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Friday, December 23, 2005

NORAD Tracks Santa For 50 Years


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Christmas eve is here. That holy night when we remember the birthday of Jesus, through gift giving
by the world's second greatest gift giver, a man of many names.

As the world turns children are asleep in Russia and parts at the Eastern most side of the International Date Line and Santa is already at work while in time zones to the west, children go to sleep every hour preparing for the arrival of St. Nicholas, Sinter Claus, Old St. Nick, whatever you want to call him. But for most Americans, for the many of those who wait for his annual visit he is known simply as:

Santa Claus

As children here learn at an early age, Santa, that example of love, generosity, giving and kindness that is an annual reminder that we are not the center of the universe, (or at least Santa should remind us, sometimes we forget despite the Red Suit and the bells and the flying reindeer) starts out from the North Pole on Christmas Eve with an amazing journey. A mission to bring presents to good children all over the world.

By the time evening falls in North America, the time change will allow Santa a brief pit stop at his workshop at the North Pole, where he can fill up on last minute presents, a little hot cocoa, feed for his reindeer, and then start his approach to visit North and South America.

In the old days, Santa's travels were a complete mystery. Even still, on a house by house basis, tracking the jolly old elf is neigh on impossible. But since 1955, as a result of a telephone number mistake in a Sears call Santa hotline promotion, the NORAD bi-national U.S.-Canadian aerospace defence and warning command, which has sophisticated radar, satellite, jet and television-web monitoring of the skies approaching North America, has been tracking the travels of Santa every Christmas eve to the delight of families in North America.

I can well remember local weather stations picking up their news feeds in the 1960's as Santa approached the continent from Iceland and Greenland. But then there was a news blackout in those simple, pre-cable, pre-internet days of black and white, get up out of your chair and turn the knobs television. That was all we could get about Santa without a call. Not so today.

Today with the help of the World Wide Web, NORAD has a website with a special Santa tracker at http://www.noradsanta.org/en/default.php where you can follow Santa's progress on Christmas Eve as he makes his way here.

The website makes the most of today's technology, with radar, satellite, jet aircraft and webcam images of Santa's trip coming in to us over the web in real time.

The web also has, with the help of Santa's nutritionist, a cookie counter, so that we can see how many cookies Santa has eaten during the course of his travels. Don't be too shocked. It takes a lot of energy to go up and down all those chimneys, and get in and out of houses, er, other ways. I'm betting that his reindeer, Dasher especially, gets a few cookies on the side, but that's just hearsay. Could be just Blitzen starting trouble again.

They also post regular movie updates in case you don't have time to follow the map, which shows just which major cities Santa has visited. Those who sleep through the big event can access these movies of the various stages of Santa's trip later and the site links to free media player downloads so that you can follow along. (Parents - if you do not have the current version of Real Player, Quicktime, or Windows Media player for PC or Mac, I recomment downloading this IN ADVANCE of the big event.)

You can also learn a lot about Santa, download some coloring book pages and find some other things I have not mentioned here.

I hope you enjoy this. It is a fun way to explore the world and geography. Perhaps also an activity for parents who do not celebrate Christmas but their Children will not let go of their fascination with it. This site at least gives them some experience with global maps, military history, technology and the like.



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What's Next for Apple in 2006, the iTub?


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With what some media sources are now calling Apple's "Crushing Dominance" in the portable music player arena due to the sleeker than ever evo;utions of this year's iPod line, Apple is raising eyebrows, expectations and blood pressure readings around the computer, electronics manufacturing and entertainment industry?

2005 was such a big year, how big could 2006 be? Shouldn't this be it? How creative could Apple and Steve Jobs be anyway? Surely they could not keep up the pace of the last few years with more big advances in technology, software and engineering to make the use of computers in our life faster, simpler, better, more elegant and increasingly more fun.

I wouldn't put any money against them. No way.

First of all, Apple hasn't even seen the beginning of its revenue share from video and music sales. Not even close. At the rate Nano's, just Nano's have been flying off the shelves, the sales for music look very promising indeed. Then video. The door is only opening and as you can see in the news article attached, rumours appear to be spreading about a sales model that includes just watching video rather than downloading it, as well as software improvements to make "Front Row" and other Mac experiences better and more convnient than ever.

