Hither and Yon

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.

The horse in question, being brushed by a certain young rider.

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.

Peterborough Lift Lock
They don’t make ’em like this any more.

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.

Columbus United Church, Ontario
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.

Woodside National Historic Site, Kitchener, Ontario
Woodside National Historic Site, Kitchener, Ontario.

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.

Manitoba, from the air
Manitoba, east of Winnipeg – where the Great Plains begin.

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.

Sunset - Kingston, Ontario, April 2012
An Easter weekend sunset, recently.

About Richard Wintle

I am Canadian by heritage, and a molecular biologist and human geneticist by training. My day job is Assistant Director of a large genome centre, where I do various things along the lines of "keeping the wheels on". In my spare time, I tend to run around with a camera, often chasing horses, race cars, musicians, and occasionally, wildlife.
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9 Responses to Hither and Yon

  1. Steve Caplan says:

    Beautiful photos! Except for Winnipeg, of course. Well, I would say that wouldn’t I?
    Ever the the beautiful “Winnipeg in the Winter” postcards? They are just plain white!

    • Thanks, Steve. I was only in Winnipeg overnight, essentially, and the weather was dull and overcast. I took one half-reasonable photo of the Provencher Bridge, but didn’t have any time for real sightseeing unfortunately. The neighbourhood I could have walked through to get to my conference was a bit rough, although it would have been 7:30 in the morning and probably fairly safe.

      • Steve Caplan says:

        By the way, I was just invited to visit and give a seminar at The Hospital for Sick Children in your hometown this fall–hope you’ll be around and we’ll have a chance to meet up, even briefly. I believe it’s a Friday the 2nd week in Oct., but I need to check.

        • Steve – that would be excellent. If it’s the second week, we’re good. If it’s the first week – I’ll be in Thailand(!). Wouldn’t *that* be typical?

  2. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Lovely photos!

    I saw something about the Genome Canada FASD project somewhere (probably on that epic list of registrations received, on which my own PIs’ grants also appear, and which has generated much discussion recently). A few of us were wondering about what research could be done on the genomics / genetics of a disease with such an obvious environmental cause, but then none of us really know anything about it. Our best guesses were inherited variants that modify the effects of the alcohol, and/or the epigenetic effects, rather than causes, of exposure across generations. I guess we’ll have a long wait before we find out!

    • We discussed this offline (Twitter-styleeee) but for the benefit of other readers – epigenetic marks might be useful for presymptomatic diagnosis, or diagnosis of individuals lacking the characteristic facial appearance associated with FASD. So that’s one aspect. There is also the possibility of uncovering either fetal or maternal genetic determinants that affect susceptibility and/or outcome, but I think that’s less likely to be easily uncovered. The key is the biomarker/diagnostic angle, which could have huge healthcare, societal and economic impacts.

      Don’t think I’m giving anything away there. We’ll see how the proposal goes.

  3. Ken says:

    There’s a lot of Canada I’d like to see…maybe some day. Great photos, meanwhile!

  4. TRT says:

    Ah, the Peterborough lift-lock. Truly a magnificent structure. Mind-boggling piece of engineering.

  5. Pingback: More local history – the lime kiln | Adventures in Wonderland

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