The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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4:45pm on Thursday, 19th July, 2018:

Observation Roll


OK, I'm searching for a secret door.


3:52pm on Thursday, 19th July, 2018:

Cruising Lake Como


Today we braved the ferry and visited a few places in the mid-lake zone.

Varenna or Vienna or something (pictured) is a sleepy fishing village.

Menaggio, or it might have been Menagerie, has a nice centre that's too small.

Villa Carlotta is a garden with a villa in it. The gardens are very agreeable but not in searing, skin-scorching heat.

Tremezzo is like a strip mall from the poor side of town.

We spent an hour waiting for the boat back to Belaggio. The timetable is correct but the error bars on the boat arrival times are long indeed.

I'm sure Carlotta is some kind of codename for a spy.


3:23pm on Wednesday, 18th July, 2018:



Bellagio isn't all that large a place. Well, the touristy part isn't, anyway. It's actually made up of lots of little hamlets connected together by a network of small roads.

One of the sights it's advised that all visitors check out is the Villa Soundslikebaloney at the top of the hill. We duly went along and found that it's inaccessible. You can only get there on a guided tour, which costs €9 each and only happens twice a day, no more than 30 people per tour. Luckily, we got to the ticket office in time to procure tickets. Also luckily, the woman who works there hadn't closed the ticket office to go get a coffee, which she did five minutes later.

I say "luckily" because the views from the walk up the hill really are quite spectacular.

The whole place is owned by the Rockerfeller Foundation, and it's possible for people far more famous than anyone reading this to apply for a residency there for anything from one to six months. They get free accommodation and a studio to work in, undisturbed except by tourists twice a day, a guy with a leafblower doing a futile job and possibly an opera singer in the studio nearby. If ever I have so much money that I don't need a residency there, maybe I'll apply too. To be fair, they do have some unfamous people and some famous but not wealthy people, but most seem to move in rather elite circles.

This doesn't make the grounds of the villa any less delightful, though, nor the views any less impressive.

We'll have to go somewhere on a boat tomorrow. There's only so many photos of the same opposite banks of the lakes that I can take before they all look the same.


2:24pm on Tuesday, 17th July, 2018:



I may like to get to airports stupidly early, but my wife likes to get to them incrediblystupidly early. So it was that our alarm went of at 3:20am to catch a 7:50 flight from Heathrow. I'm hoping I can finish this before I fall asleep.

So, we're in Bellagio, Italy, for a week. Don't think of breaking into our house and stealing our stuff, as we have a guard daughter to stop you. This is the view from our hotel:

It's very nice. That's more than I can say about British Airways, which is doing as much as it can to turn into Ryanair. We only had hand luggage, we were near the front of the queue to board, but they decided to choose us "at random" to have our luggage taken off us and put in the hold. Other people had more luggage, some of outsize, and didn't have theirs taken off them. There was plenty of room in the overhead lockers anyway. Next time BA pulls this stunt, I'm removing the luggage tag and taking the suitcase into the cabin anyway.

Bellagio is a 90-minute drive from Milan airport. The travel agent had set up a car to take us, and we needed it. How those Italians avoid killing one another on the roads more often is incredible. We got here safe and sound, despite having to drive down the main shopping street (wide enough for one car and no pedestrians); I thought that at any moment someone was going to open to car door and rip me out of my seat, although on second thoughts the street wasn't wide enough to open a car door into.

We've had a quick orientation walk around Bellagio, and it is indeed a lovely place. We'll need to explore beyond it, though, as it's not all that large. That's for another day, though.

Right, now to find out just how fast this hotel wi-fi actually is.


8:16am on Monday, 16th July, 2018:

Elevated Success


Aww, man, now they've started putting motivational posters on random lift doors.

Every time I walk round that corner, I catch it out of the corner of my eye and think there's someone about to bump into me.


10:13am on Sunday, 15th July, 2018:



We've really fallen behind with the weeding in our garden.

That's not an ornamental thistle. That's a thistle.


11:39am on Saturday, 14th July, 2018:

Fun Fact


The university is currently awash with teenagers from other countries, here to learn how to speak English (and, if they want breakfast or lunch, to queue). Here's one of the items on the community board:

Well that's a couple of hundred Italian schoolkids who now think that the word "fun" means "almost interesting".