So is this year's sucess atypical? A lucky break for the little kid at the table? Fat chance.

All of the advances in the last few years are typical of what long time Apple users have come to expect from the company that created the computer desktop when other machines greeted you with a c prompt.

The c prompt looked like this:


Ah, consider yourself lucky then, that is what the old timer used to call the DOS Prompt, because it doesn't prompt you to do anything. Eventually, you could program it to blink and other neat stuff. Well, in the DOS world neat is a relative term.

If you don't remember those days, imagine that promt at the top of your screen, waiting for you to enter commands, as your entry into your computer experience.

C:/> Dir *.*

Would give you a list of all the files and directories on your hard drive.

C:/> Erase *.*

Would erase every file in your root directory and with the right switches it could erase your whole hard drive.

C:/> Format C:

Would reformat your main hard drive. The great thing was, just about anyone who knew that could walk right up and type that! Especially if they had had the time to restart your machine with a boot disk.

C:/> Help me open up a file

Would produce either this:


or an error message. Fun huh. Forgive me if I am forgetting something. But that is how things were in the early 1980's and before.

Yep, that was back when you actually had to know and type commands to get computers to do stuff and their internal memory might be anywhere from 64 kb (yes, for those under 21 that is NOT a typo) to who knows how much, 128K? The point is, you would see that c prompt and not much else. No menu bars or help screens until you were actually running a program, and often not even then.

Very hard to use.

Apple changed made things massively easier with the first Macintosh, making Apple computers the easiest to use in the land, and the most intuitive, and they are doing that again, now, with the new iPod line, and the new iMacs, and their new core software.

With Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) it seems to have finally gotten through to computer users that computer life does not have to be about the Blue Screen of Death. And spurred on by iPod curiosity they have made the switch and banished it! (If an application crashes in OS X you quit it only, and all your other applications run merrily along saving countless hours of time, money and data, which is money.)

As for next year?

I'm hoping for the iTub, a bathtub that syncs to your iPod or Mac (or Windows machine) with an underwater "sub"-woofer, yellow, of course and option, has tub lights that boogie like a disco floor, and varies the water pulses with the beat or soundtrack on demand.

The iClod, heavy duty workshoes with waterproof, mud proof speakers built in that can send music out, or in through your bone, structure. The iClod shuffle comes with dance choreography built in.

The iNod, puts Winkin and Blinkin to rest, just hide it under your pillow and attach the little EEG leads to 3 spots on your forehead and the iNod matches special sleep music to the state of your slumber to that you get the maximum benefit of your sleep hours. It also tracks irregular sleep rhythms and calls for help in an emergency.

The iSquad, complete with tiny cameras that fit in the badges and hats of policemen on the job. Perfect for making more careful observations of crime scene data that a police officer might miss the first time through, doing Mirandad and offical interviews, and to make offenders wary of doing any violence during a traffic stop since everything would be caught on film.

And finally, the iPocket, that is, an iPod in my pocket before the end of 2006. I'm hoping that at least one of these comes true. Especially the latter.

Hope you get what you want under your tree this year.

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Unbelieveable Holiday Bargains


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At least they seem like bargains until you start to factor in the value of your time spent waiting in line at the register, and, in return lines later.

There have been some bargains out there though.

Kohls has had a few good kids toy sales.

Casual Corner appears to be having a going out of business sale that is now at 60% off many items and may drop to 80% before they (allegedly) close on the 28th of December.

And the usual suspects have had their sales, but as last year many of the best sales were right here online where even The Peter Files blog has links to Amazon.

I am afraid I did most of my shopping online this year. Not all, but I've had difficulty getting around and so the web has helped a great deal. You even get some of that thrill of the hunt that you get with in-person shopping. I am just not as able to venture out into the wild as I used to be.

And it is wild out there. A family member's car was rear-ended today by a SUV while stopped at a light and totaled. She appears to be all right, but you never know with the elderly. Sometimes a collision like that can ruin the rest of your life.

She was in an older Caddy with a solid steel rear end which I hope did something to reduce the force of the impact and protect her from the force of the collision. Thank God we are a seat belt family or this would have been a very blue Christmas indeed.

