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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas fun ...

One of the more fun bits of silliness at Christmas is the annual "NORAD Tracks Santa ..." fun and games usually reported on TV and Radio and sometimes even in the printed media. The Postulant sent me a link to the Wikipedia page that gives the background to this and that set me thinking...

The whole "NORAD Tracks Santa" event has its origins in a misprint in an advert inserted in a Colorado newspaper by the Sears department store. The intention was to let children talk directly to Santa (Their version of course, who could then encourage the kids to visit the stores Grotto ...). The accidental misprint gave the number instead for the Continental Air Defence System HQ - which found itself swamped with calls from children hoping top speak to Santa. The operators referred to their Commanding Officer, a Colonel in the USAF, who instructed the operators to "give the kids updates on where Santa is in the world distributing gifts ..." and so began the annual tradition of NORAD issuing minute by minute bulletins on Santa's whereabouts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I would like to think that the Colonel's response to the mistake was typical of the military attitude when dealing with children in particular. A Bureaucrat probably would have told the operators to respond with "Sorry, you have a wrong number." By contrast the Colonel figured out what had happened, realised there were a lot of bitterly disappointed children calling - and took a decision which resolved the potential for tears.

Interestingly the whole operation is now run by volunteers on the NORAD staff. Sophisticated software is used to analyse the volume and type of calls each year and to determine how many and when the volunteers will be needed. Long may it continue.

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