March 31, 2009

A Cat and His Bag

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Mt Redboubt Alaska

More here.

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March 30, 2009

Gentlemen: 3 Important Life Lessons For Us All

1 Panty raids are never a good idea.

2 It's never too late to back out of a bad decision ...until it is.

3 If you choose to ignore this advice it is best that you dress in such a manner that your corpse will maintain some minimum level of dignity.

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Accidental Q-Ship


A group of Somali Pirates attacked a tanker off the horn of Africa several hours ago. This would be sad but not remarkable as the piracy in the area has been bad for years and exploded in the last few months. However the tanker they attempted to board was the FGS Spessart, a German Navy supply ship.

...and so...

The German sailors returned fire and pursued the skiff while also calling in for support. Several naval ships — including a Greek and a Dutch frigate, a Spanish warship and the USS Boxer — sped to the area while a Spanish marine aircraft and two U.S. Marine Cobra helicopters joined the pursuit.
Five hours later, Greek sailors reached the pirate skiff, boarded it and seized the seven suspects and their weapons, including assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the Greek navy said. The suspects were disarmed and transferred for questioning to the German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz where they remain Monday, pending a decision on whether they will be legally prosecuted, Christensen said.

Wasp, meet sledgehammer.
(Hat Tip: Information Dissemination)

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March 28, 2009

Virginia Beach Sakura Festival 2009

For a student of Japanese at ODU, the Virginia Beach Cherry Blossom Festival is sort of an annual requirement lest one get scowels on the following Monday. I had much to do today between work, family matters and studying but I was able to make it out to Red Wing Park in time to make the last hour or so.
For the first time In my experience, the festival was held on a day that was warm and rain free.

Not only that, but the Cherry Blossoms were actually in bloom during the festival for the first time ever in the 5 years they've been holding it.

Red Wing Park has a small Japanese garden in honor of Virginia Beach's sister city Miyazaki Japan.

Sadly the koi ponds are koi free....

...and there are no fireworks.
I must say that the attendance was surprisingly large. (These pics were taken as the festival was disbanding). Despite the mud (It's rained here for 5 days straight) the enthusiasm was high and many people decided to dress up for the festival in culturally appropriate attire...

...of various flavors.

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March 27, 2009

Bow Before the Power of Chlorophyll...And Coffee

Artist unknown
One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes(tm) brings us news of a couple of reported breakthroughs in the refining of fuel from Algae.

 First comes this story concerning a much improved refining process. What is described as a "continuously flowing fixed-bed" process allows a vast increase in efficiency and reportedly can be managed to produce no waste water. A big advantage of this method is that it uses a reusable catalyst rather than expendable reactants. Finally, as its name implies the process is...continuously flowing, which removes the "filling/emptying reaction tanks" stage and massively improves flow output. One of the developers  This comes on the heels of the sucsessful testing of a seawater algal oil farm in Florida. This produced a thousand gallons of refined ATSM certified biodiesel on an eight of an acre...though the time interval is not mentioned.  There is more on this here.
This is particularly big news as they not only were using seawater..but open ponds. 

 Getting this performance from a SEAWATER species in open ponds vastly increases the potential locations and at a stroke reduces the fresh water demands of such an industry.

Finally, a recent breakthrough in biodiesel from discarded coffe grounds may at first blush seem to be of limited utility (one would want to use already used coffee grounds to avoid displacing excessive amounts of forests or cropland for coffee beans) but it could possibly have a non trivial benefit.
You see, the Coffee diesel is reportedly much more stable than some other biodiesels so there exists the chance that it may have some utility as an organic additive. This last is speculation of course, but it bears investigation.

Hydrocarbons are very hard to replace for many mobile power applications (vehicles...especially aircraft) because they are so good as energy carriers. With that in mind, Brickmuppet Blog has been touting the advantages and potential of algal oil for some time as the potential energy density advantages over other oil crops are stupendous (300 percent or more). Unlike other oil crops it need not necessarily displace food acreage. It is very renewable, should not impose a severe environmental impact if properly managed and such farms can (in theory) do double duty in waste water treatment. With Nuclear power providing the refining and distribution energy we have the potential to have a clean, sustainable and damned robust energy network both electrical and liquid.

