The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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12:51pm on Monday, 17th February, 2020:



When I read academic textbooks, I occasionally come across mentions of my own work. I often (but not always) mark these for reasons that have nothing to do with vanity, honest.

This book on Role-Playing Game Studies has by far the most I've ever seen.

I'm so impressed, I may have to read some of my own papers now.


9:11am on Sunday, 16th February, 2020:



The front-page headline of this week's Essex County Standard is "Brace yourselves for more chaos".

Well yes. That exact same headline would have worked for any week in the past five years. So much for being a "news" paper.

On the positive side, they only used the word "revamp" in two smaller headlines this week, so some measure of restraint is evident.


10:21am on Saturday, 15th February, 2020:



There's supposed to be another storm this weekend, which perhaps explains why Sainsbury's haven't yet fixed the damage to their sign that was inflicted last weekend.

Maybe the wind will revise more and try to get an A this time round.


2:11pm on Friday, 14th February, 2020:



How the Student Union shop works.

Shop: Here! Premium Aloe Vera drinks in Lychee, Mango and Pineapple!
Students: Lychee sounds interesting.
Shop: Here you go.
Students: Wow, it's great! Give me more!
Shop: Here you go.
Students: Oh no! You've run out of lychee!
Shop: We still have mango and pineapple.
Students: The mango is OK, that'll do.
Shop: Here you go.
Students: The lychee is better.
Shop: We still have mango and pineapple.
Students: I'll have another mango then.
Shop: Here you go.
Students: Oh no! Now you've run out of mango!
Shop: We still have pineapple.
FOR i=0 TO 20 DO
$( Students: The pineapple is horrid.
Shop: We still have pineapple.
Students: Oh well, I guess I'll drink something else instead.
Sales Representative: Would you like to order some more premium Aloe Vera drinks?
Shop: No thanks, they don't sell.

I'd have hoped they'd have learned their lesson from the days of fudge milk yes, banana milk no, but it would seem they haven't.


3:12pm on Thursday, 13th February, 2020:

Old Photo


I was in London yesterday and noticed this photo hanging on the wall of the Italian restaurant where we had lunch.

Nice to see a young Stephen Fry on the left there, from the days when he lived in black-and-white land.


9:08am on Wednesday, 12th February, 2020:

Bad Backs


I won some more playing cards at auction on eBay this week. I'm on a roll!

These are by C. L. Wüst of Germany. They date from around 1900; I can't find the exact name and date of the design, but there are similar ones from around then by Wüst. although this one has a more ornate border and gold leaf cornering so is probably a bit later.

There are only 51 cards in this particular deck (it's missing the 7 of Hearts). Normally, I don't buy decks that are missing cards: I want to be able to play games with them, at least in theory. These do look gorgeous, though, following in Wüst's tradition of making packs based on Swiss cities and cantons.

Also, I can't play games with them anyway. This is what the above four cards look like from the back:

Every card has a different piece of scenery on it. If you see Basel, you know you're looking at the King of Spades.

Wüst card-marking system ever...


5:54pm on Tuesday, 11th February, 2020:

Largest Unvisited


This is a list of the largest city (by population) that I haven't visited for every country of which I've visited more than one city:

(Czech Republic)Brno

The one for Sweden is a bit suspect, as I only "visited" Gothenburg en route from the airport to the train station. Likewise, for Switzerland I once spent several hours in Zürich airport but that was the extent of my sightseeing.

Just because I'm at the university today, that doesn't mean I have to work through lunchtime.


12:42pm on Monday, 10th February, 2020:

You're Welcome


This is the current poster that's been put up between squares 2 and 3:

The repeated use of the word "community" and explanation of its assorted attributes carry that touch of desperation that smacks of "the lady doth protect too much, methinks". Something divisive must have happened that requires a value-signalling response from the university, probably following some blow-up on Twitter.

I don't know who commissions these posters. Unless this particular one is some kind of mind game operating on multiple levels, I can't see its having been given much attention by experts in changing public opinion. It reads as if it's been dictated over the phone.

What particularly annoys me about it isn't its content, though, it's its ungrammatical structure. "A genuinely global community that lives, works and plays together." is not a sentence. How am I supposed to tell my students that their papers are ungrammatical for having sentences with no governing verb if they can point at a university poster that boasts two such sentences written in 864-point letters?

That said, my CE217 lecture this morning did include a new slide upon which I'd written "mult-iplayer" instead of "multi-player", so my own checking of formal material isn't exactly perfect, either.


9:23am on Sunday, 9th February, 2020:



I've been ill for most of this week, having been afflicted with two ailments simultaneously. Their combined effects had some interesting properties, which kicked in on Friday afternoon.

Ailment number 1 is (well, was, as it went yesterday) some kind of air trapped in my lower intestine. Its main feature was that it hurt when I stood or sat in certain positions. I acquired this last Sunday, and resigned myself to a week of discomfort as nature took its course. Because it involves air, it puts pressure on other organs too, which can be somewhat alarming, depending on the organ. I knew it wasn't bowel cancer, though, because the results of my NHS screening test came back saying I'm fine in that regard. Towards the end, the trapped air started to give me a fluctuating temperature; again, this has happened before, so I wasn't entirely surprised, just annoyed. Also annoyingly, I could still go to work because I knew it wasn't catching. It did have its up-side, though: I lost my appetite because of it, so have probably shed some weight as a consequence.

