Pragmatic 49: A Bow On The Handlebars

13 December, 2014


With holiday cheer Vic and John dive into some of the finer details of Christmas and the Holiday season looking at wrapping paper and sticky tape, what to wrap, what you shouldn’t and why, and a bit about Santa (warning for young kids POSSIBLE SPOILERS!)

Transcript available
Welcome to the Christmas Special of Pragmatic. Pragmatic Christmas Specials are an annual discussion show contemplating the practical difficulties of organising gifts, relatives and get-togethers in the holiday season. Exploring the real world frustrations, we look at how history brought us to this point and transformed us all from kids anticipating Christmas to grown-ups dreading it. Nothing about Christmas is as simple as it seems. This episode is sponsored by Harvest. Harvest lets you time your tasks wherever you might be doing them and then easily analyse your timesheet to track non-billable or hopefully billable hours, then turn those into invoices for your clients with both PayPal and Stripe integration. Check out Harvest at and sign up for a free 30-day trial and start tracking your time and invoicing others simply and painlessly. Once your 30-day trial is up, use the coupon code 'Pragmatic' at the checkout and you'll also save 50% off your first month. But hurry, this offer expires January 15, 2015. This episode is also sponsored by Mandrill. Mandrill is a transactional email service that easily ties into your website and apps when you need to send one-off emails like responses, password resets, acknowledgments and so on. Visit and sign up today. Why not? It's free. And use the promo code 'Pragmatic' to get 50,000 free email transactions per month for 6 months. Normally it's only 12,000 a month. That's 4 times the normal amount. Integrate, deliver, track and analyze using email infrastructure from Mandrill. We'll talk about our sponsors more during the show. I'm your host, John Tidgey, and joining me for the Christmas special is my co-host, Vic Hudson. How you doing, Vic? I'm good, John. How are you? Very good. And I'll start by saying Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas to you. And actually, that's a really great place to start because I hear so often, particularly in North America, that the expression is now "Happy Holidays." That seems to be the trend, yes. when you were younger, like not that long ago, really, did you start out always saying "Happy Holidays" or is that something that's been happening more recently? Well, personally, I still say "Merry Christmas". What's the start of why? I think that I've always seen things like seasons greetings and "Happy Holidays" exist, but they're getting much, much more prevalent. Sure. Personally, I don't know if this is a reflection of the way the trend has actually realistically happened but I've personally observed that over the last decade or so it's really seemed to favor the seasons greetings and happy holidays the more neutral things versus Christmas Yeah, that's been my observation as well In Australia, typically Merry Christmas is still very common but I'm starting to see the Merry Christmas signs the ones you would dangle up that have all the letters and festive colors And they were all starting to read, you know, "Happy Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". And, you know, I suspect to some degree of that is that they all come from the same warehouse in some part of Southeast Asia, shipping to North America. Probably. Well, yeah, so quite possibly. And of course, it's more about the... The fact is that it's a holiday period for several different religions and for people that aren't specifically religious. religious at all. Yeah. Yeah. And therefore, the sentiment "Happy Holidays" is, I think, generally considered to be more politically correct or at least more culturally accepting. So, in either case, I'm used to saying Merry Christmas, and I guess it's hard for me to break the habit. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, but yeah, I don't know. I think what I've observed is, honestly, I can't recall anybody that's ever personally said to me "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays". I think it's usually in conversations and talking to people and interacting with people, it's almost always Merry Christmas but I think in general, in print, web, TV, big banners, all of that type of things I think most of those are where I've seen the shift to seasons greetings and happy holidays Yeah, fair enough. Well, I guess the thing I guess I wanted to move on to that just quickly is the one thing about Christmas is Christmas music. And I had originally threatened to sing this episode, but I'm not going to. I had enough feedback on Twitter to suggest that that was a bad idea. So, I'm not doing that. I think that's the best. Fine. But yes, however, I did think it would be nice just to quickly touch on favorite Christmas song. You first. I tend to favor instrumental stuff versus vocal stuff. And to that end, my favorite is usually some rendition or another of Carol of the Bells. Oh, okay. Lovely. My personal favorite is actually Jingle Bells and it's been mixed and remixed and done so many different ways. And of course, Jingle Bell Rock as well. I mean, there's just, yeah. But the funny thing about Jingle Bells as a song is actually, it was originally released in 1853 and it was called One Horse Open Sleigh. And it was renamed in 1859 Jingle Bells. And technically, if you listen to the lyrics, it wasn't necessarily specifically a Christmas related song, but it became associated with Christmas because it was often played around that time of year. So anyway, yeah, one of those little things. So, yeah, that's my favourite. But yeah, and I particularly enjoyed the Bombay Dub Orchestras remix of Joe Williams version of Jingle Bells. I don't think I caught that one. Oh, no, no, no, no. This is- You hang on. You haven't seen Iron Man, have you? No, I have not. God damn you, Vic. Fine. But you know what? Iron Man 3 in the workshop where he's testing out his new suit at the beginning before you get introduced to the Mandarin. Yeah, he says, "drop my needle" and it starts playing Jingle Bells, the Bombay Dub Orchestra remix of Joe Williams version and is absolutely brilliant. I love that. Jarvis, drop my needle. I will check it out. Yeah, please do. I'll be a link in the show notes. Okay. So, I thought it might be a little bit fun to delve into a couple of little things about Christmas that, I don't know, interest or frustrate or have certain engineering aspects to you may think, what the hell is he on about? Well, okay. But before we do that, I guess I just want to talk about, I suppose, the idea of giving of gifts and so on. And there's like, who gives gifts to who, what the rules are. And there's this... Because, you know, it's like parents always give... Well, hang on. A lot of parents will give presents to their children, but some families children will be giving presents to each other. And in some families, children will give presents to the parents. And then when parents all get... And like groups of adults all get together, you know, sometimes they'll give presents to everyone else. And you end up having a gift list that is so long, you can't afford to pay for