The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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5:02pm on Tuesday, 6th October, 2015:



If you come at this guy from the side, it looks as if he's jumping for joy:

He's actually telling people at Liverpool Street Station not to run down the stairs. It still looks fun, though.


8:49am on Monday, 5th October, 2015:

No Debate


This has arrived in the post:

I'm not going to read it, though.

I've already read it...


5:01pm on Sunday, 4th October, 2015:

Kit Kat


Here's the selection of Kit Kats my daughter brought us back from her trip to Japan:

Some were surprisingly good (the ones with green chocolate), some were merely surprising (apple, raspberry), but most were surprisingly bad (butter, pumpkin). There was one I really liked, but I have no idea what it was; if they ever sell it in the UK, though, I'd go for it over a regular Kit Kat.

As for the worst one, well none of us could tell what it was supposed to be, but it tasted of fish. Fish and chocolate is not a good mix.


11:37am on Saturday, 3rd October, 2015:

Feeling the Pressure


We've had our new car for something like 18 months, and in all that time I haven't put any air in the tyres. I did this in the belief that there was a low-pressure sensor that would show up on the dashboard when the time was right. However, the tyres were feeling increasingly spongy while driving, so I decided to invest 40p at ASDA inflating them to the right pressure.

It would have been 20p, but as the tyres were down to two thirds of the recommended amount I had to spend more than two minutes re-inflating them.


2:45pm on Friday, 2nd October, 2015:

Non Sequitur


We had a staff meeting this morning. Mid-way through, a guy appeared from Sports Science to give us a 15-minute talk about Performance Sport. At the end, he asked if we had any questions. None of us did.

Actually, pretty well all of us did. Furthermore, it was the same question: "What was that about?!". It was a complete non sequitur embedded in the middle of the meeting for no obvious reason. If it hadn't been on the agenda, I'd have thought he'd walked into the wrong room and given a talk meant for prospective students. None of us were going to ask him anything, though, because that would have made the staff meeting 5 minutes longer (that is, interminable plus 5 minutes).

He seemed quite upbeat, but quite what he thought he was going to achieve talking to a bunch of computer scientists is anyone's guess.

Maybe if he'd talked about esports instead of Volleyball, Basketball and Rugby sevens, it might have been more relevant.


4:46pm on Thursday, 1st October, 2015:

Bill of Fare


This is from my 1951 Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual, from a strip about the California gold rush of 1849:

I remember being amazed as a child that prices went up so much that eggs could cost 5 shillings each.

5 shillings is 25p in today's currency. Sainsbury's eggs are £1.40 for 6, or 23p each.

Not long to go now...


6:10pm on Wednesday, 30th September, 2015:

Dipped In


There seems to be an unusual number of young women walking around campus at the moment who have dyed the bottom half of their hair a different colour (usually green, but with good showings from pink, red and blue, too).

It must be annoying when you assert your individuality only to find you're just one of several people around who've asserted theirs the same way.


4:42pm on Tuesday, 29th September, 2015:

New Term


I spent the morning working on the draft of my textbook, and was making good progress until emails arrived asking me to approve (ie. rewrite) a short description of my research areas and to come up with six ideas for MSc projects. I also had to go onto campus to attend a get-together for new students, picking up a 220-page PhD thesis on the way that I have to read within the next two weeks.

Oh well, I guess this means the new academic year has finally started and I can forget doing anything productive until at least Easter.

There was twice as much cake at the freshers' get-together as there were freshers and members of staff combined, though, so it isn't all bad.


4:43pm on Monday, 28th September, 2015:

Daffy and Sylvester


Because I'm sick of seeing other people's photos of a moon I saw myself with my own eyes last night, here's a picture of Daffy and Sylvester as they are arranged on a shelf of the bookcase behind me:


12:01pm on Sunday, 27th September, 2015:

Search Me


My usual way of searching eBay for playing cards is to use the "recent searches" facility. I click on the recent search for playing cards and it lists my selection with all the rubbish I don't want filtered out.

Unfortunately, eBay has revamped its launch page and there doesn't appear to be a "recent searches" facility any more — or if there is, they hid it well in the account settings. As a result, I had to save my search as a "following this search", which entails two additional mouse clicks to invoke than did the simple "recent searches" search.

My approach here was to search for antique playing cards, then filter out anything that showed up in the search that was either unrelated or related but not something I want to buy. The former include photographs, postcards, charms; the latter include bezique (bezique decks which have fewer cards in them), congress (I don't collect American playing cards) and edwardian (I may relent on this as I do see occasional Edwardian cards I like).

