Thursday, April 28, 2005

Busy busy busy

I've been terrible about posting lately -- combination of spring, travel for work, homework, and occasional sleep.

Fortunately, Fausta, The Prop, Roberto and Enlighten-NJ are covering all the bases.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

USS America

Great pictures of a fine ship at CVN78. It's really a shame to see an aircraft carrier used as a target, but in this way she can serve one final duty for her country. God Speed, America. Fair winds and following seas!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lest We Forget

The Prop over at coffeegrounds reminds us that today is the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, but I never remember April 19th that way.

I remember a beautiful, sunny day much like today. All was right with the world, and my ship was en route to an exercise in the Puerto Rico operating area. To get ready, we were training and rehearsing along the way. We had set Condition II (Gun Quarters) that morning, and I was due to take my watch as Officer of the Deck in a few hours. The first shoot of the day during the forenoon watch would exercise the port section, and then the starboard section would follow after lunch.

I was in the Deck office, talking with the bosun. I don't remember exactly what we were talking about, but it was probably something about DC qualifications, a never-ending discussion in a department of 300 men with 80% non-rates. (Bosun, if you're out there, do you remember?) Shortly before the scheduled main battery shoot, there was a loud boom that shook everything in our office. I remember the vent diffuser over the 1st Lieutenant's desk (where I was sitting) falling out and crashing down.

The bosun and I looked at each other and I said, "was that the 5-inch?" As soon the words came out of my mouth, the GQ alarm sounded and we knew that something had gone horribly wrong. The voice of boatswain's mate of the watch confirmed it as the bosun and I ran out the door and on our separate ways. "Explosion in Turret 2!"

I ran to the bridge through a fairly thick, but not overwhelming cloud of smoke. When I got there, it was chaotic. I was supposed to take the deck for GQ, but after about 5 seconds of consultation the port section OOD and I decided he should keep the deck and I should dive in and help pick up the slack.

First priority was to get the smoke moving away from the fire parties on deck and to get the bridge team settled down. The JOOD was a sharp LT j.g. from the Citadel and had been in engineering (M division officer, if I recall correctly) for about two years. I relieved him of the conn and sent him below to help out where he could in engineering. He earned a Navy Commendation Medal for his actions later that day.

The firefighting and rescue efforts of our crew were simultaneously the most frightening and proudest moments I can recall in my Navy career. Sixteen years later, it's strange what details stand out in your mind, and what becomes a blur. Little snippets of the battle, like the image of our two Marine officers working to enter the escape hatch on the aft starboard corner of the turret, I'll never forget. The reports that the powder magazine crews had escaped relatively unharmed and that DC Central needed to evacuate because of the smoke also bubble to the surface, but I can't recall in what order these events happened.

The worst part for me happened after we had the fire out. We mustered the crew to find out who was missing. After the reports came in from each division, the names of those unaccounted for were called out over the 1MC. It seemed that the list of names was read hundreds of times. When it was over, we knew that we had lost 47 men. From Seaman Recruit up to Senior Chief Gunner's Mate and Lieutenant Junior Grade, they had died at their posts, doing their duty.

They were my shipmates, and I'm proud to have served with them. I wish I could have known them better, and longer. I remember Turret Two.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Strange Behavior

One of my fine visitors (originally directed here from DynamoBuzz, thanks Roberto!) has been repeatedly reloading my main page. Sometimes it happens as often as 3 times a minute.
Apparently, this person really likes my stuff. I will try to post more often, but I'm not sure I can keep up with that kind of demand.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Big Day in NJ Politics

Today was the deadline for filing petitions to run in the June primary. PoliticsNJ has all kinds of information available, including who’s in and who’s out (or might be out). Here are the headlines, but stop by over there for the details:

- Ten candidates have filed nominating petitions to run for Governor
- Bret Shundler will run his own lines in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer and Union
- Paul DiGaeatano will run his own line in Essex County

- In Camden County, Bret Schundler will run on a ticket with Freeholder candidate Bill Collins
- Todd Caliguire says he has applied for matching funds
- Doug Forrester may file rival slates in some counties
- James D. Kelly, Jr. of Chester has filed petitions to run in the Democratic primary for Governor
And my personal favorite:
- Candidates for Governor and State Assembly will have until Thursday to file a criminal conviction disclosure statement
Also of interest, PoliticsNJ has kindly posted the vote totals from the county conventions. If you sum up all of the first ballot results, Doug Forrester is the clear leader, but without a clear majority:

















Of course, there's no guarantee that the voters will follow their county activists & leaders. Witness the 2001 primary, where Schundler beat Bob Franks by nearly 50,000 votes after Franks had most of the county organization lines. Also, the county-by-county support for Forrester isn't really as strong as the above totals would indicate. He only took majorities in three counties on the first ballot, as shown below.

































































Now that the petitions are in, let the games officially begin!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

NJ Gubernatorial Race

Up until now, Todd Caliguire had been somewhat of a mystery to me. Now, courtesy of Enlighten NJ, I've found his campaign web site. Caliguire has some interesting ideas about how to go about reducing state spending, how to reform state government, etc.
His campaign tagline is a simultaneous dig at both Corzine and Forrester: "Elect a governor for his ideas, not his money." He also seems to be the only candidate providing links to all of his competitors, and has a nice summary of seven reasons to elect him.
Nicely done.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Capital Academy Case Goes to Court: TheColumns VI

Yesterday, Restorative Programming's Capital Academy had its day in court versus Delanco Township. As I reported here, here, here, here, and here, Capital Academy proposed placing a "group home" for "troubled" teenage boys in a former senior citizens' home. The Columns is a beautiful mansion on the Delaware River, situated in a residential district.
Based on the residential zoning and the existing variances approved for the property, the Joint Land Use Board, supported by most of the township, denied Capital Academy's proposed use. Capital Academy, which currently operates its facility under a state contract, asserted it was a state agency, and thus immune from local zoning laws. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes

Restorative Programming said that because it is licensed by the state, and because the teens it treats are sent by the state, it is essentially an arm of the state and therefore exempt from local land use law.

