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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
If you like this you'll LURVE One Stop Short of Barking, the fun and informative book about travelling
on the London Underground.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sense and the City: Dan Dare on the Tube

July 1st 2011 sees the launch of a new exhibition at London Transport Museum.
Sense and the City runs until 18th March 2012, and "explores how emerging technologies are changing the way we access and experience London and compares this with past visions of the future." I was lucky enough to be invited to the preview last night and knowing the readers of this blog, it will be right up your street, with a perfect mix of new and old technology, interactivity, geeky stuff and London Transport.

Dan Dare on the Tube at London Transport Museum

I loved looking at predictions in the past, for what our travel would be like now, or even in the 20th Century. Rhian Hughes, 1990's take on  space hero Dan Dare from the fifties was on display. Dan travelled in a future London, but still used the London Underground with the trains looking pretty err.. different, although the carriages still have the old knobbly ball straphangers.

Monorail over Regents Street at London Transport Museum

A monorail running over Regent Street was proposed by the GLC 44 years ago to try to ease congestion. Looks quite similar in a way to the Thames cable car plans in North Greenwich for next year. The image on the right looks like it could have come straight out of Tron, but is actually Barclay Shaw's "Train of Tomorrow" and inspired by design aspirations for the trains of the 1980s.

Robot Railroading at London Transport Museum

Above is a wonderful image of "Robot Railroading" predicting "future trains will be fully automatic - robots that can regulate their own speed and control their own movements to meet the most precise schedules". This was by visual futurist Arthur Radeburgh created 51 years ago as part of a weekly comic strip. Driverless trains already run on the DLR and recurring discussion of the prospect of having driverless trains on the Tube is quite familiar today (especially in times of Tube strikes).

Route Indicator at Heathrow Central

A press button route indicator was installed at Heathrow Central London Underground station 34 years ago. "This nifty journey planner" incorporated TV screen displays and a diagrammatic route map. Only one was ever built.

Promoting Interaction on the Tube

There's a great interactive section looking at the development of technology and its integration into the social, economic and political fabric London.

"A centre piece of the exhibition is an interactive table with eight screens that allows visitors to view a wealth of film, animations, data visualisations and images on subjects ranging from the cashless society and driverless cars to reactive buildings and augmented reality. Visitors will be invited to join in and give their views about whether the plethora of new digital information and opportunity for access is exciting, a huge worry or a total waste of time."

The exhibition was produced with in partnership with the Royal College of Art and students from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London have also contributed their ideas for data visualisation and how technology could change how we communicate while on the move.

I liked the idea of "The Window" (pictured above) where the "obtrusive presence of CCTV surveillance" on the Tube, is transformed into an "interactive action" allowing commuters to communicate above and below ground.

Sinclair C5  at London Transport Museum

Getting this close to a Sinclair C5 is worth the price of entry alone.

My full set of photos from Sense and the City is here. Also IanVisits and Martin from Mayorwatch were at the preview and I'm sure will be posting about it soon.

Entry to the London Transport Museum is: Adults £13:50; Concessions* £10.  All individual tickets purchased after 20 October 2010 now allow unlimited admission to the museum for a 12 month period from date of purchase.  More details and opening hours are here.  Make the most of your ticket, I'll certainly be back for a few more views of the wonders on display at Sense and the City.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, June 30, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to create a Topographically Reasonable Tube Map

A guest post by London Underground map expert
Max Roberts:

The topographical distortions of the London Underground map got into the news again a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Metro and the Daily Mail. The headlines distorted the story even more than the map distorts reality. We were warned that 30% of journeys were inefficiently planned, but that’s false. 30% of carefully selected special journeys trick people (a minority of people even then), most journeys on the Underground map are planned just fine.

Transforming the Tube Map in Photoshop by Maxwell Roberts

Even so, the geography brigade are back in action. So, should the Tube map be topographically accurate?

If designing a topographically accurate map was easy, and the result looked nice, then we would have one. This alone should make people pause for thought. The London Underground is so dense in Central London, and so far-flung out into the suburbs that a scale map would be absurd. Even with the extremities of the Central and Metropolitan Lines cut off, it would need to around 1m by 1m, and even then the centre would be unreadable.

What alternatives are there? We can distort the map, squashing the suburbs in a bit, which is exactly what Henry Beck did. The problem is that if such a map is going to be informative, this has to be done properly. Everything has to be scaled and squashed correctly.

Rather than leaving the designer to work out how to squash everything accurately, we can try a mathematical transform using Photoshop. First, get your topographical map.

Now have a play with the "Pinch Distortion" filter (try the sphere distortion too, but the results are too freaky for our purposes). Set this to around -60% (see the image above), and you have a good enlarged centre, with recognisable suburbs. Where you centre the map makes a difference, but around Tottenham Court Road/Oxford Circus is a good choice.

12 degree tilt Tube Map by Maxwell Roberts

Now, some people think that straight lines are special when designing network maps (especially 45-degree ones) so we can’t possibly stop with this messy version. Note though, London’s slight tilt. This will make the Central Line look like a flight of stairs, so 12-degrees of rotation clockwise (see above) will put this right.

