July 30, 2008

"At This Point in the Process...A Miracle Occured"

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July 28, 2008

Halp! Ninduhs Sdole By Dose!

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Info Needed on Japan's Bike Laws

After hearing an alarming story about somebody who ran afoul of an obscure bike law in Japan and was slapped with a ~500 dollar fine, I've been looking for the skinny on what gaijin on bikes need to know to avoid pissing off the cops.

I'm finding very contradictory info on this.

For example....

Bikes must stay on sidewalks OR bikes must stay off sidewalks.
Use of bell is mandatory OR Use of bell is a hell of a fine.

Official sources have been pdf's...in Japanese. My very limited Kanji fu is not up to the task of dealing with bureaucrat-ese

The only thing people agree on is that riding with an open umbrella is a 50,000 yen fine.

Barring a calamity, I'll be in Japan Friday and bicycles are a large part of my cunning plan to avoid going over budget.

Any info from people who actually know would be appreciated.

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Bizarre Fishing Mishap

The Unofficial Coast Guard Blog links to this strange sea-story that culminates in the Coast Guard preventing an almost comical mishap from becoming an international incident, and ending very badly for some American fishermen.

It would strain belief if not for the pictures.

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July 26, 2008

The USN Should be Proud...not Ashamed

 Gahlran (who does not use random catgirls and 'science babes' to lighten the mood of his blog) has a typically thorough and thoughtful post on the strategic direction of the navy and what should be its corresponding shipbuilding program. He is particularly concerned that the Navy does not have enough small combatants for short of war duties. Read the whole thing.

 Rather unusually, I disagree, particularly with this statement from the post.

...Indeed if you look at activities like that of the Coast Guard cutter Dallas (WHEC 716), the Navy is basically outsourcing its peacetime engagement responsibilities in major maritime theaters to the already stretched thin Coast Guard. The Navy really should be embarrassed that it is incapable of doing the mission the Coast Guard does today in the Persian Gulf, it is a tragedy of leadership the Navy doesn't see its inability to do that mission as a problem, because that is part of the global mission set the maritime domain demands in today's maritime era....

First of all...GO COAST GUARD!
As to the idea that the Navy should be ashamed that the USCG is conducting these missions...


The Navy should be damned proud that, unlike some loons, it is a professional enough organization to be actively partnering with its fellow sea service. This enables  that organizations strengths to be utilized while avoiding the dilution of its own.

The USCG has a surprising number of specific strengths in the international arena. These  include working closely, and generally benignly, with the worlds merchant fleets, fishing fleets, the UN (particularly through the IMO) and anyone who is in the water and doesn't want to be. Because the USCG has as one of its main Raison' Detre's the rescue of mariners, so they are always welcome sights in foreign harbors, particularly since their peacetime armament is generally no more intimidating than a light gun and, perhaps, a CIWS.

Trained to operate in close proximity and cooperation with the public, Coasties are a good choice for diplomatic presence missions. There is a good body of expertise in boardings and maritime law enforcement operations. Coasties are adept at inshore work.  Coasties also have small vessels with small crews that will minimize the loss of blood and treasure in the event of a successful asymmetrical attack.

This is not to suggest that the USCG take the whole of the show the flag mission from the USN. That would be silly, the USCG can perform some functions to compliment the Navy, particularly if the old ocean station program were revived...with different station locations. An earlier post on that is here

The Navy has strengths too, such as amphibious warfare vessels that can be used to haul tremendous amounts of "stuff" to wherever the hell it is needed. Said "stuff " can be tanks, leathernecks, solar stills or food for disaster victims, small patrol boats,  helicopters for a myriad of functions from assault to minesweeping to SAR, supplies....and baby screech owls.

The NAVY has yet more strengths, an airforce of brownshoes and leathernecks who care, really care, from the 4 stars on down, about close air support for those who need it. The Navy has the ability to strike targets ridiculously far inland, with missiles, bombs, and food packets. It has escorts for its carriers ( and, presumably civilian convoys as well) that can knock planes and missiles and even a friccking satellite out of their sky and will, if the program is not terminated, be able to defend ships and some land targets against incoming tactical ballistic missiles. Most of all the Navy is the 800 pound gorilla of the worlds oceans, they train and equip themselves to secure the sea lanes for the use of us and our allies. They do this with large ships that can carry the necessary electronics, and weapons,  use said assets in the most violent sea states, and enough fuel to take this capability halfway around the world.

