The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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9:31am on Friday, 31st March, 2023:
I took this photograph of Colchester Town Hall at 7 minutes to 11 yesterday morning:
Hmm, so spring forward, fall back. Not spring back.
I should have checked again later to make sure the clock hadn't simply stopped and I chose exactly the right moment to look at it.
I guess we should call it Colchester City Hall now, seeing as how Colchester was inexplicably made into a city last year.
4:03pm on Thursday, 30th March, 2023:
It was the late degree congregation yesterday at the University of Essex. This is mainly for the benefit of MSc students (who finish later in the year than BSc students), along with a handful of BSc students who studied abroad and some PhD students who finished at the right time.
I was part of procession, but thankfully didn't have to read anything this time. I was there to cheer on one of my PhD supervisees, Joseph Walton-Rivers, but there were also two MSc students and a BSc whom I'd supervised, so that was a pleasant surprise.
Joseph had a wretched time with his PhD. He was a member of staff at the time, on a teaching contract, so needed two external examiners. Finding two in the right area was a big problem, because he was part of the IGGI Doctoral Training Centre — as were most of his prospective examiners. When it came to his viva voce, his abstract gave the impression that his thesis was about believability whereas actually it was about AI (beating Monte Carlo tree search in situations with hidden information). He was invited to resubmit, then COVID-19 hit. Along with everyone else on a fixed-term teaching contract at Essex, he was sacked. Fortunately, there was a job opening at Falmouth (which has an excellent games department) that he managed to land, but he had to prepare new modules and to teach them. Under severe time pressure, he made some changes to his thesis and resubmitted, but the resubmission was not accepted by the externals on the grounds that if they did accept it they couldn't pass it. They instead listed explicitly all the changes they wanted to see. Joseph addressed all the ones he thought made sense and prepared himself to defend the ones he thought didn't. The second viva voce was as tough as, if not tougher than, the first one. Nevertheless, he held his ground and impressed the examiners. This time, they passed it.
You can see why, after such a battle, I wanted to be at the degree ceremony even though I should have been marking (and had taken the day off to sort out some of my mum's affairs). No-one can say he didn't get his PhD on merit!
The degree ceremony was for the departments of Computer Science, Psychology and Biological Sciences. In the Psychology part of the awards, as one young woman walked to be awarded her degree her mortarboard fell off. She had big hair and didn't notice. Academics on the front row of the stage (I was behind them), picked it up and struggled to pass it to her as she walked on. The Pro-Chancellor, who was awarding the degrees, tried to call her back but in so doing his big flouncy gown sleeve knocked over a carafe of water and flooded the floor. One of the other academics on the stage had to race off to get a roll of paper to mop it up. It was a huge blue roll of the stuff, and most of it was used absorbing the spill. As one academic rolled it out (at quite an impressive speed, I have to say), another two soaked up the water.
It was something of a metaphor for the degree ceremony as a whole: dispensing pieces of paper for practical purpose.
7:46am on Wednesday, 29th March, 2023:
I found out this week that the winner of the national Fish & Chip Takeaway of the Year award is Whitehead's of Hornsea, East Yorkshire.
Hornsea is my home town. It has maybe half a dozen or so chippies, but Whiteread's is the closest one to where I grew up. It's a five-minute walk away, if that. Despite this, it is actually surprisingly good.
Ha! Take that, Henley's of Wivenhoe! You only made the top 20.
8:22am on Tuesday, 28th March, 2023:
While walking back from the shop this morning, I saw a schoolboy empty a packet of popping candy onto the pavement and stamp on it while his friends watched.
I don't know quite what he expected to happen, but suspect that he didn't either and it was an experiment. Unsurprisingly, at least to me, it didn't make discernably more noise than stamping on any collection of small lumps of sugar would.
Boys being boys, he was perhaps hoping they would explode while pondering little on the consequences for his foot if they did.
His friends expressed mild disappointment, then got back to waiting for the bus.
9:45am on Monday, 27th March, 2023:
My mother died this morning, aged 82. We were expecting it, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Anyway, this is just a short post to say that I'm going to be more than somewhat distracted this week, so if I don't answer emails or show up at meetings, that's why.
I'm OK, no need to get in touch or anything.
9:16am on Sunday, 26th March, 2023:
Well this puzzle from the Essex County Standard looks as if it might be a tough one.
9:05am on Saturday, 25th March, 2023:
The BBC is reporting that the principal of a school in Florida has been forced to resign after a parent complained that students were exposed to pornography. The pornography in question was Michelangelo's statue of David, a picture of which was shown in a lesson about Renaissance art.
Hmm. Last week I showed my students the middle panel from Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. It shows dozens of naked Adams and Eves cavorting with one another and assorted other creatures and plants.
This is one of the advantages of teaching students who are technically adults. I don't have to worry about this kind of nonsense.
