VIA scorecard

I took a total of 6 trains on this trip:

- Windsor to London
- London to Toronto
- Toronto to Ottawa
- Ottawa to Toronto
- Toronto to Kitchener
- Kitchener to Windsor

Of those, the last was the only one I noticed being at all late (and it only by 20 minutes). The connections were all easy.

Part of the attraction was that the last VIA train I'd taken had working network and power at each seat, so I figured I could get some serious work done on travel days.

That didn't work out so well.

The network was only actually usable on one of six legs, and then only barely (latency nearly a second, and tons of packet drops). On four of the other legs I couldn't even get an ip address, and on one dhcp worked but the network was barely good enough to get me past the initial login page.

Four legs had outlets at the seat. Power was actually working on three of those. The newer trains with the outlets also happened to have less legroom and less comfortable seats.

The Amtrak trains all have separate café/lounge cars, which in practice is the only place I've gotten real work done, since when they're not busy I can take a table and spread out a bit.

In any case, I was probably too tired to do much anyway. So, conclusion: I should probably give up on the idea that I'm going to get anything more than reading done while traveling.

I didn't find the scenery as interesting as I have on Amtrak. Partly that may be just the lack of a second-floor observation car.

Overall VIA seemed OK (above all, it beat Amtrak in the basic getting-me-there-on-time category), but not fantastic.

"perfect"

When I gave the woman at the airport shuttle company my credit card number last week, she responded with "perfect". OK, so I'm happy I was able to enunciate so she could understand me, but that seemed a little over the top.

When I reserved my hotel room, again, "perfect". And it kept happening throughout the week.

As much as I'd like to think my skill at answering simple questions has just reached some previously unheard-of level, I suppose the more likely explanation is that this is a Canadianism that I hadn't previously noticed.

Linux Symposium

One of the more interesting Linux Sympsoium talks was "The Making of OpenMoko Neo", on OpenMoko's project to produce a completely free-software-driven mobile phone. Wow, the pitfalls are astonishing. Like not discovering till after the hardware is being produced (and they're trying to write drivers for it), that critical components don't have at all the specs they thought were advertised.

Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote that was mildly entertaining but thin on ideas.

Talks on redhat's new cluster infrastructure, memory-management scalability, and the new kernel debugger were also worthwhile, but overall it didn't feel like the most interesting Linux Symposium I'd been to.

In the past they've had evening receptions, where there's free food and drink and some poor sap from one of the sponsors who attempts to give a marketing talk over the hacker's hubbub. I never felt like that worked very well, so it was a bit of a relief that they weren't doing that this year. Though the lack of organized social stuff in the evenings leaves a bit of a gap for the antisocial (ahem) or people who just haven't been before and don't know anyone. Nevertheless, I managed to find interesting people to hang out with.

The conference finished with their annual party at the Blackthorn, which seemed just slightly more subdued than in previous years--a good thing, as it was easier to talk to people. I had one beer and left after a couple hours.

My suitemate left in the evening, so I moved to a single elsewhere in the University residential complex. It's smaller, with a bathroom across the hall, but perfectly adequate. There's no air conditioning, but there's a window that opens, and the weather's been mild anyway.

As usual, I've also taken advantage of the "Librarie Du Soleil", just a couple blocks from the conference, and picked up a few comics ("Chroniques Birmane" (a travelogue from Guy Delisle), some Trondheim, a couple Monsieur Jeans, and the fifth of Sfar's "Chat du Rabbin").

Today I'm on my own, with no particular plans. Then tommorow morning it's back to the train station bright and early, and onwards to visit relatives in Waterloo.

last-minute travel plans

Art fair last year kinda got me down, so this year I skipped it.

Saturday night we played games at the Isamans, including pandemic. Which was fun, partly for being played cooperatively against the board, and for being difficult (at least so far--we lost all three games we played).

Saturday I also made my travel plans for OLS: a good thing, since I needed to be in Ottawa by Wednesday morning! I planned a complicated train/bus/airport shuttle trip that would also let me stay overnight with some friends and relatives along the way, and reserved a single in the University of Ottawa dorms.

Sunday I got ready to go, and spent a couple hours at the new library branch.

Monday I took the first four legs of my trip--airport shuttle to DTW, another airport shuttle to Windsor--a lot of web researched turned that up as one of the only practical ways to get from Ann Arbor to Windsor without a car--a city bus to the Windsor train station, then one train to London. It all went fine. One of the few glitches was inadequate Canadian change for the bus fare. I tried giving the driver a 5, but she insisted that was overkill (the fare was something like $2.50, and they can't give change), so I just emptied my pockets of what change I had and she waved me on.

The wait in the Windsor train station was long, but it was air-conditioned, the wireless was good, and I got some minimal work done.

I had a good time with my friends in London. Graham made a super meal of home-made tamales, rice, beans, zuchini, corn on the cob, and wine from a mutual friend who dropped out of grad school to move to California and work in the wine industry. We watched Totoro with Azalea, who insists on the dubbed soundtrack (apparently 4-year olds don't like to read subtitles; OK, OK).