it all, you know, and it's like, well, that's ridiculous, isn't it? So, then I came across this idea and obviously it wasn't not, definitely not my idea. And I have no idea how long this has been a thing, but the concept of secret Santa, are you aware of this one? Yeah. See, I only came across this about, well, 12 years ago, actually, when I met my wife. She comes from a bigger family. So, in a bigger family, the economics of everyone buying everyone else a present was just unfeasible. And so, they had this idea of Secret Santa where everyone puts their name into a hat or a bucket or some other, you know, non-transparent containing device. And anyway, so you fish your name out and everyone gets one Secret Santa, but you can't tell them who you have as your Secret Santa. That's a secret because it's Secret Santa. But anyway, I kind of like the idea. Actually, I really like the idea. Yeah, I've always thought it was a good idea, good, solid plan. Yeah. Because it keeps things fun without cheapening it, but it does significantly reduce the burden so you don't need to take out second mortgages to pay for Christmas. Yeah, well, that's exactly right. So, yeah, exactly right. So, anyway. All right. So, a little bit about the presents themselves. I'm talking about Sandra and later, but wrapping presence. You know, the funny thing is, if you go back far enough, wrapping was actually not something that was as common. It was sort of affluent families that could afford to do the whole wrapping thing. The sack was actually the favoured method because it concealed what it was and it was reusable and it was cheap, you know, and that's what a lot- And of course, in many cases, no wrapping, you know. So, the whole wrapping paper thing and tearing the wrapping paper off and the moment of surprise, you know, when they open up the presents and everything. You know, all that sort of thing has come in more recent, you know, the last century or two prior to that, not so common. But the other thing, of course, is that wrapping paper types have evolved over the years as well, which is kind of, you know, I guess it kind of makes sense because there was no plastic before 1950 or 1940, whenever it was. So, oh, you'd think I'd have a date for that, but no, I didn't. I didn't chop that one down. But anyhow, so the thing with wrapping paper that I find is interesting is that a lot of the cheaper stuff is very, very thin, very, very flimsy, and that's good because it's light. And of course, it's good better for the environment because you're not, you know, killing quite as many trees in order to wrap presents, just to rip off the paper and then throw the paper away. Goodness me, please recycle it. But anyway, it's a balance, you know, between- And I just- I don't know what the right term is. I'm just going to call it ripability or maybe tearability. That's a technical term. I just wish I had a technical term for it, but you know, your ability to rip it off anyway. Geez, anyway, so versus the robustness during of the wrapping in transportation, because obviously you're moving it from, you know, wherever you're moving it from and moving it to presumably the tree or wherever, you know, that sort of movement, you want it to be strong enough that it can survive that but not so strong that it makes it too hard to open so it's sort of an interesting balance but anyway so a little bit more about the different types so wax paper and cellophane as though was very popular in the mid 20th century at least in Western cultures anyway and prior to that you know saying wrapping was all that popular but but paper is by far the most popular method now and you got either tissue wrap or craft paper and the craft paper with the the nice pretty patterns on the outside is again by far the most popular. Tissue wrap, I've done a few things in tissue wrap but you know I just don't like the way they look you know. They just don't seem to have as nice a finish. They don't feel as Christmassy if that makes sense. Yeah, I like to use the tissue wrap when I'm doing a, not wrapping something but if I'm doing like a gift bag thing. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah sure. Then I use it as like a loose fluffy filling thing that can like go down into the bag and hang out of the bag and overflow out of the bag and... - Yeah, okay. - Like a garnishing more than anything, I guess you'd call it. - Sure, yeah. And also by putting it in this top of the bag, you disguise the contents of what's in the bag, which is, you know, also important. Yeah, because sometimes I do get this impression that people just get a bag and they shove the present in the bag and that's the end of that. They're like, "Yep, you know, job done, you know, nothing else to do here." - No, put a little effort into it. - But isn't that the point of a bag? You don't have to put effort into it? For me it's no, I guess some people could see it that way I think that a lot of people see it that way which is unfortunate Commonly a lot of the times my wife's gifts will be in a bag but it's not because of a lack of effort it's because Usually it's a small set of gifts and it's a way to collect them all together And I usually really enjoy picking out a color coordinated bag and ribbons for the bag and tissue papers for it and before I put anything in the bag, I'll line it with the tissue paper that extends a little bit and then I'll wrap the items with tissue paper and throw them into the bag and there's some more fluffy tissue paper in there I don't know, it's one of my few creative and artistic creative ways to do things Yeah, you mean other than your apps? Yeah Well, all I know is that I now want you to do all of the bagged presents in my life, because it sounds like you actually put effort into it, which is fantastic. So, I guess the other thing, another thing that occurs to me is the point of wrapping a present or putting it in a bag is to conceal what it is. So, what is it with people that just put a bow on the handlebars? I mean, what's the bow concealing exactly? I don't think it's concealing anything except that here, this big, huge thing, this is your present. Yeah, exactly. So, anyway, look, I look at that and I think to myself, okay, so I get it. You're going to... Let's say it's a bike, you know, that is... That someone is giving to someone else for whatever reason. Okay. And, you know, you really going to be able to wrap that in such a way that it doesn't look like a bike? I mean, yeah, if it's assembled. No, I mean, you're just not, I mean, unless you put in an enormous box, which most people don't have lying around or you keep it flat packed. And then, of course, it's like, here's a bike that I got you. You have to put it together yourself, but assembly not included. But here's a nice-- but yeah, if you're going to go through that assembly process, you're kind of stuck, aren't you? So anyway, so there's got to be some kind have a point at which you say, right, this is no longer a wrappable object. I can no longer disguise what this thing is, so I'm just not going to bother. So in that case, I've seen- Have you ever seen someone that's got like a tennis racket and they've given it to someone and they've wrapped the bottom of the tennis racket, but they've left the handle exposed