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Trek Blogging

[ 0 ] April 24, 2006 |

There’s probably not a subject that’s seen more useless internet commentary than Star Trek, but, characteristically, Lance manages to add something insightful. Read.

Speaking of the Trek, I’ve recently watched a couple uncut episodes on G4, probably the first episodes of the original series that I’ve seen in six or seven years. I had forgotten that many of the episodes are, well, good. Trek, especially in its original incarnation, often seems to carry with it too much pop culture baggage to be engaged with seriously as entertaining television. Moreover, many of the episodes (partly because of the baggage) are nigh unwatchable. Still, some of the scripts crackle. The Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad is one of the best handled and most complex three sided relationships that television has managed to portray, and the character of Kirk himself, a “perfect storm” of writer, actor, and medium, remains a towering television figure, perhaps the most enduring character that the medium has offered.


[ 0 ] April 24, 2006 |

I barely managed to stomach Hitchens latest on the McCarthy leak; I don’t recommend the effort. Suffice it to say that Hitch can’t quite manage to recommend the notion of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, but he doesn’t have a problem with completely ignoring the issue by bringing the focus back to Joe Wilson. It Hitch’s world, a CIA agent relating the fact of secret prisons is exactly, exactly the same as an administration official blowing a CIA agent’s cover in an effort to discredit a critic.


I’ve heard the argument that Hitchens should, if nothing else, be respected as a wordsmith. I’ve never been particularly compelled by his prose, though. I can also say with a bit of pride that I didn’t care for his work before he became a right-wing hack. He is not a thoughtful writer; this is apparent regardless of whether he’s writing about Henry Kissinger, Mother Theresa, Saddam Hussein, or Joe Wilson. I do wonder whether he can actually measure any ethical or moral distinction between those four. He has no particular commitment to evidence or consistency per se, just to the pursuit, take no prisoners, of a particular line of argument. The existence of an enemy is more important than the characteristics of that enemy.

Anyway, he also manages, in this piece, to argue that the CIA, which is staggeringly incompetent, was nonetheless correct in its disputation of Clinton’s attack on the Al-Shifa factory in Sudan, which was the wrong factory even though it clearly demonstrates that Saddam Hussein was linked to Osama Bin Laden, a fact which no one is mentioning except Richard Clarke other than when he’s not mentioning it. Oh, and even if there was a link and it was the right factory, Bill Clinton was only inclined to order the strike because of a “wag the dog” scenario. Oh yes, and all Clinton-era CIA appointees suck, except, perhaps, for the ones that think he’s wrong about stuff.

I think that’s it. Oh, one other thing; that the Iraqi Foreign Minister met with some guys from Niger demonstrates that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium all along. Now, a thoughtful author might ask who else the Iraqi Foreign Minister met with in an effort to determine whether all of his meetings involved the desire to purchase uranium. That’s not Hitch.


[ 0 ] April 24, 2006 |

Make sure to read Brad’s post on the polygraph. No small number of my students at Patterson are terrified of the polygraph portion of their job clearance.

Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 3

[ 0 ] April 24, 2006 |

Loomis has raced out to a huge early lead. Perhaps Noon is distracted? Are the Bearded Ducks a flash in the pan, or do they have staying power? titleixbaby makes a charge…

1 I Love Technology , E. Loomis 896 91.1
2 Kentucky Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 832 81.4
3 green weinies , W. Bell 825 80.0
4 titleixbaby , P. Smith 814 77.9
5 Axis of Evel Knievel , D. Noon 748 60.4
6 Shangri-La Coelacanths , J. Daw 738 57.2
7 Bolts from the Blue , R. Payne 733 55.6
8 Sector 7G Carbon Blobs , S. Meredith 728 54.0
9 The Stugotz , B. Petti 726 53.4
10 Eephus , J. Schroeder 719 51.2
11 St. Louis Cardinals , D. Solzman 710 48.5
12 Seattle HemiCats , M. Bruneau 694 43.8
13 deez nuts , m s 667 36.6
14 Moscow Rats , I. Gray 613 24.9

Nuclear Power and the NPT

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

I’m reluctant to involve myself in debates over nuclear power, because I don’t have enough of a technical grasp of the details to be able to make much of an original contribution. I must say that I am uncompelled by this argument, however. In short, John is arguing that because the most efficient way of generating nuclear power is also one of the best ways of creating weapons grade nuclear material, that the nuclear option should be taken off the table. I can’t comment on other anti-nuclear arguments, including those that focus on the efficiency of renewable energy sources or on general questions regarding waste.

