1) No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
2) There are 2 billion children in the world (persons under 18). But since Santa doesn’t (appear) to handle Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist children, that reduces the workload by 85% of the total – leaving 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 is at least one good child per house.
3) Santa has 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 (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000 th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stocking, 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), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 mil- lion miles, not counting stops to do what most of us do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding, etc. That means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, 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, at tops 25-30 miles per hour.
4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (2 lbs), the sleigh is carrying 321300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting the ‘flying reindeer’ can pull TEN TIMES that normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine – we need 214200 reindeer. This increased the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh to 353430 tons.
5) 353000 tons travelling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance. This will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy per second, each. In short, they will burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and creating a deafening sonic boom in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa meanwhile, will be subject to cen- trifugal forces of 17500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250 lb Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by a 4,315,015 pound force. In conclusion, if Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas eve, he’s now dead.
I put down my last drink in September of 1977. All through the first three months of my sobriety I was obsessed with the thought of how I was going to get through the holidays without a drink. I was told to stay in the moment, to concentrate on the day at hand, to take my days one day at a time.
My sponsor told me that for an alcoholic a holiday was just another day. I was far away from my family. The many losses brought on by my disease were magnified tenfold at the holiday season, as was the pain of early recovery. The holidays were the true test of my resolve to stay sober that first year.
Experience is a great teacher and some of the greatest lessons in my recovery were learned at that time. I learned about The Fellowship of AA. By staying close to the people in my home group outside the meeting halls, I was able to associate with AA people throughout the holidays. We had Thanksgiving at the home of a newly sober couple. They invited several people who had nowhere to be on that day to their home. We all cooked, watched football, talked program and laughed over “war stories”, our common bond. After dinner we went to a meeting and then back to the house for dessert and more coffee and conversation. When I woke up late Friday morning I was surprised to realize that I had made it through the first of the three holidays sober.
Christmas taught me how to ask for help. As the day approached I used the meetings to express my growing anxiety about being alone on Christmas. As a result a new friend invited me to his home on Christmas Day. He had seven kids, very little money and was newly sober himself. Yet when the gifts were opened that morning there was one with my name on it. I was absorbed into his family and spent the day putting together toys, playing with his kids and of course going to several meetings. The previous year I had spent alone with a case of beer and a TV dinner. By asking for help I was able to experience the unconditional love offered by my friend and his family. Another holiday had come and gone and I still hadn’t had a drink.
New Year’s Eve taught me about getting outside of myself and helping others. In our area it was customary to have “alkathons” which were marathon meetings. The meetings were put on by individual groups each hour and offered food and plenty of coffee. My home group signed up for the midnight time slot on New Year’s Eve at Cambridge City Hospital. About ten of us piled into two cars early that evening. We stopped at a nice restaurant for dinner and then took the hour drive to Cambridge. This inner city meeting was held in a smoke filled, cold basement. There were several hundred people there and the speakers were frequently interrupted by the sound of wine bottles dropping on the floor. For many of the active winos the sandwiches and relative warmth of the hall represented the total of food and shelter in their lives. Their presence helped me to “remember when” and filled me with gratitude for my new found gift of sobriety.
I had made it through the holidays. I had learned about fellowship, how to ask for help and how to get outside of myself and care for others. Were these holidays “just another day” as my sponsor had suggested or were they, in fact, holiday gifts from my Higher Power?
Days of Wine & Roses
Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick star in this very powerful film on how alcoholics love to drink together. Jack is a young struggling public relations executive who drinks to forget his problems and introduces Lee to alcohol due to her love of chocolate. Jack outperforms himself in two scenes; the greenhouse and the liquor store at the lake. A classic to not be missed.
The Lost Weekend
Starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. Milland won an Academy Award for his classic portrayal of an alcoholic who tries to kill himself. Milland’s character slowly evolves as he steals and lies his way to another drink. Two great scenes – Milland in the Alcoholic Asylum at Bellevue and his vision of a Bat and a mouse in his apartment.
My Name Is Bill W.
Starring James Wood and James Garner. My Name is Bill W. portrays the beginning of the AA organization in 1936. Great costumes and period music. Always cry at the ending. Love the scene where James is screaming that he is not sick and then runs into a tree.
Clean and Sober
Starring Michael Keaton. Clean and Sober takes a hard look at an alcoholic/addict who refuses to acknowledge his condition. Best scene is where Keaton is in rehab and asks the group whether he can change the channel on the TV in the group room.
I rarely went anywhere without a beer. To this day many of my dreams include a can of Budweiser firmly attached to one of my hands. They told me I had to give up drinking but when I got sober I didn’t give up drinking. Today I rarely go anywhere without a drink: coffee, iced tea, Arnold Palmers, soft drinks, smoothies, juices and many other fine beverages. In fact there isn’t much of anything that doesn’t contain alcohol that I won’t consume.
