September 30, 2008
Static...never what you want to see through "Volcano Cam"
September 28, 2008
Behold! the Sentinel class, 153 foot patrol boats.
The vessel is robust, steel hulled, lightly ice strengthened and considered seaworthy enough that a version of these vessels was recently been put into service with the South African Coast Guard, where its patrol area includes the violent seas around Cape Agulhas and parts of the Southern Ocean. A version is also in service with the UK's customs service.
In other words...the design has been vetted!
NO SURPRISES THIS TIME!
The vessel is quite heavily armed for a Coast Guard cutter with 4x.50 caliber machine guns and a 25mm chain gun. Stern launch systems are exceedingly convenient and safe, but because of their location and the need for a large hole in the structure, they have caused some structural issues and had teething problems.
However, this stern launching system is in service with both the closely related Dutch and UK versions of the design. Thus, it has been through its "learning experience" phase. Thus there should be minimal issues with it.
After the delays, disappointments and disasters involving procurement, this is a very heartening decision.
More here and here.
September 27, 2008
However, many did not. Over at Houblog he points out that literally hundreds are still missing.
The most disturbing bit is this piece by a commenter,
This is third hand but I am told of a coast guard member that is saying that they are pulling bodies out of the bay on a daily basis and is suprised that it is not being reported in the media. I am also being told that many people on the Bolivar peninsula were overtaken by events. That Thursday evening many people got home form work and started packing up to leave Friday morning, but TXDOT stopped the ferry early Friday morning and that within an hour or so of the ferry stopping, the road through High Island flooded from the storm surge in seargent leaving them no way off the peninsula. I too am questioning the official body count.
Ubu says that that report about the citizens of Gilchrist and the rest of the barrier islands is supported by other reports. If true there could be HUNDREDS dead. Reportedly very few bodies have been found. Now, there are the usual conspiracy stories about corpses being stacked and a conspiracy by the media to cover it up of course it is more likely, that they are buried in debris, the marshes, the sound or were washed into the gulf. There were very few survivors from the Bolivar peninsula, some idea why can be seen here.
(Before and after pics via Jeff Masters)
Few places have noted the utter destruction of the towns on the Bolivar peninsula particularly Gilchrist. I imagine the reason is why there was so little appreciation of the parts of the Gulf Coast that were utterly destroyed by Katrina and Rita (as opposed to New Orleans, which missed the brunt of both) the reporters weren't where the surge was highest (which is why they still live) and the people who make up the media either don't care or are so hateful that they get a chuckle* out of Hurricanes that hit the areas of the southeast that they do not fit their narrow, provincial, definition of "hip".
The aftermath of IKE is remarkable, particularly for a cat 2 storm, but as was noted elswhere, the surge of this thing was unusually high due to the storms massive size. Only a very few storms in the past 150 years have done the kind of total annihilation of a populated area that this one has. The areas that were not subject to the full brunt of the surge like Huston and Galveston were very badly damaged by winds.
Regards Charities, I have recently heard good things about Portlight and the charities listed in this post have all had first hand vouchers.
(*That bastard Wolcott deleted his bigoted screed when Hurricane Katrina sideswiped a place he could relate to.)
September 26, 2008
For those unfamiliar with this show, it is despite its name, annoyingly Creature free.
The show is violent, grim and surprisingly interesting. The near nonstop action does not get too stupid and the shows characterizations are intruiging. The first 3 volumes had a surprising ammount of character development.The animation was top notch, the music engaging and the stories engaging.
Black Lagoon was one of several that died with Geneon so I was happy to see it picked up by Funimation, and even happier to find that , at least for the first two volumes, they are using Geneons dub team (I assume that Geneon had the first two discs in the bag).
As to the content of these 2 discs, I'm a little nonplussed. The storyline with the two children of the damned is just over the top disturbing on several levels and it is really really gratuitous. The next arc is satifyingly action packed, while the last arc, incomplete at the end of disc 2 is less so...but looks to be serious pathos.Gut punches all around, very well drawn and well animated gut punches mind you.