11:13am on Saturday, 14th July, 2018:



The Essex County Standard has really upped its game for the front-page headline today.

It's about a plan to build 350 student flats in the town centre, so fair enough.


9:11am on Friday, 13th July, 2018:

True Story


A few years ago I came across a cartoon from Saturday Morning Breakfast Club that I liked, so I saved a local copy on my work PC. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line when I was rationalising where I put things on my work PC, I lost it.

Yesterday, I decided to try to track it down. It didn't show up in Ohnorobot, so I had to look for it manually. I figured it was about 5 years old, so starting 1st January 2013 I looked through every SMBC cartoon in order of appearance. Several hours later, when I got to 2017, I accepted that I'd missed it. I went back to 1st January 2011 and started searching from there.

Needless to say, another hour or two later I finally found it on 14th December 2012 — a mere 19 days before I began my initial search.

This is the particular panel I wanted it for, to use in one of my lectures.

I might see about licensing it for the cover of my How to be a God book (if I ever get to finish it), too.


3:09pm on Thursday, 12th July, 2018:



No, BBC alerts, the result of the England/Croatia match is not "breaking news". It's "heartbreaking news".


4:21pm on Wednesday, 11th July, 2018:



I finished playing Pillars of Eternity II yesterday. I did all the side quests it would let me, except the ones for party members that I didn't use.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it. I preferred the original Pillars of Eternity, but Pillars of Eternity IIdid have its moments. In the original, you had a castle to build up; in the sequel, it's a ship. The ship idea is quite nice, but combat rapidly gets very samey; I wound up using the same tactics every time.

As with other games in the Baldur's Gate line, story is important in Pillars of Eternity II. The writers have gone out of their way to put in multiple competing factions, all with reasons why you would or wouldn't support them. The idea is to introduce ambiguity, so there's never an obvious "right" decision. On the whole this works, but I was disappointed that sometimes my actions were interpreted as a decision when I was still exploring the options. Also, some conversation elements I wanted to come back to later were never offered again.

Regular combat was OK, but as with the ship combat I usually ended up using the same tactics. I did like it when a faction took against me and I legitimately got to wipe out every last one of them, though.

I still have a game of Divinity Original Sin 2 to continue, but it's a bit of a drag. Maybe I'll play some strategy games for awhile then try a new MMO.

Tempting though it is to crank up Football Manager, I think I'd better leave that to one side for the moment.


1:26pm on Tuesday, 10th July, 2018:

RAF 100


Well that was really something!

It's the hundredth anniversary of the RAF today, and there was a flypast over Buckingham Palace of 100 aircraft. Around 75-80 of them flew right over our garden, so low that some were casting huge shadows on our lawn.

The most staggering, heart-in-mouth part came right at the end when 22 Typhoons flew directly above. Damn, but that was impressive!

Later, they grouped up to read 100, which looked pretty good but wasn't the same as having jet engines roaring past so close that you can feel them in your bones.

Yes, OK, so they're machines for meting out instant death to assorted foriegners, but as machines I couldn't help but admire them.


8:02pm on Monday, 9th July, 2018:



I went to get a carrier bag from my stash today and catastrophe! My United Nations Gift Centre bag had got stuck to a biodegradable bag that was biodegrading. The back has basically dissolved, and I've had to throw it into the recycling bin.

Damn. I wanted to keep that because the word "centre" was spelled properly on it.


5:03pm on Sunday, 8th July, 2018:

Mixed Up


I perhaps would not have taken the stadium exit from the A12 today had I known there was a Little Mix concert there this evening. The whole area surrounding it venue was the province of garlanded girls in their early teens, plus the occasional parent.

It has given me an idea, though. If ever I open a boxing gym in the East End of London, I'm calling it "Little Mick's".


5:11pm on Saturday, 7th July, 2018:



I was expecting to be watching extra time in the England/Sweden match right now, but as we won here's a picture of a piece of emery paper that looks like some kind of demon throwing up fire.


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Copyright © 2018 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).