Friday, October 29, 1999 9:44 AM
part 20

Atli, Jóhanna, Güdrun, and I, went to see a movie that everyone in Reykjavík wanted to see. I have no idea why so many people wanted to see it, but I had not even heard of the movie, so evidently I was missing something. The other three got their tickets and, as I approached the ticket window, the ticket seller put up a sign to say that the movie was sold out... then she sold me a ticket. I had bought the last one. I would have preferred that the sign had appeared after that. Perhaps the seller had attended an empathy course, and for a moment I would have known the feeling of the people behind me who had not yet bought their ticket. True, in that moment, I did know their feeling but such things are forgotten in an instant.

Atli took me to a lecture on fuzzy control logic, given by a visiting American professor, at the university where Atli is studying now. The Icelandic word for "fuzzy" translates as "furry". I laughed until I stopped. It was a good lecture - I was thinking about it for hours afterwards. Of course, that can be also the sign of a really bad lecture. :-) I got some good ideas. I wonder if I can use some of them in our software?

The rhythmic sound of car horns and the waving of flags suggested to me only one thing: more soccer hoolig...en...thusiasts. Indeed, that seems to be what they were. A different team this time, too.

I went to the Virus Bulletin conference this year, in Vancouver. It was my first trip to Vancouver. It wasn't such a good choice, either, since Canada is very fussy about the people whom it will allow to enter the country. The result was that some Eastern European virus researchers were not able to obtain a visa, and could not attend the conference.

To get to Vancouver from Iceland requires a side trip to Minneapolis. The airport had some interesting sights, such as a shop selling Jesse Ventura action figures, a "walk-thru" McDonalds, and a policeman buying food (possibly doughnuts) at Starbucks. I'm sure that the rest of the city is even more exciting. I could barely contain my enthusiasm at being there. Truly, I was whelmed.

We arrived during the day before the conference, so I was able to see some of the city, including the world's only steam clock (there's a reason for that, which is obvious every fifteen minutes because that's how often it "chimes"... I use the term loosely, considering that it's a tune composed of four somewhat off-key whistles). There is an office block over which flows a cascading waterfall. That was more my style. There are windows in the ceiling of the building, which is the bed of the stream, and more windows that look out from behind the waterfall. I expect that the offices are soundproof. There was a man scooping leaves from the stream, as though he were cleaning a pool. Overall, it was a most unusual combination of objects. I didn't get lost this year, either, if only because I was not left to explore on my own.

A number of us (at least thirty) descended on the local Chinese restaurant for the traditional Chinese meal during the Virus Bulletin conference. We were probably a dream come true for the manager, since our order was "Please bring us a selection of food until we say 'stop'", and it was quite some time until we said 'stop'.

Vancouver airport has a departure tax, however they prefer to refer to it via the euphemism of "airport improvement fee". It is required to be paid on only the first flight from Vancouver on any given day, though it makes little difference since multiple departures are unlike to occur on the same day. I suppose that that is the point.

What they say (and what they mean): Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have overbooked this flight (er, oops). As a result, we are offering financial compensation (money money money) or this accommodation voucher (a night in the hotel in which the boss has a financial interest) to those passengers with flexible travel plans (who don't have to be somewhere else; whose visa doesn't expire today; who didn't really want to visit your mother-in-law anyway). Please come to the front desk (so we can make an example of you to those aren't able to benefit from this offer).

On the flight back, I overheard one of the flight attendants telling someone to fasten the seatbelt, because "when these planes stop, they stop fast". This is not the kind of thing that I need to hear.

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