This dub is hands down the best I've ever heard.
In fact after switching between the two audio tracks, I'll go so far as to say its better than the Japanese version. This is in no small part because of Venus Terzo's superb performance (via ultravoice) as the demented, murderous, implacable, mute, chainsaw wielding, goth chick.
If a high school girl wears glasses it means she's smart and sexy and repressed, a volcano of passion waiting to explode. If a guy wears glasses it means he's a dork. Everyone else who needs vision correction wears contacts.
This is doubly troubling as I am now far too old to date highschool girls...glasses or no.
UPDATE: It also implies that all the cute 30 something girls with glasses are, in fact, dorky traps.
( Thanks Steven! That could have led to...awkwardness! WHEW!)
It sucks to be me.
The two items are unrelated.
September 23, 2008
From the late, great Josh White.
UPDATE: related thoughts here...via Jerry Pournelle
In case anyone here wants to know....but is befuddeled by google.
All Seeing All Caring God Head Sun King VS Don Quixote
Friday, Sept. 26.
Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Gaffemaster VS The Wallflower
Thursday, Oct. 2.
I touched on this previously here...read the whole thing, I stand by it..
IF (and that is a really big if) the allegations are true...then those responsible for this " conspiracy" did EXACTLY THE RIGHT THING. The only thing that can come out of this IF the allegation is true is for the USCG to loose the use of a Cutter right before the Alaska fishing season, and possibly, good men and women be punished for doing the right thing.
I don't suggest that there might not be NSC related scandals....but if this is what he's wasting bandwidth on, then the Senior Sea Service must be pretty clean.
UPDATE: At least part of Mr Axes pique seems to stem from the USCG not affording a rebate to bloggers that big papers enjoy. Galrahn responds, thoughtfully as usual, and has thoughts on the CG and web 2.0 here.
UPDATE 2: While responding to Mr. Stinson's comment, I rather belatedly realized that I never posted the Coast Guards denial of the whole thing.
In fact, at no time did the Coast Guard remove or re-install equipment to mislead Navy examiners. The Coast Guard has regularly and frequently discussed in detail with congressional oversight staffs the many actual activities associated with preparation and follow-on work for acceptance trials and delivery.
This excerpt is important as it might explain why some investigators Freedom of Information Requests are being denied....
Specifically, the Coast Guard presented Congressional staff with information that directly counters the false assertions and unsubstantiated claims regarding this matter. Because of the sensitive nature of the information provided to Committee staff, the Coast Guard cannot publicly disclose those documents, because that would disclose equipment capabilities.
The C4SIR system is classified and so there is likely some lack of forthrightness in its discussion....which is perfectly proper.
Aviation Week has covered this too.
The point of these two posts is not to dispute the Coast Guards version of things but to make the case that even if Mr Axe's anonymous tipster is accurate....the "scandal" being pursued here is not an ethical failure.
September 22, 2008
Fire support is on the radar again as the Navy's solution to the problem seems to be in trouble.
The on again off again saga of the DDG1000 has hit another snag. The program has been cut to a tech demonstrator of two hulls, and then increased to 3 hulls, possibly for industrial capacity reasons.
Now there is apparently a nontrivial issue with affixing the composite superstructure to the hull. This could actually kill the program. Unless a better composite material can be found, this could require a complete redesign of the vessel...which at this point in the troubled program could well be a program ender.
First some background and explanation.
The DDG 1000 was conceived during the 90s as a fire support vessel
in part to replace the old battleships. It grew as new weapons systems
were added and became quite expensive. These ships are designed to take
a huge ammount of punishment and they have very robust scantlings and
thick shell plating...up to 20mm thick which is nearly as thick as the
unarmored sections of a battleship. There are also design features
associated with stealth that are giving some naval experts pause, such
as the sloped sides (tumblehome) They are designed around 2
experimental 155 mm guns and have 80 missile tubes. Its development
has been troubled to say the least, in no small part because virtually
every piece of equipment outside of the galley, laundry, rope locker
and the 2 Bofors guns is new and experimental..
