Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Commuting Dilemma

I like to cycle to work, but it is not convenient every day of the week, especially on days when it is very rainy or windy, or I need a cleanly pressed shirt, or have something on in London afterwards.

So how do I not get hosed by the cost of commuting? These are the prices for an array of travel options over the course of a week.

Currently, Oyster is not available on South West Trains, a situation which may change in January, but this has been promised for quite some time (I registered my Oyster card back in 2003 and have commuted to Old Street, Putney, Farringdon, Embankment, and spent 3 years in Calgary since then).
The cheapest way to get between Earlsfield (or any other Zone 3 train network station) and Kings Cross (or any other zone 1 station) would be to take 2 buses on a daily basis. The 77 to Waterloo, then the 59 up to Kings Cross. At rush hour this weighs in at 90 minutes; 3 hours daily commute, at an average of about 11 miles per hour and total commute cost of £20.

There must be a faster option than this, but then you need to pay for it. A weekly Zone 1 to 3 travelcard currently costs £30.20, and this will increase shortly. The travelcard opens up the train and tube lines.
The frequency of both is good at rush hour, but the carriages of both are full at best, regularly packed, and around once or twice per week, a delay will make one or two travel legs overcrowded with some trains inaccessible.
Any sane person would only want to do this journey a few times a week, but then the issue again becomes cost.

From the above chart, it appears that the best 'hedging strategy' is to buy a fixed weekly train pass between Earlsfield and the Zone 1 hub Vauxhall. This 8 minute journey costs £2.10 as a single, £3.70 as a return and £13.20 for a week... The maths here is already slightly baffling, and I studied quantum physics. Buying a week's pass saves you at least £7.80 on single tickets - but, only if you use all 10 of those trips. Still with me?

That £13.20 would only get me as far as Vauxhall though, with another 3 or 4 central London miles to cross before I can sit at my desk and start to computer all sorts of other things.
In addition to that fixed cost, I then to have a "Pay as you go" Oyster card (PAYG) with money on it, and tap in at Vauxhall and out at Kings Cross. At £1.60 this is miraculously good value still.

Everything unravels if Vauxhall is having a bad day, as there is no plan B from there. A bus from Vauxhall heads loosely in the direction of north, but not particularly quickly.

In order to help myself out, I have used another chart... How do I make sure I don't pay more than the £30.20 travelcard costs or pay over the odds?

Now if I wanted to ride 1 day, I should probably go for then weekly Earlsfield to Vauxhall and then PAYG it from there to KX. This would cost £26.00, and save the hassle of buying tickets every day. The psychology of the "free ride when you've already paid" also comes into the picture, as often, the ticket barriers at Earlsfield are open. I don't condone paying without a ticket although I think my credit with TFL ticket buying karma is good.

Murphy's Law says that as soon as you get a week long pass, the clouds will part and the rest of the week will be blissfully sunny, and the Tubes will be subject to delays, strikes, passenger incidents etc.
To keep further bike riding still an option, daily returns with PAYG Oyster tickets are the best option. This does involve a calculated risk that the weekend will not require any trips into central London. The total weekly cost for one day bike ride, and 4 days train and tube would be £27.60

Riding can be very pretty, but does come at a slightly not free cost though, as inner tubes cost £4.50 each, and a bike, lock and helmet will set you back a few hundred quid too!

Charting this would then need to factor in my consultancy costs :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Lepki Chart - Autumn 2009 iTunes Play Counts

Spurred on by finding some The Farm on my iTunes... DELETE DELETE... I have put together the long awaited LEPKI CHART for Autumn 2009.

  • Atlas Sound Logos burst onto the scene in September, racking up 130 track plays in little more than 2 months. The band look likely to overtake Fleet Foxes in the 2009 chart, as the bearded harmonisers struggle to maintain their pre-Glastonbury momentum.
  • Perennially popular Yo La Tengo released a new album which includes a mixture of sticky and now overplayed songs. Some slower burners should make their way onto the work playlists and maintain the Hoboken trio's continued presence at the top.
  • Luna by The Aliens has now become 2009's most played album, while the Neil Young Premium playlist draws songs from a range of albums, as do the Velvet Underground.
  • As Spotify becomes a useful sample source, it is timely that a new "artistic impression" is launched, with the inaugural award being shared by David Bowie's A New Career in a New Town and Can's Vitamin C.
  • Nirvana, Tosca, King Gheedorah and some lower quality Ian Brown songs have been and gone without troubling the scorers.
  • Blur drop out of recently played artists table.

