Other Strange and Wonderful Stories

     An offshoot of my search for the shaggiest of shaggy dog stories has been some very interesting items that are not puns. Hope you enjoy these too. If you have anything just plain wierd and wonderful, send it my way and I'll include it here.

Table of Contents

Is There a Santa Claus?

  1. NO KNOWN SPECIES OF REINDEER CAN FLY. BUT there are over 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified. While most of these unclassified species are insects and germs, it does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer.
  2. THERE ARE 2 BILLION CHILDREN (persons under 18) IN THE WORLD. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear to) handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, his workload is reduced to 15% of the total - approximately 378 million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each (as well as those homes he do not visit!).
  3. SANTA HAS 31 HOURS OF CHRISTMAS TO WORK WITH. This is due 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 household with good children, Santa has .001 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), it is about .78 miles per household -- a total trip of 75.5 million miles! The calculation does not factor in stops for rest, feeding, or what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours.

    Thus, considering the previous data, Santa's sleigh travels at approximately 650 miles per second -- that is 3,000 times the speed of sound. For comparison purposes, 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, at 15 miles per hour.

  4. THE PAYLOAD ON THE SLEIGH ADDS ANOTHER INTERESTING ELEMENT. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 lbs.), Santa's sleigh would be hauling about 321,300 tons. This does not factor Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 lb. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see #1) could pull 10 TIMES the normal amount, the job cannot be done with 8, or even 9 reindeer. Santa would need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. For comparison purposes, that is four times the weight of the ocean-liner Queen Elizabeth.
  5. 353,000 TONS TRAVELING AT 650 MILES PER SECOND CREATES ENORMOUS AIR RESISTANCE. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would each absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per second! In short, they would burst intoflame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within .00426 of a second. Meanwhile, Santa would be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-lb. Santa (seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 lb. of force.

(Taken from a posting in Quest Coffee Hour, Ecunet)

-- Thanks to Sergio Laurenti, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Night Before Finals

Twas the night before finals,
And all through the college,
The students were praying
For last minute knowledge.

Most were quite sleepy,
But none touched their beds,
While visions of essays
Danced in their heads.

Out in the taverns,
A few were still drinking,
And hoping that liquor
Would loosen up their thinking.

In my own room,
I had been pacing,
And dreading exams
I soon would be facing.

My roommate was speechless,
His nose in his books,
And my comments to him
Drew unfriendly looks.

I drained all the coffee,
And brewed a new pot,
No longer caring
That my nerves were shot.

I stared at my notes,
But my thoughts were muddy,
My eyes went ablur,
I just couldn't study.

"Some pizza might help,"
I said with a shiver,
But each place I called
Refused to deliver.

I'd nearly concluded
That life was too cruel,
With futures depending
On grades made school.

When all of a sudden,
Our door opened wide,
And Patron Saint Put It Off
Ambled inside.

His spirit was careless,
His manner was mellow,
All of a sudden,
He started to bellow.

"On Cliff notes, on Crib notes
On Last Year Exams.
On Wingit and Slingit
And Last Minute Crams."

His message delivered
He vanished from sight.
But we heard him laughing
Outside in the night.

Your teachers have pegged you
So just do your best.
Happy Finals to All
And to all a Good Test.

-- Thanks to Tony Quon, The Giant Panda

If Dr. Seuss Were In Technical Writing...

Here's an easy game to play.
Here's an easy thing to say:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
And the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
And your data is corrupted 'cause the index doesn't hash,
Then your situation's hopeless, and your system's gonna crash!

You can't say this?
What a shame sir!
We'll find you
Another game sir.

If the label on the cable on the table at your house,
Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
But your packets want to tunnel on another protocol,
That's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,
And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
So your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
'Cause as sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy's getting sloppy on the disk,
And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risk,
Then you have to flash your memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM.
Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mom!!

(Author Unknown)

The Bricklayers Accident Report

This is a bricklayer's accident report that was printed in the newsletter of the English equivalent of the Workers' Compensation Board. So here, thanks to John Sedgwick, is this Bricklayer's report.

Dear Sir;

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block #3 of the accident reporting form. I put "Poor Planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found I had some bricks left over which when weighed later were found to weigh 240 pounds. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor.

Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 240 pounds of bricks. You will note on the accident reporting form that my weight is 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building.

