November 26, 2003

Every time the bus drives past my house - the designer Harmon Kardon loudspeakers connected to my computer buzzes for a couple of seconds and this is quickly followed by the emission of a loud sharp click. This leaves me with the impression that there is a powerful radio system installed on the bus. Which is probably true. What’s interesting is that in some way the radio system on the bus is more powerful than those installed in police cars, ambulances, fire engines or taxi cabs - because none of those do that to my speakers when they drive past. I’m not complaining - because the buzz-click is a very useful signal for me. In fact, as I sit here right now - the last buzz-click occured around 3 minutes ago - which means that the next buzz-click will probably happen in around 7 minutes time. Which means that if I want to to get the next bus to work - I’ve got 7 minutes to power down my laptop, brush my hair, run downstairs, slip on my shoes, put on my jacket, set the alarm and walk to the bus stop.

On the way to the bus stop I will change my voicemail greeting on my mobile phone - and if, whilst concentrating on changing my voicemail greeting, I only notice at the last second that the bus is going to beat me as it drives past me, I’m going to run as fast as I can to try get there before it does. And roughly 9 times out of 10 if this situation occurs - I will get on the bus. And if I don’t - well the traffic jams are usually on my side - because there is a fair chance that I could run all the way to the next bus stop - and still stand a good chance of beating the bus there. If this “two-bus-stop dash” situation occurs then there is usually more determination in my soul - because now all the folks already on the bus will be watching the contest. They will be sitting there watching me running. I will now have an audience. And it’s usually the folks on the top-deck who are my audience. And in their minds they will probably either be cheering me on - or more likely willing the bus to go faster so that I don’t make it. So - in this situation I am running flat out. And like I say - 9 times out of 10 - I will make it on the bus. And when I do get on the bus - I will triumphantly climb up to the top deck and be greeted by two columns of expressionless faces - the column on the left who are probably wondering why I’m smiling and out of breath - and the column on the right who witnessed the challenge and saw me win.

And then I will spend at least the next 5 minutes trying to work out how the bus knows that I’ve got a valid Oystercard.

Posted by jag at November 26, 2003 07:14 AM

The Oystercard puzzle goes like this:

Everyone knows that you can renew your Oystercard over the web. If that’s the case - then how does the bus know that I’ve done that? Somehow I doubt that the bus has a high-speed, digital, radio data-link to some computer system sitting in a Transport for London data centre somewher. No - the way in which the yellow thingy at the front of the bus bleeps in an instant when I touch my Oystercard against it instinctively tells me that that it can’t be possible that the “authorisation” occured in real-time against a central computer.

It’s more plausible that the bus is “uploaded” with a new database of Oystercard user details at the beginning or end of every day - or every time it starts out at the bus depot. And if this theory is correct - it means that EVERY bus in London has a copy of EVERY Oystercard users details.

Posted by: Jag on November 26, 2003 09:14 AM

Whoa…tht’s lot of planning. Well even i have my own planing.….but too bored to write it down and who wants to listen to it neways.….Hheheee

Posted by: Shobha on November 26, 2003 10:53 AM

Hi Jag - here’s something for you to ponder while getting your breath back. It’s an anecdote told to me a couple of years ago by one of the mums from our kindergarten who kindly helped me repaint our old flat. Heaven knows how we got onto the topic while painting, but said lady was very ‘alternative’, as the saying goes here, and as sceptical of the ways of modern, capitalist society as she was open and interested in alternative thinking. She told me about an African she’d met while she still lived in Switzerland. He couldn’t understand how Europeans were so rushed all the time. “They even run for busses! Me, I am a human. Why should I run after a machine. I am not its slave!” (or words to that effect). Well I was suitably impressed by this new perspective too and far too polite to say “Well, actually it doesn’t bother me all that much. I never do enough sport anyway.” After all, she was helping me paint the flat.
A couple of weeks later I got to thinking further about the slave issue. A bit of a rush doesn’t bother me that much. But what if I don’t do a bit of manageable hurrying? And then miss the bus/train/tram? And have to wait in the cold, rain and wind for another 20 minutes. Hasn’t the bus then meddled in my fate in a far worse way?
Mind you, if our local transport authority put up warm roomy bus shelters with free cafe lattes and a TV showing a loop of Bayern Munich’s worst defeats, the wait might be tolerable.
Luckily I’ve got the car with me today.
- David

Posted by: David on November 26, 2003 05:15 PM

David: Slave to the machine eh? Yes - it is an interesting perspective. I did think about this somewhat - but I reduced every thought path that I had down to the following conclusion: on the surface of it - the bus appears to be a machine - but the bus adopts the persona of the driver - who is human. So - although we might be appearing to be running after the machine - we are simply aspiring to match the discipline of the human driver, who is aspiring to match the discipline of the human timetable-designer and human bus-inspector. The chap who refused to run after the machine - probably hasn’t appreciated the benefits of “spending a little to gain a lot” in this circumstance - as opposed to the “risking a little only to lose a lot” - which is the wet, windy, cold bus-stop scenario that you mentioned.

You obviously don’t support Bayern Munich?

Posted by: Jag on November 27, 2003 08:30 AM

Running after the bus does give its own thrills.…And thats a lot of calculating statistics to be thought abt when ur edging ur way to the bus to get to it in time

Posted by: sat on November 27, 2003 07:29 PM

Hi Sat: couldn’t agree more!

Posted by: Jag on November 27, 2003 09:37 PM

Say - are u a addictive gamer - i read ur earlier post abt Halo and XBOX… not a PC gamer?

Posted by: sat on November 28, 2003 09:13 AM

Hi Sat - I’m not that “addictive” a gamer - but I definitely don’t play on PC - I have three games consoles: PSone, XBOX and a cheap “generic” 118-games-in-1 controller which has the original versions of pacman, space invaders, galaxians, defender, donkey kong, paper boy, tetris etc.

Posted by: Jag on November 29, 2003 10:11 AM

Nice blog Jag.. love the design… BTW the only thing comparable that happens to me is that my computer monitor starts to buzz just before my mobile phone rings.…
Hmm… those old ‘video game’ things with cartriges…! those were the days!

Posted by: Anand on November 29, 2003 04:52 PM

Hi Anand, thanks for your comment. Yes - those cartridge games were the days. These days you can get hundreds of the old classics in a hand-sixe controller that plugs into your TV!

Posted by: Jag on November 29, 2003 08:44 PM

I too had those when I was young. I loved it a lot. Then for some reason it broke and the Television I had connected to it also started malfunctioning. So I stopped using it. Now, well, there is the computer.

I was going through some of your earlier posts. The one on Transport Hell was amazing (graphics wise) You must be a wiz with Flash. And the bbc clock was too good. Where did you get the one with the matrix thing?

Posted by: sat on November 30, 2003 01:14 PM

Hi Sat, yes - I have to admit that I am a bit of a Flash guru - even though that skill has absolutely nothing to do with my job - it’s just something that I’ve learned in my spare time. Glad you liked the London Transport Hell animation - that has been viewed from all over the world! Still gets a lot of hits. As for the BBC Clock - that was actually embedded into the page as a remote object - in other words I was referring to a flash object on a different server - in this case the BBC’s own “memories” website. A couple of years back they hired a flash guru to reproduce the BBC clock (amongst other things) as flash animations - so rather than pinch the clock for use on my own page - I simply “refer out” to it. I got the matrix one from - and made a few slight mods to the actionscript.

Posted by: Jag on November 30, 2003 03:01 PM
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