Game two: back to the Riddle Path, where the contestants solve a remarkably difficult riddle, apparently plucking the answer out of thin air. Game three: fighting with big wobbly padded quarterstaves. Unfortunately the contestants stand on poles so far apart from one another that getting a telling blow becomes impossible and it's more a game of balance than anything else. (Apparently one contestant still manages to pick up some sort of minor injury, though.) Game four: everyone sing along, 'tis the Way of the Warrior. The large-but-resolutely-game girl already in last place tries and loses, thus earning elimination, leaving two cocky boys and a surprisingly adult-looking girl. (Incidentally, one of the boys is interviewed on the Children's BBC channel before and after the show. Turns out that all the kids are from drama school, which is entirely unsurprising. One more day to go, folks. Strength.
Low-cost airline EasyJet have announced the destinations for their new hub at Newcastle Airport. From April (2003), you'll be able to fly to Barcelona (Spain), Belfast (Northern Ireland) or Alicante (south-eastern Spain). Two Spanish destinations in the top three is a surprise; apparently Barcelona was the favourite choice overall, though I'm not sure that a large chunk of that wasn't just because there was a Newcastle-Barcelona football match recently and people didn't realise that EJ wouldn't start the route in time to arrange the flight for the match. EasyJet were running a game where you had to vote for the three destinations where they should fly to from Newcastle; one person would be picked at random from those who picked each correct destination to win a free pair of tickets. I predicted EasyJet would go for Amsterdam, Barcelona and Geneva and cast my game vote for Geneva - one out of three. Later in 2003 they'll add services to Bristol, Paris and Prague. I especially like the Bristol service and idly wonder whether it will ever prove better for me to go to Oxford via Newcastle Airport and Bristol Airport than directly on the train or the bus. Strangely, it'd probably work out being slightly slower than a direct train and yet slightly cheaper, which is the opposite of what you would expect.
The Tyne and Wear (i.e., Newcastle and surrounds) Metro is a pretty good little light rail system, but it is confined strictly to off-road rail tracks at the moment. There are plans to turn it into a train/tram system by including some street-running sections. The scheme is called "Project Orpheus"; about a billion pounds' investment, cha-ching, would bring close Metro access to about half the residents of Tyne and Wear. You can read the press release and take a look at a theoretical map, listed under the "10 January 2002" entry (sorry, no anchor within the diagram). Now the two don't align completely; both new lines heading to the airport seem to have been scrapped, though the Western loop is still being considered. (There's also a possible coastal extension from Sunderland to Seaham discussed, not listed on the map, which might well bring a boost to a community which needs it.)
Theoretically - if all of track number 2, track number 10 up to the unnamed Western interchange and the unnumbered track between the unnamed Western interchange and Monument were built - this might give us a yellow line which would be a figure-of-eight loop, except that the bottom half of the loop looks like a capital B rather than a circle. (Start at Monkseaton and follow it round: Monkseaton, Monument heading South, Gateshead heading East, Sunderland, Washington, Gateshead heading West, Metro Centre, Blaydon, Monument heading East and back to Monkseaton.) See that you're on two different tracks when you reach Monument each time, but you'd be on the same track when you reach Gateshead each time. (Sounds a bit dangerous to me.) I'm not sure whether it would be more useful for the public to have the yellow line as this single huge complicated loop or to split it up into multiple parts. Perhaps it would be best to run a NW figure of eight (Monkseaton -> Monument -> Blaydon -> Monument -> Monkseaton), a SW "B" shape (Sunderland -> Washington -> Gateshead -> Blaydon -> St. James -> Gateshead -> Sunderland) and the current there-and-back-again on the yellow line. Interesting logistical problem.
This is all highly theoretical. It's at the "the company are thinking about what to seriously look at and see whether it's worth asking for money later to build" stage; the "Towards 2016" report suggests that the scheme would be complete by 2015, but the new information out today suggests that some of it might be running by 2008/2009. (Presumably the most likely candidate would be Gateshead -> MetroCentre, which is being established as a dedicated busway in the next couple of years under the "CentreLink" scheme. This would seem to me to be an ideal testing ground for laying road-section track which interacts with the Metro system.) Newcastle and Gateshead together are making a strong bid for the 2008 European Capital of Culture competition, down to the final six cities (all British) from which the 2008 winner will be selected and they may even be favourites for the title. One would have thought that a Newcastle-Gateshead win would probably increase the impetus for new extensions to start running in 2008.
If you're really interested, you might enjoy the MetroPlanet geographical map of the system, which certainly epxlains that the proposed route 4 and route 12 would make more sense than the would appear to do at first glance on the diagrammatic map. We'll see. Interesting to know what the current thinking is, at least. The current government may be rather floundering with their transport strategy, but at least they're doing well on light rail systems which are clearing up congestion within at least a few towns. Eventually.
Twelve-thirteenths of the way through the World Junior Chess Championship, just one round to go. Armenian GM Levon Aronian leads with 9/12, but plucky British GM Luke McShane and Hungarian GM Ferenc Berkes are in clear second place with 8½/12 and four joint-fourths on 8/12. Tomorrow's pairings see Levon Aronian play white against Russian GM Dmitri Yakovenko (one of the joint-fourths) and Luke McShane play white against Ferenc Berkes. Now apparently if Aronian can get a draw then he should win overall (not completely clear of the tie-breakers), whereas McShane needs to beat Berkes to move up into at least second. It would not be a surprise for both games to end up drawn (after all, this is the thirteenth consecutive day of hard chess without a break) which might possibly let someone else on 8/12 squeeze up onto the 9/13 level with a win, but these combative young juniors have much to play for and likely to relish the opportunity for glory. Accordingly, McShane might yet finish first, second, third or nowhere. In any circumstance I think this has to be regarded as Luke's best tournament to date and an excellent indication that Luke's development towards the world's top hundred or so continues apace.
Now all we need is for someone who will happen to be in the same college as him next year to greet Luke on his first day with a rousing yet soft "Ah, yes, Luke McShane. Our new - celebrity." I think there might have to be a drink in it for anyCyg who could pull this off.