The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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10:13am on Sunday, 15th July, 2018:



We've really fallen behind with the weeding in our garden.

That's not an ornamental thistle. That's a thistle.


11:39am on Saturday, 14th July, 2018:

Fun Fact


The university is currently awash with teenagers from other countries, here to learn how to speak English (and, if they want breakfast or lunch, to queue). Here's one of the items on the community board:

Well that's a couple of hundred Italian schoolkids who now think that the word "fun" means "almost interesting".


11:13am on Saturday, 14th July, 2018:



The Essex County Standard has really upped its game for the front-page headline today.

It's about a plan to build 350 student flats in the town centre, so fair enough.


9:11am on Friday, 13th July, 2018:

True Story


A few years ago I came across a cartoon from Saturday Morning Breakfast Club that I liked, so I saved a local copy on my work PC. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line when I was rationalising where I put things on my work PC, I lost it.

Yesterday, I decided to try to track it down. It didn't show up in Ohnorobot, so I had to look for it manually. I figured it was about 5 years old, so starting 1st January 2013 I looked through every SMBC cartoon in order of appearance. Several hours later, when I got to 2017, I accepted that I'd missed it. I went back to 1st January 2011 and started searching from there.

Needless to say, another hour or two later I finally found it on 14th December 2012 — a mere 19 days before I began my initial search.

This is the particular panel I wanted it for, to use in one of my lectures.

I might see about licensing it for the cover of my How to be a God book (if I ever get to finish it), too.


3:09pm on Thursday, 12th July, 2018:



No, BBC alerts, the result of the England/Croatia match is not "breaking news". It's "heartbreaking news".


4:21pm on Wednesday, 11th July, 2018:



I finished playing Pillars of Eternity II yesterday. I did all the side quests it would let me, except the ones for party members that I didn't use.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it. I preferred the original Pillars of Eternity, but Pillars of Eternity IIdid have its moments. In the original, you had a castle to build up; in the sequel, it's a ship. The ship idea is quite nice, but combat rapidly gets very samey; I wound up using the same tactics every time.

As with other games in the Baldur's Gate line, story is important in Pillars of Eternity II. The writers have gone out of their way to put in multiple competing factions, all with reasons why you would or wouldn't support them. The idea is to introduce ambiguity, so there's never an obvious "right" decision. On the whole this works, but I was disappointed that sometimes my actions were interpreted as a decision when I was still exploring the options. Also, some conversation elements I wanted to come back to later were never offered again.

Regular combat was OK, but as with the ship combat I usually ended up using the same tactics. I did like it when a faction took against me and I legitimately got to wipe out every last one of them, though.

I still have a game of Divinity Original Sin 2 to continue, but it's a bit of a drag. Maybe I'll play some strategy games for awhile then try a new MMO.

Tempting though it is to crank up Football Manager, I think I'd better leave that to one side for the moment.


1:26pm on Tuesday, 10th July, 2018:

RAF 100


Well that was really something!

It's the hundredth anniversary of the RAF today, and there was a flypast over Buckingham Palace of 100 aircraft. Around 75-80 of them flew right over our garden, so low that some were casting huge shadows on our lawn.

The most staggering, heart-in-mouth part came right at the end when 22 Typhoons flew directly above. Damn, but that was impressive!

Later, they grouped up to read 100, which looked pretty good but wasn't the same as having jet engines roaring past so close that you can feel them in your bones.

Yes, OK, so they're machines for meting out instant death to assorted foriegners, but as machines I couldn't help but admire them.


8:02pm on Monday, 9th July, 2018:



I went to get a carrier bag from my stash today and catastrophe! My United Nations Gift Centre bag had got stuck to a biodegradable bag that was biodegrading. The back has basically dissolved, and I've had to throw it into the recycling bin.

Damn. I wanted to keep that because the word "centre" was spelled properly on it.


5:03pm on Sunday, 8th July, 2018:

Mixed Up


I perhaps would not have taken the stadium exit from the A12 today had I known there was a Little Mix concert there this evening. The whole area surrounding it venue was the province of garlanded girls in their early teens, plus the occasional parent.

