The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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11:20am on Monday, 30th November, 2015:



I came across these chaps yesterday in Salford:

They have no means to get past red ropes below their gun level, so they can't escape.

Intrestingly, I met the actor who goes inside one of those and my wife and younger daughter met the one who goes in the other. I don't know about theirs, but mine had more eyes than I was expecting.


10:02pm on Sunday, 29th November, 2015:



I'm back home now after a 250-mile drive from Manchester following the Essex University team's appearannce in University Challenge.

I'm forbidden from saying how it went, but I can say that our opponents were Christ's College Cambridge and we met our goal of not finishing on negative points.

I can also say that, contrary to what I've been telling everyone, when you press your buzzer and your name and university is given, that's done live. I always thought it was a recording, but there's a real person who does it (called Roger).

Also, those buttons are a lot stiffer than I was expecting...


8:48pm on Saturday, 28th November, 2015:

In Salford


Well, here I am in Salford at MediaCity, ready for my appearance on University Challenge tomorrow.

The way this Christmas series edition is set up, it's possible for a team to win their match but not get to the next round because it's based on total scores. Therefore, two strong teams can both lose out because they take points off each other.

My goals for the team tomorrow are, in order of likelihood of achievement:
1) Not to finish with negative points.
2) To lose to a team that doesn't get to the next round.
3) To lose to the eventual winners.
4) To scrape a win.
5) To win and qualify for the next round.

Knowing that we're extremely unlikely to win means there's no pressure. If we don't end up negative, then from my point of view anything else is a bonus.


4:21pm on Friday, 27th November, 2015:



This USB port looks as if he's been to hospitality staff training school:

"Must remember to smile, must remember to smile"...

Its the teeth that get me.


4:05pm on Thursday, 26th November, 2015:



Two weeks ago, when I went to check out the room in which I'd be teaching last week and this week, I noticed two large splotches of spilt hot chocolate on the landing of the nearby staircase. They were still there on the Monday, and for the whole of the first week. I was a little annoyed, as it was rather showing up Essex University in front of the students from York and Goldsmiths as not being a place that regularly deploys cleaners.

I was planning to take a photo of the splotches to show you on Friday (the last day of teaching), but figuring that if I left it until then it would be just my luck for the cleaners to come along and finally clean them up. I therefore resolved to take a photo today.

Needless to say, last night the cleaners came and cleaned the splotches up.

I should have decided to take a photo last week, then maybe the cleaners would have showed up earlier.


11:09pm on Wednesday, 25th November, 2015:



We took the IGGI students out for a meal this evening. We were going to have it at the Siege House, close to where the students are staying in Colchester. However, the Siege House didn't answer any calls and didn't check their messages, so instead we booked it at the Bakehouse in Wivenhoe. This isn't so close to where the students are staying. However, it's on the same bus route as the university, so they knew how to get there.

Well they did, but the bus driver didn't. Neither did I. The reason is that roadworks appeared between the university and Wivenhoe.

Some 7,000 people live in Wivenhoe, and the main road into the place is currently closed. You can get out by driving through a residential estate with a warren of streets all at odd angles to each other (to discourage joyriding) or you can go down narrow country lanes and hope no-one is coming in the opposite direction. I did the latter to get to the Bakehouse and the former on the way back.

No-one seems to know why the roadworks are there, but the consensus seems to be "because they can be".


4:47pm on Tuesday, 24th November, 2015:

Desk, Right, Mouth


When she went to Japan, my elder daughter brought back a build-your-own-model-of-a-Japanese-shop kit. She gave this to my wife.

The instructions run to four pages, all in Japanese. Most of it is dense Japanese. My wife does not speak Japanese, or indeed anything else not English. Figuring out what to do without knowing what the instructions said proved to be something of a challenge, and there was no English translation of the instructions on the web site.

Idea! Download an app that can translate what the camera sees into English!

Here's the result:

Desk, Right, Mouth
Injure Mouth One, Shrimp Strength
Each Two, Sea Urchin Mouth

It was easier before the translation.

I think maybe the app is mainly employed for reading menus.


6:11pm on Monday, 23rd November, 2015:

The Future


I've been playing Railroad Tycoon III recently. OK, so it may date from 2003, but a good game is a good game.

Some of the scenarios in the game are set in the future. Well, the future from the perspective of 2003, anyway. In the same way that books and movies set their content in the future and then the future eventually arrives, the same things happens in games. Here's what RR3 thought the trains would be like in 2015:

The E-88 below it can go at 300mph. That's not something we're likely to see on British rail lines any time soon.

OK, so the game also had half the landmass of Europe under water from global warming by now, too, so I'm not entirely disappointed that its predictions weren't borne out by reality.


