Friday, December 7, 2007

  • UW has a candidate for 'best lecturer'
  • International group told about winter
  • Canadian winter: now for the fun part
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Language conference, and other notes

UW is host today and tomorrow to the second “Interfaces of Intelligent Computer-Assisted Language Learning” conference, being held in the Flex Lab on the third floor of the Dana Porter Library. The first such conference was at the Ohio State University last year.

ICALL “is the interdisciplinary intersection of computer-assisted language learning, artificial intelligence and second-language acquisition theories,” explains Mat Schulze of the Germanic and Slavic studies department. There’s a pre-conference workshop today, led by an expert from McGill, and a full day of paper presentations on Saturday. Among the day’s topics: “The Influence of Explicit Phonetic Instruction of Pronunciation Teaching”, from an instructor who teaches English to Japanese speakers. There’s also a panel on “intelligent computer-generated feedback in learner-to-learner interactions”.

The event is sponsored at UW by the Centre for Teaching Excellence, the Faculty of Arts, the Departments of French Studies and Germanic and Slavic Studies, and the Graduate Studies Office.

Here's a reminder that nominations are invited for UW's next chancellor, someone to succeed Mike Lazaridis when his term ends in the spring of 2009. • And a reminder that the UW libraries continue on exam-season hours, with the Davis Centre library open 24 hours a day (except Sundays 2 to 8 a.m.) and the Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. • And a reminder that Federation Hall is serving a four-course buffet Christmas dinner, with wine and a DJ for dancing, tonight and tomorrow night (reservations ext. 35925).

Link of the day

International Civil Aviation Day

When and where

Fall term exams continue through December 20; distance education exams, December 7-8; preliminary marks begin appearing on Quest December 21; grades become official January 28.

Blood donor clinic 9:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre.

School of Optometry hosts the 6th Canadian Optometry Conference on Vision Science, Friday-Sunday, details online.

Philosophy colloquium: James Joyce, University of Michigan, "Counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory?" 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Santa Claus comes to TechTown 4:30 to 7:00, for photos with children; $10 donation goes to K-W Community Foundation; reservations call 519-746-7416.

Fine arts alumni and students invited to the opening of "Candy Curtain", exhibition by Darlene Cole (MFA 1995) at Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, Saturday 2:00 to 4:00.

GLOW Ally Network introductory session on issues affecting "LGBTQQ2 students" Sunday 12:00 to 2:30, Student Life Centre room 2134.

Arts alumni outing to Doon Heritage Crossroads, Sunday 1:00 to 4:00, information online.

Staff association "Winterfest" family event Sunday 1:00, Columbia Icefield; registration deadline is long past.

UW Chamber Choir concert with K-W Chamber Orchestra, "An Alpine Christmas", Sunday 7 p.m., Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University, tickets $20 (students and seniors $15).

Tourplay children's performance, "Alligator Pie", Monday 10:00, 11:45 and 1:30, Humanities Theatre.

QPR suicide prevention training Monday 11:30 to 1:00, register ext. 33528.

Town hall meeting for staff, sponsored by UW staff association, Tuesday 8:30 to 10:00 a.m., Davis Centre room 1350.

'Knowing Your Workplace' information session about UW salary administration, Tuesday 11:00 to noon, Math and Computer room 4040.

Trellis library system will be down for upgrade December 12-18, details online.

50th anniversary closing event for faculty and staff, Wednesday 3:00 to 4:30, Columbia Icefield.

Winter term fees due December 17 by cheque or January 2 by bank transfer, details online.

University closed Saturday, December 22, through Tuesday, January 1; university police and Student Life Centre continue without interruption. Offices reopen Wednesday, January 2, 2008; winter term classes begin Monday, January 7.

Federation of Students nomination period for 2008-09 executive January 7 through 21, information ext. 36781.

Application deadline for Ontario secondary school students entering UW in September 2008 is January 9 (exceptions and details listed online).

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UW has a candidate for 'best lecturer'

[Van Pelt]A UW architecture faculty member is one of the 38 semifinalists competing for the title of “Ontario’s Best Lecturer” on TV Ontario this winter.

