Things have been a bit quiet around this blog lately, largely due to a major infrastructure grant application (now nearly, but not totally, finished), as well as a number of side trips, and Easter weekend. Not that I’ve really been too busy to post anything – I just haven’t been using my available time for writing blogposts, instead of for other things.
On the home front, weekends have begun to be punctuated by my daughter’s riding lessons at a nearby stable. That’s been a nice change, not ever having been a horsey sort myself, although my wife was an avid rider before I met her and is enjoying being back around horses. I find them rather endearing, if a bit large and prone to whacking me when I’m not looking. As long as I take appropriate care around the carnivorous, pepperoni-pizza-eating creature preferred by the young lady, I should be safe enough, I guess.
Earlier in March, I made a trip up to Peterborough, to give a lecture to the Biotechnology Forensics Technologist program at Fleming College. The students come each year to tour the lab, but this year we couldn’t secure a room for my usual lecture. No matter – it was a brilliantly sunny day, and the two-hour drive through rural Ontario made a nice change from the office. I took the opportunity to stop off and see the famous Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn waterway system – closed until navigation season starts again, but still impressively massive, it being the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world. It boggles me that this kind of thing works at all, even more so considering that it’s over a hundred years old.
The trip home allowed some dawdling along side roads, looking for interesting pieces of Ontario’s small-town history. In Columbus, a pretty little place now almost completely engulfed by suburban Oshawa, I found a handsome church, set far enough back from the road that I could shoot it under the inevitable overhead power lines.
Another chance to try out the venerable Voigtländer.
The next road trip was a one-day nip over to the Tannery District in Kitchener-Waterloo, for a facilitated discussion as part of a review and strategic planning session for the University of Waterloo’s world-leading co-operative education program. We take Waterloo co-op students pretty much continuously, so it was nice to be involved. Naturally, I made a few detours, stopping off at Woodside National Historic Site, the boyhood home of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. Unfortunately, the house itself is indefinitely closed due to toxic contaminants found in the basement, possibly from waste dumped by a nearby, and now long-gone, coal gas plant. Nevertheless, the house was handsome, and the first crocuses of spring were peeking through the dead leaves of autumn under a chilly March sun.
Where next? Why, Winnipeg, of course – a city I’ve been to exactly once before, something like thirty-five years ago. This time, the trip was for a symposium around planning for a Genome Canada grant to study Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a condition regrettably common among disadvantaged communities in northern Canada. Once again donning my “new sequencing technologies” hat, I gave a short presentation, and spent the rest of the day learning more about the challenges, clinical and societal, that it poses. Some of the stories told, of children in and out of foster care and the justice system, were both astonishing, and heartbreaking.
And so, back home again to get stuck into that grant proposal, interrupted by an Easter weekend jaunt to the other end of Lake Ontario, visiting family in my hometown of Kingston. My intention of photographing the city’s many old stones was sabotaged by exceeding laziness, and the temptations of staying in and gorging on too much Easter chocolate. Now, I’m simply planning the usual summer car racing and cottage excursions, and beginning to think seriously about a conference in Bangkok in October. So not exactly a world traveler, but at least I’m getting out and learning a bit about local history, a subject in which I’m woefully under-versed.