Now we can create our Beck-rules schema. Bingo.

GeoCombined by Maxwell Roberts

This map is not topographically correct, but it is the best you can get with reasonable size. I call this sort of design "spatially informative", look at any small section of the map, and all the stations are roughly in the right place and the correct distance from each other, but because the scale expands steadily going outwards, some care is needed. Watford to Watford Junction is not as walkable as Temple to Holborn.

GeoSchema by Maxwell Roberts

Even so, I’ve still needed many compromises to schematise the transformed map (look at the Wimbledon branch of the District Line). An absolutely true schematic would have looked even worse, more zig-zags than the Paris Metro map.

Now we have a map that will stop people going from Paddington to Bond Street via Notting Hill, but it’s not a very nice design, with too many corners. The chaotic reality of the London Underground doesn’t translate directly into Beck’s rules very well. I would argue that the benefits of this map (no more errors for one or two rogue journeys) are outweighed by the costs (it looks ghastly, and it will be harder to use than a well-designed non-topographical map).

The whole point about a schematic map is it takes the complexities of reality and turns them into simple straight lines. Taking the curves of reality and turning them into a pile of zigzags simplifies nothing, the shape of the complexity has merely been changed. But I’ve never wanted to force a one-size fits all map on everyone. If anyone wants to use this map, I’m not going to stop them.

People who have been to my exhibitions will know that I argue that different map design rules suit different networks. 45-degree diagonals are adequate for London, but 60-degree ones might be better. It might be that a different set of angles will tame this map, but caution is required. Use too many angles on a map, thoughtlessly apply them, and there is a risk that it’s visual coherence will break down, and something really frightening could result.

GeoCurvy Tube Map by Maxwell Roberts

I did have a go at a spatially informative all-curves map, trying to tame the ferociousness of the straight-line version, and focusing on key locations rather than slavishly following topography everywhere.

Curvy Tube Map 2 by Maxwell Roberts

It’s not my favourite, and needs some more work. Curvy Tube map looks far nicer, even though it is not so topographically accurate, and it will still discourage people from going from Notting Hill to Bond Street via Notting Hill, which is where we came in.

Thanks Max for a great post - the full version of Max's thoughts on How to Design a Topographically Reasonable Underground Map can be seen here on pdf.

Related Posts
Curvy Tube Map Re-visited
Alternative Tube Maps on Display
Has the London Underground Map Lost its way?

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do Not try to Smoke on the Tube

Nasty cautionary tale for people trying to have a sly smoke on the London Underground.

No Smoking!! by Southern_Comfort

A Tube passenger was decapitated when he fell while standing between two carriages trying to have a cigarette. He opened an emergency door on a Metropolitan Line train at 1.30am on Saturday and stepped out to light up in the gap between his carriage and an adjoining one.

He fell onto the line and was dragged by the train travelling at 80km/h and his head was severed from his body.

A Tube worker who was on the train said: "A passenger was smoking between the carriages. He slipped and fell on to the tracks while the train was moving at 50mph. He was decapitated. This shows just how dangerous messing around between the carriages is.

"If this guy had waited ten minutes he'd still have been with us now

From the report in MSN's news, BTP (British Transport Police) believe his death was an accident and are not treating it as suspicious.

I am so not walking between carriages any more. It's interesting that this is actually illegal on the subway in Chicago. (Update: Heard from BTP that it's breaking a bye-law here too "Byelaw 10, part 3, states, "No person shall open a train door, or enter or leave any train, while it is in motion or between stations.")  Be careful and don't take risks to try to save time or flout safety rules.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Glastonbury Underground Station?

Great spot of the London Underground roundel at Glastonbury by railway & transport map expert,
Mark Ovenden. So good it deserves a roundels not on the Tube post of its own.

Glastonbury Underground Station by Mark Ovenden

Mark said of the Udder-ground roundel: "Point of interest: Glastonbury had a railway station up until Beeching Cuts when the line connecting it to Shepton Mallet was closed. Local shoe industry (Clarks?) used it to freight goods to Bristol docks for export.

The old track bed runs right through the middle of the Glasto site & was used 24 hrs a day by festival goers to schlep between different areas if the site (ironically probably 'carrying' more people per day than the time when it closed as a railway!)

The Moo station bin was situated within site if the old line - possibly without the painter of this amusing pastiche graffiti even knowing of the rail connection just metres away!

Related Posts
Roundels Not on the London Underground
Railway Maps of the World - Guest Post by Mark Ovenden

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Should TfL allow rebranded Tube Stations?

Although Google Maps thinks that
South Ken Tube station is already sponsored by Carluccios, it would appear that TfL aren't exactly keen on having London Underground station names taken over by brands.

TfL were in discussions with a wine brand, Oxford Landing, who wanted to re-name Oxford Circus Tube and run a whole lot of "ambient" branding inside the station turning it into "a virtual vineyard".

Oxford Landing offered TfL a rather large amount of money in order to do this for a three month period over the summer however, TfL knocked back the idea. But, they did offer to allow the project for a fee described as 'unworkable' by Oxford Landing.