It’s the third year for TVO’s "Big Ideas" Best Lecturer Competition, sponsored by TD Meloche Monnex. The series, TVO explains in a news release, “galvanizes the post-secondary community and plays an important role in raising awareness about the province's great educators.”

The nominees — from institutions as diverse as Lakehead University, Loyalist College, and Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as UW — teach in fields ranging from abnormal psychology, forensic anthropology and evolutionary ecology to culinary arts, medieval literature and intellectual capital. Among them is Robert Jan van Pelt (left) of the UW school of architecture.

A panel of independent judges will review video submissions of lectures by the 38 candidates and produce a shortlist of 10 finalists. The judges — former teacher, school principal and politician Zanana Akande; author, poet and award-winning journalist Barry Callaghan; and actor/writer/producer Tony Nardi — say they’ll look for “lecturers who engage their listeners with passion, flair and clarity, conveying their knowledge with genuine conviction”. The ten finalists will deliver complete lectures on the “Big Ideas” program over five weeks beginning March 1. Then, it’s over to the viewers to vote. The winner's institution will receive a $10,000 TD Meloche Monnex scholarship.

Van Pelt, internationally known as a historian of the Holocaust, was born in the Netherlands and attended Leiden University, graduating with an undergraduate degree in art history and classical archaeology, a graduate degree in architectural history and a PhD in the history of ideas. “During my studies,” he says in a biographical statement, “I worked as an architectural historian on the restoration of the Royal Palace in The Hague. In 1987 I moved to the University of Waterloo to teach in the cultural history stream of the School of Architecture.

“Soon after my move to Waterloo, I realized that the architectural history of the death camps was an extraordinary lacuna in our understanding of both the history of the Holocaust and the history of architecture. Auschwitz was designed by a Bauhaus-trained architect and developed by a group of university-educated engineers. Yet the camp was not mentioned in a single general history of modern architecture. I have begun work on a project entitled Constructing ‘Auschwitz’: From the Topology of History to a Typology of Memory. It seeks to understand the character and meaning of this symbol as the complex interplay between the war-time history of the death-camp at Auschwitz, the post-war interpretation, management and development of the ruins of that camp, the commodification of ‘Auschwitz’ in secular and religious politics in Poland, Europe, North America and Israel, the mythology of testimony, various philosophical discourses on modernity, the political and social cultures of Holocaust restitution, remembrance and commemoration, and the rhetoric of Holocaust deniers.”

TVO offers a snippet from the comments of van Pelt’s face-to-face students: "All good lecturers have the ability to seduce their audience through a combination of passionate story telling and a careful calibration of their subject matter to the audience at hand. . . . Professor van Pelt is a master of this seduction."

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International group told about winter

A toque alone isn’t enough, and try putting a candy cane in your hot chocolate — those are among the tips recently offered to UW’s international students and spouses as they face a Canadian winter for the first time. Organizer Nancy Matthews offered survival and enjoyment tips to a gathering of the international spouses group, which meets on alternate Thursdays at Columbia Lake Village. What follows is an edited version of her text.

First off, to have a fun time outside, you need to be dressed appropriately. It gets cold here (minus-30 C with the windchill), so you'll need a good, warm winter coat, whether it's filled with polyester fibrefill or down (goose or duck feathers). You should look for "storm cuffs" on the jackets, too — a special fabric cuff that stops the cold and snow from coming in the ends of the sleeves.

Make sure your coat has a good padded hood. The winter winds here are awful and just wearing a knitted or fleece hat (called a "toque" — pronounced "tuke") is often not enough. I also use a "neck warmer." It's a tube of fleece that I pull over my head that keeps my neck warm. These are easier to use than wearing a scarf. Gloves or mittens (generally called "mitts" in Canada) are essential.

For children, snow suits (a winter jacket with "overalls" made of the same fabric) are a good idea for kids who are in elementary school. Older kids don't want to wear the snowpants, so it's usually better to just buy a good winter jacket for them (which will probably cost as much as a snowsuit). Don't put scarves on kids! Instead give them neck warmers. Scarves pose safety hazards when they get caught in playground equipment — children have been strangled this way.