The Board unanimously disagreed at a public meeting, so Capital Academy appealed to the Superior Court. Judge John A. Sweeney has jurisdiction over the case.
The Camden Courier Post sums up the decision:

Sweeney called any attempt to confer immunity on a private corporation "an unwarranted departure from the immunity doctrine."

"It is not the purpose of the courts to create new law," Sweeney said in announcing what he called one of the most difficult decisions he has been called on to make in recent years.

Sweeney's ruling means the company will have to explore other options if it wants to open a home in Delanco.

Of course, Capital Academy has the option to appeal Judge Sweeney's decision. Their attorney is Paul Josephson, a former assistant state attorney general and political power-player. The Courier Post notes that Josephson

expressed disappointment in Sweeney's decision but noted that "the case isn't over" and said the company will be reviewing its options over the weekend.
One of those options is to find a more appropriate site. Apparently, Capital Academy is a bit schizophrenic on that option. According to the Courier Post,

Asked if the company were pursuing other sites, Josephson suggested that it was but added that its resolve on the Delanco site has not waned.

"The state has a compelling need to find room for a lot of kids," he said. "We are always in the process of looking for other locations. Whether this is a success or a failure, we'll still be looking for other locations."

But the Burlington County Times reports

Josephson declined to comment on whether the agency was looking for an alternative site for the center.
It's apparent that this case is far from over. Delanco landed some good body blows and won rounds 1 and 2, but this is a 12-round championship bout. Our township needs the endurance to outlast a company that is determined to get its way, supported by an experienced political player in its corner. There is very little rest before round 3, as the Inquirer reminds us (emphasis mine):
The company now has several options, including filing an appeal, pursuing other legal arguments, or going back to the Delanco Joint Land Use Board to ask for a zoning variance. A conference with the judge was scheduled for next week.
Stay ready, Delanco.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

For the Occasional Road Warrior

I travel fairly frequently for my job, but don't carry a cell phone. As you might imagine, calling home to check up on the kids can be problematic in this condition. The last time I placed a call home (via AT&T) from a hotel, it cost me something north of $20.
Back in early March, I heard about a service called Skype. On the surface, it looks like a typical IM client. I've used it to chat with my wife while on the road, which works out cheaper than calling from the hotel (i.e., free with an internet connection), but wasn't as satisfying as an actual conversation. Also, text chatting with my 3-year-old son just doesn't work.
Skype has an additional service called SkypeOut. SkypeOut allows you to call regular telephones just about worldwide for a flat rate. I signed up for the service today, loaded my account up with about $13 (Skype uses euros) via PayPal, and called home. The sound quality was pretty decent on a cheap Logitech headset, once I got the mike adjusted correctly. I spent 43 minutes on the phone with my wife and three of the kids, then called my mother and taked for another 19. Net cost, $1.46, or 2.3 cents per minute.
If you travel, and worry about paying ridiculous hotel rates for phone calls, or have trouble managing your monthly cell phone minutes, Skype just might be for you. Check it out.

I haven't posted for a few days

Here's a little song to entertain you

(imagine the tune in your head)

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday dear Ken
Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

New Jersey Governor Race

Polipundit's Alexander McClure has another short comment on the 2005 New Jersey Governor Race. He notes the county endorsement kabuki dance currently going on, then cuts down both Forrester (too moderate, but rich) and Schundler (too radical). His bottom line:

it is all about charisma versus cash in the Garden State. If only we had someone with both charisma and cash.
Given that the presumptive Democrat nominee is completely void of charisma, I think we'd be better off with someone energetic and poor.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Anchor Rising: Casinos & Financial Literacy

Carroll Andrew Morse posted an interesting piece yesterday about Casinos & Financial Literacy. I found the description of the casino business model especially applicable to our situation here in New Jersey. Stop by and check it out.

Some of my readers may have noticed this fine Blue State conservative group blog over in my blogroll: Anchor Rising. They cover politics from the lonely right side of Rhode Island. Having mis-spent my youth there, I have a special place in my heart for the smallest state. These guys give me hope that some day it'll get straightened out and be safe to go back :^). Jersey could use a group effort of a similar nature, bringing together the best writings from the various bloggers across the state.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Science Fiction

Just watched the season finale of the finest science fiction on television. What an amazing show. I'm not sure I can wait until July to find out what happens next.

This is not your parents' Battlestar Galactica.

Latest Capital Academy Update: The Columns V

Here's a follow-up to my last Capital Academy Update (from February 19th). The court civil motions calendar shows that Judge Sweeney will hear a motion for summary judgement filed by Restorative Programming on April 8th, 2005 at 9:00 AM. The docket number is L-003533-04, and the hearing is scheduled in court room 7C for those who wish to attend.