The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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1:51pm on Wednesday, 20th February, 2019:



OK, so I expect the phishing emails I receive to have broken English, but even someone who had broken English themself could spot a problem with this one.

That amount must be in British dollars.


6:53pm on Tuesday, 19th February, 2019:



Because our new sitting room arrangement doesn't have the same display capabilities as the old one my wife is having a purge of things that are unnecessary. As all ornaments are unnecessary, this means some of them are being disappeared.

In order to protect this figure, I was able to smuggle it out of the house and put it on display in my office at work.

It's a model of an Etruscan statuette. One of these was given to all attendees at The European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, held in Pisa in 1984. It was the first conference I attended, and to get there I had to take my first flight on an aircraft.

I don't know how many of these chaps remain, but they're pretty rubbish so I don't expect there are many. I like him, though, so he's now standing on top of a Rubik's cube on my display shelf, where he can perturb by students by staring at them judgementally while naked.


10:08am on Monday, 18th February, 2019:



I received some advertising rubbish from British Telecom today, in this envelope:

Yes, BT, that's pretty well what "exclusive" means.


2:37pm on Sunday, 17th February, 2019:



I've just spent an hour removing the brambles from a bush in our garden. They made up maybe a third of the canopy, so the bush now looks like it's just staggered out from a mugging. I, on the other hand, was armed with a pair of long-armed secateurs and armoured in my trusty waxed green padded coat (that once survived a direct hit by a petrol-driven model plane at a kid's party) and some leather driving gloves my dad gave me 20 years ago that are utterly impregnable. I got a thorn in my inner thigh at one point and a jab to the forehead, but I came out unbloodied.

I have to hand it to brambles, they really pull out all the evolutionary stops. They have a very tasty berry that means you don't want to get rid of them in the first place, but if you decide they do need a seeing to (for example if they're destroying a bush) they don't mess about. The spars can be any combination of skinny/thick, single-/multi-branch, thorny/unthorny, shallow-/deep-rooted and leafy/unleafy. They stick to each other when you try pull them out, and will try drag the foliage of other plants with them so you worry about doing more damage than the brambles are doing. They drop bits off in the hope that they can root and grow. When they die, they become so hard they're like barbed wire, able to penetrate all but the sturdiest of clothing.

I last cleared this bush out about five years ago. I'll have to do it again in another five years, because I can't get at the roots without hurting the bush, too. I do sort of have an ally, in that there's also some ivy deep within the heart of the bush that will eventually kill off the brambles so it can do its parasite thing with the bush. Then, I can have the fun of attacking the ivy.

I once took some brambles out of a rose bush that had leaves looking like rose leaves. If it hadn't been for the blackberries growing on it, I'd never have known it wasn't a rose. Those things are masters of camouflage. I've really got to hand it to them, they put in a lot more effort than most plants. They're probably working right now on some kind of useful adaptation to the stalks so we'll want to breed them for the fibre.

There are masses of brambles in the hedges, too, but I spared them because we've just had the hedges cut and therefore the brambles there aren't annoying me yet.


10:23am on Saturday, 16th February, 2019:

Off Duty


I've seen people shopping in Sainsbury's at 9:15 in the morning before.

I've seen women wearing British Airways cabin crew uniforms before.

However, until today, I had never seen a woman wearing a British Airways cabin crew uniform shopping in Sainsbury's at 9:15 in the morning.

She had the little half-wing brevet and the scarf, and her hair was in an immaculate bun; no name badge or hat, though.


2:00pm on Friday, 15th February, 2019:



This morning my wife was getting a new pair of glasses. I knew she'd spend an hour choosing the frames, so I took the opportunity to visit another shop that, coincidentally, also dealt in frames.

So, in 1989 we went to Egypt and bought some pictures on papyrus. These weren't the usual tourist tat and we liked them a lot. We had a big one framed and gave a smaller one to my wife's parents. They had it framed differently. Recently, this smaller one fell off the wall and broke, so my father-in-law gave us it back. We decided to have it reframed to match the larger one.

The bloke in the framing shop remembered the picture, even though it was 30 years ago when he did the work. He remembered the number of the moulding used for the frame. Unfortunately, when he checked the catalogues, it turned out that they've stopped making it. There are no mouldings with a similar profile made by other companies, either.

OK, so I said we could reframe the large picture as well so the two matched. Unfortunately, he couldn't find backing card in exactly the same shade of brown, either. There was one that was close, and that would probably go the same colour as the other one if left for 30 years, but it wasn't identical.

Right, fine, let's change the backing card for the larger one as well. Total cost: something like £100, which, as usual, is somewhat in excess of the value of the pictures being framed.

This whole exchange must have taken half an hour. I had plenty of time, though, because my wife took another hour before she emerged from the optician's.

I explained what had happened. She said that if we were having it all reframed then it needed to match the new decor of the front room. Thereupon, she marched to the framing shop and chose a completely different frame with a completely different colour backing card that came to £20 more.

I know whose credit card that's going on, then...


7:32pm on Thursday, 14th February, 2019:



You may recall my reporting that last week I had a class in which we played a game. A bunch of students did not show up for the start of the class, even though they knew it was a game. I got cross.

That was just the first half of the game.

Today, we had the second half of the game. There was no excuse for students' not knowing there would be a second half, because they played the first half. I told them when we stopped that we were half way through and would finish this week. I took the materials off them and kept them myself so that if someone who had them didn't show up, it wouldn't matter as I had the materials myself.

There are supposed to be 87 students in this class. At the start of the lecture, there were 12. Of the 11 groups that had been formed, only 6 had at least one representative show up.

After discussing with those present, we decided to continue the game without waiting.

