New U2 Video

Here's a new U2 Video. I can't imagine how long it took to put this together.

[ht: transitionpete]


Unexpected Pleasures

I noticed something this year that I hadn’t noticed before. Unexpected pleasures are better than expected pleasures. Let me explain.

Around Christmas lots of people exchange gifts. We know that we are going to get presents from certain people. We know our spouse is going to give us something. We know our kids are going to give us something. We know that we will get something from the office gift exchange. The list goes on and on. In a way, we expected those gifts. Don’t get me wrong, we like or even love those gifts and the people who give them to us. They are precious. But we still expect them. It’s an expected pleasure.

Once in awhile we are surprised and someone we never imagined gives us a little something. Usually it’s not a big thing, just a small little thing that says, I’m thinking of you. It’s unexpected and I find that it gives me pleasure. I can’t really verbalize why, but those little unexpected things are quite nice. That unexpected pleasure really cuts through all the junk of Christmas and hits home.

High on my list for next year is to be involved with more unexpected pleasures for other folks.


An Engineer's Thoughts About Christmas

There are approximately 378 million Christian children in the world according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average census rate of 3.5 children per household that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

Santa has about 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. This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh; hop out; jump down the chimney; fill the stockings; distribute the remaining presents under the tree; eat whatever snacks have been left for him; get back up the chimney; jump into the sleigh; and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations, we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household--a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means 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, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run at best 15 miles per hour.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set weighing two pounds, the sleigh is carrying over 500,000 tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the flying reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with nine of them--Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth, the ship not the monarch.

Six hundred thousand tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance--this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of acceleration from a dead stop to 650 miles per second in one-thousandth of a second, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa which seems ludicrously slim would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4.3 millions pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Merry Christmas!


The Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time for gathering and celebrating with friends and family, gift-giving and general cheer and rejoicing. To commemorate this time of year, the U.S. Census Bureau presents the following holiday-related facts and figures from its data collection.

It’s in the Mail ...

20 billion
Number of letters, packages and cards the U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. The busiest mailing day this year is expected to be Dec. 18, with more than twice as many cards and letters being processed as the average on any given day.

About 12 million
Number of packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service every day through Christmas Eve. The busiest delivery day: Dec. 20.

The December Rush to the Stores – Last Year

$31.7 billion
Retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2005. This represented a 47 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many Christmas-related, registered $21.7 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.

Other U.S. retailers with sizable jumps in sales between November and December 2005 were book stores (96 percent); clothing stores (49 percent); jewelry stores (174 percent); radio, TV and other electronics stores (54 percent); and sporting goods stores (67 percent).

14 percent
The proportion of total 2005 sales for department stores (including leased departments) that took place in December. For jewelry stores, the percentage was 24 percent.

23 percent
The proportion of growth in inventories by our nation’s department stores (excluding leased departments) between the end of August and the end of November 2005. Thanks to the holiday crowds, inventories plummeted by 23 percent in December.

Note: Leased departments are separately owned businesses operated as departments or concessions of other service establishments or of retail businesses, such as a separately owned shoeshine parlor in a barber shop, or a beauty shop in a department store. Also, retail sales estimates have not been adjusted to account for seasonal or pricing variations.

1.8 million
The number of people employed at department stores in December 2005. Retail employment typically swells during the holiday season, last year rising by an estimated 46,600 from November and 186,400 from October.

$19.4 billion
Value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2005 – easily the highest total for any month last year.

$27.1 billion
The value of total retail e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter of 2005. This amount represented 2.7 percent of total retail sales over the period and exceeded e-commerce sales for all other quarters of the year. E-commerce sales were up 23 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004.

The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2004. These businesses, which employed 261,646 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts. Their sales: $147 billion, of which 35 percent were attributable to e-commerce. California led the nation in the number of these establishments and their employees, with 2,322 and 30,619, respectively.

If you’re not sure where to do your shopping, choices of retail establishments abound: In 2004, there were 149,831 clothing and clothing accessories stores; 9,360 department stores; 10,345 hobby, toy and game shops; 33,956 gift, novelty and souvenir shops; 22,902 sporting goods stores; 28,772 jewelry stores; and 11,218 book stores across the nation.

The number of malls and shopping centers dotting the U.S. landscape as of 2005, a total that increased by approximately 12,000 since 1990. (Source: Upcoming Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007.)

Christmas Trees and Decorations

$485 million
The amount of money the nation’s Christmas tree farmers received from tree sales in 2005. Oregon was the top state in tree sales ($126 million), followed by North Carolina, Washington and Michigan.