My problem with John’s argument (which is that a non-nuclear country, using efficient fuel reprocessing methods, can get very close to having a successful nuclear program within the existing constraints of the NPT), is that the technical requirements of a nuclear program have never been the most significant obstacle to the development of nuclear weapons in industrialized countries. Yes, fuel reprocessing makes it easy for Japan or Germany to build nukes if they so desire. But, if they wanted to, they (and most any other advanced European country, and probably several South American countries as well) could easily build nuclear weapons within a short period of time. The constraint on such production is not now and has never been the availability of fuel or even of technology; it has been a combination of the US-French-British nuclear umbrella, cost given this umbrella, and a general social prohibition against nuclear weapons production.

I’m not optimistic about the future of non-proliferation, given both Iran’s drive for a weapon and the souring of the trans-Atlantic alliance. But I’m inclined to think that fuel reprocessing choices are almost wholly irrelevant to whether advanced industrialized countries will decide to pursue nuclear weapons programs.

Random Sopranos Observations

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

The season thus far has been uneven, but The Sopranos is at such a high level that the low points are still pretty good. Some thoughts (including spoilers):

- Whatever happened to Bobby and Janice? It seemed, especially after the first episode, that they’d play some meaningful role in the Tony-gets-shot arc. Instead, Janice has been almost invisible, and the rehabilitation of Bobby as mobster hasn’t been nearly as rewarding as it could be.

- The scene last week between Meadow and Finn was rich. Finn has just helped sign Vito’s death warrant, and Meadow still wants to lecture him about Italian-Americans. I’m sure it will all work out…

- What would be the downside of just letting Vito go? I suppose that he’s more likely to go the Feds if he’s outside of the Family and running low on cash. Then again, he might just want to stay as far away as possible from his old life.

- I absolutely loved the Tim Daly subplot, and hope that they return to it. Christopher has actually managed to rub a couple of brain cells together and make something happen on this one; the idea for a movie is, remarkably, a pretty good one.

- If Rusty had taken over the New York family, would Johnny Sac still be in prison? Tony seemed to imply not in the meeting at the wedding, but I can’t imagine that Johnny’s recent ascension made him more legally vulnerable for the various past acts that the indictments must include.

- I had heard rumours that Furio would return at some point this season. No luck so far, but we can hope.

- Vito looked very cute in his motorcycle outfit.

That is all.

Deterrence Failure

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

I haven’t yet had time to comment substantively on the Lieber-Press Foreign Affairs article about the end of nuclear deterrence. We’re in the midst of hiring a Director, and April has been a remarkably busy month. But make sure to read Drezner. The article should serve to remind us that nuclear weapons do not, in fact, immunize a state from US attack or intervention. Much less so for Iran than for China or Russia, I would imagine.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: IJN Mikasa

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

In 1894, the Imperial Japanese Navy annihilated a Chinese Fleet at the Battle of Yalu. The victory helped establish Japanese power on mainland Asia, and served as an announcement to the Western Powers that Japan could be an important player in the brawl over the decaying corpse of Qing China. The victory also highlighted some deficiencies in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Established in 1869, during the Meiji Restoration, the IJN had modelled itself around British and French tactics and doctrine, and had purchased ships from several European countries. The IJN initially preferred the French model, concentrating on small, fast cruisers and torpedo boats. At Yalu, however, two Chinese battleships proved almost unsinkable, pushing the Japanese back towards the British model. Accordingly, the IJN ordered half a dozen battleships from British yards, and accompanied this purchase with that of a large number of other, smaller warships. By 1903, Japan possessed an impressive, competent battlefleet.

The last ship delivered to Japan before 1904 was Mikasa, a 15000 ton battleship based on the British Majestic class. Mikasa carried 4 12″ guns in two dual turrets, 14 6″ guns, and could make 18 knots. Before Dreadnought, it was believed that battleships ought to have a mix of heavy and light guns, as the rate of fire of the smaller guns, especially at short ranges, would make up for their reduced weight. The standard “pre-dreadnought” battleship carried 4 guns in two dual turrets, accompanied some number of smaller weapons. Mikasa’s experience in the Russo-Japanese War would demonstrate the inadequacy of this model.

Russia, Germany, and France had worked together in 1895 to force Japan to cede much of its gains from the 1894 Sino-Japanese War back to China and to an independent Korea. Subsequently, Russia occupied most of the territory that Japan had given up. This caused friction between Japan and Russia, and led to the deployment of a powerful Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur. In February 1904 tensions boiled over, and Japan launched what amounted to a surprise attack against the Russian fleet on February 6. The attack succeeded in damaging several Russian ships, but left much of the Russian force intact. Japanese naval activity for the next several months concentrated on preventing the escape of the Russian fleet. Minefields took their toll on both sides, the Russians losing one and the Japanese two battleships.