"We were offering a shed-load of money but the number they came back with was 20 times the amount," said Negociants' (the wine's UK distributor) managing director Simon Thorpe. "We were going to invest significantly in the network and thought the funds would be a welcome boost."

The powers that be at TfL admitted informal discussions took place over Oxford Landing's plans, but told The Grocer it does not allow companies to rebrand stations.

"Does not allow companies to rebrand stations". Really?  Mmm this is very weird.  What happened to the statement back in 2008 where TfL announced they were lifting a ban on Tube station sponsorship? I've seen tons of branded station take-overs (in fact there's a section on Station domination on Transport Media's website - "Available in several stations across the network. The brand owns the station with opportunity for a branding exercise. £70,000"  h/t IanVisits)  - so I think the definition of "rebrand" is negotiable.

If companies are not allowed to rebrand stations, why did TfL even have discussions with them in the first place? Why then come back with the classic negotiation tactic of deliberately offering a sky-figure that you know won't be accepted?  We know that TfL usually get worked up about Tube Map Mashups because of intellectual property & customer confusion issues - can you imagine how confusing it might be for tourists to see Oxford Landing station?

You might remember there was a bit of a PR problem for Boris last year, when many people, including MPs and London Assembly members, were offended by online loan company Wonga sponsoring free Tube travel on New Year's Eve.

Which leads to the following questions: Is it right for TfL to not allow rebrands of Tube stations or should they be welcoming additional funds and investment from marketers? Would you welcome more ads if it meant that fares weren't increased every year or there was an improvement to the service?  Does it, or should it, depend on the advertiser?

Admittedly TfL have a duty of care to protect vulnerable or young commuters from seeing ads that could cause offence or be upsetting. This wasn't the case with Oxford Landing, but we have seen TfL take sometimes surprisingly puritanical attitude with their position over what ads on the Tube are acceptable (and have taken a number of U-turns & re-working on their initial decisions - see the related posts below).

Let us have your thoughts in the comments.  Thanks.

Related Posts
Nip / Tuck ad now unsexy enough for the Tube
Venus is now allowed to be nude on the Tube
Tube wants bigger buns on Calendar Girls

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, June 26, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finding Love with the Tube's help

Would you post the picture below on dating site? You probably would if you love music and the London Underground.

Sometimes I play guitar

His profile said "Sometimes I play guitar." What a hero.  I love this. I love how he went to the trouble of finding an empty part of the Tube carriage. I also bet people at the other end, didn't even react to his great pose. Unless they thought he was an unofficial busker.

Hat tip to @KatyBeale who created the very wonderful Things People Post on Dating Sites. There are some classics in there (this one's amazing), perfect for Friday laughs! (WARNING - Some may not be safe for the office if your office doesn't like you looking at large cleavages).

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; Posted by annie mole Friday, June 24, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Piccadilly Line Song by Carry On Star Jim Dale

Just when I think nothing else can surprise me about the Tube, someone comes up with a wonderful gem.
Gravyphig a member of the London Tube group on Flickr, resurrected an old discussion about "Best Song of the Underground?"

He found that Jim Dale (yes him out of the Carry On films) had recorded a rock and roll song in the 1950's as an ode to the Piccadilly Line. It rocks! From the rumbling of the Tube pulling in. To the lyrics. A man is asked to show his tickets going through the gate & sings: "I got a season, I got a season, oh yes,  a season". He's let through and our hero gets on the escalator, turns round and shouts back: "I fooled you, I fooled you, I got a four'penny, I've got a four'penny, oh yes, I got a four'penny".

I particularly love other gems like: "I may be right, I may be wrong but a trip on the bus takes far too long." and "If I could travel that line for free I'd be on that train for eternity".

Now the oldies amongst you (sadly that includes me) might think that this song sounds familiar.

I racked my brains and realised it's almost a carbon copy of skiffle star Lonnie Donegan's more famous "Rock Island Line" about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.

But well done Jim for putting the London Underground and the Piccadilly Line on the rock and roll map.

If you have a favourite London Underground song - let us know in the comments.

Related Posts
Northern Line song by Schmoof
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What's your favourite London Underground Song?
Carry On Up Your Tubes

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, June 23, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guess Where Tube 2

Do you know which London Underground Station is in the photo below and where it was taken from?

As many of you seemed to like the last post on "
Guess Where Tube", I thought I'd do another. So below is a recent photo from the London Tube group on Flickr, which I'm an admin for, which hasn't been tagged with anything that could potentially give the game away! Once again, I'm certain I know where it is, do you?

LDNBW Arrival by Mondayne

If you know the London Underground reasonably well, there's enough clues to work it out.  Try not to look at the comments or the Tube map before guessing!

If I find other good un-tagged photos in the group, I'll keep this up and will try to find ones with fewer clues (but hopefully not so few as to make it impossible to guess)!

