SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)


(Image Credit: From here)

I visited the operational World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien (official website) for a day-cruise yesterday and had a phenomenal time. Lunch was decent, seating adequate, nautical tour guide over the PA system phenomenal, and the water, soda, and popcorn were free. I took many many pictures of the O’Brien, the USS Iowa, and the rest of the mothball fleet that we have here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My personal favorite pictures are of the majestic USS Iowa, but for other pictures that I took you should check out the following articles:

At some point, I will upload all of the pictures to see and perhaps create a photo-essay. If anyone is interested in seeing the Ghost Fleet for themselves, it is located here next to the Benecia-Martinez bridge and accessible to anyone capable of driving and swimming or of putting a boat in the water and navigating it using a cell phone GPS.

Many of the pictures, like the one immediately below, have black areas around the edges. That is because I achieved 24x zoom by placing my cheap 3x zoom digital camera up against a pair of cheap 8x zoom binoculars. Incidentally, a more precise version of that is how microscopes work: if you line a 10x zoom lens with another 10x zoom lens, you are now at 100x zoom.


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I also got many close-up images, including this one which I thought would be kind of funny to put on the Wikipedia page for port-a-pottys:


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When I was contributing the below image to Wikipedia, I noticed that the SS Mount Washington was not listed as being part of the mothball fleet and corrected the article based on the name clearly visible on the ship below.


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As we pulled back into port, we saw what I am fairly certain is the Chilean Navy training ship Esmeralda pulling out of port. If that is indeed the ship pictured, it is a fairly unique in being a steel-hulled sailing ship that was built to be military in nature. When navies started putting steel on the hulls of ships, they generally started removing the sails. It was also, allegedly, a floating torture center for political prisoners in the 1970s.


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SS Jeremiah O’Brien Ghost Fleet Cruise, sighting of USS Iowa (BB-61)

Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

I came across this story. It’s about a young lady from Indiana named Private Kylie Furnish that recently completed Marine Corps Recruit Training and is upset that she is not being allowed to wear her Dress Blues to her High School graduation. She faces the same choice as every other student – wear the cap-and-gown, or don’t attend.

The story starts;

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A soon to be Leo High School graduate will be skipping out on her big day this weekend because she won’t be allowed to wear her Marine Corps dress blues.

Wait, why is this news again? Let’s continue reading…

…Private Kylie Furnish graduated from high school early and recently graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. Private Furnish had hoped to walk with her class this weekend wearing her Marine Corps dress blues, which is Marine Corps policy for a ceremony like this.

Any other former Marine at this point is asking himself or herself “what?” right about now, perhaps with a confused look on his or her face. I’ll clarify that point later. But, let us read on. The School District defends its position thusly:

“The attire for all graduates of East Allen County Schools is a Cap and Gown representing the high school from which they graduate. This is a ceremony to recognize the achievements of four years of high school effort as seniors leave us and go on to many different aspects of life: work, college, military, service, homemaker, etc. Whereas we are aware there are many students who would prefer to wear their own choice of clothing at graduation to symbolize all different sorts of things, the Corporation’s policy is that participation is contingent upon the required attire of a cap and gown.

East Allen County Schools is not unlike most, if not all, schools in the state. Each year school districts are presented with requests to alter their long-standing rules and practices regarding the graduation ceremony. The courts have granted school districts the right to continue to follow these rules and practices time after time. It is always a difficult thing to turn down requests which have such emotional ties to them. However, as stated above, graduation is the time that is used to recognize the achievements of our all seniors. The Cap and Gown, most symbolically, does just that.”

Well, that certainly sounds reasonable to me – especially as the Marine Corps policy mentioned earlier does not exist. The story concludes:

Outraged at the policy, Furnish says she won’t be going.

Well, she has the right to be outraged. Just as I have the right to be outraged at the rain and I can refuse to walk outside when it rains. She recently completed a more significant graduation ceremony, anyways: from Marine Corps Recruit Training.

The Marine Corps’ general guidance is that a uniform may be worn at ceremonies such as this. “May” is the operative word. There is no requirement or policy saying that a uniform must be worn at such civilian ceremonies. In my opinion, the only possible way these two journalists could possibly have received information to the contrary is if they are willfully and negligently (perhaps maliciously) pretending that an 18 year old Marine Private as an expert on Marine Corps uniform regulations. Five seconds on Google, just five seconds of responsible journalism, would have brought them to the relevant policy in the form of a PDF that can be searched through for key words such as “uniform regulations,” as I have done below. (pages 75, and 78, emphasis mine):

DESIGNATED UNIFORMS AND OCCASIONS FOR WEAR

BLUE DRESS UNIFORMS
1. The blue dress “A” uniform may be worn for parades, ceremonies and formal or semiformal social functions… The blue dress “A” uniform will be is worn for the following official military/social occasions:

What follows is a list that includes events at the White House and the Marine Corps Ball, but not anything resembling a high school graduation. It also goes on to specify which variant of the blues can and cannot be worn on leave or liberty (ie, off work) but that isn’t relevant to us here. The words “may” and “will” for unofficial/civilian events and for official military/social events respectively are consistent, and not ambiguous. The language is exact and the document incredibly easy to find. It wasn’t rocket science for me to find that, and I’m not the one claiming to be a professional journalist.

