blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, November 5, 2018

What else?

This post is being written so that I can keep track of what I've been up to since our flying trip to the Gasp├ęsie at the beginning of September.

Also in September, I went to the sad but inspiring funeral for Jean-Christophe Terrillon, a scientist-philosopher whose mother is a member of our German conversation group; she had asked some of us to be there. Her son had died of cancer in his 50s. During the service, Louise gave a moving and impressive eulogy for him quoting many of his own words.

On the weekend of the Ottawa tornado, feeling lucky to have escaped the devastation and the extensive power cuts, we had three unusual cultural experiences. Chris and I watched a series of experimental, short films at the Goethe Institut that night, which left us mostly baffled, I spent the following afternoon with Elva, touring local artists' studios, some of their work decidedly esoteric too, then after supper Chris and I attended an evening event where extracts from Banned Books were read aloud, entitled Persisting Beyond Margins, our author-friends Nicola Vulpe and Mark Frutkin being two of the readers. We won one of Nicola's books in the silent auction and the last of the readings (by Henry Beissel) led me to buy a copy of Margaret Laurence's The Diviners which I hadn't read before, a great discovery for me.

At the flying club on Sept. 29th, Chris participated in the precision landing / flour bombing runs again, taking his colleague Tina's teenage children along for the ride.

1st Oct. I went to a CFUW lecture to learn about fraudsters and computer or telephone scams, which came in useful when someone tried to phish from me very early in the morning, the other day, by means of a fraudulent phone call.

Then there were our routine visits to the doctor's, dentist's, optometrist's, to get blood tests and flu shots: none of the above anything to worry about, but they all take time. My swims at the Chateau keep me fit and Chris has managed a few personal bests for his runs on the treadmill at the gym. The car needed cleaning, maintenance checks and a tyre change, more time consumed. We do our best to keep going for walks or bike rides through the parks and woodland for sanity.

Then there's the journey planning. We're setting off on another business trip at the end of this month, first to Switzerland, then through southern Germany, before coming home to Canada via England and Wales: 20 nights away. Before booking the flights and necessary hotels (not quite done yet) I also helped Chris plan for an unexpected extra 3-day / 4-night visit to Germany last month. He was invited to give a guest lecture at the Kulturbetrieb Wagenhallen in Stuttgart for a conference on Challenges in the Development of Autonomous Driving Systems, on Oct 22nd and 23rd.

During Chris' absence I had a chatty lunch with my Scottish friend Liz, therapeutic for us both. I also spent an evening at the cinema watching a disturbingly well acted film about a fictional Nobel Prizewinner and his long-suffering, frustrated spouse ---The Wife---and another evening at the NAC theatre, watching a less successful show, Silence, a play about Alexander Graham Bell's wife. The latter was cleverly written, but fell flat, somehow; I'm not sure why. I wasn't alone in thinking so. The audience's applause at the end of the performance I saw was more dutiful than sympathetic, without the customary standing ovation.

I've been busy with voluntary work tidying up Chris' next conference paper in German, helping Emma with her bid for a major European metrology project, advising George on how to improve his manual for post-grads on How To Write Papers, and correcting all the articles, notices and photo captions for this season's editions of CFUW-Ottawa's newsletter, the Capital Carillon, for which I'm now the official editor.

So far this season, the German conversation group, whose meetings I still organise too, has been reading about young children starting school in Germany (carrying their paper cones full of treats), about an Islander aircraft that lands regularly on the sand-dune island of Wangerooge, about the history of Meissener porcelain, about Goethe's colour theory, and about the use of blue light as a suicide preventative in Japan! Last week we discussed a German immigrant colony in Venezuela, the Colonia Tovar. The group rehearsed our favourite Oktoberfest songs again, performing them at a Diplomatic Hospitality lunch in town at the 3 Brewers pub, for which some of us dressed up in Dirndls or similar, with me at the microphone for a few minutes. Around 50 people were at this event. This week our conversation group is going to talk about community service by African students in Germany, an initiative of the DAAD. I love doing the research for all these different topics.

Last Friday we held another philosophy evening for seven people discussing what Truth might be. We got nowhere, really, but I'm now reading Bertrand Russell's book An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth, first published in 1940.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Catching up?