You might also like
Guess Where Tube 1
Guess Where Tube Quiz
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; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Walking the London Underground, Overground

Writer, Mark Mason, set himself the challenge of walking the entire length of the London Underground – overground – passing every Tube station on the way. His efforts are the subject of a new book "
Walk the Lines" which is published this July. All together the 11 lines total 291 miles (although 403 miles were actually walked), which if you added all of his walking time together took 174 hours, 50 minutes or 1 week 6 hours and 50 minutes. I had to ask him why?

Walk the Lines - Photo by @SliviaCrompton

How did you plan your route?
With the help of travel book shop Stanfords, they put together a 9 sheet map, the equivalent of the A-Z with all of the pages stuck together. Wikipedia was really useful to see the geography of each individual Tube line. For example I could see that the Northern Line is in effect a figure eight with a line coming out of the bottom.

You weren't walking the whole 291 miles continually, so how long did the walk take?
I started last July with the Victoria Line and finished with the Metropolitan Line just a few days before Christmas. I did a walk every other week. The Victoria Line took 8 hours in an afternoon. The sixty miles of the Piccadilly Line took two days. The first thirty-five miles of the Central Line took a day, and I was limping at the end of that. Which was a pity, as I had the other twenty-seven miles of it to do the next day. The worst was the Metropolitan Line which took 3 days to complete. The last of the 71 miles were completed in the snow.

Did you ever feel like giving up?
No. I'm afraid that's good old-fashioned male obsessiveness for you – once I’d started I had to finish. Seriously, I agree with the quote that "It's better to travel than to arrive" and I found myself getting a strange kind of rush and enjoyment from the walks. Anything up to 30 miles makes you feel really good. Walking the Hammersmith and City Line and reaching Barking, the feeling of euphoria was amazing (who’d ever have thought that could happen in Barking?) . However, I found that anything over 30 miles starts to zap you. The end of the Piccadilly Line wasn't great.

What was the most surprising thing you learnt doing this?
I was amazed at how much I was walking in and out of the countryside. On the Essex bit of the Central Line, for instance, there’s a whole chunk of farmland just off the A12 that you never get to see from the road. People outside of London think it’s full of arrogant and elitist people who don’t care about anywhere else. However the walk made me consider how much the capital is tied to the rest of the country. Most people I know who live in London are originally from somewhere else, and have strong family ties back in those places.

I also discovered lovely little things, like the story of the 18th Century beggar who drew on the mile long boundary wall of Kew Gardens at Kew Road. It was an artistic equivalent of busking – he drew outlines of every ship in the Navy Fleet.

Also many of my perceptions of places on the outskirts of London were challenged. Walking whole lines you go from glamorous to not very glamorous. I thought that Arnos Grove sounded like the worst place on the planet, but it was actually very nice.

I also discovered the origins of the Russian word for station - Вокзал. In 1840 the Russians sent a delegation to London to see how railways work. They were shown Vauxhall station and thought that Vauxhall or rather Vokzal (Вокзал) was the generic word for station.

You met the shouty man who was the voice of "Mind the Gap" on your travels. How did that happen?
That was Tim Bentinck who played David Archer in The Archers. He'd been in touch with me before about one of my other books and as he lived on the Piccadilly Line, I thought I'd try to meet up. When he went to do the recording, he had no idea it was going to be for the Tube until he got to the studio. He was paid a flat fee of £200, despite the fact that his voice went on to be heard countless times.

People have problems pronouncing Holborn, and his friends always said that he didn't know how to pronounce it. But this was simply because he was asked to put the tiniest hint of an L in the middle.

Russell Square was one of the last remaining stations to use his voice and his wife works near there. She always said "Thank you darling", when she heard him say "Mind the Gap"

Finally, I often get asked this in interviews, what's your favourite Tube station?

Barons Court Tube ticket hall

Barons Court. It's very similar to the beautiful oxblood red stations designed by Leslie Green and Stanley Heap (such as Hampstead and Covent Garden). However it's actually slightly paler and different as it was designed by Harry Ford. Sadly, unless you live there, most people don't go out to see the outside and it's often overlooked.

Barons Court

I'd like to thank Mark for the interview and look forward to reading Walk the Lines when it comes out on July 14th.

Related Posts
400 mile Tube Challenge
Walkers Tube Map
Tube vs Foot - Who will win?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Next planned Tube Strike 27th June 2011

Update 23rd June - The Tube strikes planned for next week are off.  A small statement on the RMT's website
says: "Following yesterday's employment tribunal ruling that RMT Tube driver Arwyn Thomas was unfairly dismissed he has today been re-instated with a lesser punishment. The Tube strikes planned for next week are now off. More details to follow".

Here's the my previous thoughts on what might have happened if next week's strikes took place:

So as commuters looks like we got off lightly with the last industrial action on the London Underground. It ran from 9pm on Sunday 19th June - 3am Monday 20th June. As TfL said, there appeared to be "very little impact" on the service and even early morning trains on Monday ran to schedule. We may not be so lucky if the next Tube strike goes ahead on Monday 27th June at 9pm, which is planned to last until 11.59am on Tuesday 28th June.