So take note, if you are shopping today, buckle up, it may be the car behind you that causes the accident! And even if the rear end of your car can smash the front end of a SUV so that it looks like a pro-boxer in retirement, that won't keep you from flying out the window like a pop tart if you don't buckle up.

It's not like we really test those air bags now do we, so the best holiday bargain?

And what kind of bargain is it to go 20 mph over the limit if you get hit by two lights anyway? None. On most trips, high speeds do nothing but greatly increase the risk of accidents and deaths.

On short trips, traffic lights tend to be timed so that if you just make one light you get caught by the next one. Time saved, little to none. On highway trips, one five minute rest stop can kill the entire advantage you've gained by speeding the length of your entire journey. How long does it take to get gas?

Of course the only way to really be safe is to take public transportation, on a per miles basis being in a car is 10 times deadlier. Why? Buses and trains are so much more massive that on the extremely rare instances when they are in accidents, the vehicles absorb nearly all the energy of the collision. Just think of an empty bus as a 10 Giant SUVs and the sense of scale will start to make sense. That's why I never ever cut in front of a moving bus, let alone one filled with 80 people at 180 pounds each = an extra 7.2 tons. Add that to a bus weighing anywhere between 15 and 20 tons (an articulated guess) and you have up to a 25 ton weight differential between a bus and a car. Ouch.

But with presents and food in the car, many won't take public transportation over the holidays, so take advatage of the best holiday bargain I can offer travelers the next weeks:

Drive safely, buckle up, and have a designated driver, and that's no joke!

Wouldn't it be great to have a holiday season with fatalities 100% off?

All the best,

From the Peter Files

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Christmas Buzz - What's Hot and Not on the Internet


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I haven't looked at this in awhile, and with Christmas Eve upon us, I thought it would be fun to look at Yahoo's buzz index to see what people might be getting in their stockings this year or are curious about right now.

For those who don't know it, the Yahoo Buzz index keeps track of searches on their search engine and measures changes in the searches they get to determine who and what people are searching for information about.

Here are the overall Top Yahoo Searches for Christmas Eve:


Prev. Subject (Days on Chart)
Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1-1Christmas (27)+40315
1Gavin RossdaleBreakout!
27Britney Spears (1121)+87233
2Victoria OsteenBreakout!
38Beyonce Knowles (300)+34154
3Intelligent Design1825.65%
45Mariah Carey (190)+18150
4Q'Orianka Kilcher1653.98%
56Eminem (66)+12142
5Vanessa Angel876.03%
64Jessica Simpson (300)-21138
6Julian McMahon799.62%
73WWE (300)-27136
7Stephanie March732.05%
82NFL (94)-22120
8Brooke Burns624.01%
978Gwen Stefani (13)+71112
9David Furnish623.40%
1012Chris Brown (62)+10104
111350 Cent (220)+8102
11Nikki Ziering528.89%
1211United States Postal Service (2)-399
12Jillian Grace528.36%
1315Green Day (300)+697
13Stanley Tookie Williams512.96%
1417RuneScape (252)+1294
14Rebecca Gayheart467.72%
1524Pamela Anderson (300)+2092
15Donna D'errico467.37%
1618iPod (68)+1192
16Elizabeth Hurley406.83%
1716Lindsay Lohan (300)+490
17Jenna Elfman385.62%
1819Nelly (62)+1087
18Metropolitan Transportation Authority374.74%
19-Nip/Tuck (1)+5485
19Taylor Law364.89%
2037Ashlee Simpson (13)+2283
20Valerie Bertinelli357.35%
How the Buzz Index Works

Movers are the search terms that have increased their buzz score over the previous day's score by the greatest percentage. Leaders are the search terms with the greatest buzz score for a given day.

For more detailed information, visit our FAQ.

Not surprisingly, Christmas leads the top searches of the day, while the next positions are top singers whose albums might be purchased as presents. Also not surpising, the post office web site is falling in interest because it is now too late to mail things to arrive by Chrismas, but, it still makes the top 20 searches because procrastination is still a popular American pastime. On fact, I should be wrapping presents right now!

