Anyway, I haven't actually had any lectures yet this week - they start tomorrow, but I have 6, which kind of makes up for it. 3 of them are for the networking course, which I'm not likely to take - they seem to be trying to drive people away from it, because it's been oversubscribed, and they say that you shouldn't take it if you did something similar in your undergrad course (which I did).
Interesting thing in the lab rules:
The following are forbidden in the labs:
- Eating or Drinking (food and drink must be kept in your bag)
- Playing Games or Using IRC
- Using Mobile Phones (including letting them ring unanswered)
- Making excessive noise
- Playing Games and Using IRC
Note that using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) is treated as game playing.
Hmm, do you get the impression that they disapprove of IRC? I'm not bothered by their policy, just amused that they mentioned it 3 times in the space of 6 rules...
Anyway, so far this week my only university commitment was on Wednesday, which was more registration, and tours of library/department. A bit chaotic due to the tube strike, since the person organising it couldn't get in, and the people who turned up didn't really understand what was going on. Still, got everything sorted out in the end.
Transport rant: It's 6 miles from my house (Earls Court) to the department (Strand), and it took me two hours to get in/out on Wednesday. Took the bus in, but walked back. At least I made it on time, and it wasn't as bad as the last tube strike (about 3.5 hours in each direction, and long day in between). Still, it's a ridiculous situation, and I have no sympathy with the strikers - they're not that badly paid. By contrast, UNISON were going on strike today at Kings (support staff), since they haven't had a pay rise in 11 years, and they're asking for a London weighting. I'm more sympathetic to that (although that's partly because I didn't have to go into college today). For anyone who didn't see the headlines yesterday, a tube driver currently gets 31,000 a year, and the head of the union wants to see that doubled/tripled. That salary is already ahead of lots of city jobs, and it can't be that hard to drive a tube - all you have to do is start and stop, not even steer! I'm really not impressed by Ken Livingstone backing the strike.
When the mayoral elections came up, I initially voted that we shouldn't have an elected mayor. I used to work for the Corporation of London (the local authority in the City), and it was a matter of pride that they were the only apolitical local authority in the country - essentially a meritocracy. That seems like a good idea to me. However, that (sort of) got voted out, so in the next election I voted for Ken for Mayor, breaking my usual habit of always voting LibDem. That's partly because I like the idea of independent candidates, and partly because of his pledge to improve public transport. Now, this is really very simple - if you want to improve it, and encourage people to use it, then don't support strikes that grind the entire system to a halt! As it stands, he is asking people to rely on a system that is inherently unreliable, which doesn't work.
Another example of dubious policies is this whole congestion charging. And please bear in mind that the charges don't apply to motorbikes, so I'm not speaking out of self-interest here. The way it works in Oxford is that cars are banned from the city centre, full stop - only buses (and possibly bicycles?) are allowed in. Result - no traffic jams there at all. So, if the primary goal is to reduce congestion, then that's the simplest, cheapest, and most effective way to do it. You'd still need to police it somehow, but it will be easier when you don't have to look up registration numbers in a central database. The implication is that the primary goal is something else - in this case, it seems likely that it's a fund-raising exercise. That's not entirely a bad thing, but at least be honest about it...
So, Ken has definitely lost my vote at the next election; I'll vote for whoever the LibDem candidate is. There's no way I'd ever vote Conservative after what they did to funding for higher education, and that basically applies to modern Labour too.
Anyway, back to transport. I got my motorbike back on Monday, so I took that into the Strand on Tuesday as a test-run. It took me about an hour each way, which is a bit silly. Now, that's partly because I went via Trafalgar Square on the way in, and hit the rush hour on the way out, but even so... The point is, I'm being held up by traffic, so I didn't get much chance to do 30 mph. I didn't bother using the motorbike on Wednesday, because I figured traffic would be even worse with the tube strike (which it was). Since it takes longer by motorbike than by tube (about 40 minutes), that's not a good option. So, today I got my bicycle out of storage (which means I've now been able to close up my unit, yay). I figure that cycling into college is a good alternative - it's cheaper than the tube, and I'm sure that I can average 6 mph through the traffic! In fact, it may be quicker than the motorbike, since I'll have access to bus lanes. There aren't any high speed stretches (like the 50 mph A40 that I used to use on my way to work), or big hills, so a bicycle should be fine. It's also significantly cheaper to repair/replace than a motorbike if I have an accident... It felt a bit weird to be cycling again today, and I wobbled a bit at first, but it's all come back to me now. I thought about selling the motorbike, since I don't need it anymore, but I'll hang onto it for now - there will be situations when it's useful (e.g. going out to Buckinghamshire to see Andrew and Ellie). However, the insurance expires tomorrow, so I'll hold off on renewing it for the moment.
Oh, slightly disturbing thing I saw on Monday - a pub had a sign outside, saying "Only 93 days left to Christmas!" (well, I guess that would be 90 days now). A little early to be doing a countdown, isn't it? Saw some shops selling Halloween decorations today, so that almost seems last minute by comparison (only a month early).
Meanwhile, some updates on the feline front. There are at least 4 distinct cats who hang around in our back yard, and I've now identified 3, by talking to the girl next door. Two of them belong to our neighbours, and a third (which hangs around a lot) used to belong to the people who lived here before us. Well, I say "belong", but I heard a phrase recently - "Dogs have owners, cats have staff", which I suspect is more applicable :) Anyway, apparently they didn't treat him very well, and when they moved out he ran away, so they left without him. Since I've only heard one side of this, I'm trying to reserve judgement, but it does lower my opinion of our predecessors (since I've been forwarding on their post). So far, Cruiser (odd name for a cat!) has been hanging around outside, looking in, and being fed by us and next door. However, he won't enter the house, and he always retreats whenever I put food down for him - he comes back to eat it once I've moved away. Definitely something wrong there. Hopefully he'll come to trust me in due course. In the meantime, at least it means that I don't have to feel guilty about luring other people's pets away (since we basically feed any cats that turn up) - makes sense for us to adopt this one. I don't know where he sleeps - presumably under a bush somewhere. So, next chance I get I'll buy a cat basket, and leave it outside for him to use. Then maybe move it inside later.