The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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7:34am on Tuesday, 29th July, 2014:



I was on the phone yesterday trying (unsuccessfully) to arrange some insurance for my younger daughter to drive our car for a week. During the conversation, the woman I was talking to wanted the car's registration number. After I gave it, she read it back to make sure she'd heard it right. She hadn't. Here's what happened next.

Me: OK, there are two mistakes there. First, it's not one two, it's one four: fourteen.
Her: Fourteen.
Me. Also, it doesn't start with a B it starts with an E.
Her: With a what?
Me: E for elephant.
Her: What for elephant?
Me: E.
Her: Echo.

I just don't get that "What for elephant?" line...


3:59pm on Monday, 28th July, 2014:



I inherited this device from my uncle when he died in 2000.

As you can see, it punches a pair of holes with a circular part and a longer, thinner part. They're not actually holes, though, as they're attached at one end. The idea is that you bend over the corner of some pieces of paper that you want to keep together, you punch the near-holes in it and then you flatten the corner back out again. The stamped-out paper slides back like a chain lock in a door and keeps your documents together. Neat! It's like a stapler that doesn't use staples, so you don't have to take the staples out of things you want to recycle.

You may have noticed from the dust on it that I don't use it very often. Here's why:

The bits of paper that were nearly stamped out are probably great if you use card or quality paper, but for the kind of cheapo stuff I tend to want to staple together you end up with easily-break-offable bits of chad.

Oh well, I gave it 14 years to make itself useful and it hasn't, so out it goes...


2:02pm on Sunday, 27th July, 2014:



One of my wife's cousins sent us scans of some photos in the possession of one of her other cousins. They're quite a treasure trove, with pictures there of her grandmother (who died years before my wife was born) in her youth. My wife had never seen them before, so they were quite a find for her.

There must be lots of this kind of old photo around. However, to find them you need to track down some relative who inherited them. This means either asking them directly, or, for more generations back, seeing if someone on some genealogy site has uploaded them.

However, photographs aren't only in the possession of the relatives. They're also in the possession of the photographer. I wonder how many of those old photo plates have made it to the present day, along with some means of identification? I can imagine that many of the old glass plates were recycled or discarded, as they must have taken up a lot of space, but once the switch was made to film they would have been more easily stored. Most professional or keen amateur photographer are abasolutely obsessive about keeping and documenting their old negatives, so there could be large collections of these gathering dust in the archives of long-standing photography studios.

I wonder if it would be worthwhile for some of the online genealogy sites to buy up the rights to these collections and make them searchable? Or whether coverage would be too patchy and the metadata tagging too onerous to make it worthwhile.

It's a shame the Mormons don't believe that photos hold people's souls, as otherwise they might have built up a database of images while they were engaged in their parish records project...

Oh, this pic is one of the ones of my wife's grandmother that she hadn't seen before. No, she doesn't look like her...


3:19pm on Saturday, 26th July, 2014:

Sore Head


Earlier today, I thought I was going post about the ill-advised cycle race that was going down Argent's Lane when I went to the supermarket. That was until I gashed my head on a tree cutting the grass.

I loathe cutting the grass beneath the dozen or so fruit trees that grow in out garden. I've lost count of the number of times I've been cut by them. It's usually my hand that gets graunched up under one of the boughs, or a scratch that catches the side of my head where I've dodged to avoid losing an eye. Today, it was a gash to the scalp. It's about 4cm long and 3mm deep — not just a scratch, then. As with all cuts to the scalp, it produced copious amounts of blood, but the flow stopped when my younger daughter (who's training to be a pharmacist) drowned it in antiseptic cream. It seems to be a clean wound, which was a bit of a worry as I had to pull the offending twig out of it when it happened and I was concerned there could have been some of it still lodged in there. I'm going to have to buy a hard hat for the next time I venture in among the fruit trees, or maybe a diving helmet to be doubly safe.

My head is sore now, and I'll have skanky hair for the next few days as I can't really wash it while the cut heals (and, as I was mowing the lawn in the full heat of the afternoon sun, it needs a wash). Still, it wasn't so bad that my wife felt the need to offer to drive me to the hospital. If it had been that bad, I'd have needed an ambulance...

Hmm, I guess I'll need to get out some earplug headphones to listen to the chat for tonight's Secret World raid, rather than use my usual cans.


9:22am on Friday, 25th July, 2014:

It's the Lore


MMO players all have gripes and know What Must Be Done to address them. Of course, as all players are different, one player's fix is another player's fracture, so it's as well that the decisions on what changes need to be made to MMOs lie in the hands of designers and developers.

Some players, however, have power. The designers may control what can happen in the game world, but these players have some control over what happens in the real world.

From Hansard (via BuzzFeed), the record of proceedings of the UK Parliament, 21st July 2014:

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward legislative proposals to ensure that cyber criminals who steal online items in video games with a real-world monetary value received the same sentences as criminals who steal real-world items of the same monetary value. [205872]

So the Member of Parliament for Hove, a Warcraft player himself, wants people to be prosecuted if they steal items with a monetary value. That sounds fair enough.

Well, it does for some games, but not for others. Plenty of games have stealing built into the gameplay. EVE Online would cease to exist if stealing things with monetary value was a criminal offence. The items don't even have to be convertible into real-world money, they just have to have a real-world monetary value.

I used to think that the more politicians we got who played games, the better it would be for game developers. It seems I was wrong: the more politicians we get who play games, the more people in power we'll have who want to use their little knowledge to do dangerous things.


