Monday, April 16, 2007

  • IST's Roger Watt says his farewell
  • President speaks on city improvements
  • Co-op work in the film industry
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Boston Marathon

When and where

Tourplay children's show "Nose from Jupiter", 10:00 and 1:00, Humanities Theatre.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Mitra Doherty, dentist and photographer, on the "Earth Charter" initiative, 11:45 a.m., 57 Erb Street West, reservations online.

Women's studies 35th anniversary colloquium continues: Ellen Balka, Simon Fraser University, "The Intersection of Language, Technology, Gender and Knowledge about Women's Health", 1:30 p.m., Humanities room 373.

Senate long-range planning committee 3:00, Needles Hall room 3004.

UW senate 4:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

Auditions for June production of "Don Juan in Chicago" by K–W Little Theatre, Monday-Wednesday 7 to 10 p.m., Humanities room 373, information

Alumni in western Canada: special events tonight in Victoria (Belfry Arts Centre, 6 to 8 p.m.), Tuesday in Vancouver (Sequoia Grill Restaurant, 6 to 8), Thursday in Calgary (Art Gallery of Calgary, 6 to 8), details online.

April Showers Book Sale from UW bookstore, Tuesday-Thursday, South Campus Hall concourse.

Architecture student projects end-of-year review, April 17 through June 16, Design at Riverside gallery, Architecture building; opening reception Tuesday 6:30 p.m.

Education Credit Union seminar: Tony Verbeek, "Tips on Purchasing and Financing a Vehicle", Tuesday 12:15 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research workshops: "EHealth Risk-Opportunity Report Card" April 17-18, "Health Privacy" April 18-19, details online.

Centre for Family Business, Conrad Grebel University College, breakfast seminar: Lowell Ewert, "Social Responsibility of Businesses", Friday 7 a.m., Westmount Golf and Country Club.

Germanic and Slavic studies 5th departmental conference, sessions on applied linguistics, German and Russian literature, and sociolinguistics, Friday, April 20, details online.

43rd annual used book sale sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women, April 20 (9:00 to 9:00) and 21 (9:00 to 1:00), First United Church, details online.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 23-26: presentations in Davis Centre room 1302 and 1304; seminar on NSERC postgraduate scholarships Monday 11:15, Davis room 1351; seminar on SSHRC fellowships Thursday 11:15, Davis 1351; keynote address by Roberta Jamieson, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Monday 8 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $3 at Humanities box office; awards reception Thursday 4:30, Graduate House; details online.

Friends of the Library authors' event: lecture by history professor Ken McLaughlin, launch of his book Out of the Shadow of Orthodoxy, and display of work by UW authors, Wednesday, April 25, 3:30 p.m., Theatre of the Arts.

'Passport to Health' Fair for staff and faculty, Thursday, April 26, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Student Life Centre; stations include blood pressure reading, ergonomics, "reading your stress level".

Alumni networking workshop on campus April 26, 6:00 to 9:30 p.m., details online.

'Learning about Teaching' symposium, including Presidents' Colloquium on Teaching and Learning, speaker Ken Bain, April 30, 2 p.m., Humanities Theatre; workshops and discussions May 1-2, details online.

50th Anniversary Dance sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, DJ, prizes, Saturday, May 5, Federation Hall, tickets $20 at Humanities box office.

Toronto 50th anniversary alumni celebration with chancellor Mike Lazaridis, president David Johnston, co-op director Peggy Jarvie, Thursday, May 24, 6 to 8 p.m., Liberty Grand, Exhibition Place, details online.

Matthews Golf Classic (18th annual) Monday, June 18, Grand Valley Golf Course, details online or call ext. 3–2686.

[Watt]IST's Roger Watt says his farewell

If it's difficult to imagine Waterloo, and especially computing at Waterloo, without Roger Watt, maybe that's because he's been on campus for 44 years — or, he told an affectionate audience on Friday morning, a matter of 1,377,829,800 seconds leading up to his retirement on April 30.

Watt arrived as a first-year science student in the fall of 1963 (when, he observes, most other high school graduates out of Peterborough had never so much as heard of Waterloo), followed his undergraduate degree with a master's in mathematics, took a job in "computing services", and — as one thing led to another — is winding up his career as director of network services. A crowd of colleagues from information systems and technology, and a number of people from other departments as well, took an hour on Friday, his last day on the job, to hear a few stories and observations.

He ran through a summary of the job titles he's had over the years, starting with "consultant" and moving through "manager" to his status as one of the most senior, most-listened-to and best known people on campus. He told Friday's audience that writing is "the thing I've probably done more hours of than anything else", but also mentioned that coding — creating computer programs — has been one of his continuing pleasures, whether in Lisp, Snobol, Perl or the perennial Fortran.

He also listed the multiple people he has reported to in IST, and the eight offices in the Math and Computer building that he's called home, but didn't even try to enumerate the people, now in the department or gone before, whom he has hired and supervised since taking his first job there in 1968. He's never worked anywhere else.

Watt mentioned a couple of epiphanies during his career, one of them being "the first time I ever took a terminal home for the weekend", a rudimentary device with a rubber acoustic coupler that could talk, at probably 300 baud, to a desk telephone. "Was that empowering!" he says now. "I stayed up all night!"