I went slowly, and sure enough some people did appear 10 or 15 minutes late. The number of groups who hadn't returned went down to 2.

A full 30 minutes into the class, at the very moment when I was about to announce that anyone coming later would have to sit and watch rather than play, two more students materialised, one for each of the remaining groups.

All the other students had to wait for them to figure out what they were meant to do and then to do it.

Half an hour is so late that I wonder why the students showed up at all.

After this, the game went well, the students enjoyed it and they were enthusiastic when I asked if I should give the game to their successors next year.

I really don't get this attitude to time-keeping...


1:17pm on Wednesday, 13th February, 2019:



For those of you who have ever wondered if lime curd works as a complement to porridge but have been too worried or busy to try it out, I have the answer.

The answer is no. It's awful. Don't try it.

This has been a public service announcement.


6:46pm on Tuesday, 12th February, 2019:



This mighty, gushing torrent is the River Pinn as to thunders through the campus of Brunel University.

River, yes... It would be lucky to qualify as a stream in most places.

Have you ever noticed how in Britain most rivers have the word River before their name and in the USA most have it after their name? For streams, it's usually after the name in both locations: River Pinn, Pinn River, Pinn stream.

You can play Pooh Sticks in it, so it's not a complete disappointment.


8:12pm on Monday, 11th February, 2019:

Bad Cop


I went to Brunel University today to be external examiner for a thesis. Overhead line problems and a couple of broken-down trains delayed my journey to London somewhat, but I arrived at Brunel in plenty of time for the event.

The thesis in question can be summarised thus: "Question: Can this bonkers literature theory be applied meaningully to MMORPGs? Answer: Voila.".

For a thesis to be defended, someone has to attack it. There was quite a lot of use of my Player Types theory, so in this instance I got to play bad cop. The candidate suffered something of a shock when I was able to score what to me was an open goal at the end of his viva, but what he didn't know is that he'd already scored two or three goals himself in his defence so was going to win anyway. He duly passed with minor corrections (they should take a couple of weeks, tops). He really did acquit himself well, especially as I'm the one expert opinion on player types with whom he can't really argue.

On the way back home, I picked up a newspaper and did the Sudoku on the underground from Uxbridge to Liverpool Street. It was quite tricky, but I made a number of conceptual leaps that I was really pleased with and finished it in maybe 25 minutes.

On the train back from Liverpool Street to Colchester, the woman sitting next to me got out the same newspaper and started the same Sudoku. I was curious to see how long she would take to finish it.

She was like a machine. She took no more than ten seconds to put in any number and had the whole lot done in five minutes.

I may be an expert in some things, but in others I'm an amateur.


12:38pm on Sunday, 10th February, 2019:




10:10am on Saturday, 9th February, 2019:

Getting my Oats


In Sainsbury's today, I counted 21 different kind of Quaker porridge oats, none of which were plain old Quaker porridge oats. They all had something about them, whether an extra ingredient, an easy way of cooking them, added protein, or some combination of this and a vague, life-enhancing property.

So, Scott's porridge oats it is, then.


6:25pm on Friday, 8th February, 2019:

Side Quest


I was a guest on a podcast yesterday. Unlike most podcasts, this one was released the day after, so I do have a vague recollection of having done it. The subject was initially virtual worlds and story, because it's a podcast about stories in different media, but the conversation kind of splurged out in all directions once I got going. The hosts, Wes and Alex, were kind enough to give me free rein, so I'm not entirely sure it fits their normal story-related theme. I did enjoy it, though.

If you're on a long journey and have nothing else to listen to, you can check it out here: https://anchor.fm/alexander-schmid9/episodes/Side-Quests-040-Conversation-with-Richard-Bartle-on-Virtual-Worlds-e34i5l.


7:46pm on Thursday, 7th February, 2019:

Early Start


I got to the university at 7:20 this morning, to prepare for my 9:00 class with my CE217 students.

This week's class (which will continue next week, as it takes three hours but I only have a two-hour class) is a game. It's about running a games company, and in the past the students have seemed to like it. I had all the materials printed out already, so just had to make sure that everything was collated properly and that the timings were going to be right.

I started a few minutes after 9:00. I'm not naive enough to expect all my students to show up at the start, even though I'd told them in advance that we were playing a game. I started off with an introduction that I'd also printed off, so late-comers could read what they'd missed. This took up the first fifteen minutes or so, during which some students did indeed arrive late.

The game works best for students in groups of two or three, so I told them to form as groups of two. That way, when people arrived late they could join an existing group and become a threesome.

The game proper began somewhere between 9:15 and 9:20.

More students appeared in the next few minutes. I told them to join groups. Some of them listened and did. Some of them didn't and just sat down and stared at the screen. I had to go to them and wave my hand in front of their face so they knew I was talking to them.

A few more minutes later, a clutch of students arrived. I told them all to join groups, or if there were already three in a group to split it into two groups of two. This, they did, except for the ones who were sitting there alone, not in a group, a full ten minutes later.

I explained what I wanted the students to do. I was asked questions by the late-comers. These were questions I had spent ten minutes answering at the start and had written down on the paper I had handed out. I answered the questions. Some of them seemed a bit miffed, as if I should have waited for them before starting the game. I expect to be marked down in the Student Assessment of Coursework forms for my incivility.

Eventually, the game got under way and no more late students arrived. All the groups made different opening decisions, which is unusual; the game is actually going to be quite interesting.

In general, the students in this class are very good. In the lectures, they're not afraid to ask questions and the questions they ask are intelligent. I'm really quite pleased with them. It's just, if we're going to play a game in class, it ought to be fairly obvious to game students that they should arrive at the start of play.

I despair, sometimes.


8:52am on Wednesday, 6th February, 2019:




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Copyright © 2019 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).