An Irishman and a Scotsman . . .


It sounds like the start of a joke but the record breaking attempt  by these two New Zealand based Northern Hemisphere shearers is deadly serious.

A Scotsman and an Irishman will next week walk into a New Zealand shearing shed with hopes of setting a new world record.

The Scotsman, Gavin Mutch, who now lives in Whangamomona, in Taranaki, will be the first to take on Hawke’s Bay farmer Justin Bell’s eight-hour shearing record of 731, which has stood for six years. His attempt will take place in the hill country near his home.

He will be followed by Christchurch-based Irishman Ivan Scott at a farm south of Rotorua.

Bell said he believes the record could one day go as high as 800.

To put that in perspective, a good shearer would shear about 300 sheep in a normal working day.

An engineer’s perspective on Santa



I/  There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world, however since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the population reference bureau).



At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

II/ 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 967.7 visits per second.

So for every Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000 of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.


Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purpose of our
calculations) that’s about 1.25 Km per household, a total of 120.8 million Km, not counting bathroom stops or breaks.


This means Santa’s sleigh is moving at 1040 Km per second……..3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 43.8 Km per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 25 Km per hour.

III/ The pay load of the sleigh adds another interesting element.

Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds,
even granting that the “flying” reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can’t be done with eight or even nine of them……Santa would need 360,000 of them.


This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth II (the ship, not the monarch).

IV/  600,000 tons travelling at 1040 Km per second creates enormous air resistance….this would heat up the lead reindeer in the same fashion as a space shuttle re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.


The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporised within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.


Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 1040 k p s in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 G’s. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

V/   Therefore, if Santa did exist, he’s dead now.


Hat Tip: the unknown engineer whose calculations were emailed to someone who emailed them to someone who emailed them to someone  . . . who emailed them to me.

Parliament’s seating plan


A new parliament and a new look. The  seating plan will be easier to see if you follow the link, but here’s a compressed version:


Hat tip: Kiwiblog

Park and smile


I’m a small town driver, if I can’t park outside the store or business I want to visit I’m discombobulated.

I’m not alone. When a traffic survey was done in Oamaru it found the vast majority of driver’s in the town’s main street weren’t those using state highway 1 to get from A to B, but shoppers driving round and round looking for a park.

Imagine the consternation we’re all feeling because Transit’s redesign of the road through the centre of town is doing away with many of the parks in the trees between the north and south bound lanes.

We might have to walk half a block to get to a shop!

Oh dear, never mind, I’ve cheered up now because a friend sent me the link to Validation a YouTube video of a fable about the myth of free parking.

It’s 16 minutes long but if you need a feel-good fable, a bit of romance and a reminder that smiles are infectious, it’s worth the time to watch it.

Just teasing


The wind swung round to the south east, the direction from which we get most of our rain, yesterday and by late afternoon we had a heavy drizzle but the weather gods were just teasing us.

My farmer was very excited when he tipped 24 mls out of the rain gauge later in the evening until he realised that it hadn’t been emptied since the irrigator had been on the nearby lawn the day before.

The paths are wet this morning, there’s a few shallow puddles and one of our staff whose gauge hadn’t been under the irrigator measured 6mls.

That’s the only rainfall worth measuring since the 12mls we got in the middle of last month and that was the only significant fall since August. 

It beats a nor wester but no-one’s turned off their irrigators and it won’t have done anything more than lay the dust on dry land farms.

Let the facts speak


Sometime near the start of my year at journalism school I was foolish enough to insert an emotive comment into a news story.

The course tutor pulled me up for it and pointed out if a news story is researched and written well the facts will speak for themselves.

The person who wrote this story  can’t have learned that lesson:

The five children of an Afghan taxi driver who was murdered in Christchurch have now been deprived of their mother as well.

She was taken to hospital last night, overcome with grief and stress. Her children, aged from six to 14, are now in the care of extended family and the Afghan community.

There is a tragic irony that Abdul Ikhtiari escaped from Afghanistan to be murdered in Christchurch, this is an horrific crime and the hospitalisation of Mrs Ikhtiari is newsworthy.

But the children haven’t been deprived of their mother and all the story needed to say was that she had been taken to hospital and her children were being cared for by extended family and the Afghan community.

Can he make lemonade?



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