The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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10:43am on Sunday, 14th September, 2014:

Cigar Lit


From the 1978/79 prospectus for Essex University's Physics Department:

You wouldn't see a photo like that today. We closed our Physics Department in 2001.


6:01pm on Saturday, 13th September, 2014:

50 Years


It's Essex University's 50th anniversary this year, which it is celebrating today and tomorrow with what it's calling a "homecoming weekend". All past students and members of staff were invited to attend and to bring their families along. I got to meet quite a few old faces, including my PhD supervisor, Jim Doran, whom I haven't seen for maybe two decades.

Not as many former students attended as I was hoping, though. My wife (who also went to Essex University) asked me to call her if there was anyone there from her year that she mights know, but I checked the list of registered attendees and there wasn't. There was no-one from my year (apart from me), either. Come to that, there were no former students of mine. I'd brought two photograph albums with me to share with my contemporaries, but took them home unopened.

There were plenty of other photos on display anyway, though, that former students and staff had sent in. I'd contributed about a dozen myself, including some featuring the computer operators (it took three shifts of three people each to keep a computer running 24 hours a day back then). These photos were scanned, collected in groups of about 30, and made into A1-sized wall posters. There were something like 15 such posters featuring several hundred images (all of people), so it was great fun looking through them and picking out the individuals I knew as I knew them, rather than the 30-years-older versions they are today. None of the photos were of me, though.

Officially, I was at the homecoming because I had been asked if I could run MUD for the day, so I begged the MUD2 arch-wizzes for some logins and spent a morning writing a 5-sheet how-to-log-in-and-play document. I printed off 50 copies and from 11:30 until 3:30 was in the lab ready to re-introduce people to one of the games of their youth. My readiness never translated into action, though: not one person logged in.

I did meet one former MUD player, Biddulph the wizard, who had worked on MIST (which used the MUD engine). Another person was aware of what "a MUD" was but didn't realise that they were all descended from MUD; he said he'd come back after lunch but he didn't. Some members of staff came to give me some support, but didn't play. There are several reasons that I didn't get a single player: it wasn't advertised in the welcome pack; it was indoors (because I needed lab machines to telnet to the MUD2 server) in a building with no other activities in it; most of the former students who attended graduated before MUD's time, so they didn't play it in the first place. Maybe if there was another event like this in 10 years' time, I might get someone to sit down and log in. All in all, though, I have to confeess that it was rather disappointing. Still, I'm glad I turned down the offer of having a graduate lab assistant to help me deal with the crowds; that would have been embarrassing...

Overall, then, it was a day of mixed emotions. I got to see some former lecturers and colleagues, some of whom are now getting on in years and I may never see them again. However, I didn't see any of my contemporaries or any of my own students, and most of the day was spent in frustration. MUD's so consigned to history that even history has forgotten it.

Oh well.


6:05pm on Friday, 12th September, 2014:

Make it So


I saw this in Italy last week:

Never mind the captain: so long as they have Stewart, they're good.


11:04am on Thursday, 11th September, 2014:



Looking through our holiday pictures, I came across this one I'd taken of my elder daughter:

I hadn't realised she had an umbrella prosthesis attached to her arm.


5:18pm on Wednesday, 10th September, 2014:

Hair Man


I noticed this chap on the floor after my wife had brushed her hair:


5:53pm on Tuesday, 9th September, 2014:



I was in Licoln today to speak at the Game-On conference, now in its 15th year. It's mainly for early-stage PhD students, so you get a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of ideas, but not always a full appreciation of the wider context.

Two of the talks this time round were not from PhD students, however: they were from students who have just graduated from Lincoln, talking about their third-year projects. The unnerving thing about these was that they were pretty well indistinguishable in level from many of the PhD presentations I see at conferences. I don't know what they're teaching them up there in Lincoln, but they're getting results.

Hmm, actually I will know what they're teaching up there soon, as I've signed up to be an external examiner. I may even get to have a look around Lincoln itself as a result of this, which is something I've been intending to do for ages, so I win twice.

Oh, for future reference... Colchester to hotel 7 miles from Lincoln: 3 hours. Hotel 7 miles from Lincoln to Lincoln: 45 minutes.


