The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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3:44pm on Wednesday, 5th August, 2020:

Old and New


I remember watching footage of Ronald Reagan from the 1940s when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Wow, what a firebrand! Fast-talking, powerful, thinking on his feet: put alongside the Reagan who became president 35 years later, it really showed up how much he'd declined mentally.

I also remember watching footage of Michael Foot from the 1940s when we was a new member of parliament. Wow, what an orator! Articulate, passionate, incisive: put alongside the Foot who became leader of the Labour party 35 years later, it really showed up how much he'd declined mentally.

Maybe I'll look for some footage of Donald Trump from 35 years ago.


1:44pm on Tuesday, 4th August, 2020:

More Cards


I bought some more antique playing cards for cheap (as in £3.99 cheap). I bought four packs in all, which if you add in the two packs I have in the garage that I daren't touch yet because some kind of spore-laden dust came off them when I did, makes six for me to bore you with eventually. For now, I'll just bore you with one, though.

This is a miniature deck by my favourite manufacturer, Dondorf. It must date from towards the end of the company's existence (it lasted until 1933) because the quality isn't as high as it used to be and there are some other weirdnesses about it, too. The Dondorf logo appears on the 7H, whereas normally the company name appears on the JC. OK, so these cards only measure 26mm by 34mm, so perhaps there isn't room, but one of the jokers has a pattern I haven't seen before and the other has one used by ASS. I suspect it could be a mixed deck, because some random cards are in much better condition than others.

It's a nice little addition to my collection, anyway. All Dondorfs are good Dondorfs!


1:25pm on Monday, 3rd August, 2020:



Wearing a mask in shops means I can wander around and no-one recognises me as being a famous TV soap star. OK, so that's because I'm not any kind of TV soap star, but they don't know that.

We went to a garden centre yesterday and my wife's face mask broke. One of the ear straps came off, so she ended up having to hold it in place. You're not supposed to touch your mask for it to be effective, so this wasn't really ideal.

Great, now we have to take a back-up mask with us in case something similar happens again.

Actually, it's worse than that. I did actually have a back-up mask, but it was a KN95 one that my wife refuses to wear because she has a hard enough time breathing through a cloth mask, let alone one so small as to deny access to viruses. Of course, this does means viruses can get through more easily, but as my wife observed, a crowd can get through a door but it takes time.

We bought a pair of long-armed secateurs and I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting down brambles that had shown the brazen temerity of trying to spread in our garden.


10:56am on Sunday, 2nd August, 2020:



I tried these new (to Sainsbury's) Golden Oreo bickies yesterday.

They taste pretty much the same as Custard Creams.

HHmm. Perhaps it would have been better to call them Custard Oreos, because calling them Golden Oreos means they'll have trouble finding a name when they rip off Golden Crunches.


10:00am on Saturday, 1st August, 2020:



Some headlines from this week's Essex County Standard:

Man has been busy.


11:01am on Friday, 31st July, 2020:



We found this among my father-in-law's things.

It was in perfect working order, and it's still possible to get film for it.

I'm sure the house clearers put it in the right skip at the recycling depot.


12:55pm on Thursday, 30th July, 2020:



So, either J TRO has another nine cars out on the road somewhere or they number them using Roman numerals.


3:54pm on Wednesday, 29th July, 2020:

Email Goings-On


With the server move, my email stopped working for a day or so. Old emails were copies over, so I didn't lose anything.

Hmm. So, I actually have three emails. The one I use is richard@mud.co.uk, but I also have richard@youhaventlived.com and richard@mud.uk . These didn't work on the old server. They do on the new. This brought new horrors to the line "Old emails were copies over, so I didn't lose anything".

There were something like 5,000 emails waiting for me. Given that I'd never told anyone those email addresses, that's pretty good going by the spammers. Unfortunately, in getting my university email to work properly, I had told Outlook to fix itself, which it duly did. It took my spam-defeating rule set down with it, though, meaning that all those emails landed on my PC. I've just spent that afternoon reconstructing my rules list, using the spam from my lost email addresses as exemplars.

