The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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10:17am on Tuesday, 30th November, 2021:
4:00pm on Monday, 29th November, 2021:
There was a craft fair at the town hall in Colchester over the weekend. I've never been inside the town hall before, so was keen to go even though there was a craft fair in it.
A statue of Queen Victoria dominates the staircase.
She does not look amused.
9:33am on Sunday, 28th November, 2021:
How an 1872 article on visiting California explains the good maintenance of the railway line.
It says something about 1872 attitudes to Chinese immigrants that the author chose to fractionalise the maintenance workers in preference to fractionalising the distance between them.
9:59am on Saturday, 27th November, 2021:
I have to say, of all the letters in the Greek alphabet, omicron has the scariest name.
9:43am on Friday, 26th November, 2021:
9:45am on Thursday, 25th November, 2021:
1:30pm. Amazon puts two parcels through the letter box.
11:45pm. Go to bed.
8:00am. Email received saying a book was delivered yesterday. Neither of the parcels that came through the letter box was a book.
8:05am. Open front door to find two parcels, one containing a book, standing on the doorstep. Both are damp with dew.
8:10am. Check door camera to see if parcels were delivered in the final 15 minutes of previous day. Door camera reveals that the man who delivered the two parcels at 1:30pm the previous day left the other two parcels on the doorstep. They've been there ever since.
Damn it, Amazon delivery person! Why didn't you ring the doorbell?
11:32am on Wednesday, 24th November, 2021:
I saw this on the local community web site.
I think maybe the team ought to be telling the guy who believes he's on an M that he's actually on an upside-down W.
9:32am on Tuesday, 23rd November, 2021:
One item in the news yesterday concerned the decision to scrap the categories of best male and female artists in the Brit Awards. This was prompted by complaints by artists who identify as neither male nor female that they couldn't win either award.
This is fair enough, but isn't without its problems. The original reason for having separate categories was that in an industry dominated by men it allowed women to win something. Later, the reason became one of balance: if there's only one category, people will complain if it's dominated by one gender (which was the case with the "Best British Group" award until Little Mix won it this year). It doesn't matter if the winner is indeed objectively the best act: accusations of structural sexism or whatever will surely flow. The idea that adding more judges of the under-represented gender would fix the matter relies on the assumption that judges are not impartial and will vote along party lines. Having gender categories for acts does not challenge the integrity of the judges in this way, at least where gender is concerned; they may of course still show bias in other areas (perceived race being the most notable one).
Removing the gender categories for solo awards, then, merely pushes the issue up a level and makes decision-making less transparent: some years, individuals will win not because they're the best act, but because they're the best act among the gender that hasn't won for a few years.
One solution would be to keep gender involved but move away from a binary categorisation. Let "Best Female Solo Artist" stay and have "Best Non-Female Solo Artist" alongside it. This would be open to artists who identify as being: male; both male and female; neither male nor female; anything else that comes along later. The "Best Female Solo Artist" category would be open only to artists who exclusively identify as being female.
Although this looks as if it would satisfy feminists and genderless people alike, as always with identity politics there are issues unseen by people who don't have problems in whatever dimension is under consideration. I'm sure the "Best Non-Female Solo Artist" approach must have been considered and rejected, but I don't know on what grounds. Would anyone care to fill me in on what the arguments against it are?
4:49pm on Monday, 22nd November, 2021:
I have less work to do this term than in previous academic years, which means I can start writing examination questions now rather than having to do it when I'm supposed to be on leave over Christmas. I have six papers to write, possibly nine because apparently January resits are here to stay courtesy of university high-ups who don't have to write them themselves.
I don't like writing exam questions. Hmm. Actually, that's not true: I do like writing them when they're on an interesting topic, because I can be creative about it. What I absolutely loathe is answering the questions I've set and preparing a mark scheme.
Having seen what some of my colleagues consider to be an acceptable set of questions with model answers and a viable mark scheme, I could get away with investing much less effort. However, I've actually been trained in examining, and am not yet disillusioned enough to relax my standards.
I managed to prepare one whole paper today, which is pretty good going. I may get another one done later this week if no-one dumps any additional work on me out of nowhere. Fingers crossed for a clear Christmas...