The ships referred to as Arleigh Burke class destroyers are actually 3 similar classes of warship that are based on the same basic design. The later ships have helicopter hangers for 2 Seahawk helicopters which greatly enhances their peacetime potential and anti submarine capability.
However, the latest ships omit some useful secondary systems as an austerity measure. The vessels were rather long in development and were designed at the height of the cold war to replace obsolete guided missle destroyers designed in the 50s and 60s. They were intended as carrier escorts and have a version of the AEGIS air defense system which makes them extremely effective anti aircraft ships. They were also designed with attention paid to toughness but they are still built to destroyer standards. The vessels are designed around percieved cold war needs, the gun was very much an afterthought as were the helicopter araingements which are located right aft for maximum pitching in a seaway. Their soft power projection ability is limited and they are really expensive ships to be risking inshore. These vessels are well liked and have a fine reputation for reliability, though expensive to build and maintain they are, on a ton for ton basis fairly economical when considering their firepower and targeting capability.
Keeping in mind the situation with the DDG 1000 program, Danger Room! reports that there is interest in fitting new 'Burkes with some additional kit like the AGS gun. This is problematic to say the least.
The Advanced Gun System is HUGE...Naval architects say it would
displace the forward VLS nest as well as the 5 inch gun, cutting the
ships missile capability by one third. It would mean a lot of weight
forward which is problematic for seakeeping and that much weight and
recoil would require design changes that a 3rd class enlisted Coastie
can't even begin to get his head around. The Danger Room! post also
notes that magazine capacity would be a miserable 120 rounds
The AGS Advanced Gun System is a 155mm (6.1 inch) cannon intended to fire shells about 100 miles away. Its a lot bigger and heavier than its medium caliber (a standard caliber for NATO armies) would lead one to believe. This weapon, at ~100 tons, is as heavy as the main guns on some battleships! It fires a shell that is actually heavier than most 8" shells from WW2. In the 1990s an 8 inch 60-62 caliber weapon was successfully tested , however the 155mm shell diameter was chosen in part in anticipation of using standard NATO ammunition for less demanding shots. This was mistaken as the NATO shells can't actually be fired from the gun as developed.
( Caliber in large guns generally refers to the length of the barrel multiplied by the diameter so a 5 inch 54 caliber gun is 270 inches long. Longer barrels can, in theory, achieve higher velocities. )
The Navy currently uses 2 types of medium sized guns, both 5 inchers. The old 5"54 caliber weapon developed in the 60s is supposed to be replaced with the 5"62 caliber gun. This can fire the old ammunition at a higher velocity and was intended to fire a new super long ranged guided round the EGRM as far as 60 miles but that has been canceled
by the current congress. The 5" guns are reliable but have limited
hitting power. They are probably adequate for most cases though.
At the lower end of the scale The USN and USCG have, since the 1970s used a license built version the old Italian OTO Melera 76mm (3inch) gun for frigates and the larger Coast Guard cutters. This weapon is reliable and very popular around the world but is no longer state of the art. There are much more modern versions of it available.
Instead of going with those versions, the Navy, after a series of tests, decided on a 57mm gun originally developed in Sweden. It is a modernized version of a weapon that has given good service overseas for 40 years and fires twice as fast as the fastest 3" guns available. It is a better anti missile weapon and, surprisingly, has a longer range than the current 3"weapon.
This weapon is the 'main gun' on the Littoral Combat Ships. The 57mm weapon has some utility because, with a rate of fire of 4 rounds a second, its effect has been likened to a cluster bomb going off. However, its six pound shell is half as powerful as the 3 incher and neither is generally considered an adequate shore bombardment weapon. In fact the Brits determined in the 1960s that something in the vicinity of 105mm was the minimum as fire support needs to provide indirect fire...that is lobbing over hills and such.
So, if the AGS system is not going to go to sea any time soon, what might we do to give Uncle Sams Misguided Children fire support both on and off the beach?
does not just mean air strike or launching cruise missiles. This
requires being able to hit targets, possibly moving targets exactly
where the ground forces tell you. It means firing a lot of times (and
missiles are bulky) It also means giving close support and escort
landing craft, or (food convoys) all the way to the beach. Note that
the ground forces might not be Marines or Army but could be allied
forces in joint operations.