or something like that, like golf clubs where they've wrapped half of it or something? Either that or they wrap the whole thing, but it's still just crystal clear, obvious that it's a tennis racket underneath the wrapping. Exactly. It's like, oh, God, really? If you can't disguise the shape of it, I reckon you shouldn't worry. That's all there is to it. You know what? Bow on the handlebars, go for it, because I get it. You can't just put that in a box and disguise what it is. I mean, there's this- Sometimes where I've given presents, usually to family members, like adults, is if it's something expensive, but it's small, like a bit of jewellery, for example, I'll wrap it inside box and then I'll put it that and wrap that box inside another box inside another box inside another box. I think I did one year I did five boxes. So, it was this huge box. The present was... It took him ten minutes to get to the damn present, but it was completely worth it. Anyhow, well, I thought it was hilarious. My wife perhaps did not see the funny side of it. She didn't appreciate it. No, the fourth box, patience is wearing thin, but that's OK. How many boxes deep did you say it was? It was five. Five? Yeah. That's not too bad. I thought it was good. Anyway, alright. So, yes. So, yes. I guess the next interesting thing. Well, okay, I say interesting. But the next thing to think about is holding all of that wrapping paper on. And it's like, how are you going to do that? You're going to need sticky tape, aren't you? - Mm-hmm. - Mm, exactly. But before we talk about sticky tape, I'd like to talk about our first sponsor for this episode, and that's Harvest. Now, many people listening to this show will spend their time working on home projects and work projects too, and you lose track of time. We've talked about this on the show before, about being realistic about how much time you have available to you. Well, one way you can track your time is by using Harvest. Now, they have a simple-to-use web app where you can create tasks. They also have mobile apps for both Android and iOS. It's easy to select a task or an activity and start a stop a timer from any of them. On a Mac, it installs a nice, neat menu bar icon, and it detects when you've been idle for a long time. So when you come back, you can choose to deduct those idle minutes or hours or how long it's been from the total that you've set going. You know, little touches like that make it really cool, I think. But anyway, it's a great way to track where your time's going. And after you've done all that work, whatever it might be, then it's even easier to look back at the time sheet and see where your time's gone. That alone is handy enough, but if you're working on a project with a team, your co-workers can track their times as well using Harvest and it makes it really easy to manage everyone's time in a project collectively. So Harvest also makes invoicing easy. It's quick and painless to set up clients and multiple points of contact at those clients. You can then build invoices using your timesheet information. So you can pull hourly rates and the timesheets and combine them into into creating invoices pretty much automatically based on your hourly rates and all integrates nicely with PayPal and Stripe. Now, I've been using Harvest invoices for this podcast just recently for a couple of months now, and it's now it's taken over as my invoicing system of choice. I think it's that nice. Now, you can check out Harvest, give it a go at getharvest, all one word dot com and sign up for a free 30 day trial. Start tracking your time and invoicing others simply and painlessly. There's no credit card required, no obligation. They just want you to see how great and how handy it can be. So there's no excuse not to give it a try. Once your 30 day trial is over and you've realized just how great Harvest is, use the coupon code Pragmatic at the checkout and you'll also receive 50% off your first month. That applies to any of their plans. Hurry though, this offer expires on the 15th of January, 2015. Thank you once again to Harvest for sponsoring Pragmatic. Sticky tape. At least that's what I-- - Sticky tape. Well, that's what I call it, but different people, different places around the world call it different things. Technically, it's PSA, which is pressure sensitive adhesive tape. That is a technical term. Yes, because it's pressure sensitive. Well, yeah, kind of. But anyway, it's not a public safety announcement. Yeah, no, I was actually thinking you put under too much pressure. What happens to it? Some tape can't take the pressure. pressure. Okay, anyway. So, it was actually in... I know, did I just blow your mind or you're shaking your head because that was such a bad joke. Sorry. It's the second one. Okay. Dr. Horace Day in 1845 originally developed it for medical applications. He was a surgeon, but commercially it didn't really hit the scene until the 1910s. Now, these days it can be made of different backing materials, so you've got plastic paper, metal foil even, or cloth backed as well. But for Christmas wrapping there's really only the two types. Most commonly used types, you've got plastic backed clear tape and that clear tape allows the pattern of your wrapping paper to shine through. Or you can have plastic backed ornamental tape, which is the one that's got pretty, you know, like Christmas trees and holly and all sorts of other different ornamentations on the little snowmen, potentially, you know, zombies, who knows? Anyway, you can use that to spice up plain wrapping paper. But I kind of think that people sometimes cross the streams a bit on that. And they say, well, I got colourful ornamental wrapping paper with colourful ornamental tape. And I'm like, do I look at the tape? Do I look at the paper? Do I look at the tape? I don't know what to look at. It's all very confusing. I don't know, maybe I'm just overthinking it. It's quite possible. But anyhow, yes. So plastic back clear tape is by far the most popular. And that's why I'm I'm going to focus on that. Why? Because, well, why not? So three most common names that I'm aware of, and maybe you can add to this is Stello Tape, which is of course a brand name. Scotch Tape is 3M's product range name. And of course, Sticky Tape, which is what I opened with. What other, what other words would you use to describe it? Scotch Tape is probably the biggest one here, at least as far as my exposure to it. And I think that it's kind of been Kleenex-ized, if I can make that a word. - Yeah, I understand. - Any kind of clear plastic sticky tape is usually called Scotch tape here. - Okay, well, fair enough. And that's cool. I just, you know, it's one of those things, you use a product long enough, it has a brand name, that brand name becomes part of the, part of everyday discourse. But anyhow, yes. So you know what I'm talking about. Okay. So with tapes, you know, I never thought I'd do an episode of Pragmatic that involved adhesives, but here we are. Anyhow, nevermind that. Sheer strength of adhesive tape versus the peel strength. And of course, you know, if that's not clear, what that means is the amount of force that you're required to remove it through peeling is different from the amount from pulling. So when I say peel versus pulling, you