29 June 2006

This is it

So I asked. I even poked a blogger of the right rating. But no. So, what is this thing?

Well, to truly appreciate just how detailed you can get with this identification, and to truly comprehend how totally the submarine fleet has abandoned configuration control, read the Full Post. If you just want to know what the dern thing is, click on the Full Post and scroll to the bottom ;-)

Read the Full Post

So, the switch box in question has 5 selectable positions and a whole lot of spares. The key is the first 4, for Unit 4001 and Unit 4002. The reason each has two stations is for their upper and lower displays. That's right, campers, it is a display switch. But for what, you ask?

Well, for those of you who spent a decent number of time in the cone underway probably remember the ASVDU (Auxiliary SONAR Visual Display Unit) that the OOD could use the keep an eye on the goings on in the SONAR shack. Well, recently the sub fleet has been upgrading its SONAR systems with something called A-RCI (Acoustic Rapid COTS [Commercial Off The Shelf] Insertion). Yeah, an acronym within an acronym, isn't the military grand? Well, A-RCI, being an evolutionary program, is not a one-shot and you are done kind of deal. It has multiple phases, and multiple hardware and software builds. It is the different phases that are the key here.
Phase I: This is just an add-on cabinet that did Towed Array Processing. It was basically a proof of concept for COTS SONAR processing.
Phase II: Two of the stacks in the SONAR shack are replaced with COTS stacks, which are for Towed Array Processing. (basically)
Phase III: All the stacks in the SONAR shack are replaced with COTS racks, and they handle Sphere, Hull Array, and Towed Array Handling
Phase IV: This is the High Freq. COTS upgrade, but for BSY-1 and BSY-2 only. The BQQ-5 guys are out of luck here. It replaces the HF unit in control with a COTS rack, and adds a different HF sail array.

Ahhh, but think back to the ASVDU. It was for monitoring the legacy SONAR system. So how would the intrepid OOD keep track of those SONAR techs hiding out in the shack? Well, A-RCI gave the OOD a nice flat panel (or a couple, depending on the phase and hardware build) with which he could check up on the A-RCI systems inthe shack. For Phase II it just monitored the two COTS stacks (Units 4001 and 4002), while the ASVDU continued to monitor the legacy stacks. That is why the switch had 10 slots on it, though - so it could monitor the four stacks in control plus two other aux sonar displays if it was used on a Phase III boat. However, on a Phase II boat, it had a lot of spare slots, like the one pictured.

So, the switch box above is for the A-RCI conn display on an A-RCI Phase II boat. As a side note, it would be completely against work practices and drawing specs to rig up that box so that the spare slots could be used to disaply Fire Control displays. Plus it would really tick off a SONAR LCPO that dirty Fire Control data might be displayed on his equipment. However, an OOD might appreciate such a sailor-alt, since then to see Fire Control solutions when the conn is rigged for black he would not have to stick his head out from behind the curtains and stare at the too-bright Fire Control displays, but could instead check them on a nice, properly dimmed flat panel. Not that any boat would ever rig something like this up. Nuh-uh. That would be just *wrong*

Stolen Laptop Recovered, but...

...Yeah, there is a but. Sure, the laptop containing millions upon millions of vets and Active Duty guy's ID's has been recovered.

Now if they will just bother telling the 16,000 folks who had their data lost in May in Indianapolis that they are (or still are) at risk. Oh wait, you didn't hear about that one? Yeah, a data tape was lost or stolen. Who knows. I am forced to wonder what happenned to:
Out of an abundance of caution, however, VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform our veterans.

We at the VA believe it is important for you to be fully informed of any potential risk resulting from this incident.


H/T to Castle Argghhh!!!

27 June 2006


Oh, all right, here is the full unit. Everything you need is visible, save the nameplate. Guesses?

If you really want to see the other views of the thing, they are below the fold in the Full Post. So, bubbleheads, what is it? Bonus points if you can tell me from what flavor of system it is from. Older bubbas will probably have a hard time with this one, but certain coners (yeah, I am looking at you, sonarman) should be able to get this one.

Read the Full Post!