4:35pm on Sunday, 22nd November, 2015:



I spent about ten hours this weekend reading through the copy-edited version of the first chapter of my up-coming MMO book. Most of the changes were fine (modulo acceptance of Americanised spellings) but my rampant Yorkshire dialect use of the "singular they" caused them problems and their changes of "different to" to "different than" caused me problems (I changed them all to "different from" as a compromise solution). Also, they use the Oxford comma in lists and won't accept elipses in any shape or form (which given how often I use them is a bit of a blow...) (see?).

The first chapter is something like 200 pages long out of maybe 750 in total.

I hope the other chapters pick up, it was getting pretty boring by the end.


5:56pm on Saturday, 21st November, 2015:

Meanwhile, in 2000


I was looking through my collection of MMO ephemera in an attempt to find a screenshot from Lineage. I failed, but I did find this from the year 2000:

Sadly, that won't work for illustrating a low-angle 2.5D view with wall transparency in my up-coming book.

I don't suppose you have a screenshot of the original Lineage that you either took yourself or that comes from publicity material, do you?


5:07pm on Friday, 20th November, 2015:

Please Help Yourselves


This note was on a box of Marks & Spencer shortbread our younger daughter left for us:

Hmm, shortbread or death?

If you looks carefully, you'll notice that there's a crease on this paper where it's been folded in half. That's because my wife got to it first.


6:16pm on Thursday, 19th November, 2015:



Normally when I teach the Hero's Journey, I explain that the "Atonement with the Father" concerns the point when the would-be hero reconciles his old self with his new, renewed self, and mention that this can be remembered because the word "atonement" can be split into "at-one-ment", meaning that the two aspects of the would-be hero are now at one with each other. Joseph Campbell mentioned this in the book where he introduced the concept of the Hero's Journey, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I always credit. I also say it's a coincidence that "atonement" can be broken down into "at-one-ment" like that.

It turns out it's no coincidence. If you look up the etymology of the word "atonement", that's exactly where it came from. One of the students in the class this afternoon looked it up when I mentioned it and pointed it out.

It's great teaching people at PhD level. They just do this kind of stuff!


2:47pm on Wednesday, 18th November, 2015:



This is our neighbour's shed:

Storms didn't used to blow the roof off our neighbour's shed before the Met Office started naming them. These weather forecasters just don't think through the consequences of their actions.


6:33pm on Tuesday, 17th November, 2015:

Knowing Nothing


In preparation for my forthcoming bound-to-be-embarrassing University Challenge appearance, I've been watching recent episodes of the programme. I don't know whether this is a good idea or a bad idea. It's great when I hear a question to which I know the answer immediately ("Fotheringay!"), but of course this means that the same question won't be asked again any time soon. My knowledge is therefore basically wasted. On the other hand, when I hear questions to which I don't immediately know the answer, I don't celebrate for dodging a bullet; rather, I get a sense of what proportion of questions I won't immediately know the answer to when I'm on the show myself (which is "a large one").

The word "immediately" is important there. I actually do know quite a lot more than the average person, but a lot of it isn't immediately available to me. It takes about 30-60 seconds for me to retrieve it. This is far too long for a quiz show. It's not because I'm getting older and having trouble remembering things, though; rather, it's that I've always had an ability to file away things I find interesting or notable, which I can pull out later. It's like a process I can set off to look something up for me in my memory while I'm doing something else.

Another poin worth mentioning is that because I design and play a lot of games, I know answers to questions that people never ask. This gives me a wide range of knowledge, but if no-one asks the questions then that's not a great deal of use in the context of a quiz show.

Maybe I should just try to memorise some flags, American presidents and names of space missions (or play games that have these in them).

I draw the line at listening to opera, though.


6:08pm on Monday, 16th November, 2015:

Locked Out


Today I began the teach-every-day-for-two-weeks part of my academic year, in which nearly 20 MSc and PhD students are trapped with me in the same room for 6 hours a day.

This is the thermostat on the wall:

On the left is a heat strip telling us that the the temperature is 25 degrees Celsius. On the right is the thermostat. It's inside a locked plastic container in order that people in the room can't change its settings. The temperature it's displaying is 22 degrees Celsius.

I suspect that the heat detector is itself inside that plastic container, and is therefore unaffected by the actual room temperature. It wants to make the temperature 23 degrees, so it sets the air coming out of the fan in the roof be warm. However, as it's in its own heat-shielded container, it never gets to be 23 degrees so the heat keeps on coming.

The result is that the room is warmed up by 20 bodies and the heating system, so we're all feeling very uncomfortable.

Oh, and the plastic sheet contains advice on maintaining the temperature that is geared entirely for keeping the temperature warm ("remove clothing and towels from the radiators" — what radiators?). It is especially concerned that we don't open the windows, which would be more relevant if the windows were actually openable.

Only another nine teaching days in there to go...


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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).