know, if you apply a piece of tape to a flat surface and then you take the corner of it, if you can get the corner of it, and you peel that up at 90 degrees. So you pull at 90 degrees from the surface upon which it is adhered to. Then that is referred to as the peeling strength. That's the force required to peel it off. And shear strength is, you put the tape down on the, adhere it to the surface, and then you pull in a lateral direction. That is to say, you don't lift it at 90 degrees, you lift it on the same axis that it is stuck to. So, there is a bunch of links in the show notes if you're really interested about some of the differences, but I decided to pick one of the most common scotch tapes that you could find. And it has a shear strength of, well, of 28 pounds per inch. And that is for a tape that is three quarters of an inch, which is 19 millimeters wide. And that works out to 125 newtons of force. Again, that's per, as I said, per inch, which is per 25 millimeters worth of width of tape. Or length, depending on how you want to think about it. That's the problem, length, width, width, length. Go from portrait to landscape, it's all messed up. Anyhow, so there you go. Isn't that great? Although admittedly, when you're holding a present together, the amount of force required to hold that together is significantly less. The problem that you have when you're wrapping is actually the amount of force you apply when you apply the tape to the surface. 'Cause it is pressure sensitive. The more pressure you apply, the better it will stick. However, it's often the case if you're wrapping a present that if there's empty spaces, like there's no hard surface to press against, you can't apply enough force for it to reliably hold in place. - Yep. - Of course, the other issue is that that shear strength is based on paper. So I say 28 pounds per inch, that's adhering to paper. If you were to adhere to steel or to plastic, it would be different. And of course, that's assuming your surface is free of contaminants. If you have contaminants on the surface, like oil or dirt or water, that will change and it will reduce the amount of of holding force that it's got before it shears off. Anyway, there you go. That's that's that's about as far as I can go on that. I'm not going to go further. I could say more, but I'm not going to. Anyway, all right. I don't think anybody else would have done as good a job covering tape. Well, like I said, I could do a lot more, but I'm not going to. I'm just I'm I am self-aware enough that I need to draw a line at some point. I'm drawing it there. OK, talking about peel strength and removing things. Let's talk about removing price tags. Oh, that can get messy sometimes. Yes, it can, because it's like, oh, I'm going to give you a present and you, the adult, you look at this and you're like, oh, man, I wonder what that is. And sometimes it's like I go to the same shops that you go to and you can see, oh, this is that thing that you got from that shop. I've seen one of those and it's worth five bucks, you stingy bugger. And then you have a look and you think, oh, I have no idea what this is worth. It looks really nice. It's a thoughtful gift. And you never find out unless you leave the price tag on. It's like five bucks. I don't have to go to a store to do a price comparison, you stingy bugger. Anyhow, that's the other thing, price expectation, seriously It's supposed to be the thought that counts, isn't it, Vic? It is. Yeah. So what do you get me for Christmas? Minimum spend, $500. No, I'm just kidding. OK, anyhow. I'm all over that. You know, don't do that. That's fine. Oh, dear. Right. Anyhow, yes, so the thing about the price tags is, yeah, it wouldn't be an issue if people didn't get their knickers in a knot about how much is enough or how much is expected. And that's one of the things I like about the whole Secret Santa idea is that often associated with that is that there's an expectation. You'll have a bit of a discussion, you know, about family, you might say, yeah, don't spend more than draw a line here. And yeah, a lot of people just code it right into the program. Yeah, exactly right. Front end coding. Front end coding. Yeah, that's it. So, absolutely. And then that way that avoids disappointment, frustration and whatever else. But of course, then you also face the other dilemma. If you can't think of whatever else to get and the spend limits $100, it's like, well, God, I can't think of a single thing that's worth $100. I want to get them. Yeah. Then what do you do? I'm going to get multiple presents. And then, of course, other people think, oh, they got a lot of cash. What about fake cash? What about gift cards? You know, what about people that trade gift cards? I will give you a hundred dollar gift voucher from this place and you'll give me a hundred dollar gift voucher from some other place. And we each try and guess. Yeah, and it's happened to me, you know, and I had this... What sense does that make? There's an episode of Dilbert that the other two seasons I did of Dilbert and it was- I forget the name of the episode, but it was about gift giving and And the subject comes up of giving a gift card. And I forget who it was that said it. It shows that I could give you a gift card. And Dilbert says, "What sense does that make?" And he says, "Well, it shows there's some thought that went into it." He said, "It doesn't show thought, it shows defective thought. I'm trading a very fully flexible form of currency for an inflexible form of currency that's only valid in one location. Yeah. Why don't you just get your mom a gift certificate? No, I got her cash last year. She said it was insulting. But a gift certificate is completely different from cash. No, it's not. They're both pieces of paper you can exchange for goods and services. You're missing the point. Actually, a gift certificate is worse than cash, because you can only use it in one place. And it expires. At least it shows some thought. It shows defective thought. You're trading perfectly good money for something that does the same thing, only not as well. Gift cards, I don't get it. Anyhow. Just look, I'm going to get a bunch of gift cards. It's my Christian versus the snail. So you don't like gift cards, huh? Well, guess what, sunshine? Anyway, I'm pretty sure my family don't listen to this podcast, so I'm safe. Right. Anyhow. It's going to come back behind you. I have a feeling it might, but anyhow, never mind that. Oh, dear me. Right. Yes. So, anyhow, God. One of the other things that is an interesting dilemma about Christmas is the who, what, when, where, you know, because talk about presents and who gives presents to whom. And I guess one of the other things actually before I get to that is just the whole thing with kids changing the equation. Now, before I had kids, you know, parents, it'd all be about, you know, everyone giving each other, you know, nice, nice presents. And the price of the presents was generally pretty high because when you grow up, you got your own income and everything, and you can afford to get nice presents and everything. But as soon as you have kids, and then there's a lot of changes. Changes things a bit. Everything changes and it ceases to be about, you know, $200 presents or whatever