The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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10:07am on Sunday, 31st May, 2020:



The UK government knows that relaxing lockdown rules will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases, as indeed does anyone who gives the matter a moment's thought. I don't understand why our glorious leaders haven't been up front and said that this will be the case. When the inevitable happens, the government could say "we told you so" instead of having the populace say "we told you so" the the government.

Of course, if they had said it then the media would have asked why the rules were being relaxed in the first place, to which the honest response would have been either "This is a cold, calculated demonstration to show stupid people why we still need the rules.", "More people will die of other causes if we don't get the economy back up and running." or "The country can't afford to pay for lockdown indefinitely, so we're all going to have to take our chances just like we said we would right at the start".


12:00pm on Saturday, 30th May, 2020:

Pink Salt


We have some pink salt.

We also have some orange salt, but that can stay in the packet until we've used all the pink salt.

If you haven't had pink salt and want to know what it tastes like, the answers is: salty.


12:04pm on Friday, 29th May, 2020:

What the Dickens


From American Notes for General Circulation, by Charles Dickens:

He wrote that in 1842.

How times have changed, eh?


9:38am on Thursday, 28th May, 2020:

They Think it's all Over


There are markedly more people out and about now than a week ago.

The logic seems to go like this: I've been cooped up for ten weeks to protect myself; I now have ten weeks of protection in the bank; I can spend some of this protection that I've saved up; I'm going to visit my parents, the beach, a garden centre, Barnard Castle, wherever!

Let's hope this doesn't turn into "Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over!".


9:08am on Wednesday, 27th May, 2020:

Free Will


This ad was among those chosen by Facebook to display to me this morning.

I already have free will, so won't be using this service.


7:19pm on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020:



There are a lot of birds around at the moment. Maybe there's no more than usual, but with fewer cars around we can hear them better.

While I was on my walk this morning, one of the little critters emptied its digestive system from a height onto my shirt.

Not only does my walk allow me to exercise my legs, it also allows me to exercise my patience.


8:58am on Tuesday, 26th May, 2020:



So, it seems that yesterday I unfairly maligned 18th-century clergymen. Further investigation reveals that the handwriting is from a 1923 "restoration" of the parish records in question. 20th-Century clergymen are to blame here.

The records did need restoring. I managed to find a scan of the original versions from the 1700s.

You can see how the restorer might have been up against it somewhat. It doesn't really help, though. What does help, though, is the burial record of one of the children of the Hutchinson in question, who had the decency to die young, but old enough that there was someone else writing it down.

That's definitely a Zenos, then.

Coincidentally, Zenos is the name of a character I loathe in Final Fantasy XIV.


9:00am on Monday, 25th May, 2020:

What's in a Name


I was doing some genealogy research yesterday and am having trouble trying to figure out this man's name.

What you do you think?

These 18th-century clergymen really ought to learn how to form letters that people can read.


10:04am on Sunday, 24th May, 2020:

New Rolls


In February, as part of our regular shopping cycle, I replenished our stock of toilet paper. This was about three weeks before the toilet paper panic-buying began.

We've now run out of that toilet paper. As I expected, the toilet roll aisle in Sainsbury's is now loaded with toilet rolls. There's no problem obtaining them.

I suspect that the person I saw in March with a dozen 9-roll packs in the back of their car will be waiting rather longer before buying any more.


9:30am on Saturday, 23rd May, 2020:

Rhubarb and Custard


I'm not a cook, having little talent and even less inclination to be one, but I am good at making one thing: rhubarb and custard. Here's my secret recipe.

granulated sugar
powdered ginger

Cut up enough rhubarb and put it in a pan.
Add enough sugar.
Add enough ginger.
Heat it up enough on a hotplate.
Put enough custard in a jug.
Heat the custard up enough in a microwave.
Put the rhubarb into bowls (one bowl per person).
Add the custard to the rhubarb.

Voila! Perfect rhubarb and custard!


10:44am on Friday, 22nd May, 2020:



Here's the third pack of surprisingly inexpensive playing cards I bought.

