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Trains and when to minimise disruption

For some years now, railway engineering works has taken place during holidays. To quote a BBC report from August 2009:

It [ATOC: the Association of Train Operating Companies] says that work is scheduled for bank holiday weekends because fewer people use the network then.

Compare this with the unions’ plans for the forthcoming rail strike (April 2010) as reported in a BBC report of March 2010:

There were fears that the strike would be called over Easter, but the unions said they deliberately avoided this in order not to disrupt the public over the bank holiday.

I wonder who’s right? I suppose it all comes down to politics: there’s something strange about the timing and apparent suddenness of this strike anyway. Disruption during holidays will affect fewer people although you’ll spoil more people’s fun; disruption during the working week will affect more people (they’re still the public even if they’re going to work) although they might arguably be more grateful to have a good excuse to have a gratis day off work, if their employer thinks that is the way to go, and can still take their children to London Zoo in between Easter eggs over the bank holiday. I fear my employer, who is generally good in these situations, might say that I have to take any working days while the strike is on as annual leave or climb on the roof of the one train running in the morning. Maybe I should go on strike for more annual leave.


One of the many reasons I don’t post on this weblog as much as I used to is that I have discovered online correspondence chess. My brother and I had always toyed with the idea of playing correspondence chess (CC) by email but never got round to it. This was a shame as the only chess I had really played was with my brother and dad at home as a child, as well as a few games against someone at university. I never really studied chess or was that good at it. I also seem to be rarely around people who want to play.

A few years ago, when the curse of Facebook had visited, I started playing on there against Simon, a friend from school who had moved to the West Country after GCSEs, who I haven’t seen since as much as I would like to have done. Online CC, as opposed to email CC, is a lot easier as you don’t have to have a board set up somewhere,  record all the moves, or bully your opponent not to take too long. We had some good games on Facebook (the chess application is, to be honest, quite good too, although I don’t use it anymore) and I got more interested in chess. Reading around, I got intrigued by the game of Shatranj, which I had vaguely heard of. Shatranj is the medieval ancestor of modern chess: it doesn’t, for instance, have queens or bishops, en passant or castling. I eventually found a few sites where you could play it and thought it worth a go.

By far the most promising was SchemingMind, mainly because it looked a calm non-profit site with no adverts or pop-ups, and friendly people, which it has proved to be. I didn’t get hooked on shatranj too much in the end, but I did get hooked on the site which includes standard chess as well as a lot of different variants. As you can probably tell, I would really recommend the site. I managed to persuade Simon to move our games there- we are now on game no. 11 on SchemingMind, not counting the games we played on Facebook- and my brother and I are also now finally playing some decent games of chess after a long hiatus. Hooray. I think it’s his move.

Let me know if you want a game…