Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Buff Christmas Carol

G'day all, Buff Staysail here - Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Yours truly has got a ripper of a story to tell: Buff's been visited by the 2010 ghosts of Bloggers Past, Present and Future!! No doubt they heard all that Bah Humbugs that JP was posting earlier this month!

And these three wraiths have shaken me to my core as they took me on a whirlwind tour of Buff's past, present and future.

The first took me back to the days of the pirates, when Buccaneer Buff went searching for Execution Dock along the dark streets of London.

The second took me to the present, and the creation of a new Phonetic Alphabet by Britney U2 Facebook Facebook (gedditt!!)

Finally the third took me into the future, and Buff Junior's post on the 2028 America's Cup: it was a shock to hear of my own death. Strewth, I'm a trembling still.

 For once ol' Buff is lost for words, so what can I say but:

"I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

JP's review of 2010

It's the end of another year and time for another review of the wonderful world of blogging sailing and kayaking.

But it was also the year that JP joined the dark side, doing a power boat course, blasting through central London at 20 knots, going under Tower Bridge and through the Thames Barrier - cool!

It was a year of thrills, with the space age race between multi-hulls at the America's Cup, won by the BMW Oracle that looked as fast, thrilling and impracticable as a Lamborghini.

In May and June slowed down a bit for a trip up the Thames on a chartered motor boat, where I learned that lambs are navigational hazards.

But pulses hit new heights when first I found a gun up Beverly Brook and then got hit on the head by a boom when sailing at the Fowey Classics Regatta. But on a plus side had some thoughts about photographing the sailing experience.

After a quick break putting the feet up reading "The Swoop" watched some sailing away for the wrong reasons and some for the right reasons.

Finally British scientists discovered Winter!

Tomorrow: our good friend Buff on his 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three men in boats vs. three men in convertables

There seems to be some givens of Christmas.

Firstly, you can't please all the people all the time. According to an article I read on Wikipedia this is known as the Liberal Paradox which basically means if you give people the freedom to choose then you can't also guarantee you'll get the optimum result taking into account everyone's preferences.

Secondly, it is the time of the TV Christmas special, such as the "Three men in a boat" series, which in previous years has involved Griff Rhys Jones and pals muck about in boats off Cornwall, Ireland etc. and this time head up to Scotland.

The program was easy on the eye stuff with a nice old classic yacht (see above), but when I say a dramatic highlight was someone's hat been blown into the water you'll understand it wasn't that gripping.

It was blown out of the water, so to speak, by Clarkson and co on Top Gear, aka "the wise three men in convertibles", driving from Iraq to Bethlehem through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and finally the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Very entertaining! Trailer to be found here

Also worth checking out the Dr Who special, trailer for which can be found here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

JP's new boat

It's got no name but looks like one of the old America's cup racing boats such as Columbia. The bowsprit is a bit the worse for wear, being in two pieces held together with tape. The resulting lack of tension forward means the mast isn't quite straight.

However it looks very impressive and any clues or suggestions as its true identity would be welcome.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas 2010

Hope everyone has a Happy Christmas!

Still to come - a review of the year a bit like last years 10 favourite posts of 2009 (and how last year it looks now too).

Looking forward to seeing some other reviews of year too, so get posting so have something to good to read over those mince pies.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dr Pangloss - frozen but alive!

Sensation in the Bah Humbug case when Dr Pangloss appears to be not murdered at all - as can be seen by this picture of him relaxing on a park bench.

Said Inspector Lestrade "This is not an uncommon event. I myself have on several occasions declared that a person had died when in fact they were just asleep. Apparently Dr Pangloss had closed his eyes for a moment as he attempted to work out why the insurance companies refusal to pay JP's bills was evidence of this being the best of all possible worlds".

As a result Professor Plum has been released by the police and later made the following statement: "I was in a bit of a stew thinking I'd been deserted but didn't crumble and am now leaving unbruised by the encounter."

A bit of Christmas cheer for all in which even the bah humbugs were seen to manage a smile.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Bah Humbug Murder Mystery

Afternoon all. Inspector Lestrade of the Yard here, asking for some assistance in a tricky case of murder. Earlier today the respected philosopher Dr Pangloss was found bashed to death by a lead pipe in his library. He had been writing the following note which we hope might include clues as to circumstances of his demise:

Hello all, welcome to you my friends in this the best of all possible worlds. I've just been having words with my dear friend JP who has been saying a lot of "bah humbug" comments recently and have tried to explain to him how recent events in his life prove this to be the best of all possible worlds (TBOAPW).

The evidence is as follows:

1. The snow a few weeks ago might as JP say make the round trip to his office 4 hours but that allowed him to explore new parts of London and imagine life on the Endurance with Shakleton. Clearly TBOAPW!