Bob Crow's Face

It's hard to see how Tube strike running during the day on a weekday can't have an impact. However, much depends on how many London Underground drivers decide to break the strike and go into work.  Remember too, that many London Underground drivers belong to ASLEF and not the RMT.

The current battle of words is between the RMT and London Underground over rumours that the RMT are "willing to offer a financial incentive to any employee who is prepared to participate in industrial action". The RMT categorically deny that this is the case and said "RMT wishes to be clear that no financial incentive will be offered to any individual who is not a member of RMT, pursuant to the current trade dispute with London Underground, over its refusal to reinstate Arwyn Thomas."

That's slightly cryptic though and made me wonder whether they are paying RMT members to go on strike. But that's probably just me being suspicious.

There's still a possibility that next Monday's strike will be called off. As union leader Bob Crow makes the usual claims that he's willing to talk. He said this before the last strike:

"This trade union would not be worth its salt if we didn't stand up and fight injustice and Arwyn Thomas's case is probably the clearest cut case of victimisation on the grounds of union activities that you will ever see. The chair of the interim tribunal found exactly that when LU were invited to adjourn for fifteen minutes and re-employ - it is a tragedy for Londoner's (sic) and for industrial relations on the Tube that they blew that opportunity.

"However, it's not too late to make amends and rather than plunging London into a series of tube-wide actions starting Sunday night there is still time to put right this wrong and we remain available for talks aimed at achieving a just outcome in this case.

Bear in mind that last minute talks failed before the last strike. Perhaps Andy Murray's plea to not let the strikes upset Wimbledon will make a difference, but somehow I doubt it.

As usual, watch this space for updates.

Update 23rd June - The Tube strikes planned for next week are off.  A small statement on the RMT's website says: "Following yesterday's employment tribunal ruling that RMT Tube driver Arwyn Thomas was unfairly dismissed he has today been re-instated with a lesser punishment. The Tube strikes planned for next week are now off. More details to follow".

Related Posts
Tube Strike dates announced for June & July 2011
Tube Strikes planned for May and June 2011

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, June 19, 2011

London in the Rain - Interesting 2011

The view of Holborn London Underground station on Saturday 18th June at lunchtime. Grim isn't it?

Wet Holborn Tube - Interesting 2011

People sheltered just inside the Tube station waiting for the heavy downpour to stop. Meanwhile, I was sitting in Japanese cafe across the road, having had a fun morning at Interesting 2011 and wondering what delights awaited me when I went back for the rest of the afternoon.

Interesting is one of my favourite events in London, and this year we were promised "less yammering and more hammering". We got this in shedloads. Rather than the previous format of  just listening to fascinating people for the day (which in my book would have been interesting enough on a wet Saturday afternoon), all 200 of us had do stuff.

Making Notebooks - Interesting 2011

Stuff included putting together notebooks in an effort to make a World Record for creating handmade notebooks.  Many thanks to Stanley James Press for that.

Further stuff included playing with theremins after a hypnotic demonstration of the musical technique by Sarah Angliss and Hugo a ventriloquist's puppet "rescued from the attic of a dead magician."

Hugo and Sarah - Interesting 2011

Just before lunch we had an hour of "cookery" with Chris Heathcote:

Cooking Rules - Interesting 2011

This included making tomato caviar and working out whether we were "super-tasters".

Making Tomato Caviar - Interesting 2011

Plus challenging our senses with noisy food and things that made sour food taste sweet.  This has given me a few extra ideas for bloggers' cook-off Nom Nom Nom 2011 - which I'm helping to organise again.  If you'd like to enter - please do.

Preparing Mousetraps - Interesting 2011

After lunch was the highlight of the day for me (and in a day with many excellent highlights that's an achievement). We set up hundreds of mousetraps and loaded them with ping pong balls in an effort to "explain how a nuclear bomb works". I can safely say I have never set up so many mousetraps in my life and luckily my fingers survived well enough to be typing this.

Setting off mousetraps - Interesting 2011

Mr Reid aka Alby - the man behind this experiment - you rock. I wish my physics teacher at school had been like you.

Prototyping - Interesting 2011

Finally, we took part in some prototyping using cardboard boxes and loads of thought provoking stickers - thanks to Stuart Bannocks. What initially sounded too much like real work for a weekend, turned out to be great fun.

Garden-in-a-box - Interesting 2011

Somehow I managed to prototype a "Garden in a box" device, which would take data from bar codes / QR codes on items bought, about to be thrown away or recycled. You would then input this into the web enabled device to somehow create energy to make things grow. Please don't ask how.

There were many other interesting things thrown into the day - check out #interesting2011 on Twitter to see what everyone else got up to.  More of my pictures from Interesting 2011 are here.

Hugo & Russell - Interesting 2011

Russell Davies the man who puts Interesting together truly lived up the promise of "less yammering and more hammering" and helped turn a wet Saturday in June into a wonderful day.

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; Posted by annie mole Sunday, June 19, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Perfect day for my Moquette Umbrella

It's the middle of June and there's torrential rain in London. Looks like a good day to get out my
London Undercover umbrella.

