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

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Submarine Info On The Internet -- Good And Bad

Dealing with information about submarines in a public forum is always a mixed bag -- there are lots of things we know that we can't talk about, and because people can pretty much say whatever they want on the 'net, it's sometimes hard for people without the necessary background to figure out what's right and what's B.S.

On the "good" side, there's lots of great information out there on submarines that the discriminating reader can find -- some of it in unlikely places. A reader sent in this photo of a U.S. Los Angeles-class submarine (probably USS Minneapolis-St. Paul on her final journey) transiting the Panama Canal earlier this month that they got from the Canal's live webcams:

On the other hand, sometimes information of a more questionable nature makes it onto the web. Consider the recent report that a U.S. submarine had sunk a North Korean freighter carrying nuclear supplies and enriched uranium to Iran two weeks ago. From the article:
In reports first published by DEBKAfile, American naval and air forces intercepted two North Korean vessels clandestinely en route for Iran with cargoes of enriched uranium and nuclear equipment in the past month. The shutdown of Pongyong's nuclear facilities has made these items surplus to North Korea's requirements and the Islamic Republic was more than willing to pay a hefty price for the goods.
On July 12, the second intercepted North Korean freighter was sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine 100 miles southeast of the Iranian naval base-port of Chah Bahar. Delivery of its freight of enriched weapons-grade uranium and equipment and engines for manufacturing more fissile material including plutonium in its hold could have jump-forwarded Iran's nuclear bomb and warhead project, lopping off at least a year of work. For this Iran's rulers were ready to reportedly pay out a cool $500 million.
A few hours earlier, President Bush received an intelligence briefing on the vessel, its freight and destination. Apparently the shipment was brought forward by several weeks to evade detection by UN nuclear inspectors scheduled to visit Pyongyang this week to verify the dismantling of its nuclear facilities.
US airplanes had been tracking the freighter and picked up signs of radioactivity, indicating the presence of nuclear materials aboard.
President Bush had the option of ordering US Marines to board the vessel or to sink it. He decided on the latter - both because the North Korean freighter was approaching an area patrolled by Iranian naval units and seizure of the vessel by American marines might have provoked a clash; secondly, it was the better choice in order to avoid exposing US troops to radioactive contamination. American naval and air units in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and seas opposite North Korea were ordered to go on a high state of readiness and the torpedo the North Korean vessel was accomplished without delay.
After the attack, US warships raced to the spot where the ship went down where they picked up three lifeboats. Most of the North Korean sailors aboard were either injured or dead. Twenty in all died in the attack. They all bore symptoms of contamination. After the episode, the area was cordoned off and underwater equipment dropped to salvage the cargo from the sunken ship.
All the parties to the incident, the United States, North Korea and Iran, have kept the incident under wraps as the situation in and around the Gulf is inflammable enough to explode into a full-blown Iranian-US clash at the slightest provocation.
It's fairly obvious why this claim hasn't gotten more play in the regular media -- it just doesn't make sense. Besides that fact that it's fairly unlikely that North Korea has enough weapons-grade uranium to start exporting, the "information" in the article that U.S. aircraft were able to "pick up signs of radioactivity" from uranium -- an alpha emitter -- is enough to set off the B.S. detector for those who know about such things.

Bottom line: Submariners can help raise the level of public discourse by providing facts about whatever submarine-related tidbits of information make it into the public domain -- bound of course by the restriction that we can't use any classified information. The submarine bloggers listed at the right perform such a public service. With regards to the specific claim discussed above, while I could see a submarine being used for such a mission, this particular report doesn't really ring true, so I have to throw the flag at it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

It's been a week since the seventh Harry Potter book came out, so I figure most people who are really interested (other than ninme, who's waiting for the Brit version with her "favourite" ways of spelling words) have finished the book by now. All five people here in my house finished it by yesterday, but for those who haven't finished yet, you shouldn't click on the "Read more" link below if you don't want to see spoilers.

Warning! Spoilers Below!

For those who aren't planning on reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but still want to be able to join in the water cooler discussions, there's a good synopsis at this Wikipedia article.
The Potter books have been a touchstone for my family for the last 8 years; my children grew up with them (we discovered them right after the 3rd book came out) and it gave the whole family something to talk about. For that reason, and because the books are entertaining even for adults, I've been following them quite closely, and got quite attached to the mythical world that J. K. Rowling created. In this last book, Rowling wrapped up the series in an eminently satisfying way that makes the hours spent reading the books all worthwhile.