Here's my search as it ended up:

antique "playing cards" -ad -drawing -fortune -pegs -congress -print -counter -marker -bezique -rules -souvenir -photo -edwardian -chips -token -tokens -pcs -hand -new -vintage -guide -1 -puzzle -photograph -magazine -postcard -retro -swap -pendant -pendants -box -single -charm -charms -trick -book

I wish I could have added more, but the search is limited by number of characters. This means that I couldn't exclude reproductions or advertising material because they took up too many letters. Also, because eBay doesn't have wildcards in its searches, I would have had to have put in both "reproduction" and "reproductions" to filter them out fully. Worse, if you filter out just one, eBay seems to think you have an interest in it so will extend its search somehow — I've actually had more matches from excluding a singular term because it dredged up more matching the plural term in order to try to please me.

Some of the terms in the search are to counter individual sellers who are very annoying. One person, for example, buys up antique decks them splits them into poker hands (five low spades is a flush, yours for £7; decks involving picture cards are more expensive, and full houses are used to mop up otherwise-unused cards). I removed these by filtering out "hand", but this seller changes the wording often (I've seen them listed as "civil war era poker", for example).

Also annoying are people who sell single cards. OK, so they're not annoying to other collectors, but they add way too many listings. I can get rid of these by filtering on the word "swap" or the number "1".

I'll see how it goes, anyway. I'll probably find out now that this is a general problem and there's a proxy web site you can use to log in to and get a search filtered on as many terms as you like.


11:12am on Saturday, 26th September, 2015:

A Foot Short


This is the cause of death on the death certificate for one of my ancestors:


If you follow the chains of causality back far enough, the cause of death for everyone is "birth".


10:31am on Friday, 25th September, 2015:

I'm Not


I had cause to use the web browser for my university email today, and was greeted with this little chap:

My guess is that they have a whole range of gender/race/age figures they use and it was just my luck I got the Political Science student.

Why is he dressed like he's on the Hajj?


2:53pm on Thursday, 24th September, 2015:

Initial Problem


I've just spent 20 minutes waiting for a parking permit for the new term. This gave me ample time to try figure out what the tattoo on the back of the neck of the guy in front of me said. It was 3 letters long, starting with M and ending in B. The middle letter, though, well, it could have been a fancy C, a fancy O, a muddled E or an @.

Eventually, I decided it was probably a C, because there was an ever-so-small gap in the circumference. It could still have been an @, but he didn't look the type of person who had technology at the centre of his life.

Oh, and here's a quick tip, Estates and Management Section: if you were to spend half an hour putting parking permits in alphabetical order, you wouldn't need to spend 10 minutes per customer looking for each one using a linear search. Just saying...


5:15pm on Wednesday, 23rd September, 2015:

Reading Writing


I've just fallen asleep reading the draft of the textbook I'm writing.

The obvious thing to do would be to cut the material in question. However, if it does that to me, imagine how powerful it would be on my students!

You don't casually dispose of anything that powerful. It has uses...


3:11pm on Tuesday, 22nd September, 2015:

Dondorf 109


I saw a "buy it now" lot of 5 sets of playing cards on eBay a couple of weeks ago at £20. As two of the packs are individually worth £30 and I liked them anyway, I went for it.

They're pretty good! This one is Dondorf L'Hombre set number 109. It's in its original box, complete at 40 cards (no 8s, 9s or 10s — it's for playing the classic card game L'Hombre, which uses a 40-card Spanish deck):

Dondorf is my favourite playing card manufacturer, just for the sheet beauty of their designs. They were in operation from 1833 to 1933, but started liquidating their assets in 1928. One of the other packs in the group I bought bears the Dondorf name, but it dates 1937-1943 and is noticeably less luxurious:

You can see how the pattern (known as the Rhineland pattern) has changed over time, losing some of its personality. This is from a Tappkarte set number 115, also in its original box, complete at 35 cards (no 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s or 6s — it's for playing Skat, a later derivation of L'Hombre).

One of the other decks in my group of 5 also uses the Rhineland pattern (which was a Dondorf invention), but I can't find any indication of its manufacturer as it isn't in its box. It's not a classic-era Dondorf deck, though, because as with the Tappkarte 115 it doesn't have the Dondorf name on the Jack of Clubs:

This is a 52-card bridge deck, which I shall have to investigate further (if I can bear to touch it — the cards are rather grubby...).


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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).