Friday, October 15, 2004

Hampton Comes Alive

I just finished a two night stay at the Hampton Inn in Woodbridge, NJ. This is enough, in theory, to bring me up to 36 nights and Gold VIP status. I say "in theory" because there is some debate on FlyerTalk about whether free nights count. But I'll make it next week either way.

I originally had a stay at an Embassy Suites, but when the new hotel per diem rates came out, the allowable rate had dropped by around $35, and I had to switch hotels.

The Hampton I ended up with is the first one I've stayed at that has implemented the brand's new "Make It Hampton" enhancements. So, how do the enhancements measure up? Let's take a look.

  • Complimentary High Speed Wireless Internet Access will be available in the hotel public areas. I don't spend time in the hotel public areas, so this wasn't too useful.
  • Complimentary High Speed Internet Access in all guestrooms. This was great, although I wish it were wireless instead of wired.
  • Enjoy our new complimentary hot breakfast items on rotating menus, so you're sure to enjoy a variety of flavorful meals, including sausage patties and scrambled eggs. The scrambled eggs were pretty good this morning.
  • A new blend of robust coffee awaits you in a unique presentation guaranteed to make you smile. I hate coffee. I didn't smile; do I get my money back?
  • If you are in a hurry, ask the breakfast hostess for the new On the Go Breakfast Bag™, complete with water, fruit, a muffin, and a breakfast bar. This was very useful yesterday morning, when I was in a hurry to get to the conference. I didn't even have to ask; they had the bag ready.
  • Curved shower rods for extended shower space. I didn't notice this, which probably means it's a plus.
  • A one-of-a-kind alarm clock making it easier to set your alarm time in three simple steps, as well as find your favorite music. I liked the feature on the alarm clock where it told you both the time and the time the alarm was set for. Three "simple" steps? I guess holding down one button for a long time because an hour button is too complicated is "simple". I was disappointed there was no indicator whether or not you had pressed the snooze button.
  • A portable lap desk that allows you to work in comfort from anywhere in the room. This is a neat idea that would be more useful if the Internet access were wireless.
  • Our new Hampton alarm clock and lap desk are also available for purchase! If you would like to enjoy these new products each retail for $29 plus tax, shipping and handling. Please call 1-888-224-7730 for more information. I won't be calling.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience. There were other nice little touches -- the plastic utensils were actually labeled at breakfast -- no more digging around to find out if you had spoons or forks. I just hope they don't raise prices past the per diem to pay for all these improvements...


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Primary Inversion

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am continuing to read Nebula-award winning novels. As I also mentioned, I will only read books in series order.

That caused me to read Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion, which is the first book in the "Saga of the Skolian Empire." (The author corrected Michael Dirda at the National Book Festival when he referred to it as a series. Since she is not here to correct me, I will continue to refer to it as a series.)

Primary Inversion is what I'd call "Space Opera", which is unusual in "serious" science fiction these days. By "serious" I suppose I mean "award-winning". I think "faster than light" travel has gotten less popular because people finally got it in their heads that it's impossible, and thus more suited to fantasy than science fiction. Fortunately for the genre, Asaro's a physicist, so she's more than qualified to imagine an FTL drive that's just as plausible as most things found in SF books these days.

"Primary Inversion" was enjoyable, but I'd characterize it as a relatively light, fun read. I suppose I will have to wait until Book Six to get to the Nebula, so it's not fair to compare it to other such award winners. I found out during Asaro's talk that The Quantum Rose, which won the Nebula, is an allegory for quantum field theory. That sounded pretty cool, and I told her so when I went to get a book signed. I mentioned that my background was in mathematics, and she said that I should read Spherical Harmonic, which was about the spherical harmonic. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was a number theorist, and thus had no clue what the spherical harmonic was.

I've started Catch the Lightning, the second book. It's set in an alternate history 1987, which is weird in and of itself. Most of the book so far has to do with a poor girl meeting a space pilot from the future. The "Are you really from space?" dynamic recalls almost every Star Trek time travel episode ever. I'm only mildly enthused, and have put the book aside for another book, which I thought would be more promising. But that's another post...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fun With Gmail

So I'm reading my Michigan Sports News e-mail when I notice the ads that Gmail is displaying for me. "Eliminate Ground Moles"? "Effective Pest Control"? Where is this coming from?

Then I see the final link. "Get rid of those Gophers". Ah, yes, Michigan did that.