Portland, the End 

We were extraordinarily productive today, both in terms of what we accomplished as well as what we ate and drank.

Two of us actually made it to the gym this morning. It was a rushed workout but more or less excused 1/13th of my lunch so I count it as a win.

The second of my Stumptown visits consisted of a super smooth latte and a taste of the nitrogen powered cold brew coffee. That liquid is really something else; since the nitrogen is entirely non reactive, the coffee that it pulls up is extraordinarily clean and smooth.

After some juggling of logistics we took ourselves down to lunch. The place we wanted to go was closed, which turned out to be the best thing about today because we wouldn’t have gone into Petit Provence otherwise.

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The place does some magnificent food. There were burgundy-infused poached egg benedicts, French baked eggs, risotto cakes, and other things far too delicious to count. Also, French pastry (like macarons!) and excellent croissants.

From there we made our way to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. One of the coolest things about OMSI is that it has a decommissioned submarine, the USS Blueback.

The world of submarines is a fascinating one. It was one of the last diesel engine subs, built just before 1960 and decommissioned about 1990. The latest subs are all nuclear powered, but much of the technology on a submarine has been around for a while.

A sub doesn’t offer much personal space. About 77 men served on it and there was less than 70 beds, so 2-3 men occupied a bed in between round-the-clock shifts. Also there wasn’t exactly much air circulation – and showers were limited to ten icy cold minutes every two weeks – so the aroma of the sub must have been thick enough to cut.

Food supplies presented another interesting challenge. To store enough food for 77 men who ate four times a day and were in a sealed metal container under the ocean for months on end, they stored cans stacked two deep on floors, under seats, in freezers and lockers, and occasionally in the showers.

For all the human element though there must have been a remarkable amount of mental and physical discipline. Every man, practically, knew how to operate every part of the sub. This was including the fiendishly complicated engine and navigation rooms, as well as the torpedoes.

 

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The navigation room, and also where the periscopes are.

 

There are several torpedoes on board the sub, ranging from the simplistic point and shoot ones where the sub would have to be lined up to hit a target, to wired torpedoes which could be programmed and then adjusted mid-flight to hit a target.

In fact, rather a small number of them have actually been fired. A larger number have been loaded into the firing chamber and then retracted, so one can only imagine the standoff that must have pre-empted that.

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One of the newer, wired torpedoes

The construction of the submarine is paradoxical, in a way. Its hulls consist of incredibly dense material that can withstand crush depths of beyond 12,000 feet — and yet its nautical equipment can detect other submarines at vast distances, as well as the tiny mutterings of popcorn shrimp. And the two biggest threats to any submarine are (technically obviously but also paradoxically) fires, and flooding.

Now I’m back in my room in California and wondering if the terrible weather in Portland can be excused by its many virtues.

Anyway it’s only an hour and a half away…

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