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Sunday 19 March 2017, 12:15

As a side effect of some other accounting I was doing, I've managed to put a number on how much my venture in Denmark cost me.

Moving in

Monday 7 November 2016, 11:33

I wrote my previous update on the train back to Tokyo. My trip to Japan was basically over, but I still had a substantial amount of travelling to do.

Japan 2016: days 8, 9, 10, Hokkaido and back to Tokyo

Monday 31 October 2016, 22:57

On my second full day in Hokkaido (Sunday), it started snowing very lightly as I set out in the morning. The flakes melted as soon as they hit anything solid, but it was interesting to note. I spent the morning walking through the local parks and making a leisurely way to the Bankei Ridge Winery, which is the oldest (established 2001) and also the smallest winery on Hokkaido. It's not exactly a major wine-producing region; grape wine isn't all that popular in Japan to begin with, and the climate (similar to coastal British Columbia) is such that growing grapes isn't easy.

Japan 2016: day 7, Maruyama and Kissyou

Saturday 29 October 2016, 17:18

Saturday was my first full day in Sapporo. I started with the hotel breakfast, which was pretty good. They had a good selection of Japanese-style breakfast items and even some limited Western-style breakfast food. Someone who refused to eat Japanese-style breakfast would at least not go hungry, although such a person would probably have plenty of trouble with the language, and the little Japanese-only card you're supposed to place on your table to show whether you're just temporarily away at the buffet, or have finished and left.

Japan 2016: days 2-6, SISAP and shinkansen

Friday 28 October 2016, 15:44

At last update I was preparing for the start of SISAP 2016, likely my last conference as a working academic. I gave my talk there and did other conference things, had one day of free time in Tokyo, and then spent a day travelling to Sapporo. Now it's early morning and I'm gearing up for the main "vacation" part of my trip. Remember that you can usually find photos and more up-to-date commentary in my Twitter stream.

Japan 2016: day 1 and previous

Sunday 23 October 2016, 07:26

I'm in Japan to present a talk at SISAP 2016 and do some vacationing. That limits my Net access and time for writing updates here, but it also means I have plenty of stories to tell, so I'm going to try to post more or less regularly (maybe not every day) during my trip. Brief updates and photos, usually more current than the entries posted here, will be on my Twitter stream, which see.

Matthew, Rued Langgaards Vej 7, versus the Appliances

Wednesday 31 December 2014, 13:16

It's New Year's Eve in Copenhagen, and time for another update.

New apartment

Sunday 2 November 2014, 02:07

As I start writing this, it is the evening of November 1 and I am sitting in my new apartment on Hallandsgade, Amagerbro, Copenhagen. It'll probably be the 2nd before I can post it, because I don't have the Net here. It sure looks like Rabbi Schlomo Yitschaki was dead right about the tzaraath of houses. Now I kind of want to read the rest of his many volumes of commentaries on Jewish religious law.

Days since last Biblical plague: 0

Wednesday 15 October 2014, 11:49

Every time I think I've seen it all with regard to Danish excuses, this place surprises me. Today's excuse is tzaraath.

Bank Account Man

Saturday 4 October 2014, 13:23

I've been in Denmark just over a month, and I'm pretty stressed. This update is going to be somewhat disconnected. You can get some idea of what my experience has been like by watching the famous Bank Account Man commercial.

The Danish excuse list

Thursday 4 September 2014, 12:35

Denmark, being part of Europe, has a great deal of bureaucracy and many rules. However, the Danes are not really rule-followers. That at least is their reputation among people from other Nordic countries and I can see why. This is a list of excuses I've heard from Danish people, mostly government bureaucrats. All are genuine, though some have been paraphrased from their more complicated original forms or to remove personal information. The list will be periodically updated.

A few days in Denmark

Thursday 4 September 2014, 12:32

As I start writing this, it's Thursday aboput 2pm in Copenhagen, and I am in the waiting room at International House Copenhagen, waiting to apply for a Central Persons Register (CPR) number. I have been in Denmark since Monday morning.

Heading for Denmark

Thursday 28 August 2014, 18:59

I don't think I have officially mentioned this here on my Web log yet, but here it is: I am moving to Denmark to work as a postdoc in the Scaleable Similarity Search project at the IT University of Copenhagen. This is a one-year temporary position with a possible renewal for a second year.