While true that the young Marine is mistaken (if her words are indeed the source of the incorrect statement regarding the policy, and the journalists didn’t simply make it up) and perhaps also being a bit dramatic, the reporters that wrote the story are being irresponsible and sensationalist by attempting create a dramatic story when, in reality, there is no story.

Teenagers say and do silly and dramatic things for a variety of bizarre reasons, Marine or otherwise. She didn’t instantly become an expert on Marine Corps Policy by virtue of completing recruit training – she demonstrated that she understands the basics about what it is to be a Marine, and she is allowed to make a mistake here-and-there that she hopefully learns from. “Basic” training is not “Advanced Law and Policy Training”.

What she doesn’t need is to be taken advantage of by two journalists in such a way that her error will be immortalized, the way some journalists love to do with anything military. Being a Marine Private does not entitle her to speak for the entire US Marine Corps, and the journalists know that. If they hadn’t built a story around such an easily discovered misunderstanding, I wouldn’t be complaining. But, they did. So, I am.

I’m making a story out of a non-story by publishing my response. The story is simply that two journalists (presumably college educated and experienced in the field of journalism?) ought to know better and be capable of very basic fact checking. There, now your error is also immortalized Scott Sarvay and Krystal Shull.

Irresponsible Journalists, meet an Inexperienced Marine

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

Well, not really. I like it and blog from it and use it every day by choice. Anyways, what follows is a post of mine from a discussion over at ubuntuforums.org about Ubuntu’s difficulties in entering the mainstream.

Someone else said this:

The main problem with the competition for Ubuntu is not Mac or Windows. it is the other operating systems you can download for free, the hacked versions of Windows.
A few people criticized and mocked him. His post was not looking very popular, because it didn’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. Here is what I have to say, in response to his comment:

I think he is onto something, here.

It isn’t significant that one 20 year old nerd thinks he has it made with cracked windows–

–it is significant, however, that he has the 4 or 6 people in his life that he sets up with that cracked version and that he provides the tech support for. The best operating system for any non-nerd is whatever OS their local nerd is willing and able to support, period.

I spent 20 minutes just last night explaining to my Ubuntu-using mother what a ‘checkbox’ looked like in nm-applet over the phone, and that the lack of a check in the box did not mean it was magically no longer a checkbox. Or something. I really have no idea what I was explaining to her, I got more confused the longer I talked to her. All I know is that she eventually clicked around enough that her wifi that had previously magically broken had suddenly magically started working again. I wish I could claim to have helped my mother, but I really have no idea what broke and what fixed it. Fairy dust is just as good a guess as any. The point is this: I told my mother that I was willing and able to support Ubuntu, and she thus uses Ubuntu.

Another example: My nerd girlfriend has a Mac and, thus, so do both of her parents and all of her siblings and a few of her other friends. Not because anyone did any rational cost-benefit analysis, but because that is what she told them to purchase because that is what she felt she was willing and able to support. One nerd willing and able to provide support to her loved ones translates directly and exactly into 6 or 7 computer sales. Impressive, huh?

Ubuntu needs to replicate that effect.

I hate to say it, but the best thing that could ever happen to Ubuntu’s market share in the short term is that every cracked copy of Windows ceases to function tomorrow.

Few people will pay $200 for a start menu (or a dock) and facebook. Many will pay $0.99 to burn a CD-R for facebook – something that Ubuntu provides, like it or not.

Ubuntu Linux Sucks.

2011: Best April Fools Pranks on the Web

My favorite internet holiday has ended, and I must now wait 364 days until the next.

I really shouldn’t say these are the “best”, but I already did. A more accurate statement would be that this is “a selection of ones that I found amusing”. Here we go:

US Army Moving to Stetsons

This one actually got both my roomate and his friend going for a while, both US Army veterans. In the case of my roomate, he recalled when the Army adopted the silly looking berets they currently wear, making the story credible.

Image of a soldier with the sun setting behind him, creating a silhouette effect. Soldier is facing the South, estimated by the sun setting in the West. He is equipped with a rifle, body armor, and a cowboy hat.
(Image Credit: US Army)

Linux to Adopt BSD License

If you aren’t a nerd, don’t bother looking at that one.

If you are a nerd: Includes quotes from Ballmer, Torvalds, rms, and Oracle.

I Am Going to Libya

A few people seemed to fall for that one. I made this picture to go with the article, but it would have introduced a plot hole so I didn’t post it at the time. It is completely over-the-top ridiculous.

Me, sitting on a bench. Baseball cap backwards, aviators on, smoking a cigarette. I have an M-14 rifle in my hands, and am wearing a bou-bou over camouflage and a rambo-style bandoleer. I look completely ridiculous.