In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section 3, accident reporting form.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley which I mentioned in Paragraph 2 of this correspondence. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience.

At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground-and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 pounds. I refer you again to my weight. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body.

Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope. And I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back onto me.

-- Thanks to David Handley II

When Daughters Leave Home

If an only daughter moved out of the family home to another city and loneliness occurred with both mother and daughter; then the Mrs. misses the Miss and the Miss misses the Mrs.

If there were two girls who moved out together, then the Mrs. misses the Misses and the Misses miss the Mrs. On the other hand, if the girls moved out separately, then the Mrs. misses the Miss and the Miss, while the Miss misses the Mrs. and the Miss, and the Miss misses the Mrs. and the Miss.

In the case of three daughters moving out, two to City A and one to City B, then the Mrs. misses the Misses and the Miss, while the Misses miss the Mrs. and the Miss, and the Miss misses the Mrs. and Misses.

If four girls move out, two to each of two cities, then the Mrs. misses the Misses and the Misses, and the Misses miss the Mrs. and Misses, and Misses miss the Mrs. and the Misses.

Some say that this could all be solved by using Ms.

Others say that solution is a horrible thought.

Suppose there were 10 girls that moved out (or stayed home) to some combination of from 1 to 10 cities. Suppose some of them missed their trains to Mississippi? It messes up the mind.

Even worse: suppose 2 of the girls were really boys who were transvestites. Would they be Messrs-up of the system?

It gets still worse: Suppose 2 of the older girls were of loose morals and were misstresses and 2 more shaved their heads. Would the misstresses miss their tresses? Would the misstresses miss their mattresses? Would the Messrs miss their misstresses mattresses? What about near misses? Would these constitute masses of misses or just a mess of Ms's?

I miz the good old days when men were men and Ms's were Mrs or Misses.

-- Thanks to Elmer Thiessen


Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
Systems manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets,
Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets:
Having reached the bottom line,
I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command
But got instead a reprimand: it read "Abort, Retry, Ignore."

Was this some occult illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices Solomon himself had never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed my options.
These three seemed to be the top ones.
Clearly, I must now adopt one:
Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore.

With my fingers pale and trembling,
Slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee
Finally I pressed a key -
But on the screen what did I see?
Again: "Abort, Retry, Ignore."

I tried to catch the chips off-guard -
I pressed again, but twice as hard.
Luck was just not in the cards.
I saw what I had seen before.
Now I typed in desperation
Trying random combinations Still there came the incantation:
Choose: "Abort, Retry, Ignore"

There I sat, distraught, exhausted, by my own machine accosted
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw an awful sight:
A bold and blinding flash of light -
A lightning bolt had cut the night and shook me to my very core.
I saw the screen collapse and die
"Oh no - my database," I cried
I thought I heard a voice reply,
"You'll see your data Nevermore."

To this day I do not know
The place to which lost data go
I bet it goes to heaven where the angels have it stored.
But as for productivity, well
I fear that it goes straight to hell
And that's the tale I have to tell
Your choice: Abort, Retry, Ignore.

The Annual Bulwer-Lytton Award

There is, apparently, an annual Bulwer-Lytton Award. A San Jose State University English professor, Scott Rice, waded through between eight and ten-thousand (that's 10,000) examples of first sentences to awful novels and announced the winner.

John Ashman, a 68-year-old retired oil executive from Houston won the grand prize with the following entry: "Paul Revere had just discovered that someone in Boston was a spy for the British, and when he saw the young woman believed to be the spy's girlfriend in an Italian restaurant, he said to the waiter, 'Hold the spumoni -- I'm going to follow the chick an' catch a Tory.'"

I submit this man for membership in our fellowship. It's clear to me that he has the skill and lack of taste necessary to enjoy this group. But I digress. The article goes on.

Ashman has been submitting entries to this contest for nine years and this year submitted two dozen. Rice called the award "a lifetime dubious achievement award" for Ashman.

Another Ashman effort: "You was my brudda, Charley, but you made me lose my chance to be a guard at th' prison like I always wanted -- I coulda' been a con tender."

I repeat. This man has the flair, the talent, the skill. But wait. There's more.

Ashman said he was surprised to win the award after nine years of trying. "It's not easy to write good junk," he said. "It's something you can get better at if you work at it."

-- Thanks to Frank Sprague

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