On August 10 the Russians made a break for it. Mikasa, under command of Admiral Heihachiro Togo, led the Japanese squadron that confronted the Russians. The Japanese crossed the Russian “T”, meaning that they could use all of their guns while the Russians could only fire their forward batteries. In spite of superior Russian numbers, the Japanese prevailed and forced the Russian fleet back into Port Arthur with severe losses. The admiral of the Russian fleet was killed by a shell from Mikasa, which itself suffered significant damage.

In 1904, countries like Japan simply did not win wars against countries like Russia. Accordingly, the Tsar dispatched his Baltic Fleet to the Far East with orders to combine with surviving Russian ships at Vladivostok and destroy the IJN. The Russian fleet left on October 15, 1904. Along the way the fleet mistook a group of British fishing boats off Denmark for Japanese torpedo boats, and almost started a war with the United Kingdom. Although the new Russian fleet was not as technically advanced as the IJN, it included eight battleships, double the size of the Japanese fleet.

Admiral Togo decided to intercept the Russian fleet in the Tsushima Straits, between
Korea and Japan. The Russian intention was to push through the Straits as quickly as possible in an effort to reach Vladivostok and refit. The Russian ships had been slowed by their long transit, while the Japanese ships were repaired and fresh. The Japanese intercepted the Russian fleet on May 27, 1905, and used its superior speed on a parallel courseto pull ahead of the Russian ships. Having opened up sufficient distance, the Japanese fleet made a hard turn to port and crossed in front of the Russians. This later became known as the “Togo Turn”. Within an hour, most of the Russian fleet was ablaze and sinking. Mikasa, being the first ship in the Japanese line, was badly damaged, but managed to make it back to port without difficulty. The engagement was conducted almost entirely with the long range main batteries of both sides, lending credence to the “all-big gun” theories of Jackie Fisher. Isoruku Yamamoto, a young officer on the cruiser Nisshin, lost two fingers in the battle.

Four of the five largest Russian battleships sank on the first day. The last, along with the most of the rest of the Russian fleet, was rounded up over the next day. The Japanese sank 21 Russian ships and captured seven, including four battleships. Tsushima was one of the last naval engagement in which a significant portion of the defeated fleet surrendered. From 1905 on, most defeated ships would scuttle themselves rather than strike colors and be boarded. The captured Russian ships were incorporated into the IJN in various capacities, with several serving until the 1920s. Tsushima is the 20th century equivalent of Trafalgar, a battle of annihilation in which one fleet is almost completely destroyed with little or no damage to the other.

The Tsar was successfully disuaded from dispatching the Black Sea Fleet to the Far East, and a peace was concluded with President Roosevelt serving as broker. Japan had to give up many of its territorial gains, but assumed control of Port Arthur and began to annex Korea. In September 1905 Mikasa exploded and sank in port. Salvaged and returned to service, her responsibilities were steadily reduced until she was decommissioned in 1923. Nearly sunk in the Great Kanto Earthquake, Mikasa was scheduled for scrapping under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. At Japanese request, however, Britain and the United States approved the retention of Mikasa as a museum ship, and in 1925 she was converted into a memorial.

Mikasa was damaged by US bombing in World War II, and following the Japanese surrender was disarmed by US occupation forces. A movement for restoration began in the mid-1950s, and gained the support of Admiral Chester Nimitz and other prominent Americans. It’s possible that the Americans saw Mikasa as an acceptable symbol of Japanese nationalism, all the more so because of her service against Russia. It’s also possible that they were genuinely interested in the survival of Mikasa as a historical artifact. Using many of the fittings from the Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre, Mikasa was restored and reopened as a memorial in 1962. She is now one of three World Memorial Ships, along with HMS Trafalgar and USS Constitution.

Photographs courtesy of Kate, SYL, and Mike.

Battleship Blogging Addendum

[ 0 ] April 23, 2006 |

I recently discovered SpringSharp, a program that produces technical specs for hypothetical battleships and battlecruisers. I’ve had a lot of fun with it. Here is the output for a 1922 Spanish battleship design:

777B, Spain Battleship laid down 1922

24,372 t light; 25,865 t standard; 27,713 t normal; 29,191 t full load

Dimensions: Length overall / water x beam x draught
600.00 ft / 600.00 ft x 104.00 ft x 29.00 ft (normal load)
182.88 m / 182.88 m x 31.70 m x 8.84 m

