Christmas Crafts – Activity 1

My wife runs a Rainbow unit, which is the very youngest branch of Girl Guiding. Every week I help out and I am also a registered Unit Helper: literally a proud card-carrying member of Girl Guiding UK.

We’re now fully into the swing of the Christmas crafts, and today has seen me preparing this week’s craft: a reindeer tree decoration made from two clothes pegs. Thought I would blog about this to share the various Christmas activity ideas we’re doing at the minute. Here’s what you need:

  • Two wooden clothes pegs
  • One small pom-pom
  • Two small stick-on goggle-eyes
  • Red foam
  • Green foam
  • A length of red ribbon, about 4mm wide, 20cm long
  • Strong glue (I used UniBond “No More Nails” from a cartridge gun)
  • Regular paper glue (such as Pritt-Stick)

Take one of the wooden pegs apart and discard the spring. Using the strong glue, stick the two halves together using their flattest surfaces, with about 1cm of the ribbon glued between the two halves of the peg at the widest end. Take another peg apart and glue the other end of the ribbon into it in the same way. Wait until the glue is dried (No More Nails claims 24 hours) and then stick the two pegs together. Make sure you don’t get the ribbon twisted and you should end up with something like the following (I did 10 of these yesterday and today).

We do that stage, rather than the girls, for several reasons:

  1. it can require some precision to get a usable base to do a finished decoration
  2. we don’t want 5-year-olds messing around with No More Nails
  3. it takes ages to do

The basic shape is now there, with the nose being the pointy end and the antlers being where the ribbon is joined. Once that’s all dried, you’re onto the really fun part of decorating it! Everything from here should stick on OK with just standard paper glue.

The red pom-pom is his nose, and the eyes are fairly obvious: stick them at about the same height as the first notch away from the nose. For a small amount of Christmas-themed decoration, cut out two holly leaves from the green foam, and punch out a couple of dots of the red foam for berries. Arrange that in a suitably-artistic fashion and you should end up with something like the following:

Next time – CD snowflakes!!

Still No Bin Collection

Well our bin still hasn’t been collected. According to the latest update on the Eastleigh Borough Council website (no permalink available), our bin collection may be 4 or 5 working days later than normal. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is 4 working days late so we’ll see what happens then.

Today was also when our monthly glass collection was supposed to take place – no idea when that’s likely to happen now.

My Bin is at my Door

This isn’t a particularly auspicious start to an entry on an already boring blog, but bear with me. Our bins are usually collected on Thursdays, and yet, we are still awaiting collection now – Monday evening. The reason for this state of affairs is that our local “refuse collection staff” are on strike.

There was some strike action last week, which knocked the whole collection cycle out by a day. That meant Thursday bins would now be collected on Friday. Unfortunately for us though, there was additional strike action on both Friday 16th and Monday 19th November. I am assuming that it will be collected tomorrow, but this will mean our bin has been outside the house for nearly a week before its eventual collection.

Here in the Eastleigh Borough Council area, we have alternating bin collections: recyclables (green bin) one week and general domestic waste (black bin) the next. We are currently awaiting green bin collection, but obviously this will have a knock-on effect on the other, black, bin. This is bad because the council will happily take away any additional recyclable materials that are left beside your bin, but they will only (and I mean only) take whatever fits inside the bin with the lid closed. Anything else is your responsibility to dispose of. As our black bin is filling up at the same rate, regardless of whether people are on strike, we could be looking at having an extra three or four day’s worth of waste in the black bin. We almost always manage to keep within the 140 litre bin capacity over the course of a two week cycle (which is pretty good going), but add an extra weekend to that gives around 20% more waste, which won’t fit. So I’m guessing a trip to the local “household waste recycling centre” (“the tip” in old parlance) will be on the cards very soon.

The reason for the strike? The council are planning on changing the way the crews operate. The following quote sums up the council’s view on why the industrial action is taking place:

“Currently refuse collectors are paid for a 37 hour week although most work significantly less than this and finish on completion of their round. Some staff claim overtime for extra work within the normal working day. Now, the Council may require them to remain available for other tasks. We are not abandoning the principle of task and finish but we do want to make better use of any spare capacity. This will mean a better and more cost effective service for our residents.”

Now is it just me reading that incorrectly, or is there something wrong with people striking to avoid having to do the hours they’re paid for?

Latest Supercomputer Lists Announced

Twice a year, the top500.org website releases a list of the most powerful 500 (known) computers in the world. I say known, because it’s likely that there are government machines up there with the best, but their existence is on a need-to-know basis. IBM systems are traditionally up there, and this time round is no exception: number one slot is occupied by the BlueGene/L system, based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US. Boasting 212,992 processors and 73,728 GB of memory, it has recorded a LINPACK* score of 478.2 teraFLOPS.

That’s quite quick, but what I find more amazing is the rate at which computers no longer become some of the fastest in the world. For example, the HP Cluster Platform 3000 BL460c system currently residing in 500th place on the list (which in itself is no slouch), has a maximum performance rating of 5929.6 gigaFLOPS (i.e. 5.9296 teraFLOPS). Had that computer been in place 12 months ago, it would have ranked at 115th place.

Current projected performance development of the supercomputer list expects that the world’s fastest computer will hit 10 petaFLOPS in 5 years’ time (i.e. 10,000 teraFLOPS). Put that another way, in 5 years’ time, the world’s fastest computer will be faster than all of today’s top 500 put together. For reference, my Intel Core 2 Duo system (which is a reasonably modern and quick system) would achieve around 1500 megaFLOPS, which is 1.5 gigaFLOPS, or 0.0015 teraFLOPS. That’s how far away from your average computer these machines are.

* Even for the very technical readers, the numbers mean very little apart from a means of expressing “how fast” a computer is. LINPACK is a way of measuring that performance.

The Free Festive Gift – Version 2!

After Si complained that version 1.0 didn’t fully utilise the CPU to its full warming potential, I’ve released version 2.0 of my pie-warming application. If he’d only read the section in the original blog entry which stated:

Version 2 will automatically detect how many CPU cores you have
and use all of them for optimum pie-warming capabilities.

He has a much-nicer-than-mine ThinkPad T60p, which has an Intel dual-core CPU. Sometimes I wonder why I bother writing user documentation.

You can download version 2.0 from here.

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