Friday, May 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Varyag

Looks like I'm finally close to being done moving. It's a pain. I guess moving is punishment for being a materialistic capitalist swine.

Anyway, wanted to finally get back to posting. Looks like a lot of people have cut way back on their posting. Hopefully it will pick back up. Anyway, on to a post I've had in my head for a while.


The aircraft carrier Varyag is something I've had my eye on for a while. It's a fascinating story that could have been written by Ian Fleming. China acquired a partially constructed hulk of a Soviet aircraft carrier from Ukraine. The purchase price was way above scrap value. The company that purchased the Varyag was headed by a bunch of retired PLA-Navy officers. They wanted to purchase the vessel for a floating casino in Macau, despite the harbor not being deep enough for a ship the size of the Varyag.

The vessel gets purchased, along with the blueprints, but Turkey won't let it through the Dardanelles because it could sink and block the channel. After intensive diplomatic negotiations, Turkey lets it through. Over many months, the ship is towed to the other side of the world. The Varyag is towed past Macau all the way to China. It arrives not at a civilian port, but a PLAN shipyard. The same day it's tied up to the military wharf, the "casino" company went bankrupt and disappeared.

Varyag World has been covering the story for a while. After it arrived, it sat there for a while. China made several other deals for carriers and carrier aircraft. The carriers were purchased (with blueprints) and slowly scrapped to learn as much as possible about carrier construction. China also purchased several sets of carrier landing equipment to start training pilots.

After a while, the shipyard dry docked the vessel, sandblasted, and painted the vessel and started prepping the deck for takeoffs and landings. Then the Varyag just sat there for a while. Just a few weeks ago, though, the Varyag was brought to a new wharf with many large cranes. The deck is covered with equipment. It looks like the Chinese are adding environmental controls and, finally, propulsion.

Other interesting tidbits: Jane's Information Services reports the PLAN has given it the name "Shi Lang," the first Chinese emperor to capture Taiwan. Could the Varyag be the training platform/stopgap for the first native-built aircraft carriers?

There are a lot more little twists and turns, but that hits some of the high notes. More discussion here.

The other thing that makes the whole saga interesting is carriers might now be a obsolete as big gun battleships were on December 6th, 1941. No surface ship can survive long against a sophisticated foe on the modern battlefield. The military historian Sir John Keegan has said since the Falklands War, surface ships are seriously vulnerable to missile attack. Even the deployment of Close-In Weapons Systems, like the Phalanx don't fully counter the threat. They only counter sea-level missiles. Steeply approaching missiles go right over the protective cover. Also, how long does it take to reload the Phalanx under fire? You can bet, unlike the Exocets and the British during the Falklands, future carriers will have more than 5 missiles to worry about. They'll get cut to ribbons. The only thing in carriers' favor is that the two best ways to hunt a submarine are 1- another sub (included in all carrier battle groups), 2- a squadron of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Helicopters (which carriers just happen to carry).

Supposedly, China has been focusing in on building out their submarine force and saying carriers are just for show. Why the sudden change in thinking?

One final China-related note: "Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang" was just published. Ziyang was the head of China that instituted the economic reforms that launched its incredible economic boom that lasts to this day. He was removed for refusing to take a hard line against the Democratic protesters in Tienanmen Square. His memoirs will give a peak into Chinese politics, a very rare thing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Project Truck Update: Driving Around Edition

As I was driving down St. Charles, took out my camera and took a couple of quick movies. It will give you an idea of how loud the engine is and how rattly the truck is when going over bumps.

Driving by Audubon Park:

Also note the plethora of inoperable gauges.

Going over some bumps and accelerating:

Project Truck Update: Patches Lives!

Very sore as I type this. Got a lot done on the truck yesterday.
World's biggest Christmas present
Friday, I got an 100-lb. package from the UPS guy.
New Seat
Inside was a bench seat from a '58 Chevy truck. It's in pretty good shape, considering it's 50 years old.
Polished up bench seat
After Candice polished it up with gallons of Armor All, it was back to being nice and shiny.

Next, we had to back the truck out the garage and get the driver's door back on and properly aligned. Those doors are hard to hang and a cast iron bitch to get properly aligned. Went to get a fresh battery, because the current couldn't keep a charge since this episode. One thing that shocked me: batteries are more than double of when I purchased the last one! In only a year and a half or so, lead prices have gone through the roof.