As I type this, I am in my apartment in Winnipeg, sitting on top of my modular synthesizer in its Pelican case because that is the closest thing to furniture that hasn't been taken away by either the movers or Goodwill.

The Apollo moon landings were fake

Sunday 20 July 2014, 20:20

The Apollo moon landings were fake.

I don't mean that they did not occur - it was before I was born, but it seems clear that men did at one time walk on the Moon. There are too many independent confirmations of that for it to be in any reasonable doubt. However, the Apollo Moon landings occurred under false pretences. The story told about the factual events, both at the time and now, was and is a dishonest story, carefully constructed to further the goals of the US government and certain other powerful forces.

Photo gallery from TUG 2013 trip

Thursday 31 October 2013, 21:00

Here's a photo gallery (salvaged from my old gallery software in June 2020) of my trip to Japan in 2013 to present at TUG.

Photo gallery from CCCG 2012

Friday 10 August 2012, 21:00

Here's a photo gallery (salvaged from my old gallery software in July 2020) of my trip to the Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry in Charlottetown, PEI.

Photo gallery from SWAT 2012

Friday 6 July 2012, 21:00

Here's a photo gallery (salvaged from my old gallery software in July 2020) of my trip to the Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry in Helsinki.

Air Canada's bug letter

Saturday 29 October 2011, 12:15

Well, I wasn't looking for compensation to help me feel better about what already happened. That's past and cannot be changed, and the actual expenses I incurred were minimal and don't need to be reimbursed; but the future can be changed, and what I was looking for from Air Canada was some solid reason to believe that it will never happen again. Giving me a discount code or similar benefit serves that goal only if I can reasonably believe that it costs them more to do that than it would have cost to solve my problem at the time it could have been solved - so that at a future opportunity they will have an incentive to solve the problem rather than paying me off afterward. A back-of-the-envelope calculation (based on number of passengers involved, number likely to complain and get paid off, and so on) suggests the break-even point would be a payoff with a wholesale cost of at least about $5000; and that's far more than it's plausible they would ever offer, and far more than 15% off any ticket they sell.

Instead, I figured it was possible, and I was hoping, that they'd give me some other reason to think that it would never happen again: for instance, by telling me that it was against policy and they would follow their policy better in future; or even that they were changing their policy. A policy change to "find me an hotel when that is impossible" wouldn't be the only way they could change the policy; I'd have been pleased if they'd just pull strings to have me and the other passengers allowed to remain in the terminal overnight. I know that's possible, it would have cost them very little money (much less than finding hotels in a town where the hotels are all sold out) and it's something Air Canada could do that I could not do for myself.

But they didn't tell me their agents' actions were against policy, nor that their policy would change. Instead they gave me documentation in writing that they think they did nothing wrong, and implicitly that they will do it again if they have the chance. Since my point of view is that it must never happen again, the logical conclusion is that I have to stop doing business with Air Canada.

Unfortunately that won't be easy. There aren't many choices besides Air Canada on some routes into, out of, and within Canada; and because much of my travel is for work and paid for out of other people's budgets, I'm not always completely at liberty to choose the airline I use. So it's not realistically possible that I can promise myself never to step onto an Air Canada plane again. But I'm certainly going to try to avoid it.

Regarding Billiken

Thursday 29 September 2011, 19:50

In my coverage of the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka, I mentioned the Billiken shrine at the top. Wikipedia's article on Billiken is of some interest. Note that they refer to him consistently as "the Billiken," although the basis for doing so seems to be flimsy (some sources do it, and Wikipedians think that is the last word). He was always referred to without a "the" in the English-language materials I saw in Osaka, just with "Billiken" used in the normal fashion for a name, so I'm not going to add a "the" here.

Billiken apparently originated in St. Louis, Missouri, with a woman named Florence Pretz, who saw his image in a dream and designed and patented a doll based on it in 1908, predating Kewpies, which came out in December of 1909. Wikipedia claims (with a "citation needed" note) that he "sprang from the height of the \"Mind-Cure\" craze" and links "Mind-Cure" to New Thought, though I'm not sure how legitimate that link is. But it's certainly interesting to know that anybody thinks there's a New Thought connection.

Note that Pretz is also the name of a Japanese snack food made by Glico; it's basically a long pretzel stick, somewhat similar to the popular Pocky but without the frosting and salty instead of sweet.