else, which frankly, I don't think we ever got to that. but you know you can't even do $100 worth of value in a lot of cases if you're doing a full round robin of everyone by everyone else a presents I could God you know it's so expensive anyway so why would you do that you go secret Santa you cut costs blah blah it becomes about the kids so the money that you would spend on other adults now goes towards the kids and let's let's face it the kids can enjoy it anyway a lot more than the adults so you know it's like it ceases to become about the grown-ups and it becomes more about a show for the kids and the kids just love it and And I think that's brilliant. So it's the sort of thing that I think that there's definitely a change when you either have kids of your own or you have nieces and nephews or cousins, I suppose, with young kids, whatever. All right, so the who, what, when, where, how, why, if, but. Hang on, that's for wise and nevermind. When I did English, they talked about the, at school, they talked about the five W's and the H. So what is it? Who, what, when, where, why? Why and how? Oh, yeah. Why? Yeah. So you did four W's and H's. Why? Why did you do four W's and H's? Exactly. That's the question. Now, if only you covered the fifth W, you would have been fine. Anyway, OK, good, lovely. Anyhow, so point is, yes, the who, what. God, I've done that already. So you got a family and or maybe you do, maybe you don't. You got friends, whatever you got in. Maybe you've got in-laws, maybe you don't. But there's a collection of people. How do you decide where you go and what you do? Because when I was a kid, nowhere was open. You know, nothing. Nothing was open. Everything was shut. Because, well, why would you go anywhere on Christmas Day? You'd be spending that day with your family, wouldn't you? McDonald's wasn't open. Not that I'm suggesting people have Christmas parties at McDonald's, actually. Hmm. Maybe they do. No, I don't. I've never seen one. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Well, okay. Let's just assume they don't, because it just seems strange to me. Although they have birthday parties there, maybe that's a new thing that McDonald's could look into. Anyway, this is the moment where you tell me that Jack in the Box does it or something like that. No, not that I know of. OK, well, here in Australia, it's becoming a thing and I don't know what it's like in North America. Maybe you can tell me in a minute, but in Australia, it's becoming a thing where you can do a Christmas feast and you would go to a place like Sizzler or some of the larger pubs like a Gil Hoolies or, you know, you know, Outback Steakhouse, maybe. I'm not sure of a complete list, but the number is growing every single year. More and more places are doing a special Christmas day, lunchtime or evening special meal. And you pay an exorbitant amount of money. And honestly, it is exorbitant. But the demand is great because people look at this and say, well, I don't want to go through all the hassle of making food and, you know, giving people food poisoning by accident. And all sorts of other things could possibly go wrong. You know, when I could go to a public place where everyone has to be well behaved because they're in a public place, minimal drinking, and yeah, all of that is taken care of for me. There's no cleaning up afterwards. So, what's that? $100 a head? Take my money, you know. And a lot of people look at it like I've seen an increasing trend. Is that something that you're seeing in North America? Not so much where I live and with the people that I interact with regularly but I could definitely see where a lot of people would appreciate the value of that Yeah, and I'm not saying that my family does it either but I am seeing, I've been to similar such things for Mother's Day and Father's Day and you know, different events, Valentine's Day is another one I haven't gone on a Valentine's Day, but I'm, you know, it's like if there is a reason to charge a lot of money and do the catering for you, someone eventually these days is going to offer it to you. Yeah. Well, and like you named several good reasons there why people might want to. Sure. I totally get that. You get a section of, you get some control and order to your holiday gathering without you necessarily having to be the a-hole that tried to impose all the rules and wrecked everybody's good time. Yeah, well, this is the thing is it also avoids the discussion of the who, what, when, where, how, why, if, but. And it comes back to, okay, well, we've got five families. Whose house do we have it at? Yeah. Okay. So, and then, of course, you have the distant in-law problem. So, oh, okay. I live in Seattle, let's say, and my in-laws live in San Francisco. Well, okay. So, are we all going to go to Frisco or are they going to come up to us in Seattle? And it's like, wow, we got the space needle and they're like, yeah, we got the Golden Gate Bridge. So, yeah, whatever. The point is, you know, you can keep your space needle. The point is, it had a nice view, though, I will admit. The truth is that it's becomes a rotational thing. So, this year we're going to go to Frisco, next year we're going to go to the space needle and so on and so forth. And then, of course, people get, you know, more people get married and there's more in-laws. And then suddenly the whole thing falls apart and it ceases to become like the old family unit. And then everyone starts to splinter off and then they start doing their own thing between different- two different locations and alternating Christmases. Even if it's in the same town, often you'll have the same thing. Well, we want to have it at Bobby Jo's house as opposed to, you know, Mary Jane's house or whatever. I don't know. I'm trying to pick, you know, cool names or something. I don't know. Yeah. So- And that every year, you know, everyone needs to have a turn. And then, of course, people look forward to having the Christmas at a certain place because at a certain place, they've got a pool or I guess, sorry, you wouldn't want to go swimming in North America. I just realized that that's more of an Australian thing. Yeah, I was going to say. Southern hemisphere thing. Because it's like, yeah, go good luck swimming in a pool in most of North America right now. I'm not sure we really look forward to the Christmas swimming. No, sorry, my bad. Apologies. But yeah, so, you know, maybe someone's got a nice slope nearby where you can get the sled out and go for a... you know, the kids can go for a spin down the hill or something. I don't know. That's of course, if you have a white Christmas. And, you know, I've been dreaming of a white Christmas, but I'm in Australia, so that's not going to happen. Keep on dreaming. Did you get the pleasure of any of those when you were stateside at all or when you were in Canada? I did. Yes, I did, actually. I had two Christmases when I was in North America and both of them were white because I was both in Calgary. And well, OK, one of them was very white. The other was sort of a greyish white, sort of a slushy kind of snowy. It was technically snow. It was technically snow, sort of. I could pretend. I think everybody should experience it at least once. It got something about it. It just really