Anyway, how do you get a truck out when you have no seat? Easy:
All trucks should have no doors
Just sit on a tool box!

Next, we cleaned up the interior:
Put the seat in and a seat belt:
... and it was ready to roll.

The truck roared to life and drove it home. The plan is to using for moving today. We'll see if the rain will hold out. But, the truck is no longer a garage-queen. It now lives on the street.
Patches arrives at home

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How much coke...

...did it take to come up with this steaming pile of poo?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting back into the swing of things

Originally uploaded by Noladishu
Sorry about the slow posting. Jeffery said, "One week in this town generates enough nutty news to fill 5 years of newsprint most places". So true.

I'm now back from vacation, along with my new fiancee. We're thinking the wedding will be sometime March/April 2010 or so. Definitely after hurricane season.

Things are also going to be a little hectic with moving a few blocks away to a new apartment.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of the view from our balcony in Grayton Beach, FL in the meantime.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Local Politics Roundup - Cinco De Mayo Hangover Edition

Bobby "My middle name is ethics" Jindal kills effort to shine light on Governor's records. Trying to reverse a loophole in his "gold standard" ethics laws that make the Governor's records MORE secret than before.

Mark St. Pierre dropped from suit. Did he just turn snitch?

Mayor Ray Nagin and family went to Jamaica courtesy of Greg Meffert and NetMethods. David Hammer brings the hammer down. Big cover story about Nagin/Meffert and the trips and credit cards. Lots of details about strip clubs.

Nagin's 2008 calender. Analysis by Clancy DuBose, et. al. Works few hours, rarely meets with important individuals (his COO, and his soon to depart Recovery Chief). Nagin tries to hide 2008 meetings with Meffert and Bernardo? I get hiding the Muppet meetings, but why Bernardo? Was Bernardo delivering the mayor some Colombian nose powder or something?

At the end of this article about the red light cameras, TP drops a juicy little tidbit:
ATS, linked to the infamous Johnson Controls (Morial/Pampy Barre energy contract), runs part of the red light cameras.

John Colvin arrested for defrauding Katrina victims in prefabricated housing scheme. None of the articles mention his party affiliation, but from the NY Times archive, I found an article from the 90's saying he was part of a G.O.P. plan to take the legislature in Alabama. Could this guy have some interesting stories to tell? Maybe.

Famous political party switchers: Jim Jeffords, Michael Bloomberg, RAY NAGIN, Loretta Sanchez, Jim Webb, Charles Barkley, Teddy Roosevelt, Rick Perry, and Norm Coleman.

Mitch Landrieu mulls run for mayor. Hmmm... Wonder what the magic 8 ball says about that one.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Reviews

Since Candice has been dragging me to Rue while she does homework, I've had plenty of reading time. Just finished a couple of books and here are some thoughts.

The Radioactive Boy Scout. By Ken Silverstein. The author backtracks the adventure of David Hahn, a teenager who constructs a scarily-close-to-viable breeder reactor in his mother's garage. The book is a pretty quick read (only a few hundred pages) and flows well. The author cuts between narrations of Hahn's experiments and disasters in the atomic power industry. For an English major, he does an incredible job at keeping his facts straight. He still gets the penetration of Beta particles wrong and misattributes a few quotes. It could have used a more thorough fact checking.

What sort of bugged me was he was blatantly anti-nuke throughout the whole book. The author's Wikipedia page notes "Silverstein is a self-described "gadfly" in the newspaper business, and an opponent of what he considers "false 'balance'" in the news media." That's fine and all for, say political reporting, but for scientific reporting, that starts down a slippery path. He also takes a few jabs at the Boy Scouts. He spends almost a chapter talking about how Baden Powell had a fixation on stopping masturbation and was a closeted fascist.

Still and all, it's a quick read, it's an interesting subject, and it's well written. If you read it, just keep that bias in mind as he narrates certain subjects.


I've been trying to work through the "must reads" list. I've been reading Huey Long, by T Harry Williams since the fall semester. It's a thick book, so it's taken me a while (those of you following me on twitter will note my occasional posts the past few months).

Huey Long is one of the most fascinating characters in American History. Every biography of him has taken the stance right from the start that he is either a saint or a scoundrel. Only one has stayed fairly objective and that's the best one. To this day, no scholar can top T Harry Williams' book.

