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Tuesday, June 27, 2000

  • Canada Day promises faster burgers
  • Award for telecommunications research
  • Planning the city's future
  • The talk of the campus

Canada Day promises faster burgers

Saturday's event includes an arts and crafts fair, live music, children's activities and fireworks, the Canada Day web page promises.

Volunteers are still needed -- and there's a meeting at 5:30 today (Engineering Lecture Hall room 101) for those interested. "We need 300 people to help make this day a success," writes organizer Chris Harold. "Come and volunteer with your friends and family! All volunteers receive food and drink, T-shirt and a gift bag."

Hungry Canadians will get their snacks the high-tech way this Saturday on the north campus. Just like the big guys in the fast-food industry, the Canada Day concessions will be processing food sales by computer this year to speed up orders and simplify accounting.

[Crispin at his computer] After years of doling out tickets to customers making food purchases -- and watching queues grow longer and longer -- Richard Crispin (left) decided to find a solution. A computer consultant and technician in the psychology department by day, he spent a couple of evenings tinkering in his basement and "came up with a program".

With nearly 8,000 food orders sold in a good year, "I thought there's got to be a better way," he says. The new system, involving a network of computers -- one for each cashier -- connected to a central server, was tested on a small scale at last year's Canada Day, which was much reduced in size under rainy skies.

Based on that experience, the system has been modified and expanded for this Saturday. The user-friendly, Mac-based system requires all of about five minutes to learn, especially for the computer-savvy student volunteers who staff the food tent.

Working with laptops, cashiers enter the order on the computer, which does the addition, calculates change for the customer -- who is assigned an order number -- then sends the information to the server which prints the order for the cooks. When the food is ready, the customer's number is called.

As a result, faster service is provided by fewer cashiers. At the end of the day, the program prints out reports for each computer, with total sales, number of sales, and number of cancels -- a boon for the bookkeepers who have to tally the accounts after the event.

"With the Mac operating system, it's easy to link programs together running on different machines," most of which have been loaned from people on campus for the occasion, says Crispin, noting that the whole process was "much more trivial than I thought it would be."

Crispin's deep knowledge of the workings of the food tent was certainly an asset, though. He has volunteered with the food stand since the early days of the July 1 celebration, serving as concession manager for the past few years. In the 16-year history of the festivities, he has missed only one July 1 on the North Campus, back in 1992.

This year, while Crispin and his family head to a family reunion in Red Deer, Alberta, over the holiday, a student, Thomas Grupp, has been recruited to provide on-site tech support for the food tent. Crispin is sure to be back at Canada Day next year, a holiday he hates to miss. "I think Canada Day is important. We have a unique country that we should celebrate."

Award for telecommunications research -- from the UW news bureau

A leading expert in wireless communications in UW's electrical and computer engineering department, Jon Mark, has received an award recognizing his contribution to the field. He is the sixth recipient of the Canadian Award in Telecommunications Research, established in 1990. He received the award, which consists of a certificate and medal, at the recent 20th Biennial Symposium on Communications held at Queen's University.

In the award's citation, Mark is credited with "significant research contributions, scholarship and leadership in the fields of computer communications networks and wireless communications".

Mark, who joined UW in 1978, conducts research on broadband communications networks, wireless and wireline networks, design, analysis and performance modelling, and network traffic management.

At UW, he is the director of the Centre for Wireless Communications, launched with a $1-million donation from Ericsson Communications Canada. The centre seeks to develop a comprehensive graduate research program in wireless communications as well as train highly qualified researchers and developers in wireless communications. The centre's graduate research program covers a broad spectrum of activities, including transmission theory RF technology, channel modelling, media access control protocols, network architecture, mobility, routing, resource and traffic management, admission and congestion control, and signal processing.

Planning the city's future

A "vision coordinating team" at Waterloo city hall is inviting interested people to help look at the future of a city that's booming -- and that may soon have much closer links with the twin city on its southern edge.

Says a memo: "The City of Waterloo has initiated a 'visioning' process to identify what community members value about the community and what their vision is for Waterloo in the future. Extensive community involvement is very important because the Vision will be used by City Council to make decisions that could affect you and your business."

