Rumproast’s Fundraiser for StrangeAppar8us

Rumproast blogger StrangeAppar8us has suffered a traumatic brain injury that has, among other things, left him blind. The Rumproast crew is holding a fundraiser to help him out. Follow the link for far more information.

Stop the SOPA and Protect IP Bills

Two similar bad bills are under consideration in Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. While some elements in the bills may be well-intentioned, these bills could severely restrict the internet. This video by Fight for the Future spells out some of the issues:CNET has a FAQ on "How SOPA would affect you."Kos has more information

RC Submarines

A reader sends in a link to a video of the shakedown cruise of his newest radio-controlled submarine, modeled on USS Virginia (SSN 774):

Do you have any submarine-related hobbies?

Blind Pilot – "Keep You Right"

Blog Redesign

The VS blog redesign is now live. I've been tinkering with it off and on in the background for a while. There are some drawbacks to the latest Blogger layout interface, but it's much easier to share posts and scroll through category archives. Recreating my blogroll took some time. Regular readers and commenters should find themselves included. If you're not, and you'd like to be, shoot me an

Why Not The Best?

It's my opinion that every adult can lay claim to being the "first" or "best" in the world (or at least the country) at something. In much the same way that probably 95% of everyone asked would consider themselves to be an above-average driver, making this claim can sometimes require a little bit of self-deception, but no real harm is done.

For me, my claims to fame are that I run the world's most popular submarine blog, I was the fastest ever submarine Engineer on Alpha Trials (at least in the U.S. -- it depends on if the Soviets let their Alfas get up to flank on their initial sea trials, which I kind of doubt), and I lay claim to having written more Admiral's letters enclosures than any Eng in the history of the Submarine Force. (I wrote about 60, having been initial manning Eng twice; letters were due every 4 weeks in the shipyard.)

What's your claim to being the best?

♪♫ "And Another One Gone..."♫♪

Well, another CO in another submarine-related command got the ax this month, and this one is quite a surprise. RDML (sel) Greg Thomas was temporarily relieved as CO of Newport News Norfolk Naval Shipyard back in May; the CO he replaced in 2010 was also fired. Navy Times reports that command climate was the reason for the firing:
In mid-May, Naval Sea Systems Command temporarily yanked Thomas, a rear admiral selectee, from his perch atop Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. A naval inspector general investigation completed Aug. 31 found Thomas’ conduct “went beyond the limits of professional conduct expected of persons in authority.” The firing was made permanent Oct. 25 after Thomas was formally reprimanded for conduct unbecoming an officer.
The IG interviewed 45 witnesses who served in various leadership positions under Thomas during his nine months as commanding officer of the shipyard. Nine said they were subjected to “demeaning, insulting or profane language or intimidating behavior” privately as well as in public. All names other than Thomas’ were redacted from the report, which was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
An active-duty officer with more than 30 years in uniform told the IG that while some of his interactions with Thomas had been amiable, “There have been times when it rises to the worst experience of my naval career in terms of dealing with a superior who will not listen, who wants to be very vocal and loud, and who just wants to dress [me] down. I don’t know that I’m being treated differently in that case.”
What's surprising to me is that Thomas was selected for flag in the first place. I would be very surprised if all the people on the board (particularly in a community as small as EDOs) didn't know the guy had an "unpleasant personality", and given the risk-averse nature of most Navy senior personnel decisions nowadays, I figure that would have been disqualifying.

Reading Thomas' biography, I was surprised to see he went EDO right after finishing initial training, but still got assigned to a submarine later on. Normally guys who go ED before getting their dolphins are the ones who develop some disqualifying medical condition during training. However, given that he was probably "assigned" to USS San Juan (SSN 751) in 1988, when I think the boat was in PSA, I could see them giving a medical waiver for a guy to get his ED Dolphins in that situation. However, the fish Thomas is wearing in this photo look real.

Did you ever work for an asshole? I did. And do you think that assholism may be required in some situations? (Maybe like when you're taking over for a CO who was relieved because the command wasn't getting the job done?)

