France iDTGV train and iDCAB taxi

France has not one but three high-speed train companies that share the same rails.  There’s the traditional TGV which you can book about 3 months in advance, the low-cost iDTGV which you can book up to 6 months in advance (but only runs on certain routes), and Ouigo, which departs from outside Paris and runs only along a single route.

Booking iDTGV

iDTGV can be booked from its own website or app, which has the advantage of offering seat selection, or through voyages-sncf, which I gather doesn’t.

It has two types of “zone”, basically a quiet one (iDZEN) and a family/louder one (iDZAP).  See http://www.idtgv.com/en/idservices/idzen-and-idzap  It also has two classes, but in my experience it’s not worth getting 1st class on French trains.

It sort-of works for booking outside of France (including a good English interface).  There are a number of issues though (and some outright bugs / website errors).

To make it work without a European credit card and French phone number:

  1. When creating an account or checking out, do not try to enter a cellphone number unless you have a French cellphone.  The form only accepts French numbers (of form e.g. 06 xx xx xx xx).  The cellphone number is optional, except…
  2. When going through the booking process, on the options page, do not select the iDCAB taxi option.  It will make the entry of a cellphone number at checkout mandatory (this is a bug in the system).
  3. If you have a non-European credit card, your first checkout will almost certainly fail with “rejected”.

iDTGV support says « les cartes étrangères, non Européenne sont bloquées par défaut sur notre site par mesure de sécurité » which translates roughly as “non-European cards are blocked by default on our site as a security measure”.

However, having done the initial transaction and gotten your card rejected, you can email or contact form them and ask them to unblock it.  Just send them the last four digits of your card, not your entire number.  Thanks to Seat 61 for the info about credit cards.

If that doesn’t work, try also calling your credit card company to see if they have blocked the card on their end too.  Sometimes transactions on European websites trigger North American credit card company blocks.

I had to both email iDTGV to get the card unblocked at the website end as well as phone my credit card company to get the card unblocked on the card end.  I had the credit card support stay on the line while I ran the transaction through, a practice I highly recommend as it saves you calling back if it’s still not working.

Be aware that the iDTGV website will silently time-out if you’re idle for a while.

Other bugs:

  • In the Details of My Order section of Print My Tickets (the summary page), the links under “You Can Still” mostly don’t work (they just point to the summary page).  Use the links under My Booking (upper left) instead.
  • If you’re booking in English in the iDTGV app, check the dates very carefully.  it looks to me like there is an off-by-one error (e.g. you have to enter January 1 in order to get January 2), probably due to the fact that the French calendar week starts on Monday and the US/Canadian/UK calendar starts on Sunday.

Booking iDCAB

iDCAB is a taxi-like service for travel to and from the train station.  It’s available for quite a few of the major stations in France.
iDCAB 10 Euros
You can add iDCAB to your iDTGV booking (on the website) without any problems AFTER you’ve booked and paid for your main train trip.  However (if you have a one-way ticket at least) it appears to only offer the option for a taxi on the departure end of the trip, not the arrival.

In the iDCAB interface you can enter an international number (e.g. +1 xxx xxx xxxx) although it’s anyone’s guess whether it actually gets recorded correctly in the system.

iDCAB is not currently available as an option in the iPhone app.

You can also book iDCAB as a stand-alone service at http://idcab.sncf.com/ (thanks to Jérémie Croyère, CTO of iDCAB for this info – @cpasbanal on Twitter).

On the SNCF site you’re supposed to be able to submit your train booking reference to get it to autoload your train stations, but I couldn’t get it to work (at least with a booking made on iDTGV the same day).

Unlike the interface at iDTGV, the SNCF interface won’t give you options for how early you want to arrive or estimate travel time to the station; you have to choose your pickup time yourself.  It also won’t let you specify the number of passengers (however this doesn’t really matter as it’s a flat price regardless, up to max 4 passengers).  The price on SNCF is also higher than on iDTGV.  The SNCF interface will tell you what car service is picking you up though.

Baggage Restrictions

Note that iDTGV has tighter baggage restrictions than the TGV:

You can take 2 pieces of luggage for free (details below).

If you take more than two pieces of luggage, you will have to pay an extra charge of €35 per piece of luggage (on the iDTGV website in “My travel options”), within the limit of 2 extra pieces of luggage per person.

