Così Fan Tutte

For the New Year, two selections from Mozart's opera. We'll start with wit and wisdom about human folly and the wounds it causes:And we'll close (or rather, open a new year) with the hope and the potential for something beautiful nonetheless:

The Best Films of the Decade

I've seen many "best films of the decade" lists along with the usual "best films of the year" compilations. If nothing else, it's a nice way to make a viewing list. Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post had a great reader chat on 12/18/09 about the best movie scenes of the decade. This helped add in many comedies, which often get overlooked otherwise (I'd add the chest-waxing scene from The 40

"...Rocket's Red Glare..."

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of USS George Washington (SSBN 598), the first ballistic missile submarine. As an early celebration, USS Alaska (SSBN 732) completed the 130th consecutive successful test launch of a Trident D-5 missile during a DASO.

Service in SSBNs might not be as glamorous and exciting as being on an attack boat, but the bottom line is that our strategic capability is the cornerstone of our national security, and as the most survivable leg of our nuclear triad, SSBNs play an unmatched role in our defense. I'm thankful there are men out there on strategic patrol during this holiday season so that my family can sleep soundly at night.

Submarine Force No Longer Shrinking?

Based on a calendar of events put out by the Navy in NAVADMIN 367/09, it looks like we'll have two submarine commissionings this year (USS New Mexico in Feb/Mar and USS Missouri on July 24th) and only one decommissioning (USS Los Angeles on January 23rd). That's a reason to celebrate!

(Actually, there will be one additional submarine being inactivated this fiscal year, according to NAVADMIN 210/09 -- USS Philadelphia on June 10th. Still, we're not getting smaller -- and still getting newer.)

Update 0826 31 Dec: PCU New Mexico (SSN 779) was just delivered to the Navy, four months early.

Christmas Wishes

I hope all of you and yours have a great Christmas season, and that Santa was able to make it to your home or boat, like he did for the Miami in this picture from earlier this month:

For your reading enjoyment, check out this story about the arrival of submarines in San Diego in 1910.

Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah

This is a repeat, but it's hard to beat it for Christmas Eve. First, Cantillation with the Orchestra of the Antipodes, conducted by Antony Walker:The Robert Shaw version is also quite nice, and then there's this one from the Roches:Merry Christmas.

Santa's On His Way!

Once again, the good folks at NORAD are tracking Santa on his trip around the world. Last year, I didn't see the submarine video they'd had in previous years; hopefully they'll bring it back for 2009. Everyone loves to get a visit from Santa! What do you want him to bring you this year?

USS Buffalo CO Relieved

Posting from my phone, so no link yet. The CO of USS Buffalo (SSN 715) was relieved for cause. Word on the street was that it was for some maintenance issues. More later.

Update 1955 21 Dec: Here's the Navy Times story on the firing. Excerpts:
Cmdr. Christopher Henry, who took command of the submarine Aug. 7, was relieved as a precautionary measure, said Lt. Cmdr. Greg Kuntz, spokesman for Submarine Group 7 in Japan.
Henry’s relief was due to a “loss of confidence in ability to command,” Kuntz said.
Capt. Doug Wright, commodore of Submarine Squadron 15, removed Henry after assessments were conducted on the ship, evaluating operations and overall trends...
... Kuntz said Henry’s relief from the post was not attributable to a specific item or incident, but to overall trends.
“The conduct of operations fell short of high Navy standards,” Kuntz said. Operations on the submarine had been conducted at a safe level, Kuntz said, but were still enough of a concern that it brought about Henry’s relief of duty.
Only four months in command really doesn't seem like enough time for a CO to get a fair shake, so some pretty scary stuff must have happened. I don't know Commodore Wright, but I trust RADM McAneny to make the right call.

Cruise Missile Attacks In Yemen

According to ABC News, U.S. forces yesterday carried out cruise missile attacks on Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Excerpts:
On orders from President Barack Obama, the U.S. military launched cruise missiles early Thursday against two suspected al-Qaeda sites in Yemen, administration officials told ABC News in a report broadcast on ABC World News with Charles Gibson.
One of the targeted sites was a suspected al Qaeda training camp north of the capitol, Sanaa, and the second target was a location where officials said "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned."
The Yemen attacks by the U.S. military represent a major escalation of the Obama administration's campaign against al Qaeda.
No indications yet what the launch platform was, but I'd guess it could be a destroyer or cruiser on station with CTF 151 as easily as a passing submarine.

It's interesting to me that the Administration seems to be learning from real-world experience that you just can't defeat terrorists using "law enforcement".

See Title Of This Blog

From a Stockton TV station:
Sometimes, setting a trap for thieves can backfire, as a car theft victim in Stockton found out the hard way.
The man saw an advertisement for his stolen car on Craigslist and set up a meeting Wednesday night. A friend drove him to a gas station on Charter Way, where he jumped into the car with his own keys and sped away.
Unfortunately, the friend who drove him to the station was left standing alone with the thieves. In turn, they stole his car and drove off...

Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson - "Winter Song"

Building New Classes Of Submarines

There are a couple of articles out on potential plans for building new classes of submarines in the U.S. The first discusses possibly building diesel submarines to sell to Taiwan; one theory is that we could then use the expertise developed to build diesel submarines for our own fleet. I'm skeptical; first of all, it would still cost a lot for us to build diesel submarines, because we really wouldn't be able to reduce the SUBSAFE requirements. Also, as present-day submariners know, speed is life in modern submarine combat, and that's something the diesel boats tend to lack compared to SSNs.

The second article discusses plans to build a replacement for the Ohio-class SSBNs. Excerpts:
Although the first of the Navy’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines won’t retire for another 17 years, the time to start the design work is now, said Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly. “This is the right time for the Navy to commence efforts to replace the Ohio-class SSBN. It’s not too early,” said Donnelly, who is the commander of the Navy’s submarine force...
... For the Trident program, the Navy plans to adopt technologies from the Virginia-class attack submarine. The plan is to incorporate systems from the ready room, navigation room and torpedo room...
... Donald predicted that the Navy’s “assumptions, decision and plans” for the Ohio replacement will experience “intense scrutiny,” given the climate of restricted budgets and skepticism about ship acquisition programs.
“We have an obligation to deliver that capability at the best price without compromising reactor safety, submarine safety, or the capability that that nation needs. We welcome that challenge,” he said.
What would you like to see on the next generation SSBN? Swimming pools? Tanning rooms? Or maybe a reactor that's big enough to actually push it through the water at some speed such that it has a better chance of evading incoming torpedos?

Arts Roundup 12/17/09

It's all film today. Congratulations to Liv Ullman, who just turned 71. She's quite a good director, and an exceptional actress. Her performance in Scenes from a Marriage is one of the best I've ever seen. Elvis Mitchell's radio show The Treatment has been especially interesting recently. Two weeks ago, he sat down with director and mad genius Werner Herzog, who offers some great (and

Keeping the Blog Fires Burning

("I'm coming for you, Nixon!" )Two of my favorite blogs, Digby's Hullabaloo and Crooks and Liars, are holding their annual fundraisers. I'm sure many people are tapped out financially, especially with the holidays coming up. (I've seen - and posted on - more blogger tales of woe this year than in previous ones.) But I'm sure even small donations and kind comments go a long way. I've

"Sub Commandments"

There's a viral E-mail going around in submarine JO circles that's an .mp3 of a rap song called "Sub Commandments" that's pretty good. It lists the Ten Commandments for submarine junior officers. Number 1: "Never let XO know what contacts you hold, 'cause you know you press your luck to wake you up for reconstruction; won't leave 'til you know his course, bearing, and speed". Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to post .mp3 files to Blogger, so I'll probably have to convert it to a movie and post it to YouTube for you guys to hear it. I'll see what I can do.

What are your Ten Commandments of Submarining?

Update 0945 21 Jan: A reader sent in a link to the .mp3 of the song.

Roland Hedley

If you're not following Gary Trudeau's Roland Hedley on Twitter yet, you should. He's got Stephen Colbert maniacal self-absorption, but without the amiable charm. (He's very serious.) Roland can deliver all the same insipid observations as his corporate media buddies, but at least you're laugh.

Remember, "Buddy" Is Only Half A Word

Interesting story in Navy Times about an amphib CO and XO getting fired. The CO was fired for fraternization, but it looks like SURFLANT raised the bar on what they expect the XO to do. Excerpts:
The commanding officer of the dock landing ship Fort McHenry was fired Thursday for fraternizing with a sailor on his ship, according to a Navy statement.
The executive officer also was fired for knowing about the relationship and not taking action, the statement said.
This is interesting. I can see this if the XO actively lies to investigators, but it's looking like the Navy is now expecting XOs to report on the CO up the chain of command. This is especially interesting because it appears that the amphib had been deployed since the CO took command, and just got back from deployment on Tuesday. Did they expect him to drop the dime on the CO in the middle of the deployment?

I'm not really sure what I think about this. Obviously, the XO's responsibility is more to the ship and the Navy than it is to the CO personally, but what other faults do they expect the XO to start reporting on? What if the CO is a screamer? Or just a general jerk? I think Big Navy needs to tread carefully into this water.

What do you think? And how far down the chain of command do you think this should go?

Concha Buika and Chucho Valdés – "Se me hizo fácil"

Bubblehead's "Best Of The Naughties"

Well, it's December, so the decade is almost over. It's time for my list of the top efforts in some pop culture categories I care about for the last 10 years. In these categories, I felt there were really three entries that really stood head-and-shoulders above the others, so that's why these are "Top 3" lists. With little further ado, here they are:

Best Songs Of The Naughties

1) "Beautiful Day", U2
2) "Hey Ya", Outkast
3) "Vertigo", U2

OK, so I like U2. Honorable mention goes to "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay and (yes, I'm serious) "Hot N Cold" by Katy Perry. Overall, I thought the Naughties weren't quite as good as the 90s as far as music goes; I'd rank "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Mr. Jones" as better than any of the songs listed above.

