“The data didn’t care what we thought.” – Benjamin Sharkey, astronomer
A holiday card to the industry, 2021
Once upon a time, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas was a song title that reflected how magical the December landscape appears to those of us who live in the winter weather belt. But in the Bah Humbug department, the Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein reports that white Christmases are becoming just dreams and memories.
And that’s not to mention that the north pole’s ice is, in the summer, liquid water. Let’s hope Santa and company have a suitable business continuity plan.
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Speaking of holiday songs there’s the utterly horrible Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. What are we teaching our children with this one? After Santa asks, “Rudolph with your nose so bright / won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” the song tells our little ones, “Then how the reindeer loved him.”
Oh really? These anthropomorphized reindeer, having bullied Rudolph his whole life, wouldn’t love him. They didn’t like him before. They surely wouldn’t love him now. No, they’d resent Santa’s newfound appreciation for Rudolph’s deformity and would do everything they could to cause Rudolph to fail.
The Rudolph story leads picked-on children to think that if they could somehow get an adult to say something approving about them, bullies would suddenly have a change of heart.
Just think how many ways this fails to prepare children for their future lives.
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While we’re on the subject of Santa, we tell children the toys he gives them are made by elves. Elves are a product of Norse paganism. If you’re a religious sort, do you really want to head down this path? Not that I personally have anything against Norse paganism. Just sayin’ …
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The more I think about the messages we’re delivering to our kids when we tell them about the patriarch of the Kringle clan, the more it worries me. Another reason: Santa both preceded and still out-does Mark Zuckerberg as chief violator of the Don’t Be Creepy rule.
With more than 20 million Believe-In-Santa-Age children in just the United States, and maybe 200 actions per child per day that could be classified as either naughty or nice, we can estimate that Santa amasses on the order of 1.5 terabytes of behavioral data about our children annually, collected by maybe a quadrillion or so surveillance devices. And that’s not to mention the Personally Identifiable Information and other metadata Santa would need to determine who gets the nice stuff and who gets coal. And we tell our kids we approve of this!
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Advice to Santa: Give Joe Manchin coal. If he was naughty, he gets coal. If he was nice, well, he likes coal.
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Speaking of violations of the holiday spirit, does anyone else figure Mercedes wins the What The Hell? Advertisement of the Year award?
I’m talking about the ad in which we see Scrooge confronted by, not the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, but a single ghost, strangely named “Willy,” who gives Scrooge his grand temporal tour.
Willy shows Scrooge a sordid view of Victorian times as Christmases past and a polluted traffic jam for Christmas present. But then, to atone for his life, Dickens be damned. Scrooge gets a sleek new Mercedes.
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If all this is leading you to seek help coping with it all, 18 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam have legalized marijuana. Maybe it’s time to schedule a vacation.
Not that I’m endorsing the use of recreational pharmaceuticals. And especially, I deny categorically that the “Joint” in “Keep the Joint Running” refers to rolling an occasional doobie.
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Sure, there’s plenty going on to make us all crabby. But between the possibility of real-world artificial wormholes, iron-air batteries that can store the electricity generated by renewable sources, a whole generation of Americans who don’t care in the slightest who you’re attracted to or what your albedo is, the quantum leaps we’ve taken in immunology over the past couple of years, not to mention everything we might be able to accomplish just with graphene, let alone all the other areas of progress in materials science …
With all this potential, if we can just survive until the future gets here it’s going to be a very cool future.
In the meantime, I hope you had, are having, and/or will have a wonderful Hanukkah, St. Nick’s Day, Winter Solstice, Diwali, Christmas, Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Years Day, Perihelion, Isra & Mi’raj, and any other seasonal holiday I managed to miss.
A devout client once said to me when I wished him a happy Thanksgiving, “For us, every day is Thanksgiving.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So I’m taking the rest of the year off. See you in 2022.