If you did not pay this extra charge when you booked, the payment will cost you €45 on board.

The free pieces of luggage per person cannot exceed:
– two pieces of hand luggage (suitcases, rucksacks, travel bags) per traveller; or
– one hand luggage and an object per traveller (a children’s pushchair, a wheelchair, a bicycle with its wheels removed and placed together in a special protective cover of 1.20 x 0.90m maximum, a surfboard placed in a protective cover of 1.20m x 0.90m maximum, a pair of skis, a monoski or a snowboard, a bag containing a ‘small-sized’ domestic animal; or
– a piece of hand luggage per traveller and a piece of luggage of 50cm x 50cm x 50cm ; or
– a piece of hand luggage per traveller and a musical instrument.

For more details, check out the full page at Seat 61: www.seat61.com/idtgv.htm

Cineplex VIP – there is a light that never goes out

Cineplex has VIP theatres, including one at Lansdowne.  It’s an ok idea but from my perspective appears to have a fatal design flaw.

VIP basically means:

  • a lounge/bar outside the theatres
  • a few one-person “executive” washrooms rather than large shared washrooms
  • larger seats, with seat controls to lean back and (I think) put up a foot rest
  • reserved seats
  • drink and food service at the seat (server comes and takes order before movie, then brings it)
  • smaller theatre

Because of the drinks, it is local legal drinking age only (e.g. 19+ in Ottawa).

So other than the 1% income inequality aspect, ok.

IMG_2888-12888-20150621 - Version 3

Except. Those seat controls. That glow bright blue. They never go out.  Here’s an artificially-darkened version of the above image.

IMG_2888-12888-20150621 - Version 2

Now if it were me, here’s how I would design these seat controls:

  • they would only illuminate, when the house lights are on, if someone was sitting in the chair
  • they would be illuminated in red
  • they would have distinct shapes or raised icons so that you could identify them by touch
  • the illumination would go out as soon as the house lights went down

At the absolute maximum, I might agree to a touch-activated, very very dim red illumination when the house lights are down.  So as to not distract the other guests.

These are not controls that you’re using all the time.  At most you might adjust your chair when you sit down, or just before the movie starts.  I didn’t actually see anyone using them at all.

Instead, at least in the movie I was in:

  • they never go out
  • they are illuminated in bright blue (which is not a natural light, and which is the wrong colour for any light in an otherwise dark room)

The fact they never go out might be ok if they were completely blocked from view.  But they are not.  Which means if you have good peripheral vision, you can see not just the light below you on your chair, but the lights on the chairs to the left and right of you.  Which means the entire movie experience is like this:

blue light blue light blue light blue light blue light blue light

Maybe your ideal experience of a movie is to have the rough equivalent of someone constantly shining blue laser pointers into the corners of both your eyes, but mine is not.

As a side note, Cineplex has started an autism-spectrum-friendly screening program called Sensory Friendly Screenings, with “2D projection, increased auditorium lighting, lower volume and smaller crowds” (Autism Speaks press release, PDF).  Other than the increased lighting, this actually sounds like a better theatre experience for everyone.  The VIP theatre would be ideal for this screening program… except it seems likely that the blue lights that never go off will be a distressing stimulus.

I very much hope they are supposed to go out, but just weren’t switched off.

In any case, I really only care about the the reserved seat part, so I will be going to IMAX instead.

(Also incidentally the three one-person washrooms may be nice in theory, but mean a giant lineup at the end of the movie – go down the hall to the larger shared washrooms by the UltraAVX section.)

Sidebar: There are three VIP theatres at Lansdowne.  Cinema 3 is bigger than cinema 2.  I don’t know about cinema 1.  Make sure you check not just the show but the time posted outside the theatre (all three VIP cinemas were playing the same movie, just at different times.)

light and dark, night and day, asleep and awake

There is pretty good evidence for how human sleep relates to cycles of light and dark.

Here are some podcasts and books about light and dark, night and day, sleep and wakefulness:

As you can probably tell from above, Roger Ekirch was a major force in bringing segmented sleep to popular attention, in part through his book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.  I actually find the book a pretty slow read – it’s a scholarly examination of how people perceived the night, it’s not just about sleep.  The TL;DR is that people basically thought night was pretty weird, with miasmic air drifting about.

