Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coffee Shop Baked Goods

They have really been busting my hump in school over the last few weeks. Between reports, presentations, experiments, homework, quizzes, and projects, I have been spending way more time on school work than I would like to. Thankfully, I will be done with it all in a few months.

I came to campus after an early lunch and stayed in the library until about 5 p.m. I decided to take a dinner break so I went to Subway and got a $5 foot-long. I decided that since I would be going back to the library to finish up a report I am working on, I should stop at Starbucks and grab something with a lot of caffeine to keep me working at peak efficiency.

As I approached the counter, I looked at the selection of baked goods and other food items. My eye was immediately attracted to a sign that advertised "Pot Doughnuts".

Now, I have been told for many years that the only stupid question is the one that you don't ask. Over those same years, experience has told me that this statement isn't 100% accurate, but it is still a pretty good saying.

So when I got to the counter to order my coffee, I asked:

"What's a Pot Doughnut? Is that like a Hash Brownie?"

The coffee-girl gave me a somewhat stunned look and followed my gaze to the sign.

She told me that it was Top Pot Doughnuts, that Top Pot was the name of the company that made them, kind of like a brand name.

I backed up a little bit to change my point of view. Turns out the sign did say "Top Pot Doughnuts", but the "Top" was obscured from my original view point.

I declined to try a doughnut, just to be on the safe side. Anyway, I certainly don't need one.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Port Royal Drydock Photos

The USS Port Royal has entered drydock for repairs. You can see the sonar dome and the ship looks a bit banged up. Here is a link to a photo on Strategy Page of the USS Port Royal in drydock.

This photo gallery from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has two pictures of the USS Port Royal in drydock after the grounding and one picture of it the last time she left drydock.

I think the link to the Star-Bulletin is acting kind of screwy. Here are some better photos from

Picture of the screws

View of the stern while in drydock

View of the bow

Port Royal on the rocks

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dead Teenage Girl Found at Fort Lewis

Unfortunately, a sixteen year old girl was found dead in some barracks at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Washington yesterday. Not much information has come out yet, except that the investigation is being handled by the Army Criminal Investigative Division. There are already suggestions out there about our big, bad military people and how they need to be controlled because they are a bunch of thugs. Mind you, there is not yet evidence of any criminal activity. I kind of wonder, if in the interest of smoothing things over with the local government, there will be restrictions placed on the soldiers at Fort Lewis.

The last time I was in Yokosuka, the base was imposing liberty restrictions stemming from the murder of a Japanese woman, but they weren't particularly bad. Basically, we just had to be out of the bars by midnight and back on base by 1 a.m. That is probably not exactly what the restrictions were, but it was something along those lines. I had to ask what time we would be allowed out the next day.

Apparently, the boat was given guidance about what time to have us back on base, but not on what time we would be unleashed in the morning. Since we had to be back on base at 1 a.m., I suggested that we should be allowed to go back out in town at 1 a.m. That didn't happen. Instead, a time was thrown out there like 8 a.m., which caused a group of people that like to run in the morning to protest. I think in the end, we had to be back on base at 1 a.m. and were released at 5 a.m.

I don't think liberty restrictions were ever placed on us when we were in our own home port, but I wonder if something like that will be coming for Fort Lewis. I read a story in the Seattle Times this morning that took advantage of this incident to dredge up some serious criminal activity by a few, very few, of the soldiers stationed at Fort Lewis. This is somewhat premature since no criminal activity has yet been alleged. Still, we know that there are a lot of people that will use this incident to indict every military post in the area, which includes Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base, Bangor, and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, along with several smaller military bases.

Some of the incidents that have been brought up are some recent robberies of University of Washington students and a 2006 bank robbery masterminded by an Army Ranger. By and large, the military is full of great people, but their image is being tarnished by a few high profile incidents. This incident is not even proven to be related to criminal activity, and it is already being used to discredit the Army.

Here is the story from the Seattle Times.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I really enjoy reading news online. The Seattle Times has a website that I check in on every day. I probably spend more time reading the comments section for each story then I spend reading the stories themselves. I usually find it pretty interesting to see what other people think and sometimes I find myself disturbed by what other people think.