1:12pm on Friday, 24th March, 2023:
When I mark assignments, I make a note of any weirdnesses in them. Here are the ones from last year that appeared in the assignment I'm currently marking. None of these are from people who were diagnosed as having dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties, as far as I know.
he meets an old lady, named Mrs Grace, struggling to carry the groceries whom he offers to help.
Georgia Mater (Gigi for short) is a 68-year-old retired widower. She enjoys tending for her garden
The Village is defended both by the young and the old enchanter Irabrahin with the help of his Sodalite
she is compensated with what megure rations the outpost can spare
One day she finds a dirty old light switch umangust the scrap
Stella relizess the coins would make her very comfortable indeed
A blurry hologram of a silhouette comes through
Eros realises she's misplaced a screwdriver that matches the nails she's been using
he is inturuplited by a single hyena
As he gets closer he relises in the shadows there is actually a group of them
As she removes the clock her real identity is shown
Liam must return not just for himselves but for all the people that are suffering
he is greeted with an angry mod of people
a large Raw is heard coming from behind them.
as for the people of the galaxic they strat to believe again
Tiffany decided to enter the large corporate sky scrapper
she parts ways with the bounty hunters, knowing that she couldn't have asked them for further help without exposing herself
Xavier also uses his speed to disarm the rouge Tarnished member
as he reaches out it binds to the balm of his hand
7:23am on Thursday, 23rd March, 2023:
Me: As a joke, I sometimes tell my wife I am waking our dog for a talk. Explain why this is funny.
The joke about waking the dog for a talk is funny because it implies that the dog is capable of understanding and responding to human language as if it were a person. This personification of the dog is humorous because it is not possible for dogs to understand human language in the same way that humans do.
Additionally, the joke plays on the common idea that pet owners often talk to their pets as if they were human, even though the pets cannot understand what they are saying. This anthropomorphization of animals is a common trope in popular culture, and it is often used to generate humor.
In essence, the joke is amusing because it takes a common human behavior and exaggerates it to the point of absurdity, creating a humorous and lighthearted moment.
Hmm, so it looks as if ChatGPT doesn't understand Spoonerisms it hasn't encountered before.
The real joke, of course, is that we don't have a dog.
4:33pm on Wednesday, 22nd March, 2023:
It was my second-year module's assignment deadline at a second to noon today.
On the one hand, I'm disappointed that only four in five students submitted an assignment. On the other, I'm pleased because if they all submitted it would take me an extra four or five days to mark them.
I still have 23 CE317 assignments to mark, plus any that arrive late. I may not be able to do all the CE217 ones within the 3-week deadline....
5:16pm on Tuesday, 21st March, 2023:
The Autumn 2022 magazine of the British Computer Society, which I have just discovered in my university pigeonhole, features games. One article is entitled "What is the future of gaming?".
The answer is cloud gaming, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the metaverse.
Here's the summary, which is described as a process.
Augmented Reality. You play a game that interacts with the real world. You see the game overlaid onto the world as you know it.
Artificial Intelligence: A game learns how you play and adapts making the experience better.
Cloud gaming: Playing without low-end hardware worries. It's the ultimate gaming freedom.
The Metaverse: A digital universe created by many players playing different games - all connected through a single network.
Hmm, so "the future of gaming" doesn't involve better gameplay, then.
"Gaming" used to refer exclusively to gambling games, not to games in general.
The British Computer Society's magazine is called IT Now: the Magazine for the IT Professional. It's quite exciting that they even have features on games.
1:27pm on Monday, 20th March, 2023:
I bought some more playing cards.
This is a Nederlandsche Kroonkaart deck, manufactured circa 1920 by Speelkaarten Fabriek Nederland. The Dutch had tax stamps on the Ace of Hearts from 1920-1927, but my AH has no tax stamp on it so is either before or after that period. The earlier cards have a number on the KH, but mine don't; they were also litho printed, and mine are offset. Later packs had four indeces rather than two, though, and came with jokers (that mine doesn't); I'd therefore estimate it to have been manfactured maybe in 1930.
I don't buy many packs of Dutch playing cards as they don't come on the market very often and typically don't have much to catch my eye. These had pictorial aces, though, so they did.
11:39am on Sunday, 19th March, 2023:
My next four weeks will be spent marking assignments.
2:39pm on Saturday, 18th March, 2023:
I was reading this month's Viz and was surprised to find a reference to my home town, Hornsea, in one of its spoof articles:
The article was about a man who claimed to have ghostwritten a string of best-selling novels. This section was about how he was the true author behind The Shining.
Those who might be tempted to believe the article can tell it's a parody because while in Hornsea, the author goes to visit a strip club.
It's too cold for strip clubs in Hornsea.
9:22am on Friday, 17th March, 2023:
This tag was attached to some item of clothing my younger daughter is getting for her birthday:
I think the word they're looking for is "won't".
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