Interesting historical sidebar 1: The European Celts apparently measured time not by days, but by nights.  They counted time by darkness, not by light.

Interesting historical sidebar 2: Lest you think people always fled the night, ancient Rome was so crowded that delivery vehicles were banned during the day, and had to deliver at night.  That being said, night in Rome was dangerous, with roving thuggish gangs.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert, everything below is based on my understanding of things I’ve learned from the above resources and other sources.

The lost night – how artificial light broke human sleep

We’re basically made for very bright light during the day, and very dark darkness during the night, with dawn and dusk transitions.  Our eyes and our brains have special sensors and systems that measure and act based on the light levels and the light change.

Sleep is a very different physiological state from being awake; the transition is traumatic for the body.  What’s supposed to happen is that about an hour before you actually wake up, the body is supposed to start preparing, based both on your internal clock and the light intensity and light change (rising with the dawn).  This depends on you getting up more or less at the same time each day.

During the day, you’re supposed to be outside in the very bright sunshine.  (If you ever emerge from your office blinking at the noonday light, it’s because our offices are dramatically less bright than being outside.)

Dusk is a signal to your body to start relaxing into the evening, and total darkness is the sign for your first sleep.

And slepte hire firste sleepe / and thanne awook/

Canterbury Tales

We’ve learned that sleep based on natural light and dark appears to be broken into two cycles, first sleep from full darkness until a bit after midnight (say 8:30pm to 2am) and second sleep beginning an hour or two later until dawn (e.g. 3am to 6am).  The phase between first and second sleep is physiologically different from either full sleep or full wakefulness – it’s a kind of relaxed state, ideal for contemplation.  And there is also an alertness cycle during the day, leading to a typical dip after noon, when it would be natural to have a nap (e.g. around 3pm).

You should think of these rhythms as also applying to your mental activity – you’re supposed to rise into alertness, be alert during most of the day, and then wind down in the evening.  You shouldn’t either go from rising from bed immediately to a complex mental task, nor do something mentally engaging or stressful and then drop yourself immediately into bed.  You’re supposed to ease your way into the day, and then ease yourself back into the night.

So we have these basic rhythms.  Our body’s natural clock actually runs longer than 24 hours, but it’s supposed to get reset every day by light.  Having predictable wake and sleep times helps too, as does a regular meal schedule (there is a secondary clock in the body, based on when you eat).  The body also has a much longer lunar clock, based on the phases of the moon.

Babies and teenagers have different body clock cycles – babies sleep basically all the time, teenagers’ clocks get skewed so that they fall asleep later and wake later.

In modern life we basically ignore all of these natural cycles.  This is manageable, as humans are not just biological machines – we have neuroplasticity; we can adapt.  But it has significant impacts nonetheless.  Our misalignment is on many levels:

  • we use artificial light to extend the evening, going to bed much later than we would naturally
  • we have overlit cities, overlit buildings and overlit bedrooms, which means the sleep itself is disrupted
    • including bringing blue light into our bedrooms, whether a television, a laptop, a smartphone or tablet, or bright blue clock LEDs
    • the smartphone in the bedroom is basically an anti-sleep bomb
  • pre-computer, and still very much for many people today, the TV is on and being watched intermittently for the entire evening (and all day for some)
    • this includes the TV in the bedroom, which is very bad, and watching TV to fall asleep, which is terrible for your brain on multiple levels
  • we expect to sleep in a single consolidated 8-hour block
  • we often force ourselves away to follow the clock, rather than our bodies – including forcing teenagers to get up much earlier than they would normally, and not resting when we feel tired or sleepy
  • we change the clock with Daylight Savings Time
  • we have months that don’t align with the lunar cycle
  • (we have a year that doesn’t align with the lunar months, but this is because the earth’s orbit around the sun doesn’t exactly divide into the lunar cycle)

Basically anything you do that isn’t aligned with the dawn – bright light of day – dusk – very dark night cycle will screw up your sleep.  And screwing up your sleep screws up your wakefulness.

In the Protestant work ethic countries, we got this idea that sleep and relaxation are wasted idle time, that we should maximize our wakeful work and activity time, above all other things.  So many of us are in perpetual sleep deficit.