6 – 15.00″ / 381 mm guns (3×2 guns), 1,687.50lbs / 765.44kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in Coles/Ericsson turrets
on centreline ends, majority forward, 1 raised mount
10 – 5.50″ / 140 mm guns in single mounts, 83.18lbs / 37.73kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in deck mounts
on side, evenly spread
4 – 4.00″ / 102 mm guns in single mounts, 32.00lbs / 14.51kg shells, 1922 Model
Breech loading guns in deck mounts
on side, evenly spread
Weight of broadside 11,085 lbs / 5,028 kg
Shells per gun, main battery: 150
4 – 24.0″ / 609.6 mm submerged torpedo tubes

– Belts: Width (max) Length (avg) Height (avg)
Main: 12.0″ / 305 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 12.24 ft / 3.73 m
Ends: 4.00″ / 102 mm 209.98 ft / 64.00 m 12.24 ft / 3.73 m
Upper: 3.00″ / 76 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 8.00 ft / 2.44 m
Main Belt covers 100 % of normal length

– Torpedo Bulkhead:
2.00″ / 51 mm 390.00 ft / 118.87 m 26.21 ft / 7.99 m

– Gun armour: Face (max) Other gunhouse (avg) Barbette/hoist (max)
Main: 12.0″ / 305 mm – -
2nd: 2.00″ / 51 mm – -
3rd: 1.00″ / 25 mm – -

– Armour deck: 4.00″ / 102 mm, Conning tower: 11.00″ / 279 mm

Oil fired boilers, steam turbines,
Geared drive, 3 shafts, 64,726 shp / 48,286 Kw = 25.05 kts
Range 6,000nm at 16.00 kts
Bunker at max displacement = 3,325 tons

1,073 – 1,396

£6.339 million / $25.356 million

Distribution of weights at normal displacement:
Armament: 1,386 tons, 5.0 %
Armour: 10,342 tons, 37.3 %
– Belts: 3,314 tons, 12.0 %
– Torpedo bulkhead: 756 tons, 2.7 %
– Armament: 2,873 tons, 10.4 %
– Armour Deck: 3,181 tons, 11.5 %
– Conning Tower: 217 tons, 0.8 %
Machinery: 2,196 tons, 7.9 %
Hull, fittings & equipment: 10,449 tons, 37.7 %
Fuel, ammunition & stores: 3,341 tons, 12.1 %
Miscellaneous weights: 0 tons, 0.0 %

Overall survivability and seakeeping ability:
Survivability (Non-critical penetrating hits needed to sink ship):
39,003 lbs / 17,691 Kg = 23.1 x 15.0 ” / 381 mm shells or 7.3 torpedoes
Stability (Unstable if below 1.00): 1.16
Metacentric height 7.0 ft / 2.1 m
Roll period: 16.6 seconds
Steadiness – As gun platform (Average = 50 %): 52 %
– Recoil effect (Restricted arc if above 1.00): 0.33
Seaboat quality (Average = 1.00): 1.03

Ship space, strength and comments:
Space – Hull below water (magazines/engines, low = better): 83.1 %
– Above water (accommodation/working, high = better): 130.9 %
Waterplane Area: 42,982 Square feet or 3,993 Square metres
Displacement factor (Displacement / loading): 107 %
Structure weight / hull surface area: 184 lbs/sq ft or 896 Kg/sq metre
Hull strength (Relative):
– Cross-sectional: 0.96
– Longitudinal: 1.47
– Overall: 1.00
Hull space for machinery, storage, compartmentation is excellent
Room for accommodation and workspaces is excellent

Bad Stretch

[ 0 ] April 22, 2006 |

Don’t miss the six-plus part series at Axis of Evel Knievel regarding the impending birth of the author’s daughter. The upshot is that if you’re not going to be born on April 1, you might as well wait until May.

The best review of this series comes from commenter “Wife” who states:

I’m sure everyone is enjoying my witty husband’s remarks on the daily atrocities that have occurred on past days of April. However, I am from the “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean,” school of thought where I figure his time could be better spent sucking the hairballs off of our ceiling with the vacuum cleaner; removing the mound of recycling from the floor of our kitchen; finding out where Henry, his neutotic pisser of a cat, has left his last mark; tossing out the empty can of Fresca and the empty beer bottle that have been laying on our deck for the past six months; or perhaps playing a game of “try to find the teabags,” which are hidden around our house in the strangest of places. He’s witty, to be sure, but he’s also a teabag tosser.

Couldn’t the same be said of us all? Except the witty, that is.

[ 0 ] April 21, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

No Child Left Behind Except the Ones Who Get Left Behind

[ 0 ] April 20, 2006 |

Redbeard has been smokin’ hot lately. His analysis of NCLB statistics and minority group exclusion is too good to summarize quickly, so just Read the Whole Thing.

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