They used to say “stick with the winners”. At first it seemed strange but after a while in the program I realized that it was important to stay with positive active members of the fellowship. This seemed contrary to the idea of not taking an other’s inventory. Like many of the paradoxes in our program this makes sense on both sides of the equation. We must take inventory of others if we are to know who the winners are.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the early days of my recovery newspaper and how things have changed since then. Newspapers have become web sites, telephones have become cell phones, drying out joints have turned into fancy rehabs, records, eight tracks, cassettes and CDs have turned into ITunes. Change is good and inevitable with many advantages and disadvantages but sometimes I long for the simple comfort of “the good old days”.
Up until now I have been adding articles from my 20 year publication The Solution News. I will continue to do so but will do daily posts about my day to day,
[Newcomers often wonder why a Christian prayer is said at all AA meetings when AA is not a religious program but a spiritual one. I recently came across this letter on the Internet which Bill in his own words explains the origin and the continuing tradition of saying the Lord’s Prayer and The Serenity Prayer at Meetings.]
A Letter From Bill W. Regarding The Lord’s Prayer In A.A.
From the A.A. Archives in New York
April 14, 1959 Dear Russ,
Am right sorry for my delay in answering. Lois and I were a long time out of the country and this was followed by an attack of the marathon type of flu that has been around here in New York. We are okay now, however, but I did want to explain my delay.
Now about the business of adding the Lord’s Prayer to each A.A. meeting.
This practice probably came from the Oxford Groups who were influential n the early days of A.A. You have probably noted in AA. Comes of Age the Lord’s Prayer was a custom of theirs following the close of each meeting.Therefore it quite easily got shifted into a general custom among us.
Of course there will always be those who seem to be offended by the introduction of any prayer whatever into an ordinary A.A. gathering. Also, it is sometimes complained that the Lord’s Prayer is a Christian document. Nevertheless this Prayer is of such widespread use and recognition that the arguments of its Christian origin seems to be a little farfetched.
However, around here, the leader of the meeting usually asks those to join him in the Lord’s Prayer who feel that they would care to do so. The worst that happens to the objectors is that they have to listen to it. This is doubtless a salutary exercise in tolerance at their stage of progress.
So that’s the sum of the Lord’s Prayer business as I recall it. Your letter made me wonder in just what connection you raise the question.
Meanwhile, please know just how much Lois and I treasure the friend ship of you both. May Providence let our paths presently cross one of these days
It’s ALMOST a cliché. Time and time again, you’ll hear AA members talk about what’s happened to them in the way of financial recovery, then quickly add, “But material things don’t count. Money doesn’t buy happiness. You don’t have to drive a Cadillac to feel good.”
Whatever its form, the statement makes me uneasy. It is true that excessive materialism is one of the curses of our age, and that many of us have come to grief while in pursuit of the god of business success. Others have been disillusioned when they found success and it turned to ashes in their grasp. And there’s no doubt that material things are limited in their power to give us what we really need in life. Materialism should be modified. But dare we push this modification to the point of saying that material things don’t count at all?
Sometimes, there’s almost a trace of hypocrisy in these announcements. An AA member speaks at our group and tells with great joy of his emancipation from the need to own a Cadillac. Walking with him to the parking lot, I am then astonished to see him slide behind the wheel of his new Caddy for the trip home. If Cadillacs don’t, count, why is he driving one? Why didn’t he buy a compact and give the dif- ference to charity?
Or take the occasional member who lectures the destitute down-and-outer. Outside, the temperatures are falling, and the newcomer wonders where he will sleep that night. He has stumbled confused into AA, partly for hope and partly to bum the price of a night’s lodging. Before he knows it, somebody is telling him not to be preoccupied with “material things,” because his first need is to get sober!
My point is not just to express disapproval of such thoughtlessness–many of us have been guilty of it. Rather, I think we should aim for a realistic view of material things, so that we don’t make fools of ourselves by dismissing them out of hand, and at the same time don’t make slaves of ourselves by letting materialism become our be-all and end-all.
It is obvious, too, that few people really believe anybody who speaks out against materalism or money. The world has few genuine Thoreaus or Gandhis, and most of us pursue money to a certain degree. We also live in a type of world that is virtually uninhabitable without money. Many of us could not even get to work without an automobile, and we have countless other fixed obligations to meet: shelter, clothing, heat, lights, food, taxes, education, medical expenses. A person who tried to get by without these necessities in our present society wouldn’t be admired; he would be thought irresponsible.
The problem with materialism grows out of the false views we have towards money; money itself is not the problem. These false views involve a tendency to ascribe too much power to money, to see it as an answer to every human problem and need. Perhaps we are unconsciously inclined to assume that, since a certain amount of money is very good, increasing amounts will bring proportionate increases of good. But it does not work this way. The power of money is limited; it is completely ineffective in satisfying some needs, though it may be indispensable in satisfying certain others.
