The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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4:39pm on Sunday, 22nd April, 2018:



It was a nice place to have lunch, but a little disconcerting to have this chap watching me the whole time.


1:25pm on Saturday, 21st April, 2018:



Oh, German web sites...


3:48pm on Friday, 20th April, 2018:



We had an Educational Away Day today on the topic of multi-choice questions.

MCQs are inappropriate for my own modules, but the Head of School twisted our arms so I had to go anyway.

The event began with us all taking a MCQ test based on the reading we'd been sent the previous day. I had read this, but still managed to score 0 marks from the 7 questions.

Fortunately, everyone else did badly too, so when scaling was applied I wound up with 45% — a solid pass.

This kind of thing actually happens in some examinations, yet students seem to think we want them to fail. We don't. What we want is to do less work, and MCQs are the ideal way to address all our needs.


3:53pm on Thursday, 19th April, 2018:

Wrong Headed


When students need references, I'm often asked to supply them on headed notepaper. Conveniently, I'm also often asked to email the references, which of course can't be done on headed notepaper because notepaper is unemailable. What can be done is emailing a a scan of a reference written on headed notepaper.

What I do, then, is keep a clean scan of departmental headed notepaper, which I use as background in a graphics program. I write the text in the graphics program so it overlays the scan, then save it as a .pdf or .jpg or whatever. This looks as if it's a scan of a printed document, but it's actually a superimposition of text on a blank piece of headed notepaper.

I noticed today that the background scan of headed notepaper that I've been using is for the Department of Electronic Engineering. This ceased to exist when Electronic Engineering merged with Computer Science to form the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

The merger happened in 2007.

I've been using the wrong headed notepaper for 11 years and no-one has noticed (except me, today).

I now have a new sheet of headed notepaper which I shall scan and use instead. The old one looks better, to be honest, but we have to move with the times...


8:40am on Wednesday, 18th April, 2018:



Our magnolia is making an effort this year:

Compared with what it looked like in 2014 and 2015, it seems to have got the message: produce flowers or suffer the consequences of my wife's wrath.

She still thinks it has too few flowers on lower branches, so will probably take a saw to some them later this year.

Let's hope it now knows what it has to do if it's not to come off at the trunk...


9:20am on Tuesday, 17th April, 2018:



I did a podcast last week in the social virtual world Sansar, which is now available. The host, Bernhard Drax, asked me a wide-ranging set of questions, most of which neither he nor I were expecting. I may have to listen to it again to find out what I said...


11:56am on Monday, 16th April, 2018:



Whenever I see Renoir's painting The Boating Party, I always think the woman in the top-right corner looks as if she's on the phone.

You're welcome.


8:20am on Monday, 16th April, 2018:

The Jig is Up


Remember this jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece I posted about back in November?

Well guess what my wife found in a trinket box yesterday?

She'd found the piece loose earlier in the year and put it away for safe keeping,

Too safe keeping, it would seem...


12:21pm on Sunday, 15th April, 2018:



This little sleepyhead was in our garden all afternoon yesterday:

If hedgehogs could be trained to eat weeds, it would increase their numbers a hundred fold. I know I'd buy a couple of dozen.


1:51pm on Saturday, 14th April, 2018:

Free Time


It's coming up to the time of year when we have final-year project demonstrations and oral (PDO) examinations.

The way this works is that the student has a supervisor and a second assessor. I have seven supervisees, but am not a second assessor (because the two I was second-assessing I'm now supervising, following the move from Essex of their original supervisor). My students have four different second assessors between them.

It falls to the supervisor to arrange the PDOs. They take an hour each of our time. This means I have to find seven slots when I, the second assessor and the student are available. Now in theory this should be something a program could arrange for us, but that would be too easy. Instead, I we have to do the timetabling ourselves. What this means in practice is that all the students are asked to give a list of times when they are available for their PDO; this is intersected with the supervisor's availability; the results are then put to the second assessors to select from, in the hope they don't choose the same slots as each other.

The main problem, it turns out, is asking the students when they are available. Of my seven students, one didn't give availability at all and is so assumed to be available all the time (which clearly is not the case as the student will have lectures to attend). Of the others, one is available most of the time but five have declared that are only available in the afternoon.

What is it with students and mornings?


10:49am on Friday, 13th April, 2018:



Having not managed to poach any superstars to take up the post of professor in games and AI at the university, we're instead aiming to recruit someone who will be a professor 5-10 years from now. Here's the job ad: https://bit.ly/2EDVFeb .

When I follow the link, the first thing it tells me is "If you are using an Apple product to complete your application we recommend you use Google Chrome as a web browser rather than Safari.", I'm not using an Apple product and I am using Chrome. Great way to impress would-be applicants, Resourcing Team...


2:38pm on Thursday, 12th April, 2018:

Old Technology


Here's another example of old technology which, after considered discussion, we've decided we're never going to use ever again.

Mind you, I do keep hearing that vinyl is making a comeback, so maybe we should hang onto them?


8:22am on Wednesday, 11th April, 2018:



I keep getting this happen when I double-click on a Microsoft Word file to open it:

Well you could do it if you didn't open that unnecessary box in the first place, Word!

Oh, and look at my language settings so you know it's spelled "dialogue".


4:14pm on Tuesday, 10th April, 2018:



Small woollen creatures have started to attach themselves to the road signs in our neighbourhood.

I don't know why, but they're cuter than human skulls and just as effective at keeping demons away.


5:20pm on Monday, 9th April, 2018:



I've finished marking my CE217 module, and as a result can soon have my life back. I say "soon" because there are some late submissions and I have to leave feedback for them. I don't have to give them a mark, because their mark is zero: we have zero-tolerance marking policy for late submissions. Nevertheless, because I still have to leave feedback, the students who did submit on time will receive their marks a day late. I wish I could release marks sooner for students who submitted their assignments sooner, but they all have to be released at once.

I mark anonymously, which I much prefer because it's fairer for all concerned. Afterwards, I may look up who students are (using their registration number) to see who managed to do spectacularly well, but I never do it prior to marking. I can find out their names easily enough as they're listed in the mark sheet, but that means nothing as I only know faces from lectures and classes, not names.

Student ID numbers begin with the two years of the student's initial registration: my own number was 7801068, for example, as I started in 1978. As these are second-year students, most of them started in 2016 and so have a registration number beginning with 16. Students who are doing a placement year at Essex University from some other university will have a number beginning with 17. Students who had to repeat a year or intermit for a year will have a number beginning with 15; students who did the foundation year will also have a number beginning with 15. Students who have a number beginning with 14 took three years to get to this stage, rather than the one year of the 2016 entrants.

Whether or not there is a fair correlation between students' marks and the first two digits of their registration number I leave you to speculate upon.


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