2. The fog delaying his flight at Heathrow two weeks ago gave him more time to read his book. Again, clearly TBOAPW!

3. The snow being washed away in Geneva might have meant JP wasn't able to go skiing, but going home early gave him time to do his Christmas shopping and cards. Surely another example that this is TBOAPW.

4. What he has been calling a week of crisis at the office is surely a misnomer. Instead he should say there were many challenges and as we all know a challenge is just an opportunity. So he should see this as more evidence of this being TBOAPW.

5. It might be snowing again (see above) and many relatives are suffering badly from flu, meaning JP is unable to travel this weekend, but that means he can do two more days of work and catch up on all the time lost due to those many "opportunities" he had during the week. Triumphantly an example of this being TBOAPW.

6. It might be true that due to the cold a water pipe burst causing many thousands of pounds of damagers to carpets, ceilings, beds, paintwork etc etc but surely even he could see this as a wonderful opportunity to do a bit of decorating. TBOAPW etc

7. Even if the insurance company is refusing to pay up for the damage this must be a good thing because -

Lestrade again here: that's where the note stopped. As you can see its a mystery and I remain baffled. Any clues to this case please forward to me c/o Scotland Yard.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The truth is out there - Part 2

Ok more from JP's X Files.

The Natural Navigator spotted this object near Venus - full background here - and he's looking for help identifying it.

I'm going with a satellite, but it wasn't a point like object.

Anyway - what do you think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The truth is out there

A couple of days ago I posted Buff Spaceman's report on the "Spontaneous Crystalline DHMO Alien Sculpture Phenomena" or SCDASP in which he went on to suggest a link between SCDASP with the North Star, saying it was "the focus on an ongoing investigation."

Imagine my surprise when I read on the interwebby thing that NASA, as part of the SETI project, transmitted a message towards Polaris!

Spooky or what.

More on the search for ET in a great BBC4 documentary about the Drake Equation to be found on iPlayer here.

I was going to post a link to the Natural Navigator's puzzle about the picture above (basically asking what's wrong with it) but was too busy so the answer has already been supplied, by, err, me.

Anyhow, head over there so you can say "I could have told you that!"

Then you will see how these two stories are connected.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Trouble with Pirates

There's an interesting program on the BBC's iPlayer called "The Trouble with Pirates" - you should be able to get it by clicking here (but quickly, it runs out soon).

It tells the story of the pirates from many angles: the sailors they captured, the boat owners, the negotiators - in London and onsite, the navies sent against them and the pirates themselves. 

The irony is that the roots of the problem were caused by the actions of the West. The program notes how the first pirates were the fishermen, driven from their legal trade by factory ships from overseas and dumping of toxic waste. 
What the program didn't cover was what caused this: the West's decision to actively encourage Kenya to invade and attack the governing body, the Islamic Courts Union. The Bush's administrations hostility to the the I-word was to have an unexpected blow-back, with chaos spreading from the land out into the waters.

And there are an awful lot of waters to patrol. The Somali coastline is about the length of the USA's eastern seaboard and the pirates strike many hundreds of miles out to sea.

The "trade" has brought in millions upon millions of dollars. Those who do not participate suffer as inflation drives up the cost of essentials like rice and fish. Pirate enterprises are floated on a "stock market" so that communities can participate in the risk and gain some of the reward.

Two stories in particular were highlighted: the Lemacon's on the French yacht the Tanit and the British Chandlers.

Controversially the Tanit was stormed by French commando's and the skipper Florent Lemacon was killed in front of his wife and son. Ironically the only westerner killed so far was shot not by Somalis but by his own countrymen.
The news about the Chandlers is of course welcome but a long term solution is no closer.

Only by bringing some sort of order to the land can the pirates be tamed, and yet the provisional government is badly funded and peace will likely require some form of involvement of the ICU.

This won't be the last documentary about Somai pirates - though it is a good one, worth catching.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An inspiring encounter

There's a lottery about airline seating: you hope for a beautiful young woman and fear a screaming baby but usually end up with an instantly forgettable stranger with whom you exchange little more than a nod.

On the way back from Geneva there was no way I was to forget who was sitting one seat from me: a man with no hands.

The seat in between was empty and I wondered about etiquette, trying to guess what Debrett's would say. I thought it would be something like "in such encounters no mention should be made of the other's circumstances and conversation should remain on neutral topics such as the weather and books."

Fortunately we both had brought a book to read and the weather was indeed a topical subject and so a polite exchange was possible with just the one "can I help?" But almost always my companion was able to - for example - open and eat bags of cheese puffs unaided.

There was just the one slight hesitation that I noted and afterwards speculated about when I mentioned Geneva and my inability to get up into the mountains to ski, and later after using the crumbs of information I'd gathered into Google searches I learnt why.