Because trivia is easier than a real post (although, I do have a real post bouncing about, just needs some editing, really), I present:

Another view:

And since there was a 120Hz whine, below is a further hint:

26 June 2006

Everyone OUT of the Pool

There is a steel shark in the water:

Hey, he started it. Besides, I told you me being nice wouldn't last.

22 June 2006

Predicting No Dedication

UPDATE 6/23:
Wow, Saddam is getting more pathetic. This time it only took missing ONE MEAL for him to end his "hunger strike". He must have had the munchies something fierce.

Saddam has apparently gone on hunger strike again, to protest his lawyer’s death. I wonder how long it will take him to get hungry this time?

In Praise of the Rest of the Naval Service

It has been inferred, oh, ok outright claimed, that we submariners are arrogant pricks.  As is obvious from my previous dispatches, bubbleheads rejoice in needling our surface brethren, if for no other reason than to see how quickly we can spin them to mode 7.  And while patrician aviators click their tongues at our churlishness, they will not hesitate to shoot a few barbs as well.

So, before our fellow services think that we squids are nothing but brawling, unruly siblings, let me first explain our appearance of churlishness, and then drop my submarine devotion (for just a moment or two, mind you!) to give the rest of the Naval services the praise they richly deserve.

Then back to the hectoring.

To understand the mentality of a submariner… well, some might say it is impossible to fully understand us, as we are crazy.  I mean, we seal ourselves into a steel tube, drop down to unmentionable depths in it for months at a time, all the while straddling a nuclear reactor, fergoshsakes.  I will, however, attempt to lift the veil shrouding our rather warped outlook at least somewhat.  

Submariners are an exacting lot.  We demand absolute excellence, and tolerate incompetence poorly.  Now, the same can be said of any other branch, true, but we have an almost religious devotion to it.  Why, you might ask?  Rickover?  Partly.  Nerd snobbishness?  Maybe, but not really.  The true underlying reason is pounded into every nub once he comes on board.  A mistake can be fatal, not just for him, but the entire boat.  This has been proved time and again, tragically.  228 souls are on eternal patrol from two accidents alone, the two most recent and catastrophic since the end of WWII, and they are not alone, but in good company.  I would hazard a guess that the sub fleet has lost a higher percentage of sailors during peacetime to accidents and mishaps than any other branch of the service.  It was the same in wartime, and we constantly remind ourselves that survival depends on constant attention to detail.  And so we train.  Constantly.  We have an insanely long training pipeline before we even get to a boat, and then, once we are there, we start all over.  And then the drilling and inspecting continues.  We never stop, because we never want it to happen again.  And even so, sometimes fate deals us a losing hand, and we lose a shipmate.  How do you keep people going in such conditions?  You tell them that to even be selected to such a service makes them elite, and the constant training makes them even more so.  And so we become confident, because we have to be.  Second guessing ourselves can be almost as dangerous as incompetence (almost, but not quite).  To some, that confidence seems to be arrogance.  But I will never tell my brothers to not think that way.  We have to.

But why do we so roundly, and joyously, abuse our fellows, both on the boat, or in other parts of the service?  Well, campers, it has to do with that low tolerance for stupidity I mentioned, plus our knowledge that we cannot suffer those who would freeze in a crisis.  And so we test each other.  Brutally.  If you have never been underway on a sub, and see the crew let down the façade they put on for PR purposes, let me tell you, it is an eye opening experience.  It is almost non-stop harassment, some in good fun, some not.  It allows us to see who knows what he is doing, who can handle pressure, and who does not.  And woe to the sailor who shows even the slightest hesitation or weakness.  Once exposed, his brethren will gang up to constantly poke into this unexplored territory, until the offender fixes himself or collapses.  It is often said that the submarine force eats its young, and this is not entirely untrue.  It has its purpose, though – it is hard, friends, to dismiss someone from the submarine service.  It is much easier to convince those that can not handle the stress that they would rather be elsewhere, and, as the sub service is strictly volunteer service within the service, if they should strongly express a desire to leave us, we will generally accommodate them.  Thus we enact Darwin’s rules among ourselves.  Is there a better way of handling such personnel in our ranks?  Probably.  But this is our way, it is tradition, and in a service so devoted to its tradition, changing it is hard.