Best Movies Of The Naughties

1) "Serenity" - Simply put, the best Sci-Fi movie ever.
2) "The Dark Knight" - Heath Ledger gave the performance of the decade
3) "Casino Royale" - A great "reset" for a beloved franchise

Honorable mention to "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and "No Country For Old Men". I thought the best movies of the last 10 years were better than the decade previous. Dishonorable mention goes to "Atonement" as the worst movie of the decade. I still can't believe how much it sucked!

Best College Football Games Of The Naughties

1) 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24
2) 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38
3) 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42

I rank college football games based on how well-played they are, how important they are, and how entertaining they are, in that order. Lots of locals might think that the game I ranked #3 should top the list, but let's face it -- it wasn't that well played (lots of turnovers and penalties) and it wasn't for the national championship; only one team really had anything to play for. Still, it was the most entertaining of the three.

What do you think? Any additions or subtractions? And do you have any "Best of the decade made up of years starting with the numbers 200_" lists that you'd like to add?

Not One Person Called Giuliani a Douchebag

A favorite bullshitting technique for advanced bullshitters is to use weasel words / a lawyer's lie / deceptive truth-telling. The idea is to say something that's technically true – sometimes barely so - but to mislead the average listener, often to suggest the opposite of reality. (An older post examines Karl Rove attempting this.) The trick to pulling this off is to pick an effective weasel

Great Last and First Lines

The American Book Review has a list of the "100 Best Last Lines from Novels" (PDF). Obviously, this means some spoilers, but cautious browsing can avoid that. Their list of the "100 Best First Lines from Novels" holds no such perils. This comes via TBogg (in turn from Matthew Yglesias, whose commenters make other suggestions). TBogg has a post soliciting suggestions for the best last lines

Building Stonehenge

Via Mike Finnigan, this is pretty cool:

Moyers: LBJ's Escalation in Vietnam

One of the best pieces I've seen touching on Afghanistan is Bill Moyers' Journal from 11/20/09 on Lyndon Johnson's escalation in Vietnam. Johnson agonized about the war, and consulted many people, but they and Johnson all seemed to feel that Vietnam was a lousy situation, but withdrawal wouldn't work (for political and strategic reasons). Follow the link, and you can watch the hour-long program

Animals On Boats

I've posted before about animals on submarines (in that case, a goat on Archerfish); now, the BBC has a story up about a Russian reindeer on a Brit sub. Excerpts:
In 1941, the crew of HMS Trident were given a reindeer as a gift by the USSR navy.
The 56 crewmen spent six weeks sharing their already confined living accommodation with the fully-grown reindeer nicknamed Pollyanna...
... Living with a reindeer underwater in wartime conditions inevitably posed challenges for the crew. A barrel of moss given by the Russians soon run out and Pollyanna lived on scraps from the galley. She also developed a taste for wartime favourite, Carnation condensed milk.
Pollyanna was originally lowered into the submarine through a torpedo tube of the sub and it was hoped she could sleep in the torpedo and food store. However she apparently had more refined tastes and insisted on sleeping under the captain's bed.
Bill Sainsbury said: "There are lots of funny stories - apparently when the submarine surfaced for air, she would barge her way through the narrow corridors to the main hatch to get some fresh air before returning to the officers' mess."
Despite Pollyanna eating a navigation chart, the crew made it back to the UK where HMS Trident landed at Blyth in Northumberland.
However as the reindeer had over-indulged on condensed milk, she had actually put on weight and could not be fitted out through the torpedo tube.
Check out the rest of the story to see what happened next.

Have you ever had a mascot on the boat?

Submarine Comings And Goings On

A few news items about submarines on the 'net today:

1) PCU New Mexico (SSN 779) made it out to sea. Here's a picture of her on Bravo Trials:

2) PCU Missouri (SSN 780) will be christened in Groton on Saturday.

3) Some homeport changes were announced. The submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) will be moving from Bremerton to Diego Garcia next year, and USS City of Corpus Christi will transfer from Guam to Pearl for an overhaul. Replacing her in Guam will be USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), transferring from Norfolk in early 2011.

4) Returning from deployment in time to combine post-deployment stand down with the Christmas leave period are USS San Juan (SSN 751) and USS Miami (SSN 755). Welcome home, guys!

Update 2218 02 Dec: More photos from the New Mexico's sea trials can be found here.

Scratch That Victory Itch

Fafblog is always worth checking out, but "Victory Science" is especially timely:Let us never forget just what's at stake in the war in Afghanistan: nothing less than the success of the war in Afghanistan. This war may be a mistake, a blood-soaked blunder, an unholy charnel house mindlessly consuming the bodies and souls of untold thousands, an open sore on the pockmarked face of history and an