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March 26, 2009

Necessary Debunkery

Ugh! 2 politix posts in a row....

.... and this one has to stay above the fold due to the need to stamp out a bit of asshattery.

OK Kids, this will come as a shock to some of you but the President of the United States did not read the Irish PM's its entirety...thanking himself in the process.

The story seems to have begun with a rather muddled AP report.

More on this here. (Via The Instapundit)

Sad that we need the UK's Telegraph to put this to rest.

The Science Babes observe that it is sadder still that so many of us have to play cleanup for our own 2-didgits over this and stuff like the idiot birth certificate story.

I mean it's not like there are not real things to get upset about.

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March 24, 2009

Press Conference Two

An attempt at live blogging the presidents second press conference.
Has been moved where it belongs...below the fold.

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March 22, 2009

Oh Wow...

I have just got to see the punch line....

Update: All is explained.

I was so hoping for a zeppelin.

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That is Not a List....

..nor is the ship rolling.

That is the damage to the sail of USS Hartford  from here recent collision with USS New Orleans. There is a good discussion of this that includes informed opinion over at Bubbleheads place.

Scuttlebutt over there is that the submarine rolled over 80 degrees.
That is one tough boat.

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More Ideas for Naval Numbers on a Budget

As has been mentioned here before, the combination of increasing unit costs, aging hulls in need of replacement an increase in the numbers of units needed and the unforced budget debacle facing the treasury has created a procurement conundrum for the US Navy and Coast Guard. 

We need ships, lots of ships in a decade or less but given the economy we are likely to have have very little money

Given the high tempo 'medical diplomacy' operations pioneered by the Bush administration as well as the need to respond to disasters such as typhoons, volcanoes, plagues and tsunamis at least some of the vessels we build ought to have some sort of cargo capacity and a larger than average medical facility.

A converted or redesigned merchant design would seem to be the logical choice but if these are to replace the FFGs then it is important to ensure that such a vessel be capable of providing something in the event of a hot war other than terrible ways for bluejackets to die.

This is not unheard of. The Flower class sloops of world war one were built to commercial standards, had a modest cargo capacity and were intended to serve as minesweepers, troopers, escorts, picket vessels, gunboats and light replenishment ships. They were not frontline ships but they were not helpless either and provided sterling service as convoy escorts and on gunboat duties between the wars.

The challenges of modern warfare mean that an electronics fit is needed of course so such a ship will bear no relation in cost to whatever merchant ship it is designed from, but it might cost something akin to a modern corvette.

Lets take a standard American containership design, the Philidelphia Class, and assume the aft deck is used for helicopter operation and the aft holds are used as a flex deck for small craft and Littoral combat ship modules. The holds forward of the bridge have ample room for containers that can contain everything from food to hospital or war supplies. I'd use the midships below decks space (where pitching would be minimized )for a big hospital and a secondary helipad (if only to directly service the hospital). This would not have the capability of the Mercy or Comfort but it could conceivably approach that of the LHAs and could do a LOT of good on mercy missions.
It might be less threatening as well. Note that while such a vessel would not be a hospital ship, and would therefore be targetable by law, most people we are likely to lock horns with  are unpersuaded by appeals to human decency anyway. Forward of the hospital area, even  2-400  containers would be an impressive ammount of relief supplies in peacetime and still leave room for 16-32 VLS cells for ESSM. The large helideck would give a decent helicopter borne ASW and possibly even minesweeping  capability in wartime especially if during a major war something like SCADS or the old ARAPAHO concept were put into place along the lines of this....

We might be able to build a dozen or more of these in commercial yards over the next few years. This would have the added benefit of propping up and stimulating our shipyard capacity during dark economic times in a way that dog parks in California are unlikely to do. Such a program might appeal to the current leadership in ways a more conventional naval procurement would not.

These would probably  not able to be procured in the same numbers that 600 ton corvettes might but they could ad a considerable complementary capability to the low end of the hi/lo mix.

At any rate it may bear considering. Any thoughts?

UPDATE: In the comments James Rummel takes the time to comment at length about the idea and makes some lucid points but also indicates that I may have been unclear about as few things.
These are not replacemtnts for our cruisers and destroyers, but a low end complement. If they replace anything they might best replace part of the production run of the LCS vessels....
IF they can be procured more economically and IF they would be a net improvement in capability . These are indeed big "IFs".
There are certainly all sorts of issues with this concept both political and practical. However, I am of the opinion that, if built, these would be warships with peacetime duties similar to a 19th century gunboat but with much greater utility to assist the main force.