1:14pm on Monday, 8th September, 2014:

Keep Calm


I saw several copies of this poster in Sorrento:

So perish all memes...


3:45pm on Sunday, 7th September, 2014:

Back Home


It only took an hour to clear passport control when we landed at Stansted Airport today. We had to wait three times before we could get onto the shuttle train to take us to the passport queues, as two of the three trains in operation only had two carriages (the other had four). I think this was a deliberate plot, because if we'd been transported to the main building efficiently we wouldn't have been able to get off the trains — the passport queues were right up onto the platform.

Someone ought to invent a way to tell airports that flights will be landing there at particular times, so they can make plans.


4:58pm on Saturday, 6th September, 2014:



We went to the island of Capri today. Well, three of us did: elder daughter went to Naples on her own to explore its museums, churches and pickpocket-filled streets.

While at Capri, we visited the Blue Grotto. Lots of places have blue grottoes, but we've never been to one so we went.

We paid for a boat to the grotto, paid for a ticket to enter the grotto and paid for a guy to take us into the grotto in a rowing boat. At €20 a pop, his 35-50 trips inside the grotto every day must be quite lucrative, but he does risk decapitation going through the entrance each time (we passengers had to lie flat in the boat). All the same, it was an experience for which the term "tourist trap" was invented.

The water really was a great shade of blue, though.


4:38pm on Saturday, 6th September, 2014:

Best Pizza


Whenever anyone asks me where I've eaten the best pizza (which they do inexplicably often), I always say Sorrento. The last time we were here, 10 or 12 years ago, I had a pizza that was exactly how I like my pizzas.

Where did I have it, though?

Mywife and I had a vague idea where the restaurant was, so it was merely a process of elimination to find it. This is why I have had four margerita pizzas in the evening at different restaurants. All were good, but the first three weren't the one.

Yesterday, we found the one. This is the one:

If all pizzas tasted like the pizzas at the pizzeria da Gigino, I would eat pizza every day. Mm-mmm!

I can't say I think much of their asparagus soup, though...


6:43pm on Friday, 5th September, 2014:

Ancient Techology


Steampunk Dalek:

It's actually an espresso machine.


4:09pm on Friday, 5th September, 2014:



I'm such a rebel:

It's interesting that the sign is in English, though. I guess that Italians ignore them as a matter of principle, whereas there's at least a small chance that someone from the British Isles or North America might obey them.

Oh, the train in question was this one:

€20 for a 21km ride through the countryside — very agreeable. Mind you, the €8 ride to pick the train up at the start was less fun, especially when the driver ran into the back of the car in front then drove off after the other driver pulled over...


5:02pm on Thursday, 4th September, 2014:



We went to Pompeii today, spending abut 5 hours there. It would have been longer but we got off at the wrong train stop...

We've been to Pompeii before, the last time we stayed in this part of Italy (over a decade ago, in the days when there were travel agencies). We wanted to go under our own steam, though, so we could visit the parts that tours don't go, in particular the amphitheatre. We also went to the small and large theatres (aside: an amphitheatre is an oval or a circle; a theatre is a semi-circle).

At the theatres, I was pleased to deminstrate how the acoustics worked by standing at the focal point of the semi-circle and speaking so I could hear myvoice echoed back.

We did it in both the theatres, and were somewhat surprised to find that no-one else was doing it or was even aware it could be done. We grabbed a random passer-by at one point and made him try it out. It's really effective.

We couldn't get it to work in the amphitheatre, though, perhaps because there were five workers with strimmers in there...


5:44pm on Wednesday, 3rd September, 2014:

No Rain


No rain today! Yay! Just strong winds.

Of course, today was the day we decided to take a boat trip to Amalfi, so the weather still successfully contrived to annoy us.

Here's a picture of Amalfi. Those buidings belong in an MMO...


8:10pm on Tuesday, 2nd September, 2014:

Ice Cream


We normally eat at leasttwo ice creams a day when on holiday in Italy, but today we went on a tour to Paestum so we didn't get any. I therefore sympathise with this guy:

Why yes, we did get rained on.


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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).