The Snow Returns


It snowed this evening. It has been 183 days since the last snowfall in Ottawa.

I put the snow tires on my car on Friday and on Rosa’s car earlier this morning.

Douglas Coupland

Continuing with my previous posting about doing more in Ottawa, tonight I went to see Douglas Coupland at the National Arts Centre. He was reading Chapter 4 (of 5) from his new book Player One: What is to Become of Us?

He is reading the entire book, which is in fact the 2010 Massey Lecture Series. It will be presented during the week of November 9th on CBC Radio’s Ideas show.

This is the first time that I have had the original author of a story read it to me (well, to an auditorium). I’ve been to see a few other authors, and it’s usually a Q&A.

After the hour-long reading, there was a Q&A, presented by Ideas host Paul Kennedy.

Author Douglas Coupland
Author Douglas Coupland

Interestingly, Douglas echoed what William Gibson had said the day before about airports being a stateless location – Player One is set in an airport hotel bar. Douglas mentioned that he and William often do things together, such as trips across the border to the US.

After the Q&A, there was a long line for the book signing in the lobby. I was setting up my camera (ISO, exposure, etc) to take a picture when Douglas looked right at me and I hit the trigger as a reflex. It was a nice shot without too many distractions. But for just a microsecond, I saw a look on his face that I read as annoyance at being photographed. It has bothered me a lot. I had just broken the rule – try to connect with the subject and ask permission. So many others were also taking pictures, which spurred me into wanting to take a picture, but I could have handled actually taking portrait better. It is a valuable lesson.

Webcam with the Inlaws

A friend of Rosa’s parents (my in-laws, Lemin and Jinduo) gave them a Logitech webcam. I set the webcam up a week ago, but their friends were not using the Logitech software, so we could not contact them.

Papa, Rosa and Mama
Papa, Rosa and Mama

This evening, we installed Windows Live Messenger, and with a little bit of configuration and negotiation (in two languages), we got it working.

Lemin called her sister in Beijing. It was the first time I have seen any of my extended Chinese family. There is a family resemblance between Lemin and her sister.

We agreed that in the 2011 Spring Festival, we will use the webcam so that I can meet more of the family in Beijing. I’m really looking forward to it!

William Gibson

As part of my new resolution to take in more of the opportunities here in Ottawa, I bought tickets to see William Gibson at the Mayfair Theatre. It was part of the 2010 Ottawa Writers Festival.

I brought my camera and sat in the four row; the first two rows were reserved. The format was an interview and then an audience Q&A. The interview was conducted by Kate Heartfield from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

Author William Gibson
Author William Gibson

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 26 years since Neuromancer was published. I re-read it about a year ago and it’s still a remarkable piece of not just science-fiction but of literature.

William Gibson mentioned that Neuromancer was actually a commissioned work, which I did not previously know.

He talked about how people growing up in a world where they have always had instant communications to anyone else is profoundly different from the rest of human experience. Will we have to educate future readers than in previous eras when a character leaves the immediate vicinity of another that in fact it means that they have lost all communications between them?

He mentioned how airports are a part of a stateless system. I am reminded of Mehran Karimi Nasseri who was stuck in Charles De Gaulle Airport for 18 years. Gibson was thinking more along the lines of business people who meet in airports and airport hotels in a third country.

It was a pleasure to have the chance to see William Gibson. I must do this more often…

Monthly Museum – Aviation Museum

Last month, I decided that I should visit a museum or other interesting site once a month. There are many sights and attractions here in Ottawa that I have never visited. After living here for 13 years, it’s time that I take in all that Ottawa offers.

Today, I decided to visit the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. I last visited the museum sometime before 2000.

Gate to Chinatown
Gate to Chinatown (almost a perfect shot)

Before I went there, I wanted to stop in Chinatown to see the new gate that was opened earlier in the week. It was such a beautiful day, I didn’t mind walking around.

The gate looks fantastic. The colours are very rich, and the detail is very intricate.

I walked around Chinatown, then down Bronson and finally back to my car. I left for the museum, using my iPhone to provide directions.

Panorama of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
Panorama of the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

Some of the exhibits are the same as when I was here over a decade ago. The nose of the infamous CF-105 Avro Arrow, the huge BOMARC surface-to-air missile (which was part of the replacement for the cancelled Arrow), the various passenger planes that opened up the remote areas of Canada, and some of the early planes in Canadian history.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a full-scale mock-up of the new F-35 fighter that Canada is apparently purchasing.

I am not an accountant, so I cannot comment financially if it is the correct time to be replacing the older CF-188 Hornet. But I am not sure if this particular plane is right for our military. The combat range is longer than the ‘short-legged’ Hornet, but has only a single engine. Originally Canada only used twin-engine military jets as it offers redundancy over the very remote areas of Canadian territory (or over the ocean that is so critical to Canada). With only a single engine, any engine issue means that the plane has to be ditched (total loss) if it cannot glide to a landing location. I am concerned about the costs (I am assuming that other reasonable alternatives could be cheaper); we are replacing the 80 Hornets with only 65 F-35’s.

F-35 mock-up
F-35 mock-up

The new fighter would provide a significant increase in other respects, such as stealth (the Hornet has very little stealth) and increased range. I think selecting the F-35 was a foregone conclusion many years ago when the Canadian government invested $160 million to be a level-3 participant. I know that eventually the Hornets need to be replaced, and it is important that Canada continue to have an air protection and force projection capability. We need to protect our sovereign territory. Russia in particular is looking to increase its reach into the Arctic region. Interception of Russian bombers is increasing in frequency. So even though at this point in the 21st century we are not faced with large military manoeuvres against a great enemy (we are faced with an insurgency armed with goats), we need to plan for what cannot be foreseen – the world in 2030, not 2010.

Captain Marc Garneau's flight suit
Captain Marc Garneau's flight suit

On the upper floor of the museum is the Space section. There are fewer items on display here, as Canada is not really a space-faring nation. But there are uniforms, spacesuits, notebooks and other smaller memorabilia on display. There are more Canadian astronauts that I though, although not all of our astronauts have made it into space.

Sleep Study Redux

Queensway Carleton Hospital
Queensway Carleton Hospital

Today I went back to the Queensway Carleton Hospital for a second sleep study. This time it was during the day.

I arrived at 8:30am and signed in. I was shown to my room and the very nice nurse wired me up. This time they only needed to wire up my head and two on my chest to measure my heart rate.

The study was actually four naps of 15 to 20 minutes each, with about 90 minutes between sessions.

The first nap was around 9am. It was much easier to nap than when I was here a month ago for the full night sleep study. The room was not as cold or noisy. The hospital bed was still very hard, but it did not bother me as much because the session was shorter; I could get up and move around between sessions.

The second session was at 11:30. Afterwards I had a small lunch. The third session was 1:15, and the final one was 2:45. I was free to go after that. The nurse helped me comb out the wax used to secure the wires to my skull.

I headed into work. I needed to be in the office to run a tool that only works when I am physically on the corporate network. It took much longer, and I didn’t leave the office until after 11pm.