The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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8:41am on Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017:

Things Wanted


There's a recycling bin operated by the British Heart Foundation at the university. This is what it says under the donations slot:

It would appear that the need for lists in English to be at least three elements long is quite strong.


2:16pm on Tuesday, 22nd August, 2017:



There's now a nice, big screen under cover in square 2 of the university, where students can collectively watch streamed events while filling the air with cigarette smoke, marijuana and whatever comes out of those vaping devices. Of course, if there's no event being streamed, that means it can run the university's showreel.

We're projecting the image to the world of being such a forward-thinking organisation that our showreel isn't even finished.

Nice to know that our web developers know about Lorem ipsum, anyway.


8:44am on Monday, 21st August, 2017:



This may look as if it's some kind of ninja mask, but it's rather less exciting than that.

It's what you're sometimes given to wear under the goggles when you take part in a demonstration at a Virtual Reality show. It turns out that large swathes of the population wear face powder, and you don't want it sticking to the goggles for hygiene reasons. It sticks to the mask instead.

Of course, if you're one of those people who routinely wears face powder, you're not going to want to wear the goggles in the first place.

VR is still a technology of the future.


1:51pm on Sunday, 20th August, 2017:



Wow, the Colchester Electoral Registration Officer sure doesn't hold back when it comes to threats.


12:42pm on Sunday, 20th August, 2017:

Quintessential England


When people ask me to explain the quintessence of England, I usually refer them to the final episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation.

In this episode, Captain Picard is visiting Data at the University of Cambridge and a tealady enters pushing a trolley.
Tealady: How'd you like your tea?
Picard: Tea? Earl Grey, hot.
Tealady: Course it's hot, what do you want in it?
Picard: Nothing.
(She pours him some tea)
(Smalltalk ensues between Picard, Data and La Forge)
(Picard sips the tea)
Picard: You said that this was Earl Grey, I'd swear that it was Darjeeling.
Tealady: Huh.

The above would probably apply to the rest of the UK, too, not just England.

However, I now have a second example to present, thanks to the good folk of Tunbridge Wells which is definitely English on account of how "Outraged of Tunbridge Wells" is a well-known stereotype of Little Englanders (that being how, apocryphally) they sign the letters they send to newspapers). It concerns the recent news story in which a festival of sex and sadomasochism set up in the woods on the outskirts of the town. Immediately, locals complained about the event to their councillors — not because it was a "kinky rave festival" but because they were worried about the parking problems it might cause.

Yup. You don't get much more English than that.


12:27pm on Saturday, 19th August, 2017:



While reading a chapter of a book I'm reviewing, I came across a mention of a city encounter table in the Dungeon Masters Guide of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons . This is the table:

You don't see tables like that in many games these days.

You can perhaps just make out my pencilled comment, which I wrote when I first read this in 1979: "not nec. female?" (the "nec." is short for "necessarily").

19-year-old me was objecting not to the presence of hookers in Fantasy-world cities, but to the fact that they were exclusively female.


4:01pm on Friday, 18th August, 2017:



I came across this today, cited in W. H. Auden's A Certain World:

I wonder if this time round the churches of the USA will be fuller on Sunday because of the eclipse the following day.

I'm pretty sure the comment about the generality knowing as little as ever is unchanged.


8:25pm on Thursday, 17th August, 2017:

Winners and Losers


I went to the doctor's this morning (another flare-up of an eyelid cyst). The surgery I go to is in Colchester, opposite the Sixth Form College. My appointment was 9am, and when I arrived (early) there were clutches of former sixth-formers in the street who had just found out their A-level results. Would they be going to university or wouldn't they?

Hmm. Well some would, and looked elated. Some wouldn't, though, and were in tears, being hugged by their (sometimes equally-distraught) friends.

Qualifications can be an unpleasant business.


11:58am on Thursday, 17th August, 2017:

Social History


A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was interviewed by Aleks Krotoski. The programme featuring extracts from it was broadcast earlier this week (which is months earlier than I was expecting!).

Thanks to the power of editing, I don't come across anywhere near as bonkers as I thought I would (although embarrassingly missed some text out of the room description of Narrow Road Between Lands and couldn't remember if it was Imperial or UCL that we used as a gateway to what-would-become-the-Internet). Thanks mainly to Aleks's narration, I actually sound quite authoratative.

If only there were some way to persuade my students I'm authoratative...

Oh, the broadcast is available on iPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b090y9zt, if you want to listen. It's an interesting programme despite my involvement in it (around 11 minutes in), and well worth listening to the whole way through (although beware, this is only the first episode and the rest haven't been broadcast yet). Aleks has a different take on the evolution of the Internet to the usual tech-centric approach, examining it from a social (or, in some cases, anti-social) perspective.

How did people ever listen to radio programmes they missed in the olde days, before iPlayer?


8:33pm on Wednesday, 16th August, 2017:

Late Meeting


I met a friend in London for lunch today. He wanted to see a show in the evening, and when I texted him was in Leicester Square waiting in line for half-price tickets.

Me: "At the ticket hut? I can be there in 5 minutes."
Him: "Well it's made of stone but I guess it qualifies as a hut."

Hmm, when I got there it wasn't the wooden hut I was seeing in my mind's eye. It was what's officially called a stone lodge, and has been since 1992.

I'm glad I didn't call it the "green hut". I really need to update my memories of London from the early 1980s when I did all my exploring...


4:47pm on Wednesday, 16th August, 2017:

Take a Chair


Finally! The human lack-of-resources section at the university has signed off on the vacancy of Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Games.

Here's the opening to it:
This permanent appointment of a Professor in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering represents a prospect of exceptional promise for a senior academic working at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Games.

As you can tell by the weirdly flowery "prospect of exceptional promise" phrase, I may have had a hand in writing this myself.

Now to sit back and wait for you either to apply or to forward the vacancy to someone else who might apply.


3:16pm on Tuesday, 15th August, 2017:



Just some posters I made up instead of doing work.


4:45pm on Monday, 14th August, 2017:

Radio Silence


Normally, we record Game of Thrones when it's first broadcast (at 2am, UK time) then watch it when my wife gets back from work (which seems to be much earlier than on other days). This means that there's a danger of my seeing spoilers in my social media feeds, but fortunately everyone I follow is alert to this and never gives any details other than saying what a great episode it was.

This time, no-one has said it's a great episode. No-one has mentioned it at all. Maybe Facebook has put the mentions 200 posts down in my feed out of some kind of AI-driven respect for my viewing pleasure, but I doubt it. I suspect that the reason there are no mentions is because this isn't going to turn out to be all that good an episode.

Then again, if I went purely by the volume of radio chatter I see on Facebook, Donald Trump is the most popular person in the world.


3:00pm on Sunday, 13th August, 2017:

White Horse


I was reading a Victorian diary yesterday, as you do, when I came across this entry:

"A large horse made on the side of Hambleton hill & finishd about Martinmas 1857".

This is Kilburn White Horse, which can be seen for miles around, including from the village of Great Ouseburn where my mother grew up. When we used to visit my grandparents when I was a boy, it was the landmark we used so we knew we were getting close.

Yorkshiremen aren't renowned for heaping praise on anything, so it must have been quite impressive when it was first constructed to have warranted an entry.

My mum had a picnic on its eye once.


2:48pm on Saturday, 12th August, 2017:

Major Issues


From this week's Essex County Standard:

Well there are certainly issues.

Maybe it's a stealth advertisement for a sub-editor.


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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).