No room at the inn

Thursday 22 September 2011, 15:10

I'm in Vancouver now. The typhoon aftermath was somewhat nightmarish. Air Canada dumped me and my luggage in the lobby of Narita Airport (which does NOT operate 24 hours a day like pretty much all other major-city airports in the world), telling me to go away and come back the next day. That was the first point at which I really realized that not only were they not planning to pay for my hotel, but they also washed their hands of actually finding me an hotel. And hotel rooms were unobtainable in Narita, because of the large number of other people who had found out much sooner than I did that their flights were cancelled; and the trains out of Narita were about to stop running.


Wednesday 21 September 2011, 04:33

I'm writing this over Narita Airport's atrocious free wireless service, so I won't write much, but: due to Typhoon Roke, my plane out of here is delayed "indefinitely." So far, it has been 80 minutes. I believe there are some planes flying out of here, just at a much lower rate than normal. I've heard that JR has stopped the trains; when I left Tokyo there were a couple of shinkansen lines cancelling service, and my train to the airport was delayed about 15 minutes, but otherwise the trains were running normally.

If everything were on schedule, I would have 3 hours 10 minutes to make my connection in Vancouver for the plane to Winnipeg, so at the moment, I'm in no danger of missing that. But it remains to be seen how long the delay will actually be.

ETA: The flight has been cancelled. That in itself is not the airline's fault. If it's unsafe to land a plane here, I obviously don't want them to try. However, I do think it is the airline's fault that in the hour and a half since the cancellation, there have been no announcements about it whatsoever on the loudspeakers or the departures screens. I had to figure out for myself that my flight was mysteriously no longer listed on the departures screens (not listed at all - not just listed as "cancelled" like other cancelled flights) and then I had to have the wherewithal to get on the Web, check the airline's Web site, see that the flight was cancelled, figure out where to go to ask for more information (which was a gate OTHER than the one that had most recently been listed as the gate for my flight, before it disappeared from the list) and wait in line to be told what to do - and even then I was not REALLY told what to do. There's a failure to provide sufficient information to passengers here, and that's a problem.


Tuesday 20 September 2011, 09:44

I am starting this draft sitting on a bench in the Kyu-Shiba Gardens, near the Hamamatsuchou train station, Tokyo. This is my last full day in Japan - I leave tomorrow morning - and I have no really specific plans for the day, though in the evening I'll be meeting up with some friends who are Westerners living here (one Canadian, one British). This will probably be my last update posted before I leave. It's been quite a trip.


Friday 16 September 2011, 07:07

I'm titling this entry "Kanazawa" but in fact that's just my base of operations; much of what I've done in the last few days has been in the surrounding region.

Fast update

Thursday 15 September 2011, 19:34

Full report later, but I had a good time visiting Keta Taisha and the space museum in the Hakui area, and didn't get lost nor abducted by space aliens despite nobody in the town understanding any English at all. I bought a charm labelled 「心むすび」 and am about 95% sure it's the one I wanted, rather than "protection from hemorrhoids" or something, though I'm sure they were selling charms for that too. The food is good in Kanazawa.

My office computer in Winnipeg, which I was using in place of the home computer that crashed, now seems to have crashed also. At least this one has other people with access to the room who can go reboot it if that's what it needs. An email has been sent; and even if that doesn't get fixed, I have further backup options. On the plus side, I tried my debit card in another bank machine and it worked, so maybe it wasn't locked out after all, or they unlocked it.

More Osaka

Wednesday 14 September 2011, 02:13

I am starting this draft in the Osaka train station, though I'll probably be well on my way to Kanazawa by the time I finish it. Sorry about the delay in posting - I've been too busy having adventures to write about them. I think last update I had made it as far as Abeno Seimei Jinja.

September 11, Osaka

Sunday 11 September 2011, 06:40

As I sit down to start writing this, it is 8:40pm in Osaka, which is where I am right now. But it's 7:40am in Waterloo, which is where I was at this time ten years ago. I had just arrived a few days earlier in the city where I planned to live for four years while I did my PhD. I'm not sure where I thought I'd be today. If you told me then that on this day in 2011 I'd be writing this from Osaka, that in itself wouldn't have surprised me - it was certainly my expectation that the kind of work I would do would involve occasional travel of this nature. If you told me I'd have finished my PhD by now, I'd have said, of course, that's the plan. If you told me I'd only be three years out of the PhD, having taken seven instead of four to complete it, and in 2011 I'd still be doing "postdocs," that part would have surprised me; it sure wasn't the plan. And neither was still being alone in 2011. Indeed, very much of my life as of this day ten years ago was carefully planned around the fact that my top priority was to not still be alone after even one more year. My plan for my life had already failed because I was still alone in 2001. And my last chance to salvage it, in the early 2000s, failed too.

