Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's Tuesday, so this must be Montreal...

After a brief and pleasant interlude at Debby's house, I had to leave yesterday for Montreal for a conference. I'd gotten Andrea a frequent flyer ticket to come along, but she was undecided about it because she was still under the weather. We went back and forth on the whole thing, but finally decided that she should come. Debby was a bit skeptical, I think, but she gamely drove us both to the airport.

The flight was half-empty and pretty uneventful, unless you count the thunderstorm that camped out over the airport and delayed us for a half hour. We did a really fast descent into Montreal - it was quite exciting. The money-changing situation at the airport is pretty grim - I think it's good to come with some Canadian money or else take the bus to the hotel (since then you only have to change $2.50). But we gritted our teeth and changed enough to cover taxi fare, because we were both too tired to deal with public transit. It's a flat CDN$35 from the airport to downtown.

We're staying at the Delta Centre-Ville, which is about a ten-minute walk from the Palais de Congrès de Montreal. It's a pretty nice hotel, although comparisons to the Shangri-la are invitable, and frankly it doesn't hold a candle to the Shangri-la, despite costing about 30% more. It's nice to be able to brush one's teeth in the tap water, though.

Today I went to my working group meeting, the DHC working group. It was remarkably tame - normally we have more controversy, but there were a lot of really good proposals on the table, and nothing that seemed like a bad idea, so the only real controversy was over the leasequery option, and that was pretty mild. We finished forty minutes before the end of our time slot, which is a bloody miracle.

IETF is a strange thing - I've been going for around ten years now. It meets once every four months, roughly, usually twice a year in the U.S. and once on some foreign land, which is appropriate given that for most participants, the U.S. is a foreign land. It's an international body, after all. The people I see at IETF are people I generally never see otherwise, except for my co-worker, Jim, who came out from California for this IETF. It's always nice to see the usual cast of characters here - these are people I've worked with for a decade, some of them, and they're all really smart people with whom I share more in common on a technical level than a personal level, but we chat about our personal lives too, and that's often very interesting.

I ran into Subir Das outside of the meeting room - he's a really smart guy from HP India - and we talked a bit about India. He was surprised we'd only been to Himachal Pradesh, and even more surprised that we didn't at least trek to the head of the Ganges river, which is apparently a quick drive from Dehradun (the capital of HP) and then a 20km hike. I think that if we go back to India, a prospect to which Andrea is somewhat resigned, we might be better equiped to do something like that, but personally I'd be happy to just do some hiking in the Sierras - there are plenty of rivers to follow there, albeit none so sacred as the Ganges. (Given that I have some small amount of native American blood in my veins, it's a bit odd that I identify more with Hinduism than the native religions, but for whatever reason, I do. Probably because I know more about Hinduism, and a lot of our Buddhist tradition hearkens back to ancient Indian tradition anyway. Khen Rinpoche used to refer to the Hindu deities as the ancestors of the Buddhist mandala).

Andrea is in fact feeling a bit more energetic today (although as I type this she's sleeping with earplugs and a bandana to shade her eyes). So she went out, found an ATM, and researched a couple of restaurants. We wound up going to a Thai restaurant that specializes in healthy Thai food, which was extremely yummy - Andrea was really happy at how well it turned out. It was a nice treat to get a fresh vegetable soup and then a very spicy stir-fry. The place is called Tai Nature, and it's at 475 St Laurent. I definitely recommend it - the menu is small, but it's half vegetarian, and what I got was unapologetically spicy. It also doesn't involve a significant uphill walk, which is kind of nice. It's about a ten-minute walk from the Delta, northeast along Rue St. Antoine to Rue St. Laurent, right on Rue St. Laurent, on the far side of the street a couple of blocks up.

After lunch I decided I needed to cocoon a bit - I think I've come down with Andrea's head cold, which is fairly mild but still uncomfortable. So I figured, why not stop and get a book first? There's bound to be a bookstore. This turned out to be true in a very limited sense. I normally think of Canada as a reasonable place to get books: when I was in Vancouver it was no problem, for example. However, Montreal is very much a french-speaking city. So all bets are off.

I wound up in a big underground shopping area on Rue de Saint-Catherine, and I did in fact find a bookstore, but all the books were in french. I very proudly trotted out a phrase I was pretty sure was correct: est que vous avez des livre en englais? The clerk understood exactly what I wanted, and rattled off some extremely rapid french that I didn't understand at all, which I like to think meant that my pronunciation was pretty good, although I'm sure Andrea will scoff at this notion. He pointed in a certain direction, and then when I seemed not to comprehend, said something something question mark something. So I went over to the question mark sign, which was an information desk, but nobody was there.

I had the impression that he was directing me to a nearby store, in the direction he'd pointed, so I went out of the store I was in and walked in the direction he'd pointed, but that turned out to be a complete fiasco - I found a store full of computer books, but that was all. Eventually I surfaced and looked sufficiently confused that a nice bilingual lady stopped and asked me what I was trying to find. I told her, she thought for a minute, then looked happy, and directed me to a shopping mall. I was afraid that she was directing me to the same store, but the name of the mall was different than the name of the store, so I went in. Sadly, it was the same store.

Having twice been told that this store had english books, I searched more carefully, and indeed there were three small shelves of english books. One of them was Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norell; that's what I finally settled on. It's quite a tome in hardcover, but here was a nice compact trade paperback edition. Armed with a cup of coffee, I headed back to the hotel to finally do a bit of cocooning, but here I am blogging instead. Bored yet?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dehradun is a provisional capital of Uttaranchal and not of HP.

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Shows what I know! :')

Saturday, July 15, 2006 1:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were so close to an English bookstore! Next time you're in Montreal, head for Indigo (corner of Ste-Catherine and McGill College). There are French books downstairs, but the upstairs is very much English and the bookstore is very central (sandwiched between Mexx and Zara).

Friday, August 18, 2006 1:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Andrea finally pointed Indigo out to me, and indeed it did have a very large selection of English-language books. Unfortunatley, by then it was too late - I'd succumbed to the soporific splendor of JS&MM.

Friday, August 18, 2006 1:47:00 AM  

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