sets the mood and it feels right that there's snow. And yeah, I know. And it's like the songs go, you know, like, "I've been dreaming of a grey, slushy Christmas". And it just, you know, you just look forward to that. - You haven't got that, that's a totally new one. It's climbing the charts. Anyway, yes, so there you go. I think it's absolutely a necessity for us to dig into Santa and Santa Claus. - He's real, you know. - He totally, absolutely is. Point is, it's time for us to talk about our second sponsor and that's Mandrill. Now Mandrill is a scalable, reliable and secure email infrastructure service trusted by more than 300,000 customers worldwide, of which I'm one. And I've been asked, what is Mandrill? Because most people understand email newsletters showing up in their inbox. A lot of them come from MailChimp because it's such a great service too, but what's Mandrill? Well, Mandrill is essentially the foundation that MailChimp is built on. And it's been broken out into its own service for discrete email transactions rather than just one big mailing list. And you can think of them like a transaction and hence, you know, the idea of transactional email. And that is actually how it started. In the two years leading up to 2012, Mandrill borrowed a bunch of MailChimp's best engineers and working in isolation, their Skunk Works project turned into Mandrill. And that's now become the largest email as a service platform in the market with more than 300,000 active customers. Now let's say you run a website like, oh, I don't know, Tech Distortion, for example, and you need to send feedback form confirmation emails. Mandrill can do that. Tech Distortion uses Statamic as its CMS and I run Raven Forms as a plugin. We just add the API key for Mandrill and that's it. Nothing else to configure, it just works right away. You can use Mandrill to send automated one-to-one emails like password resets, welcome messages, oh, I don't know, topic voting confirmations even, and even customized newsletters if you'd like. Mandrill is quick to set up, easy to use, and it's very stable. And it's been made for developers by developers with extensive documentation, lots of different integration possibilities through their excellent API. and the service has very high delivery rates, great web hooks and analytics. Now their website has a well-organized interface, has flexible template options, custom tagging and advanced tracking options and reports. It's also the only email infrastructure service with a mobile app that lets you monitor delivery and troubleshoot from wherever you might be when you're out and about. Mandrill is also really fast with servers located all around the world and they can deliver your email within milliseconds. And I timed it on Tech Distortion from form submission the email shows up within a second of submission. - Impressive. - Oh, it's very fast. And detailed delivery reports and advanced analytics and a friendly interface mean that if you're in a larger organization, the entire team from development to marketing can easily monitor and evaluate email performance without having to hassle you. So visit mandrill, that's and sign up today. You should, 'cause it's free and there's no credit card, no commitment, just sign up and away you go. Use the promo code pragmatic to get 50,000 free email transactions per month for the first six months. That's four times the normal amount. Integrate, deliver, track and analyze with email infrastructure from Mandrill. Thank you once again to Mandrill for sponsoring Pragmatic. So everyone talks about jolly old St. Nick in reference to Santa, different name for the same bloke, right? And he actually lived in the fourth century in what's now Turkey. And upon his death, the 6th of December was nominated as a feast day to celebrate all the stuff that he did when he, you know, because he was a saint, named a saint after he passed away. That was feast day. And it was during the late, late fourth century that Pope Julius I decided to set a date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The problem was the actual time of year and the date that Jesus was born was and remains somewhat imprecise. Yeah. So, the pope assigned the holiday to December 25th and that aligned with a pagan midwinter festival called Yule, often referred to as Yuletide or Yule time is what that roughly translates to. Anyway. So, the two traditions then intertwined over time. It's been quite a few centuries since then, and a lot of cultures have, you know, have had influences from that area. Interestingly, in Holland, St. Nicholas sort of mutated into Sinterklaas, and they maintain the original 5th to 6th December date as opposed to the 25th. And it's thought the Dutch settlers in North America brought the idea of Sinterklaas, which eventually became Sankt Claus and then Santa Claus. That's one theory. Several. That's one of the more popular theories as to how it happened. Like so many of these things, they start out, they mutate, you know, and evolve. The exact lineage is not precisely documented, unfortunately. But anyhow, anyhow. So over time, that day, Christmas Day, became more about food and presents than any saint and what he may or may not have done or any Christian celebration regarding the birth of Jesus, even though technically they're reasonably sure it wasn't on that date. In fact, I remember reading something, I think it was a completely different time of year. But irrespective, the whole concept of a selfless someone giving out presents to children gained a lot of wider popularity, and that was sort of in the 19th century. And the modern interpretation of Santa is sort of driven a lot by a poem. And that poem, everyone knows, well, a lot of people know the poem, at least, you know. Twice the night before Christmas? Indeed. But it was not actually called that originally. It was actually called "A Visit from St. Nicholas". And yeah, but it was, you know, originally it was by Clement Moore. It was 1822. Now, the funny thing is, for the longest time I had believed that the image of Santa that we are used to today, which is the jolly old, you know, portly gentleman wearing a red suit with white fluffy bits on it. I don't know what else to call him, you know, whatever. White fluffy stuff. Got to have a beard. Got to have a beard. Quite right. Yes, that too. That's going to be a white beard. Well, the thing is, I thought a lot of that came back to marketing from Coca-Cola in the 1940s. But it's actually not. It's older than that, isn't it? It is. And this is what I didn't realise until only a few years ago. It was actually Thomas Nast. And originally he did sketches and drawings and so on for Harper's Weekly, the so-called Journal of Civilisation. And this magazine was produced periodically. And in 1863 was the first time that it's recorded where Santa was depicted in a red suit and with the appearance that we sort of come to know in Western culture. Now, it's very true that in the 40s that Coca-Cola used this in their own advertising. And it's also true that their product colours matched the colours of the same red and white colour motif of Santa's outfit. Now, whether or not they knew or they didn't know about Nuss's work is not actually clear. And there are so much Shall we say so many