I find it really interesting how many people drag politics into a discussion. If there was a story about a dog getting run over on the street, people would be making comments about DIM-ocrats or Libtards or CONservatives. I occasionally leave comments and have at times been called an idiot liberal and other times called an idiot conservative and sometimes just get called an idiot. It doesn't bother me much. Years and years of submarine duty have thickened my skin a bit.

I read a story in the Seattle Times yesterday entitled "Bellevue man outwits 2 criminals, escapes in their getaway van." The story is about a guy that was working in his garage crafting a part for his hobby car. He heard someone in his house and discovered his house was being burglarized. He grabbed a hammer so that he had something to defend himself and went outside. The crooks had left their van in his driveway with the engine running and the doors unlocked. This guy hopped in the van and drove it a few blocks away to the house of a friend. Crooks came outside, saw their van was gone, dropped all of the loot on the porch, and took away on foot.

When I read the story, I kind of laughed when I thought about the look that must have been on their faces when they came outside and found that their van had been stolen. I also thought that the guy might have been somewhat foolish, but since he didn't get hurt, it was just a great story.

Some people that commented on this story seemed to have the same idea, but a lot of other people made comments that I find kind of disturbing.

One of the most common responses was along the lines of "Those guys are lucky that they didn't break into MY house or I would have BLOWN THEM AWAY!!!!"

Don't get me wrong. If someone breaks into a house, they are taking their lives into their own hands. I am probably not going to feel too bad about someone getting killed while they are breaking into a house. What disturbed me about these comments are the bloodthirstiness with which they are made. It seems like there are a whole bunch of Clint Eastwood wanna-be's sitting in their living room with a gun in hand hoping that something happens that would justify them killing someone. What kind of a person fantasizes about killing someone? It just disturbs me that people like this live in the same neighborhoods as me.

The other common responses focused on something else in the article. The article mentioned that the guy was recently laid-off, his wife was at work, his kid was in daycare, and he initially thought that it was his housekeeper in his house until he realized it wasn't the right day for the housekeeper to be there.

There were tons of comments along the lines of:

"How dare this guy be working on a hobby instead of looking for work!!!"

"How dare this guy have a child in daycare when he is not working!!!"

"How dare this guy have a housekeeper when he is not working!!!"

"How dare this guy....blah, blah, blah"

Seriously, why are there so many people out there that hate this guy for being able to weather a period of unemployment in comfort? If the guy can afford daycare, can afford to work on a hobby, has a wife that works, then I say good for him. Sounds like he spent a lot time living within his means and was smart enough to put money away for a rainy day, or perhaps his wife earns enough money to support their lifestyle.

Well, I suppose I will continue to read comment sections in the newspaper. I thought it would be illuminating to see what other people think. I guess it is illuminating, just not in the way that I thought it would be. I thought that I would see some well thought-out discussion that might persuade me to think about something in a different light or that might reinforce the way that I already felt. Instead, I find that we have many more bloodthirsty maniacs and petty, jealous little people living in our midst than I thought there were. I still hold out hope that these people making the comment are a small minority, but boy, they sure are vocal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

USS Port Royal Initial Damage Assessment

Update 2/20/2009: A link to a photo of the USS Port Royal in drydock can be found in this posting.

The Port Royal has a cracked sonar dome and both screws have had some blade tips sheared off. They are going to go into drydock on Friday to do a more thorough damage assessment. This story from Navy times also includes a short video summarizing what has happened up to now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

USS Port Royal Captain Relieved

Not much of a surprise here. The CO of the USS Port Royal was "temporarily relieved of command" shortly after the ship was freed from its grounding incident earlier today. I know that this is standard operating procedure in these sorts of cases and I doubt that he will return to command the ship.

I know that the CO is responsible for everything, but Captain John Carroll was in a difficult situation. Of course, CO's have to be constantly prepared for difficult situations. This was his first day out at sea with his crew and he probably didn't have much of an opportunity to observe his navigation team in action. Still, he should have been especially vigilant while the ship was operating near shallow water after dark while performing a personnel transfer. If he saw things going bad, he should have stopped the evolution and made sure the ship was returned to a safe condition.