  The Navy IS actually building a class of small combatants, the Littoral Combat Ships. These are interesting vessels but they are basically high performance utility craft. They have the fixed armament of a Coast Guard cutter but they seem intended to mainly act as tenders for unmanned vehicles that will provide a lot of functions such as mine warfare which is something the Navy has a definite need for. There are a lot of questions about this vessel that laymen are asking....particularly its cost and seemingly unnecessarily  high speed.

However, those of us in the 82nd chairborne division don't know what specific tactical purpose the speed is supposed to support, it may be an operational requirement for drift and dash ASW, it could, given the large cargo area be related to seabasing or something else tied to a warm or hot war situation. The speed may not in fact be due to an admiral saying "Gee whiz! wouldn't 40 kts be swell!?"

For antipiracy, peacebuilding or short of war duties the vessels seem excessive, but that is likely a small portion of what they are designed to do.

Now Gahlran is right that a big concern is indeed the dwindling numbers of navy ships. No matter how capable a ship is it can only be in one place at once. This is less true for carriers but it is still true.

Some economy and increase in numbers can be made while maintaining hot war capability, the Australians very sensible choice of the Spanish F-100 is a good example of this. The best form of armor is to have another ship. The Australians were able to afford a 5th ship as opposed to the 4 cut down 'Burkes they were offered...but that can only go so far. The F-100 has half the missile tubes in addition to the attendant disadvantages of a smaller hull ...for 60-80% the cost.

Additionally, inshore, in most locations, a 4,500 ton ship is not going to be able to go a lot of places the 9,000 Burke can't. That kind of maneuverability really doesn't come until you get rather smaller, like under 200 feet in length and ~ 600 tons....a, um,  Coast Guard patrol boat....or for extreme inshore fighting...a CB90.

There is a political dimension as well. If the nation develops very austere vessels...."peace cruisers" in the parlance of the old navy....these vessels will be counted by congresscritters as hulls on the navy list...to the potential detriment of the hot war fighting capability of the navy.

There is a temptation on the part of many to point out that the current unlikelihood of a war with a peer force is  going to hold for a very long time. It won't and greatly reducing our emphasis on that currently unlikely scenario ironically makes it more likely.
The  criticism of "next war-itis" is not without merit as it is imperative to focus on the  war you are fighting now.
However, this  does not  hold quite as true for the Navy. One of the reasons that there is no peer competitor right now, is because those that might be dont see challenging us as in any way attainable except in specific circumstances (cough Taiwan straits cough). If we detract from the carrier strike capability  and the escorts that protect it we open a window that a competitor might use to build a fleet quite rapidly. The problems our shipbuilding industry has are severe and the topic of another post, but suffice it to say we would be hard pressed to do any dramatic surge in  shipbuilding.

The biggest problem the navy has is a lack of support vessels...oilers and other logistics vessels. This needs attention.

Galhran has raised some good points, particularly with regards to the basically capital ship status of submarines and the idea of using austere, perhaps off the shelf amphibious vessels as presence ships ( about which more here).  However, reorienting the navy away from a Mahanian force to a gunboat navy is in my opinion a poor bargain and a strategic misstep.

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Chinese MacGyver Proves the A-Team was Realistic

(except for firearms accuracy)


This fellow made a gyrocopterhelicopter out of scrap metal and a lawnmower engine!

These are puportedly the same guy and same machine but the two vids show vehicles that appear to be operating on different principles. It may be that the autogyro was modified at some point to be a full helicopter which would make sense if the guy was learning as he went. Autigyros are rather more simple and helicopters are such an abomination against physics that the inventor may have wanted to get one half of the whirlly bits right before trying for the full Sikorskey.

Of course, they may  also be unrelated machines.

More here.

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Peak Metals

Robert Silverberg holds forth on the rapidly declining reserves of Gallium and other rare but useful metals.

Over at Ars Technica, Ethan Gutman has an analysis of this and concludes that the situation is, unsurprisingly, neither as dire as the  worst predictions, nor as rosy as the more pollyanish takes on this have been.

Ultimately this planet has limited resources. However, even putting aside the obvious merits of recycling, Mercury is likely to be exceedingly rich in heavy metals and most other things we need for an industrial civilization can  be found in some abundance from the moon to the outer planets.  There is no reason to panic, but there is one more reason to work towards cheap access to space.

