Carrying suspicious-looking quidditch equipment on the metro


This morning, I brought two brand new Mark 3 quidditch hoop bases to campus via the métro. The McGill Quidditch Team now has a full set of 6 freestanding quidditch hoops! They are reasonably easy to carry and just the right weight to prevent tipping. They are also made of ABS pipes, joints and couplings, and so they look awfully suspicious.

I’m still working on updating the construction manual so that it reflects the most up-to-date version of the base.

I got off the métro at station Peel and crossed the path of two uniformed police officers. They looked at me, they looked at the mess of ABS pipes in my hands, and they looked up at me again. Although they didn’t say anything, I could tell from their expression that they were thinking something like, “If this guy wasn’t blond with blue eyes, we would totally preemptively arrest him under the brave new anti-terrorism legislation that just passed.”

I just tried to look casual.

Montréal Métro iPhone app

Logo for Montréal Métro Exits
Logo for Montréal Métro Exits

On and off for the last little bit, I’ve been working on a little bit of a side-project: Something for when I don’t want to think about research ethics anymore. I was inspired to do this by something I heard on CBC a while back. A guy in London, UK made an iPhone app that would tell you which car to exit so that you would be closest to the exit on the subway.

I thought that this was a great idea. I would certainly use an application like that! Turns out someone already did it for Montréal, but they did a crappy job of it. The data set is incomplete, and the interface leaves much to be desired. Also, this other app tells you nothing about which car to board in order to transfer. In fact, the other app told you only which métro car to exit in order to be near the exit, not which métro car to enter, which seemed to undermine the point of the app. You need to know which car to board before you get on the train. (You can’t just infer one from the other, though, since in some cases the train approaches from the right side of the platform and in some cases it approaches from the left.)

I decided to write an app that would be really simple from the user’s perspective—just choose two stations, and the app tells you which car to get into at your departure station, and then which car to get into at your transfer station(s) (if applicable). I thought it would be a good exercise, just as practice for some other ideas for iPhone apps that I’ve had.

So, a couple weeks ago, I donned my lab coat, grabbed a clip board and went to every métro station in Montréal and wrote down where all the exits were. I also collected information regarding transfers. Writing the app wasn’t so hard, although submitting it to the iTunes store was a bit of a headache. That said, it was approved on my first try, and it took less than a week. (Thanks, Apple!)

It was getting Apple to process my tax forms that was the longest part of the development process.

The app was approved on Friday the 18th, and Apple processed my Canadian tax info last Tuesday. I had to fill out some US tax forms (just indicating that I wasn’t a US citizen) and then today they finally started selling my app on the iTunes store.

Tell your friends! Seriously. Every month I get roughly 300 visits to my blog from people in the Montréal area. If I could get a few of you guys to post this to your Facebook, I’d be raking it in. :)

Now that I’ve sort of figured out how to write and submit an app for the iPhone, I’ve got my sights set on bigger cities where this sort of app hasn’t been written before. (Yes, there are still some. Not many!) Also, I have a few ideas for other, better iPhone apps that I think could be a lot of fun. I’m not about to start posting my ideas on the internet though: That’s a great way to have someone else make my app before I do. :P

Car accident

Car accident near Snowdon Station
Car accident near Snowdon Station

I promise—not all my posts from now on are going to be about traffic flow in Montréal. I just happened to surface at Snowdon Station today after my office hours on campus, and the very moment I stepped out of the station, I heard a loud bang. Looking to my right, a car had run into a big white van marked “Incendie.”

No one got hurt, but I bet that put a damper on their Robbie Burns’ Day celebrations.

Metro adventure today

Metro Adventure
Metro Adventure

It’s getting so that you can’t trust the métro any more!

I was trapped at station Lionel-Groulx for a good long time on Wednesday. Me and a few hundred people and one yelling guy. That wasn’t too bad.

Then today, just after I finished TA-ing my first conferences of the semester, a few minutes before 14h this afternoon, I transferred to the orange line at station Lionel-Groulx, and when my metro car was between Vendôme and Place St-Henri, the lights unexpectedly went out, and the train sort of coasted to a stop between the stations.

A voice over the speaker eventually informed us that we would be evacuated.

Below are a couple of videos that I recorded on my iPod. The first is a short one of us getting off the train, and the second is a longish (30 seconds) one of us walking along the métro tunnel toward Vendôme.

When I got there, I just got in a cab and went to station Snowdon, since I didn’t know what bus to take. A nice old lady shared a cab with me, and wouldn’t let me pay for it, so it didn’t cost me a thing!

According to the STM Twitter feed, service is only just now (15h10) gradually resuming.

Too dependant on the Metro


This morning I got up and I actually got out the door early for the class that I’m a TA for. I got on the Metro and when I arrived at station Lionel-Groulx, I discovered that there the Metro was not running on the green line, and would not be until my class was halfway done.

I surfaced at that station and thought about taking a bus but I had no idea which bus would get me to campus or whether it would be any better than waiting for the Metro, so I just admitted defeat and ordered a cab.

I was five minutes late. Grr.

Why not volunteers [sic]?

"Why not volunteers?"
"Why not volunteers?"

As an MA student in bioethics, I am very interested in the advertisements on the Métro for participation in phase I drug studies.

And that’s not just because they were very tempting back when I had no job and no prospects at the end of the school year in April.

I have found the evolution of this particular advertisement to be very notable indeed. A few months ago, when I first noticed it, it went something like this:

“Up to $4000 for healthy men, 18–45 / A clinical trial? Why not!”

It would run in English first, then in French, and in the version that they were running a few months ago, there was no translation problem.

Now, it is the same message, except instead of “A clinical trial? Why not!” it says, “Why not volunteers [sic]?”

English mistranslation aside, the emphasis of the message has changed. At first, the tone was more on the “Why not?”—it was more like the advertisers were saying, “Yeah, we know it’s a clinical trial, but let’s throw caution to the wind! What could go wrong?”

Now, the emphasis has changed. It’s like the advertisers are now trying to go for more of the “It’s for a good cause” feel. “Volunteer. Why wouldn’t you? It’s so that these kind people can develop drugs that will help all of us.”

“Why not volunteers?”

The Bioethics Unit party

My classmates at Vendome station after the Bioethics Unit party
My classmates at Vendome station after the Bioethics Unit party

Today was the Bioethics Unit party, held at the beautiful home of the director of the Bioethics Unit. I finally got a bunch of long-awaited details on exactly how the programme works.

We discussed supervisors, length of thesis (no more than 100 pages – darn :P) and details regarding the practicum that will be happening in the Winter term. The majority of the evening was spent getting to know my classmates and other members of the Unit.

It was both a “Welcome to the Bioethics Unit” party and a “Happy Retirement” party for one of the profs who will be stepping down as the Unit director.

Pictured to the right are two of my four classmates at Vendome station. They were headed in the opposite direction from where I was going, so I took the opportunity to photograph them from the opposite platform.