Autumn Most Played Artists (Sum of Tracks played)
Atlas Sound 130
Yo La Tengo 112
The Aliens 69
Angelo Badalamenti 68
The Velvet Underground 57
Radiohead 56
Neil Young 54
Pink Floyd 52
Broadcast 51
Stereolab 45
Broadcast & The Focus Group 40
The Beta Band 38
John Wyndham 37

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My plans for the future of the Premiership

Rather than have a 2nd Premiership division, have a 30 team Premiership

Top 10 play each other home & away, then play the rest once each
11-20 play each other home & away, + 1 game against top 10, + 1 game against bottom 10
21-30 play each other home & away, + 1 game against top 10, + 1 game against middle 10

Getting into and staying in the Top 10 is the goal, and the league is printed in the blocks of 10, so Team 30 couldn't just have an easy draw, the highest they could get is 21.

2 teams up and down between blocks.
Slightly random element about who you get at home or away - gate attendance is shared.

Sky would probably like this as you could have a Sunday triple play of progressively more important games; one of the 5 games each week from the Top 10 would be a fairly juicy one, but you would often get 'improving' and on form teams who had won lots of games in a row against weaker opposition coming up against a Top 10 team.

Not that it is a great model, but NHL has teams playing each other slightly random numbers of times.

The image above shows how the league would have started this year.
One other benefit here is that the current Premiership end of season is focused around the top and the bottom; having nothing to play for once survival had been secured makes for a dull set of Bolton vs West Hams from March onwards; here they would be critical to survival.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Google Doodles

Part of my job is to look at fast moving search terms and try and figure out what the heck the internet is doing.

One huge source of traffic can be whenever Google puts up a 'Google Doodle' - a limited edition logo which is usually in celebration of somebody's birthday, Stravinsky, Hans Christian Orsted, Pac Man... It can be anything!

Today it is the 71st anniversary of the Wizard of Oz... What? It wasn't in your Google calendar?

Wizard of Oz

To further celebrate, here is a picture from
my gallery, of Dorothy's Ruby slippers from Washington's Smithsonian museum.

Dorothy's Slippers

I specifically checked Google today, as this day last year, a ton of traffic came through Google due to the
Perseids meteor shower, which is again tonight...


Sesame Street provided a rich seam of such logos late in 2009.

First up were Big Bird's legs seen representing the L of Google. Considering this logo was brought to us by the letter L and the number 2, it looks like someone in San Francisco needed to watch a little more of the educational show!

Next up in the UK was Cookie Monster, who got his own Google Doodle with some of the G's devoured by the anarchic blue biscuit fiend.

All this Sesame Street nostalgia, for a show which hasn't featured on UK TV since 2001 was quite suprising, but led to other aspects of the educational puppet show to come back to mind, like the fantastic pinball animation music.

Day 3 of the Google doodle series celebrated Bert and Ernie -the fuzzy haired couple who somewhat controversially co-habited happily for many years until many grouches (other than Oscar) found this politically incorrect.

In case you never figured it out, like me, Bert is the thin yellow one, Ernie is the friendlier orange one. Imagine me watching an episode of Lost...

Next up, it was Oscar, the grouch, himself adorning Google's search homepage.


Elmo took centre stage over the weekend,

And then for Monday morning, it was Count Von Count bringing a little maths into the equation.

And possibly finally, a selection from the cast, as first lady
Michelle Obama made a guest appearance on the show.

Back in England this week, it was Happy Birthday Wallace and Gromit! Google celebrated the UK's favourite clay dog and Northerner turning 20. 20! Yes, that means that for roughly 19 Christmases, families up and down the country have been glued in a post-turkey slump which is enlivened by the charming stop motion animation. In a world of ridiculous CGI and noisy robots, Wallace and Gromit make for a charming hour.

About the only franchise untarnished by Mel Gibson's recent involvement (Chicken Run, the multimillion dollar grossing movie from 2000), Nick Park's deservedly Oscar winning Aardman studios continue to create happy productions, so cheers to you, and see you at Christmas.