John C. Kirk

Jul. 3rd, 2014

02:32 am - Cashless buses

This coming Sunday (2014-07-06), London buses will stop accepting cash. So, be aware of that if you live outside London but you're planning to visit.

Some people are unhappy about this; I can understand the objections, but overall I think this is a good move. For instance, a few months ago I visited Sweden (on my way to/from the WSWC). Their buses don't accept cash, so they have SL Access cards instead: these are blue plastic cards, very similar to Oyster cards. Unfortunately, these weren't on sale at the ferry port, so I had a half-hour walk to the local town carrying all my luggage.

So, what happens if people don't have Oyster cards and they can't pay with cash? The simplest option is to use a "contactless" credit/debit card. These have a special symbol on them, which looks a bit like the symbol for a wireless network. I have 2 debit cards and 1 credit card from Lloyds, and they all have that symbol; I think that all the UK banks are now issuing them, and if your card doesn't have that symbol then you could ask your bank to replace it. I tested this last weekend, and it works exactly the same as an Oyster card: you just hold it against the card reader and wait for the machine to go "bleep".

The only snag is that bank cards don't have price capping (yet). If I use an Oyster card then it costs £1.45 for each bus journey, with a maximum of £4.40 per day, i.e. the 4th bus journey costs 5p and all subsequent bus journeys are free. If I use a bank card then it costs £1.45 for every bus journey, however many you take. (In my case, 5 journeys cost me £7.25.) I've heard some people suggest that TfL would like to abandon Oyster cards, on the basis that their job isn't to act as a bank, so they'd rather delegate that job to other people. However, I don't see that happening any time soon.

So, what happens if your Oyster card runs out of money (or you don't have one) and you don't have any bank cards with you? Or what if someone would prefer to make journeys without being tracked, e.g. if they have an abusive spouse? In that case, you could pay cash for a 1 day travelcard, i.e. you would get a little piece of cardboard rather than plastic.

But what happens if you don't have an Oyster card or a bank card or any cash? This actually happened to me a couple of months ago: my Oyster card ran low on credit, and I left my wallet at home by mistake so I couldn't top it up at a machine. That meant that I couldn't get on the bus, so I had to walk to the nearest station. (Normally I cycle to the station, so I just buy season tickets rather than travelcards, but this was the day after I'd been knocked off my bike and I had my left arm in a sling.)

If you have internet access (e.g. on a smartphone) then you could also top up your Oyster card online. However, there's a catch: you then have to swipe it at a station or tram stop to get the new balance; for some reason, you can't do that on a bus. Starting next Tuesday (2014-07-08), TfL will allow you to make 1 more journey with an Oyster card after your credit runs low. Also, if the bus driver considers that the passenger is "vulnerable" (e.g. a child travelling alone), they can issue an Unpaid Fare Notice; that means that the passenger writes down their name and address and then pays the money later.

So, what's the benefit of all this? As a passenger, Oyster journeys are cheaper than paying cash. I also think that the queue to board the bus moves a lot more quickly when people can just bleep their card and move on, rather than counting out coins. From the bus driver's point of view, it will make life easier for them if they don't get several people wanting to get change from £20 notes. Also, if they don't carry change, it may make them safer (i.e. nobody will try to mug them).

Anyway, we'll see what happens, but I think it will be ok.

Tags: ,
(4 comments | Leave a comment)

Jun. 22nd, 2014

11:29 pm - Cycling/swimming in London/Brighton

Over the past couple of months, I've been back and forth between London and Brighton. These trips have involved varying amounts of clothing, e.g. for the World Naked Bike Ride. I've included a few photos below, so you may not want to click through if you're reading this at work. (I'm deliberately blurring a few details, e.g. the names of the other people involved; if you follow me on Facebook then you may be able to join the dots, but please be discreet about it.)

Read more...Collapse )

Tags: , , , ,
(Leave a comment)

Jun. 4th, 2014

06:23 am - Go west, young man!

It's LARP season again: Curious Pastimes have 4 big events in May, June, July, and August, and I went to the May event ("Into the West") a few weeks ago. It went well, and I think I'm starting to get the hang of combat now, as well as settling into my new character.

By the way, there's now a Lions Faction trailer on YouTube, filmed at Renewal last year. I think that did a good job of making everyone look cool, particularly our knights; I appear about 20 seconds in (with my back to the camera), kneeling down to present a crown to Queen Esme.

Read more...Collapse )

In a couple of days, I'm off to the June event. So, will my long term plans come to fruition? Or will I get killed 5 minutes after Time In and have to start from scratch with a different character? Stay tuned to find out!

Tags: ,
(Leave a comment)

May. 21st, 2014

03:12 am - Political propaganda

Here's a bar chart that's been going around on social media today:

UKIP 1

I can see why people like this; it looks like a neat rebuttal to UKIP's racism. Unfortunately, the chart is fundamentally flawed.

