The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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11:57am on Saturday, 25th March, 2017:

Paint Job


From one of those booklets of adverts for local businesses that gets put through the letterbox from time to time:

Any ladies out there who want their interior decorating?


6:45am on Friday, 24th March, 2017:



Some photographs can look pretty bad when taken out of context.

This one accompanies the rules of Aura from The New Games Book (1976); it's about as hippie and non-violent a game as you can get.


8:36am on Thursday, 23rd March, 2017:

Mixed Reaction


I saw this on a rack of blinds in a Do-It-All store:

I think DIY store operatives and gamers may attribute a different meaning to the word "troll".


2:47pm on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017:

Clash in Hand


There were only five students present at the final CE217 class this year. I think this may be related to the the fact that the class runs 10am-1pm and the deadline for the CE217 assignment is noon.


3:54pm on Tuesday, 21st March, 2017:



It was the final CE217 lecture of the term today, so I flicked the switches in LTB3 to see what they did.

They turned on the lights nearest the projector screen.

Clearly, this is just a secondary purpose designed to throw people off the scent. The real effect of the switches will have been felt elsewhere. I expect it'll be on the TV news tonight.


7:52pm on Monday, 20th March, 2017:

Project Open Day


It was Final-Year Project Open Day today, when programs that have worked fine for the past two months suddenly fail to run and posters develop spelling errors that they didn't have when they were sent off for printing.

There are so many student projects that I only look at the ones to do with games or artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, I started at 2pm and when I next checked the time it was 5 minutes short of the event's close at 5pm. I'd figured it was maybe 4pm, so time had really flown by. Fortunately (because I had to mark their posters), I'd managed to see all my supervisees by then. There were still some others I'd wanted to see that I missed, though. There was even a room I didn't get to go into, which I didn't realise until afterwards. Another room was one I'd only visited once before in my entire university career: it has an electrified floor (for robots) so you can normally only go in if they have carpets down or you're wearing rubber shoes.

As always, there was a very wide range of projects. Happily, this year we only had one Sudoku-solver and no ants-nest simulators. Some of the projects on display were astoundingly good — one of my supervisees was offered a job on the strength of hers. There were games of professional-looking quality (almost all of which had an author who wished they'd had more time to "do a proper job"). Most of the other efforts were strong, too, sometimes to the evident surprise of the person who wrote them.

Some, of course, were absolute shockers, written by someone who either couldn't program or didn't want to work. There weren't so many of those this year, though (perhaps because a third of their cohort failed the first year). I find it slightly annoying that students who have spent a quarter as much time doing something an eighth as good as other students will nevertheless get more than half as many marks as them. I think we mark on a logarithmic scale.

Three of the projects involved recreating classic games (Bomberman, Pac-Man and Doom). They were sufficiently accurate that I was as hopeless at them as I was at the originals.

I even got swag! A rubber duck. The student's web site is based on his initials, jpbd.uk, and ends in "duk", hence the duck. I'm so glad his surname didn't start with an F.


4:49pm on Sunday, 19th March, 2017:

The One and Only


From today's Sunday Times culture supplement:

No, Nixon isn't "the only child of divorced parents". Millions of people are the children of divorced parents. She's "an only child of divorced parents".

Hmm, I think I may have spent too much time in meetings with computational linguists.


4:15pm on Sunday, 19th March, 2017:

Fake News


I'd be more believing of Facebook's commitment to ending fake news if they didn't put sponsored ads like this one in my stream.


12:50pm on Saturday, 18th March, 2017:



This bronze statue has appeared in Colchester:

I don't know what it's supposed to be saying, but it makes a change to see one painted up like they used to do in Roman times.

Apparently, there's another one nearby of a man holding a cup, but I didn't see that one. Not that it matters: if I want to see a man holding a cup, I can just grab a cup and look in a mirror.


3:53pm on Friday, 17th March, 2017:

Spare a Thought


It's the birthday of one of my daughters coming up, so this morning I wrapped up her presents.

If there are any manufacturers of women's clothing reading, could you spare a thought for people who might buy them as gifts and have to wrap them up? Or are you in league with people who sell boxes and tissue paper, and deliberately make garments with awkward shapes and bunchy bits so they can't be wrapped stand-alone.

I don't even know what some of these things are, come to that. Maybe they're not clothes at all but some kind of weapon or agricultural implement.


6:08pm on Thursday, 16th March, 2017:



I'm standing in a queue for sandwiches behind a woman who is currently being served.
Woman: I'll have the tuna and mayonnaise please.
Server: What accent is that?
Woman: It's s Scottish accent.
Server: That's the most trusted accent in Britain according to a poll by Virgin media.
Woman: Yes, I've heard that before.
Server: Do you know what the least trusted accent is?
Woman: No.
Server: It's an Essex accent - my accent.
Woman: I've heard that too.
(At this point the woman has been served and turns to leave. She smiles politely at me).
Me: I don't trust you.
Woman: Why not? We've only just met.
Me: I'm from Yorkshire. We don't trust anybody.


6:52pm on Wednesday, 15th March, 2017:

Game Lessons


We had an "educational away day" at the university today. I suppose that technically it was an away day, as it was in a building a whole 20 metres from the one in which I work. Well, away part-day anyway, as it ran from 2pm to 5pm.

One of the main purposes of the away day was to think of ways to increase retention. Some 40% of our first-year students don't make it to the second year on their first attempt (and some 30% don't make it on subsequent attempts either). It looks as if early identification of struggling students promises to cut that down to 20% this year, but we really want them all to get into the second year. It's not influenced at all by the observation that if they do make it through, we can extract another £9,000 from them before they fail.

Anyway, before the meeting we were required to read a document of case studies from other universities that identified ways to increase student retention. I, it seems, was the only member of staff foolish enough actually to read this document, the others having decided they could probably wing it. Even the person who required us to read it hadn't much recollection of what was in it, so we didn't discuss it at all.

The thing is, all the ways that the document listed to increase retention among new students were straight out of the MMO newbie-retention handbook. A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check.

About the only suggestion that didn't map onto MMOs involved luring students to eventys with the promise of cake. That might work with students from other disciplines, but it wouldn't work for games students because none of them would believe it.


4:58pm on Tuesday, 14th March, 2017:

Death List


Today, my mother gave me a list of all the people she wants me to contact in the event of her death.

Blimey, it goes on for four pages! I hope she's not planning on dying soon, it'll cost me a fortune in stamps and telephone calls.


4:52pm on Monday, 13th March, 2017:



There are some parts of the new student centre at the university beneath which you shouldn't walk.


3:55pm on Sunday, 12th March, 2017:



While looking through an old carrier bag, I encountered an ancient, very used, paper tissue.

I don't know what won the battle of the germs on it, but I hope I've already had what it brings because otherwise I'm in serious trouble. I've probably been exposed to an otherwise lethal dose of it.

On the bright side, there's a chance that the raging armies of bacteria won't have been able to develope a resistance to antibiotics, so I may be able to survive if given sufficient pills the size of cashew nuts and daily thigh injections.


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