Ultimate Responsibility is a term that everyone on a navy ship understands and everyone knows who it is that has Ultimate Responsibility. I wish that some of the civilian company CEO's felt the same sense of responsibility that our military commanders live with every day that they are in command. What do you think of the concept of Ultimate Responsibility?

Pacific Beacon: Better Single Sailor Housing

A new housing complex for sailors in San Diego opened last December. This may be old news for some of you, but I had not heard about this until I stumbled across a story about it and found the website for the development. It is called Pacific Beacon and it looks like a fantastic place for single sailors to live.

Poor housing was always one of the biggest drawbacks to being a single sailor. Barrack rooms were typically depressing places. They were poorly lit, noisy, and cheaply furnished. Furthermore, the people that worked at the barracks often seemed to be on some sort of a power trip. From the moment you checked in until you checked out, the people working there seemed determined to remove any sort of pleasure you might derive from living there and generally treated the residents like they were inmates in some sort of prison. Even these poor conditions were better than the poor sailors on surface ships that were not even given a room in the barracks. They had to live aboard their ship.

The navy had done a pretty good job in recent years of improving housing for single sailors and Pacific Beacon looks like a giant leap forward for improving the quality of life for single sailors. It is basically a large condominium set in several towers in San Diego and it is directed at sailors that are E-4 and above. It is privately run and the rent is currently below the 2008 Basic Allowance for Housing for an E-4. It sounds like the rent is removed from the sailors pay in the form of an allotment, so they don't even have to remember to drop off a rent check. The rent includes all utilities with the exception of phone and internet service. There is a rooftop swimming pool, a large "Front Lawn" with barbecue pits, a large fitness center, optional maid service, and dry cleaning drop-off and pick-up.

It was designed for sailors and they keep that in mind. When deploying, a sailor can either keep their room or move out. There is indoor storage for excess items. Some of the apartments are furnished, and judging by the pictures, the furniture actually looks like it is high enough quality that someone might keep it in their real house, instead of the cheap particle board lowest-bidder stuff that was always put in the barracks on base. Every apartment has two master bedroom setups and each bedroom has its own private bathroom with a full sized bathtub.

Even better, since it is not a facility operated by the navy, the command and the navy do not do room inspections. Since the rental agreement is subject to California rental regulations, the management is not allowed to enter your rooms without 24 hour advance notice or in the case of an emergency such as a fire or a water leak . I think I read in their FAQ's that you can have an overnight guest for up to 14 days.

I sure hope that the sailors enjoy their new housing. I also hope that they don't tear it up and make the navy rethink their decision to arrange for adequate housing for their single sailors.

Here is a link to their website. They have a lot of information here. Looks like a great place to live.

Pacific Beacon Website

Here is a story about the project at In this story, it says that they have already signed contracts for similar projects in Jacksonville, FL and Norfolk, VA and that they would like to expand it to include overseas locations. This is a long overdue change, in my opinion.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

USS Port Royal Grounding

Update 2/20/2009: A link to a photo of the USS Port Royal in drydock can be found in this posting.

The USS Port Royal is stuck on a reef near Honolulu International Airport. They tried unsuccessfully to nudge it free with some tugs early yesterday. Here is the story from the Honolulu Advertiser.

Here is a link to a news video about the story: Video from KITV

They have a few pretty interesting shots of the ship in the video. The news station was told by family members of the crew that the ship has no air conditioning or electricity. Looks like a pretty miserable situation.

Update: 5 p.m.: The navy is going to lighten the ship by offloading fuel, water, and people and then they will try to free it again. If you have any first hand knowledge about the Port Royal, or just like to talk, feel free to leave a comment.
AP Update

Update: 2/8/09 1 p.m.: After offloading some fuel, water, and people and using more towing power than they used before, the third attempt to free the USS Port Royal was unsuccessful. The navy is assessing options. I think it will be a while before they get the ship off the rocks.