It has given me an idea, though. If ever I open a boxing gym in the East End of London, I'm calling it "Little Mick's".


5:11pm on Saturday, 7th July, 2018:



I was expecting to be watching extra time in the England/Sweden match right now, but as we won here's a picture of a piece of emery paper that looks like some kind of demon throwing up fire.


8:59pm on Friday, 6th July, 2018:



Hmm, I found this on my phone. It's a milk jug.

I'm not in the habit of taking photos of milk jugs, but I did like this one.


6:16pm on Thursday, 5th July, 2018:



From a 2008 Sky Mall magazine :

I hope streaming services are pleased with themselves for rendering products like this irrelevant.


9:07pm on Wednesday, 4th July, 2018:



One of the joys of having no teaching in the summer is being interrupted with urgent pieces of administration.

For example, I need to provide resit assignment specifications right now — not a week earlier nor a week later. I could have written them at the time I wrote the original assignments (especially as the resit assignments are the same as the originals), but they wouldn't have been accepted. Back in January wasn't right now. This is all the more irritating because some assignments were set by members of staff who have now left, and who would have happily provided the resit assignment specifications back in October. That wasn't right now either, though, so they didn't provide them, so now someone else has to and none of us know what the blazes the module is about.

The thing about right now is that it comes with no warning and has a very narrow time window. This often makes it impossible to achieve. For example, one of our long-standing admin staff reached the end of her contract a couple of days ago and switched department. In her last email, she told us that we need to have supervisory meetings for our PhD students, which must take place either next week or the week after, to be organised by the panel chairs. In the PS for this last email, she told me I was the chair of a panel that previously was chaired by someone has now left. She didn't tell me who was on the panel — I had to ask. Fortunately, she replied even though she wasn't part of Computer Science any more.

So, it turns out that there are three people on the panel: me, internal supervisor and the external supervisor. The external supervisor is away the first week of the two-week window. I'm away for the second week. The internal supervisor is away this week, and probably won't even see the email until he's back from wherever he is (vacation, conference, consultancy, whatever).

Fortunately, years of dealing with things that have to be done right now have taught me that actually, no, they don't have to be done right now. I could hold the supervisory panel two months from now and the admin staff probably wouldn't notice. Sure, I'll try to do it right now, but wolf has been cried so often that if it proves impossible I won't actually care. Besides, if we're following regulations to the letter, I'm on a part-time teaching contract and shouldn't be chairing the supervisory board of any research students anyway.

Oh, and remember I said that my resit assignments are the same as the originals? University regulations say they have to be different. I get round this by saying the student has to write the same assignment, but differently. Our admin staff turnover is so high that every couple oif years I;m told I'm breaking the regulations, and I reply that it's as if a Creative Writing assignment was to write a short story and the resit was to write a substantially different short story. This is invariably accepted, as it's hard to imagine how I could hit learning outcome 5 for this module ("Create an outline design spec for a computer game of their own devising.") without asking the students to create an outline design spec for a computer game of their own devising.

I know I'll be asked to do something right now next week. I just don't know what it'll be.


4:20pm on Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018:



It's a measure of how riveting yesterday's Research Away Day was that I managed to do so many doodles of faces that some of them actually ended up looking vaguely human-like, instead of vaguely human-hit-in-the-face-with-a-brick-like. The human-like ones are only human-like through pure chance, because my drawing skills are so bad that the only person I know who draws worse than me is me using my left hand instead of my right.

Anyway, I had cause to look at the notes I'd taken (yes, I took notes!) and came across this one.

It says "(something) with students (something) with some B/G".

"B/G" is an abbreviation I usually use for "background", but that doesn't mean that's what it stands for this time.

Is there anyone out there in Internet land who can decipher what I've written for me? It's got me beaten.


5:55pm on Monday, 2nd July, 2018:



I was at a Research Away Day today, held in the Lakeview Room (so called because it has a view of a car park). For lunch, we had sandwiches.

I didn't try any. I don't like prawns.


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Copyright © 2018 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).