For I'd been talking to Jamie Andrew who'd lost not just his hands but all four limbs in those very peaks. As Wikipedia put it:

"In January 1999 Andrew and his friend Jamie Fisher were caught in a storm after having climbed the north face of Les Droites in the Mont Blanc massif. Having made it up the north face, the two men were trapped on the ridge above the face by snow, winds of 90 mph and temperatures of -30°C for four nights. On the last night Fisher died of hypothermia; despite having developed frostbite, Andrew survived the experience, being helicoptered off the mountain by the French rescue service."

Despite those horrific events Jamie has gone on to start a family and go climbing again, and now is a writer and motivational speaker. And I can say from personal experience able to cope amazingly well on his own, reading a book, packing it away in his bag and then carrying it off the plane, heading for his connecting flight.

These are hard times for many, and I've had several conversations in which friends and family have talked about loss of jobs and I've tried to reassure them that life will go on, that even in the worst case scenario it is not the end.

Jamie has shown what is possible even with much greater shocks to the plans we lay out for ourselves. As his web site says: "our greatest limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves. Remember: nothing is impossible!"

An inspiring story.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

No snow when you want it

This week is my one and only overseas trip of 2010, to Geneva.

I certainly miss the 2009 excitement of Venezuela, Baku and Georgia, but there is one thing that Geneva offers that these exotic destinations lack, which is the chance to go skiing.

All that you need is snow, and guess what there's been a lot of recently?

Alas the weather gods continue to toy with us mortals, with bad fog delaying the take off from London and heavy rain washing away the snow on arrival.


Did someone mention Hawaii?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Not sailing today

This was what the Natural Navigator's boat looked like on Friday.... which hopefully helps explain why walking looked like a better option for the weekend than sailing.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Walking not sailing

Slightly manic here so might be a couple of breaks between posts.

Anyhow it was a crisp weekend and there was some talk about sailing with the Natural Navigator but in the end there were all sorts of complications so we went walking instead.

Probably just as well as for a lot of Saturday the weather was crisp with little wind and I for one find drifting boring.

Anyhow good conditions for a refreshing walk.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NASA Reveals Alien Message

There was great excitement recently when NASA has announced they were to hold a press conference to discuss alien life. This blog can exclusively reveal its contents having interviewed team leader Buff Spaceman (no relation). Take it away Buff:

Beep! Hello Houston and blog readers. Buff Spaceman here, Buff by name and A-Ok by nature!

We've been researching communications from aliens when we observed a phenomena in which large numbers of the members of the public are driven to create sculptures from crystalline dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) for apparently no reason and - this is critical - having a similar structure!

Our research suggests that this can only be due to a psychic message from an alien life form that is being picked up by those with subconscious tuned to the right frequencies, a message that makes the recipient driven by forces beyond their knowledge to create solid objects.

This "Spontaneous Crystalline DHMO Alien Sculpture Phenomena" or SCDASP has been observed on a very large scale across high latitudes. This geometry suggests the aliens could live in the direction of the North Star, which is the focus on an ongoing investigation.

What is interesting is that they describe these SCDASP as a "Snow Man". The use of the word "snow" rather than the more correct Crystalline DHMO suggests a sophisticated branding effort by the aliens to make themselves more acceptable to the mass of human population, and the word "man" we are interpreting as an attempt to humanise the non-human.

Already xenobiologists are arguing about what the structure reveals about their life cycle, in particular how they move. One school of thought suggests they bounce on the lower sphere while another suggests they are actually aquatic, form similar to seals but with flippers evolved into arms and hands.

Further research is clearly needed and we would welcome any field observations you might have.

Remember - the truth is out there!

This is Buff Spaceman - A-Ok and out! Beep!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Crystalline DHMO Projectile Menace

Today we welcome a guest columnist Glenn Beard, a man not afraid to speak out!

Friends, I am here today because I am mad! Mad at our do-nothing government that is putting our children, our country - which I love! - at risk.

The respected experts at Big Bills Inc have spoken out about the dangers of Crystalline DHMO Projectiles and the lack of preparedness of our country, and we should listen to them. For the truth is shocking - let me spell it out

(going to a blackboard and writing)

FACT:  crystalline DHMO is available NOW on the streets of London!

FACT: crystalline DHMO projectiles can be launched at a moments notice!

FACT: our children are at risk from crystalline DHMO projectiles!

(beginning to weep)

Friends, I love our country, and I fear for our children and their future. What must we do to alert the authorities of the danger of crystalline DHMO projectiles? When will the complacency end?

Could it be that the only thing that will waken this country from its slumber if the authorities themselves are targets for crystalline DHMO projectiles?

Now of course it is not for me to threaten, but if an honest member of the public were so enraged by the failings of the current administration to target a crystalline DHMO projectile at our leaders, then there would be many that would understand.

(drying tears)

For I still believe in this country, a land of warm beer and bad cricket!