Just to be clear, I'm not a UKIP supporter: I've never voted for them, and I have no intention of voting for them in the future. However, I think it's important to be honest, rather than sinking to their level. It's also important to understand why this chart is misleading, so that you can recognise similar problems in other charts.

Read more...Collapse )

So, a plea to my friends: please don't share charts like this, however tempting they may look.

Tags: , ,
(Leave a comment)

May. 11th, 2014

09:56 pm - What is LARP? (Prithee don't hurt me...)

When I've mentioned LARP to some friends (eg in my swimming club), I've got blank looks, so here's a quick overview. This isn't a tutorial for new players, and I'm sure I've missed a lot of stuff out, it's just intended to give people a vague idea of what I'm talking about.

Read more...Collapse )

Tags:
(Leave a comment)

Apr. 22nd, 2014

01:42 am - WSWC (3/3): The voyage home

Previously in my blog...
In part 1, I travelled to Lapland for the Winter Swimming World Championships.
In part 2, I competed in races and survived exposure to sub-zero water.

Now it was time to go home. I basically did my original journey in reverse, but it took a bit longer in this direction and I looked for different activities at each stop rather than repeating myself.

Read more...Collapse )

All in all, I had a good trip, and I'm very glad I went. Based on this, I certainly want to attend the Polish Ice Swimming Championships in December.

Tags: , , ,
(Leave a comment)

Apr. 21st, 2014

06:45 pm - WSWC (2/3): The races

Previously in my blog...
In part 1, I travelled to Lapland for the Winter Swimming World Championships. Now it was time for the races to begin!

Read more...Collapse )

To be concluded in part 3...

Tags: , , , ,
(Leave a comment)

01:09 am - WSWC (1/3): Travel to Lapland

Last month I took part in the Winter Swimming World Championships, held in Finnish Lapland. Most of the team flew out there from London; however, as I mentioned in January, I used trains and ferries to get there and back. This took a bit longer, but there were a few interesting things along the way.

Read more...Collapse )

To be continued in part 2...

Tags: , , ,
(Leave a comment)

Apr. 18th, 2014

09:39 pm - Theatre reviews (off West End)

Catching up on my theatre reviews, I've been moving away from the big West End shows in favour of smaller performances. One benefit is that they're cheaper, so you can see a live performance for roughly the same price as going to the cinema. However, you also need to grab the opportunity when you see it, because these have much shorter runs than the West End; typically only a week or so, whereas Mamma Mia has been going for 15 years, and The Mousetrap is in its 62nd year!

I'm using cut tags for length, but I've tried to keep spoilers to a minimum.

"GOD/HEAD"



Read more...Collapse )

"Ursula Martinez: My Stories, Your Emails"



Read more...Collapse )

"Knightmare Live"



Read more...Collapse )

"Oedipussy"



Read more...Collapse )

"Never Try This At Home"



Read more...Collapse )

Most of these shows have now finished (at least in London), but Never Try This At Home is still running until Sunday 27th April. Tomorrow (Sat 19th April) they have accessible performances: audio described and touch tour in the afternoon, and captioned performance in the evening. The only time I've noticed that before was when I saw Peter Pan performed in Spanish with English subtitles above the stage. I think it's a good idea, though.

I also have to mention #reachforthepie. Basically, various people who are associated with Told By An Idiot or the Soho Theatre have been recording short videos where they get a pie in the face. (These are office staff or backstage crew rather than the cast.) It has also spread to RADA, and this playlist has all the videos so far. Everyone involved is clearly having fun, so there aren't any of the uncomfortable aspects from the play. I'm also impressed that everyone is wearing normal clothing: no plastic macs or goggles.

Anyway, they've challenged other people to make their own videos (with the same theme). If you do that this weekend and send them the link on Twitter/Facebook, they'll give you 2 free tickets to watch the show. That's a very generous offer, and I recommend it to any Londoners on a tight budget who want an evening out.

Tags: , , ,
(Leave a comment)

Mar. 13th, 2014

02:31 am - Inspiration for improving my art

Every so often, people post links to motivational comics/articles. I've gathered some of my favourites, in the hope that I can apply them to my drawing. As I've mentioned before, I aspire towards creating my own comics, but I seem to spend more time talking about than actually doing it. I have a folder full of notes, varying from rough ideas to full-blown scripts, but I haven't got very far at actually drawing them, mainly because I find that a lot harder to do (well) than writing.

Read more...Collapse )

Edit: (11-Apr-2014) I just came across a very interesting article on a similar topic - How Not To Make A Graphic Novel.

Tags:
(1 comment | Leave a comment)

Navigate: (Previous 10 Entries)