different opinions and so-called facts about it that I don't think we'll ever know the truth. The reality is, though, it wasn't the first occurrence and it's a common misconception. However, it's certainly what popularised it. There's no doubt about that. Okay. So, let's talk about the physics of Santa. Now there is, there was a magazine published in 1990, Spy Magazine, the January edition, there's a link in the show notes if you want to read it. There's no byline actually, originally, it was originally written by two different people collaborating. It's often attributed to someone called Richard Waller, but it actually wasn't him, it was actually Bruce Handy and Joel Potishman, who was an intern at the time. And it gets repeated often in pop culture at this time of year. And that's the physics of Santa Claus. Have you ever read this one that goes around? I have not. I would be very interested to check it out when you put the link in the show notes. Yes, it's not- I don't want to go through all the detail, but it looks into the physics of essentially how many- There's an estimate of how many people that believe, that follow the Christian traditions of Christmas, let's say, believing in gift giving and so on with Santa Claus. And because not all cultures, you know, except Santa Claus, they don't. Many don't. Many religions don't. So, yeah, it takes that number and figures out roughly how many kids there would be. It then figures out how much an average present would weigh, and then it figures out how big the sleigh would have to be to contain all the presents. Then it figures out how fast it would have to travel to visit every single house, given an average distance between the houses and how many reindeer it would take to pull that sleigh, that distance and goes on and goes on and so forth. So it is actually quite hilarious when you read it, it really is. And of course the ultimate solution to this problem is of course that Santa has the ability to bend time. That's close to my theory. Would you like to hear my theory? Yes, please. I think that Santa could be a time Lord and that the sleigh could be a TARDIS. Oh, that's not a bad one. That could well be it. And since my kids are into Doctor Who, that works, too. We should talk about Doctor Who sometime. Well, flag it. We'll get back to that. We should put that on the list. We should. OK, maybe not for this show, but then we'll see. So anyway, there you go. So I thought that's interesting. There's a link to show us the original article in its entirety. Read it in its entirety, although may not necessarily suggest that younger children would find it as entertaining as grownups, but never mind that. Yeah. OK, so we're going to we're going to start on the on the downward slide, we're on the downward slope. It's not going to be a long episode. We all know this and that's OK. So, I guess one of the questions that I think about is if you're not a religious person or an overly religious person, if you're not Christian or pagan or any other religion that celebrates the holiday season, as it were, as it stands, you know, what is the point of Christmas exactly? And obviously, the answer is going to be different for every different person. And my problem is that I'm cognizant of the fact that some people out there and potentially people are listening to this may not have a family. They may, they could be orphans, you know. You know, they could be in a unique, in a different living situation where they're a long, long way from their family and they can't celebrate it, or they're out of range of communications, you know, for whatever reason. Maybe they're serving on an offshore oil rig and, you know, it's raining really heavily and the satellites can't get through. I mean, there's a myriad of possible reasons, but the vast majority of people, and I don't mean to dismiss the people that aren't, but the vast majority of people that I can think of, I keep going through in my head, would have a family of some description, even if it's just a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, somebody. And so, to me, that's where I turn to when I try and figure out what's the point. The point is spending time with your family. And it's a reason. Call it an excuse if you like, but I don't like to think of it in those terms. I like to think of it as it's a reason to spend time with your family. And it's one of the... - It's a good reason. - It's a great reason to spend time with your family. In North America, you guys also have Thanksgiving, which is another example of families getting together. We don't have that here, so it's less of a thing, although we have other occasions, other dates where families typically get together, even if it's just for a barbecue or whatever, you know. Yeah. Throw a couple of, you know, prawns on the barbie. Or as we're supposed to say, shrimp on the barbie, which we don't call them shrimp. But anyway, that's fine. It's fine. Just going with the stereotype, man. You all come back now, you're here. Okay. - There you go. See, there you go. I'm eating my own. See, that's it. Anyhow, okay. There we go. This show's becoming an in-joke for its previous episodes. Anyhow. Okay, so I guess It's something... And beyond that, of course, you know, if you have children or if there's children involved, then it's something that kids really look forward to all year long. Yeah. But the other thing, of course, is that there's other advantages if you're a parent to Christmas, because it's... It can help with motivational strategies for dealing with children in the lead up to Christmas. You know, if you don't behave, then... It's a great source of coercion. Yeah, it's right. It's the... It's sort of a carrot, I guess, rather than the stick. Right. That's the expression carried in the stick. So, you know, I think that that also is awesome as a parent with four kids. It's the most awesome. So, that has advantages. I mean, obviously, kids also have birthdays, but, you know, there's a synchronicity to Christmas such that everyone gets their presents at the same time on the same date, which has other advantages. So, anyhow, because there's no collective reason for the collective group to be good if only one person is having a birthday, you know, it doesn't matter if... Anyway, you get the idea. So, never mind that. It got me thinking, though, there was one Christmas that I did spend alone. I was in Canada and my family's on the other side of the world and all of my friends were away, my Canadian friends were away doing different Christmasy things. The following year though... It was rough. Yes, it was. And I don't recommend it, really. It was just not... I'm just not that sort of person. I couldn't... I didn't handle that well. The following year, when I was over in Canada again, upon hearing this year, dilemma from previous year, a wonderful person that I worked with, Barb, she invited me to her family's place to have Christmas at their place, Which was a very touching, beautiful gesture from a work colleague that I will never forget. And it was just made that gesture of thoughtfulness was, you know, like I said, still touches me to this date. So, I think being spending time with family or friends even is the point. And I don't like to see that it's about all