There is good news for many people who sleep poorly, on two fronts:

  • one is that you may actually be sleeping normally, if you’re waking up for a few hours in the night
  • two is that if you’re sleeping poorly you may be able to improve things by taking some basic steps

Things you can do:

  • first and foremost, the bedroom must be dark.  like really dark.  like at the bottom of a coal mine without any lights dark
  • if you have way too much artificial light outside to be able to leave the window uncovered for natural dawn, get an artificial dawn alarm – this should both gently raise the light level in the morning, and optionally have a quiet sound that very gradually increases (could be radio, music, white noise, a tone etc.)
    • there is basically no natural sudden waking.  if you wake suddenly to an alarm, your body basically thinks you’re being attacked by a tiger or something.
    • always get up at the same time every day
  • take time during the entire work day to look out a window, to get the full brightness of the sun
  • go outside at lunchtime, in the full sun
  • dusk is basically a lost cause in the modern world
  • in the evening, wind down your screen time at least a couple hours before bed
    • yes, this means no computer monitor, no laptop, no smartphone, no tablet and no television for a couple hours before bed
    • no glowing screens in the bedroom.  An e-ink device is ok (e.g. a Kindle) because it’s reflected light, not direct projected light.
    • always go to bed at the same time every day
  • in general, no blue light in the bedroom (blue is the strongest trigger for the sensors in your eyes).  bright blue LEDs are terrible for your sleep.
  • set your devices to total silent mode (or just turn them off) – if your brain knows that the phone might beep or buzz with a text during the night, part of you will always be waiting for that to happen
    • plus which, as I mentioned above, there’s no natural sudden waking.  your phone buzzing and pulling you out of deep sleep makes your brain think it’s an emergency.
  • no bright light during the entire span of the night
    • cover your windows well (e.g. blackout curtain) if it’s bright outside
    • use dim nightlights (e.g. electroluminescents are good)
    • no switching on the lights or any screens – maybe a very dim light to read by between first and second sleep, but no screens (due to the blue light)
  • eat at the same times every day
  • eat breakfast (part of signalling to your body that it’s time to ease itself into the day)

That’s basically the best that I know that you can do.

I used to read (paper books) to fall asleep, but for me it creates two problems, one is that the book falls down when I fall asleep, which wakes me up (often falling on my face), another is that the light stays on and eventually wakes me up.  I found a solution in listening to audiobooks (and to podcasts) at night instead.  That way I can set the sleep timer and then I just fall asleep in the dark.

As a society, we could also:

  • design our cities to be dark-sky, rather than overlighting them
  • design our buildings to use natural light, and to be dark by default
    • for example in Europe, hallways usually have windows to the outside, and a minuterie (a light timer) that gives you only a few minutes of artificial light to get around
  • start school later for teenagers
  • let people nap during the day
  • spend more time outside, including walking meetings and outdoor lunch breaks
  • spend less time facing the computer screen, and more time working on paper (or e-ink screens) using natural light
  • use all our screens less
  • get rid of Daylight Savings Time, which is stupid on many levels
  • go to bed earlier

The above is pretty much all about light and dark and your body clock.  There are of course many other factors, including caffeine, stress, and noise.

If you want more info, you can google first sleep second sleep and a bazillion articles will come up.

iOS Travel emoji – railway vs tram

Apple iOS 8.3 adds many new emoji (these symbols are standardized by the Unicode Consortium, not by Apple).  It also has a new, much larger display (emoji keyboard) with clearer groupings.  But not quite clear enough.

Perhaps it’s because Apple has a giant suburban US campus, but some of their transportation emoji are difficult to distinguish (there is a whole separate issue, which is that you only get the tiny icon, instead of being able to tap-and-hold to get a much larger more detailed icon with a text explanation).

Here are most (but not all) of the selections

Travel Emoji - IMG_2152 - 12152

As you can see, two of the entries in the far-left column look almost identifical.  They are actually railway car and tram car.  Here they are at double size, with explanation and Twitter icons (apologies for my clumsy graphics editing skills).

Travel Emoji - railway tram Twitter - IMG_2152 - 12152

You can see good info, with the representations used in multiple different operating systems, at EmojiBase:

In short, if you want to tweet or text a RAILWAY CAR use the TOP icon.
If you want to tweet or text a TRAM CAR use the BOTTOM icon.

(In fairness to Apple, the Android emoji are much worse, rendering the railway car like a bus.)

podcasts I like

For various reasons I have taken to listening to a fair number of podcasts.