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And I Just Ate Too....

A pig with a monkeys face has been born in China.
Now a deformed farm animal is not normally news but the picture was disturbing enough to make me shiver...thus it warrants discussion about this stories implications.

The way I see it there are 5 possibilities here...
1: It is a bizzare but random mutation, the snout and jaw, shortened enough to give the piglets face an almost human face and the Brickmuppet nightmares.
2: As above, but not quite as random, having been triggered by the appalling pollution levels in parts of China.
3: This was an in vitro fertilized pig and due to incompetence at a government facility this farmers sow was accidentally impregnated with one of those human animal hybrids that Leon Kass gets the vapors over. This is possibly part of a program to grow transplantable organs or to make Chinese pigs taste even more like pork.
4: Its a pod pig.... the  Body Snatchers are in China. Head for the hills. Trust no one.
5: It's a pig thing...you wouldn't understand...but you should react as in #4.

Scenarios 1&2 can be safely dismissed in the interest of fearmongering and hysteria. #3 is disturbing in a Soylent Green / Clonus Horror sort of way but points (tangentially) to the distant possibility of catgirls being developmentally just around the corner. Scenarios 4&5 pretty much just suck and have no silver lining that I can see....
Anyway, discuss....

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Chinese Food Bleg

Many years ago, when the horizons were broad, anything was possible, the sky was the limit and I had not irredeemably FUBAR'ed my life in so many ways, I  worked in a  Chinese restaurant. I did not realize it when I was misspending my youth, but that place was rather unusual.

Golden Fortune, on Olney road in Norfolk, was (and is) a tiny little takeout place, squeezed between a Chinese Laundry and an office suite. It sports a completely nondescript facade, and from appearances could be one of a hundred other chop suey joints in Hampton Roads. The shops menu is actually a bit smaller than most places, but there is one glaring difference....
...the staff cooks EVERYTHING fresh.

They make their own egg rolls, wrap their own wontons, make the soups all from scratch, shop daily between the local produce markets for the freshest vegetables.

Anyway, they rock.

  20 years on they are still there and as good as ever, though I discovered today that their menu has recently had some changes.

  Previously they had a spicy chicken dish, General Tang's Chicken. (Who General Tang was I don't know but damn' that guy could cook!) The dish was a spicy chicken/vegetable medley completely different from General Tso's breaded sweet candy chicken chunks (which are also on the menu) that are a fixture at most Chinese take out places. I gather that this led to some consternation from people who assume that all Chinese generals were alike, and who carelessly ordered chicken from the wrong general.

Today the dish had been renamed Generally Tangy Chicken....

This is not the first time they've had to do this. Some time ago,
Golden Fortune Chicken was given the unfathomably inscrutable designation, Marinated Boneless Crispy Chicken With Chinese Vegetables.

I hope this resolves their customers confusion.

I also note in passing that China is well ahead of the US in the international chicken wars with regards to rank.

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July 24, 2008

Japan Earthquake 100+Injured

The quake hit Iwate prefecture last night.

More here and here.

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July 23, 2008

An Important Note

Bob is Always Right

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Dateline: Maelstrom/Perditions Fire

(OK actually its Australia)

An albino humpback whale is making waves near Byron Bay Australia*.
While whales making waves are not news (they tend to splash a lot) albino whales that have made it to adulthood certainly are.

Migaloo, as the animal is known, is the ONLY white Humpback known in the world.

In  related news, the Japanese Whaling Industry managed to compound the PR debacle that is their very existence, by issuing a "no comment " when asked if their ships would spare the ultra-rare and easily identifiable cetacean.

Only one response comes to mind....

(* For Mee.Nuvians, that's on the east coast about 220 miles north of Pixyville )

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July 22, 2008

Good to Know

Wow..I'm 38 and still learning English.

Heretofore, I had though the phrase "It's a girl thing!" meant something else entirely...

Now I know better!

(Whew! That could have been...awkward.)

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July 21, 2008

B-52 Down

A B52 crashed off Guam today. At least two are dead. The Coast Guard is involved in the search for the missing 6.
More here.

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Leading From the Front!

Eagle 1 has a follow up piece to this astounding tale of courage and seamanship.

