I married the most boring man in the world or what?

This is where I need your help. I need encouragement from his commenters so he will move his back end and apply for the show. I've never seen a submariner on a major reality show, but I think that they would do really well; and it goes without saying that Submarine Wives would always be the best, after all we've gone through. I am up for an adventure, but Bubblehead doesn't want to go on one. It's no fair that he got to travel all over the world while I was home, and now that we can both go, all he can say is, "I'm too old and decrepit."

I've recently lost a lot of weight and I want to do something challenging; I think this would be it. Please help me encourage him to do the right thing and try to get us on the show. Also, if anyone finds out how to apply during their tours around the Internet, please let us know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Movie Review: Spiderman 3

I'll put it out right at the top of this review -- I'm not a big Spiderman fan. The first two movies were OK; they just weren't something I'd go out of my way to see again. The fighting parts are always pretty good from a "guy" standpoint, but Peter Parker always seemed too whiny, and to be honest I don't really think that Kirsten Dunst is all that hot.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this 3rd chapter of Spiderman. Without giving too much away, the best part was the humor that they added; I especially liked the undereye mascara that "dark" Peter Parker wore -- it reminded me of the Gothkids in one of my favorite South Park episodes. The special effects were a lot better than in the first two movies; you didn't look at it and say, "Hey, I can almost see the blue screen". On the minus side, I really didn't need to ponder over the existential angst of the bad guys; I just wanted them to destroy things in interesting ways. I was about to give this movie a "4" until the last 10 minutes, but all the anti-climactic mushy stuff knocked it down a point. Bottom line: I give this movie three geeky superheroes out of five.

The Fleet Gets A New Sub Tomorrow

PCU Hawaii (SSN 776) will become USS Hawaii at her commissioning ceremony in Groton on Saturday. You'll be able to watch the ceremony live by clicking here at 1100 EDT on the 5th.

Staying at PD...

Update 0820 05 May: The Norwich Bulletin has a story on the upcoming commissioning at SuBase NLON, along with a Quicktime video of Hawaii getting underway for sea trials.

Update 1205 05 May: Here's a report on the just-completed ceremony from Newsday.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

In Idaho, Both The Stupid And Non-Stupid Get Punished

We all know that the natural laws of the universe require that the stupid be punished, as demonstrated by this guy in the Idaho jail system:
A federal judge sentenced an Idaho inmate to three years in prison for threatening to kill George W. Bush in a letter in which the accused called the U.S. president "stupid," federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Ricky Arnell Ward, 20, put his name and address on the January 2006 letter he sent to the FBI claiming he planned to kill the president because "he is a stupid ... man."
Ward said Bush needed to be killed before he got "all the people in the USA killed," according to a release by the U.S. attorney's office in Idaho. He was sentenced on Monday.
When questioned by the Secret Service about the letter, Ward told them he was periodically visited by "command hallucinations," among other mental ailments, and if he received one concerning Bush after he was released from Ada County Jail in Boise, he might act on it.
Yesterday's newspaper also had a reminder that even Idahoans with the best intentions can be punished if they interact with the particularly uncaring sort:
Dennis Bohrn paddled hard across the Snake River to get a suicide victim's body to land.
When he and three others paddling canoes Sunday morning dragged the woman's body, they were stunned and crying - had she jumped? Had she been pushed? Had she slipped? And they were even more stunned when at the shore a deputy cited them twice for not carrying life vests in either canoe.
"The body was right there," said Bohrn, 58, of Twin Falls. "A girl deputy was trying to console everybody. Then a sergeant walked up. He said, 'I see you don't have any life jackets so I am going to give you a citation'. It seemed a little cold."
The fine for each citation is $85.
The article goes on to say that the ticketed people are planning to fight the case in court. They should demand a jury trial if it gets that far...

Update 2218 03 May: The canoeists had their tickets dismissed today.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Papa Foxtrot Mike

[Intel Source: SubSim] The Navy files patents the same as any other organization; earlier this month, they were issued one (#7,206,257) that should be of great interest to submariners. (If the link above doesn't work for you, there's a copy of the patent here, or click here and search for the patent number: 7206257.) Here's what the invention is said to do:

A method of generating a predetermined field of cavitation around a remote target in an underwater environment, said method comprising the steps of: identifying a remote target in an unconfined underwater location; generating at least two acoustic beams from an underwater acoustic source; and controlling said at least two generated acoustic beams to intersect with each other at said identified remote target location and whereby a cavitation field is created at said intersection... is an object of this invention to provide a self-defense weapon utilizing acoustic remote cavitation.
Another object of this invention is to provide an underwater self-defense weapon mounted on an underwater support vessel.
Still another object of this invention is to provide an acoustic remote cavitation weapon by generating an array of intersecting acoustic beams.
A still further object of the invention is to provide an acoustic remote cavitation weapon deriving power from an underwater support vessel and generating an array of intersecting acoustic beams at a long range.
Yet another object of this invention is to provide an acoustic remote cavitation self-defense weapon for generating a destructive cavitation in free water space.
In accordance with one aspect of this invention, there is provided a method of generating a predetermined field of cavitation around a remote target in an underwater environment. The method includes the steps of identifying a remote target location, generating at least two acoustic beams, each at a peak power output, from an underwater energy source, and controlling the generated acoustic beams to intersect with each other at the remote target location and thereby create a destructive cavitation field at the intersection of the beams.
The patent comes with drawings, too; here's one of them:

Looks pretty sweet. There's more on this over at Wired, where the commenters point out that there will be lots of opposition to deploying this new tool because of perceived danger to marine mammals. I'm guessing that we'll have to wait for Republicans to get back in charge of Congress before we get to deploy this system.

Helping Out An Army Guy

Major John, who posts with me at MilBlog Ring HQ (only he does it much better than I do), has asked us submariners for some help with a paper he's writing. Here's what he needs:
I have chosen the development of submarines in the inter-war years (for my paper). So for all you underwater types, I have the following author's works to help me through the briny deep of 1918-1939 submarine development; Gary Weir, Wilbur Cross, John Terraine, Michael Gunton and Richard Compton-Hall. Any of these laughable, mediocre or really good authors?
Who/what else should I find?
Chapomatic already came up with some pretty good ideas, but I think my readers can come up with some good input as well. Put down your ideas in the comments, and let's see if we can get Major John a smiley face with a gold star on his homework.

USS Memphis In South Florida For Fleet Week

USS Memphis (SSN 691) got the Good Deal this year; they got picked to go to Fleet Week in Fort Lauderdale. Of course, with every Good Deal comes some annoying PR work -- Memphis had to do a media underway prior to pulling in. The report that came out of it was pretty good, though; you can check out the video here, which includes the reporter trying to keep his feet during a fairly tame up-angle.

I'm predicting the crew of the Memphis will have lots of good safe fun, and they won't have the same problem one of the crewmembers from USS Hampton had last year during the Fort Lauderdale Fleet Week. (I'm sure they've all been briefed and GMT'd to death about not setting fire to any yachts.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

PBS Documentary: The Mormons

I've been watching the Frontline documentary "The Mormons" over the last couple nights; it was pretty good. Being that I'm a Mormon myself, there really wasn't anything presented (both pro and con) that I hadn't heard before, but for those who don't know that much about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it's a good neutral introduction. If you didn't get a chance to see it, it's available as streaming video from the PBS website.