In the immediate term this is
going to involve sending very large expensive ships with large crews
inshore to shoot at bad guys with their 5 inch guns. If the targets are
in 5 inch gun range the ships are within the range of much
unpleasantness in the form of guns, missiles and torpedoes. This is a
suboptimal solution but its all we have.
In the near term, if the program is not nixed, we have the Littoral Combat ships. One option might be to fit a bigger gun than the 57mm, but these are lightly built vessels and it is unlikely they could take a 5" gun.
There is an interesting option however......and that is the French 100mm gun. (gasp!)
The export version is shown above on a Malaysian OPV. It is also used by China and a few other nations. It weighs 14 tons...which makes an interesting comparison with the 14 ton 57mm weapon already fitted.
That is not entirely true since the 14 tons only includes 114 rounds of ammo, a magazine and ancillary equipment brings its total to 18 tons, which is still quite close to the current weapon (and the additional weights would be low in the hull). The version the French use themselves has some whistles and bells (like local control) that bring it to 22 tons. Even this might still be doable with a slight redesign of subsequent versions of the LCS.
The French arrived at this weapon after considerable testing. It is intended to be light enough for effective AAA fire and fire a heavy enough shell for shore bombardment. Indeed, it was intended as the main weapon of French Avisos (colonial gunboats) and incorporated the fire support lessons of the Indochina War. The shells are about 30 pounds and while less than half the weight of the 5" weapon these have a better chance of taking out a pillbox or a tank than the 57mm gun. The AAA rounds proximity fuse can likely ruin an infantry platoons whole day. The weapon is already developed, highly regarded and the gun and ammunition is in use with several nations, including Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the Americas. It could meaningfully upgrade the capability of the LCS in surface combat.
18 tons-22 tons is pretty light, this weapon could be fitted to fairly small vessels (It is used on 1300 ton OPVs ) that would be built in greater numbers.
On the debit side the weapon uses nonstandard ammunition and parts.
would have the advantage from the defense procurement officials
standpoint of expending lots of unnecessary money and time to achieve
almost the same results as buying an off the shelf weapon....but
without any AAA capability. On the other hand using standard NATO 105mm
ammunition could be advantageous and such a system might be very light
indeed both of which might discourage this approach. (What...ME cynical?)
There is a discussion of this here where Tony Williams notes a UK project along these lines involving a tank turret that weighed 6 tons!?.....damn...put two of them on a Cyclone
or similar small ship! There are likely to be issues with this approach
but it is an interesting idea nonetheless. 6 tons puts it in the
capability of some VERY small craft.
Of course one of the
complaints about fire support is that the current weapons are too
small, and going with a gun that is half as powerful does not address
that. To that end the UK is developing a marinized version of its 155mm artilery piece.
Intended to fit in the same turret as a standard Royal Navy 4.5 inch
gun the weapon or something like it would be a good replacement for the
5 inch guns on USN cruisers and destroyers giving considerably more
hitting power and perhaps even an increase in range now that the EGRM
round has been canceled. Whether this is worthwhile is debatable.
On a tangent...The old Cruisers of the Ticonderoga class were actually strengthened and had space reserved to take an 8 inch gun that was developed in the 70s, though its unclear if...1: we could build those guns now or 2: if they could still take these weapons after their many upgrades. If it could be produced, it could certainly be fitted to specially designed new build ships of modest size.....as it was a successful weapon and the tests were actually conducted from an old (2800 ton) Forrest Sherman Class destroyer.