The movers column is more interesting because it often gives you new people to find out about like Gavin Rossdale, the lead singer of the Band Bush.

Here are some other popular Buzz Index category results. To check them evry day just go to http://buzz.yahoo.com

Saturday December 24, 2005
Search the Web:

Today's Top Movers
Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Gavin Rossdale Breakout!
2 Victoria Osteen Breakout!
3 Intelligent Design +1825.65%
4 Q'Orianka Kilcher +1653.98%
5 Vanessa Angel +876.03%
6 Julian McMahon +799.62%
7 Stephanie March +732.05%
8 Brooke Burns +624.01%
9 David Furnish +623.40%
10 Mapleglobal +566.82%
11 Nikki Ziering +528.89%
12 Jillian Grace +528.36%
13 Stanley Tookie Williams +512.96%
14 Rebecca Gayheart +467.72%
15 Donna D'errico +467.37%
View Complete Chart...

Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Q'Orianka Kilcher +1653.98%
2 Vanessa Angel +876.03%
3 Julian McMahon +799.62%
4 Stephanie March +732.05%
5 Brooke Burns +624.01%
6 Rebecca Gayheart +467.72%
7 Donna D'errico +467.37%
8 Elizabeth Hurley +406.83%
9 Jenna Elfman +385.62%
10 Valerie Bertinelli +357.35%
11 Jordana Brewster +300.30%
12 Beverly D'angelo +245.86%
13 Christina Applegate +227.05%
14 Sasha Alexander +192.48%
15 Shar Jackson +176.49%
View Complete Chart...

Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 American Pie 2 +175.42%
2 Red Dragon +128.42%
3 Euro Trip +113.54%
4 Ghost Rider +89.39%
5 Troy +84.23%
6 Anger Management +80.51%
7 The Queen of the Damned +78.96%
8 Four Brothers +73.00%
9 Grimm Brothers +69.12%
10 The Exorcism of Emily Rose +68.81%
11 Battlestar Galactica +57.84%
12 Daredevil +56.57%
13 Must Love Dogs +55.45%
14 Ghost In the Shell +54.79%
15 Ranma 1/2 +54.24%
View Complete Chart...

Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Gavin Rossdale Breakout!
2 Bryan Adams +296.24%
3 David Gilmour +288.73%
4 Grammy Awards +267.03%
5 Rivers Cuomo +251.32%
6 Elton John +197.29%
7 Sasha Alexander +192.48%
8 Gwen Stefani +178.07%
9 Kerry Katona +150.34%
10 American Music Awards +97.72%
11 Keyshia Cole +94.67%
12 Roger Waters +92.34%
13 We Are Scientists +84.66%
14 Radio Music Awards +81.77%
15 Celia Cruz +79.83%
View Complete Chart...

Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Wayne Gretzky +355.65%
2 Johnny Damon +225.91%
3 New Orleans Bowl +211.82%
4 Texas Rangers +136.90%
5 Phoenix Coyotes +112.93%
6 Green Bay Packers +102.30%
7 San Diego Padres +96.40%
8 Grace Park +68.14%
9 Martina Hingis +63.64%
10 Brett Favre +62.47%
11 Larry Bird +51.47%
12 Galatasaray +44.35%
13 Sidney Crosby +41.52%
14 Yao Ming +41.36%
15 Pele +40.41%
View Complete Chart...

Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Barbara Walters +243.25%
2 NCIS +179.23%
3 Nip/Tuck +178.59%
4 Miss Seventeen +159.82%
5 The Carver +159.52%
6 Commander In Chief +152.14%
7 My Name Is Earl +149.95%
8 Boston Legal +148.23%
9 Sharon Osbourne +99.73%
10 Dog the Bounty Hunter +93.89%
11 Vanessa Minnillo +76.51%
12 Fairly Odd Parents +76.44%
13 Supernatural +76.23%
14 Overhaulin +65.86%
15 Deal Or No Deal +65.20%
View Complete Chart...

