The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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5:05pm on Monday, 16th January, 2017:

Password Change


I thought Essex University was bad for making me change my password every 6 months, but Falmouth (where I'm external examiner) insists on it every 6 weeks. I wasn't aware of this until today, when I found that the password which worked just before Christmas didn't work any more. I asked what was going on, and was told that passwords died after 42 days.

Changing a password every 6 weeks is brutal! I've had to set up a reminder in my calendar so I don't forget and have to ask the IT helpdesk to reset it (yet) again.


7:57pm on Sunday, 15th January, 2017:



My mother collects small plates (around 2 inches in diameter, give or take an inch). Here's a sample.

We counted how many she has today: 288.

She's running out of shelf room now. I'm going to have to see if there's such a thing as a plate album.


3:31pm on Saturday, 14th January, 2017:

Yesterday's Tomorrow


I think I can probably dispose of this book now.

It's 1,600 pages in length, and I can't envisage my every having to read any of them ever again.

Weird to think that this stuff was once the future.


3:21pm on Friday, 13th January, 2017:

Productive Staff Meeting


We had a staff meeting today, which I found far more productice than usual. Normally, in the parts where they're talking about topics only of interest people on research contracts, I wind up drawing 1930s female faces. This time, though, I wrote a bottom-up parse routine for use in a compiler for a programming language I've been working on occasionally for the past few years.

Although when I was an undergraduate our lectures on writing compilers did cover bottom-up parsing, the lecturer was so bad at explaining it (calling his function "bop" was just the start of it) than I hadn't a clue what he was talking about. I figured out how to code the technique from first principles when I was writing my final-year project over Christmas. Unfortunately, as that was some 37 years ago, remembering what I did back then promised to take me quite some time. Figuring it out again from first principles was preferable to that, and being trapped in a staff meeting with only pen and paper to stave off boredom seemed the perfect time to have a go.

I could have ventured to the attic to look at the printout of my code, but it's cold up there...


3:33pm on Thursday, 12th January, 2017:

Culver Square


I don't know who did this, which is probably just as well for them.



4:09pm on Wednesday, 11th January, 2017:

Express Delivery


My younger daughter bought me a copy of the board game Colt Express for my birthday. I'd sent her the link from Amazon, so she knew what to get. I opened the rulebook with some anticipation.

Hmm. They really should have been clearer on the Amazon page that the rules were in German (which is some kind of foreign language).

Fortunately, Boardgamegeek had the English rules as a .pdf, so I can now read them through.

I have a Spanish language manga book somewhere...


10:03am on Tuesday, 10th January, 2017:

57 Up


It's my birthday today. I'm 57, or "Heinz Varieties" as we used to call it in my Bingo-calling days.

I have to say, those scientists working on elixirs of eternal life had better get their act together soon or I'm going to have to give them a stern talking-to.

My wife got me an exercise bike as a birthday present. I thought it was supposed to be a good one, but it turns out it's pedal-powered.


5:00pm on Monday, 9th January, 2017:



I really should change my surname to BArtle. The number of times I type "Richard A. BArtle" instead of "Richard A. Bartle", it would be worth it.


4:04pm on Sunday, 8th January, 2017:

Assassin's Creed


We went to see the Assassin's Creed movie today. It was a 12:30pm showing, so there were only five people in the audience (including us) (and including another couple that started chatting near the end so we missed crucial pieces of dialogue).

I really liked it! My wife really really liked it. The few minor plot holes were acceptable, and the action sequences were excellent and didn't drag on (which some set pieces can). If there's a sequel, I'd certainly be up for watching it. Of course, if only five people want to watch it in a provinvial cinema on a Sunday afternoon, the chances of there being a sequel aren't high. It's set up for one, but so are many movies that never get them.

Maybe if I'd played the actual Assassin's Creed games I would have thought differently. I do have one on a DVD that came free with a mouse or something I bought a while back; maybe I should install it so I can hate the movie like everyone else.


