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articles tagged with: christmas

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Christmas Closure - see you next year!

Christmas Closure - see you next year!

We’ll be closing the studio at 5pm Friday 22nd December - back and raring to go from 9am Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

We will be running our emergency email address for urgent support issues - as in previous years, we can’t promise an immediate response but we’ll do our best to help.

Please use:

Team Focus wish you all a fabulous festive break, and we’ll look forward to catching up in 2018!

Annette Ryske

Created on Friday December 22 2017 09:24 AM

Tags: christmas new-year

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Secret Santa Puzzle - Solution!

Ok, so, as promised, a solution to the Secret Santa puzzled that I previously outlined here.

There's any number of ways you could do this, but the one I was thinking of was nailed by Jim (in the comments) and Steve (in the office) - so Christmas Congratulations to you both.

It works like this:

  1. Shuffle the list of people into a random order.
  2. Make a list where everyone is buying for themselves: Alice -> Alice, Charlie -> Charlie, Bob -> Bob.
  3. Now move the person that everyone's buying for along one in the list, and bump the other to the far end: Alice -> Charlie, Charlie -> Bob, Bob -> Alice.

And that's it! The approach works fine no matter how many people are in the list, never involves giving up and starting again, and ensures no-one will ever be buying for themselves.

It's not absolutely perfect in the randomness stakes; if Alice knows she's buying for Charlie, she knows for sure that Charlie isn't buying for her. (Unless the list has only two people in it!) … but in practical terms, it's almost certainly good enough.

As a postscript, I used this routine a few times in the run up to Christmas, and several times a request came up - can I set it up so that partners don't buy for each other? For example, if the Secret Santa-athon involves 3 couples, you probably don't want to randomly assign it so that people are buying for their partners.

You could achieve that by splitting the lists in two, and running two smaller Secret Santas. 

If, for example, Alice & Archie, Bob & Barb and Charlie & Cindy were in couples, you could make two lists [Alice, Bob, Charlie] and [Archie, Barb, Cindy] and run the above process twice. Anyone not in couples could be assigned randomly across the two lists; it wouldn't  matter.

(You could even group men and women into two lists, if you think the genders will buy better gifts for their own genders - but I'm certainly not getting involved in that Christmas argument!)

Anyway, thanks for reading and here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Neil Smith

Created on Tuesday December 25 2012 09:53 PM

Tags: christmas

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Christmas fun at Focus

Christmas fun at Focus

We know how to party here at Focus! (?)

Prior to our Christmas meal, we ran a competition: each of us drawing a team member's name at random, to make an appropriate sock puppet.

Efforts were... varied to say the least. Simon disqualified Steve for making his brother do all the work. Kyle used the most potent glue ever, it still stinks now. Paul used some excellent hair-making materials. Jordana (with a bit of sisterly help) got a highly commended due to decorative efforts. I had to make two! but one was me :-) And one no-show meant Steve is replaced in our gallery by a Pug in socks (obvs).

But, Neil was our winner, being the only one to make his 'Jordana' all by himself. Well done Neil - and you win... a pair of Christmas socks!

Can you guess who is who? No, don't expect you can....

Have a fab Christmas everyone!

(Bigger pic here)

Annette Ryske

Created on Friday December 21 2012 12:29 PM

Tags: christmas

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Secret Santa Puzzle

Secret Santa Puzzle

[UPDATE] A solution post is now available to read right here.

It's always a nice feeling when someone comes to me with a technical issue that they perceive will be really difficult to solve, and I'm able to tell them the solution is really straightforward.

However, sometimes the opposite is true; something that sounds simple at first turns out to be a bit more complex when you consider it further.

Christmas is just around the corner, and in offices, that means it's nearly time for Secret Santa to put in an appearance. So, I'm asked, can I knock up a quick computer program to allocate a random person to each person in the list, and email them telling them who they have to buy a present for?


So let's think about how we'd do it in real life. Probably the first thing that comes to mind is "names in a hat". Each person pulls a name out of a hat. Can't get much more straightforward than that.

We can write a computer program to take this approach - simplifying things a little, it reads:

1) Make a list called "hat" containing [ "Alice", "Bob", "Charlie" ]
2) Loop around for each person in the hat:
2a) Remove a random name from the "hat" list
2b) Allocate it to the person we're currently looking at

So, you run this a few times, and notice a bit of an obvious error; sometimes Alice has to buy a present for Alice. That's not much fun. (Or is it? At least Alice will get what she wants!) But, assuming that's probably not desired behaviour, we should probably fix that.