It has been a while since I wrote a blogpost. For the next day or two I might have the chance to catch up a little; there are not so many distractions here. I have been too preoccupied with being a volunteer editor and travel agent recently. More on that later, perhaps.

We flew from Rockcliffe to Toronto this morning, or, more precisely, to Buttonville airport (CYKZ) in the north eastern part of the metropolis, in exactly 2.0 hours. Chris is assigned to give a three day training course on a nearby company's premises in this area and we're staying at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel and Suites (sic) "on the 7" (one of the main roads) less than a kilometre's walk from his place of work. Not the most beautiful of locations, but still.

Conditions for the journey were excellent, a cold but not too cold November morning with clear air and no turbulence, until we suddenly hit what must have been wind-shear on our descent through 4000 ft ASL, close to the destination, bouncing us momentarily out of our seats. However, the first hour of the flight was slightly worrying, since Mode C of the transponder didn't seem to be working, ATC telling us we were at 16,000 ft up "and climbing" when we were nowhere near! PTN can't manage that altitude at the best of times. The problem probably had some connection with the soaking the interior of the plane has had, during recent heavy rain. She leaks! Water had dripped in around the windshield and had drenched all of the carpet on my side, and two of our three headphones. Fortunately Chris' headset was not affected and mine still worked. I imagined my seat cushion was damp too, which I didn't want on a two hour flight, so I took a plastic shopping bag to wrap the cushion in, and sat on that. The water had doubtless penetrated the wiring inside the box where the transponder goes, as well. Two of the indicators on the cockpit display were fogging up from within, to start with, so Chris gave us full cabin heat throughout the journey "to dry things up", and we sweltered. The fog on the inside of the glass gradually cleared and somewhere over the wilds near Peterborough, according to Toronto Centre our Mode C transponder setting suddenly began to give the correct readings. Phew. Without it, we probably would not have been allowed to penetrate Toronto airspace, and would have had to land at some en route airport and rent a car for the rest of the journey. Toronto Terminal finally handed us off to Buttonville Tower and we did a visual approach, joining the base leg for an approach to Runway 15, which had a road running along, full of traffic, just before the threshold.

Bon Echo cliffs
During that approach we (or I, because Chris never lets himself be distracted during landing sequences) had a dramatic view of the distant Toronto skyscrapers silhouetted against a bright sky on the horizon, and the views on the way had been spectacular too, especially near to and over the Bon Echo Provincial Park, with its blue lake and high, vertical cliffs. I was experimenting with the camera on my new smart phone, a Blackberry Key 2 LE. There's still some colour in the forest trees, not as much as there was last month. The cottage country around the Kawartha Lakes looked inviting too. We stayed at a cottage down there once, with Yiwen and Pete, eating lots of corn cobs and lying in their hammock.

On the ground at Buttonville we made for the Million-Air FBO that had been recommended to us, and which indeed gave us a good welcome, with a free ride to our nearby hotel in one of their posh, new crew cars. Arriving at the hotel in a Mercedes labelled Million-Air must ensure one of a good reception, Chris joked, and indeed we are in a Club Suite here, with a jacuzzi bath and numerous pillows. I reckon Chris is entitled to such luxuries. The other week he logged 55 hours' work-time, which averages 11 hours a day.

We spent the afternoon walking round the immediate area which is almost entirely Chinese, to judge by the Hanzi (Chinese characters) written on almost every building. There seems to be an unjustifiably large proportion of restaurants, the other commercial places being banks or beauty salons. Otherwise offices. We did walk along a residential street by a pond, the houses large and expensive looking. Hardly any pedestrians, perhaps because a bitter wind is blowing today, but probably because they all prefer to use their cars anyhow. The busses have a dedicated 2-lane, 2-directional road in the middle of the main road where the other traffic is. To reach a bus stop, it's essential to cross only at a pedestrian crossing. We had lunch at the Tim Horton's next to the hotel and supper at an elegant Indian restaurant, where the food was really tasty, called Adrak. They wouldn't allow us to leave a tip but asked that we recommend them online, so that's what I'm doing here. They gave us a magic hot towel at the end of the meal, that expanded when warm water was poured on it. I was just in time to stop Chris eating it; he thought it was a marshmallow.