The next morning at breakfast Azalea complained about the sun. (To be fair, it was in her eyes a little). I accused her of being a vampire. She told me I talked too much. That's a first!

Then the remaining three legs of my trip--train to Toronto, connecting train to Ottawa, then bus to the University of Ottawa campus--all went like clockwork. I met someone on the way with a suite in the dorms to split (and a travel partner that had ditched at the last moment), so cancelled my reservation to split theirs.

Library, Neighbors, Townie Party

Friday and Saturday were uneventful.

Sunday I spent at the new library branch, sitting in their cafe area doing some work. They've got power, network, and nice surroundings, and if I get frustrated by something I can stand up and go browse a minute or two. I tied up one long-standing problem (which turned out to be due to a dumb networking configuration), and a couple other small things. After they booted us all out of the library at 6, I picked up a few things at Kroger, then walked home.

Meanwhile, Sara had been making bread and carrot halwa. We tasted a little of the latter (sugar! Yum!), then took the former to the apartment complex's summer potluck picnic. Which was surprisingly fun. The people were pretty interesting. A few we already knew, most we didn't. There were three French speakers there (two Belgian, one didn't introduce herself but must have been Canadian?). There was good stuff to eat and drink.

Streets are already blocked off and tents going up for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fairs, so the Monday before they have a "townie party". Food and drink, some good music, great weather. I got to talk to a few people I knew, and listened to some of the music, but for some reason wasn't really in the mood, so we passed on the food and drink, came home relatively early, and had some leftovers.

Physical

Every now and then I'll go to a doctor when I'm feeling really sick, but I don't think I've had just a regular physical since college or before. So I figured it was time. The guy I went to (at the University Hospital) seemed smart and helpful. He gave me some advice on my knees (which bother sometimes me after riding my bike), told me that I was healthy, and that I should come back at 40ish.

Oh, and a nurse also flushed out my left ear, which had been bothering me a little lately. Wow, I should have had that done a while ago--there was some disgusting stuff in that ear. Be thankful I didn't have a camera with me.

After that I went to Amers, got a sandwich, settled down in a booth, and worked for a few hours, till I was due to meet Trond and company at Dominick's.

roman de gare

Work today was lots of loose ends where I'd hope there'd be more of tying them up.

I rode my bike home, by way of the State theater--where I saw "Roman de Gare" with the french group. The movie is enormous fun as long as there are lots of loose ends and mistaken identities, but when the filmmakers finally tie it all up and give you what you want, it's a disappointment. It was for me anyway.

Riding back down division at a good clip, somebody made a right turn in front of me from the lane to my left. I shouted "yo!", which is all I can usually think of at such short notice. Maybe I should have followed and asked what they were thinking. Maybe not.

rhubarb pie

I was going to juggle, but we got rained out, so Tuesday we had a normal night at home. Sara made a rhubarb pie. Yum!

Normally we would have gone to our book group, which meets on the second tuesday of every month, but this time, somehow we both just forgot. Maybe I'll just start skipping that for a while.

Uncle Bruce

Sara's uncle Bruce died yesterday. We got to see him and his wife several times when I was near San Francisco for work. He'd often show us something--last time it was an unfinished documentary and a Buck Rogers episode--then pick up some tasty burritos and aguas frescas for us from a restaurant place down the street, and maybe go for a walk through the Golden Gate Park botanical garden. It's some sort of requirement with Sara's family that whenever they go someplace they always visit any local botanical gardens.

He'd been sick for many years. An afternoon nap seemed to be an absolute requirement, and he didn't travel (in part just because it would probably be incompatible with the afternoon nap). He seemed irritable sometimes. We'd heard vague things over the last year about his being in worse than usual health, but the call from Sara's dad yesterday wasn't expected.

Anyway, it was always fun to see him, and it's sad we won't have another chance.

New library, no more Top of the Park

The public library recently opened a new branch near us. Well, actually, they moved it. It used to be in a strip mall. Which sounds really tacky, but it was actually great--you could visit the library, the hardware store, the drug store, and a grocery all on the same trip. Oh, and get some ice cream for the walk back if you wanted. So Sara and I were a little annoyed about the move.

Anyway, we figured it was worth a look, so we walked over Sunday afternoon. The building is lovely. It's got a pleasant cafe area with convenient network and power.

I still don't like the location--it's not on my way anywhere--but I can see it being a pleasant place to hang out and work, so I'll probably be back.

Plus, they had a volume of Trondheim's "Little Nothings". Score! It's a collection of one-page, typically 4-6 panel cartoons done in watercolor about little events from his daily life. It would have been more fun to find it in the original French, but whatever.

We walked from there back to North Campus, took a bus back downtown, then sat on the lawn at Top of the Park for a while. We moved up partway through George Bedard's set, then for the end sat down on the steps of the Rackham building, behind the stage, for the rock-star-eye view of the crowd. Fun! But also the last night. So from now on we go home, make dinner, and fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Pages

Subscribe to fieldses.org RSS