Every year for as long as I can remember, NORAD has been tracking Santa Claus as he flies around the world on Christmas Eve. News stations such as CNN and MSNBC monitor NORAD's data and broadcast it; as of Monday, December 24, 2001, e2 server time 23:39:16, Santa was somewhere near Stonehenge, England.

Starting at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Christmas Eve, you can call (719) 474-2111 or go to www.noradsanta.com to find out where exactly Santa is at a given point in time. There are also SantaCams to show actual visits from Santa; for this you will need RealPlayer and a fairly high-speed connection. The website has six different languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, and Italian. Last year, it received over 100 million hits and this year it wants to set a record for number of hits in a 24-hour period.

The system for tracking Santa utilizes NORAD's network of satellite and radar systems and intensive analysis at facilities in North Bay, Ontario, and at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. A press release issued by Major General Eric Findley, director of operations at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) explained that Rudolph's bright red nose emitted a "phenomenal infrared signature" easily picked up by NORAD's missile warning satellites.

The three-member international space station crew (Yury Onufrienko, Dan Bursch and Carl Walz) will be monitoring Santa's speed, the performance of the reindeer and the cargo of presents for children throughout the world. Mission Control in Houston will, for a short time this Christmas Eve, become "Santa Control, Houston."

In the press release, the head of NORAD explained that Santa's sleigh will be escorted into U.S. airspace from Canada on Christmas Eve by Canadian CF-18 fighter jets.

"He's an unknown track just like any other. He doesn't have a transponder that squawks 'friend' or 'foe.' "

Thanks to www.noradsanta.com and CNN

The NORAD Santa Report owes its existence to a typo in a local newspaper in Omaha, Nebraska. In the mid-Fifties, a local department store had an actor impersonating Santa Claus, that kids could call on Christmas Eve. (Presumably, the guy told the kids that "he'd be right over" and tell them to get to bed early.)

Unfortunately, the number had one digit wrong, which yuppers, patched the rugrats into NORAD. The somewhat amused personnel, married and with kids themselves (as per regulation, according to then-current psychological theory) took to saying "Well, we're an Air Force base, not Santa Claus, but yes, we're tracking Santa right now." A few winters of this were enough to get everyone's story straight, and to retire the number (except for Santa reports). In 1958, they began releasing live reports to TV and radio stations, casting high-ranking (and often retired) officers as Santa experts, assuring all and sundry that Santa would get a "full NORAD welcome" (of escorting state-of-the-art fighter jets) if seen over US airspace. Creepy, when you think of it...

Every Christmas Eve, my kids would wander around the house looking like they just slammed a case of Jolt Cola. Trying to get them to bed was an exercise in futility, until I came across a local TV News meteorologist using NORADs tracking feed on his weather map. It was the best tool to get the little greedy rugrats to go to bed so Mom and Dad could wrap, assemble, curse at poorly-writen instructions, and curse at forgetting D-sized batteries.

"Look, Kiddies, Santa is on his way here. He won't stop by if you're not asleep!"

Whoever wrote the Omaha article with the wrong phone number, I thank you. This line works better than a mallet to the mullet.

One interesting thing about this year's NORAD feed is they dropped support of Linux/Unix. They used to stream a file with Santa's info, but now you have to have a Windows/Mac computer to track him online. Slashdot has an article with the dubious title of "Santa Hates Linux".

Somewhat topically, I'm going to share with you a copy of a hastily typed holiday missive that I sent out to relatives, friends, associates, and strangers alike. It was all part of a nefarious, and I presume unsuccessful (if the presents under all of our Christmas trees were any indication), plot to assassinate Santa. Perhaps we could devise a more collaborative and coherent plot next year, using this failed but earnest attempt as a powerful inspiration:

thanks to the ever vigilant efforts of NORAD, we are one step closer to stopping the santa menace. living in an perilous era where terrorists would take our aircraft and fly these vessels into the world trade center and other national commercial icons, we must, as americans, protect our airspace from foreign intruders. as we all know, santa has habitually violated the airspace rights of governments the world round for centuries now. additionally, he has ignored all entreaties from nation states to amicably negotiate traveling rights on the dates of december 24 and december 25. first among our demands would be that santa submit to border inspections. as much as we all enjoy finding his presents under our christmas trees, it's no longer safe in this day and age to assume that beneath the all of the tinsel, wrapping paper, and ribbons, santa hasn't placed bombs and biological weapons in our homes. and if not santa, then it could be a terrorist in a whimsical costume committing the heinous acts. santa's rogue acts only make it more difficult for us to track hostile impersonators. we must capture him.

that is why on the night of december 24, in the interests of national security, i propose that the citizens of this fine nation join me in a cookies and milk vigil. we will point our web browsers to
http://www.noradsanta.org/en/index.html?utm_campaign=en_US&utm_medium=mapshpp&utm_source=en_US-mapshpp-na-us-gns-norad and wait for santa's sleigh to enter within a 500 mile radius of our homes. at this point, citizens are advised to leave cookies and milk out on their kitchen tables, along with this note. when santa enters your home (typically through a chimney if possible, or else an air vent), our intelligence gathering agencies, such as the CIA and FBI, have learned that santa will find it physically impossible to resist an offering of cookies and milk. as he reads this note you are to attempt to place him under citizen's arrest using any means necessary. after successfully arresting him, call the local authorities and follow their instructions. however, BEWARE, for santa is a particularly deceptive and crafty foe. he will undoubtedly try to escape. remain firm in your convictions, for you will be doing your country a great service. the santa menace will be off of the streets once and for all.

thank you people of america and good night.

I believe partially that the failure of this plot was directly attributable to people leaving out the more common 'milk and cookies' as opposed to the specific request of 'cookies and milk' made in the letter. It's necessary the goodies to be arranged that way if the spell is going to work on Santa!

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