Before any other Marines or Former Marines get all riled up over the distinctive pattern on my sleeves and collar: this was in my back yard and in the context of a joke. Settle down, jefe, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

ThePirateBay Purchases eBay

Get it? PirateBay and eBay? Yeah.

Scientific American: “OK, We Give Up”

Worth reading the whole thing. It is satire, and mostly a criticism of pseudo-scientists, CNN and Fox news “experts”, creationists, etc. They talk about dinosaurs, global warming, and so on. You know, the important stuff.

And Finally, one that I hope is a prank: US Army to Issue Smartphones to All Soldiers

For Angry Birds and Words With Friends!? No! Google Maps and Text Messaging.

Unlike the Stetson article, the one was written by a named three-star General and was not updated today to include a giveaway that it was an April Fools joke.

If it is not a joke, I wonder how they came to the conclusion that American Troops carrying American Cellular Phones will have cell phone reception in foreign nations that we may someday be at war with, and I wonder what the rationale behind putting a GPS locater on every soldier was… to keep the enemy better informed of the whereabouts of American forces via radio triangulation?

That would especially be a concern in a theater were few locals have cellular phones. In such a theater, 40 people walking together and broadcasting radio transmissions over both cellular and GPS frequencies can pretty much mean only one of two things: either the 40 richest people in the nation are out for a walk together, or a platoon of US Army soldiers is on the move. We all know that telling a bunch of teenagers and people in their early 20s, “OK, everyone turn off your cell phones now” doesn’t always work out exactly as one would hope.

2011: Best April Fools Pranks on the Web

An Offer and Invitation From Libyan Rebellion

EDIT on April 2: April Fools 🙂

I made this ridiculous image to go with the prank, but decided not to use it yesterday because it would have introduced a plot hole into my elaborate scheme.

Me, sitting on a bench. Baseball cap backwards, aviators on, smoking a cigarette. I have an M-14 rifle in my hands, and am wearing a bou-bou over camouflage and a rambo-style bandoleer. I look completely ridiculous.

Original post continues…

April 1, 2011

Apparently, some of the right people have been reading my blog. Three days ago, I got an e-mail from Khalifa Hifter who took command of the Rebel Army in Libya last week. Hifter was a senior military officer in the Libyan Army under Gaddafi and led Libyan forces against Chad in the war they fought in the 1980s.

He agreed with most of my assessments of the problems facing Rebel forces, and with most of my solutions. Our back-and-forth discussion since that first e-mail from him is the reason I haven’t blogged in a few days. My blog is about a month old, and I appreciate the support that you folks have given me, but I may continue to be missing from the blogosphere for some time. Noting both the content of this blog and my experience as a Sergeant of Marines, Hifter has invited me to join his staff as a junior advisor, with the task of helping to forge a corps of non-commissioned officers among the Rebels, and as an advisor on how to maintain positive American public opinion towards the Rebellion. Given how well educated many of the Libyan rebels are, I do not think the language barrier will be insurmountable.

A ticket has been purchased for me, from San Francisco to Rome, departing this Monday. I believe I will be met there and given enough money to make my way to southern Italy and then to Benghazi – I’ll be taking the same route using the same methods that Libyan illegal immigrants use to get to Italy, except in reverse. Wish me luck, and thank you again for your support since I started this blog. Without that support, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to make a real difference in the world.

An Offer and Invitation From Libyan Rebellion

Exploiting Foreign Labor

In Mauritania, the 5-man detachment of Marines guarding the US Embassy worked about 70 hours a week and thus we didn’t feel like cooking for ourselves.

So, we employed Mohammed. He was paid $200/month, translating to about $1 per hour. He also kept up the common areas of the house.

On that so-called “slave wage”, he purchased land, hired an architect, and was having a two story house built with indoor plumbing. This also meant that his daughter could go to school instead of working or being married off at a young age.

If we’d been forced to pay him even $2 per hour, we simply would not have employed him. The time cost of cooking for ourselves would have been deemed less than the financial cost of employing Mohammed. We would have ceased being lazy and cooked for ourselves. His daughter would likely be less educated, the architect would never have been hired, and those construction workers would never have had that employment. It is also worth noting that, in his 50s, Mohammed was approaching his life expectancy in that countryemployment translates into access to semi-modern health-care.

Not that I am defending Nike workers that are paid less than $1 per hour in China — in order to do that, I would have to at least know how much a loaf of bread costs at the grocery store closest to that factory. I don’t have any idea what the costs of living are in the various cities containing Nike factories in China, so I do not have enough information to pass judgment either way.

Something to consider when we arbitrarily condemn US companies that outsource to cut costs.

Exploiting Foreign Labor

Zippy, the Three-Legged Epileptic Chihuaha, Sings the National Anthem

Actually, it’s my girlfriend singing in her fake baby voice while moving the lips of Zippy, but close enough. Zippy has enough problems, he gets partial credit for trying.


Video Credit: I recorded, girlfriend did the editing.

I should have a direct-download version of that video up soon, for those that have chosen not to install flash for any of the several very legitimate reasons.

Zippy, the Three-Legged Epileptic Chihuaha, Sings the National Anthem