Nylon splashpants or windpants are great for adults and kids, providing an extra layer of protection against the wind, rain or snow. And don't forget winter boots. Make sure they're well-insulated. Ones with rubber up to the ankles are especially good when you're walking through melting snow and slush.

Don’t bike in the snow and ice — it's stupid and not safe! Don’t walk on ice — places like creeks, ponds, and lakes are not safe to walk on, even if they seem solid. Don't take a chance of falling into the icy water! Only ice skate in approved, signed areas (such as when the ice on Victoria Lake in Kitchener's Victoria Park is thick enough).

Don’t touch frozen metal with exposed, damp skin — you'll stick! Don’t put frozen fingers or toes into hot water to warm them up — instead, put them in lukewarm water until feeling comes back. Otherwise you could burn yourself. If it's really cold, you've been out for a long time, and/or your gloves or mitts are inadequate, you could get frostbite, so be careful.(For more information on symptoms and treatment of frostbite and hypothermia, see the Red Cross web site.)

Don’t go sledding near trees — every year people die or suffer severe injuries because they hit a tree while on sleds, toboggans, inner-tubes, or plastic "magic carpets." These things are fun, but difficult or impossible to control, so just stay in open areas away from roads, water, and trees.

Do buy snow tires for your car, if you have one. They give you much more control in snowy conditions and are worth the expense. Do wear sunglasses — protect your eyes from the strong glare of the sun on snow.

Do have supplies at home, in case there is a power outage. These include foods that don't need refrigeration (such as peanut butter, crackers, smoked meats, bottled water, juice boxes, and granola bars), plus items like flashlights and extra blankets. Do listen for school closures or bus cancellations on local radio stations, such as CHYM 570. If it's announced that schools in the Waterloo Region District School Board are closed, then the University of Waterloo is closed, too.

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[Snow and the smokestack]Canadian winter: now for the fun part

More from Nancy Matthews's presentation. Photo of winter in Waterloo (2004) by Brad Beattie, used by permission.

Take advantage of the cold and snow and try some typical, Canadian, outdoor activities — don't stay indoors all winter.

• Make snowmen — use a carrot for a nose, rocks for eyes, twigs for arms, and a hat on top — or just be creative.
• Snowball fights — be sure the snowballs are snow, not ice.
• Winter walks — enjoy the paths and trails or walk through Waterloo Park or Victoria Park (Kitchener) at night to see the special Christmas lights during December.
• Tobogganing, inner-tubing, sledding — try the great locations near the north campus soccer fields (by Brubacher House near Columbia Lake).
• Try snowshoes — they allow you to walk on top of the snow.
• Make angels in the snow — lie on your back in the snow and wave your arms and legs back and forth; get up carefully and see the angel!
• Ice-skating — buy cheap, used skates. Be sure to get your skates sharpened before using them. There's free outdoor skating at Kitchener City Hall, plus Victoria Park (when conditions are right). You can also pay to skate at UW's Columbia Icefield, Waterloo Memorial Recreation Centre, RIM Park, and other area rinks.
• Cross-country skiing — much cheaper and easier than learning how to downhill ski.
• Downhill skiing — Chicopee Ski Club offers the closest hills (and lessons), but serious skiers head north to Collingwood or east to Quebec, or to the Rockies out west!
• Visit Niagara Falls — in February the crowds are gone, and the falls partly freeze, with the spray forming beautiful and dramatic shapes.

Canadians have favourite drinks to warm them up in winter, in addition to coffee and tea. Hot chocolate, especially with whipping cream on top, is great on cold days. Try stirring it with a candy cane for a special, minty treat! My trick is to put the instant, dry, hot chocolate mix into the bottom quarter of the cup, then add a little milk, and stir before adding the boiled water. It tastes richer that way (and I think better).

Another wonderful winter drink is hot, spiced cider. This isn't clear, yellow apple juice, but dark and cloudy. Simmer apple cider in a pot, adding cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. When it's warm, rescue the spices and ladle yourself a delicious cup. Canadian cider is not alcoholic, like cider in England; it's just the juice of squished apples.

One last thing — there are many special, seasonal events happening locally each year, including a lovely Victorian Christmas at Woodside, an ice sculpture competition in Waterloo, Kitchener's Christkindl Market, and more. Bundle up and have fun!


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