like giving presents and eating lots and lots and lots and stupid amounts of food, you know, I mean, I think nice food is nice, you know, it should be the thought that counts, not the dollar value, you know, something that I look forward to the presence and things that people have put time and effort into personally, you know, even if it's something like a... I would value and cherish a framed photo of someone that I cared about over, you know, here's this little knickknack I bought same dollar value from a gift store. And it's like a little piggy bank, but it's in the shape of a boat, you know, it's like, it's great. Thanks. You know, it's like... And please, no gift cards. But the point is that could become my "please don't email me", couldn't it? Anyhow, so... Please, no gift cards. So, anyhow, and so far as the food goes, everyone tends to over Yeah, and it's the same thing with Thanksgiving, right? As I read this all the time on Twitter after Thanksgiving "Oh, I've eaten too much, I'm sick" and everything Well, since my weight loss surgery, I can't do that anyhow Even if I tried, it would be too painful, so I wouldn't do it And yeah, it's the sort of thing that it's going to be a very different Christmas for me this year because it'll be the first Christmas since I've had my weight loss surgery So, it's going to be very different I don't know if it's going to be difficult it may well be, because I won't be able to approach it from that angle as I have in the past. And that's okay. That's my choice. That's my problem. That's fine. Probably for the best. And it probably is for the best. And, you know, everything in moderation, right? Good food, not lots of food, just good food. And, you know, nice wine, not lots and lots of wine, because no one wants to be the uncle passed out on the sofa. No. No, because then you might like, for example, one year get covered in wrapping paper that's left over from the presents. Oh, look, he's covered in wrapping paper and he's passed out. Nah. No, I did not do it, but yes, I did laugh. And yes, it was hilarious. That would be funny. Anyhow. It was hilarious. And I got to say, you know, the guy that gets drunk and passes out at Christmas probably deserves it. Quite yes, indeed. Indeed. But anyhow. So, did you have any other thoughts or commentary on Christmas before we let people get back to their Christmas? Because by the time they listen to this episode, it may well already be close to Christmas Day loading the podcast on their brand new iPods or iPhones or iPads after they've gotten them as a Christmas present. Who knows if you're extra lucky and you get something like that for a Christmas present? No, I think you covered everything. I don't think I did. I actually think I could have covered a lot more. Well, you probably could, but you kind of draw a line somewhere. I do. You don't want the episode to go from now till Christmas, do you? No, I don't. You're right. And because that would be the whole idea of the irony. I think you got the big important things. Well, the irony. Relative term. I think you got the big important things to talk about. Cool. Well, thank you. Bottom line is I do understand the irony of me suggesting that people need to spend time with their family whilst they are listening to me telling them that they should be spending more time with their family. Let's hope that we get this out the way early and then you can get in there and do the right thing but anyway whatever. Okay good so my last advice is don't overindulge, have a great time, enjoy each other's company, recycle your wrapping paper, please recycle it, jeez okay, don't just chuck it in the damn rubbish bin, it matters which bin you put it in. So at this point I think we better wrap up this episode that actually included tips about wrapping. How about that? If you want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @johnchidjee and my writing in this podcast and others I've made are hosted at If you'd like to get in touch with Vic, he can be reached at Twitter @vichudson1. If you'd like to send any feedback, please use the feedback form on the website. That's where you'll also find show notes for this episode under podcasts pragmatic. If there are topics you'd like me to cover, you can suggest and vote on them at the site under topics once you sign up for a free account. Please go and check them out. We've had a whole bunch of new, I think there's 10 new topics that that have been added just in the last few weeks. So please, if you've already voted, go back and check it out. There's new ones there to have a look at. I've also started to release excerpts from the show that are one-off topics that have been cut from the main episode, and I'm calling it "Addenda." Look for it under the site at podcasts/addenda. You can also follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter to see show announcements and other related stuff. I'd also like to thank Harvest for sponsoring this episode of the show. If you wanna track your time quickly and easily with the ability to quickly turn those timesheets into invoices for your clients with built-in support for PayPal and Stripe, then Harvest has what you need. Check out Harvest at and sign up for a free 30-day trial today. Once your 30-day trial is over, use the coupon code pragmatic at the checkout and you'll also save 50% off your first month, but hurry because this offer expires middle of January, 2015. I'd also like to thank Mandrill for sponsoring this episode. If you're looking to improve your site or app and you need transactional email that's reliable, integrates easily and provides easy tracking and analysis, then Mandrill can help. Visit and sign up today. You should, 'cause it's free, no credit card, no commitment, just sign up and use the promo code Pragmatic to get 50,000 free email transactions per month for the first six months. That's four times the normal amount. Integrate, deliver, track, analyze with email infrastructure from Mandrill. I wanna say a big thank you at this time of the year. I wanna thank all of the listeners who've listened to the show and for the last year. It is just past the first anniversary of the show. This is episode 49. I have something special planned for episode 50, which will be next week. But the thing is that we have a very special guest, but here's the thing, up until now, this episode, a few episodes back, we crossed the half million download mark. So that was a huge milestone for me personally and for the show. Thank you so much to everyone for listening. And I guess I'd just like to say Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and thanks for making it a great year. And I guess, yeah, I can't wait for next year. Although we have another two episodes left this year, I just wanted to get this in before Christmas. Yes, stop listening to the podcast and go and be with your family if you are right now and enjoy your Christmas, have fun. And Merry Christmas, Vic. - Merry Christmas to you, John, and everybody else too. Greeting of your choice. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [Music] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ [Music] [BLANK_AUDIO]
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Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.