As I've said all along, it was clear that Snape was "good" throughout it all -- Dumbledore just couldn't have been wrong about something so important. While I had stated that Neville had to be the one to get rid of Bellatrix LaStrange, Rowling ended up giving Neville the equally important role of destroying the last Horcrux -- and having Mrs. Weasley do the deed was just as satisfying. The best part about the conclusion is that Harry finally beats Voldemort not by luck, but because he actually comes to understand something that the Dark Lord doesn't, and uses it to his advantage. For those who "grew up" with Harry, it's fitting to see him finally take some responsibility for his fate at the end.

My youngest didn't like the epilogue at all, and I can see where he's coming from -- it ties things up way too neatly (even given the understanding that it is a children's book). The worst part is the names of Harry's kids -- didn't Ginny get any say in what their names were going to be? (I'm hoping that name of the oldest kid at least honored Uncle Fred in his middle name.) For those who want more information about what happened to the characters after Voldemort died, Rowling gave out some information in a recent interview, including the fact that both Harry and Ron became Aurors.

So what happens next for fans of Harry Potter? Well, there are still two more movies to see, and Rowling is talking about putting out an encyclopedia of Potter information. I could also see her writing a "Hogwarts Year 8" book (with proceeds going to charity) -- giving the main characters a chance to actually go through their last year of school.

Overall, this last book is clearly the best book of the entire series -- I'm glad I stuck with the story all the way to the end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Seawolf-Class Boats Gathering In Puget Sound

USS Seawolf (SSN 21) arrived in her new homeport of Bremerton this weekend, joining USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) in the Puget Sound. The other ship of the class, USS Connecticut (SSN 22), is heading to Bremerton herself at the end of her upcoming deployment.

In addition to making it easier for the three Seawolf-class boats to share training resources and spare parts, this move pretty much makes Naval Base Kitsap the most powerful Navy base in the world; it's homeported ships could pretty much destroy the world and sink any ships or submarines they want to -- no other base can say that. (Specifically, no other base has a ship or submarine that could win a fight against a Seawolf-class sub.) Plus, they also have an aircraft carrier.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter Hype In Idaho

The countdown to the release of the 7th Harry Potter book continues. Here in the Boise area, it looks like there are still lots of people who want to get the book at midnight, despite the alleged "spoilers" that can apparently be found on the 'net. (I've been very diligent about avoiding any potential spoilers, personally.)

We're getting our copies of the book at the local Barnes & Nobles tonight at midnight; they're one of several stores that are staying open late. SubBasket and our youngest went there this morning to get the numbered bracelets that they're handing out to those who pre-ordered the books to establish the selling order for tonight. They reported that 15 minutes before they started handing out the bracelets at noon, the line streched all the way around the building; they estimated about 400 people. The actually selling part should be quite intense tonight.

I posted some of my predictions about the book last week; while I realize that putting out "predictions" now -- with copies of the book apparently available on-line -- seems kind of silly, but I'm going to put one more out there. This isn't really a "prediction" as much as a "this is the way I think it would be cool to go" kind of thing. I've mentioned in the past that I think that "Dumbledore = Gandalf" but I'm starting to think that a better analogy would be "Harry = Frodo". (It's already fairly clear that Voldemort = Sauron, so I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb here.) Just as Frodo saved the Shire, but not for himself, I think it would be appropriate to have Harry lose his magical powers in vanquishing Voldemort. That way the last line could be: "I set out to save the wizarding world, and it has been saved, but not for me. Now all I'll have to remember this part of my life is this scar. Sh*t!"

Update 0053 21 July: We got our copies of the book:

Expect light blogging until I get it finished. (We only got three copies for the five of us, and I seem to be about 5th in line to get one, so it might be a few days.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Extreme Home Building In Idaho

The big news here in southwestern Idaho over the last week has been that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showed up in Middleton (just NW of Boise) to build a new home for a deserving family. Today was the "Move That Bus!" portion of the filming, where the family got to see their new home for the first time. It was a long hot day for those who got to see the unveiling of the house, but for those who had to work and arrived late, it wasn't as exciting.

My daughter and I went out to Middleton after she got off work (I had the day off, since I'm on a new work schedule). When we got there about 2:15pm, there were over 1,000 people waiting to get on the buses that took you out to the home site -- the whole road was blocked off, so that was the only way to get there. We waited for about 30 minutes until they announced that they wouldn't be taking anyone else out. Here's a picture of part of the disappointed crowd:

While we didn't get to see the actual ceremony, it was still nice to see the town come together for the needy family in their midst. After the fire at their high school earlier this year, Middleton deserved to have something good happen to one of their own. We can't wait until October to see the episode when it finally airs.