$605 million
The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and August 2006. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($65 million worth) during the same period.

Where the Toys Are ... Made

Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2004; they employed 2,386 people. California led the nation with 17 such locations.

The number of locations that primarily produced games, toys and children’s vehicles in 2004; they employed 16,465 workers. California led the nation with 117 establishments.

$3.2 billion
Total value of shipments for dolls, toys and games by manufacturers in 2004.

$639 million
The value of U.S. imports of stuffed toys (excluding dolls) from China between January and August 2006. China was the leading country of origin for stuffed toys coming into this country, as well as for a number of other popular holiday gifts that were imported. These include electric trains ($65 million), puzzles ($49 million), roller skates ($82 million), sports footwear ($215 million), golf equipment ($47 million) and basketballs ($30 million). China barely edged out Canada as the leading supplier of ice skates ($6.7 million versus $6.6 million), with Thailand ranking third ($4.9 million).

Holiday Names

Places whose names are associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 1,778 in 2005); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,283); Santa Claus, Ga. (242); Noel, Mo. (1,515); and — if you know about reindeer — the village of Rudolph, Wis. (422). On top of that there is Snowflake, Ariz. (4,958); Dasher, Ga. (807); and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss., and Mount Holly, N.C.


Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2005. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah. http://www.nass.usda.gov/

Source - here


Sound Matters

If you’ve been following my blog, you know they tore down the building next to us in August to build a new high rise condo. (see Follow up on building demolition) After the demo and cleanup, a crew pushed dirt around for a while. They’d move the dirt back and forth. Dig holes and fill them up again. Watching the crew reminded me of being 8 years old and playing with my trucks in the dirt. There was no real goal, just moving dirt around. It looked a bit fun actually.

After that crew left, the construction crew came. And once again they began moving dirt around. They’d pile here and there. Dig holes, and then fill them up again. Then they appeared to get serious. Someone showed up with a big stack of plans and some surveying gear. Measurements were carefully made and marked. And once again they begin digging holes. They seemed to have a little more purpose this time. The purpose of these holes is still a mystery. I admit that I know next to nothing about building a 16 story high rise. To my untrained mind, shallow holes (maybe 4 feet deep) don’t seem substantial enough to be the foundation. I guess time will tell.

The digging of these holes was interesting to watch. The big backhoe would be digging away, then it would stop and men in orange vests and hard hats would congregate and look at the hole. There would be much pointing, handing waving and gesturing. Sometimes they would consult the big book of plans which would be followed by more hand waving and gesturing. Then the big backhoe would dig some more. And the whole process would repeat itself over and over again.

From my perspective, this was very humorous. A bit like the old silent films of the Keystone Cops. If I could have sped it up a little, almost exactly like the Keystone Cops. Now I am sure the men were having a very technical discussion about the hole. Is it deep enough? Wide enough? Are the sides caving in? There are all kinds of neat things to talk about in regards to holes, I guess. However, since I couldn’t hear them and could only watch their hand waving, it made no sense to me. You see, sound matters. Being able to hear and understand changes the Keystone Cops into trained individuals who know how to build high rise buildings. Building high rise condos requires a good deal of technical knowledge. But without sound, it doesn’t work.

I wonder how many times people watch Christians go about their business, but they just don’t get it because there is no sound. They watch Christians do things, but they don’t understand why those things are being done. Does it make Christians look like the Keystone Cops? Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times – if necessary, use words.” We should live a life that sets an example, but don’t leave it as just an example. Sound matters. Use words and tell someone about a God who loves them very much. That’s what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway, isn’t it?


Religious Christmas cards?

I had to swing by the card shop today to pick up a couple of cards. As you might imagine, the card shop is completely awash in Christmas. There's Christmas ornaments, knick-knacks, stockings and cards (naturally). Very festive actually. I didn't need Christmas cards, so I was over in the corner where are the non-Christmas cards had been moved to make room for Christmas. As I was browsing the slim pickings of non-Christmas cards, I over heard an elderly women asking the the clerk where the religious Christmas cards where. I wasn't eves dropping, it was really easy to hear her. Apparently she was hard of hearing and assumed everyone else was too.

But her very innocent, and appropriate, question completely stumped the clerk. Where were the religious Christmas cards? They spent a few minutes looking and even brought in another clerk to help in the search. They finally found 3 whole religious Christmas cards! Wow. Two isles of Christmas cards, and 3 are religious. Man, what kind of ratio is that? I should point out that this particular card shop stocks an entire section of Christian cards, yet they could only manage 3 religious Christmas cards. Truly sad...

I wonder what Christmas would be like if it was really about Christ?