Much like the original, the sequel would strain ones suspension of disbelief if  it were a film .

 John H. Morrill  had risen to the rank of commodore in the time since he got his surviving crew out of the hell that was Corrigodor. Despite the fact that Commodore was flag rank and with his wealth of experience he could have commanded a squadron of frontline warships, he requested command of a force of landing craft support ships....vessels so small and expendable that the Navy did not waste names on them.

Commodore Morrill was determined that the sailors assigned to this most perilous of duties should not feel that they were being thrown away...in the words of his 'flag' commander "The Commodore never asks a man to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He leads all the raiding parties ashore. "

Emphasis mine.

Read the whole thing.

One final note. Eagle 1 points out the unusual nature of Commadore Morril's volunteering in the context of the USN's attitude towards inshore warfare and the 'gator navy' in general. I find it telling that there is no US warship named for him nor does a search for his name on the USN website produce any results. No disrespect to the victor of Virginia Capes....but before we name another ship the DeGrasse...lets name one for this home grown hero.

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Bias at the NYT!!?? I'm shocked...shocked I say!

Actually this bit of brazenness is a little surprising.

New York Times ran an op-ed by the All Knowing God Head Sun King recently in which the AKGHSK stated his views on foreign policy.
John McCain subsequently submitted a rebuttal to the NYT.

The New York Times refused to run it.
...... on the grounds that it didn't mirror Obama's piece.


It is, of course, the absolute right of the NYT to run what they want. To suggests otherwise really smacks of the malignant "fairness doctrine" which stifled political speech in this country for decades.

This decision is however, quite unfortunate.

In this sound byte age there are few opportunities for substantive debate between candidates. Having both submit thoughtful opinion pieces laying out there positions, policies and visions....and responding to those of the other candidate in print, with no timer, no interruptions and nary a Chris Mathews or Shawn Hannity in sight would have been a far better sort of political discourse than we have had in some time.

It is too bad the NYT felt their candidate was not up to such potentially substantive debating.

Fox has posted the the rejected McCain rebuttal  here.  As this is a political pamphelet and the Senator obviously wants the highest possible distribution I have cut and pasted the article in its entirety below the fold.

(Golly Senator, I hope I don't run afoul of your campaign finance legislation by doing this....
...Oh the endless ironies of life)


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July 20, 2008

39 Years ago....

If we could send people to the moon 39 years ago you'd think that today we could....well...you know.

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July 18, 2008


Here is a current artists impression of the Coast Guard's Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter.

The design is still fluid, but at between 320 and 360 feet long the vessels approach the 378 foot Hamilton class high endurance cutters in size, but are intended to replace the aging Reliance and Famous class medium endurance cutters. They will be much more capable vessels. 25 vessels are planned.

They are impressive vessels indeed with better sea keeping, rescue and aviation capability as well as the 57mm gun plus a CIWS system.

They also are projected here to cost $323.9 million apiece...

I seriously wonder  what we get for that. The broadly comparable (on paper) New Zealand OPV's  mentioned in an earlier post cost 45 million a pop, meaning you could buy 7 per OPV.
Now 175 cutters doesn't take into account any hidden costs and is unrealistic from an available personnel.... or fuel....or even pier space perspective. It also true that the NZ OPV, while sturdy and seaworthy lacks any means to defend itself from somebody deciding to take a potshot at it and it probably doesn't have anything like the planned C4iSR or sensors of this thing.

This begs some above the paygrade questions though.
SHOULD the advancements over the New Zealand design cost 7 times as much? (This is not as unlikely as it might seem. the CG design has a real gun and CIWS. Hell, the C4iSR suite might cost as much or more than the admittedly austere Kiwi cutter, and this vessel has twice the number of engines...)

More to the point, does 7 times cost per hull really give optimum capability for the money spent? Could we build more hulls (35 or so) for better ocean coverage and redundancy and possibly have money left over for other things like improvements to small boat stations and C-schools?

Some of this makes sense if it is planned to use them them in short of war operations as suggested here...even then the costs are begining to approach LCS territory.
Is this a Shipbuilding Industry Problem, a Procurement Problem, or something else....or is it not a problem at all and I merely have unwarranted stickershock?

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Reflecting Upon the Recent Past

I spent most of yesterday  very closely contemplating  my diet over the last couple of days....which contained a surprisingly large proportion of Almonds...

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