My Podcasts - IMG_1858 - 11858

For some I have been listening long enough that I know what day new episodes come out:

  • Modes de vie, mode d’emploi comes out on Mondays
    • it’s a French show, mostly about urbanism topics
  • 99% Invisible comes out mostly on Tuesdays (sometimes Wednesdays)
    • The only way I can describe the topics is most of the time it’s like Roman Mars is in my head choosing things that I like.  Including pneumatic tubes.
  • alas I have no Wednesday podcast yet
  • The Urbanist comes out on Thursdays
    • it’s about urban planning and urban life
    • I liked it better when it was an hour with no banter.  Now it’s 30 minutes, with banter.
  • BackStory comes out on Fridays
    • it takes a current event and looks at the American historical background
    • through their In the Works section you can provide input to planned episodes or even pitch a show

The above are the four core podcasts that I listen to (almost every episode of the first three, most of BackStory – not all American history interests me).

Recently I started listening to the four podcasts below, which I may add to my main rotation:

  • In Our Time comes out on Thursdays (and airs on BBC Radio 4 as well)
    • It’s like walking into a random university classroom and hearing a seminar discussion.  Very wide-ranging.  Many episodes about individual historical figures and science topics.
  • Digital Human – Mondays – Series 7 starts airing on BBC Radio 4 on Monday April 13, 2015
    • a very thoughtful and humane consideration of how digital is impacting our lives
    • with the excellent Aleks Krotoski
    • in addition to the main podcast, there is also (rather confusingly) a podcast that is maybe earlier episodes – Digital Human Archive
  • The Guardian – Science Weekly – Fridays
  • The Guardian – Tech Weekly – Wednesdays
    • with the excellent Aleks Krotoski

There are also things that are long or short series.  Because the episodes have to be played in order (from oldest first) I use Downcast, as the Apple Podcasts app doesn’t know how to play in reverse order as far as I can tell.  It is still quite complicated to do in Downcast, but it works.

There are podcasts where I only dip into a small number of episodes, as interested.

There are also legacy podcasts that are no longer updated.

  • TVO’s Big Ideas (audio) – feed http://feeds.tvo.org/tvobigideas
    • sadly this lecture series was cancelled
    • it was video lectures, so the audio podcast doesn’t always communicate the full picture (e.g. if they’re talking about visuals they’re showing)
    • last updated September 2013

Others (not sure where these fit yet; haven’t listened to many episodes).

In case you’re wondering, I have noticed that with two exceptions all of my podcasts come from outside of Canada.  In many ways I feel like my media universe lives in the UK, thanks to the quantity and quality of BBC Radio productions.

Note that for many of the above links, you can also just listen to them directly on the website.  For Codes that Changed the World, I mostly listened to the livestream directly from the web, or went back and caught up using the web audio.

Ottawa and Ontario consultations March – April – May, 2015

Monday March 30, 2015

Western LRT

opens at 5pm, presentation at 6:30pm
Ottawa City Hall

http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/transit/information-session-march-30-2015

There is a somewhat-confusing diagram (PDF) on the consultation site.

Eric Darwin did four detailed blog posts: Westward Ho! One, Two, Three, Four (and uses a clearer diagram).

Twitter hashtag is #WLRT and the general hashtag is #ottLRT

Tuesday March 31, 2015

OPL

Starting at 7pm.

Consultation on a new Ottawa Central Public Library.

In-person at Ottawa City Hall is full.

You can still watch the live webcast though.

I will be using hashtag #ottlibrary
The declared hashtag was #OttCentralLibrary

I would imagine the library will be tweeting, @opl_bpo

UPDATE 2015-04-03: There is a very brief online consultation.  It was supposed to be an ideas market, but that broke, so now you can

email CentralLibrary@Ottawa.ca

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ottawa-Central-Library-Biblioth%C3%A8que-centrale-dOttawa/681512461960430

deadline is Wednesday April 8, 2015

More info: http://ottawacentrallibrary.ca/#ideas and webcast archive at http://ottawacentrallibrary.ca/#webcast

ENDUPDATE

Capital Illumination

6pm

http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/capital-planning/public-meetings/calendar-events/capital-illumination-workshop

Space is limited. Please RSVP to info@ncc-ccn.ca by noon on Monday, March 30.

