The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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1:16pm on Friday, 23rd August, 2019:



I received an email this week from the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking with the subject "Must-Read Articles".

It referenced two such articles: "Active and Passive Social Media Use and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depressed Mood Among Icelandic Adolescents" and "Sexting and Mental Health Among Young Australians Attending a Musical Festival: A Cross Sext-ional Study".

I'm sure these make riveting reading for some researchers, but I can't help but suspect that the readership of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking might be broader than its editors believe.


8:42pm on Thursday, 22nd August, 2019:



The IEEE CoG conference is being held this year at Queen Mary University of London.

So, you know how Disneyland has these hidden pictures of Mickey Mouse dotted around? Here's the QMUL logo:

Hidden Elgar!


11:04pm on Wednesday, 21st August, 2019:



The train I took back from the conference (which was in London) was very crowded, and I found myself standing next to a man who was wearing a stetson and dark glasses. He took three phone calls during the course of the journey. I only got his side of the conversation, but here's how they went.

Call 1. "No, you only want money. No, you can't help me, you're just going to ask for money. Why don't you read from the script? That's what you people normally do. No. Fuck off!"

I thought this lasted rather longer than usual for a spam call, because in my experience the caller hangs up as soon as they realise they're wasting their time. My suspicions were correct.

Call 2. "I'm playing sardines on a train. People don't seem to know you can hold the handles on the chairs. What is it you want? No, just say what you really want. No. No. Wanker."

At this point he made a show of hanging up. Another person near us said to him, "What's your problem?". His reply was "What's YOUR problem?". The carriages were full and people were standing between the chairs. All but one of the handles on the chairs were in use.

Call 3. "Hello? No, you can't help me. You just want money. If you want to help me, write off the debt. No. 500 quid is peanuts. I owe thousands, tens of thousands. Your 500 is nothing to me. I'll pay it when I want to pay it. Goodbye."

In between the calls, he was listening to music on his phone. He was making ostentatious nods in time to it and saying "jer je jer je jer" to show he was into the beat. When I looked at his phone, there was a video of him on it singing. Lip-reading the lyrics, they were "jer je jer je jer".

You just don't get these commuter scenes when you drive through Colchester in a car.


7:47pm on Wednesday, 21st August, 2019:



I was at the IEEE Conference on Games today, giving the morning post-coffee keynote. This meant it started 15 minutes late, so I had to rattle through my 47 slides rather quickly. It was a tricky topic — challenges to our morals from creating virtual worlds containing sapient, self-aware, conscious, reflective beings — but it went down a lot better than I was expecting. I spent several hours afterwards discussing the ideas with different people.

I was asked a number of times if I'd written this up, which indeed I have. I wrote an entire book about virtual worlds and philosophy last year. Unfortunately, of the eight or so people who I sent it to, only one actually finished it. Two didn't get past the first fifty pages and the rest probably didn't either but were too polite to say. I shall be attempting between now and Christmas to restructure it so it makes more narrative sense. Whether I'll succeed or not is another matter, of course.

Anyway, the slides for the talk are available at http://mud.co.uk/richard/IEEECoG.pdf, and there'll probably be a Youtube video of it available somewhere eventually too.

Hmm, I must remember to book my car parking at the station for tomorrow's conference day.


7:38am on Tuesday, 20th August, 2019:

Civic Pride


I confess to feeling unqualified pride when my home town, Hornsea, is mentioned on the national news — even if it is because its massive offshore wind-farm inexplicably went off grid last week and left a million and a half homes without power. At least it means people will have heard of it, although to be honest they probably think it's the name of part of the North Sea rather than of a town.


7:37pm on Monday, 19th August, 2019:



I took my mum to the hospital today to have some gall stones removed. The procedure involved sticking a tube down her throat and pushing it through her digestive system until it got to the bit where the gall bladder empties into the intestine, then extracting the stones through the tube.

The largest stone was officially designated as "colossal" in her medical record, and was over a centimetre in diameter. No wonder it was giving her trouble.

I'm impressed at the technology involved, though. Being able to send a tube loaded with a camera, light and extraction tools all that way and then remove a gall stone the size of a marble through it is pretty impressive.

I'm sure that somewhere there's a government using the same technology to insert marbles into the gall bladder as a method of torture.


