Hearty, nontrivial Christmas greetings from SAT-a-Clause, the patron saint of theoretical computer scientists! Tomorrow night, SAT-a-Clause will once again descend all possible chimneys in parallel, nondeterministically guess which ones lead to cookies, and fill the corresponding “STOC-ings” with loads of publishable results!
As I’ve done every year since I was about 14, I’ll spend Christmas Eve at my best friend Alex’s house (this year bringing the girlfriend along). My role at Alex’s family gathering, of course, is to wage the secular-humanist War On Christmas: sanctimoniously insisting that guests say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” belching loudly during hymns and carols, mocking the Savior as a “competent if unoriginal 1st-century rabbi,” and just generally dampening Christian faith, fomenting impiety, and advancing the cause of Satan. After all, what Christmas Eve celebration would be complete without a JudeoGrinch?
If your idea of the Christmas spirit includes, you know, peace on Earth, goodwill to all mankind, etc., you should check out this New York Times essay by Peter Singer, which Luca blogged about previously. Singer strikes me as one of the few public intellectuals who’s actually gotten wiser with age, as opposed to yet more cranky and intransigent. In this latest piece, he shows himself to be less concerned with chicken liberation than with eradicating rotavirus and malaria, less interested in the Talmudic question of whether a billionaire who’s given away 90% of his wealth is now morally obligated to give away the rest than in the practical question of how to get people to give more. I also recommend this column from last Christmas season by Nicholas Kristof — a writer who’s occassionally mistaken, never less than a mensch — in which he compares the War on Christmas to the war in Darfur, and challenges Bill O’Reilly to join him in witnessing the latter.