31 August 2017

Don't Believe Everything You Read On An App

Some students are never, ever convinced that I--or any other instructor--is grading them fairly.  There are the ones who think we have it in for them because of their race , ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background (of course, they don't use that term) or opinions that differ from yours--no matter that their sources are minimal or non-existent, their logic flawed or their syntax more tangled than fishing line in an inept angler's hands.  Or they simply think we're too old, un-hip or simply stupid to understand the profound things they're saying.

Then there are the ones who simply can't understand how, after how hard they worked and how they "did everything" they were "supposed to do", they got the grade they got.  Some, of course, don't put such time and effort in what they hand in to me or their other instructors.  But others do, and I genuinely feel for them:  I know that it's frustrating to put forth your best effort and not get the result you want.

There was a time, a dozen or so years ago, when I'd return students' essays and the sighs and shuffle of papers would be broken by some someone whining, "But I used Spell Check--and Grammar Check."   I would explain, as patiently as I could, that not everything they see on a computer screen is to be trusted. (I guess that's the modern version of "Don't believe everything you read!") "All machines have the flaws of the people who make them," I'd pronounce.

It's been a while since a student (well, any student of mine, anyway) has used "The Spell Check Defense," if you will.  But some people are still more willing to trust an electronic device over good, old-fashioned common sense.

Image result for bicycle entering tunnel

One such person was a 26-year-old Jersey City resident who was delivering food on his bicycle in Manhattan.  Following a route suggested by a phone app, he entered the Lincoln Tunnel and pedaled to the New Jersey side.

When he arrived, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police intercepted him.  He explained how he ended up in the tunnel and showed them his phone, "which supported his claim," according to Port Authority spokesman Joseph Pentangelo.

Bicycles and other "velocipedes" (Yes, that term is used) are prohibited in the Lincoln, according to the regulations listed in the Port Authority's "Green Book".  As there was no significant disruption of traffic, the man received only a summons for trespass.

And, I'm sure, he won't believe everything he sees on a phone app.


  1. "All machines have the flaws of the people who make them".

    That line makes me shudder when I consider our military's push to develop autonomous "killer robots". I believe there is a current proposed U.N. treaty to ban them.

  2. Was the app Google Maps? In my experience, they are more likely to exclude routes that favor cyclists than to endorse ones prohibited to them.

    1. Whenever i've used Google maps to plot a bike route -selecting the bike icon in menu- i'm often amused and alarmed by some of the roads shown as rideable. Never blindly trust any algorithm! (Pollsters, are you listening?)

  3. Phillip--I hope the treaty passes!

    Steve and Mike--I've never used a phone app to navigate. But I have some experience with Google maps, which sometimes recommend routes that are, at best, hazardous for cyclists.