Friday, May 24, 2002

Back to Canada?

Having just returned from Canada, would I go back? Of course! In fact, I'm scheduled to give a talk at a conference in Banff next May.

Guess I'll have to figure out something to talk about.

Thursday, May 23, 2002


Christina has a new post on freelancing, identity theft and other topics.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Pavillon Principal

The meeting that I'm up here for has been held in the Pavillon Principal of the University of Montreal. Oh, excuse me, the Université de Montréal. Anyway, the Pavillon (shown above) is this monstrous building. My theory is they decided that students shouldn't have to go outside during the winter, so they'd put all the classes in one building. Of course, these things never work, so there are other buildings, but the great mass of the university is in this one. Of course, that's just a theory I have.

There are many weird things about this building.

  • As you enter from the Metro, you have to travel up to the building. You do so via a moving ramp. Like an escalator, but without the stairs. You know, so if you fall, you keep tumbling to the bottom. I'm amazed they're able to get away with this. Their lawyers must not be as good as American lawyers. Especially with college students around, that seems like the type of thing that gets turned into a ride.
  • As noted above, the corridors are labeled A-Z. Except O, Q and W. I don't know why those letters got left out.
  • I wish there were a 3-dimensional model of the place available, but not all the corridors go on all the levels, and some are blocked off, so it's difficult to get around.
  • The rooms aren't numbered; the doors are. So E-315 and E-325 might lead to the same room. Which can be annoying, I suppose, if you have a class in room E-315, because on the first day nobody will use door E-325, because nobody will know where that goes. Somebody suggested to me that it's so they don't have to renumber the doors if they reconfigure the space the doors lead to. I don't know what sort of university prides itself on not having to renumber its doors, but maybe this one does.
  • In one of the rooms where talks were held, the talks would be interrupted periodically by the distinctive sounds of birds chirping. Loudly.


Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Phone Cards

In preparation for this week's trip to Canada, Christina got me a Sam's Club phone card. While they offer a $0.035/minute rate within the US, between Canada and the US, the rate jumps to $0.14. According to the instructions. Now, this isn't great, but it's a far sight better than the $1/minute and up you can pay if you're not careful. So I packed the phone card and tried to call Christina when I got in. Following the instructions (Call 1-800-CALL-ATT, then call the Sam's Club AT&T number, then enter my card number, then dial the number I wanted) didn't work -- I got a busy signal when I tried to dial the Sam's Club number. Dialing that (toll-free) number directly, however, worked like a charm. Moreover, I got the $0.035/minute rate, just as if I were in the US. So that's all-in-all a good deal.

I had ordered AT&T International One Rate service on my home phone as a back-up so Christina could reach me. Unfortunately, I had ordered it last Friday, and it looks like the service won't be on there until after I got back. This, combined with the low rate I was getting on the phone card, made me start to wonder why I was paying AT&T a $7/month fee to get $0.05/minute long distance. So I dropped that back to $0.10/minute during the day and $0.05/minute at night for no monthly fee (but a $5/month minimum). I figure for any excessive long distance usage, I'll use the phone card (or my cell phone).

Anyway, the lesson of this is that these Sam's Club cards are a really good deal. Check with the hotel to make sure that you aren't incurring excessively charges if you use them from your room (and if you are, use a payphone).