Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stupid Green

So, I'm an environmentalist, albeit one more of the Bjorn Lomborg variety. I've been trying to reduce my impact on the environment way before carbon footprint was a buzz phrase.

So today I'm going to inaugurate a theme about Stupid Green, what I call those who wind up wasting vastly more energy than they save while trying to maintain a "green" facade. Say something like shipping an "eco-friendly" car by air.

Today's winner: The Philadelphia Eagles football team, who, as part of their Go Green campaign, created an environmentally-themes swimsuit calendar featuring the cheerleading squad. Take a look at these pictures though, and once you're done oggling and whatever, uh, else you feel like doing, consider this.

All that is promised is pictures of ladies in suits using recycled or eco-friendly materials for their construction. Take a look at the beach in the background... that look anywhere close to Philly? It's Punta Cana, apparently. So for the purpose of a "Eco-Friendly" calendar, the team flew a whole bunch of people roughly 1,500 miles to a tropical location, transported them around for various shoots, put them up, and brought them back.

Now, I'm not belittling a swimsuit calendar in the slightest; just the fact that they're trying to label it as a "green" project. If part of the funds went to green programs, great, but they don't mention that on the calendar page. Riding the green wave...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stirring up the blue muck

This is a rough draft for a post I plan on making in a week or so.

So, when I was down in San Bruno back in May I spent some time looking for and then through World War Two Naval camouflage documents. There is an argument that the the battleship Arizona was not painted in Dark Gray as previously thought, but in a newer paint called Sea Blue and designated 5-S.

This has been a contentious and acrimonious viewpoint, and it hasn't helped that one of the proponents and researchers championing this view backed out of plans to publish his referenced findings in disgust over treatment he was receiving. It can be hard defending a view when you have no leg to stand on.

I was one of the researchers who went looking for documentation, since Puget Sound Naval Shipyard was where Arizona's last major overhaul was and where she was due for another one soon. It was not surprising that I didn't find anything as orders were found to destroy by burning all of Arizona's records when she was struck from the Navy's list of active ships. No direct information was found for Arizona one way or another in regards to the paint she wore on December 7th, 1941 when she and 1,177 of her crew were immolated by a magazine explosion caused by a japanese-dropped bomb.

So other methods were used. General orders were located and collected, and a piece of the carrier Enterprise, freshly painted, that had been found accidentally, was used as a comparison piece. When compared to color charts, the 5-D Dark Gray paint was found to have a darker Munsell value than the #82 camouflage black paint in use at the time.

Combined with orders found to phase out production of 5-D in favour of Sea Blue at the end of July, the theory was that by the time Arizona was under repair following a collision in October, stocks of 5-D would have been depleted enough, and orders have been found to paint other ships in 5-S by that time.

So, back to San Bruno. Buried within some unprocessed boxes I found some correspondence from Mare Island Navy Yard, which was the yard in charge of paint manufacture on the west coast at that time. I've been posting the relevant ones the last week or so, and am about ready to make a thesis statement of sorts.

On the 11th of July BuShips (The Bureau of Ships) sent a memo to the Shipyards at Norfolk, Mare Island, and Cavite, warning them that the manufacture of 5-D was most likely to stop soon and to not build up a stockpile. On the 30th of July the official word came down to cease production of 5-D and to start production of 5-S.

Mare Island complied, and I found a cluster of documents starting on the 21nd of August, 1941, where they returned outstanding paint requisitions with instructions to re-submit a requisition for the new two-part. Shipyards were responded to early on, with Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound,, and Naval Supply Depot San Diego having responses written on August 21st, then ships. Arizona's was sent out on August 22 and Pennsylvania's on the 29th. Another document referenced the same type of letter issued to the light cruiser Helena on the 18th of August.

This document is interesting in that it orders Helena to paint into Sea Blue on the 26th of August, but also that it references a letter from Mare Island to Helena similar to the above requisition resubmissions but dated the 19th (Ref (d), so obviously the 21st was not the earliest that Mare Island was sending out these orders. But, as we can see some ships were ordered into Sea Blue fairly quickly after the orders went out from BuShips to start using 5-S.