Around half the emails were in Chinese characters, so merely by selecting about a hundred of these was I able to send them to the Deleted Items folder. For English spam, the word that made the biggest dent in my inbox when I filtered on it was "inquiry". If you have an inquiry, don't mention it in the email subject line. Surprisingly, there was more spam for printed circuit boards than for Viagra. Also surprisingly, there was more spam for each of f*ck, f&ck, f#ck and f%ck than there was for the word they were trying to sneak past anti-spam defences.

Oh, there were actually four emails waiting for me that had been sent by real people in the expectation that I would reply. I would have done, too, had I seen them at the time rather than five years later (sigh).

Yes, I know Outlook is a pile of junk that reliably crashes when you do anything to more than one rule, but I have every email I've sent since 2000 saved in that format so I'm rather stuck with it.


11:51am on Tuesday, 28th July, 2020:



It's work-password-changing time again for me. I've done it a whole 2 days before I was absolutely required (in the sense of do it now or you'll be locked out, right now I said, RIGHT NOW, this is no empty threat!). It's taken me half the morning, mainly because my email stopped working and I had to trick the university email server into allowing me to use POP3 against all its guidelines. I still have to update two laptops and my office PC (when I next get access to it), but my home PC and my phone are now email-capable and speaking to most of the University web pages without complaint.

As an experiment, when asked to invent a new password I created one exactly the same as the old one but with a ! at the end. I was informed that the new password was too similar to the old one. I can't believe they'd be so stupid as to store passwords as open text, so they must have run a bunch of mutation algorithms on the new password to see if any had the same encryption as the old one. Removing the last letter would indeed have resulted in the same encryption, so they complained. Unfortunately, I was so annoyed by this pettiness that instead of continuing my experiment (say, by adding a new letter at the start) I ranted in the "new password" box and now have to remember for another year a password considerably longer than the 20-letter old one.

Oh, if you've sent any email to my mud.co.uk address since a minute after midnight on Monday morning, I won't have read it yet. My mud.co.uk host moved everything to a new server, except, it seems, my passwords. This means I can't access my email or update my web pages.

Why do these things all happen at the same time?


6:21pm on Monday, 27th July, 2020:



I took the day off work today to go to a funeral in Bury St Edmunds (or Cremate St Edmunds, given the circumstances).

The funeral was of my father-in law, who was 97. He'd gone downhill following a fall just after Christmas in which he broke his hip and his arm. He survived the surgery and six months in a care home where we couldn't visit because of Covid-19. In the end, he died of pretty well everything except Covid-19.

The funeral was an unnatural affair, because we all had to wear facemasks and keep socially distant. If there's ever a time you want to hug someone, it's at a funeral. Also, only his family attended, although as he'd outlived all his friends that would probably have been the case even without the current pandemic.

I couldn't have wished for much more in a father-in-law. He and my mother-in-law visited on a weekly basis while our children were growing up, and he was a big part of their lives. He would do odd jobs in the house and garden, too, some of which (such as cutting 20 metres of 2-metre-high hedge) he was still doing when he reached 90. OK, so he once almost took my eye out while we were installing a loft ladder and he let go of an immensely powerful spring arm at an inopportune moment, but fortunately it missed by a whisker. He himself had amazing recuperative powers — he'd shrug off 5mm-deep, 3cm-long gashes in his arm and when I saw him again a week later he'd have healed up. I've never known anyone else with that kind of regenerative ability outside of a book or a film.

I knew him for 40 years but for reasons of my own social awkwardness always referred to him in relative terms: "your father", "your grandad", "Gail's dad". I never once called him by his name.

It was John.


1:31pm on Sunday, 26th July, 2020:

90s Fashion


Yesterday, we were digitising a video recorded in 1994. I was wearing a shirt that I only threw out last year.

I didn't really like the shirt, so perhaps it lasted so long because it didn't get much wear. Then again, it could be that I'm oblivious to any changes to clothing fashions from 1980 onwards.


2:24pm on Saturday, 25th July, 2020:

Back to Front


So, it seems I've been wearing my face masks back to front. The coloured bit goes on the outside and the white bit goes next to your skin.

I only found this out because my wife watches Grey's Anatomy.