Guns are the most economical in space but missiles can be useful too. For really heavy artillery the Army's GMLRS rockets
are quite impressive, carrying a precision guided 200 pound warhead 40
miles away. The warhead on this 9" diameter rocket is bigger than the
bursting charge of a 16" shell. These can't be fired from warships for
a variety of reasons, however in 1999 Lockmart proposed POLAR, The
Precision Over the horizon Land Attack Rocket which is mentioned
used a marinized and lengthened version of the same weapon that could
be packed 4 per cell in a vertical launch tube and would have had a
range of over 100 miles. Hitting nearly as hard as a battleship gun
from 5 times the distance and with precision guidance and
being relatively cheap this weapon would have solved the heavy fire
support problem at a stroke, but was canceled. It could probably be
revived without too much trouble Many of these options have been
looked at before and were rejected in favor of the AGS which, being a
battleship sized weapon, requires a ship as big as a predreadnaught to
carry it with any efficiency.
September 20, 2008
Hat Tip: Bits and Pieces
Upon arriving in that thar ole' Jaypan I suddenly discovered that my accommodation arrangements were FUBAR'd due to an apparent oxidation mishap. I took no pictures of the grave of Casa Nova on that rainy night but I snapped this one 22 days later...
this old promo photo was taken from almost the same angle as the one below it.
The Tokyo boarding house I found was rough around the edges, but it was a surprise expense that fit within my budget. Green House cost about 500 dollars for a month. with a roughly 250 dollar deposit for utilities. It is less than a click from the train station and is only two stops on the express ( 9 minutes) from the big station in Ikebukaro.
On the bonus side it was in vastly better condition than that apartment was in August of '08.
The postit note speaks the truth...take my word for it.
I quickly learned that in Japan the most valuable thing on earth is a 100 yen coin. This shower, phones, laundromats, some vending machines and even one automat would take nothing else!
I realized early on what the problem was with the restrooms...it seems that due to a miscomunication, right was frequently disabled by the tenants, and, as nature abhors a vacuum, the restrooms would then fill up with wrong.
Despite the rustic touches there are a few things to be said for places like this. First the place is cheap.
500 a month in Tokyo is pretty damned good. You are unlikely to get better private accommodations for that without a 6 month lease. Gas is cheap, the 250 dollar utility deposit was 80% refunded.
Second the place is casual.
"What does he mean?"
Other, newer places, like this that actually cater to foreigners frequently cost twice as much and have a ton of restrictions. No guests, a curfew, no food in the rooms...its like dorm life without D&D. This place allows you to cook in your room, go and come at 3 AM and as long as you observe shoe discipline and aren't loud..they don't care.
As an aside, when I told my friend Bob Mitchell about the pillows* that were in the closet he asked about the layout and the nearby bathouse. We realized that by bizarre coincidence he had stayed here before. In fact he had brought some friends, who balked at the place got another, better maintained place that cost more than twice as much and were miserable in the "prison" whereas Bob stayed here and had a fine time, being able to come and go as he pleased with no fear of being locked out.
The purpose of accommodations when on a vacation is to give you a place to sleep and put your stuff. This served that purpose well. I was not in Japan to see the inside of an apartment but to see the many sights of that strange land. Particularly given that this was found quite on the fly I think I did pretty well. For that reason I actually don't recommend against this place.
* Pillows in Japan are constructed to an utterly different standard of softness, more appropriate for a beanbag. Bob informed me of this in '07, and mentioned that he always bought several pillows from Sams Club before going to Japan. On the way back, the luggage space used for pillows was taken up with the stuff he'd purchased. When I discovered several Sams Club pillows in the closet I laughed and mentioned it to Bob...after a bit of exchanging notes we realized he had stayed in this place. I asked the landlord and sure enough he remembered Bob as "that really nice polite American".
Bob Mitchell ...legendary Gaijin.
September 19, 2008
Arrrrr.....one of the Brickmuppet's crack crew of alchemaic wenches has picked up this bit of scuttlebut from that thar scurrvy dog Brian Wang.
It seems that a bunch o' 'lubbers at ESA have been lookin' into spacejammers, and have figgued ot how to get more speed outa their sun sails by usin' St Elmo's fire!
This here sail there talkin about doesnt ride the light from the sun like other spacejammers, it rides the suns own westerlies!
That might not be of any interest to us 'ceptin that this Wang feller has figgured out how to use this here contraption to find treasure amongst the planets. Real treasure mayties, not just gold and silver mind you, but platinum and fresh water too!