London Undercover Umbrella

When I first used it, it turned inside-out in the wind. Wonderful for letting everyone see the moquette design and I wondered whether it had broken. But it is made of really sturdy stuff and quickly turned back into the correct direction

Sadly it's currently out of stock.  But in case anyone thought TfL were about to sue them for using the moquette design the  "Commuter" umbrella was produced in collaboration between fashion brand London Undercover & Transport for London.  (more details from my post here)

Someone not so lucky with their umbrella on the train today was spotted by @Rodwellian

Umbrella stuck in train doors by @Rodwellian

Surprised it's something we don't see more often on the Tube. Thanks Lisa!

Any other London Underground / train / umbrella battles or stories are welcome in the comments. Hope you don't all get too dripped on today and survive the distinct commuter smell of damp/ wet clothing.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, June 16, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guess Where Tube

Do you know which London Underground Station is in the photo below?

As admin for the
London Tube group on Flickr, I see some amazing shots of the Tube. Most recently, it led me to find the Big Issue Cat at Angel Tube, the Caledonian Road Tube artist and some cute dogs on the Tube.

I loved the shot of this Underground train, going overground. Many contributors tag or label their photos, but this hasn't been. However, I'm pretty certain I know where this is. Do you?

Underground by michaelbaynes87

There's no prizes for guessing correctly, just the satisfaction of knowing you're right.

I'll try to make this a regular feature, if I find other good un-tagged photos in the group.

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; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, June 14, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, June 13, 2011

Larry Goes Lunderground Podcast

If you have a spare 10 minutes or so, you might like this podcast, put together by a class of autistic children and their teacher.
Larry Goes Lunderground is a Gaiman-esque fantasy of what happens when a person is "sneezed into the London Underground map".

Larry goes Lunderground

The podcast was invented and performed by students from the Tydeman Centre for speech, language and autism at . Jonathan Beevis one of the students who performed in the play said: "Being in Unit Radio is like a little job for me. It gives me a chance to sound off my voice to an audience. The best thing I enjoy is doing the recordings and the comments of comedy. It's fun and I like working with the other co-stars. It makes me feel more popular, more confident and makes me feel good."

Thanks to Giles Whitehead, the teacher who leads the project, for sending this in.  You can find out more about the project and listen to other podcasts at Unit Radio.

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; Posted by annie mole Monday, June 13, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Try Googling it - Weird searches that found my blog

I rarely do these "How people found my blog" posts. However, last night, I was laughing like a drain at the following search query:

How to turn a magic wand into an oyster card"

Yay, this blog was the second result for that! It's like something from Harry Potter. Perhaps the students at Hogwarts are a bit strapped for cash and are desperately looking for cheap ways to get into London. Thinking further about this, if you had a magic wand, wouldn't you be able to use it to turn itself into an Oyster card anyway?

Now, those looking for how to turn an Oyster Card into a magic wand - you're in luck

Sadly there are no pictures of "fluffy dressing gown kerry katona" - although hopefully the picture of Kara Tointon in a silky dressing gown on the Tube, was enough for this person.

Glad someone is showing concern for our former mayor "flu london bridge ken livingstone" brought them to the blog.  No idea how that happened.

Those looking for advice on "hiring a Stormtrooper for the day", will be out of luck, but can see a video of Stormtroopers on New York's subway instead.

Word of warning. Don't look up "scared whipping tube" on Google.it - it brings up some really unsavoury results and this blog.

Finally, to the person looking for "older woman looking wanting (you can guess what goes here) in Earls Court", glad you made it to the 37th entry of Google's search results to find this blog. I'm sure it didn't help you, but top marks for persistence.

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, June 12, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, June 10, 2011

South Ken Tube Sponsored? Google Maps on Public Transport

So is the often talked about
sponsorship of London Underground station names really taking place? A look on Google Maps for South Kensington Tube, brings you to a station called Carluccios.  Never knew the restaurant chain was doing so well it could sponsor a Tube station. Surely Subway would have been first in?  Although that could be a tad confusing for people who call Tube stations subway stations!

Carluccios station?

Actually it's just Google Maps up to its old tricks of coming up with weird names for London stations. It would have to go some way before Google Maps' map of the Tube looked anything like the spoof sponsorship or commercial Tube map though.

Detail from spoof commercial Tube map

While discovering Carluccios station,  Jo Stimpson said, "Another Google Maps blip is that Southwark station's name comes up as a word in Japanese -- as far as I can tell, the word mixes the hiragana and katakana alphabets together so is probably nonsense -- but if you zoom out far enough and hover over the Southwark station roundel the label comes up as something in Cyrillic".

Southwark Tube according to Google Maps

So it does!

White City Tube appears to suffer from an identity crisis or split personality with Google Maps identifying it as both White City and White Stadt.

White Stadt grabbed by Tom Insam

If you've seen any other instances of Tube stations appearing strangely on Google Maps (or not appearing at all - Camden Town is missing) or any explanation as to why any of the above might have happened, please let us know.

Thanks to Jo for her spots, Martin Deutsch who also spotted Southwark and Tom Insam for the grab of White Stadt.