3:03pm on Thursday, 24th July, 2014:

Coding for Fun


I'm writing a book over the summer. Well, I've been writing it for some time, but I'm putting it together over the summer. It's made up of about 1,400 articles from a paragraph to a page in length. Some of these articles need to come after others, but some can go anywhere. I added the dependencies when I wrote the book, with the idea that I'd maybe print the articles off (with their dependents and dependencies attached) and then order them on the floor. I was not expecting to end up with 1,400 articles, though.

I considered putting together a spreadsheet to create a partial ordering of the articles, but that seemed like a lot of work. I'd have to go through 1,400 articles manually and check that dependent/dependency relationships were bidirectional, then figure out some way to look for circularities (where one article had to follow another, and another, and so on back to the original article). In the end, though, I decided to write a program to do it. I went with C, because I figured I'd have to deal with Microsoft's unnecessarily complex format for Word documents, although in the end I didn't bother as it looked even more tedious to implement than constructing the spreadsheet would have been.

It's great writing programs for myself! I can hack as much as I like. I can call my variables what I want to call them, comment nothing, forget about memory management, use fixed-length arrays for variable-length quantities, take as many shortcuts as I like. I found lots of inconsistent dependent/dependency connections, but surprisingly there were only four circularities.

Now I'm at the stage where I can actually create the output I want (the partial ordering of articles). That shouldn't take long, but I'm reluctant to do it because then I'll have to get back to working on the book again instead of enjoying myself coding.


2:33pm on Wednesday, 23rd July, 2014:

Cooke and Lewis


I always wondered what kind of person would buy a toilet seat that looked like this:

As it turns out, people just like my mother...


8:13am on Tuesday, 22nd July, 2014:



Oh, by the way BBC, get it right.


8:03am on Tuesday, 22nd July, 2014:

Go, Scotland, Go!


According to the BBC, if Scotland leaves the UK then the life expectancy in the UK will rise by 2.5 years for men, 2.1 years for women.

Wait, what? I get to live 2.5 years longer if Scotland leaves the UK?!

Go, Scotland, Go!


4:54pm on Monday, 21st July, 2014:



Gotta love the dialogue in The Secret World:

If you have a 16 rating, you may as well make use of it.


4:32pm on Sunday, 20th July, 2014:

Race for Life


It was the annual Race for Life today, which is fund-raising event to raise money for cancer research. They're 5km or 10km long, and the people who run are usually doing so because they have a personal connection to cancer (someone they know has it or has died of it; the runners get to wear notices on their backs saying why they're running).

I'm a bit ambivalent about this event, because the races are women-only: men who have friends or relatives with cancer don't get to run. If the races were actually competitive, OK, well that would make sense; I can imagine the reaction if the London Marathon were men-only, though.

This year, my younger daughter participated with one of her friends whose mother has cancer. I personally wouldn't have wanted to go 5km in this morning's baking heat even if I could do so on a Segway, but she successfully completed it in 43 minutes or thereabouts. From what she said, it wasn't so much a run as a run, jog, run, jog, walk, jog, walk, jog, walk, walk, walk, jog. Given the temperature and humidity out there, though, anything under an hour was pretty good going for someone who usually only runs for buses.

No, I wasn't in the crowd, I was at home mowing the lawn. Probably just as well, given that it's difficult to make out anyone in the flow of pink and Comic Sans as it runs past.

I wonder how long people would have taken to finish if the weather had turned and we'd got thunder and lightning?


11:24am on Saturday, 19th July, 2014:

Argent's Lane


Argent's Lane is a narrow, sunken road connecting civilisation to West Bergholt. Cars take it if they want to reach the A12 or the southwest of Colchester. There is a much better road, but it crosses the main Norwich to London railway line at a level crossing: after waiting there a few times for 15 minutes for 5 or 6 trains to go past, people tend to want to avoid it.

This was it yesterday morning:

In case you can't see the detail, here's the important part:

That lorry is several feet wider than a car, and its length makes it worse because it can't hug corners. Its driver should not have even attempted to come down Argent's Lane. Come to that, the truck in front of me was taking a risk as well, because if it had met itself coming the other way further along, it wouldn't have been able to get past either.

I don't think this is a SatNav thing, I think it's a driver arrogance thing. They believe they can get down Argent's Lane past cars, but it doesn't occur to them that there would be problems if they met anything wider than a car. The lorry was always going to have problems, even if there were no vehicles coming the other way. Any lorry driver using a car SatNav instead of an avoid-unclassified-roads heavy goods vehicle SatNav needs to think again.

The car in front of the lorry had to reverse, once the cars behind it had also reversed to give it room. The lorry squeezed past, scraping the hedges and taking some of the lane embankment with it. The truck in front of me went forward to the widest part of the road, then once the lorry reached it it drove on slowly as the lorry did the same, in a choreographed movement that meant they avoided an impact by a good two inches. If one of them had stopped, it would undoubtedly have been hit, though.

I didn't see the name of the company that the lorry belonged to, but I did see that it included the word "logistics". Methinks, they need to practice what they preach.


3:43pm on Friday, 18th July, 2014:



My wife decided to open the kitchen window today to let some air in:

It turns out that when there's a breeze blowing outside, it doesn't stop when it gets inside.


3:02pm on Thursday, 17th July, 2014:

New Build


They're doing some construction work at the university:

There are signs all around it telling us proudly how the university is improving its infrastructure. None of them tell us what's being built, though.

Whatever it is, I don't suppose it will result in my teaching in a room that has either windows or air conditioning.


10:55am on Wednesday, 16th July, 2014:

Money-Saving Tip #1



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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).