gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
So we're going into the final stretch of The Amazing Race, and finally Meredith and Gretchen were eliminated as the racers turned back to London, checked out the London Eye, the Millennium Dome and, in the case of some teams, Sherlock Holmes. But of course one of the many hot talking points of the week was some curious gameplay by Rob and Amber. Well, actually, just Rob.
See, what happened was there is this feature called the Yield, where you could force other racing teams behind you to stop for some pre-set period of time. The Yield didn't get used before in the course of this season, and this was the last chance to use it, so obviously enough you'd expect people to do so without fear of retribution. Anyway, Rob and Amber, who were pulling ahead in this leg thanks to a smart airport play, decided to yield Ron and Kelly, who were the only other team to be on the same plane as them. Of course, unfortunately enough, Ron and Kelly seemed to have fallen behind once they actually reached London.
The contention here is this: Ron and Kelly were essentially placed second at this point, with two other teams arriving on a later flight by a couple of hours or thereabouts. And Rob and Amber know this. So why didn't they just yield Meredith and Gretchen, or at the very least, Uchenna and Joyce? Why go for Ron and Kelly? Some are arguing that you should be playing to knock someone out with this Yield. It'd seem like a dumb call for Rob in this case, which is disappointing because Rob's a fine player of the game.
My own take on this? I'm not sure if there's a better play than this, but yielding Ron and Kelly is justifiable as a good move in itself, though not necessarily in the way Rob rationalized it on television.
Why? Well, let's examine the situation. Rob and Amber were ahead, that much they knew. By how much, they probably couldn't know for sure, so Ron and Kelly might have been just a street away for all they knew, and there was a Roadblock coming - a difficult one, as it turns out, but they didn't know that. It is not entirely impossible that Rob and Amber would lose their lead, so the first priority would be to safeguard their leading position. Knowing as they did that two other teams were going to reach London on a later flight, there would be some significant lead time they could play with.
That leaves Ron and Kelly. They're the ones breathing down their neck because they took the same flight as Rob and Amber did. With that in mind, it would be important to create as much of a time gap as possible. Short-term, it gives Rob and Amber greater margin for error in the coming Roadblock - more time to try before having to worry about other teams arriving. Middle-term, with any number of assumptions about the way the Roadblock turns out, any time buffer created will make a wrong turn in getting to the Pitstop somewhat less costly. Further down the road, however - and this is something people may neglect all too easily - the greater the time difference between arrivals at the Pitstop, the greater the time difference leaving it. In the final couple of legs of the race, that extra bit of time could prove immensely useful.
So this really isn't about yielding people to knock them out. Although that's a viable enough approach in itself, it's not the only way to play the game. Rob wouldn't want to waste a Yield sinking Meredith and Gretchen, mostly because their own lack of speed will set them back as it is. Sinking Uchenna and Joyce won't do them much good if it becomes a neck-and-neck with Ron and Kelly instead. The best choice, all in all, is to try as hard as possible to make it a race for second for everyone else, so from a lead protection perspective, since this is the last chance to use the Yield, I'd probably pick Ron and Kelly myself. gambitch [
Friday, May 06, 2005
I had my hair done today. Well, that's actually exaggerating it. All I did was go to my neighbourhood Cheap 'n' Good (not actual brand) barber and get a big snip. The weather over here was getting pretty warm lately - very much a case of the heat before the seasonal storm. Nevertheless, I thought it a good idea to get my hair cut pretty short, because it makes it feel less uncomfortable when I perspire - and I do perspire quite a substantial bit when exposed to the warm and sunny outdoors. Also because it'd save me money, in terms of how long it'd be before I need my next cut.
It's not much of a secret that lots of teenagers who dropped out of the school system (including people who do poorly at their school-leaving exams) end up wielding the hairdressers' scissors, mostly for independent one-shop businesses. More recently, though, some smart kid (not really - I'll explain why another time) decided to start this hair salon chain that operates on the idea of 10-minute hairwork at a pretty flat $10. The selling point, as with all things in this fast-paced city, was essentially getting the job done in 10 minutes. Personally, partly because of a cash crunch, I'd settle for even cheaper pricing even if it took longer than 10 minutes. And because I'm not exactly good-looking (to the point where I don't want to put up a photo of myself on this blog, because it'd scare the children), I don't really care too much about hairstyles. Function over form, really. So I'm used to getting my hair done for about $8 (!), although I'd gladly settle for even cheaper work, never mind the quality. You see, the nice thing about being a guy is that it's easier to shave your head bald without worrying about how strange you'd look.
But I digress, actually. While going to get my hair done (like I said, an exaggeration, but let's let that pass), I realized that it was going to rain. And since my haircut took longer than 10 minutes - by quite a margin, I might just add - by the time I was done, the rain was already pouring in earnest. Now, I was actually going to take a bus home. I'll just digress here and explain to all those who don't know; where I live right now, there is a very excellent inner city and suburban public transport network, so we don't have to splurge much on cabs unlike in super-big cities like New York. New York, at least according to images I've seen, depends very heavily on cabs, and I don't know what the subway system is like there in terms of connectivity (although there is a subway system at least, make no mistake about that).
Digression done, so let's get back to topic. Like I was saying, I was waiting to take a bus home. Now the bus stops there are here are pretty decent in terms of design, quite spacious and sheltered from the rain. The problem, as always, is that there is a little gap between the end of the bus stop roof and the bus itself. Which means when multiple buses arrive at the same bus stop when it's raining, despite the fact that the bus bays are pretty generously-sized, only the bus parked right in front of the bus stop itself will open its doors to let people get on or off. You know, in case people didn't have their umbrellas or whatever, it would minimize the distance they'd have to cover without something over their heads.
It's not a big deal, to be sure. Rain's not the default weather occurrence, so we adjust to the inconvenience it brings when we're travelling. But at that moment I did briefly wonder how much better it might have been if the bus bay itself was sheltered, thus turning the bus stop into something more like a porch. And while the barber shop I went to was part of the suburban area I lived in, it struck me that even most of the bus stops in the inner city didn't have that kind of design.
Now, if you wanted to work out a bus stop design that would solve that kind of problem, it's not going to be particularly easy, because buses can come in single-tier or double-tier varieties - at least that's true over here. If all the buses available in a given bus network were single-tier the problem might be quite easy to deal with. Double-decker buses introduce new difficulties in terms of the bus shelter's roof height. In practice, heightening the roof will potentially cause more problems in terms of shelter from rainfall - because rain doesn't always fall perpendicularly to ground level - without having to encase the whole thing in waterproofing plastic or glass. I've seen plastic-encased bus stops in London, and they looked rather unpleasant.
So maybe the solution doesn't lie in regarding the bus stop as a stand-alone object. Integrating it into building design could be a potentially workable direction to take, at least in theory. Working the bus stop into a building's porch area might work out nicely enough. Problem is, city design doesn't operate like that. Very often individual buildings can't be bothered just where they are placed in relation to the public transport network, beyond knowing they have access to asphalt. Neither do public transport service providers think to negotiate with whoever owns those buildings so that they can build an integrated bus stop within the building's own land area.
So that's another idea that probably won't fly. Shucks. Worth a thought though, just for the fun of it. gambitch [
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
So, who's it going to be? The men in red or the boys in blue?