Ok, so what would we do in real life? If Alice pulled her own name out of the hat, we'd probably say: "Oh, just put it back in, and choose another". If she happened to pick her name again (tsk!), we'd simply ask her to repeat the exercise as many times as necessary. Ok, let's code that up:

1) Make a list called "hat" containing [ "Alice", "Bob", "Charlie" ]
2) Loop around for each person in the hat:
2a) Remove a random name from the "hat" list
2b) If the random name is the person we're currently looking at, put it back into "hat" and pick again
2c) Run 2b as many times as necessary
2d) Allocate the random name to the person we're currently looking at

Ok, this looks better. We'll run it a few times, and the results look pretty good. However, every now and again, the program just runs for ever and doesn't finish. Why?

Let's say on the first run through the program, Alice got allocated Bob. Great, let's carry on. Next up is Bob, and he gets Alice. Great, no problem there.

Charlie picks the only remaining name, and it's of course Charlie. He therefore puts it back in, and picks again, to find he's picked Charlie, obviously! A computer program does exactly what we've told it to, so will keep dutifully putting the one remaining name back into the hat, and pulling it out again, most likely forever.

Certainly he won't be done in time for the Christmas party.

So what to do? In real life, we'd probably just tell everyone to return their names, and try the whole process again - and, indeed, we certainly can tell the computer to do that.

We could add in a step before 2a that says "If the person we're currently looking at is the only person left in the hat, just forget everything that's happened and start again from scratch".

However, this is a little inelegant, and if we're really unlucky with our random choosing, it could take a long time to run if we have to abandon everything and start over several times.

So, consider this a Christmas puzzle, then - can you think of a more elegant solution to this problem that never involves giving up and starting over?

Let us know in the comments - but whatever happens, I'll post an update at Christmas with a nicer solution in it!

[FOLLOW UP] It would, for obvious reasons, be ideal if your solution worked with any number of people!

[UPDATE] A solution post is now available to read right here.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Bart Fields, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.)

Neil Smith

Created on Wednesday November 28 2012 10:12 AM

Tags: christmas

Comments [2]

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

Can it really be twelve months since we last wrote a blog article wishing everyone a happy Christmas? Time has flown, and we haven't had a chance to tell anyone about the things we've been up to during a very busy 2011 - but we've all made new years resolutions to make sure we shout more in 2012.

So the studio is effectively closed over the festive period from 3pm on Friday 23rd December until Tuesday 3rd January 2012 but we will have an emergency email address in operation for anyone needing to contact us instead of drinking and eating turkey - we can't promise an immediate response but we'll do our best to help. Please use:

All that remains is for us to wish you all an excellent Christmas and New Year and we look forward to seeing you in 2012.

Simon Newing

Created on Tuesday December 20 2011 09:47 AM

Tags: christmas

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Welcome to 2010!

So... it’s all over again for another year... no more turkey, mince pies or mulled wine for another 12 months. We’re all agreed here that this is not entirely a bad thing! With Christmas over and done with, it’s time to look forward to the New Year!

Things we’re looking forward to in 2010:

  • Google’s Nexus One Phone. Launching today – likely to well and truly divide the camp here. So long iPhone? The jury’s out as yet.
  • Celebrity Big Brother. Or the backlash anyway. At the very least, we can be pleased that it’s the last one. EVER.
  • Real – time search taking off. Still not sure whether I need to know everybody on Twitter’s opinion on my desired search term, but could be a giggle to start with.
  • Onwards and upwards for Focus. We’ve had a great 2009, with a bit of a team reshuffle, and we’re looking forward to a cracking 2010. 

Created on Tuesday January 05 2010 01:00 PM

Tags: christmas new-year technology google realtimesearch googlephone focus

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Happy Christmas from Focus

Happy Christmas from Focus

The big day is nearly upon us so we would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Focus team.

Created on Thursday December 24 2009 09:23 AM

Tags: christmas

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Focus cheer as Crimbo's near!

Christmas dinner was a cracker!So it's that time again, time to decide where to go for Christmas lunch!? Every year the responsibility some how ends up with me. It seems like an easy enough task to choose somewhere to go, especially as Bristol is filled with so many delightful eateries. But it is not so easy when you work with the Focus bunch - which range from Vegetarians to Meatatarians - new word!

This year however I think I came up trumps, we went to the newly refurbished Pump House and the food, service and atmosphere was all very nice.

We then decided to venture down to Light up Bristol and stop at a couple of pubs along the way. We tried to go to the Grain Barge but it was closed so we opted for the closest option which was the Mardyke on Hotwells road. It's a very interesting little venue where they serve you wine in tumblers and lime cordial with rum, but when you buy a round of 7 drinks and still get change of a tenner - I think we came up trumps again.

Judith, our client from the triumphant Sustrans Connect 2 project joined us for a festive tipple and also got to enjoy the delights of the Mardyke.

Light up Bristol was slightly more subdued than Monday evening; maybe they're saving themselves for Friday night? Overall it was a lovely evening.

Happy Christmas everybody!


Created on Thursday December 20 2007 04:04 PM

Tags: christmas

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