Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oh, Dear...

I don't believe that I've ever said this before in this space, but in my opinion the three worst things that can happen to a manned spacecraft are, in order:

(1) A collision with another spacecraft,

(2) A fire or explosion on board the spacecraft, and

(3) A major toilet malfunction.

You might believe that my #3 is a bit too high on the list, but I beg to differ. Down here, if your toilet backs up, you always have the option of going up to the local gas station, or borrowing a neighbor's, or in extremis sneaking out to the back yard.

You can't do any of those when you're in a spacecraft. Stepping out for a leak isn't just bad form, it's fatal.

Bearing that in mind, you can easily imagine why this item is of such urgent alarm to NASA.

"Ah, Houston, we've got a problem ... The can's broke." Yeah, it's not quite as urgent as the problem on Apollo 13 was, but as far as crew morale goes, it's still a biggie. Having to do your business into a Ziploc baggie after getting used to the high life of having a more or less real toilet is probably a spirit-breaker.

The good news is that NASA has a quick-turnaround fix. If all goes well, Discovery will take flight this afternoon with a Japanese laboratory module, and just as eagerly anticipated (at least for the crew), spare parts to fix the toilet. Spacemen won't let their brothers go without a working toilet if they can help it.

Well, American spacemen won't, anyway ... If it were the Russians in charge, they might tell 'em to man it up and deal. They're a bit hard-core that way.

[Addendum, 4Jun08: Operation House Call is a success! The new parts have been installed, and everyone's very, very happy ... Oh yeah, and the new lab's been installed, too.]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I know what I want for Christmas!

One of these:

And one of these:

Yes, brothers, your high-speed jet-powered future has arrived! Act now, before supplies run out...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

From the Lay of Horatius, by Thomas Babington Macaulay:


But the Consul's brow was sad, and the Consul's speech was low,
And darkly looked he at the wall, and darkly at the foe.
"Their van will be upon us before the bridge goes down;
And if they once might win the bridge, what hope to save the town?"


Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,


And for the tender mother who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses his baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus, that wrought the deed of shame?


Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, with all the speed ye may!
I, with two more to help me, will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path, a thousand may well be stopped by three:
Now, who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?'
The Ballad of Rodger Young, by Frank Loesser

Oh, they've got no time for glory in the Infantry.
Oh, they've got no use for praises loudly sung.
But in every soldier's heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.

Shines the name, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry.
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young.

Caught in ambush lay a company of riflemen
Just grenades against machine guns in the gloom.
Caught in ambush till this one of twenty riflemen
Volunteered, volunteered to meet his doom.

Volunteered, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting annals of the Infantry
Glows the last deed of Private Rodger Young.

It was he who drew the fire of the enemy
That a company of men might live to fight.
And before the deadly fire of the enemy
Stood the man, stood the man we hail tonight.

On the island of New Georgia in the Solomons
Stands a simple wooden cross alone to tell.
That beneath the silent coral of the Solomons
Sleeps a man, sleeps a man remembered well.

Sleeps a man, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting spirit of the Infantry
Breathes the spirit of Private Rodger Young.

No, they've got no time for glory in the Infantry.
No, they've got no use for praises loudly sung.
But in every soldier's heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.

Shines the name, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots." We are free today because every generation of Americans has faithfully taken their turn to water that tree. They will not be forgotten.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Video Del Fuego, Part VI

Those of you who enjoy good crash footage will love this entry. I don't want to give it away, except to say that no sentients were harmed in the making of this film. So, without further ado, here's today's Video Del Fuego entry:

"The Not-So-Irresistable Force Meets the Mostly Immovable Object", or

"I Fought The Wall, And The Wall Won".

Friday, May 09, 2008

I Like Monkeys

Editor's Note: I did not write this piece, nor do I know exactly who did. I first saw it about fifteen years ago on the public forum area of a local BBS. If you're in the right frame of mind (well, some might say the wrong frame of mind) it's very funny. I ran across it a few weeks ago by doing a Google search, and am saving it here for posterity.


I like monkeys.

The pet store was selling them for five cents a piece. I thought that odd since they were normally a couple thousand each. I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I bought 200. I like monkeys.

I took my 200 monkeys home. I have a big car. I let one drive. His name was Sigmund. He was retarded. In fact, none of them were really bright. They kept punching themselves in their genitals. I laughed. Then they punched my genitals. I stopped laughing.

I herded them into my room. They didn't adapt very well to their new environment. They would screech, hurl themselves off of the couch at high speeds and slam into the wall. Although humorous at first, the spectacle lost its novelty halfway into its third hour.

Two hours later I found out why all the monkeys were so inexpensive: they all died. No apparent reason. They all just sorta' dropped dead. Kinda' like when you buy a goldfish and it dies five hours later. Damn cheap monkeys.

I didn't know what to do. There were 200 dead monkeys lying all over my room, on the bed, in the dresser, hanging from my bookcase. It looked like I had 200 throw rugs.

I tried to flush one down the toilet. It didn't work. It got stuck. Then I had one dead, wet monkey and 199 dead, dry monkeys.

I tried pretending that they were just stuffed animals. That worked for a while, that is until they began to decompose. It started to smell real bad.

I had to pee but there was a dead monkey in the toilet and I didn't want to call the plumber. I was embarrassed.

I tried to slow down the decomposition by freezing them. Unfortunately there was only enough room for two monkeys at a time so I had to change them every 30 seconds. I also had to eat all the food in the freezer so it didn't all go bad.

I tried burning them. Little did I know my bed was flammable. I had to extinguish the fire.

Then I had one dead, wet monkey in my toilet, two dead, frozen monkeys in my freezer, and 197 dead, charred monkeys in a pile on my bed. The odor wasn't improving.

I became agitated at my inability to dispose of my monkeys and to use the bathroom. I severely beat one of my monkeys. I felt better.

I tried throwing them away but the garbage man said that the city wasn't allowed to dispose of charred primates. I told him that I had a wet one. He couldn't take that one either. I didn't bother asking about the frozen ones.

I finally arrived at a solution. I gave them out as Christmas gifts. My friends didn't know quite what to say. They pretended that they like them but I could tell they were lying. Ingrates. So I punched them in the genitals.

I like monkeys.