Monthly Archives: December 2007

Today is my Friday

I’m taking the rest of the week off.  Tomorrow is the first day of my holiday and, apart from three hours on Christmas Eve, I’m not working again till the 28th December.

I shall hopefully have a Death List shortly after this date.  I’d really like to see yours.  fnnar fnaar!

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Filed under Modern Etiquette, Reasons to be cheerful

Story time

I love ghost stories at Christmas.

The Winter Soltice, Alban Arthuan, or better known as Yuletime Season is a time of death and rebirth of Nature. It is said the Old Sun dies at dusk of December 21st. and when the Sun of the New Year is born at the dawn of December 22. The New Sun is thought to rejuvenate the aura of the Earth. It is like a mystical cleansing to the spirits and the souls of the dead.

A Yuletide story called the Sluagh-Sídehe of Brug na Bóinne. It translates as people of the mound or barrow where the dead have been buried.  The sídehe in the Celtic mythology and traditions are equivalent to our ghosts and goblins.  That they are the gateway for the souls and spirits of the dead and for living mortals to pass back and forth to each world.  On the other side the sídehe is the Tír na nÓg, the Land of the Youth, the Isle of the Blessed. 

Tales of ghosts, goblins and the fey folk have always interested me.  They are stories from our superstitious past where we believed that the spirits of the otherworld needed to be placated.  I love how a well made story can evoke those dark times and get the blood pumping as we imagine all sorts of unnamed things in the darkness.

I’d like to challenge my fellow bloggers to tell me a story.  A Christmas Ghost Story to frighten and entertain in the tradition of yesteryear. 

Please post your story on your own blog and comment back here so I can go and read it.  Then challenge others to do the same.  Don’t be shy, you know how talented you are.

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Filed under Reasons to be cheerful, Religion, van de graaf

Santa statistics

No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are roughly 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified. While most of these are insects and germs, this does not rule out flying reindeer – though Santa and my uncle Ralph, in his drinking days, are the only people who’ve ever seen one. 

There are two billion children (small people under the age of 18) in the world. But since Santa doesn’t (appear to) handle most non-Christian children, that reduces the workload to about 15 per cent of the total (roughly 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau). At a rate of say, 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good kid 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.  That’s 822.6 visits per second. For each eligible household, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, put presents under the tree, eat any snacks, kiss mommy when available, get back up the chimney, hop in the sleigh and move on.

Assuming each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth, we’re now talking about 0.78 miles per household – a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to let Santa and the reindeer do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours.

This means Santa’s sleigh moves at 650 miles per second, or 3,000 times the speed of sound. The fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles a second (a conventional reindeer, by the way, can run 15 miles per hour, tops).

Assuming each child gets nothing more that a medium-sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting overweight Santa. Conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting flying reindeer could pull 10 times the normal amount, Santa would need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not counting the sleigh) to 353,430 tons, or four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth II.

353,000 tons travelling at 650 miles a second creates enormous air resistance, which would heat the reindeer to incandescence in the same fashion as spacecraft or meteors 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 creating deafening sonic booms. The entire team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. 

Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500.06 gravities. A 250-pound Santa (a wee bit of an underestimate) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.

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Filed under Lazy Blogging, Pedantic

Smarty Pants

I got my OU results back last night.  I passed MT262: Putting computer systems to work with a reasonable grade.  Of course I’m so clever that the result was hardly in doubt.  *Ahem*  What to do next though?  Urgh, too many courses to choose from and a mistake at this stage could be disastrous.  Disastrous, I tell you!

I’m thinking of doing Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice which starts in May and will give me time to rest my weary brain.  Alternatively I could do The information and communication technologies project but I’d better hurry up and register.

Can someone please choose for me.

In related news The Hildy passed her course and now has enough points for a degree in Social Policy Something or Other.  She’s very clever and gets to put BA (Hons) (Open) after her name…once she gets the official letter anyway.

Yay The Hildy.  Yay!

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Happy Burpday to me

Blinking postal service.  All your envelopes stuffed with money failed to arrive in time.

I did get the Firefly Companion to go with the first one though.

 

Yay!  Plus booze, books and horror movies.  I just need some smooches and my day will be complete.

No time to celebrate as I’m off to work in mo.  Then to church to hear Cake Worm and Tiny Tash sing like small angel people with no wings.  Assuming that the anti-atheist barrier has been taken down.

In other news I wrote Season One of Carnivale to DVD last night and the entire series of Space: Above and Beyond which nearly makes my geek collection complete.  Babylon 5 is being downloaded now and then I’m in need of geek direction.  Help me out.

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Filed under Atheist, Modern Etiquette, Reasons to be cheerful

Screw it

I’m chucking out some old PCs.  As per standard security procedure 2.1.1.a/wkward I have to remove the hard drive and arrange to have it destroyed.  i.e. put it in a box until it’s forgotten about and then put it in the bin.

Some stealing stealer has only gone and stolen all the screwdrivers….and it wasn’t me!  I suspect that the guilty party is using the stolen screwdriver to commit terrible crimes against humanity.  Crimes such as vandalism or car theft.  Maybe even (dun dun dah) murder.

Can I borrow a Phillips screwdriver please?

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Filed under Bad things happen, Shitbiscuits

The Best Scrooge

Of all the actors to portray the character of Ebenezer Scrooge who did the best job in your opinion?

While I think that Patrick Stewart did a fine job I think he was pipped to the post slightly by Michael Caine (Muppet Christmas Carol).  IMDB tells me that there are 27 films of “A Christmas Carol” and 8 of “Scrooge” and we can’t forget Bill Murray in “Scrooged” so there must be dozens of other films based on the same short story.

So, who was the best?

