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The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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2:33pm on Wednesday, 23rd July, 2014:

Cooke and Lewis

Anecdote

I always wondered what kind of person would buy a toilet seat that looked like this:



As it turns out, people just like my mother...



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8:13am on Tuesday, 22nd July, 2014:

Infographics

Comment

Oh, by the way BBC, get it right.





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8:03am on Tuesday, 22nd July, 2014:

Go, Scotland, Go!

Comment

According to the BBC, if Scotland leaves the UK then the life expectancy in the UK will rise by 2.5 years for men, 2.1 years for women.

Wait, what? I get to live 2.5 years longer if Scotland leaves the UK?!

Go, Scotland, Go!



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4:54pm on Monday, 21st July, 2014:

Dialogue

Comment

Gotta love the dialogue in The Secret World:



If you have a 16 rating, you may as well make use of it.



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4:32pm on Sunday, 20th July, 2014:

Race for Life

Anecdote

It was the annual Race for Life today, which is fund-raising event to raise money for cancer research. They're 5km or 10km long, and the people who run are usually doing so because they have a personal connection to cancer (someone they know has it or has died of it; the runners get to wear notices on their backs saying why they're running).

I'm a bit ambivalent about this event, because the races are women-only: men who have friends or relatives with cancer don't get to run. If the races were actually competitive, OK, well that would make sense; I can imagine the reaction if the London Marathon were men-only, though.

This year, my younger daughter participated with one of her friends whose mother has cancer. I personally wouldn't have wanted to go 5km in this morning's baking heat even if I could do so on a Segway, but she successfully completed it in 43 minutes or thereabouts. From what she said, it wasn't so much a run as a run, jog, run, jog, walk, jog, walk, jog, walk, walk, walk, jog. Given the temperature and humidity out there, though, anything under an hour was pretty good going for someone who usually only runs for buses.

No, I wasn't in the crowd, I was at home mowing the lawn. Probably just as well, given that it's difficult to make out anyone in the flow of pink and Comic Sans as it runs past.

I wonder how long people would have taken to finish if the weather had turned and we'd got thunder and lightning?



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11:24am on Saturday, 19th July, 2014:

Argent's Lane

Anecdote

Argent's Lane is a narrow, sunken road connecting civilisation to West Bergholt. Cars take it if they want to reach the A12 or the southwest of Colchester. There is a much better road, but it crosses the main Norwich to London railway line at a level crossing: after waiting there a few times for 15 minutes for 5 or 6 trains to go past, people tend to want to avoid it.

This was it yesterday morning:



In case you can't see the detail, here's the important part:



That lorry is several feet wider than a car, and its length makes it worse because it can't hug corners. Its driver should not have even attempted to come down Argent's Lane. Come to that, the truck in front of me was taking a risk as well, because if it had met itself coming the other way further along, it wouldn't have been able to get past either.

I don't think this is a SatNav thing, I think it's a driver arrogance thing. They believe they can get down Argent's Lane past cars, but it doesn't occur to them that there would be problems if they met anything wider than a car. The lorry was always going to have problems, even if there were no vehicles coming the other way. Any lorry driver using a car SatNav instead of an avoid-unclassified-roads heavy goods vehicle SatNav needs to think again.

The car in front of the lorry had to reverse, once the cars behind it had also reversed to give it room. The lorry squeezed past, scraping the hedges and taking some of the lane embankment with it. The truck in front of me went forward to the widest part of the road, then once the lorry reached it it drove on slowly as the lorry did the same, in a choreographed movement that meant they avoided an impact by a good two inches. If one of them had stopped, it would undoubtedly have been hit, though.

I didn't see the name of the company that the lorry belonged to, but I did see that it included the word "logistics". Methinks, they need to practice what they preach.



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3:43pm on Friday, 18th July, 2014:

Breezy

Anecdote

My wife decided to open the kitchen window today to let some air in:



It turns out that when there's a breeze blowing outside, it doesn't stop when it gets inside.



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3:02pm on Thursday, 17th July, 2014:

New Build

Comment

They're doing some construction work at the university:



There are signs all around it telling us proudly how the university is improving its infrastructure. None of them tell us what's being built, though.

Whatever it is, I don't suppose it will result in my teaching in a room that has either windows or air conditioning.



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10:55am on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014:

Money-Saving Tip #1

Outburst





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7:02pm on Tuesday, 15th July, 2014:

You're Welcome

Anecdote

It was degree congregation day today, so I went to see my students graduate. Well, see them after they'd graduated — the ceremony itself drags on a bit and the room gets stiflingly hot. I ambushed them in the line to pick up their certificates instead.

Because I arrived while the ceremony was still ongoing, I went to check my post. I was not expecting to find this waiting for me:



I don't know when the last time I got a card from my students was. I'm not entirely sure I have had a card from my students before, although I do remember once getting a bottle of Metaxa from one in the 1980s (which my wife had in her coffee). Anyway, this card was from four of my students who got on to the Alacrity programme in Falmouth. This is like an incubator set-up linked to a Master's degree, so they get paid to make games and they get a company and an MSc or something at the end of it. No wonder they're pleased...! Apparently, what we taught them at Essex is actually useful for what they're doing and they're each heading up their various groups. This came as something of a pleasant surprised to me. We teach good stuff? Who knew..?

