Thursday, July 28, 2005


Little Carol was in the garden, filling a hole,
when her neighbor peered over the fence.

Interested in what the cheeky-faced youngster was doing, he asked,
"What are you up to there, Carol?"

My goldfish is dead," replied Carol tearfully, without looking up,
"and I've just buried him."

The neighbor laughed and said condescendingly,
"That a really big hole for a goldfish, isn't it?"

Carol patted down the last heap of earth, then replied,
"That's because he's inside your cat."


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

NASA sued for upsetting horoscope

Who says no good deed goes unpunished!

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A Russian astrologer took legal action against NASA for compensation Monday, claiming that the US space agency's bombardment of the Tempel 1 comet will upset her horoscope and violates her spiritual rights.

The experiment, in which NASA fired a projectile the size of a fridge at the comet Monday, was an attack on "the holy of holies," Marina Bai's law suit claims, according to Russian press reports. Her suit, filed at a Moscow court,
claims violation of her "life and spiritual values."

"In any case, it is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit and associated ephemera will change after the explosion, which interferes with my practice of astrology and deforms my horoscope," the Izvestia daily quoted Bai
as saying.

Bai is demanding 8.7 billion rubles (300 million dollars, 250 million euros) compensation.

Her lawyer, Alexander Molokhov, told the Moscow Echo radio that the case is based on solid legal ground, since NASA has a representative office on Russian territory.

Bai originally attempted to have a court prevent the experiment from taking place, but her suit was rejected. After a higher city court intervened, the court agreed to hear the case -- though too late to protect Tempel 1.

The NASA probe rammed into the comet, which lies 133 million kilometers (83 million miles) from Earth, early Monday as part of an experiment that scientists hope will help reveal how the Universe was formed.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Master's accountability report ......

Dropping the anchors from a large vessel is not without its own risks...
as illustrated by a story--allegedly true, but I won't swear to it--a friend sent me years ago:


The following report, from a ship's master is reproduced by kind permission of the anonymous author who appears to be gifted with remarkable sang froid.

It is with regret and haste that I write this letter to you; regret that such a small misunderstanding could lead to the following circumstances, and haste in order that you get this report before you form your own pre-conceived opinions from reports in the world press, for I am sure that they will tend to overdramatise the affair.

We had just picked up the pilot and the apprentice had returned from changing the "G" flag for the "H" and, it being his first trip, he was having difficulty in rolling the "G" flag up. I therefore proceeded to show him how. Coming to the last part I told him to "let go!" The lad, although willing, is not too bright, necessitating my having to repeat the order in a sharper tone. At this moment the Chief Officer appeared from the chart room, having been plotting the vessel's progress, and, thinking that it was the anchors that were being referred to, repeated the "let go" order to the Third Officer on the forecastle. The port anchor, having been cleared away but not walked out, was promptly let go! The effect of letting the anchor drop from the" pipe" while the vessel was proceeding at full harbour speed, proved too much for the windlass brake and the entire length of the port cable was pulled out "by the roots." I fear that the damage to the chain locker may be extensive.

The braking effect of the port anchor naturally caused the vessel to sheer in that direction, right towards the swing bridge that spans a tributary to the river, up which we were proceeding. The operator of the swing bridge, showed great presence of mind by opening the bridge for my ship. Unfortunately he did not stop the vehicular traffic first, the result being that the bridge partly opened and deposited a Volkswagen, two cyclists and a livestock truck on the foredeck. My ship's company are at present rounding up the contents of the latter, which from the noise I would say are pigs. In his efforts to stop the progress of the vessel, the Third Officer dropped the starboard anchor, too late to be of practical use, for it fell on the swing bridge operator's control cabin.

After the port anchor was let go and the vessel started to sheer, I gave a double ring "Full Astern" on the engine room telegraph and personally rang the Engine Room to order maximum astern revolutions. I was informed that the sea temperature was 53 degrees and asked if there was a film tonight. My reply would not add constructively to this report.

Up to now I have confined my report to the activities at the forward end of the vessel. Down aft they were having their own problems. At the moment the port anchor was let go, the second officer was supervising the making fast of the after tug and was lowering the ship's towing spring down on to the tug. The sudden braking effect on the port anchor caused the tug to "run in under" the stern of my vessel, just at the moment when the propeller was answering my double ring to "Full astern."

The prompt action of the second officer in securing the inboard end of the towing spring delayed the sinking of the tug by some minutes, thereby allowing the safe abandoning of that vessel.

It is strange, but at that very same moment of letting go the port anchor, there was a power cut ashore. The fact that we were passing over a "cable area " at the time might suggest that we touched something on the bottom of the river bed. It is perhaps lucky that the high tension cables brought down by the foremast were not live, possibly being replaced by the underwater cable, but owing to the shore blackout, it is impossible to say where the pylon fell.

It never fails to amaze me, the actions of foreigners during moments of minor crisis. The pilot, for instance, is at the moment huddled in the corner, having consumed a bottle of gin in a time worthy of inclusion in The Guinness Book of Records. The tug captain on the other hand reacted violently, and had to be forcibly restrained by the steward, who has him handcuffed in the ship's hospital, where he is now, telling me to do impossible things with my ship and crew.

I enclose the names and addresses of the drivers and insurance companies of the vehicles on my foredeck, which the third officer collected after his somewhat hurried evacuation of the forecastle. These particulars will enable you to claim for the damage that they did to the railings of the No 1 hold.

I am closing this preliminary report, as I am finding it difficult to concentrate with the sound of police sirens and flashing lights. It is sad to think, that had the apprentice realized that there is no need to fly pilot flags after dark, none of this would have happened.

For weekly Accountability Report I will assign the following Casualty Numbers....
T17501010 to T 17501990 inclusive.

Yours truly, (name withheld)