From U.S. Navy Public Affairs on KGMB 9

Update: 2/9/09 9:10 a.m.: Looks like the fourth time was a charm. I just read that the USS Port Royal was freed this morning. I guess there will be some damage assessment and probably another drydock period in the immediate future.

From AP

Update 2/9/09 12:00 p.m.: I just read that the ship is now back in Pearl harbor. It took a total of seven tugs, a salvage ship, and a motor vessel to free it. I didn't know what the heck a motor vessel was until I saw it referenced as the Motor Vessel "Dove" which is used to move the sea based X-band radar platform. For those of you who have seen it, it is the giant white ball that you can occasionally glimpse from Pearl Harbor and the surrounding area. It looks kind of like a giant white Epcot Center. This is a picture of the radar being moved into Pearl Harbor. (This is not the Motor Vessel "Dove" in the picture, though. I couldn't find a good picture of that, but I am guessing it has some pretty serious towing power)

Credit for this Photo: Missile Defense Agency

Credit for this Photo: Missile Defense Agency

Friday, February 6, 2009

USS Louisiana Blue COB

There were a few rumors floating around on Bubblehead's blog over the last few days. I just came across a few news articles today about the COB from the USS Louisiana (Blue) appearing in court in Kitsap County Superior Court for second degree child rape. Here is a story from the Kitsap Sun.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

DNA Sampling - Unreasonable Search and Seizure??

The Washington State Legislature is considering a House bill that would make DNA testing mandatory for all persons, juvenile and adult, arrested for a felony or a gross misdemeanor. One of the crimes which will be included for mandatory DNA sampling is shoplifting. This DNA test will be submitted to the Washington State Patrol database and the FBI database. If the person is later found not guilty, charges are dropped, or the conviction is overturned, the DNA sample will be destroyed.

This is one of those bill that really scares me. I don't understand how people can look at this and say that it not an unreasonable search which we are constitutionally protected against. Under the current law, DNA sampling requires a warrant unless the person is actually convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor sexual offense. This new bill would allow the police to take a DNA sample from someone arrested for suspicion of a crime without giving the suspect a day in court. In fact, it would be mandatory for them to do this.

On the surface, this might seem to be no more intrusive than fingerprinting during arrest. This is a quote from the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs that appears in an article in the Seattle Times:
"It is good technology. It solves crimes," said Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which has long pushed for DNA tests at the time of arrest. "We take fingerprints at the time of arrest, which in many ways is a lot more intrusive."

This is simply not true. As an example, let us say that one of your siblings or cousins was arrested. If they are fingerprinted, those fingerprints belong only to that person. If there is fingerprint evidence somewhere for an unsolved crime, they will have only that individual's fingerprints for comparison.

If a DNA sample is taken from someone that has been arrested and entered into a national database, then that sample may be compared to DNA from a crime scene with an unknown subject. What happens if one of your close relatives is arrested and they have some genetic markers in common with a DNA sample from an unsolved crime scene? If that DNA has genetic markers in common with that unknown DNA sample, then a suspect pool consisting of closely related family members of the same sex can be made. What is to stop the authorities from using this as probable cause for a search of your property or person without showing any other evidence? You could be forced to spend thousands of dollars to defend yourself.

One part of the bill says that the sample will be destroyed if the person is not convicted or if the conviction is overturned. Can we really believe that once a DNA sample is entered into a state or national database, that it will be removed later? I think that is simply not true. If we could trust this sort of information gathering to be handled in accordance with law, there would have been no need for President Bush and our Senators and Representatives to give immunity to telecommunication companies that illegally recorded telephone conversations.

I also have serious reservations about the Washington State Patrol being involved in this process. They have a record of handling and analyzing scientific evidence improperly and then saying later that it doesn't matter.

Several years ago in Montana, a scientist provided erroneous hair-sample analysis that helped convict a man of rape. That man was later exonerated by DNA evidence. This man was also alleged to have provided analytical evidence that resulted in the wrongful conviction of two other Montana men for rape. This scientist later came to work for the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

In 2002, an internal audit of 100 cases handled by this scientist revealed errors in 30 of the cases. That is a 30% FAILURE rate. The Washington State Patrol failed to tell the defendants or their attorneys of the flawed test, deciding that they were performed well enough. They decided that the "sloppy work" built around "shortcuts and speed" were not a good enough reason to fire the guy. I guess they don't believe in following proper procedures when performing tests that can destroy a persons life if improperly performed. You can read about this guy and the official WSP response here.