Now, in regards to Arizona, what do these documents prove? Only that Mare Island declined to provide Arizona with 5-D. She could have been painted in 5-D from stock Pearl Harbor still had; unfortunately the only paint and camouflage documents I found from Pearl Harbor were circa mid 1944 and later.

How likely is it that Pearl Harbor still had 5-D when Arizona was repainted following her collision with Battleship Oklahoma in October? We don't know the exact dates she was repainted, but there is a picture of her in drydock on November 8th and it's likely she was repainted around that time. So there is essentially three months between when 5-D production was stopped and Arizona was painted, and *roughly* two and a half months between when Mare Island first told Pearl Harbor to re-requisition 5-S, declining to provide 5-D.

What we don't know:
  • What the Pearl Harbor requisition was. Was it a regular, scheduled request for a set amount, or did they request only when stocks reached a certain level?

  • What Pearl Harbor's Paint Stocks were.

  • Would Arizona have repainted from ship's stocks or yard stocks. An order had been issued in late July to mid august (I don't have a copy) from Admiral King to the entire fleet to only keep enough 5-D paint for one touch up of the ship's hull, which excludes the superstructure. Superstructures were to be touched up in 5-O or 5-S, under the designation of "Measure 2 modified."

  • What orders were in effect when Arizona was repainted following repair? It has been pointed out that Admiral Kimmel ordered ships that had exhausted their supply of 5-D to repaint all over in 5-S, which Arizona doesn't match. However, his order took nearly a month to hit Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Only about a week of that would be surface transit if sent by ship. Is it possible that it took long enough for the paperwork to work its way through the system that it wasn't in effect when Arizona was repaired and repainted?

  • What other orders might there be out there from type commanders in regards to ship camouflage that would put a ship "outside" of what the documentation for the time would suggest, such as Helena.
  • Monday, July 14, 2008

    On numbers

    I send in many of the photos I find to Navsource as well as ships' organizations and survivors.

    One of the things that confused the editors when I started working with them and confuses many people is what photo numbers truly mean, whether they start with 80-G, NYD, or are just a string like 1234-45. I received an e-mail today from a guy looking for the "80-G" number for a photo I had posted that was from Seattle NARA. While that might seem like a reasonable question, it just indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the archival records, which is not a surprise as there are no "FAQs" out there for people to learn from. Consider this the beginning of one.

    NARA (The National Archives And Records Administration) is charged with preserving US Governmental records. When an agency, such as the FBI, IRS, DOE, etc., is finished with records they turn it over to NARA for archiving. These records are organized into Record Groups; you can see the list of them here.

    Concerning Naval records, there are several different ones; RG19, "Records of the Bureau of Ships;" RG24, "Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel;" RG38, "Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations;" and so on and so forth. There is not one single "Navy" record group, and a researcher needs to know which ones to best target when looking for a particular theme of information.

    By far the two most "popular" or referenced are Record Group 19 and Record Group 80. RG19 is the Bureau of ships and contains a high number of photos of ships following repairs and overhaul, and 80-G, a subset of RG80, is more of a hodgepodge, with some repair and overhaul photos but also a lot of operations and locations photos. You may also see photos with "NHC" in the title, but these are reference numbers for photos held by the Navy Historical Center.

    It is possible for the same picture to have multiple ID numbers or none at all. For example, a RG19 photo may have been turned over to 80-G before the records were turned over as part of 19, and then from 80-G to NHC, and each would have their own number. Or, the photo could be part of a report in RG-181, "Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments" and thus have no official photo number. I once found some photos in the records of Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard that were from NHC... so these were records that were duplicates of NHC photos of official Navy photos... now being held by NARA in a regional archive. Confusing?