Bell-ringer 1620 16 Nov: Off-topic but still of interest, here's a story by the Michael Melia reporter about the ongoing investigation into cheating on nuclear qual exams.

Food Banks – November 2011

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, this is a good time for those with the means to donate to their local food banks, or for those in need to get assistance. The Los Angeles food banks make a little go a long way. The Feeding America site has a useful national food bank locator. Best wishes to all those in need.

"94 Percent Availability Of Commodes"

From an article in Navy Times:
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier has a messy problem. Since deploying in May, the Norfolk, Va.-based carrier George H.W. Bush has grappled with widespread toilet outages, at times rendering the entire ship without a single working head. But it’s no laughing matter. Sailors tell of combing the ship for up to an hour to find a place to do their business, if they can find one at all. Others have resorted to urinating in showers or into the industrial sinks in their work stations. Some men are using bottles and emptying the contents over the giant ship’s side, while some women are holding it in for so long that they are developing health problems, according to sources on the ship. The sailors blame the ship’s vacuum system. But the Navy is blaming sailors for flushing “inappropriate material” down the toilets. The ship, commissioned in January 2009, is wrapping up a deployment in the Persian Gulf. Three sailors who spoke to Navy Times on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media said the problem has been persistent at least since Bush began its first deployment in May. Throughout its deployment, there have been at least two times when all 423 commodes in the ship’s 130 heads went offline, the sailors said. More often, they said, all heads either forward or aft of the middle of the ship have gone out of service, or clusters of heads scattered through different departments have been shut down.
Any good stories about the unavailability of the heads on your boat?

Eric Bogle - "And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda"

In the spirit of Armistice Day.

11/11/11 Armistice Day

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view.)In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still

Coming Home Safely

Welcome home to the officers and crew of USS Springfield (SSN 761), who returned to Groton yesterday after a six month deployment to the CENTCOM AOR. Here's a picture:

Some more pictures of the homecoming can be found here. As we celebrate Veteran's Day, we honor all those who have served our nation, whether they returned home safely like the men of Springfield or if they were not so fortunate. How can we, as a nation, best honor our veterans and their families? Alternately, why did you join the military? (My story isn't very uplifting -- it was the old "got involved with the wrong girl and stupidly threw away a lot of chances, and looked to the Navy as a way to restart my life" tale. I'm hoping some of my readers have better narratives.)

While you're pondering, here's a teaser for an upcoming CNN report on veterans of the Submarine Service during the Cold War.

They Could Not Look Me in the Eye Again

See better, Lear, and let me still remainThe true blank of thine eye.- Kent, King Lear, 1.1, 159-160. If the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month every year is somehow special or sacred – and it is – then it seems the date 11/11/11 should hold some added significance. Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, or Veterans' Day, should be about pausing to reflect on war. More

You Pick The Topic!

I'll put it up to a vote. For my next post, would you like a) a discussion of the most recent SOBC graduation, or b) an essay about national politics? Vote in the comments!

Update 1611 10 Nov: While you're voting, here and here are a couple of random "Best of Bubblehead" posts from the "Toilet" division.

Bell-ringer 1717 10 Nov: From the comments, here's a cool "Spirit Spot" from USS North Carolina (SSN 777) for the upcoming Carrier Classic:

Update 0549 11 Nov: And here's the response from one of the USS Michigan (SSGN 727) crews.

Happy 7th Blogiversary, Blue Gal

Reliable sources inform me that it is the indefatigable, multi-talented Blue Gal's 7th blogiversary. Head over and say hi. Also, it'll be the 100th podcast of the Professional Left Podcast this Friday, but since you're a regular listener, you already knew that, didn't you?(She's the brainy, crafty sort.)

Poverty and Death for Thee, Not for Me

To follow up on a recent post on the death penalty and Ross Douthat, Justice Antonin Scalia, a Catholic, made a remarkable statement that has garnered attention:[Scalia] said he found no contradiction between his religious views and his support of the death penalty. "If I thought that Catholic doctrine held the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign," he said. "I could not be a part of a