[Round end of building]
City hall: Photo from Gary Will's Waterloo walking tour
Almost daily there are news reports about politicians' ideas for the future of local government -- which could include merging Waterloo (population 90,000) and Kitchener (population 180,000) into a single city. Says the visioning memo: "You may question whether this is the right time for a community visioning process given the potential for government reorganization in Waterloo. The answer is a definite yes! If there is reorganization, the Vision will provide input and direction to the new municipal government. As such, your input, and that of the members of your business, is critical.

"The visioning process includes a community survey and workshops, which will begin in June and continue until September. The survey and workshops will be used to identify what people like and dislike about Waterloo and what they think Waterloo should be like in 20 years."

The first workshop in the process will be held Thursday night at 7:00 at Albert McCormick Community Centre on Parkside Drive, north of campus. Another one is set for Saturday, July 8, starting at 9 a.m. at city hall on Regina Street. More meetings are to be advertised later.

Says the memo: "For more information on the visioning process call the visioning hotline at 747-8720, e-mail us at snevin@city.waterloo.on.ca or go to the City of Waterloo website."

Now there's tax on photocopies

A memo from UW's director of finance:

"Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada) has announced that, effective July 1, 2000, the supply of photocopies will no longer be considered a service but the supply of tangible property. As such, it will be necessary to charge GST on photocopies provided, for a fee, to individuals (e.g. students) and organizations external to the University. Charges for photocopying services between University departments will continue to be exempt from GST. In situations where the recipient of the photocopying service provides the paper on which the photocopies are made, GST will not apply, as this would be considered the supply of a service."

The talk of the campus

The pension and benefits committee is meeting this morning to continue discussing the zooming costs of the staff and faculty health and dental plans. "Premiums are increasing," say the minutes of the last meeting, "at an extent far greater than increases in the University's operating income." If more money goes into benefits -- this year's budget provides for a little more than $20 million -- then it seems to follow that there's less for salaries. Among the many details the committee is looking at are the dispensing fees charged by pharmacists, which are much higher at some drugstores than at others.

The mathematics graduate student conference continues today in the Davis Centre, presenting research work by grads from all fields of math. Today's plenary papers are "Can Semidefinite Programming Make the Cut?", by Miguel Anjos of combinatorics and optimization, at 9:00, and "The Banach-Tarski Paradox and Harmonic Analysis", by Nico Spronk of pure mathematics, at 1:30. Sixteen shorter papers are on the agenda before the event ends at 4:30.

The instructional web courseware developers support group, sponsored by LT3 -- the Centre for Teaching and Learning Through Technology -- will hold its first meeting today at 1:30 in Dana Porter Library room 329.

"The greatest college tradition of all time" is promised at tonight's outing of the Jewish Students Association; and while I don't quite understand why going to the movies is a great college tradition, I suspect somebody will tell me very shortly. Anyway, the JSA is off to see "Road Trip", which is enticingly described by Yahoo as featuring "strong sexual content, crude humor, language and drug use". Club members will meet at the turnkey desk in the Student Life Centre at 7:15.

"3rd Party", an experimental play, starts its second week's run tonight in the Graduate House, at 7:00 and again at 9:30. The show is put on by a "collective" of eight students who, a news release says, "worked in an improvisational setting to create characters and relationships and placed them in the same setting of an engagement party. After extensive rehearsals, the performers scripted their scenes and the delicate art of timing began. Since the actors travel from room to room, dialogue and action must be carefully choreographed." Admission for the show is $8 at the door.

Tomorrow brings a special event in South Campus Hall, starting at 7:30 in the morning. "Perhaps nothing is as fascinating -- or as frightening -- as fire," says a glossy leaflet from UW's development office, introducing Beth Weckman, a fire expert in the mechanical engineering department, who will be the star speaker at tomorrow's breakfast session for "members of the UW President's Circle and friends", that is, high-end givers to UW's fund-raising campaigns. Wendy Rose in the development office (phone ext. 5069) should have last-minute information.

Also tomorrow, the Employee Assistance Program presents a noontime talk on "Renting to Students: What You Need to Know". The speaker is UW ombudsperson Marianne Miller; the event starts at 12 noon tomorrow in Math and Computer room 1085.

And finally . . . on Friday I mentioned a cultural evening being held to celebrate the DuanWu festival, and said it was sponsored by the Taiwanese Student Association. In fact, I'm told, the sponsoring organization was the Chinese Cultural Club. My apologies.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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