Live Transit Updates in Google Maps

By the way, if you're in Madrid, Turin, Boston, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, and San Francisco, Google Maps, appears to offer a more useful service for public transport travellers. The service already tells them when public transit is scheduled to arrive at a location, but now Google has incorporated real-time data to tell people when that late bus or subway car actually will arrive. It even throws in service alerts.

Infrastructurist said: "the key to such a service is whether it's available before you ever enter the station — once you’ve swiped onto the subway platform it's too late to choose an alternative travel mode — and right now Google provides the arrival times on its Maps site and also its Android app."

Video from Google's blog post on this.

Come on Google Maps, stop messing around with our Tube station names and include London on this too. Surely there's enough data available from TfL to work this out, or at least something more than the basic info on Tube stations that's currently there.

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; Posted by annie mole Friday, June 10, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Tube Strike Dates Announced for June and July

Update: 23rd June 2011:
The Tube strikes for next week have been called off.

Update: 21st June 2011: The next Tube strike is planned for Monday 27th June starting at 9pm.

Update: 20th June 2011: The Tube strike is on but as TfL said on their site, there seems to be "very little impact" on the service.  Judging by Twitter, people appeared to be getting around OK on the evening of 19th June when the strike started at 9pm.  It finishes at 3am Monday 20th June, so you might experience some residual delays & peculiarities of London Underground trains being in the wrong places, when the service starts again at around 5am today.

Update: 17th June 2011: Sunday / Monday's strike is still on but TfL expect "very little impact" on passengers.  On their site today they said: "The strike action is due to begin at 21:00 on Sunday and run until 03:00 on Monday. A near normal service is anticipated on both days and passengers are advised to continue to make their journeys on Sunday evening and Monday morning as usual."

Update: 15th June 2011: Talks between RMT and London Underground broke down, which doesn't leave a lot of time for more negotiations before the next planned strike date of Sunday 19th June.

RMT driver members are planning more days of strike action starting from the evening of 19th June 2011 in the continued row over the sacking of two London Underground drivers. You may remember that one of the sacked drivers Eamonn Lynch won his claim of unfair dismissal. Bob Crow demanded an immediate meeting with TfL and also the reinstatement of the other sacked driver, Arwyn Thomas, who worked on the Bakerloo Line.

6 Days of Tube Strikes on the Way for May June 2011

Bob Crow told the BBC: "RMT has made every possible effort to get Arwyn Thomas back to work and it is the intransigence of LU management who have dragged their heels and failed to reach agreement over the past month, that has left us with no choice to put this strike action on."

The drivers' strikes are currently planned for to take place from 21.01 hours on Sunday 19th June 2011 until 03.00 hours on Monday 20th June 2011. Further strikes dates planned are on RMT London Calling's site and are from 9pm Monday 27th June 2011, 12 noon Wednesday 29th June 2011 and 12 noon Friday 1st July 2011.

At time of writing, there is no statement about the proposed strikes on TfL's site. However a spokesman for TfL told the BBC: "It is completely mystifying that, having agreed with London Underground that the tribunal process should take its course, the RMT leadership is now threatening strike action again.

"We committed in good faith to legal discussions ahead of Mr Thomas' tribunal. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached

Talks are continuing, so there is a chance the strikes may get called off as they were last time.

Update: 15th June 2011: Talks between RMT and London Underground broke down, which doesn't leave a lot of time for more negotiations before the next planned strike date of Sunday 19th June.

Update: 20th June 2011: The Tube strike is on but as TfL said on their site, there seems to be "very little impact" on the service.  Judging by Twitter, people appeared to be getting around OK on the evening of 19th June when the strike started at 9pm.  It finishes at 3am Monday, so you might experience some residual delays & peculiarities of London Underground trains being in the wrong places, when the service starts again at around 5am.

Update: 23rd June 2011: The Tube strikes for next week have been called off

Related Post
Tube Strikes Planned for May and June

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, June 09, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mice on the Tube

It's really hard to take pictures of mice on the London Underground as the little blighters move so quickly. I think this is the best, that I've managed recently, of mice spotted at Oxford Circus.

Tube Mice

Apparently, the best places to spot mice running around the tracks of the underground are Waterloo station (northbound on the Bakerloo line) and any platform at Oxford Circus. I'm not at all sure why this is. There certainly seem to be a lot at Oxford Circus. Anthea Turner even had that Tube station as the home for the Tube mice in her children's book series. Yes - that Anthea Turner!

Many years ago when she wasn't showing Vanessa Feltz how to change duvet covers on Celebrity Big Brother, Anthea and her sister Wendy wrote a series of children's books about mice living on the London Underground called "Underneath the Underground".

Detail from Underneath the Underground

Underneath the Underground: Further Tales is the 2nd book of a the series. Obviously these aren't the dirty mice, we know and er.... hate, but little cartoon characters who wear nice clothes and have names like Nancy, Neil and Nigel.

Underneath the Underground by Anthea & Wendy Turner

The series is dedicated to The Humane Research Trust, a registered charity which raises funds to develop alternative methrods to the use of animals in medical research. So you can buy these books and feel you're doing your bit for charity too!