Despite being a little dated in writing style (and vocabulary), I found it a lively read, due in no small part to the subject. The book is exhaustively researched and well annotated.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book:
* Huey Long had a photographic memory. He remembered every word from every book he ever read. An amazing gift for a politician to have.
* Some of Huey's speeches seem like they were written yesterday. A sample:

Mr. Hopkins [WPA] announced twenty-two millions on the dole [Food Stamps], a new high-water mark in that particular sum, a few weeks ago. We find not only the people going further into debt, but that the United States is going further into debt. The states are going further into debt, and the cities and towns are even going into bankruptcy. The condition has become deplorable. Instead of his promises, the only remedy that Mr. Roosevelt has prescribed is to borrow more money if he can and to go further into debt. The last move was to borrow $5 billion [imagine trillion today] more on which we must pay interest for the balance of our lifetimes, and probably during the lifetime of our children. And with it all, there stalks a slimy specter of want, hunger, destitution, and pestilence, all because of the fact that in the land of too much and of too much to wear, our president has failed in his promise to have these necessities of life distributed into the hands of the people who have need of them.

* Huey constantly railed against FDR for appointing Merril bankers to his cabinet. The criticisms have been made of Obama and Goldman Sachs.
* I think one of the things that sets the book above the rest is it's as much a chronicle of the subject's enemies as it is about the subject of the biography. You can't understand Huey's actions without understanding what he was up against.
* While Huey might have started out doing things for the right reasons, once he became a Senator, he started to lose control of his machine. It started to take on a momentum all its own. Huey had to constantly supervise every little detail of its operation. After his death, the machine had total control of the state without someone like Huey to restrain it. I suspect these postmortem excesses might have hurt Huey's reputation more than the record shows he did.
* The person that I thought reminded me the most of Huey Long was The Gracchi of Ancient Rome.
* Huey Long played an important part in FDR's administration. He pulled the administration hard to the left. The things FDR is really remembered for, like Social Security, were things Huey stumped for and FDR implemented to take away Huey's fire. Even then, Huey lambasted FDR for not going far enough in his reforms.

I know the term must-read is over used, but if you're interested in Louisiana politics, T Harry Williams' biography is a must read.

Some supplemental video:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

In-Situ Lining

Originally uploaded by Noladishu
As many of you may have seen, Oak Street is under renovation. They're making good progress.

As I was walking down the street, I saw an interesting piece of equipment and I figure I'd explain to y'all.

The man is standing on a feed unit for an In-Situ Liner. A plastic "balloon" is dragged through the line being repaired and then "inflated."
Here you can see the "balloon" being fed into the unit. A Vynil-ester is usually used to set the balloon [PDF]. The repaired lines can usually withstand a few pounds of pressure (PSIG).

It's an expensive to set up initially, but you can coat an immense area with minimal excavation. If you do a large enough area, the per-unit costs are quite reasonable (say, a few miles of pipe). In-Situ Linin was used extensively in the Mid-City repairs that lasted forever and ended just before Katrina. Think of it like arthroscopic surgery for a sewerage system.

Just a little peak into how the massive infrastructure that supports society is maintained and repaired...

Project Truck Update: Door Panel Cover Color

Originally uploaded by Noladishu
I'm trying to figure out what to do with the inner door covers. They cover up the internals and the access holes in the door.

I'm thinking about painting them either white (to match the rest of the door) or red. Here's a sample cover I painted red and hung on the door with just a couple of screws (the exact alignment will be slightly different when I install the dozen or so set screws).

Which color do you like more?

Here are a couple more photos to help you see what I'm talking about:

White panels.

Door open.

Door without panel (so you get an idea of what the white might look like).

Leave your feedback in the comments. Thanks.

UPDATE- Look at this truck for more red and white two-tone pics.

Project Truck Update: More Painting

Got into a little painting yesterday.

Prep for painting. Had to wash away the paw prints

Shiny Roof. Took this photo while standing on the roof. I had to wear sunglasses and even then, I was almost blinded taking this photo.

Top View.

Primer doesn't completely seal the base metal. Now the roof will be water proof and rust proof.

Rusty Floor.

Primed Floor.

Painted Floor.

Painted the passenger side of the floor. I was out of flat black paint, so I decided to try some "Truck Bed Liner." I think it will work nicely and give a nice textured surface that will give feet more traction.

NOTE- Click any of the photos to enlarge.