    Some photos have captions on them with a number listed, something like "1234-45" or "NY9-1234-50." These numbers were assigned by the shipyard or base that the photos were taken and have no real use as a reference. They may be of some use in that the last portion equates to the year, and in the numbers that start with "NY," the shipyard can be determined, but the number itself is merely a sequential number and can tell no more than whether it was shot earlier in the year or later. In most cases there is no central collection of photos from a shipyard that can be accessed so these numbers are nothing more than a tease at this point.

    There is the hope that over time more of these photos will turn up; there are unprocessed records in many of the archives that are waiting for NARA to have the resources to make them available, and then for a researcher to find them. But it's not a quick process.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Energy Stupidity

    "They have a responsibility to explain to their constituents why we should not be drilling for more oil here in America to take the pressure off of gasoline prices."

    So says President George Bush, and he's been consistently stating that we need to drill the US for more oil. But that is ALL that he is saying. He's still demonstrating a total lack of forward vision and strategic positioning.

    Increasing supply is only one aspect of reducing the affects of dependence on foreign energy sources. Ensuring more efficient utilization of what we do use is another method that must be considered. Even if we were to totally shift our usage to internal sources, the amount that we use leaves us in a vulnerable position if there were to be any disruption is supply.

    We have done major investments and national projects before, I offer as examples NACA, the Manhattan Project, and President Kennedy's Apollo Program Challenge.

    The consistent failure to even address the subject of conservation or improving efficiency points to the president either not truthfully caring about the future strength and position of the country he is leading, or not understanding the concept of scarcity of resources.

    Personally, I would like to see programs to foster American technologies in heating and cooling, lighting, and transportation. They should not only decrease our usage and dependence of fuels from foreign and domestic sources but be technologies tht can be licensed such that the American public receives additional benefits from the investment.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    I like systems

    I took some 300-level classes in "environmental studies" in college. Oddly enough, there was not one lesson in the proper way to hug trees; there was some basic stuff about how the earth worked as a system, but mostly the classes were about humans. Land use patterns, migration patterns, cultural patterns, things that one might not associate with "environmental" studies at first glance.

    Side note, Morris Uebelacker was the man and was one of two professors I rate as exceptional in my 4-year college experience. The second you can't find online.

    I like systems, as I said above; I like learning about them and understanding them. In this context a system is a pattern; a method for getting something done. One of the reasons I started into naval research is that I had to learn the Navy Filing SYSTEM; I do I.T. for a living because there are computer and network SYSTEMS, and I like working in the small-business side because it puts me in contact with a variety of companies, each with their own SYSTEM for doing things.

    I also like finding weaknesses or flaws in systems and trying to figure out ways to remove or mitigate them. A lot of that involves seeing where confusion happens.

    So, let's take a turn-of-the-century town; one or two story buildings, with the building right up on the sidewalk. No parking, because cars aren't part of that system. Fast forward 50 years, and you start to see things like fast food restaurants and strip malls, buildings with large open spaces for cars to park. Cars have become part of the system and you can just look at a McDonalds, for example, and innately KNOW that there is parking in front of the doors, and a drive-through around the side and back.

    Now let's take a look at today, with the higher costs of land. At least in Bellevue, where I work, we're seeing a lot of those one-story large parking lot buildings go away, replaced by multi-story "mixed use" units with commercial space on the ground floor and residential above that. A Safeway recently moved into a new building of such design, and it struck me today that I don't entirely understand that system.

    Once again we have a building run out to the sidewalk, so you have to search around for an entrance to a parking garage. Is the parking free? Does it cost? Or does it run in some sort of hybrid where a merchant will validate you for a certain period of time?

    This is a much more complex system because it's harder to identify at a distance or in advance; you have to commit and physically drive into a garage like this before you can see prices, whereas the open lots usually have signs you can see as you drive up, or are readily identifiable as free lots you can just park and go in.

    There's no real point to this other than saying I get confused sometimes, but I can't wait until cars are completely automated to the point that you just state an address and sit back.