These are Piatnix Luxusfiguren #26, which date from 1957. They're a bit unusual in that over the years the red ink used in their printing seem to have spread somewhat. I don't know if this is deliberate (to give its figuren a more luxus appearance) but it looks quite effective anyway. The printing method itself isn't of a particularly high quality: close up, you can see the dots used for printing.

Two more packs arrived today, by the way, but it'll be awhile before I show you those because they were a bit damp and they smell somewhat mouldy. I've put them in the garage so they can defumigate naturally.


12:54pm on Thursday, 21st May, 2020:



Here's the second pack of cards I bought for cheap.

These are Piatnik patience cards using their Rococco pattern. There are three odd things about them.

Firstly, the indexing has different sizes for each corner. This is something you don't normally see with Piatnik: either they have all four the same size or they only have two (or, if early, none). You do occasionally see it with their subsidiary operation in Hungary, though (Piatnik is an Austrian company), which suggests that this one was printed there — probably in the 1930s.

Secondly, the indexing sometimes overprints the image. The heart in the Queen of Hearts goes over her bonnet, for example. This is a bit unprofessional; my guess is that the top-left indeces were enlarged, rather than the top-right indeces reduced, and that the indeces were added to the sheet before cutting but after the pictures.

Thirdly, the Ace of Hearts has a square on it (the Ace of Diamonds does, too). This is for the tax stamp to go in. Back in the day, playing cards in many countries were taxed by a certain amount, and the most common way that such payment was acknowledged was by a tax stamp. This usually went over the Ace of Hearts in Germanic countries. Piatnik got fed up with seeing their beautiful aces defaces this way, so put a special place on them for the tax stamp to go. This pack doesn't have a tax stamp there, though: it has the number 38 printed instead. This could mean the cards were printed in 1938, but then it could mean something else entirely.

Fourthly, the pack has a non-standard joker. I haven't seen this one with other Piatnik decks, and neither has the World Web Playing Card Museum.

All in all, it's a nice pack of cards except there's some damage to one of the Queen of Diamonds's faces. This perhaps explains its low price.


10:23am on Wednesday, 20th May, 2020:



Oh dear, I seem to have bought some more playing cards for my collection off eBay.

Three packs arrived yesterday. Two date from the 1950s; the third is probably from the 1930s. I don't normally buy cards of such a recent vintage, but as they were buy-it-now under a fiver each I went for it.

So, here's the first one:

It's a #140 patience deck manufactured by Kolin in was was then called the Czech Republic but is now lnown as Czechia. Sorry to deadname you, Czechia, but there is a reason: these cards date from 1955, when the Czech Republic was under Communist control. The court cards depict characters from the 1951 movie The Emperor and the Golem, an historical comedy in which a young man who is imprisoned for selling bread to the people takes the place of the emperor who imprisoned him and eventually gains command of an out-of-control golem that is wreaking havoc. He puts the golem to work making bread. The way I understand it (and I may be wrong), it's basically saying that the state (golem) is powerful but whether the power is used for good or ill depends on those who control it.

The cards aren't of great printing quality, but they were designed to make the best of the technology available and as a result look quite jolly. They're definitely worth the £4.99 they cost me.


1:10pm on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020:

Close the the Wire


My CE217 examination has just finished. It was a 2-hour exam, but students had and extra hour in which to upload their answers so as to allow for possible Internet connection issues.

Here's the proportion of students who had submitted their assignment in the minutes leading up to the 13:00 deadline:

12:47    62%
12:48    63%
12:49    67%
12:50    67%
12:51    67%
12:52    67%
12:53    67%
12:54    67%
12:55    69%
12:56    72%
12:57    77%
12:58    82%
12:59    83%
13:00    83%

Quite a few students were cutting it fine there.

I'm a little concerned that 17% of the students didn't submit at all (there are no late submissions as od 13:10). Still, that's less marking for me now, if not for the resit paper in September.


3:18pm on Monday, 18th May, 2020:

Exam Tomorrow


Call of Cthulhu source books are always a good place to look when I want something to remind my students that they have an exam tomorrow.


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