Video Games
Rank Subject 1-Day Move
1 Mapleglobal +566.82%
2 MapleSEA +308.37%
3 Maplestory +162.52%
4 Stick Cricket +85.69%
5 Megaman Zero +47.48%
6 FFX +43.74%
7 Half Life 2 +41.24%
8 Doa Kasumi +38.12%
9 Playboy Mansion +37.08%
10 The King of Fighters +36.76%
11 Prince of Persia Warrior Within +34.07%
12 Mega Man +33.29%
13 Runescape 2 +30.93%
14 Soul Calibur +30.37%
15 Mario Bros +30.13%
View Complete Chart...

More Buzz

- Networks

Video Games
Buzz for Kids

This should keep you buzzing if you have nothing to do on December 25th!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fruits and Nuts


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According to an irrelevant comment on an article called 'Blogging From a Cab' on the Business Week site, apparently the Canadian Airport Transport Security Authority has deemed fruitcakes unsafe as carry-on luggage and has strongly recommended that fruitcakes NOT be included as carry on luggage. However, carry-on scissors are now considered safe.

Well, I have news for our friends in the Great White North:

Fruitcakes HAVE ALWAYS BEEN a security threat.

Thank god the airlines are finally acknowleging this and are doing their part to stem the flow of the fruitcake menace.

The National Fruitcake Disaster Board estimates that this move will help reduce fruitcake related accidents in Canada this year by at least 8%.

And of course scissors are allowed, in most cases you need an ice pick to cut into the darn things. The source of another 2% of Canadian Fruitcake disasters are ice pick, drill and chain-saw injuries.

Compared to the weapons potential that a live and loaded fruitcake represents, what real harm can a pair of scissors do?

After all, can a scissors bowled down a jet cabin at full speed knock over three Air Marshalls, penetrate the newly reinforced cabin doors and roll out the front window of the jet causing massive catsostrophic decompression? I think not.

Nor can 40 passengers tossing scissors to the other side of the cabin singlehandedly cause a jet to spiral out of control because of the massive shifting of weight and its impact on the further mass of scissors in the checked-in luggage below.

And have you ever, ever heard of such a thing as "Safety Fruitcakes"? Thought not. For the same reason you do not hear about "safety tanks" or "safety atomic weapons" fruitcakes are not toys. They are serious business now, and in the annals of history.

An unsubstantiated rumor has it that a gift to a former U.S. President was the sole surviving artifact of atomic testing in the Bikini Islands.

This was just the beginning of the emnity between wearers of bikinis and fruitcakes that continues today.And what of the dangers if fruitcakes fall into the hands of nuts?Don't tell me it isn't likely, most fruitcakes are made in factories filled with nuts. Why we haven't been scared before this is beyond me.

So bravo to the Canadians for taking the lead on this one.

Imagine the impact on holiday home safety if the Americas' more southern based airlines from the U.S. to Chile were to adopt this safety measure. Let's get those fruitcakes off our airlines today.

In fact, I think it is worth a special search for fruitcakes in Government Offices across the land. I know, if we impound and destroy all these fruitcakes we will have to do something for the public good, I say rather than impound the fruitcakes in government, we impeach them.

Replace the fruitcakes with nice wholesome peaches and get rid of the rotten fruitcakes once and for all. That's a movement we should all be able to get behind.

Every movement needs a theme song, so here's my little ditty, with apologies to John Lennon and his memory, but I am sure he would not have felt that All You Need is Fruitcake is appropriate for this situation:

Holiday Imaginings

Imagine there's no Fruitcakes
It isn't hard to do
No falling rolling hazards
No broken tootsies tooImagine all those people
With stomaches aat ease oooooh

You may say that I'm a dreamer
That I prefer the sugar plums
All I want is Fruitcake Freedom
'till treats are safe for each and everyone...

Peter, The Peter Files Blog of Comedy, Commentary and Satire
Where Humor is Safe and Nutritious

Parody lyrics copyright 2005, Peter of The Peter Files Blog, Other copyrights for music may apply to other copyright holders.

All rights reserved for any copyright holders.
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Monday, December 19, 2005

Podshock - My Entry into Podcasts - via Doctor Who


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Bill Gates wants everyone to call them Blog Casts, but it's a little too late for that.

In everyone's mind, possibly forever, the term podcast seems to have taken hold, even though you don't have to own an iPod to listen to one. More on that later.

