A nuthatch...isn't he lovely?

In this blogposting…
*Words, Words, Words
*The Twelve Days of Christmas
*Analogies from Heaven
Now - just do it…

The final AGM of 2010 will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 29 December at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle. All other things being equal, our French truckshunter should be there. It would make his day (and mine too) if you were there too.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

A big thankyou to Vicky, a first-time emailer, about whom I know nothing else. (Note to Vicky: Get back to me, please!)

I know you love words and thought you might be interested in these two - for different reasons!

Firstly - mamihlapinatapai is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego. It is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word" in any language, partly because it is considered one of the hardest words to translate. It describes "a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that they both desire but which neither one wants to start."

(Yes, we’ve all been there, Vicky. I wonder, though, why the good folk of Tierra del Fuego are so shy that they need such a unique word.)

Secondly - an opsimath refers to a person who begins, or continues, to study or learn late in life. Opsimathy was once frowned upon and was used as a put down, with implications of laziness. Opsimathy was considered less effective by educators than early learning. The emergence of "opsimath clubs" proves that opsimathy is no longer looked down upon but is in fact desirable.

Cato the Elder, for example, learned Greek only at the age of 80.’

(Learning Greek is quite an achievement at any age, Vicky. And you’re certainly right about opsimathy. Almost by definition, all truckshunters are opsimaths - and proud of it.)

Truckshunters are, of course, hopeless romantics. And this year, I happen to know that several members of our Honourable Company are planning to festoon their loved ones with gifts based on that tiresome song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. You know who you are.

Before they take this drastic step though, they should know the full extent of the expense to which they are committing themselves. It turns out that, if they succeed in acquiring all the items in the song, it’ll set them back a whopping £14,071.

How, I hear you ask, can I possible know this?

Every year since 1984, the American investment group PNC Wealth Management has compiled a Christmas Price Index by pricing all the items in the song from the partridge right up to the twelve drummers drumming.

While they admit that it’s mainly just a bit of harmless fun, the company also believes the index does have something to say about the wider American and European economies.

This year, they reckon that the index has leapt 8.1% - its second highest ever increase.

Apparently, the bulk of the dramatic rise is due to the cost of the seven swans-a-swimming which has risen by 33.33% to £3,604. (The scarcity of swans has always made them one of the most volatile elements of the index.)

If you leave out the swans, the index is £9,964.10 - a rise of 1.1% since 2007, and a figure that seems to echo the economic slowdown in western economies.

The PNC Christmas Price Index may seem faintly ridiculous but its compilers take it very seriously indeed. After all, its sources range from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh to modern dance troupe Philadanco in Philadelphia.

Most of the increase in the index is due to rising prices for the rarer birds such as turtle doves and partridges. Fuel price rises, meanwhile, have lead to an increase in transport costs for some of the bulkier items such as the pear tree itself, which has increased by £32.

The metal in the five gold rings, meanwhile, may have increased as commodity prices have soared, but retailers are heavily discounting items in order to get shoppers through the door. As a result a bargain-seeking True Love should be able to get them for £226 this season, down 11.4% on last year.

Changes in the labour market, meanwhile, have impacted on some of the other prices in the index. PNC reckons the eight maids a-milking are the only unskilled labourers in the song and so qualify for the minimum wage, which increased for the second year running in 2008. As a result their services will set a True Love back an extra 12% this year.

The drummers drumming, pipers piping and lords a-leaping have all been affected by the economic slowdown which has seen wage inflation kept in check by worries about job security. As a result their cost has increased by just 3%, which PNC says essentially keeps them in line with the rise in the cost of living. The price of the nine ladies dancing, however, was unchanged at £3,063, according to PNC's sources.

You couldn’t make it up.

These were sent to me by Peter in South Shields and are apparently taken from real exam papers….

*The hailstones leapt from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot fat.
*John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
*Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
*He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
*He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a man who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

Priceless. Thanks Peter.

Post comments on this blog or email me: truckshunters@googlemail.com


Kev said...

Season's greetings, truckshunters

Father Christmas: An Engineer's Perspective

# There are approximately 2 billion children in the world. Since Santa does not visit Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist children, this reduces the workload to 15 per cent of the total, or 378 million. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes.

# Thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, Santa has about 31 hours to work with. This works out to 967.7 visits per second and a total trip of 75.5 million miles. So Santa's sleigh has to move at 650 miles per second.

# Assuming that each child gets only a medium-sized Lego set (2lb), the sleigh is carrying more than 500,000 tons. A reindeer can pull no more than 300lb. Even if the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times that, Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload another 54,000 tons.

# 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each; they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26thousandths of a second, or about the time Santa reaches the fifth house on his trip. Not that it matters, however, since Santa would be subjected to a centrifugal force of 17,500 Gs. A 250lb Santa (which seems ludicrously light) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015lb of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs.

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

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Sid said...

Thanks for that bit of info Kev.... I'm glad the internet wasn't around when my daughters where youngsters. I had a hard enough job explaining about his 'magic' key for those homes without a chimney.

Ian Robinson said...

Shame on you, Kev.
You've reminded me of my last Christmas at Radio Newcastle...
In those days, Mike Parr used to have a very special guest on his last show before Christmas: none other than Santa Claus himself. I'm ashamed to say I can't remember his 'earthly' name - but he was AWESOME. He held each child caller - as well as the hardened journalists in the studio - enthralled. He WAS the REAL Father Christmas!
Unfortunately, the next programme was hosted by Jonathan Miles, who proceeded to quote the facts you give above. In one fell swoop, he utterly demolished the wonderfully seasonal atmosphere which Mike and Santa Claus had so carefully nourished.
No doubt he thought he was being clever. But many of Mike's phone-in kids (and their parents) were still listening. It was truly heartbreaking to hear the smug, self-satisfied demolition job that Jonathan did on what is, after all, an innocent and charming tradition.
It saddens me that this is one of the last memories I have of Radio Newcastle. I realised that morning that I didn't really want to be associated any more with a station whose standards and values had fallen so far that it believed it to be clever to ruin the harmless dreams of children.