The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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9:11am on Sunday, 28th February, 2021:

Old Books



2:37pm on Saturday, 27th February, 2021:



Last summer, I suggested to one of my colleagues that we should create a program that used nerual network techniques (his speciality) to turn game character faces into mor realistic, human-looking faces. I figured we'd see a lot of people using it, which would be good publicity for our games and AI group at the university. Unfortunately, the work dumped on us for preparing online-only teaching for our students meant it never came to pass, but it seems that other people have now created tools that can do similar things.

On the left, the face of my main character, Polly, in Final Fantasy XIV; on the right, what she looks like after being put through Artbreeder.com's portrait software.

I think I may have to run her through it again to make her look more human than she does here. Unfortunately, you only get three free goes then they want paying for more, and I also ran two other characters through the system. I don't mind paying for more, but I do mind the fact that it only accepts subscriptions, not one-off payments that don't renew.

It shows the idea wasn't bad in principle, anyway.


11:48am on Friday, 26th February, 2021:

Assignment Time



2:25pm on Thursday, 25th February, 2021:



It's disappointing that barbers won't be able to reopen their doors until mid-April, but having spent my teens in the 1970s I'm not particularly worried.


4:26pm on Wednesday, 24th February, 2021:

Working from Home



8:57am on Tuesday, 23rd February, 2021:

Bounce Back


It seems that being buried under four inches of snow for a week does crocuses the world of good.

I'm hoping this is a metaphor for humanity's emergence from Covid-19, but I'm not optimistic.


1:55pm on Monday, 22nd February, 2021:

96 Hours


There's a special deal on with Final Fantasy XIV. Over the next couple of weeks or so it gives 96 hours of free play to people whose accounts have expired. I thought I'd give it a go, to see what's changed since I stopped playing last year.

To this end, I decided I'd better dig out my notes so I can refresh my memory regarding what the heck all those icons mean on the screen. The first time I played FFXIV, I threw out my notes afterwards and regretted it; the second time (last year), I therefore kept them.

Ah. Where did I keep them?

I did remember having some difficulty deciding where to put them, but I didn't remember where I had indeed put them. I looked where I thought they were (and distinctly remember having put there), but they weren't there. I figured that I must have put them somewhere else afterwards.

I spent three hours looking for those notes. Three hours. I eventually found them, exactly where I thought I'd put them. What had happened was that I'd put them on top of some other notes, but not quite — I'd put them on top of the other notes except for the first page. The first page was on top of both sets of notes. This meant that when I saw the pile, it looked as if it was of the second set of notes, not of two sets of notes. Only when I went through them for maybe the third or fourth time did I actually look at what was in each bundle of notes and find that what the header page said was immediately under it wasn't immediately under it.


In the course of searching through every box and paper pile in my office I did, however, find some other things I'd misplaced so it wasn't entirely a waste of time.

I managed to play FFXIV for a few hours, but got killed repeatedly on the first boss in the first duty dungeon, so had to abandon it after maybe an hour of trying and failing. I'd like to say it's because I'm rusty, but I suspect it's that I'm incompetent.


10:29am on Sunday, 21st February, 2021:

Metal Ox


Look what I received yesterday!

It's a Chinese New Year cookie, made by cookie impresaria (indeed, kooky impresaria) Pooky Amsterdam and despatched by her from the USA.

I can't say I was surprised to receive it, as she'd warned me to expect it. I can say I was surprised it was intact, because she'd packed it in a 4-inch cube box with a large "FRAGILE" sticker on it; the courier company out this in an 8-inch cube box also with a large "FRAGILE" sticker on it, meaning the inner box was free to bounce all over the place within the larger box. Fortunately, the cookie (well, cookies, as there were two of them) in the inner box were protected by a further layer of bubble wrap. The extra box did have a use, though: it stopped the contents from being impounded by customs, because who would put cookies in a box that could rattle around in another box?

Although it looks from the picture as if this is just a square biscuit, actually it is a proper cookie: the biscuit sandwiches what looks like a 2cm-thick brownie. It's much lighter than a brownie, though, tasting largely of chocolate but with notes of other flavours in there too (cinnamon? pepper?). Whatever it was made of, it was a dream — I scoffed all of it over the course of 20 minutes. Needless to say, my wife has only eaten half of hers and will probably take another day or two to finish it just so she can torment me by slowly relishing it in front of me.

It may have taken two weeks for the cookies to arrive, but they were still fresh. Bonus: if Pooky had gone down with Covid-19 before they arrived, she could have warned me and then I wouldn't have caught it off them (I'd have saved them until after I'd been vaccinated).

Professional bespoke-cookie-making is a strange profession, but we also learned yesterday that one of our daughters' schoolfriends now has a job photographing handbags in Australia, so it's not all the weird in the great scheme of thing.


10:44am on Saturday, 20th February, 2021:

Rubin's Vase


Wanted: identical twins who either have 3D modelling skills and a 3D printer or carpentry skills and a lathe. Oh, and they'll need a camera, too.

Step one: take a photograph of one of your faces in profile. It doesn't matter which face, because you're identical twins.
Step two: design a vase that follows the contour of your profile.
Step three: use your 3D modelling or carpentry skills to make this vase.
Step four: stand real close to each other and place the vase in between your faces so it conforms to both your profiles.
Step five: take a photo of this from the side. You may need someone else to do this, come to think of it.
Step six: post it on the Internet where I can find it.

This will mean that I will no longer have to explain to people why it is that when I see the Rubin's Vase illusion, I never have any trouble seeing both the faces and the vase at the same time.

Oh, maintain social distancing while you're doing all this, please, twins.

Next time someone shows me the illusion, I'll tell them I can see a rabbit — no, a duck.


11:23am on Friday, 19th February, 2021:




1:57pm on Thursday, 18th February, 2021:



This is what most of my final-year project students are doing at the moment to their programs.


9:46am on Wednesday, 17th February, 2021:




10:48am on Tuesday, 16th February, 2021:



My third pass through the final (ahem!) draft of my Lizzie Lott book #3 has continued to reduce the number of changes detected. Although this is good, I'm a little concerned that some of the errors I found made it through revisions 1 and 2 without being spotted.

Once I get down to a single line of changes I need to make, I'll stop the revisions. This is because I will always be able to find a line's worth of changes I want to make, no matter how much I polish it. At that point, I'll then spend some time introducing manual hyphenation (because Word claims it will hyphenate but doesn't), which will of course lead to a whole new swathe of changes I'll need to make because I'll have missed some of the consequences.

Still, progress is progress!


3:18pm on Monday, 15th February, 2021:

British Summer


Product review.

It's crisp, raw, cloudy and half as long as I'd like it to be.


5:04pm on Sunday, 14th February, 2021:



We recorded the final of The Masked Singer last night and watched it 45 minutes later so we could skip through the commercial breaks. Near the end, my wife had an idea who one of the last two acts might be and consulted their page on Wikipedia to check some details.

Unfortunately, by this point the live programme had ended and the winner's Wikipedia page had been updated to state that this singer had won the UK series of The Masked Singer 2021.

Honourably, my wife kept quiet about the fact she now knew who had won. Furthermore, she didn't say she was sure who was behind that particular mask, either (which I would have been tempted to do myself in her position).

I'd heard of the winner, but not of the person who came second. However, the person who came second was so good that I'm now going to look up some of their albums.

Next year, we're going to keep notes on paper so we remember the clues from week to week.

We'll also ban use of the iPad while watching recordings of the show.


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Copyright © 2021 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).