Nothing lasts forever

Last night’s gig by Guns N’ Roses marked the end of an era.

It was a great gig; the band was tight and everyone pulled out all stops to give their all.

Kudos to Slash, especially – he was holding the act together with his instrumental pieces.

However, Axl Rose’s singing was a stark reminder of how we are all mortal.

His vocals aren’t as good as they used to be – understandably so, because of age and a lifetime of various forms of abuse.

He demonstrated a much more limited vocal range and inconsistent singing quality e.g. songs like “Sweet Child Of Mine” were pitch perfect and performed to almost album-like quality, to the note.

On other songs it was especially apparent that he was masking the decreased ability to reach a certain pitch by slurring his words or taking tonal shortcuts.

I thought this mortality was most ironically epitomised during “November Rain”, when he sang the line “nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain” and “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”:

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

The performance aside, I want to detail some of the experiences for posterity, and also, in case it’s good feedback for anyone who wants to organise a concert:

  1. The drive there was terrible.At one point, the jam along Changi Coast Road got so bad that people started getting out of their cars and running to the venue.

    The organisers have to recognise that the venue has serious transportation limitations.

    First, there are zero public transport options.

    Second, there is only one two-lane road going in:

    My sister and I were joking that LAMC Productions should’ve just should’ve organised a ferry service from Harbourfront to Changi Ferry Terminal.

    With the coastal hook, it would provide gig-goers an alternative mode of transport plus get commuters there in a quicker time and with a more scenic view.

    While stuck in the jam, I also had some time to think about whether we should’ve taken the shuttle bus.

    Because it wasn’t mandatory, taking the shuttle bus wouldn’t have helped.

    So there’s a need to give a larger incentive to get people to take the shuttle bus e.g. disallow parking at the venue, give discounts for early birds, etc.

  2. The gig management itself was terrible.
    • No one collected our tickets at the door, which made me feel like we shouldn’t have bought tickets.
    • For Pen B tickets holders, part of the view was blocked; the organisers had erected some kind of barrier, for reasons I know not.

      If you buy a more expensive VIP or Pen A ticket, you pay more to be closer to the action.

      If you buy a cheaper ticket, you do so with the cognisance that you will be farther from the stage – but your view shouldn’t be blocked.
    • At some point in the night, they closed the token top-up counters (we could only pay using a token, which we had to top-up using cash or credit).

      I had $10 left in my token and the money was non-refundable. So if there weren’t any items with which I could spend the $10, I would’ve been shorted.

      I’m not sure if they had announced beforehand that top-up counters would be closed.

      Even if they did, who would remember/who would want to take a break from music they wanted to listen to, just to top-up their tokens before the counter closed?
    • Last but not least, it seems they didn’t check the tickets.So at a later point in the night, we managed to get into Pen A because no one seemed to care.

      That was the saving grace of the night – but it also made me wonder if I should’ve bought tickets at all…

User error or system flaw?

Lately, I’ve been seeing these signs at the exit doors of buses:

A transcription of the copy in case you can’t see the image:

“Tap Out For Better Services

You make a difference when you tap out with your travel card (including concession card/pass holders)! How?

By tapping out, you provide more accurate data about bus trips and crowding. That helps us to plan better bus services.

Make a difference!
Tap out now!”

It’s an attempt at a nudge to get concession card users to “tap out” i.e. to tap their travel passes on the card reader at exit doors of buses before alighting.

(By the way , “tap out”, in this context, is a non-standard use of the term #notsayiwanttosay)

Why do I say it’s an attempt at a nudge?

Singapore has been using proximity/contactless cards for its public transport since 2001.

Most commuters have learnt to tap their stored-value cards on the entry reader when they board, and to tap the same card on the exit reader when alighting.

There is incentive to comply.

The maximum fare, calculated from when they board to the bus’ terminal destination, is deducted upon boarding.

If the journey ends before reaching the bus terminus, the card is tapped on the exit reader to obtain a refund of the balance .

To illustrate: A commuter’s journey would cost $1.50, if he boarded at a stop where the maximum fare of $2.00 was deducted, and $0.50 were refunded to him, if he tapped on the exit reader before alighting.

If the latter action were not taken, the sum would be forfeited – though if the commuter so desired, he could make a fare refund claim.

The respective penalty and hassle of the previous two outcomes thus provide a disincentive to non-compliance.

But there is no similar disincentive for concession-card holders – such as senior citizens, students, and national servicemen – who often bypass the exit reader.

This group pays a fixed travel fare, often lower than what adults riders might pay (and rightfully so, because of their relatively limited income as compared to working adults).

Because their fares are fixed, whether or not they tap their cards when alighting has no bearing on fare calculation.

Now that data collection to inform service provision has come into vogue, the behaviour of this group of riders is unproductive for transport planners.

Without knowing where and how many people alight at a certain place or time, it’d be unhelpful for, say, allocating more buses during peak periods or modifying bus routes to better serve commuters.

And that’s where the poster comes in – to remind concession-card holders to “close the loop” on their public transport journeys.

It remains to be seen, though, how much a poster could possibly nudge people to change their behaviour.

As seen from the Free Pre-Peak Travel scheme, it takes a certain approach to encourage people to break certain habits, or discourage them from doing what has been easy for them.

To be sure, not tapping before alighting is not exactly user error; it’s been a good 16 years of habituation for concession-card holders because of how the system was designed.

Yet, to bite the bullet now and apply the same “deduct when boarding, return when alighting” approach to concession-card holders may not work.

It’d entail much more churn, in terms of having to deal with multiple fare refund claims before users settle into the desired habit.

That’d take away a lot of time, energy and effort from the core business of data analysis to improve services.

Perhaps a more middle-ground approach here would suffice: word the poster differently to appeal to commuters’ sense of following behaviour norms.

Even then, it depends on the generosity and altruism of the user to follow suit.

Clearly, this is a textbook case study of why planners should pre-empt system flaws and design processes with the user in mind.

That is: make usage friendly and intuitive, while understanding users’ idiosyncrasies and catering for such quirks.

This creates systems with longer-term sustainability and adaptability to evolve, along with the times, to meet future needs.

That feeling

That feeling when... (PHOTO: Daily Mail)

That feeling when all you need to buy is one – one – laundry net but you are stuck behind Man Who Feels The Need To Buy Everything In The Japan Home Store, in the only check-out queue manned by World’s Most Meticulous And Organised Cashier, who waits patiently for the same man to count out his cash to the cent ($107.90), while you have enough time to write and edit this post, including redundant and extraneous – tautological, perhaps – words, bearing in mind that the genesis of this sentiment took place some five – five – minutes ago…

…was how I felt this weekend when I popped into the shop for what I thought was a quick purchase, but which ended up taking 10 minutes.

No wonder, then, why AI is coming for everyone’s jobs.