USS Florida Tomahawk Launch Video

Check out this YouTube video that looks like it was put together by the SubRon 16 Weapons shop; it has periscope and underwater camera footage of the TLAM launch USS Florida (SSGN 728) did in May. It's especially good for those who weren't really sure how the seven missile Multiple All-Up-Round canister works for the SSGN conversions:

The video's almost eight minutes long; a reader sent me a two minute version that I'm thinking of posting on YouTube for the more time-crunched viewer. If I do, I'll post the link.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's That Time Again!

If it's summer, it must be time for the 2nd Annual Summertime Beach Submarine Photoshop Contest over at The Sub Report. According to the contest rules, entries must be received by midnight EST on Thursday, 19 July; also, international submarines are allowed this year. Last year, I submitted a photo based on USS Asheville's unit crest; this year, I think I might take advantage of the option to use a foreign submarine -- maybe something like this:

Everyone should enter -- it's a cubic buttload of fun!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

USS Wahoo (SS 238) Wreath-Laying

RADM Doug McAneny, Commander of Submarine Group SEVEN in Yokosuka, recently honored the fighting crew of USS Wahoo (SS 238) by laying a wreath on her resting spot in the La Perouse Straits from the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40). Here's a picture from Navy NewsStand of the ceremony:

It's a good picture, but check out the caption they currently have attached to the picture:
Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny, Commander Submarine Squadron 7, helps lay a wreath into the ocean in remembrance of the Sailors aboard USS Wahoo (DD 238) from aboard submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40). The submarine sunk in October 1943 and was found in June 2006 by a Russian diving team.
[Emphasis mine] I know that it's too simplistic to expect every Mass Communication Specialist (or whatever they're calling Navy Journalists nowadays) to understand the subtleties of submarining, or even the difference between a submarine squadron and group, but I think we could at least expect them to know the difference between a DD and an SS. (They also need to fix it in this other picture of the event.) Hopefully they'll get the captions fixed soon, since some people over at Rontini's BBS have written in to complain.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movie Review: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

We went to the midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movie last night; it looks like it's going to be pretty popular. There were 5 (!) sold-out midnight showings at my local suburban theater, and something like 17 showings over in Boise last night. The audience for my particular showing seemed to attract all the screeching teenage girls in the Valley, but I only missed a few lines of dialogue, so it wasn't that bad. (SubBasket, on the other hand, had a hard time dealing with the concept of the giggling girls flirting with her sons.)

Without putting out too many spoilers, I can say I really liked the movie. After the horrible disappointment that was the last HP movie, this one moved back towards the style of the superior third installment. Since they took an 800+ page book and crammed it into a 2 1/4 hour movie, they obviously had to cut a lot of good stuff out; some of the more frustrating cuts were getting rid of any Quidditch and the "Ron and Hermione become prefects" plotlines. Still, I thought that they included most of the vital parts of the book -- the use of newspaper headlines to advance the story worked pretty well.

I was especially interested to see how they were going to handle the "battle royale" at the end; I figured they'd have a hard time showing on film the internal struggle Harry had to go through to defeat Voldemort's attempted "possession" of him. They ended up doing a pretty good job, and even someone who hadn't read the book will probably be able to understand what's going on. I especially liked how they handled the magical duels between the adult wizards and witches -- there wasn't any "stand back, I'm going to do magic" feeling, they just went at it full bore (like you'd expect them to do in "real life").

They handled the funnier parts well, and the actress who played Luna Lovegood stole every scene she was in. One kind of disconcerting sequence came in the scene where the three principles were discussing Harry's first kiss -- it looked like the actress playing Hermione dropped out of character and started cracking up, but they decided to keep it in the film for some reason. It almost had the feeling of a mid-film blooper reel.

Overall, it was well worth staying up late for. While I still haven't decided whether or not it's better than Prisoner of Azkaban, it's definitely one of the top two HP films. I give it four screeching teenage female film-goers out of five.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dodged A Bullet

I've always tried to be very careful about not mentioning my current employer on this blog -- it's not because I don't like them (I really like working there), but because I just don't want my hobby potentially jeopardizing my job situation. Still, I know that quite a few of my readers know where I work, and in case anyone was worried for me because of the story that's been dominating Boise news for the last week or so, I can report that I was never happier saying, "Honey, I'm leaving for work" than I was this morning.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Movie Review: Transformers

Finally -- a summer movie that almost lives up to the hype. I've enjoyed fighting robots ever since I watched Battlebots with my sons back when I was Eng on the Jimmy Carter, so I had high hopes for Transformers. Unlike with the other "big" summer movies so far, I wasn't disappointed (unlike this reviewer, who thought its theme of "victory through sacrifice" was too militaristic).

