Friday, December 21, 2007

This is the End

That is, the end of my first term at the University of Waterloo. So how was it? On balance, not bad, not at all. It was not, as I might have feared, overly intense in terms of work or other commitments. Coursework is, well, coursework and I've long since gotten used to the regular routine of assignments and exams. My TA duties weren't overly onerous, either, though they did entail some seven hours of proctoring and marking on Monday - a great thrill, let me tell you. All that aside, most people in the department are friendly, especially my many officemates.

Otherwise, I'm quite happy - ecstatic, really - to be off to Toronto tomorrow at last for my vacation. My blog updates will hopefully continue while I'm away from Waterloo, though my internet access will likely be sporadic.


As it turns out, my wintry name for this blog has been prescient. It's been a relentlessly cold prelude to winter, with temperatures typically just below freezing during the day, cold winds, and, above all, lots and lots of snow. This past weekend, a great storm blanketed the eastern half of the country in snow. I stayed inside, feeling very thankful that I wasn't travelling by air just then.

Unrelatedly, the trees next to my apartment building appear to be a magnet for crows. I see literally hundreds of them flying overhead sometimes, or else roosting in the big elms and oaks nearby. Insofar as common birds go, I quite like crows. They're smart, for one thing, in contrast to pigeons, and they aren't anywhere near as dirty or aggressive as the Canada geese which infest the UW campus (and some of whom stubbornly refuse to migrate, even with all the cold, snowy weather in the past month).

Anyhow, need to go finish packing... Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Yoda: The Puppet

One of the nice things about having a blog is that you can post whatever you feel like. So, without further delay, I give you Yoda as he was meant to be - as a puppet:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Praised Be Air Canada

That's right. I like Air Canada. Although it is something of a national past-time to complain about the beleaguered airline, I've never found their service anything less than professional and helpful. Typically I fly at least several times a year, though mainly on the Halifax-Toronto route. Since June, however, I've been on at least 20 different flights, most of which have been on AC (the others on KLM and Porter). In that time, my baggage has been lost twice (something of an inevitability when you arrive at the airport with 40 minutes to spare or less), and I've experienced a number of weather-related delays and, as of yesterday, a cancellation.

What happened? Well, my initial flight from Halifax to Toronto early in the afternoon was cancelled due to the storms that have been passing through much of the country in the past few days. This was rebooked automatically due a flight later in the afternoon connecting through Ottawa. No problem there, this simply made my afternoon more relaxed. Of course, that flight was delayed by around 30 minutes, but upon boarding I discovered that I'd been rebooked with free food on the plane. Yay! So I watched two episodes of The Office on the vastly expanded on-demand entertainment system and the beginning of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - certainly a pertinent movie for my day! Of course, the delay meant that I missed my connection in Ottawa, but it simply resulted in being booked on a slightly later flight.

At this point, this is starting to sound like a commercial for Air Canada, but I really don't understand all the bile directed at it. Air travel is hectic at the best of times, and delays due to adverse weather events tend to be handled fairly well all told. Otherwise, I like AC's entertainment system and the selection of food-for-purchase isn't bad at all.

As for WestJet? Never flown with them - primarily because they have only a fraction of the flights of AC (and hence a fraction of the scheduling flexibility) and because their prices aren't any better. Porter was neat, though, particularly the view of the Toronto skyline at take-off and landing.


As an aside, I've seen more than a few Canadian politicians and quasi-celebrities on flights or in airports. Yesterday I saw Bob Rae at Pearson Terminal 1. On my Porter flight from Ottawa to Toronto in October, I noted that Rona Ambrose, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Ex-Minister of the Environment, was among the passengers. On a flight from (I think) Edmonton to Montreal in June, Roméo Dallaire was sitting in business class - and a woman went over to commend him! Otherwise, I once saw Don Cherry and Ron McLean at the old Terminal 2 at Pearson, and I once noted CTV reporter Mike Duffy bounding about through the Ottawa terminal.

I don't know what it says about me that I had no trouble recognizing any of these people immediately.