Santacon 2009 - Astoria, Queens NYC

Photo, Santacon 2009 – Astoria, Queens NYC by kstraw2 on Flickr

A friend texted me today and asked what the chances are of a group of seven people picking names in their office Secret Santa without anybody choosing themselves. A clean draw, so to speak.

Now, there are a number of ways that you can try and work this out, but I think the easiest to follow is by thinking of the problem in terms of the number of permutations of the possible outcomes.

In my friend’s office, the first person to draw a name out has 7 possible names to choose from, then the second person has six names, the third person has five names and so on.

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Some years ago I spent a lovely week with some friends on a tour around?Transylvania. Our guide, Ramona, told us on a number of occasions that the scenery we were seeing was lovely, but that her favourite place to go walking was Maramures. So this year I decided to spend a week there. I got back in touch with Ramona and she agreed to put a tour together.

A view of the Maramures countryside, looking across from Breb to the Rooster's Crest (Creasta Cocosului)

A view of the Maramures countryside, looking across from Breb to the Rooster's Crest (Creasta Cocosului)

Maramures is a county of Romania that lies within Transylvania and is in the North of the country near the border with the Ukraine. It consists of a series of river valleys and has, until now, largely resisted modern life and retained its rural traditions. It is common for both men and women to wear traditional dress and at this time of year most people are working in the fields, scything the meadows and raking up the grasses into the distinctive haystacks that scatter themselves across the undulating hills.
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After writing about how many Panini stickers collectors should expect to buy to fill a book ?I’ve had a fair few comments about it. ?Greg Newman brought John Crace’s article in The Guardian to my attention where he talks about “the four-yearly great Panini conspiracy theory.” ?The conspiracy being that Panini don’t distribute the stickers evenly, so you have to buy even more of them to complete your set.

As evidence, he cites Chris Taylor, whose “album is now about two-thirds full and I’ve already ended up with a whole load of Lee Young-Pyos, Hameur Bouazzas and Vince Grellas“. ?He then compares the fact that he has never even seen a Thierre Henri, whereas ?Chris has got six. ?Which is an opening for swapsies if I ever heard one.

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Yesterday I was over at my sister’s, and her lad was excited because he had the new South Africa World Cup 2010 Panini sticker book. He had also bought four packets, each with five stickers in them, and I had the important job of unpeeling them so that he could put them in the album.

There are 638 stickers to collect in total and it made me wonder how many stickers you would expect to have to buy so that you had a complete set. I was interested in how many you would need to buy without doing swapsies with anybody and on the premise that there were an equal number of each sticker and that they were randomly distributed.

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The government responded to the snappily titled Policy options for geographic information from Ordnance Survey consultation last week. One of the results of this is the opening up of the OS Open Space Application Programming Interface (API) This means that lots of us will now have access to embed Ordnance Survey mapping into our blog posts. Just like I’ve done below, with the arrow pointing to Moseley Exchange. And to be honest it wasn’t too difficult to do.

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University Challenge is a great British institution, only improved by picking a side to support each week. Some people get a bit tribal about football, but I’m a bit more up my own arse and cheer on academics instead.

So anyway, this is my flowchart for who I support on University Challenge each week.

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Will Hutton makes some interesting points about class, and why it still matters, in a recent Observer piece.? But he’s also made a rather startling mistakes in his maths.? He states that

The good luck of being born into the right family is profound. Two American researchers, Betty Hart and Todd Risley, show how children from professional families hear on average 2,153 words per hour compared with 616 words per hour for kids in welfare families, so that by the age of three, there is a 30 million word gap between the vocabularies of children of families on welfare and those of professional families.

A 30 million word gap in vocabulary?? Surely just reading it back would tell you that there is something wrong in that statement.? It looks as though Will has mistaken occurrence for uniqueness.? Continue reading

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At the start of the year I spent 10 days on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.? The whole island has been created by volcanic activity and I was fascinated by its many different geological features such as the Jameos del Agua and La Cueva de los Verdes.

I also visited one volcano where you can walk into the crater created by an eruption. I climbed up the outside and looked down into it before I realised that you could just walk in at one point where there was a gap in the crater wall.

View of crater from above

View of crater from above

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The other Sunday I went for a walk around a part of the boundary of the Eastside regeneration area in Brum. No, really.

It was a part of Nikki Pugh‘s Uncertain Eastside project and turned out to be less of a “walk” and more of a “people clamber around a bit and take photos”. Only I don’t take photos. Sometimes I have pretensions and imagine that what I take qualify as snaps.

Anyway, ambling along Watery Lane we went by Birmingham City Mission. Here’s the view coming up to it.

Birmingham City Mission

Birmingham City Mission

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