Podcasts are here and are growing in number and type because the technology to record and send them is here and mature and lots and lots of people are hopping on the bandwagon. Possibly The Peter Files will join them too with simulcasting these files as a Podcast.

Of course simulcasting misses the point, because podcasting is a different medium, essentially equivelant to radio, except that once your podcast is out there, it might as well be out there forever. Well, maybe. But probably. Something you should think of before podcasting. Something I try to think about before hitting publish but as Samantha Stevens would say, "Weeeell" this is supposed to be a blog of comedy and satire right?

With the free iTunes 6 available from the apple.com's Apple Store, you can look for and subscribe to Podcasts which load up like lemmings, er, freebies, just waiting to be listened to.

There are lots of individually focused ones. If you've been suitibly Pottered there's one called Muggle Cast for those who love Harry Potter. If you are a News Junkie, there are any number of Podcasts out there, including ones for 60 minutes, and a separate one for Andy Rooney. Maybe they are trying to tell him something. I hope not, sometimes Andy's 3 and a half minutes are the best thing on the show, brightening what has been frightening thus far. Without him I might have defected to Disney years ago.

There are quite a few NPR streams, and a few good ones for PBS too, like Science Friday for NPR and NOVA for PBS. And if you think NPR thinks too much of itself, there is always the NPR parody IT'S ALL RELATIVE. Funny stuff there. Funny, funny stuff. We'll get back to that 'cast after this pledge break.

In fact, there are so many 'casts that you can subscribe to, even video casts, that you can quickly burn up oodles, say it quickly and arf, up oodles of hard drive space. That's because if you like a podcast you can go back and get all the old ones. Or just get them one at a time. But beware. The video casts can use lots of hard drive space, so be sure to delete or burn them if you don't want to run out of drive space mucho pronto Tiki Bar officianados.

Tiki Bar? Oh, that's the Video Podcast that pretends to have a plot but always at least features one drink recipe a week down at the old Tiki Bar. Makes me wonder if any involved are from Hyde Park in Chicago where there was a Tiki Bar...

But my favorite of all Podcasts so far, because of subject matter, style and general laughs has been DOCTOR WHO - PODSHOCK which comes out every Thursday.

Now there have to be a few of you out there going, "Doctor Who?" wasn't that cancelled YEARS ago? I know they had that movie and it does have cult status, but how many people could be interested in a weekly hour long podcast.

Well, lots of them it turns out, because Doctor Who has been regenerated by the BBC once again in its most lavish special effects and acting effort yet starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as the Doctor in his ninth regeneration and Rose Tyler, perhaps his hottest and gutsiest companion yet.

The BBC is just about to launch Season 2 with the Christmas Invasion special on, interestingly enough, December 25th.

Over on this side of the pond we have been oblivious to the ratings firestorm of British Tele that makes Desperate Housewifes look like well, can't push it too far down, Law and Order? CSI? But it is HUGE over there and with a phalanx of Whoites on this side of the pond drooling over the desire to see it.

And oh, is the drooling worth it. I was lent a copy that a friend over there recorded on his DVD recorder and so have seen the whole first season, which has reluctantly already made its way homeward. Oh, man what we Americans are missing! If we only knew!

That's where podshock comes in, without giving too much away, at least some information comes over from across the pond as the Podshock crew 1 Brit, 2 Yanks, do a 3-way conference Skype(?) to bring you a very entertaining show.

The little album cover window in the iTunes player often shows morsel photos from the show which are very tempting and even more are to be found on their website from which you can subscribe to the feed.

See the links to Podshock and the Podshock feed in the sidebar to your right!

Oh, if this show is so brilliant why hasn't American TV picked it up?

Possibly because there are only 13 episodes so far, and so the standard 26 will only be available until the end of this BBC season.

Possibly because the Movie, which did not do that great and did not have nearly so good a storyline or special effects or acting, was not a huge sucess, did not have huge ratings.

Possibly because DDoctor Who is seen as PBS material.

In any case, if PBS is its rightful place then WHO fans should unite and contact their PBS stations and remind them how much in pledge dollars Doctor Who brought in over the years. It is time for that revenue source to Regenerate!

Well, back to my Tardis.


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