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Filed under You decide

In Defense of Scrooge

Posted on 12/18/2000

It’s Christmas again, time to celebrate the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. You know the ritual: boo the curmudgeon initially encountered in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, then cheer the sweetie pie he becomes in the end. It’s too bad no one notices that the curmudgeon had a point—quite a few points, in fact. 

To appreciate them, it is necessary first to distinguish Scrooge’s outlook on life from his disagreeable persona. He is said to have a pointed nose and a harsh voice, but not all hardheaded businessmen are so lamentably endowed, nor are their feckless nephews (remember Fred?) alwavs “ruddy and handsome,” and possessed of pretty wives. These touches of the storyteller’s art only bias the issue. 

So let’s look without preconceptions at Scrooge’s allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit’s skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit’s profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages. 

No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn’t know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit’s misjudgment? 

As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds satisfactory. 

More notorious even than his miserly ways are Scrooge’s cynical words. “Are there no prisons,” he jibes when solicited for charity, “and the Union workhouses?” 

Terrible, right? Lacking in compassion? 

Not necessarily. As Scrooge observes, he supports those institutions with his taxes. Already forced to help those who can’t or won’t help themselves, it is not unreasonable for him to balk at volunteering additional funds for their extra comfort. 

Scrooge is skeptical that many would prefer death to the workhouse, and he is unmoved by talk of the workhouse’s cheerlessness. He is right to be unmoved, for society’s provisions for the poor must be, well, Dickensian. The more pleasant the alternatives to gainful employment, the greater will be the number of people who seek these alternatives, and the fewer there will be who engage in productive labor. If society expects anyone to work, work had better be a lot more attractive than idleness. 

The normally taciturn Scrooge lets himself go a bit when Cratchit hints that he would like a paid Christmas holiday. “It’s not fair,” Scrooge objects, a charge not met by Cratchet’s patently irrelevant protest that Christmas comes but once a year. Unfair it is, for Cratchit would doubtless object to a request for a day’s uncompensated labor, “and yet,” as Scrooge shrewdly points out, “you don’t think me ill used when I pay a day’s wages for no work.” 

Cratchit has apparently forgotten the golden rule. (Or is it that Scrooge has so much more than Cratchit that the golden rule does not come into play? But Scrooge doesn’t think he has that much, and shouldn’t he have a say in the matter?) 

Scrooge’s first employer, good old Fezziwig, was a lot freer with a guinea—he throws his employees a Christmas party. What the Ghost of Christmas Past does not explain is how Fezziwig afforded it. Did he attempt to pass the added costs to his customers? Or did young Scrooge pay for it anyway by working for marginally lower wages? 

The biggest of the Big Lies about Scrooge is the pointlessness of his pursuit of money. “Wealth is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it,” opines ruddy nephew Fred. 

Wrong on both counts. Scrooge apparently lends money, and to discover the good he does one need only inquire of the borrowers. Here is a homeowner with a new roof, and there a merchant able to finance a shipment of tea, bringing profit to himself and happiness to tea drinkers, all thanks to Scrooge. 

Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich. 

Scrooge is said to hound debtors so relentlessly that—as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be is able to show him—an indebted couple rejoices at his demise. The mere delay while their debt is transferred will avert the ruin Scrooge would have imposed. 

This canard is triply absurd. First, a businessman as keen as Scrooge would prefer to delay payment to protect his investment rather than take possession of possibly useless collateral. (No bank wants developers to fail and leave it the proud possessor of a half-built shopping mall.) Second, the fretful couple knew and agreed to the terms on which Scrooge insisted. By reneging on the deal, they are effectively engaged in theft. Third, most important, and completely overlooked by Ghost and by Dickens, there are hopefuls whose own plans turn on borrowing the money returned to Scrooge from his old accounts. Scrooge can’t relend what Caroline and her unnamed husband don’t pay up, and he won’t make a penny unless he puts the money to use after he gets it back. 

The hard case, of course, is a payment due from Bob Cratchit, who needs the money for an emergency operation on Tiny Tim. (Here I depart from the text, but Dickens characters are so familiar to us they can be pressed into unfamiliar roles.) If you think it is heartless of Scrooge to demand payment, think of Sickly Sid, who needs an operation even more urgently than Tim does, and whose father is waiting to finance that operation by borrowing the money Cratchit is expected to pay up. 

Is Tim’s life more valuable than Sid’s just because we’ve met him? And how do we explain to Sid’s father that his son won’t be able to have the operation after all, because Scrooge, as Christmas generosity, is allowing Cratchit to reschedule his debt? Scrooge does not circulate money from altruism, to be sure, but his motives, whatever they are, are congruent with the public good. 

But what about those motives? Scrooge doesn’t seem to get much satisfaction from the services he may inadvertently perform, and that seems to be part of Dickens’s point. But who, apart from Dickens, says that Scrooge is not enjoying himself? He spends all his time at his business, likes to count his money, and has no outside interests. 

At the same time, Scrooge is not given to brooding and shows absolutely no sign of depression or conflict. Whether he wished to or not, Dickens has made Scrooge by far the most intelligent character in his fable, and Dickens credits his creation with having nothing “fancy” about him. So we conclude that, in his undemonstrative way, Scrooge is productive and satisfied with his lot, which is to say happy. 

There can be no arguing with Dickens’s wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself. Must such a man expect no fairer a fate than to die scorned and alone? Bah, I say. Humbug.

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Filed under Bad things happen, Modern Etiquette, Reasons to be cheerful

Brandy

I must buy a bottle of brandy otherwise Santa won’t have anything to drink on the 24th.  I’m sure that you’ll agree that he needs an extra big glass this year.

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Filed under Reasons to be cheerful