Ailment number 2 is (because I still have it, but won't tomorrow) a head cold. I think I caught it off a student. I knew I was going to cop for it on Wednesday, as on the drive up to Nottingham I felt a sore throat developing. It was no big deal, though, and I thought I'd shaken it off when I got to work on Friday.

I had not. I didn't notice any ill effects for my morning class or the meeting I had after it, but when I returned to my office I sat in my chair, felt rather tired, then woke up 45 minutes later. I figured at that point that I should maybe head home while I was still awake, so I did.

Upon my arrival, the symptoms of the two ailments combined to strange effect. I felt as if my body wasn't my own: there was a slightly-too-long delay between initiating a move and actually moving; when I touched something, it took slightly longer than usual to feel it. I was as a consequence much clumsier than normal. Also, my eyeballs and my back teeth hurt, and I was periodically too hot and too cold. The cold part manifested itself as the occasional, unexpected, explosive sneeze.

My younger daughter was visiting, and because she's a pharmacist ordered me to take two tablets of paracetamol to control the fever-like symptoms. I think I may have impressed her with my ability to swallow two tablets of paracetamol at once without the need for water, but I'm not sure whether they worked or not. I had one unnerving increase in tmperature, then it settled down.

Hmm, actually I am sure the paracetamol tablets worked because my lower intestine stopped hurting. However, this meant that I couldn't tell whether the separate medication she'd given me to turn the trapped air into fairy dust or something was worth taking.

Suddenly, the head cold turned into a nose cold and I went through maybe 20 paper tissues before conceding that perhaps I should take an Actifed to turn off the water. This I did, and it worked just fine.

I went to bed early and woke up next day feeling in possession of my skin again. I drove to Sainsbury's early, so as to infect as few people as possible, but actually my cold was behaving itself at that point. The intestine problem wasn't, however, and seemed to have calibrated itself to maximise the pain I would experience when seated in my driving position. The two-mile trip there was not pleasant, and wandering around Sainsbury's didn't fix it for the return journey.

After one final period of hot-and-coldness, which led to another brief episode of "whose skin is this?", the intestine problem disappeared. Left all alone, the cold then turned into a regular destroyer of my nose and top lip (which happens with most of my colds; I look as if I've scuffed my face on a brick for two or three days).

I'm a lot better today, and will be fine tomorrow if not this evening. Frustratingly, there's no reward for being ill in my own time, rather than the university's.

The whole sensation of slight delays in nerve transmissions between brain and body was weird, though. I may have had something similar before a long time ago, when I was a kid and contracted mumps, but it's not something I recall having experienced more recently. It wasn't unpleasant, just ... odd.

If this new corona virus hits me on a normal day, I'll probably survive it just fine. If it catches me when I have something else going on as well, though, I'm doomed.


10:16am on Saturday, 8th February, 2020:



Here's the latest entry in my catalogue of "overheard in Sainsbury's":

"170,000? They must be loonies! No-one's going to pay 170,000 — it's worth twice that much!"


10:12am on Saturday, 8th February, 2020:

In a Row


From this week's Essex County Standard:

Fourteen days in a row? That's not how they usually go about it.

Looking at the dates, though, a better way to describe the situation is: "In a row over pay and pensions, Essex University staff are set to walk out of lectures for 14 days".

It's sentences such as this that give rise to entire subfields of research in natural language use.


3:22pm on Friday, 7th February, 2020:



It doesn't matter how sophisticated the parking app is, someone will always not get it.

The same can probably be said the Democrat Iowa Caucuses.

The Park and Ride was a bit of a dead loss, really. There was no park and there were no rides.


2:10pm on Thursday, 6th February, 2020:

Out of Order


These motorway service stations just get worse and worse.


9:33pm on Wednesday, 5th February, 2020:



This is probably the only instance of this sign in the world.

Needless to say, I didn't climb on the rhino.


6:13pm on Tuesday, 4th February, 2020:

De La Rue


I bought some more old playing cards last week. I wasn't expecting to do so because my bid was low, but it wasn't exceeded so here we are!

These are by De La Rue of London, and date from about 1865. We can tell the manufacturer because it says who they are on the Ace of Spades, but I thought I'd show you the clubs for a change so you can see what an ordinary ace looks like. We roughly know the date because the corners are slightly rounded (not as much as they would be today, but back then it was an innovation) and there are no indeces on the cards. This would suggest 1870 at the latest. However, note that the club on the Jack and Queen of Clubs is on the right, whereas for the King it's on the left. This is an "unturned" design, meaning that the cards have yet to be turned so the suit is in the right place. It's more like 1860 than 1870; 1865 is therefore a good compromise date, but it could be 5 years either way of that.

For those interested enough to be still reading this, the full list of picture cards that are unturned is: JH, JC, QC, JD, QD, QS. No kings are ever unturned, because they all have the suit in the right place already.


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