Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays

As per tradition, this blog will shut down over the holidays, so I can shop, overeat, yell at children (who continue to poke each other in the eye with sticks), and otherwise enjoy the true meaning and spirit of the season.

My parting shot this year will be the classic "The Physics of Santa" said to be originally published in Spy Magazine in 1990 (according to Snopes, which never lies).

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

There are two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75½ million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second — a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

If every one of the 91.8 million homes with good children were to put out a single chocolate chip cookie and an 8 ounce glass of 2% milk, the total calories (needless to say other vitamins and minerals) would be approximately 225 calories (100 for the cookie, give or take, and 125 for the milk, give or take). Multiplying the number of calories per house by the number of homes (225 x 91.8 x 1000000), we get the total number of calories Santa consumes that night, which is 20,655,000,000 calories. To break it down further, 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories. Dividing our total number of calories by the number of calories in a pound (20655000000/3500) and we get the number of pounds Santa gains, 5901428.6, which is 2950.7 tons.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see above) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not even counting the weight of the sleigh) to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance — this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraftre-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion: If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santa the Refugee

This week's Smile Politely column is about what happens when Santa's Secret Village sinks into the ocean after the icecaps melt: Santa the Refugee.

Update: I also posted this article to my Open Salon blog, and it made Editor's Pick for today! You'll need to scurry on over there if you want to see it before it rolls off the front page, but all in all, it makes for a rather nice Christmas present.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dodging Shoes and Other Things

I actually felt bad for W when I saw that Iraqi journalist throw his shoes at him. It’s embarrassing not just for him, but for all of us.

Then I was impressed with W’s reaction time. He ducked those loafers like a stunt man. All that jogging and biking seems to have paid off.

Then I was impressed with his nonchalance about it. But, unfortunately, he continued talking, which caused my sympathy to wane:

"It is one way to gain attention. It’s like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It’s like driving down the street and having people not gesture with all five fingers. It’s a way for people to draw attention, you know, I don’t know what the guy’s cause is. But one thing is certain — it caused you to ask me a question about it (smirk). I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it. These journalists here were very apologetic; they said this doesn’t represent the Iraqi people. That’s what happens in free societies. People try to draw attention to themselves. "

It's all about someone else trying to get attention. He develops this theme in a later interview:

Here’s the reality: When the journalist threw the shoe, he yelled “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." He is someone who was kidnapped last year as part of the general out-of-control lawlessness and violence in Iraq. He was not trying to draw attention to himself. He was trying to draw attention to the consequences of the policies of George Bush, albeit in the most disrespectful way he could think of.

I don’t understand W’s comment about free societies either. The guy is in jail. You are not free to throw anything you want at other people. That’s not part of being a free society. On the other hand, there are now reports of him being beaten in custody, with broken arms and ribs and eye injuries. I guess torture really is an integral part of freedom now.

So, is it asking too much that, despite the embarrassing nature of the event, that W actually learn something from it? Wouldn’t it be great if W had said something like this instead:

Yea, the guy was unhappy that I invaded his country and subsequently killed hundreds of thousands of people. I get it. I am sorry. I screwed up on a Biblical scale. I will commit the rest of my life to atoning for this sin.”

That’s all he needs to do — take responsibility for his actions, express regret for the general devastation he has caused, and give some indication that he will be working to correct what he can for the rest of this life.

Of course, maybe the first thing he could do is make sure this one guy is safe from any further physical abuse.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Holiday Kitsch

Despite truly heroic efforts, Christians have not been able to corner the market on kitsch during the holiday shopping season. In fact, the term itself is Yiddish, so it shouldn't be surprising that this gem is available only at


Wooden Handpainted Plagues Bowling Set. Dick Weber never envisioned this. Have some special Passover fun when you bowl using this adoraable bowling set in which each pin represents one of the 10 plagues. Just try to pick up the Hail รข€“ Death of the Firstborn split. Fun for the whole family! Includes 2 colorful wooden balls. Suitable for ages 5 and up. (Each pin is 4½" - 5" tall)

Although it's a Passover thing rather than Chanukah thing, I must say I've never seen such adorable plagues.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rick Warren, We Hardly Knew Ye

My Smile Politely column is up: Rick Warren Wants Dick Cheney Dead.

It expresses my disappointment with Rick Warren, mega-pastor and former reasonable voice of conservative Christianity.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blago in Jail

Wow - Gov. Blagojevich is in jail this morning for attempting to sell Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder. What a scumbag.

Gov. Blagojevich considered the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama “golden” and vowed he was “just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it,” according to federal charges unsealed today against the governor.

Blagojevich held the power to fill the vacancy and, he made clear, if he couldn’t find anyone willing to pay for it, “I can always use it. I can parachute me there,” a federal affidavit states.

Apparently, all Obama was willing to give Blago was "appreciation" in return for picking the senator he wanted, and that made Blago mad. Once again, Obama's judgement is right on. I would have hated to see him go down because of Blago.

This is good news, actually. Blago won't be smearing the name of Democrats for very much longer, and his political career is now over.

I just wish one of the requirements for holding office was random hidden microphone checks. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Proposition 8 The Musical

I'm late to the party on this one, but will include it for posterity:

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Jack Black sure does make a cheery Jesus. And I do believe this makes Neil Patrick Harris the official king of cameos.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Lazy Friday Video -- Who needs pockets?

Sent to me by my sister-in-law Tami:

There are certainly worse things kids can store in their diapers, without even getting gross about it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The War on Christmas, 2008

My regular column is up over at Smile Politely: The War on Tolerance, 2008 Update. And thanks to my friend Molly, who found the James Dobson list and the Advent Conspiracy links.

In addition, I'm trying something new as well: Salon's open forum. I created a blog there and pasted in the same column. Maybe it will get some attention, maybe it won't. There's a lot of good content there, and it will probably only be on the Most Recent front page for a half hour or so, but it's worth a shot.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Trickle Down Charity

Smile Politely is hurting for content this week, since a lot of our writers are university affiliated and therefore, crunched right now. So, I may do two columns this week.

Today's column is an expansion of a letter to the editor I did four years ago when Bush was re-elected and decided he had a mandate. It ridicules trickle-down economics, because in my world view, the idea that it is a social good to make rich people wealthier is a ridiculous one.

It's available here: Trickle Down Charity

Monday, December 01, 2008

Poe’s Law

During the recent, epic argument between PG and Bob, the likes of which have not been seen since Bob and I used to clear out the lunchroom at SourceGear, PG uncovered a disturbing Christian cartoon called The Last Generation, available here.

The worldview of this cartoon is one where:

  • In the near future, a world government will start executing people who claim Jesus in the only way to God.

  • Christians are excited about world misery and natural disasters, because it shows the end times are near.

  • School teachers are witches who teach kids to sacrifice puppies and kittens.

  • Children are indoctrinated by the state to turn in heretics (that is, Christians who believe in Jesus), who are then tortured to renounce their beliefs.

PG identified this as a perfect example of Poe’s Law, where one can’t distinguish between a fundamentalist’s actual beliefs and a parody of the same. This one seemed like a parody to me, if only because it would be impossible to make a parody of it, but it wasn't.

Bob brought up the idea that Poe’s Law should apply to wacky leftists too. I think there’s probably some truth to that (like blaming capitalism or the US for every problem in the world). I would guess it would be easier to identify wacky leftist ideology from parody, but that’s probably just my bias. If you find any, let me know.

Mostly, I take heart that, as of Jan 20th, Christians with persecution complexes and world death wishes will no longer have access to the guy with his finger on our nuclear arsenal.