Proshchai, MIR!

March 23, 2001

After years of putting astronauts in danger, the ultimate thrill-ride MIR, the Russian (formerly Soviet, formerly Romanov–since it was apparently built in pre-revolutionary times) space station is finally coming down. Like the fast food restaurants introducted to post-collapse Russia, the descent of MIR (whose name means, "peace", as in, "Watch out for that ‘peace’ of flaming wreckage hurtling toward Japan at 40,000 miles an hour!") can only be appreciated by a select few, except of course in the United States where we can watch MIR’s descent on the Internet. Or at least we could. By the time you read this, MIR will probably have already entered the atmosphere, turned into a spectacular blazing comet, and killed the entire cast and crew of "Survivor 3".

A fast food chain has agreed to give a free taco to every person in the United States if MIR hits a 40 foot X 40 foot target in the Pacific–which is a little bit like trying to drop a car on a coffee mug from an airplane. And, as a friend of mine pointed out, Russia’s doing all the work but we’re the ones getting the tacos. All I can say to that is, we don’t make the rules. If we did, the target would cover the entire ocean between New Zealand and South America, and we still wouldn’t share with Russia. A few years ago we dropped a little science project called Skylab, and Russia didn’t even offer us a congratulatory bowl of borscht.

So it is with some sadness that I say farewell to the little space station that could. Originally designed to be in use for only three years, MIR survived for fifteen. It was mocked, ridiculed, and even called the biggest space blunder in history–but only by people who had never seen the movie "Contact". In the end, MIR’s accomplishments will probably best be summed up by one of the last cosmonauts to leave, who said, "Wait, I think I left the lights on!"

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

(The author of this is unknown, probably with good reason.–CW)

Calling in sick to work makes me uncomfortable. No matter how legitimate my illness, I always sense my boss thinks I am lying.

On one occasion, I had a valid reason, but lied anyway because the truth was too humiliating. I simply mentioned that I had sustained a head injury and I hoped I would feel up to coming in the next day.

By then, I could think up a doozy to explain the bandage on my crown.

The accident occurred mainly because I conceded to my wife’s wishes to adopt a cute little kitty. Initially the new acquisition was no problem, but one morning I was taking my shower after breakfast when I heard my wife, Deb, call out to me from the kitchen. "Ed! The garbage disposal is dead. Come reset it."

"You know where the button is," I protested through the shower. "Reset it yourself!"

"I’m scared!" she pleaded. "What if it starts going and sucks me in?"

(Pause) "C’mon, it’ll only take a second."

So out I came, dripping wet and buck naked, hoping to make a statement about how her cowardly behavior was not without consequence. I crouched down and stuck my head under the sink to find the button.

It is the last action I remember performing. It struck without warning, without respect to my circumstances. Nay, it wasn’t a hexed disposal drawing me into its gnashing metal teeth. It was our new kitty, clawing playfully at the dangling objects she spied between my legs.

She had been poised around the corner and stalked me as I took the bait under the sink. At precisely the second I was most vulnerable, she leapt at the toys I unwittingly offered and snagged them with her needle-like claws.

I lost all rational thought to control orderly bodily movements, while rising upwardly at a violent rate of speed, with the full weight of a kitten hanging from my masculine region.

Wild animals are sometimes faced with a "fight or flight" syndrome. Men, in this predicament, choose only the "flight" option. Fleeing straight up, the sink and cabinet bluntly impeded my ascent; the impact knocked me out cold.

When I awoke, my wife and the paramedics stood over me.

Having been fully briefed by my wife, the paramedics snorted as they tried to conduct their work while suppressing their hysterical laughter.

At the office, colleagues tried to coax an explanation out of me. I kept silent, claiming it was too painful to talk. "What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?"

If they had only known.

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