9:46am on Sunday, 21st November, 2021:
My wife wanted to know whether it was possible to buy a series on Amazon Prime (specifically, Wheel of Time) without subscribing to Amazon Prime. I logged into my account and clicked on a button that promised to tell me about Amazon Prime. It did tell me — but it also signed me up for Amazon Prime there and then. This consequence was not advertised by the button.
Sure, I can unsubscribe after my free month is up, but I really don't like the underhanded way they did that. I'll let it run its course, because it's going to give me free deliveries for the very month in which I buy the most off Amazon, but whether I'll keep it up rather depends on whether my wife like Wheel of Time or not.
After years of studiously avoiding all Amazon's attempts to sign me up to Amazon Prime, I can see but one benefit of acquiescing: I am no longer subjected to Amazon's attempts to sign me up to Amazon Prime.
12:09pm on Saturday, 20th November, 2021:
MUD had the concepts of players, wizzes and arch-wizzes. Players were regular players; wizzes were those whose characters had managed to accrue sufficient experience points (without dying) to be granted administrative powers; arch-wizzes were those leading wizzes who were given administrative powers over the wizzes.
22 years ago today, one of the arch-wizzes of MUD2, SKIFF (Henry Mueller), sent his fellow arch-wizzes an email he was proposing to send to the wizzes. This led to a long discussion, lasting several months. When it had run its course, I summarised the discussion and from it derived the Player Types model.
In the resulting paper, I state that the opening question was "What do people want out of a MUD?", but it seems that's not true. In the original, it was "What do you expect from MUD?". I know this, because today I came across a printout of that email.
Here's the opening to it (it goes on for another page, but SKIFF states his own opinions there so I'm not going to show that). The ink of the dot matrix printer I had back then has faded so much that I've had to enhance the colouring so you can read it.
I didn't recollect that this email was sent on 20th November. The fact it was is entirely coincidental, and therefore spooky.
9:01am on Friday, 19th November, 2021:
When I was a child, all the doors I encountered had knobs on them. Nowadays, they all have handles (or "levers", as they seem to be called by those who make them).
I can see why handles are going to be more popular among people with no hands or who need to open them when their hands are full, but I prefer knobs. With handles, I have to use the hand that the handle wants me to use; with knobs, I can use the hand that I want to use (which would be the right hand, every time). I also like the way that knobs can be turned either clockwise or anti-clockwise, it doesn't matter, but handles have invariably been rigged so you can only push them down, you can't pull them up.
I particularly dislike handles, however, because they're at the exact height that the belt loops on my trousers are. It's bad enough when they go up my sleeve if I'm carrying a drink, but when they hook on my belt loops they can rip them off. Knobs do neither of these.
Yes, this did happen to me this morning, and yes, I am unhappy about it.
12:39pm on Thursday, 18th November, 2021:
When I was doing my PhD, one of my fellow students recommended a book to me called The Black Box. Here are six representative pages from it.
The Black Box.
It's riveting stuff, but I rather suspect a book such as this would not appear on the shelves of bookstores these days.
1:18pm on Wednesday, 17th November, 2021:
I was about to post about the latest workload model rankings that came in today (I'm in second place at 130%; some people have less than half that workload), but then another email arrived. This one was the Student Voice Bulletin. It's basically a newsletter produced in response to interactions with students, with news and other information in it that students in the 1990s might have found engaging. Anyway, this is how it opened up:
On the one hand, I'm both surprised and pleased to see my name in lights. I'm sure other lecturers are also passionate about their subjects, but they don't always get to teach them and their passion isn't always evident.
On the other hand, this is going to mean that more students will sign up for my lectures, increasing my workload.
Hmm. Well, better that than having to teach a 300-student programming module because no-one takes the games ones.
9:25am on Tuesday, 16th November, 2021:
I keep 16 pencils in a mug, for when I want to write something quickly and don't want to risk picking up a pen with ink that doesn't wish to co-operate. This morning, I sharpened all these pencils.
There's something satisfying about a mug stuffed with sharp pencils.
There's something dangerous, too, so I keep red pens there too, as a warning.
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Copyright © 2021 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).