But just a couple hours from now my ten-years-younger self will (if I can use the future tense for what happened a decade ago) find something else to think about for a while. I found out about the historic events of September 11 sooner than most people around me did because shortly after the first plane struck I tuned into a "talker" MUD where people were discussing it, including one member who was in downtown New York and actually seeing the events first-hand. At the time I found out, I was in a small computer lab on one of the upper floors of the Math and Computer Science building at Waterloo, because I had only just had my computer account activated, I had no computer in my office yet and I didn't yet have my home computer linked to the Net, and so that was where I had to go to get on the Net at all. I remember turning away from the computer and addressing the only other person in the lab: "Listen, there's something important you should probably know about." I told him what I'd just read, and then I went down to the pay phones in the Davis Centre atrium and phoned my parents on the West Coast, even though it was 6:something am for them.


Saturday 10 September 2011, 07:10

Writing this on September 10. I've been working very hard for the last few days, as well as struggling with technology issues (as mentioned, my computer in Canada seems to be kaput), so here are just a few notes.

More fun with technology

Friday 9 September 2011, 07:14

Looks like my home computer has stopped working. Most likely it's some kind of thermal-related hardware flakiness, and it'll be basically okay once rebooted. But since I am literally on the other side of the world from the machine in question, and it's not accepting network connections, there's not really anything that can be done about this situation until I return to Canada almost two weeks from now. Fortunately, I have enough other computing resources elsewhere on the Net that I can still do my email and Web log updates and the other things I really need to do during my trip; and all the data was backed up before I left, so even if the machine is dead in some more spectacular and permanent way, there'll be little if any really permanent damage. Some reference information that would be nice to have access to, is locked up on that computer and inaccessible with it not accepting network connections. Axel, sorry, but it looks unlikely that the astro charts will work until I'm back in Canada.

I sure don't seem to be having good luck with technology these last few days.

Walking tour

Thursday 8 September 2011, 06:29

Something changed in the already-flaky conference wireless system, and I haven't been able to get online from the conference (only from my hotel room) for a while. That has limited my ability to update. But here goes.

September 7, Wednesday: day 2 of MOL 12, notably including the guided walking tour of tourist sites around Nara. I had mixed feelings about that: I got a lot of interesting information from the tour and visited some places I might not have done under my own power, but it was also at times frustrating.

Note on Uneme Jinja

Wednesday 7 September 2011, 15:44

Okay, the update for September 7 probably will take a while, because there are a lot of pictures and things to describe - that was the day of the conference-sponsored walking tour. However, I did look up the unknown Shinto shrine with the sign saying 「えんむすび采女神社 shown in the photo gallery, so here's a quick note about that.

Tuesday in Nara

Wednesday 7 September 2011, 04:26

September 6 was the first day of MOL 12 - the workshop that is my excuse for coming to Japan in the first place. I'm not going to go into much detail on the conference itself, at least not right here; I did record the audio from my talk but I'm not even sure if I'll post it. I think it went okay, but I'm not sure I was really at the top of my game; some of my other conference talks have been better.

Kyoto to Nara

Tuesday 6 September 2011, 20:23

I'm writing this from the 12th Meeting on Mathematics of Language, on the morning of September 7. Wireless bandwidth is poor here, and there are only 8 IP addresses shared between me and all other delegates, so I am writing offline and then uploading so as to tie up one of those addresses for as short a time as possible.

Last entry ended a bit suddenly because I hadn't been paying close attention to the time, and so I was surprised by the shinkansen's arrival in Kyoto. I thought I made the connection to the train from there to Nara pretty well, but it turned out that the train I was on, although it was the Nara line, did not actually go as far as Nara. It went out of service at Jouyou. So I had to wait there for the next train, which would take me the rest of the way. At least waiting at the station gave me the chance to take a few more photos of infrastructure.

At Nara station, I was greeting by this improbable figure.

Buddhist-Wiccan syncretic deity??

At a glance, it seems to be a Buddhist/Wiccan syncretic deity, the Horned Buddha.

On the shinkansen to Kyoto

Monday 5 September 2011, 02:53

I am writing this draft on the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, though I probably won't have a chance to upload it until I reach Nara later this afternoon. Oy, such an adventure I am having.

I'm not sure that I like Mondays

Sunday 4 September 2011, 17:49

Wrote an entry here, and hotel's wireless authentication system ate the submit transaction. Don't really have time to rewrite, so I'll do it up properly during the shinkansen ride this afternoon and edit the new content in. To summarize: It's Monday morning here. I didn't activate Meredith's Law about what happens if you barf on a date; I have a lead on a replacement camera, though of course the lowest-end camera I can buy in Shinjuku is fancier than the one I'm replacing; and things seem more or less under control for my being able to reach the next save point.


Sunday 4 September 2011, 05:43

I got off the Narita Express at the wrong station - Shibuya instead of Shinjuku. Resolving that should have been easy: get on the local train from Shibuya to Shinjuku, at no cost except the lost time because I have a pass. But somewhere in the process of figuring that out, I lost my camera. This could have been predicted because I was making a conscious effort to keep it in my hand, not in my pocket, the better to make quick snapshots, and the consequence is that it was easy to set down somewhere. My name and email address are stored on it, so it's quite possible it may find its way back to me again eventually, but it appears I had better buy another one because I need one immediately. Gee, I wish I happened to be visiting the consumer electronics capital of the world right now...

It is worth mentioning that although losing the camera is annoying, there are many other things I could well have lost that would have gotten me in Big Trouble - like my passport, for instance, or my rail pass. I can buy a new camera quite easily; it wasn't an expensive one.

Then once I got to Shinjuku station I got lost looking for my hotel. I think I owe an offering to the kami of Hanazono Shrine, because that was the landmark that worked. Once I found the shrine, the rest of my route was right where I expected it to be. Nothing else in Shinjuku looks the way I expected it to at night.

Meanwhile, I skipped exchanging my money at the airport because I thought it would be better to find a bank machine and withdraw fresh money rather than trying to exchange Canadian, but finding a bank machine that would take my Canadian ATM card was harder than I thought. It also didn't help that the Japan Rail staff were so incredibly efficient - I had thought to exchange money in between getting my train ticket and getting on the train, but that was not what happened. I just sort of vaguely waved my JR Pass Exchange Order at the staff and really before I knew it I was on the Narita Express to Shinjuku with all the rest of my reserved tickets for the entire trip in hand and triple-checked. I didn't have to speak Japanese to them because they didn't let me get a word in edgewise. Of course, it may have helped that I did have all my paperwork in order (and in Japanese) beforehand. Maybe a really clueless tourist would be processed at a more leisurely pace.

They have ATMs that handle foreign cards in Seven Elevens, right? And Google Maps shows roughly one Seven Eleven per three residents of Japan, even in podunk rural towns. But, like cops, where's one when you need one? By the time I figured out that it would be better to just cave and change the Canadian dollars, it was too late. I did find a Seven Eleven on my way from Hanazono Shrine to the hotel. Not having money had secondary consequences like not being able to phone my local contact. Even now that I have some cash, it's in 10000-yen bills, roughly equivalent to $100 each, and I'm pretty sure the vending machines won't take those. But I could be surprised.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, something went wrong in the colo facility that hosts this Web site. Fortunately, one of the services I pay for is having someone else resolve such things. It seems to be up now. I'm sure that when I have time to read it, the story will be interesting. Right now I have no idea what happened.

Now I've been awake way too long, and still have things to do before I sleep.

In Vancouver airport

Saturday 3 September 2011, 11:20

I'm writing this from the Vancouver airport. It's 9:20 on Saturday, local time, but I'm trying to shift my brain to JST, so for me, it's 1:20 (am) on Sunday. This'll be the first of probably many updates during my trip.

I'm posting photos in my gallery, and you should look there regularly because I will sometimes post stuff there without posting commentary or links here. I think there's an RSS feed you can subscribe to if you want up-to-the-minute photos. Do come back and look at pictures you've seen before, too, because I may post comments or annotations on existing pictures. Uploading photos to the gallery is fast and easy; posting comments there takes more time, and posting entries here even more than that. (EDIT June 2020: I'm taking down the gallery and moving the photos into the main entries here.)

Media from Toronto trip

Wednesday 17 August 2011, 15:02

Now online: photo gallery, PDF presentation slides, and MP3 audio recording of my talk from my recent Toronto trip.