So that explains why we are so hard on each other.  But why on other sailors, or other branches?  Well, we make a game of abuse underway, when we abuse our fellows.  We come to find the humor in it.  So, when we are ashore, and among the more civilized members of our society, we tend to forget that our humor has a rather nasty tone to some.  To us, well, it is in good fun.  Even more so than usual, since exposing a sore spot on others and poking at it mercilessly does not mean we might be ruining a crewmember.  So, yes, we abuse.  Consider it flattery, though.  We feel you, the objects of our abuse, are worth the effort – you are enough of a brother to earn our attention, and therefore, our friendly abuse.  The problems arise when others do not realize there is meant to be friendliness there.

So, before I finish up, let me dispel rumors that, as a submariner, I am an elitist prig.  I do truly value every other member of the Naval service, and here is why:

Skimmers – They truly fulfill every mission of the Navy.  Perhaps some do some missions better, but none do as many.  They do things other navies only dream about, they do really cool things, and some really boring things.  But the point is, they do them.  And without them, we submariners would be in the hurt locker.

Flyboys – They define forward presence.  Sure, we can project power with ships and big guns and missiles, but bringing the equivalent of another country’s entire air force into play just off their coast?  That is an undeniable attention getter.  Sure, they are often at their own level, far above us lowly 33 knot minds (good luck getting there without that 33 knot mover, though), but they make up for it often enough.

To this day, one of my most enjoyable experiences underway was vectoring in a surface ship to harass another unit we had found, and when it tried to hide, revectoring the skimmer, and then hearing it bring in a P-3 to join in the harassment.  Naval unity in action.

So, in the interest of continuing this theme of Naval unity, let me toss out a few gems I am sure we can all agree on:

Jarheads, despite what they may say, are our junior service, and, well, really freakin’ odd.

Army boys are, well, just silly (although they do manage to point out the best charities).

Zoomies are part of the military?  Really?

And because I cannot be all hugs and backslaps, one last point of dialogue:
ROTC clearly produces superior officers to the Academies.  Discuss.


20 June 2006

Skimmer Bashing!

Who would have thought, that a little, hoo-ya posting by Bubblehead over at Milblogs would have led to a skimmer / bubblehead showdown?  But it did.  And yours truly *loves* sniping, so you know I went in swinging.

Any time you can work in spoofing skimmer SONAR, green flares, run to enable, and Dolphin Codes, you know you are in a good thread ;-)

16 June 2006

In the Interest of Jointness...

In an effort to run more efficiently, [the Navy] is sending its admirals back to school to learn how to think more like entrepreneurs. … A dozen admirals and a handful of other Naval leaders completed a week of executive education classes at Babson College.

Ok, not a bad idea, as perennial acquisition process hates Chap and CDR Salamander would, hopefully, agree.  Honestly, anything to make the acquisition process more efficient is good – there are no unlimited lines of funding anymore.  Additionally, the Admirals learned something else:

They ditched their uniforms in exchange for khakis and casual sweaters and dispensed with formal titles to call each other by nicknames like "Sully" and "Arch."
Yup, they learned to act like the Air Force…

H/T Kat

14 June 2006

We Get Letters!

Yesterday the ADM. and I both got our letters from the VA informing us that yes, as we may have guessed, our information could have been compromised. Sadly, this letter made me, in turns, angry and amused. So much so that I was going to scan it and fisk it for any who were interested. However, it turns out that a copy of it is available online, along with the only marginally helpful FAQ.

Now, for everyone’s clarification, here is a timeline based on VA press releases and media reporting, of what exactly happened:

Click on the Pic for a larger view.

Keep this in mind as I relate the parts of the letter that really got to me.

Out of an abundance of caution, however, VA is taking all possible steps to protect and inform our veterans.

All possible steps to inform us, eh? Then how come you, Mr. Secretary, waited until the week after you were informed of this to make an announcement? 10 days after the VA Inspector General had launched an investigation? Almost 3 weeks after the theft? All possible steps my bleeding arse. The leisurely pace of informing the chain of command at each level in the VA bespeaks an utter disregard for the seriousness of the incident.

