Friday, May 25, 2012

Stuck in a tunnel

I mentioned yesterday that my homebound journey was made more difficult by problems on the Jubilee [shouldn't that be Jubbly or something equally derisive?: Ed]. Yes, Ed, it will be, but what I had not known was the unfortunate passengers on the train that stuck near St. John's Wood were trapped in the sweltering heat for four hours before their escape which required walking 3/4 of a mile through the tunnels. The promised compensation, £40 per person I believe, is the least that LU could do.

I travelled into town  for a concert last night and noticed on the Neasden sidings a normal Jubbly attached to one decked out in livery celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubbly, er Jubilee.  There is a rumour on District Dave that it was this gaudy showpiece that failed so spectacularly and that it was eventually hauled out by another train, so it looks like this is indeed what happened. And I was indeed glad that I had brought a bottle of water as my Met ("A" stock so not air-conditioned) crawled from Harrow to Neasden for no obvious reason (um, it was obviously travelling 'twixt the two but what I meant was, no obvious reason for it to be so slow. [Thanks, I was confused about that: Ed]) but threatening every moment to stop and let us simmer gently in the afternoon sun.

LU very sensibly advise passengers to carry water on hot days. What they do not do is make it easy to obtain the stuff. Vending machines dispensing cold drinks on platforms? Bit of a no-brainer, I think and it's not the first time I have said so - I wrote the same in June 2005. I fear I may have to return to this theme in another seven years, assuming that one will still be blogging then. Or commuting. Watch this space

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer at last

Not just warm, but positively hot in London yesterday. Clear blue skies and a wash of Sahara-like air drove the temperature up into the higher 20s. A day for sitting by a running brook under the shade of willows with the skylarks above and a cool drink to hand. Or, as fate would have it, a day for coming down to Waterloo underground to find an overcrowded Bakerloo thanks to a suspended Jubbly service. I managed to squeeze into the last available seat on my northbound and was able to admire the many tense and frustrated faces of the crowds at Oxford Circus, no doubt swollen by non-Jubbliers [not sure about this: Ed] from Bond Street, who realised as my train arrived that very few of them would be able to board it.

And so to Baker Street where fresh hordes of ex-Jubblies (I'll find the right word for them one day) joined the normal Met travellers. I mentioned it was hot didn't I? At least the first train out was one of the (not quite so new now) "S" stock with air-conditioning. And, as it was packed and there was barely anywhere to stand except in the bit between the carriages that lurches and heaves with each bend, just as well. At Finchley Road they were running a northbound shuttle on the Jubbly starting from the southbound platform, since no trains  were going further south at that time, so the Jubblistas [I don't think that works too well: Ed] had some relief. Not so your correspondent who stood till Harrow, there to change trains, and catch one of the dear old, but not air-conditioned, "A" stock and  who still had to stand until Eastcote at which point it wasn't worth sitting down.

Ah well, I am writing these lines from home as today is not a working day and the weather is just as glorious. I shall watch the Tfl site with some interest, not to say schadenfreude and should there be a recurrence of yesterday's misfortunes, I shall raise a sympathetic libation to my fellow passengers.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The limits of AI, or, I'm getting a little worried about Jim*

Apple are running ads for the new iphone which feature its voice recognition technology. This may well be truly staggering and innovative. What makes me genuinely sad for the future of this great company is the utter banality of the examples. I choose as my text the one headed "What's my day look like" - presumably this is what the proud owner says into his phone. The phone is shown displaying "Another busy day today, Jim" and then it lists his calendar. This features a "status meeting", a "project briefing", lunch "with Emily", a "development call" and a "production update". Wow, what a busy and fulfilling life you lead, Jim. All those meetings. No wonder you need to relax by lunching with Emily, you little rogue. And how supportive your phone is, telling you warmly that it is another busy day. What, you had a round of meetings and lunchtime entertainment yesterday as well? Careful Jim, you don't want to overdo it, do you. Or your phone will use face recognition technology to say "Looking a bit peaky today Jim, better have an early night".

My point is that the ultra sophisticated technology (and I understand that all the processing is done on Apple's servers, so they are obviously keeping close tabs on Jim), is drawing what may be an utterly false conclusion. Just because Jim has put put in four meetings that does not mean he is busy - we all know that meetings are a way to avoid doing work - and furthermore the idea that the more appointments, the busier is utterly stupid. Jim might be incredibly busy working all day on his computer, or visiting clients, or designing a product, or in the lab testing things, or driving a bus, or operating on patients or teaching. None of these might warrant any entry in the calendar. So his stupid phone will conclude he is idle and then when he puts in a few facile meetings where he does nothing but doodle, drink coffee and keep his eyes lowered, it thinks he is doing some real work. What happens when he goes on holiday and marks all his time as occupied? Does the phone go "Wow Jim, you really rock" or whatever the current Californese expression is for showing awe?

I await with interest what Emily's phone will say when she enters her lunchtime date. "Jim again? That loser? You can do better than that, girl".  And will her phone then link to Jim's phone and try and sabotage the date, or maybe try to encourage it by wiping out Jim's 13:30 so that he spends a lot more time in the restaurant than he had planned. You have to watch these devices. Who knows what they might get up to, once you start asking them for their opinions.

*if you don't remember BBC Radio's long running soap Mrs. Dale's Diary, don't worry about it