If you read their response, you will probably arrive at the conclusion that they have cleaned house. However, about a year ago, they had to contact 130 people that had been issued citations for driving under the influence of alcohol. These citations were based on faulty breathalyzer tests performed on the people driving. The toxicology lab responsible for these mistakes is overseen by the WSP. An internal audit and several independent audits found problems. A panel of judges issued the following statement about the lab:
A panel of King County District Court judges said the lab and its leadership created a "culture of compromise" with so many "ethical lapses, systemic inaccuracy, negligence and violations of scientific principles" that the breath tests should not be used as evidence in pending DUI cases.

Well, at least they told the accused people about their lab problems this time, even though some of the people had already served sentences.

The WSP is definitely the wrong organization to be involved in the collecting and cataloging scientific evidence of DNA. Their laboratories and their leadership at the laboratories have not demonstrated that they take their responsibilities seriously.

Bottom line for me is this bill should be shot down. I believe this is a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. I also do not have confidence that our government agencies will handle the collected samples properly or legally.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Buying a Car? Read This First.

It seems that some people that are trading in a car when buying a new car are getting screwed. With the large number of car dealers that are going out of business, some of their customers are left holding the bag. If you still owe money on your car when you trade it in and the dealer is going to take care of the balance of your loan, they don't always manage to follow through.

I can't remember ever trading in a car that was not already paid off, so I am not real familiar with the process. Some people have traded in cars with the arrangement that the dealer would pay off the remainder of their loan. If that car dealer goes out of business, they may not have paid off your loan and you are still on the hook for the balance of the loan. This can even happen if the dealer has sold the car to a third party. In some cases, the lender will go after the third party and repossess the car because they still have a lien against it. I guess the buyers aren't looking at the titles prior to buying the car to make sure that there is not a lien holder on the title.

In any case, if the dealer goes out of business and is bankrupt, the person that traded in the car is at risk of the lender coming after them for the remainder of the loan. In other cases, they may take away a recently purchased used car from someone that bought it in good faith.

Seems like it should be illegal to me, but I guess the consumer needs to look out for themselves because nobody is looking out for them. I assume that most lenders are banks and the auto manufacturers. They may be coming after you after you dealt in good faith. They can afford to come after you. Thanks to the bailouts, they have plenty of taxpayer dollars to finance it.

Read more about it here

Goodbye USS Kitty Hawk

The last fossil-fueled aircraft carrier of the United States Navy was given a fond farewell at a ceremony in Bremerton yesterday. There is an article in the Seattle Times about the ceremony.

The Kitty Hawk was frequently moored in Yokosuka whenever I visited between the late 90's and the time that I retired a few years ago. It was practically part of the scenery near the pier that we always used. I see in the article that the sailors aboard referred to their ship as Miss Kitty. That is not the nickname that we had for it on the boats, but I will admit that our submarine crews were not always the most polite people around. I suspect a few of the Kitty Hawk sailors had the same nick name for it that we had, but didn't use it around their bosses.

Something that I didn't know about was the riot that nearly broke out on board when they were visiting Brazil. It sounds like a pretty good sea story. It sure made me laugh:
They talked about watching the sky light up from the flight deck during a nuclear test off the coast of San Francisco, about going to Cuba during the missile crisis, about the time a near-riot broke out onboard while the ship was docked in Brazil.

That time, a Brazilian ship had broken loose from its moorings while the Kitty Hawk had 10,000 visitors aboard. As the vessel drifted toward the carrier, the crew was told to pull up the anchor and get underway.

The visitors onboard thought they were being kidnapped, said former machinist mate Jim Strahl, and it took members of the Brazilian army, who were also onboard, to restore order.

Well, the navy certainly got its use out of the Kitty Hawk. It has been around for a long time and she has earned a rest. I wonder if they will turn it into a museum?