We at the VA believe it is important for you to be fully informed of any potential risk resulting from this incident.

Well, maybe not fully informed, at least not in a timely manner, as it took over two weeks AFTER the belated public announcement for the full scope of the data loss to come to light. Just trust the VA, they will tell you if they think you have to know. Really.

We have no evidence that your protected data has been misused.

Of course, there is one possible case of identity theft, but we are dragging our feet on that and trying to keep it out of the public view. So shush.

And lastly, regarding using the IRS to forward the letters:
The IRS has not disclosed your address or any other tax information to us.

Because they figured you would just lose that info, too.

If you would like some GOOD information on precautionary steps to take, head over to John Donovan’s place at the Castle Argghhh!!! to read his much more helpful thoughts.

13 June 2006


When, in the balance of privacy vs. security, a government official says that three to four hours worth of legwork is too much, and in the “balance between privacy and police authority” this causes the situation to be “weighted too far on the side of privacy,” I shudder.

Read that again. Three hours of work is simply too much for the RI police to do to ensure that the rights of citizens’ are protected, by talking to a judge.

Why this haste? Because they are tracking down a terrorist training camp that is likely to move? Because they are trying to find a kidnapped child who is in imminent danger? No, three hours is too much work to determine who pays for an internet account. Oh, and by the way, in order to figure that out, they are going to open up all your electronic records without a warrant as well. Because three hours is just too much time to take to ensure that our rights are safeguarded.

Any comment Lubber?

12 June 2006

Extra Geek Bonus Points...

…If you read this and thought, “They met in Canada?  I thought they met at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows.”

Two Irish Football Players are Two Sport Terrors

Fightin’ Irish Strong Safety Tom Zbikowski (6’0”, 208lbs) had a strong professional debut this weekend. What? He went pro? Not to worry – his professional debut was in the boxing ring, and he destroyed his competition in 49 seconds. Read about it here, or go to ND Nation and watch the video of the fight.

On a slightly scarier note, Jeff Samardzija, ND’s standout wide receiver with a name even more difficult to pronounce than Zbi’s, has the chance to go pro. Again, not in football. This time, the sport is baseball, as apparently the always sad Cubbies are ready to sign Jeff as a pitcher, despite his status as a football standout. Bo knows Samardz…i…something?

This article on Zbi is even better - the stuff about Ohio state: classic!
This article even addresses both of the player's recent acheivments, and also underscores what I said all last season - Jeff S. is a class act (both of 'em, actually).

05 June 2006

A Decidedly Non-Trivial Lawsuit

The father of the deceased Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder is suing Fred Phelps’ foul flock for invasion of privacy based on their abhorrent protests outside his son’s funeral.

Sadly, I will venture a guess that this probably won’t fly, as the Phelps crew, being peopled by a large percentage of lawyers, was probably on public property and therefore will more than likely be safe from the invasion of privacy charge. However, if ever I wanted to be proven wrong, this is definitely one of those times. Even if he loses, I hope he ties up plenty of the Phelps’ time and money defending themselves.

I wonder if there is a legal fund to contribute to for his assistance?


This little quotation found its way onto my desk, courtesy of a coworker. So which one of you has an idea as to its meaning?

(click for a larger version)
As I don't read cyrillic, much less read Russian, I am not overly sure myself - although I have a hunch. Anyone out there with translating or Googling skills that outmatch my own?

And oh yes, I am fairly certain it is a sub-realted quote.

04 June 2006

Being Sun Wise

Supposedly, “sunscreens were originally developed by Navy researchers seeking to create a product that would allow sailors to remain on duty longer.”  While it makes for a good story, there seems to be little backing to it.  However, being of a rather pale lot, as is the rest of my home squadron, we are all very interested in the most effective sunscreen now available.  Being a nuke and an engineer, I researched.  So, for those of you who might find this useful (which should be everyone for reasons of health), I present what I have dug up, just in time for summer:

As you may or may not know, the sun damages us with ultraviolet radiation.  The UV rays are broken down into three categories, based on wavelength:  UVA (320nm – 400nm), UVB (290nm – 320nm), and UVC (200nm – 290nm).  UVC, with its short wavelength and higher energy, is very deadly.  Luckily, it is blocked by atmospheric ozone, so we don’t have to worry about it.  Sunburn is caused by UVB, so that is what most sunscreen was developed to block.  SPF is based on the UVB blocking ability of sunscreen.

