Design Patterns for Modern Life

Optimal strategies for a better life

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How to cross a busy road without stopping the traffic, building a bridge or digging a tunnel

We stood in the drizzle to watch a friend run in the London Marathon this afternoon.

We moved around but used the Embankment as our final viewing spot. After seeing our friend (and the rest of his team, who were dressed as a centipede for reasons that were never fully explained), we needed to get to a tube station.

One problem: we were on the river side of the Embankment and Temple Station was on the other side. Between us and the Tube station was a road with hundreds of runners passing by. How to cross? There was no easily reachable tunnel and no easily reachable bridge. Waterloo Bridge does not count due to my failure to bring rock-climbing gear.

Fortunately, the Marathon organisers had devised a very neat, and simple, trick that could be used in far more situations.

First, let's set the scene. The picture below shows our predicament. Imagine that I am the green circle. I am trying to cross from top to bottom (yes... I know.... that means the diagram is upside down. Try to put that problem out of your mind for now.)

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What the organisers did was very clever. They slowly, but assertively, drew the security line into the middle of the road, forcing the flow of runners towards one side of the road. Those pedestrians wanting to cross the road could move into the space on the road left behind:

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Then... they closed off the pedestrians' escape route by opening up a channel behind us. Thus, we were trapped on an island in the middle of the road:

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Then.... they used the same security rope trick as before to move the flow of runners to the other side of the road:

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Success! We're now on the other side of the road!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

French Wines

I realised this weekend that one of the main reasons I rarely drink French Wine is because I have little idea how a French Wine region maps to a grape, or blend of grapes.

Whilst I can buy a Merlot or a Pinot Noir or a Shiraz and know what I'll be getting, I have no such intution for French Wines.

Is this something I just have to get over by developing a parallel intuition for French Wines (an investigation that would not be entirely unpleasant) or is there a mapping table somewhere? I couldn't find one with a cursory search on Google and Wikipedia...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Design patterns for modern cooking

Putting a large dollop of wholegrain mustard in the bowl when preparing mashed potato transforms a mundane dish into a work of genius.

(I think it was my ex-flatmate, Jon, who showed me this)

Friday, April 07, 2006

The curious case of the suboptimal tube route suggestion

A few days ago, I queried why London Underground send passengers via a clearly silly route between Bank and Waterloo now that the Waterloo and City Line is suspended. Diamond Geezer has now asked a similar question. Seems I was right. Ha ha! Take that, Henry! :-)