Apparently, an estimated half a million mice live in the London Underground system so your chances of seeing them should be pretty high.

Coincidentally the same day that I took the mice picture, I saw a guy reading Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere on the Tube. That's quite common, as it's a great book and should be required reading for Tube commuters.
Reading Neverwhere on the Tube
But I thought it was funny I saw him reading a book which features King Rats on the Underground (one's even on the cover of the book), just after I'd seen some of their mini cousins!

Here's a lovely short animated film about Tube mice from a guest who commented below.

Keep those Tube mice sightings coming in. Thanks.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, June 08, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, June 06, 2011

Clapham North enters Tube Station Message Board Wars

Another London Underground station entering the battle to have the best whiteboards. This time it's Clapham North Tube with two spottings last week:

Clapham North Tube by Vaughan Evans

This was spotted by @VaughanEvans

Then Mags Halliday noticed a picture that LoopZilla had added to the Guess Where London? Flickr pool.

Voltaire  by LoopZilla

There's a clear philosophical theme here and it will be interesting to see if it continues.

Old Street Tube seem to have given up already (well they had last week).

Oval Station Thought Of The Day by flashboy

If you spot any other Tube stations joining in, please let me know. Also does anyone know whether Oval Tube (who had Thoughts of the Day years ago) are still errr ... thinking?

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; Posted by annie mole Monday, June 06, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, June 03, 2011

Old Street Tube Flooding Leads to Limerick

Leaving work late last night, I was on autopilot going home and walking down the subway towards Old Street London Underground, a number of people passed me in the opposite direction tutting. "There's no Tube". Oh no, why? "The station's flooded". Great, just what I needed!

Old Street Tube Flooding

Arriving at the gates of the station, there was a gated barrier and none of the usual Hoxton crowd making their way off to various clubs. A couple of police men were standing inside. Rather than walking around with sniffer dogs, a common sight at Old Street Tube at that time of night, they were looking bored.

I just wanted get home and didn't pay attention to the whiteboard messages of various exits with arrows. I was tired and didn't want to walk to another station. Getting the first bus going west seemed the best option & then changing onto a train that wouldn't be making its way through water.

Waiting at the bus stop, I gave a moany Tweet. "Old Street Tube closed due to flooding Please insert pun/joke etc to keep me amused while I wait for buses :( ".

After ten minutes a bus came along which I took to Clerkenwell and walked to Farringdon Tube. I saw that a Metropolitan Line train had just pulled in and legged it downstairs. I was hoping to catch it to King's Cross. Many other people must have had the same idea. The train was absolutely packed. Even if I'd wanted to, there was no way I could squeeze myself on, and so I thought "Oh only another couple of minutes, I'll wait for the next one".

Taking advantage of the some mobile phone signal at Farringdon, I checked Twitter to see if there'd been any puns/jokes etc. It was 9pm by now. People were probably too busy watching The Apprentice or BGT to see my moany tweet.

So it was with some delight to see that @ProactivePaul had Tweeted a limerick for me over five Tweets. It brought a big smile to my face. The first of many, after what I expected to be a tiresome journey home.

Then, a wonderful shiny new train pulled into Farringdon station. It was one of the new air conditioned Metropolitan Line Tubes, with a long walk-through carriage. I'd never been in one before, so started snapping away once inside.

New Air Conditioned Metropolitan Line Train

Still taking advantage of the mobile connection, I squeezed out a quick thank you Tweet to Paul.

Back into auto-pilot at King's Cross, I automatically turned right heading towards the shortest route to the Piccadilly Line interchange. I was faced with yet another sign. For some reason or other that route was closed and we were pointed in the opposite direction, taking us out of the barriers and with the prospect of "touching out". Here was yet another sign:

Free Interchange

I loved how I was being asked to "PLEASE READ" this one. The Tube gods knew that I clearly hadn't read any of the other handwritten signs I'd seen so far. Furthermore, I WOULD NOT be charged twice. I MUST TOUCH OUT with Oyster.

I giggled when going through, as all this touching in and out is lost on me as I don't have Pay As You Go. I have  an annual pass, so the world (or rather Zones 1-3) is my Oyster. But I'm sure those who were worried about being double charged, would have been pleased to see the slightly passive aggressive sign.

Finally, I was nearly on my last leg of my journey. I changed trains as normal at Hammersmith to get the District Line & checked Twitter. @GrahamMoore had Tweeted "flooding? Well at least the place might look cleaner tomorrow. ha ha not my commute anymore!".

I also saw that @ProactivePaul had very kindly put his limerick together in one image "the spontaneous limerick for @anniemole put into context and arranged so that it's easy to read".

So here it is. The limerick for the flooding of Old Street Tube.  Thanks again to Proactive Paul.

Spontaneous Limerick by ProactivePaul

First time I've ever had a limerick written about me and the first time I travelled on the new airconditioned trains. Perhaps Old Street Tube ought to flood more often. Seriously Tube gods don't listen to that, I prefer my Tube journeys dry.

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; Posted by annie mole Friday, June 03, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE