Public Spaces and Secret Bunkers

When my brother Steve was in Pusan, South Korea back in the late 1990s, I paid him a visit. One of the things from that visit that stayed with me is the different notion of “public space” in Korea.

Many Koreans have very small apartments or houses, and so they seek places outside the home to socialize and wile away the hours. One example of this is the ad hoc bars — called soju tents — that spring up every night on the streets of suburbia. In these tents, the men of the neighbourhood gather, drink sujo, and eat snacks cooked in the knock-down kitchens set up in the tents. Another example is the proliferation of very comfortable coffee houses throughout the cities, places you can happily go and spend 5 or 6 hours doing, well, whatever while you’re drinking coffee.

We don’t really have analagous public spaces here in Charlottetown. There are coffee shops — Beanz, GrabbaJabba, and the ubiquitous Tim Hortons — but with the exception of Tims they keep anemic hours, and are never open when you really want to get out of the house (at, say, 11:30 p.m.). And if you’re at Tim Hortons at 11:30 at night you’re widely considered to be worthy of scorn are at least derision. There are bars, but because of our bizarro liquor laws, they aren’t really bars, more restaurants posing as bars. And if you don’t smoke, even that option is out.

Not being a bona fide Islander, I’ve always had my suspicions that people born here, or at least people who have been here more than 13 years (which, Catherine Hennessey says, is the qualifying period of Islander status consideration) have secret bunkers where they gather to make secret Islander plans. I’d welcome any true Islanders in the readership who are willing to break ranks with the fold to confirm or deny this fact.

Beware of Digital North America

In mid-July I signed up for Island Tel Mobility’s Digital North America plan because I was tired of getting $350 cell phone bills every time I got back from a trip to the USA. For $79, the Digital North America plan gets you 200 minutes of calling anywhere in North America.

Imagine my surprise upon returning from our latest trip to find a cell phone bill for $340.87 waiting for me. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with Island Tel this morning, and they tracked the problem back to a misconfiguration of my account in their database: I was being billed for all of my “free” long distance.

The result? They had overcharged me by $225.95.

This isn’t the first time this has happened; a similar problem showed up on the August bill and, indeed, I don’t think I’ve had a completely correct Island Tel Mobility bill all year as they were regularly charging me daily roaming fees in the spring even though these fees were theoretically removed last year.

So, a word to the wise: don’t blindly pay what you’re billed from Island Tel Moblity. Look carefelly to see that it’s right!

Even in the Quietest Moments...

Having been in iBook country for the last three weeks on the road, I decided to just keep on Mac’ing when I got home. So I shut off my PC and moved it to one side of the desk, plugged the ergo-keyboard into the iBook, and I’ve been using it as my primary work machine all week long.

The most noticeable benefit of this move? It’s quiet in here! My PC is not a particularly noisy one, but it has a fan and a hard disk and together they sound not unlike a colony of bees. While not particularly annoying or noticeable in the foreground, I’ve come to realize that the cumulative effect of living in the PC noise-o-sphere for hours at a time is brain-numbing.

My iBook has no fan, and it has a very quiet hard disk, and so essentially, but for the sound of typing, my office is quiet. It is a wonderful silence, and my productivity has increased and my anxiety decreased considerably.

Ob-tangent: I believe I actually uttered the phrase “we are so there!” when Dave told me that Supertramp was planning an eastern Canadian tour. Dave and I, by coincidence, share a love of Supertramp from our youth. The only concert I’ve ever been to that could properly be called a Concert was at Exhibition Stadium for the Famous Last Words tour. It was awesome (!).

Alas, Supertramp was not in the cards for me this time, as Johnny and Jodi had the gall to get married the weekend the band swung through. Oh well. It was a wonderful wedding, and I’m sure they’ll have another farewell tour. Supertramp, I mean.

iCal and City Cinema

It’s been almost a week since Apple released their new iCal calendaring program, and we’ve had a good chance to take it for a test drive here at the World HQ.

As many have noted, iCal is not a program without rough edges: it’s slower than I would like, and not quite as polished as Apple’s other “iApps” like iTunes and iPhoto.

That said, it is a work of calendaring beauty and power compared to Microsoft Outlook and the Palm Desktop, which is what I’ve been using to manage my datebook for the past five or six years.

The iCal interface is clean and elegant, and it’s dead simple to use right out of the box. But perhaps the nicest feature of iCal is that it’s a very web-literate application: you can publish your calendar to the web (either to Apple’s dotmac service if you have a dotmac account, or to your own WebDav server if you want to handle things yourself), and you can subscribe to other’s calendars that have been so-published.

Here at the World HQ, for example, Catherine and I are each using iCal, and I can see Catherine’s calendar and she mine, so we can easily manage conflicts, wee-Oliver care, etc. It’s nifty.

In this spirit of niftiness, I’ve added a new feature to the City Cinema website: you can now subscribe to the City Cinema schedule. If you click on that link and you’re iCalified, you’ll be prompted by iCal for your subscription details (how often you want to refresh, etc.) and then you’ll see a blorp on your iCal for every film on the cinema schedule.

If you’re not using iCal, but have some other system that understands vCalendar files, you may have some success too.

Let me know any comments or suggestions you might have.