At least half of the Essex University Computer Games graduates this year have gone on to do a Master's somewhere. The others seem to have jobs withoit the need for a Master's, although not all in games. I'm not sure about the Romanian contingent, though, as I didn't get to speak to them; I saw one, but I lost him in the crowd.

It's always gratifying to see my students graduate. We only have them for three years, during which they somehow grow up with no help from us and turn into adults. They go on to jobs or postgraduate degrees with no help from us, too, although we're happy to take the credit for it (our department's graduate employment stats are the best in the university by far).

I won't embarrass the students who gave me the card by scanning the inside of it. However, I will say what I say to all students who want to thank me: it wasn't me, it was you. You studied, you passed your exams, you got your job or postgraduate slot. I might have been a catalyst, but then so might your fellow students. That's why you get the degree certificate, not me.

Or, if you're next year's students and you don't make a better showing at my lectures than you did this year, why you didn't get the degree certificate...



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2:35pm on Monday, 14th July, 2014:

High Scores

Miscellaneous

It's the degree congregation day tomorrow, when our students get to dress up and receive their degree certificates. This is pretty good: at my younger daughter's university, some students haven't even received their results yet, let alone their certificates.

Speaking of results, I looked at the final results for our department's third-year students a couple of weeks ago. Most have got a 1st or a 2/1; some got a 2/2; a handful failed. None got a pass or a 3rd.



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6:44pm on Sunday, 13th July, 2014:

Final

Comment

Whom to support in the World Cup final?

I'm going with Germany. Both Germany and Argentina are regarded by England football fans as teams we don't like to see win, mainly because we've been beaten by them before in situations where we felt cheated, plus we've had wars with the countries themselves. Putting aside football rivalries, though, I favour Germany because I prefer their team's style of play and attitude to the game. That said, I do like Messi, so if Argentina won through some kind of wonder solo effort from him then I wouldn't begrudge them it.

Just so long as it doesn't end nil nil after extra time and go to penalties...



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11:15am on Saturday, 12th July, 2014:

Complex Digital Objects

Anecdote

A couple of years ago I gave a presentation at a conference in Cardiff on the Preservation of Digital Objects. The book of the conference is now out, with a chapter in it by me.

OK, so books are edited by editors. This means that changes are inevitable. For changes to grammar, punctuation and spelling, the changes are usually to ensure consistency with the rest of the book, or with the publisher's house style, or indeed with the English language... Here, for example, is a sentence fragment as I submitted it:

The designer of the game ceded authorial control over their work the moment it was published

Here's how it appeared in the book:

The designer of the game ceded authorial control over his work the moment it was published

OK, so they don't write with a Yorkshire dialect that has a handy singular they construct. I'm surprised they didn't go with "his or her", but I don't know what it says in their style guide.

I do, however, know that if you put "he" then this bit in brackets from the next page in the article reads weirdly:

In this perspective, the artist is attempting to convey a message through (in the Mona Lisa's case) his work.

I was talking just before this about the Mona Lisa, but why do I put "in the Mona Lisa's case" in parentheses? Well, if earlier I'm talking about people in general but here I'm talking about a specific person whose gender I know, I'm going to want to use the appropriate pronoun — "his", in this particular case. In order to clarify this, I put in the parenthetical explanation. However, this now makes the earlier use of "his" look as if it must have been talking about someone specific, too.

Bah! Not that anyone will read the chapter anyway, given that the book costs £59.95 to buy...



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7:41pm on Friday, 11th July, 2014:

HAPAG

Anecdote

Some more playing cards arrived for my collection while I was looking the other way. Here they are:



They're German, and from the tax stamp on the Ace of Hearts I know they're from the period 1923-1929 (when hyper-inflation meant they stopped putting the amount of tax paid on them). The joker is that of ASS (Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik Schneider & Co.), and a little rootling around tells me that this is a standard pattern patience deck no. 212.

It's actually two patience decks, held together in a neat little booklet with HAPAG on it. HAPAG was the Hamburg-Amerikanische Paketfahrt-Aktien-Gesellschaft; it lost almost all its ships in World War I, then rebuilt them and lost the replacements in World War II. Today, it's part of Hapag-Lloyd, which is part of a larger German shipping consortium.

I guess my cards were given away to passengers on the cruise liners. They're quite pretty, but not as good as Dondorf in their prime. Still, not a bad catch in my view, they'll look nice hidden away in the card drawer where my wife can't see them.



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8:38am on Thursday, 10th July, 2014:

Not so Grand

Anecdote

I'm staying in the Hilton in Brighton, because that's where the conference is. It has flashes of its former glory as the Metropole, but is a little worn in places. When I arrived on Tuesday, I found half a dozen little moths in the room, for example, nestling in various towels, bedding and tissues. It's still quite up-market, though, even to the extent of having some English members of staff.

Next door is the Grand hotel. This is famous as being the scene of the 1984 Brighton Bombing, in which the IRA attempted to kill off the Prime Minister and her cabinet (who were staying there for the Conservative Party Conference). It has a more persona connection for me, though, as it's where my brother died. I thought I'd better not stay there, as doing so would have caused my mother sleepless nights.

The Grand does look rather grand at a distance:



Up close, though, it too is showing signs of disrepair:



Maybe I'll take a look inside later.

Oh, by the way, Hilton Metropole, this is a fancy little radio/mp3 alarm clock you've put in my room, but it only works when the room lights are on. Switch off the lights and the power goes. You didn't realy think that through, did you?



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