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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Another excellent documentary on Cold War Submarines

This is an episode of Nova that interviews a lot of Navy and intelligence insiders, as well as the authors of the book "Blind Man's Bluff".  Nice write up.  Merry Christmas, too ;)

Speaking of Christmas, my two worst were in the Navy. 

The second-worst Christmas was being underway on station, when the ship that was supposed to relieve us arrived several days late.  It's one thing if you know and expect to be at sea during Christmas.  It's another thing entirely to be ordered to stay put at the last minute.  On the bright side, it wasn't much different than any other day at sea, and everyone accepted the bad deal with grace.

My worst-ever Christmas was at Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida.  School let out for a week or two, and we were encouraged to go home and enjoy the holidays.  I had no home other than the Navy, so I pretty much had to stay put.  All my classmates and friends went home to spend Christmas with their parents.  I hung out in a dark and empty base, stood lonely watches, and ate bland chow hall food for Christmas dinner.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Documentary on Submarines during the Cold War

I found this cool documentary on submarine operations during the Cold War. 

At time 22:40 they have a segment on the NR-1, the worlds smallest nuclear submarine, which I nearly re-enlisted for. 

The segment right after that is about Navy divers doing special operations.  Having been in the submarine service during that era, I can say that the documentary comes close to describing a couple of situations my ship found itself in.  I was NOT involved in any of the specific incidents mentioned in the show.

Cool video below on how subs and the cold war were deeply connected.

The last segment on Sweden is interesting.  It suggests that US submarines may have been creating fake "Soviet periscope sightings" to swing a neutral Sweden toward NATO.  A false-flag operation.

For a really entertaining book on this subject, I recommend this: Blind Man's Bluff:  The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage.  Disclaimer: I cannot confirm or deny anything... ;)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Overhauling a Steam Locomotive

Saw this cool video on Boing Boing and had to share it.

This describes the process of overhauling a British steam locomotive.  It's fascinating to watch the craftsmen going about their work.  Obviously steam trains require a tremendous investment in man-hours.  According to the video, this entire process had to be repeated every 130,000 miles.  Ouch!

I don't care though.  They are still incredibly cool machines :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Christmas Tree

The road I live on is pretty rural.  We live out in the woods, and the house sits pretty far back off the road.  Pine and Fir trees crowd the road, and during the winter months, it's a pretty dark drive.

This year for Christmas, I decided to give our road a little color, by lighting one of the smaller trees at the entrance to our driveway.  Now when I say "smaller", that doesn't mean that it is small.  It's still about 20ft tall. 

What I didn't realize was how difficult this project would turn out to be!  At first I drove my truck to the end of the driveway next to the tree.  I stood in the bed of the truck and attempted to hang lights on the tree, by dangling them from a broom.  I didn't have enough height, by a long shot.

So I drove the truck back to the house, got my step-ladder and headed back to the tree.  Because I hate leaning off ladders, I drove the truck right up against the tree.   It was still a pain in the butt to string the lights using the broom (they don't go where you want when you use a broom), and it was a little dangerous as well.

Not my rig, but this was the setup.  Safety first!

Eventually I got the lights strung down low enough to work from the ground, and so I finished up.  I had used six or seven 100ft strands.  Next I strung out three 100ft extension cords, so I could get power to the tree from the house.  When I plugged in the tree, I found out that several of the strands didn't work :(

I ended up going back out to the tree with the truck and the step ladder, and replacing a few strands... although at this point I was nearly as ready to give up as to finish the job.  I bagged all the connections so there would be no electrical faults. 

It ain't exactly how I would have liked it to turn out, but it's not too bad - especially since it was done when the weather wasn't very nice.  In any event, I have the best (the only) lighted tree on a 5 mile stretch of forest road.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sledding Raven

I saw this video and had to put it up.  This raven is sledding (or snowboarding) using what appears to be the lid from a jar. 

I was never very fond of ravens, but I changed my mind after meeting one when I lived in the high desert.  This raven had been tamed by a friend, and was a pretty cool pet.  The raven had a collection of shiny stuff - coins, pull-tops from beer cans, aluminum foil, etc.  When you would give him a piece of dry dog food, he would go to his treasures and bring you back something that he valued in exchange. 

How cool is that?  Too bad people can't understand this basic exchange!