However, recent research has shown that UVA is much more dangerous than we gave it credit for.  With its longer wavelength, it penetrates the outer layer of our skin and can damage deeper tissue.  It is also 90-95% of the UV radiation that reaches us.  It is thought that it is a major player in the development of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.  As this is still relatively new knowledge, not many sunscreens are effective at protecting us from UVA.

There are two primary ways to protect us from UVA, with organic chemical blockers or physical inorganic blockers.

Organic Chemical Protection:
Chemical sunscreens work by providing a larger cross-section of absorption, thus preferentially absorbing UV radiation and thus keeping our skin from absorbing it (ha, and you nukes thought that knowledge wouldn’t be applicable to real life!).

Parsol 1789 – This widely available compound is found in many sunscreens, both from well-known manufacturers and as an off-brand.  It is a decent UVA blocker, although in longer UVA wavelengths it is not as effective, and it is not overly stable, and can break down too quickly once exposed to UV radiation to provide the necessary UVA protection needed.  It also possibly has some ill-effects in some individuals.  Under certain circumstances, it might not be helpful.  Some could be allergic to it.  As it is solely for blocking UVA, it is always paired with a UVB blocker as well.

Mexoryl - Stabilized version of Parsol 1789.  It is only available outside of the US, and only from L’Oreal, who holds the patent.  You can get in on-line, however.  Research provided to the NIH says it is safe, and it works, as advertised, mice testing indicates it is safe and effective, and reduces dimers, even if FDA is not yet ready to approve it (which is why it is only available outside the US).

Helioplex – Also a stabilized version of Parsol 1789, available in the US.  It should have similar properties to Mexoryl.

An important note is that, as all of the above products are chemical blockers, they have to be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure so that they are properly absorbed by the skin.

Inorganic Blockers:
Inorganic blockers, instead of absorbing UV radiation, reflect it, so that it never reaches our skin to damage it.  There are two primary compounds used as blockers, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  Now, when you hear zinc, if you think the big colored stripes folks used to put on themselves from back in the 80’s, you aren’t far off.  It used to be, in order for there to be enough zinc to be an effective reflector, the sunscreen would end up being opaque.  However, advances in producing smaller particles of zinc have changed that.  Additionally, since these inorganics are reflectors, they protect against the whole spectrum of UV radiation.

Z-Cote – The brand name for an inorganic blocker, micronized zinc oxide.  It can be expensive.  Research provided to the NIH backs it as broad spectrum blocker, though.

There are other micronized Zinc Oxide brands, however, they just require a little more hunting – for example, Blue Lizard, which has zinc and titanium in high percentages; really anything with mirconized zinc oxide > 6% is good, but 8-10% is preferred.  The micronized zinc is usually, but not always, called Z-Cote as well.

Another benefit of the inorganic blockers is that since they do not need to be absorbed, you need only apply them to dry skin, no prior to sun-exposure time limit.

So what will we be using?  There is no clear-cut winner, so here is my answer with the reasoning behind it:
All of us have fairly sensitive skin, as well as being obscenely pale, and with rambunctious kids getting them gooped up 30 minutes before they run out the door is often difficult.  So, we will be buying the Blue Lizard in the one gallon option.  It has very few potentially problematic organics in it, it gives great broad spectrum protection, and quite good water resistance and overall durability.  
However, it does have the texture of sunscreen – something that some folks would rather avoid.  If this is true for you, I would encourage you to consider the Neutrogena with Helioplex.  It should feel like moisturizer rather than sunscreen, and should also provide quite good UVA and UVB protection.

Oh by the way:
While doing my sunscreen research, I found Heliocare – it is a dietary supplement in daily pill form that may help boost the skin’s resistance to UV radiation.  Independent studies available on their website seem to indicate it is helpful, but to what degree I am not sure.  I will probably continue to look into this, as I am terrible about remembering to slather myself with sunscreen, but I could just take this with my daily multivitamin.