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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Week in America!

Busy last several days. Two weeks ago I had Lisa's annual BBQ pool party Saturday afternoon, and then got together with Charlene and Hayden in the evening to head out to David Dunlap Observatory for some stargazing thru their 74-inch telescope. Ran into nexstarman and indefatigable42 there working as volunteers. Saw the Ring Nebula, a double star, and Jupiter, as well as a lecture on the history of the site.

The next day attended the Anime North Staff Brunch at the Imperial Buffet in Mississauga. Ate my fill and then some as my American odyssey was about to begin. I was off to Wichita that afternoon to teach a five day training class being held at the university there.

Travelling to Wichita (thru Chicago) was pretty painless, and got to my hotel late Sunday night. Wichita was very hot the first couple of days, but it wasn't humid, which was a relief. Wichita State University turns out to be surrounded by golf courses and suburbs, my hotel turned out to be in the exact opposite direction to the city center, and the public transit there sucks, buses running a half-hour apart at the best of times, and they all stop at 7 PM! The locals say that it's the sort of town where you go to work and then go right home.

Anyway, after the first two days I got a lift in the mornings from my hotel to the class with two of the students who were staying further out than I was. I walked back in the evening to get some exercise. The class itself went well, the room was a good size, the computers weren't complete pieces of crap (if they were any good they wouldn't be training machines) and the students were a decent bunch. There's always one guy who takes twice as long as everyone else, but I think I'm getting better at being patient. The TIFF film schedule went online that week, so I had plenty of time in the evenings to go over it online and send my film picks to my brother to submit. My room had a little kitchnette, so I was able to get a small watermelon, some milk and Fruit Loops, and some oranges. Only I didn't know that the drawer in the bottom of the mini-fridge was a freezer and I froze my oranges solid (they clanked together when I took them out the next morning).

On the Friday I got a ride to the airport with some of the students, and made my way to Madison, WI (via Memphis) to visit with benet for the weekend. Now, Wichita had no cycling infrastructure at all (and I scarcely saw anyone on a bike) but Madison was a completely different story. I rented a bike Saturday morning, and Benet and I spent most of the day on various bike trails around town. The countryside was great and looks a lot like Ontario (glaciers went over it as well). The state bike tails require you to make a donation of $4 for the day when you turn onto them (and we ran into a spot check for the day permits in the middle of a trail), but as the annual fee is only $20 it would hardly be a hardship if I lived there. One of the trails has model Solar System laid out on it, we passed the Sun and went out as far as Uranus. Going all the way to Pluto (not a planet!) would have been as far as we had already travelled (the outer Solar System is big!) so that's the plan for the next time I come out.

In the evening we took in some of the music festival going on in a park, with aerial dancers. They weren't up to Cirque du Soleil standards, but were pretty good. The Mother Goose bits between the acts got old pretty fast however.

Madison is the state capital, and the capital building is a miniature version of the DC capital. The city layout is striking, the capital building is in the middle of a strip of land in between two large lakes, with avenues stretching away on either side with the rest of the city on either side. According to Benet, the buidling has a statue of a women with a badger on her head at the very top.

Sunday was some more biking at one of the lakes and around the university, and I had to get going in the evening (Bye Benet!). My connection in Chicago was fairly tight, only 45 minutes, but it was a perfect day (when I flew in I saw lightning flashes in the distance) and we got to Chicago a few minutes early. We then spent 25 minutes driving around the airport looking for an open gate (at one point actually going OVER a multi-lane highway) before I could finally get off. Had to run (well trot) all the way to another terminal to make my connection but managed to get there with several minutes to spare. And home in one piece.