Mr Rummel makes another comment that deserves mention.

You suggest that this is only a temporary change until economic conditions improve.  But anyone interested in military procurement will tell you in a heartbeat that it would be almost impossible to get Congress to pony up for actual, very expensive warships after a decade of building cheaper cargo ships.  Once the change is made, there is no going back.

This is a  very real concern.

It is probably one reason the navy doesn't build some smaller carriers to increase survivability through numbers. This was tried in the 70s ant the congress made it plain that it would ONLY buy the smaller carriers and not increase numbers...thereby gutting the navy but giving the impression that congress was providing modern ships.

It does not always work out that way though.

In the 1880's the UKs shipbuilding program was terribly screwed up, with problems that included cost overruns, excessively long build times, ships massively over budget as well as overdue, quality control issues, problems integrating new technologies and simple corruption (sound familiar?). The response was to, for a time,  order only second line vessels such as gunboats and auxiliaries as well as a few experimental technology test beds such as experimental high speed craft (the torpedo boats).

These were often ordered outside the usual defense procurement clique.
In the meantime the procurement system was overhauled, investment was made in physical plant improvements at the shipyards and  the procurement system was reformed, Concurrently, a determination of what sort of vessels were needed was made. Then rational, attainable requirements for the various types of vessels were drawn up that matched the then current technologies, the national strategy of the time as well as the gamut of potential scenarios.

After several years of building gunboats and finishing the dubious vessels that were already ordered, the Royal Navy began building ships under the Naval Defence Act. William Whites design team produced the finest ships that had been built up to that time and for nearly two decades, every subsequent class was an improvement on their design predecessor in some way.
From that point until WW1 the British Royal Navy built a balanced fleet and produced some of the best, most economical; and cost effective ships of their day.

So while the pitfall Mr Rummel points out is very real, it can in fact be avoided if care is taken and the legislature acts in good faith...another very big "IF".

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March 21, 2009

Random 4-Koma is Random

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For Those Who May Be Concerned.... earlier post, linking to a post on the Bear was not in any way, shape, form or fashion linking to anything regarding this bear.

Thus you may click without worry. that post..but not in this one...'cause if you click on the hyperlink in in this one you'll find the wrong bear...and that would be bad....

...if you're good.

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So...Would this be the Eucalyptus Curtain Then?

The Australian government has begun censoring the internet.

As Pixy explains, it gets even stupider from there.

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March 20, 2009

Above the Fold

OK. I have very little time right now but this needs to be said.

Give the POTUS a break.

The other night the President made a self deprecating comment about his bowling score. In the process he offended some people. It was not a politically correct comment and was inartful for a political leader to utter. 


For one thing the fact that the President tried a self deprecating remark is a major improvement over the mini Parthenon of his nomination speech.

This kerfuffle should be given a rest.

Many of us on the right are making the bleedingly obvious point that if Bush , McCain or Palin had said this it would be run into the ground by the press incessantly. Well yes...and it would be wrong...and you know what?We would say so.

This flubbed bit of self deprecation is a non issue.

He has made some cringeworthy faux pas over the last few days and like many of my friends my face is often embedded in my palm over them. But he is our president and this is an exceedingly trivial issue.
There are quite a few issues pertaining to policy that we can, and must oppose him on...I have and I will.

However it is not good to be playing the "gotcha" game and crowing about hurt feelings over a joke. This is stupid and bad for the country.

Political correctness is a bane of our nation and its corrosive effects on free speech need to be fought tooth and nail...including here.

Yes it is delightfully Karmic crow over this and give the Dems a well deserved dose of their own poison, but it is unfair to the office and bad for the country to hound our President over trivialities. It also cheapens our outrage over the many very real, nontrivial issues we have.

I am no fan of the current resident of the White House, but Barak Obama is the President of the United States...he has taken the weight of the world onto his shoulders on our behalf. He damned well deserves not to be hounded over PC trivialities for the good of the nation.

God knows there are enough substantive issues to oppose him on .

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