Time flies…

January 29th, 2010

…and I look and realise it’s been nearly a fortnight since I last wrote. A lot has happened in that time – especially in terms of work. I’ve been fortunate enough to be allowed the use of the lab at CRC and so have access to all kinds of equipment that I can’t easily get in Cambridge or Leicester. People have been very generous with their expertise, too – and lots of colleagues have taken the time to give me demos or to ask about the details of my work. I’ve been out of the office too – last Friday I went over to Rockwell Collins’ offices to talk about modems (the guys there were part of a spin-out from CRC until they were taken over by Rockwell fairly recently) and they gave me some very helpful pointers on my methodology. On Tuesday I had a day out to the Geomagnetic Laboratory to talk about polar HF radio. It’s an idyllic spot, out in the forest beyond the city, in an area protected from development. The site houses scientists and technicians who work on geomagnetism, seismology and solar-terrestrial physics, and they also have an extensive facility for observing the earth’s magnetic field and for testing and calibrating compasses and other magnetic equipment.

It’s not been all work and no play though – last Saturday I went skating on the Rideau Canal. The canal is actually the reason Ottawa exists – it was built to provide a secondary route between Montreal and Toronto that didn’t involve the St Lawrence River during the period in which still-British Canada was under threat from the freshly independent United States. Ottawa is at the junction between the canal and the Ottawa river, which heads down to Montreal. Anyway, in wintertime the canal is drained down to just a few inches of water and allowed to freeze. I haven’t been skating since I was a teenager, and on putting on my hired skates found myself very nervously sliding on the ice. The problem was compounded by the fact that these are smooth skates, with no grip or pick on the toe to help you grip. You have to turn your foot sideways and push off with the blade. I did slowly get the hang of it, and eventually Trish and I skated about 3km out and back, before treating ourselves to a Beavertail from a stall in Byward Market. Beavertails are a traditional winter thing, apparently – imagine a fried doughnut rolled flat and covered in butter and maple syrup? Sweet and greasy and packed with more calories than you can shake a stick at. Mmm…

My other All-Canadian Experience this week was going to watch an ice hockey game. The Ottawa Senators (at the time ranked 17th in the league) were playing the New Jersey Devils (ranked 6th) on Tuesday night. I have to confess to having never really been to a big sporting event before, and this was certainly a big experience. Yes, you watch the game. But there’s music, and video screens, and big flashing LED strips with adverts going round the stadium, and people shooting teeshirts into the crowd with CO2 guns, and all manner of stuff. If you didn’t have ADHD before you started, you quickly found out what it was like. As it happens, the Senators beat the Devils 3-0, much to the delight of the home fans, and at 10pm it was all over. The bus system is well-equipped to handle the crowds, and I reckon I was in downtown Ottawa on the bus before Trish had even got out of the carpark! Sadly, the change from OCTranspo to STO buses in Ottawa involved a 20-minute wait in the cold, but at least the bus went straight back to the house and I got home just before midnight.

I have just a week left in Ottawa now, before heading to Boston in the US of A for a few days and then finally home.

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