11:39am on Sunday, 18th August, 2019:



I might have known that the addition of a new wall ornament that we bought in Crete would entail reorganising the whole set-up. I had to make another paper mock-up so my wife could experiment with possible new arrangements.

All those years making prototypes for games have finally come in useful.


11:48am on Saturday, 17th August, 2019:



Here's the handwritten part of the birth certificate of one of my ancestors, William Whincup:

It says:
Tenth April 1850 Walshford
John Whincup
Mary Whincup formerly Kay
The Mark of X John Whincup Father Walshford
[something] May 1850
Joseph Dixon Registrar

What's that [something] say there? Here is it in close-up:

I don't actually need to know for genealogical reasons, but I need to know for "damn you, Joseph Dixon!" reasons.

Yes, I did look up who the registrar of births and deaths was for the sub-district of Wetherby in 1850 because I couldn't read his name on the certificate either.


12:42pm on Friday, 16th August, 2019:

Hip Flask



10:14am on Thursday, 15th August, 2019:

Accomodating Students


On the day that 18-year-olds in England find out whether they have obtained the grades they need to go to their chosen university, the prospect of living away from their parents will now begin to sink in.


7:44am on Wednesday, 14th August, 2019:



Hmm, I think I may need to replace the contents of the first-aid kit I keep in my car.


10:48am on Tuesday, 13th August, 2019:



This sign is in the window of a shop in Colchester.

Hmm, it's a shame about the woodworm, then.

Also, that shouldn't be a full stop after the word "Shop".


9:29am on Monday, 12th August, 2019:

Bunny Cat


Final Fantasy XIV has a deal on at the moment, "Play for up to 144 hours for free!". The "up to" is because the event only lasts 6 days, so if you were to eschew sleep for the whole period you could indeed rack up 144 hours of play.

Anyway, I gave it a shot for old time's sake, and the memories of what I found both adorable and frustrating about the game came flooding back. I took my arcanist (basically a WoW warlock) up another level for fun, but was soon reminded of the game's quest grind and dungeon queues. Also, the combat gameplay for level 26 arcanists isn't exactly riveting (put DoTs on enemies then beat on them until the DoTs run out). Getting a chocobo (the first mount available) was a lot easier than the first time I did it, too. Anyway, I shan't be buying the expansion pack any time soon; I may give the Elder Scrolls Online a shot next.

Here's an example of the weird things you see in FFXIV, from a trip to its Golden Saucer casino.

So that's a hostess dressed in a bunny outfit, which comes with top-of-head ears and a tail. Great, except the hostess is a Miqo'te — basically a cat person — so she already has top-of-head ears and a tail. Now, she looks as if she has two pairs of top-of-head ears and two tails. Amazingly, by the time you get to the Golden Saucer, none of this looks in any way strange.

That's one bonkers universe they have there.


6:23pm on Sunday, 11th August, 2019:

To the Palace


These are the forbidden items if you want to enter the Palace of Knossos.

Someone spent a lot more time drawing the scantily-clad woman than they did anything else.

The one in the middle on the right looks like a cricket bat. Whatever the one to its left is, I don't think anybody has one.


1:20pm on Saturday, 10th August, 2019:

Money Off


Normally, Sainsbury's give me coupons that give Nectar points if I buy something I've only just bought today, dammit, or that I bought four months ago and will never buy again because I didn't like them. Nectar points are only worth half a penny each, so aren't much of an incentive.

Occasionally, though, the coupons don't give Nectar points for buying something: they give actual money off.

I've learned in the past that these are warnings. When you have a coupon that gives you actual money off a product, there will be none of that product available next time you try to buy some.

Thus, is was with some trepidation that I went to Sainsbury's today with a coupon entitling me to 69p off the chargrilled chicken my wife has been putting in her sandwiches for the past 10 or more years. Sure enough, when I reached the refrigerator section, they're all out of chargrilled chicken. They have a whole bunch of other types of cooked chicken, but no chargrilled chicken. My coupon is only good for the chargrilled, not any of the other 8 or 10 kinds they have. I eventually had to go with some kind of plain cooked chicken and some kind of barbecue and gawd-knows-what sauce chicken.

It's indisputable: coupons giving actual money off have the gift of prophecy.

I don't even like chicken myself.


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