First, my complaints about the movie -- there were some continuity issues (the hot girlfriend's nail polish didn't match from minute to minute), and there were way too many 4-star Admirals (in SDBs, no less) standing watch in the NMCC. While the robot fighting scenes were pretty cool, they didn't do any Matrix-style slow motion that would have been appreciated by the techie portion of the audience. They also don't explain the apparent technology the robots use to make themselves (and especially their cube-shaped power generator) impossibly smaller when they're transformed compared to when they're in robot form. Mass is clearly not being conserved here.

On the good side, the military guys on the ground came across as the kick-ass defenders of freedom that we all know and love. (This helps explain why the regular Hollywood-type reviewers don't seem to like the movie very much.) There were a surprising number of really funny scenes -- in fact, those scenes were what made the movie. It's a film that movie-goers of all ages (up to probably 50) will like -- as long as they like explosions. Overall, I give it four conservation-of-mass-law-violating-robots out of five.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Be Stupid, Get Punished

It used to be an old joke around the boat that Leavenworth had softball teams for CMS Custodians, Rec Fund Officers, and Supply Officers. It looks like the Chop team will be getting a new member from the San Diego surface fleet:
A Navy officer has been sentenced to 28 months in prison for stealing up to $140,000 from the safe aboard his San Diego-based ship to pay debts racked up through an Internet scam.
Lt. Milton Guy pleaded guilty to charges of wrongful appropriation, making a false official statement and dereliction of duty, during a court-martial June 26 in San Diego...
...Guy, 29, was the disbursing officer aboard the frigate McClusky. He oversaw the ship's petty cash, much of it earned through sales of items in the ship's store...
So why would the disbursing officer need $140K? The article goes on to explain:
The court records show that Guy received an e-mail in August 2004 from a man named Barnabus, who claimed to be a representative of the Nigerian government. Barnabus said Mark Guy, a supposed relative of the lieutenant's, had died in a car accident in Nigeria.
In a series of e-mails and phone calls, Barnabus explained that Milton Guy had been left one-tenth of Mark Guy's estate, or $2.6 million. To claim the cash, he would need to pay a string of fees to set up a foreign bank account and cover the cash transfer.
Between October 2004 and July 2005, Guy took $120,000 to $140,000 out of the McClusky's safe in amounts of $3,000 to $10,000 each time, according to the court documents.
He sent most of the money to Barnabus but also used about $4,000 for a laptop computer, a down payment on a car and a deposit on an apartment, the court records show.
In May 2006, auditors from the Navy's Pacific Fleet command discovered that money was missing from the safe. Guy rushed to a bank and cashed a government treasury check to cover the loss, but the scheme quickly unraveled. He later admitted to falsifying the McClusky's ledgers to cover up his theft.
Seriously, how stupid do you have to be to fall for a Nigerian E-mail scam nowadays? I mean, I knew skimmer Staff Corps officers generally weren't that bright, but this is going above and beyond. Still, I shouldn't be too hard on the guy; like another famous Milton, I'm sure he's had problems with people picking on him his whole career:

New Chinese Boomer Seen On Google Earth

I'll probably come back to this later, but there's been a lot in the news this week about the new Chinese Jin-class SSBN being found on Google Maps. Here's the Google Maps URL in question, and here's the original FAS blog post. Here's a screenshot of the satellite view I just made:

The FAS blog post has a pretty good analysis comparing the new sub to the old Chinese Xia-class boomer.

Submariners And Marching -- An Unholy Combination

Remember when your boat would have to get ready for some military ceremony where the crew was expected to do things like "right face", "dress right -- dress!", and "parade rest"? Remember how it was totally obvious that anything having to do with marching is the first thing submariners forget once they get out of boot camp?

The crew of USS Providence (SSN 719) endured the horror of being expected to march down a city street -- with people actually watching! -- this 4th of July. They attended the country's oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in Bristol, R.I.:

Despite the traditional problems submariners have with marching, it looks to me like they're doing pretty good (in this picture, at least) with things like staying in a straight line and whatnot. BZ, men of the Providence!

Bell-ringer 2334 07 July: Lubber's Line was at the parade, and has much, much more at his place.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lucky 13th Episode Of "Hey, Shipwreck"

I'm over at my sister's house here in Nebraska, where they actually have high-speed internet, so I was able to see what's going on in the world. The most important thing I saw in my brief run through all my sites is that the 13th episode of the space submarine saga "Hey, Shipwreck" just got posted. Here it is:

I couldn't figure out how to turn on the speakers on my sister's computer, so I don't know what this episode is about, but it looks like they're finally off the boat.