If'n this thing works it'll be fast too! ...about 1, 494, 625 kts faster than one of them new fangled 15 kt clipperships!
September 18, 2008
Blood pressure was 175 over 100.
UPS has therefore laid me off until I can get it under control.
WTF? 4chan has entered the election.
Now I can't sleep because of the nagging nauseating fear that /d/ might be under the bed.
Interestingly, while a lot of people are looking for an elite group of crackerjack anarchist hackers who call themselves anonymous. Michelle Malkin of all people has posted a rundown from a reader which explains what is much more likely to /b/ the truth.
That some adolescent pulled this off is not all that surprising, but the fact that Gawker and others posted screencaps of the accounts as well as contact info for the Governors whole E-Mail list is pretty damned obnoxious.
Profanity is tastefully below the fold.
September 14, 2008
Across the bay to the north, the Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach, and High Island…. everythings gone. Not damaged, gone. There were once dozens of beach houses on stilts there, and the area had several canals dug so that even houses 3 and 4 rows back from the beach could have docks for their boats. The occasional lonely piling is still sticking up, plus one very incongruous house that somehow survived. Other than that, water and the occasional bit of greenery. It appears that a historic “iron lighthouse” is gone; the media chopper couldn’t find it.
Read the whole thing.
'Gwendolyne D. Barista' who moved not so long ago to the area sends this via E-Mail....
...there were a bunch of reports of a few thousands using their fireplaces when their power went out... AND THEN ABANDONING THEIR HOMES WITH THE FIRES STILL GOING. Loads of houses have burnt down. Good job, guys. *shakes head* I am so ashamed. It's called flashlights. It ain't like you people are going to freeze to death here in Texas...
So then, much to everyone's chagrin (they can't claim to be surprised) the storm moved up into Houston and took out a lot of the downtown area. Unbelievable flooding and blown glass and debris. There was a snippet rolling by on the ticker that said 'Houston's Tallest Building Loses Nearly All Windows' or some sensational bullshit like that. It's true- all the glass is on the street ....It's intense.
Also, there were notices of Boil Alerts in Houston in order to keep contamination down. That, and there was another alert that popped up later (so as not to appear related, methinks) that there had been a chlorine leak. GOODY.
Here is video of Galveston from the Coast Guard Falcon that was sent to assess the damage as soon as weather permitted. It is humbling.
Like volume, one volume 2 is a very reasonably priced 2 disc set containing 9 episodes. Unlike volume one however, the marketing department very sensibly put teh Yoko on the cover of volume 2.
I had been quite taken by the first volume and was looking forward to 9 episodes of teh Yoko, giant fighting robots, adventure and teh Yoko...
What I got was 8 episodes of satisfying giant robot battles, a goofy albino Moe Maiden, adventure, heroism, a basically satisfying wrap-up of most plot threads and not quite enough of teh Yoko.
Oh, and one episode of patented Gainax Gut Punchery....
My biggest problem with the show is the crass stupidity and pig headedness of a lot of the cast, which frequently leads to seemingly unnecessary plot complications this is not as annoying as it could be due in part to the fact that said problems are usually resolved by thoroughly amusing giant robot battles. I should mention that the bombastic character Kamina comes off much better in this volume than he did in the first disc
image via Concrete Badger
The goofball nature of the series combined with the genuine drama and pathos is an odd mix that has rarely been pulled off, being reminiscent of Van Dread in a way. All in all it was a very satisfying and quite enjoyable 8 episodes. I was impressed.
Then suddenly... I was reminded this was a Gainax show...and the show began chanelling Josh Wheadon.
There is a clifhanger.
We'll leave it at that....
...while we contemplate the obligatory beach episode...and teh Yoko
September 13, 2008
Weather Nerd# says the surge was less than expected which is hopeful but reports from the area# are grim. I hope the tide gauges didnd give false readings due to the storm.
Via Colleen Doran comes a list of vetted charities active in the area.
The worst is over at least.
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