Saturday night's all right for fightin', and for not a great deal else, apparently. Yay for living...

posted 27 July 2002
Saturday night's all right for fightin', and for not a great deal else, apparently. Yay for living in Winchester, which would be a one-horse town, except it has a cathedral, so it is officially the world's only one-horse city. But I once again have blessed, non-monitored Internet access, even if it is via dialup. Erasmus Park, where I'm currently staying, is attached to the University of Southampton's art college. It's really quite nice, as evidenced by the pictures on the site, in particular the one of the table football machine, an activity which has become surprisingly central to my current social life, as I'm sure Toby will be pleased to hear. And there are phone lines in rooms. I even have a landline, but there's no point giving it out, since the modem will be plugged into it 100% of the time that I'm at home. I've been fairly slack about keeping in touch with people -- I'd send out a longer mass-mailing, which appears to be the fashion, but that would merely be forcing people who weren't interested to read my life story (ahem). So I'll put major events here -- such as they are -- and you can all read them at your leisure, or ignore them as suits you.
Hopefully I will be able this week to get some work done on my various projects, including Web2 (my third-year project), yet another update to Seldo.Com (to include more stuff on the front page) and doing something with, my transparent attempt at using the Internet to get myself a date.
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Mass Transport Rant

posted 27 July 2002
Why can no single metropolitan authority get the formula for mass transport right? My 3 candidates from personal experience:
  1. London Underground
    • Frequent trains; no waiting
    • Bright and well-kept stations
    • Extremely good customer information systems
    • The tube map! (Even though it can be misleading since it doesn't pay attention to what's going on above ground)
    • Trains are tiny (because the tunnels are too small)
    • All trains are local, hence slow (see NYC)
    • The network is relatively small
    • It's very expensive
    • The travel-zone system is confusing
    • The air quality is *terrible*
  2. Paris Metro
    • Trains are huge, thanks to the elimination of inter-carriage walls (all the trains are just huge continuous tubes) and double-decker trains
    • The network is huge, and stops are frequent
    • Stations are also clean and well-kept
    • Air quality is fine
    • Fairly affordable
    • Is always having a strike :-) [Ed pointed this out]
    • The map is awful, it looks like someone threw up on the wall
    • Customer information is middling (can't judge properly, 'cause I don't speak French :-)
    • All trains are local and slow
  3. NYC subway
    • Big trains
    • Large tunnels, so large trains and extra tracks, which allows...
    • Express trains! These rock; skip 20 stations and get to the other end of the city in 10 minutes instead of 40.
    • Very cheap, and no zone system, so easy to use too
    • The map is pretty good, and shows above ground, which is useful.
    • Air-conditioning in trains!
    • Customer information is lousy: no digital info signs, and inaudible announcements
    • The stations are dirty and feel run-down
    • The network is not particularly extensive: it covers all of Manhattan, but only crosses the river at one point

With the exception of London's tiny tunnels, all of the cons are fairly easy and inexpensive to overcome. So why don't they? And it's easy to bring in the pros as well: London should eliminate zones and introduce carriageless trains, and do something about the fog'o'crap that makes it impossible to see the other end of the platform if you're at one end. Paris should bring in digital signs and deal with that map of theirs, as well as introducing express trains. NYC should also bring in signs and clean up their stations: the quality of the stations makes NYC's subway *feel* like the worst subway, when it's actually the best of the bunch.

Okay, now you can hire me as a consultant. Come on, Ken.


Ten Commandments 2.0

posted 27 July 2002

Once upon a time, some weird guy on a mountain got inspired while watching a brush fire, and wrote a list of ten commandments that, when followed, made life a lot easier and more reliable for everyone concerned. They were really popular back then, but it's been 2000 years since then, and it's high time for a sequel. Hence:


  1. Thou shalt own a computer
    Lame excuses about not being able to understand how they work do not apply. Cost is likewise not an issue; second-hand systems are cheaper than a night out. You worked out how to drive a car, this is MUCH simpler and far less likely to be fatal. No restrictions on operating system, once you have at least one.
  2. Thou shalt obtain Internet access
    Nobody ever put off wiring up their houses for electricity. There's a new essential utility out there, go get it.
  3. Thou shalt regularly check thy e-mail
    You don't have to be a web junkie, you don't have to spend your whole life on ICQ and IRC or webchat. But check your e-mail at least once a day, the same way you check if you have snail mail.
  4. Thou shalt not blindly accept stories from a single source
    Every possible thing you might want to know will always be available from at least three sources on the same medium and at least one other medium, be it television, radio, the 'Net, newspapers, word-of-mouth or carrier pigeon. If you use only one source, then see commandment 5.
  5. Thou shalt not pass on unsubstantiated rumors
    Not even if you are promised, luck, love, money, or are threatened with having your account deleted / your hard drive erased / your brain rewired to think you're a cat.
  6. Honor thy techie
    Techies are sacred and should not be abused or taken for granted. If not for your techie, then you would still be back at commandment three, trying to remember your user name and password.
  7. Thou shalt not presume to blame your technology
    If a piece of technology works for most people and fails to work for you, Occam's razor suggests that the source of the error is YOU, not the technology. Refer to commandment 8.
  8. Thou shalt read the instructions FIRST
    Honoring your techie is fine. Bothering your techie unnecessarily is not. Before using up the sacred time of your techie, read the manual, or failing that, the help file.
  9. Thou shalt not worship false techies (or There is no one true techie)
    Just because somebody claims technical expertise does not necessarily mean that they have it. Look for concrete results from your techies.
  10. Thou shalt maintain realistic expectations
    You do not expect a plumber to understand car care just because both fields involve metal. Just because a techie works with electronics does not mean that techie understands every electronic device in the universe.
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