What will money do? In general, it will purchase comfort, convenience, and means of pleasure–material things. If you have money, you can live in a comfortable home, have appliances, automobiles, and services for your convenience, and seek pleasure through vacation trips and frequent entertainment.
But if a person is basically unhappy, he cannot be made happy by obtaining comfort and convenience. It is not at all uncommon to find some of the unhappiest people in fine suburban homes. This does not prove that fine suburban homes are bad for happiness. It only shows that the source of happiness is never in “things.”
But it would be silly to leap from this observation to the belief that one can be happy though destitute. Unhappiness and actual desti- tution seem to go hand in hand. The destitute person is so deprived of the basic necessities of ordinary living that he becomes preoccupied with fear and need; hence, he is unhappy. A friend who has had several financial setbacks in his life tells me that he fears destitution, but not poverty. He sees poverty only as a low standard of living. As a rule, poor people still have a roof, three meals, and (in the U.S.) often a car of some kind. But destitute people have nothing. One could be poor and happy; one could rarely be destitute and happy.
I have found a personal answer by seeing material things as spiritual ideas. God made the physical world, as well as the spiritual and mental. It is our job to use material things properly, seeing them just as things to use and not as objects for either worship or condemnation. It is also our job to use spiritual ideas and principles properly, recognizing that, while they are superior to material things, they do not replace the material.
Perhaps we could get the most balanced view of this if we looked upon both money and spiritual principles as “tools” for good living. A competent artisan knows that he must have an assortment of tools in his kit to perform any job well, and he uses each tool for a specific purpose. He does not condemn the saw because it is not a good hammer, and he does not throw away his plane because it will not drill holes. He uses each tool for its intended purpose and completes the job.
As recovered alcoholics, we naturally want to live in reasonable comfort with all the happiness and personal fulfillment we can find. It is up to us to enhance this comfortable life with a healthy spiritual outlook–an outlook characterized by feelings of gratitude, goodwill, optimism, and unselfishness. Such an outlook includes a practical appreciation of the value in material things. We know, then, that material things do matter–but not to the exclusion of other values in life.
Mel B. is former editor of the AA Grapevine and a well known speaker and writer on the subject of AA. His website is
Could you describe your spiritual experience for us and your understanding of what happened?
In December 1934, I appeared at Towns Hospital, New York. My old friend, Dr. William Silkworth shook his head. Soon free of my sedation and alcohol I felt horribly depressed. My friend Ebby turned up and although glad to see him, I shrank a little as I feared evangelism, but nothing of the sort happened. After some small talk, I again asked him for his neat little formula for recovery. Quietly and sanely and without the slightest pressure he told me and then he left.
Lying there in conflict, I dropped into the blackest depression I had ever known. Momentarily my prideful depression was crushed. I cried out, “Now I am ready to do anything – anything to receive what my friend Ebby has.” Though I certainly didn’t expect anything, I did make this frantic appeal, “If there be a God, will He show Himself!” The result was instant, electric beyond description. The place seemed to light up, blinding white. I knew only ecstasy and seemed on a mountain. A great wind blew, enveloping and penetrating me. To me, it was not of air but of Spirit. Blazing, there came the tremendous thought, “You are a free man.” Then the ecstasy subsided. Still on the bed, I now found myself in a new world of consciousness which was suffused by a Presence. One with the Universe, a great peace came over me. I thought, “So this is the God of the preachers, this is the great Reality.” But soon my so-called reason returned, my modern education took over and I thought I must be crazy and I became terribly frightened.
Dr. Silkworth, a medical saint if ever there was one, came in to hear my trembling account of this phenomenon. After questioning me carefully, he assured me that I was not mad and that perhaps I had undergone a psychic experience which might solve my problem. Skeptical man of science though he then was, this was most kind and astute. If he had of said, “hallucination,” I might now be dead. To him I shall ever be eternally grateful.
Good fortune pursued me. Ebby brought me a book entitled “Varieties of Religious Experience” and I devoured it. Written by William James, the psychologist, it suggests that the conversion experience can have objective reality. Conversion does alter motivation and it does semi-automatically enable a person to be and to do the formerly impossible. Significant it was, that marked conversion experience came mostly to individuals who knew complete defeat in a controlling area of life. The book certainly showed variety but whether these experiences were bright or dim, cataclysmic or gradual, theological or intellectual in bearing, such conversions did have a common denominator – they did change utterly defeated people. So declared William James, the father of modern psychology. The shoe fitted and I have tried to wear it ever since.
For drunks, the obvious answer was deflation at depth, and more of it. That seemed plain as a pikestaff. I had been trained as an engineer, so the news of this authoritative psychologist meant everything to me. This eminent scientist of the mind had confirmed everything that Dr. Jung had said, and had extensively documented all he claimed. Thus William James firmed up the foundation on which I and many others had stood all these years. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since 1934.
(N.Y. Med. Soc. Alcsm., April 28,1958)