1:42pm on Saturday, 7th January, 2017:

Turn of Phrase


When I was at school, we had absolutely no examination training at all. In any subjecty that involved calculations, we thought that if you were asked a question and just wrote down the answer, you'd get more marks as it shwoed you could do it in your head. Doing calculations in your head meant you were clever; exams are meant to test how clever people are; therefore, writing down the right answer without having to write anything down should be worth most marks.

When it came to the mock exams for our A-Levels, we didn't do well. I remember the one for maths in particular, because my mark of 28% was the highest one. This was perplexing, as I'd got most of the answers right. Our teacher, Dr Dorney, was pretty angry and told us that we didn't get marks for our working out — although to us it was clear that we did work it out, because how else could we have got the right answer?

We had a second mock exam for maths, in which we were told we had to show our working out. We duly did this, and were told off again because our working-out consisted of scratchpad-style multiplications and so on. To us, that's what "working out" meant.

To this day, I regard my actual A-Level mathematics exam as the best exam I've ever taken. I answered all the questions correctly, including the bonus difficult ones at the end that were there for elite students only. I was confounded when I only got a C grade. How could I have got a C grade when I'd got all the answers right and shown my working out?

Years later, when I was setting exams myself, I realised that there was one, simple piece of advice we could have been given that if we had been given it would have seen me at Cambridge rather than Essex. That advice is as follows: when you answer a question, write as if you're telling someone else how to answer it.

Maybe I should give that advice to my own students.


2:51pm on Friday, 6th January, 2017:

Twelfth Night


As it's Twelfth Night today, we thought we'd better take down our Christmas decorations.

This year, rather than simply throw out all the Christmas cards, I cut some of them up and made them into gift tags for next year.

It turns out that you can use guillotines and corner-rounders for making more than just board game prototypes. Who knew?

Now all I have to do is try not to give anyone a present next year with a tag on it made from the card they gave me this year.


3:05pm on Thursday, 5th January, 2017:



A friend of mine has had his DNA tested by Ancestry, like me. Unlike me, however, he also had the DNA of his wife and two children tested, too. Here (with permission) are the ethnicity results:

LocationFather   Mother   Daughter Son
Great Britain37313724
Europe West2749
Finland/NW Russia611
Europe East
Native American0.5
European Jewish0.5
Iberian Peninsula0.5

The result for Scandinavia looks particularly suspect. Both children have far more Scandinavian DNA than their parents, with the son being something like a sixth Scandinavian. The ones for Ireland (ie. Celtic) are better, with the children on a par at just about the average of the parents.

As a result of this exercise, it's clear that the error bars on Ancestry's tests are pretty long when it comes to ethnicity. Fortunately, they're a lot better at identifying relatives, which is the main reason I used it myself.


2:57pm on Wednesday, 4th January, 2017:



I have another four letters after my name: FBCS.

Just before Christmas, I was nominated to become a Fellow of the British Computer Society by a friend from my student days, Nigel Roberts, so I went for it. This morning, I received confirmation that my application has been accepted.

OK, so it'll cost me £40 per letter per year, but hey, a legitimate post-nominal is a legitimate post-nominal! I'm never going to get a VC, RA or a KBE, but it's good to be recognised.

I'll have to get my business cards changed now.


5:17pm on Tuesday, 3rd January, 2017:

Questions, Questions


It's the first day back at work for me, which I've profitably spent writing examination questions. This is why, when it gets to the revision lectures after Easter, I will be completely unable to give my students any hints as to what topics the questions might address, as I'll have forgotten them all by then.

I was hoping to finish the CE217 resit exam's questions today, but still have one left to do. I suspect that it's going to be so boring that if I did it right now I'd fall asleep. I'll have to write it first thing tomorrow instead.

Because most of the topics in CE217 are boring, I'm revealing no useful information to my students by reporting this.


10:02am on Monday, 2nd January, 2017:

Chocolate Coins


Here's what the chocolate coins I bought for Christmas look like.

The 5p and 10p are the same size as each other and the 2p is the size of an old half-crown, but this year they've replaced the 1p with a £1 coin that's the exact same size and thickness as a real £1 coin.

Such a shame that come March we'll be getting dodecahedron £1 coins so vending machines won't take the chocolate ones any more.


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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).