NCC Capital Urbanism Lab tweets @NCC_UrbanLab

Wednesday April 8, 2015

Complete Streets open house

UPDATE 2015-04-03: Complete Streets open house moved to May 5, 2015.  ENDUPDATE

Thursday April 9, 2015

O’Connor Bikeway

opens at 6:30pm, presentation at 7pm
Ottawa City Hall

http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/transportation/open-house-april-9-2015

Ottawa has a Cycling Plan that includes separated lanes (Ottawa calls them “cycle tracks” running east-west and north-south).  The first major north-south route will be on O’Connor (although it turns into painted bike lanes in the Glebe).

(There is a larger issue, which is that cycling is still funded through a secondary “if we have money left” process, not as part of the main infrastructure in the budget.)

Ottawa Citizen article –
Segregated cycling lanes coming to O’Connor (sooner) and Wellington (later) – March 23, 2015

The general hashtag for cycling in Ottawa is #ottbike

Tuesday May 5, 2015

Complete Streets open house

opens at 5pm, presentation at 6:30pm
Ottawa City Hall

http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/transportation/open-house-april-8-2015
http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/transportation/open-house-may-5-2015

Unfortunately the city hasn’t provided any links to Complete Streets info.  And the presentation boards aren’t online (as usual).

The key item to know is that in Chapter 7 of the 2013 Transportation Master Plan, it says

Action 7-1: Adopt a “complete streets” policy for road design, operation and maintenance

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation did an analysis, and I also found a presentation from May 27, 2013. (If you have other resources, please feel free to share them.

More to come…

the driverless car

The driverless car will be wonderful because it will be tiny and plastic and people will share/rent cars rather than owning them and it will park itself away somewhere when not in use and etc. etc.

There is nothing, in fact, to say that the driverless car won’t be big. And metal. And that people will still want to own them. And that they won’t want to pay for parking. And that they will want to have more cars (one for every family member), not fewer.

So the driverless car may equally likely be some giant pseudo-limo, some rolling entertainment fortress, that spends half its time empty, going back to the “free” parking in the driveway of its home.

Given the choices actual people make now for cars, why would the removal of a driver make them less likely to choose an SUV… or a Hummer?

And if you think people enjoy automotive luxury for themselves now, imagine when the car is just for shuttling their kids around – how easy will it be for vendors to sell them on every-greater “security” (size, armor) and every-greater services for their kids? How long before it’s a bunch of giant driverless armoured RVs clanking around from school to soccer?

To quote William Gibson in Count Zero

“In a limo.”

Lucas’s car was an amazing stretch of gold-flecked black bodywork and mirror-finished brass, studded with a collection of baroque gadgets whose purpose Bobby only had time to guess at. One of the things was a dish antenna, he decided, but it looked more like one of those Aztec calendar wheels, and then he was inside, Lucas letting the wide door clunk gently shut behind them. The windows were tinted so dark, it looked like nighttime outside, a bustling nighttime where the Projects’ crowds went about their noonday business The interior of the vehicle was a single large compartment padded with bright rugs and pale leather cushions, although there seemed to be no particular place to sit. No steering wheel either, the dash was a padded expanse of leather unbroken by controls of any kind. He looked at Lucas, who was loosening his black tie. “How do you drive it?”

“Sit down somewhere. You drive it like this: Ahmed, get our asses to New York, lower east.”

The car slid smoothly away from the curb as Bobby dropped to his knees on a soft pile of rugs.

“Lunch will be served in thirty minutes, sir, unless you’d care for something sooner,” a voice said. It was soft, melodious, and seemed to come from nowhere in particular.

“Lucas,” Bobby said, his mouth half full of cold fried chicken, “how come it’s taking us an hour and a half to get to New York? We aren’t exactly crawling…”

“Because,” Lucas said, pausing for another sip of cold white wine, “that’s how long it’s taking us. Ahmed has all the factory options, including a first-rate counter-surveillance system. On the road, rolling, Ahmed provides a remarkable degree of privacy, more than I’m ordinarily willing to pay for in New York. Ahmed, you get the feeling anybody’s trying to get to us, listen in or anything?”

“No, sir,” the voice said. “Eight minutes ago our identification panel was infra-scanned by a Tactical helicopter. The helicopter’s number was MH-dash-3-dash-848, piloted by Corporal Roberto—”