The other revelation came when he learned of an early experiment with a leased cable connecting computers at two American campuses, some time more than three decades back. "Suddenly I knew what computers were for," he says, "for talking to each other! And that's been my passion ever since." In addition to being the key figure in the development of UW's campus network, he's served on a succession of provincial and national bodies organizing and managing networks, from NetNorth to Onet and ORANO.

Watt drew his audience's attention to some of the wit and wisdom, especially about planning, that he keeps on his personal website: "Value vision and decisiveness. Condemn complexity. Remember compliments, forget insults. Disagree without being disagreeable. Motivate others to greatness. Retire early."

He said much in Friday's talk about his beloved grandchildren, not to mention his cottage in Huron County (and his plan to make a second try for elective office there when municipal elections come round in 2010). And he closed with a number of predictions, including a voicemail-to-email translation facility as early as 2008, the growing importance of "presence management" (not just "identification" and "authentication") on the campus network, and the disappearance of "the last wired office telephone" circa 2012.

"Thank you," he told a room full of his coffee-drinking colleagues. "It's been great."

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President speaks on city improvements

by Meghan Kreller

UW president David Johnston had his say Friday on how to improve the City of Waterloo, echoing some of the ideas he put forward last winter for building "the knowledge capital of Canada" in Waterloo Region.

Johnston was speaking in a panel discussion held at RIM Park as part of a planning exercise organized by the 150-year-old city. In order to involve the community with creation of the city’s strategic plan, civic leaders gathered along with members of the public to share ideas about the city’s future.

Making it abundantly clear that the most imperative of Waterloo’s future actions was to “to attract the top talent,” Johnston suggested making changes to create a more appealing Waterloo. He recommended improving elementary and secondary levels of education as well as ensuring sufficient funding to the area’s post-secondary institutions; striving for the goal of making Waterloo one of the top three healthiest places to live in Canada by improving on elements such as the level of physical activity, smoking levels, vehicle accident rates and access to health care; and investing in "smart infrastructure" to meet the needs of the innovative community.

In an idea he hasn't raised before, Johnston proposed the creation of a university "residential commons" in the neighbourhood between UW and Wilfrid Laurier University, an area he sees as currently overrun by "inappropriate" student housing. Although Waterloo has not been overwhelmed with student ghettos to the degree of other communities, Johnston said, the city can do better by students who choose to study and live in the area.

In his vision, amenity-rich buildings would replace the current run-down homes, triplexes and lodging houses scattered through the area. Pedestrian-friendly and vehicle-free, the accommodations would be garnished with benches, greenery, walkways and recreational amenities.

Johnston also suggested the city continue to recognize the value of both technological and social innovation in the years ahead. UW is ready to do its part in order raise the importance of social innovation in a community known for technology, he said. Jump-starting this would be the five-year agreement between UW and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation made public in late February; the partnership plans to establish a Centre for Social Innovation and a chair in social innovation generation at UW.

The city’s strategic plan, to be completed in July 2007, sets priorities for the next four years. In addition to Friday’s forum, city hall is conducting telephone and online surveys in order to gather and review community feedback.

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Co-op work in the film industry

by Brielle Vautour, from the Inside Scoop newsletter for co-op students

Who doesn't dream of working in the movie business? Herve Bizira, a 3B computer science and business student, will be working as a technical director on the ground floor at Starz Animation for the third time this upcoming work term, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

[Bizira]At first, Bizira (left) was hesitant to apply to the job at Starz when he spotted it on Jobmine, but he decided to take a chance after seeing the word "studio" in the description. This was his chance to turn what had always been a hobby into a career path. It wasn't easy — he had to refuse offers from other places while waiting to hear from Starz. “I was really lucky,” he says. “I think sometimes, what would have happened if I took a job doing data encryption instead? That would be boring for me.”

Bizira's last term was anything but boring. He worked on the ground level of production for the movie “Everyone's Hero”, which is about a young boy's cross-country journey to help Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees win the World Series. He met daily with the set artists to discuss what needed to be done and then implement those changes to the studio pipeline. If there was currently no tool to allow the changes to be done, then Bizira and his team of programmers would create a new tool to accomplish what was needed, sometimes working very long hours to get things done in time.

He cites his greatest achievement to date as occurring during his last term at Starz, when he was given the huge responsibility of designing a new tools system to be used by the studio animators. This tool is supposed to streamline the process of applying textures and colours to movie characters and significantly reduce production time. This technology will be used on the set of “Sheepish”, a Starz film about sheep set to be released in 2008.

Working in animation, Bizira was also given the chance to apply his classroom mathematical knowledge into real world situations. “That little thing you see [on screen], like someone falling and their pants ripping, has a lot of math [determining] what part of the pants rip.” The most difficult part of animation? “Calculating the smallest, most minute detail that the audience doesn't even see, but if it wasn't there, they would notice. It takes a lot of work to make things look real.”

When asked about his future, Bizira cites an interest in continuing his work in 3D animation, because there are always opportunities to create new tools and different ways of doing things. He has also started a graphics consulting group in his spare time. While this is currently a side occupation, he’s open to the possibility that with a few more clients, his business could become a full time job. Meanwhile, look for his name in the credits of “Everyone's Hero”, currently available on DVD at your local movie store.


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