10:34am on Friday, 24th July, 2020:



I went to Sainsbury's this morning — the day when wearing a face covering in shops became compulsory.

Sure enough, everyone was wearing a mask. However, they were also largely ignoring social distancing rules. It's as if you can have one or the other: everyone wearing a mask or everyone keeping 2m away from each other.

When we didn't have to wear masks, the people who nevertheless chose to wear them also seemed to be the ones who ignored social distancing rules.

I see two possible explanations for this. It could be that wearing a mask gives people the idea that they're protected, so they don't feel the need to engage with social distancing practices. It could also be that wearing a mask adds such a cognitive burden that they don't remember about social distancing because the mask is constantly distracting them.

Oh well. At least I survived an hour without having to take my mask off to blow my nose.


9:25am on Thursday, 23rd July, 2020:

Final Again


My subscription for Final Fantasy XIV ran out yesterday, some 90 days after I intended for it to run out (I hadn't realised that the Shadowbringers expansion I bought came with 90 days of play, and I hadn't realised that the 90-day subscription I bought would add an automatic 30-day renewal until cancelled). There's a new patch coming out in August that everyone seems to be excited about, but I'm not all that fussed myself. I may renew my subscription next year and take a look, but I'm done with it for now.

I had seven character when I quit the game, plus one or two others I deleted after a few hours of play each. The seven I kept racked up a /playtime total of 55 days 16 hours and 53 minutes between them, placing FFXIV behind The Secret World and World of Warcraft in my list of MMORPGs ordered by time invested (although all three are probably behind MUD).

Unusually, I grew quite fond of three of my FFXIV characters and am going to miss them. My main, a white mage, was not among these three, mainly because healing stopped being fun at higher levels. Almost every tank tries to take on every mob possible at once, then then blames the healer if they die. It's particularly irritating when they collect a pile of mobs, stop so everyone can AOE them down, then run off to collect some more as soon as the healer has blown their big cooldowns because the tank didn't blow any of theirs.

I did like my monk, because the positioning requirements kept me on my toes. The skill rotation is pretty boring, but the movement makes up for it.

I liked my ninja, because ninja skills are a mess and therefore fun to play. This same character was also a warrior (tank), a role I quite enjoyed unless there were other tanks in the group. My only grouch is that the initial pull of multiple enemies is hard to manage with a cone AOE that you have to target rather than a circle AOE you can just blast out.

I also liked my red mage/astrologian/white mage. This was primarily because she was really good looking (as was my monk, as it happened). I played the red mage (ranged DPS) when levelling, the arcanist (mixed-ability healer) in instances involving other healers, and the white mage (heal-over-time healer) when I was obliged to run an instance for main story quest reasons and didn't want to have to wait 30 minutes in a queue.

I think I'll keep my notes on the dungeons, in case I return to the game at some point.

In the meantime, I'm considering using some of the virtual world's scenery as my Zoom background for conference calls.

It's better than the door that people usually get to see, for sure.


10:06am on Wednesday, 22nd July, 2020:

New Phone


I have a new mobile phone (or, as the kids today would call it, a new phone). It's a Samsung Galaxy S20.

I can't say I've noticed much difference between it and my old S8, apart from its having a better camera so I can take better bad photographs of things.

There's some bubbling in the top left corner that looks as if it's air trapped under a surface. This leads me to suspect that there could be some kind of screen protector on it that I ought to remove. If there is, I don't know how to remove it, though. It doesn't seem to affect the operation of the device, so maybe I'll leave it as some kind of theft deterrent.

The Samsung transfer service is good enough that it maintained my don't-show-me-your-damned-Samsung-bloatware settings.

Vodafone keeps sending me texts trying to get me to do something, but when I click the link it launches into a help page that's so bad I can't even tell what it's trying to help me to do.

I don't know if the phone is 5G-capable. I should maybe have asked when I upgraded to it.

When I try to set my house as a trusted location so I don't need to use the load screen unlock, it has the precise location on Google Maps but uses the address of a house two doors away and won't let me change it.

I ordered a case for it that arrives today, so I'll be able to drop it in complete safety.

It's great at taking photos of comets at night, though!

The comet is behind those clouds.


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Copyright © 2020 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).