Sunday, June 29, 2008

Regina: Round About the Lake

I'm going to jump away from the nice, linear narrative for a minute and talk a bit about The Lake. The University of Regina is located in (so we were told) the second largest urban park in Canada. It is indeed big -- and the result is that the university is rather isolated from the rest of town. But it is in the middle of a very big and very pretty wilderness area, so for me at least it evened out.

The first weekend we were there, myself and some friendly Australians headed out for a walk to (and around) Lake Wascana. The lake is formed by damming Wascana Creek, which is actually a pretty dinky little creek. The lake is big enough for some good kayaking, though, and that's what we set out to do on Saturday. We rented kayaks at a local place and spent a fun hour getting battered by the high winds, being sprayed by waves, avoiding time-testing crew teams, and herding geese.

The next day, we took a walk around good old Lake Wascana. The lake is dammed and dredged, which means it's kinda swampy and gunky. It was also filled with ducks, geese, and (best for me) lots of pelicans! I didn't bring my long lens, or else I would have gotten some photos of them in flight -- they're really amazing.

There are nice paved bike / jogging paths around most of the lake. The first thing we came to was this interesting bit of sculpture. At the time, I had no clue what it was supposed to represent. (Yes, that's me hanging off of it.) I got a better idea when we walked a bit farther around and came to this amazing building:

This is the First Nations University, which is somehow associated with the University of Regina, and dedicated to (essentially) aboriginal studies. I love this building. Notice how the entryway is shaped like a tipi! Care to guess what that previous sculpture was? Yup, it's four giant bows and arrows, pointed in each of the four directions. Later, we came back the same way and found a nice little information kiosk just behind the sculpture (which of course we'd missed on the way in) explaining all of that.

This post is getting long, so I'll continue with a second installment in a couple days. We found plenty more cool stuff around the lake, and of course I haven't even started talking about math camp itself yet!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Regina: Swipe Cards From Hell

Sunday morning was our flight to Regina International (which is eight times as big as the Houghton County Airport -- by number of gates, at least). We had a bit of a wait on the tarmac at Minneapolis-St. Paul, and our plane was half empty. Our flight crew seemed pretty young and cool, and they started offering free upgrades to first class if you could answer trivia about the captain (who, for example, grew up in Buffalo, New York :)). I was happy with my seat, so I didn't go for an upgrade. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

We were met by Shaun (one of the organizers of our workshop) and his extremely cute little daughter. They drove us to the University and dropped us off at the dorms we'd be staying in: The North Residence. I already knew that we must be in the big city -- these residences are as tall as the MEEM!

As it turns out, these residences were designed by paranoid architects. When we checked in, we received a key and a swipe card. The swipe card, said the "Commissionaire", was used in our doors and the elevators: "Just swipe yer card, and type yer number there, and you'll be on yer way." Well, turns out that the cards are more like puzzles. The elevator had a card slot, and a number pad above it. So, I put my card in and typed in my room number. No go. Then I tried my floor number. Nope. I tried my card, then press the floor number on the usual elevator buttons. No go! Rachel tried, and got it working eventually. Turns out it's: swipe your card repeatedly until you get a green light, then press your floor number. My card got a green light about 1/10 of the time.

After that, we ran around the building (and town) for a while to see what we could see. First, more building weirdness: we took the stairways up and down the building, because I don't like elevators. Turns out, the stairwells don't go to first floor -- there's no way to get to the first floor at all! How do you get out in case of fire? Beats me. So, we took the elevator -- but even though you can get to every other floor from the stairwells, you can't get to any other floor at all from the elevators except with a card. That's pointless paranoia!

Aside from the paranoia, the buildings were actually pretty awesome. In the photo above, you can see that on the corners of the towers, there are big vertical stacks of windows, and some smaller windows on the sides. Each suite in the building has four bedrooms and one common area. The big corner windows were attached to each common area, and they had awesome views. Mine looked out to the northwest, where the downtown and industrial districts were filled with lights every night, after a beautiful sunset. You could even see stars -- in the city! I tried taking many photos from my suite's common area, but I usually got bad glare or a bad angle. The one and only one I kept is this one... it gives you a little bit of an idea:

The big arched building on the right is the library. The big circular thing with lots of grass inside it is the campus "green," which was a fun place to play outdoor games or just hang out.

Next: Thar be a lake out thar!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Regina: The Saga Begins

Starting last Friday, myself and my colleague -- henceforth to be referred to by the clever pseudonym "Rachel" -- headed for the sprawling metropolis known as Regina, Saskatchewan, for the fabulous Industrial Problem Solving Workshop at the University of Regina.

We went by way of the Twin Cities -- it was actually cheaper to drive all the way down and fly out of Minneapolis, than to fly out of lovely Houghton International-state Airport. It was also a chance to hang out with our mutual friend, whose name I shall describe as "Rob".

We spent Saturday morning at some of the local lakes where Rob sails. Rob was dock captain ("I get to yell at people and make them do what I tell them!"), while I wandered around taking photos of the boats.

In a terrifying foreshadowing of the future which was yet to happen (yes, I know what I wrote), I ran into these two ducks poking their evil little noses around the lake shore. I would be seeing many of their comrades in the coming days. They might look cute, but their mad little eyes betray their true nature. (YouTube video is weird, but I love the song.)

In the meantime, Rachel was running a 5k race for fun (I know, I can't believe it either). After all that, we had dinner at a pizza joint called Punch. Calling it a "pizza joint" doesn't exactly do it justice -- these pizzas were amazing. They were covered in ingredients like spinach, feta cheese, grape tomatoes, and smoked ham, and then cooked in a wood-fired brick oven for a few seconds. I had mine with a Surly beer (also local, also amazing).

In the evening, we took a bike ride through the Twin Cities, along a path which is part of the "Grand Rounds" tour. It was pretty grand -- Minneapolis is supposed to be the second most bike-friendly city in the US, and I can believe it. We went 20 miles and hardly crossed a street -- and we were never on a street! The Cities have really spoiled me for Houghton roads now!

More to follow, as the saga continues...

Monday, June 23, 2008

A lovely polearm

Adam's Spanish poleaxe in the evening sun.

I'm back from the wilds of Canada, filled with math and prairie dogs. I'm processing the photos I took, and I'll start posting them soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Redridge in Spring

The old Redridge timber crib dam, in spring.

This one is from the archives. I'm in Regina at the moment, at math camp, er, a math conference. I've been taking lots of photos of prairie dogs and the vast emptiness that is Saskatchewan, so I'll post some of that when I'm back.

I took this one evening around sunset, while I was playing around with long exposures. Redridge, like a lot of places set on streams or lakes, changes a lot during the spring. Streams become rivers, trickles become waterfalls, and springs appear out of nowhere. The Redridge dams, which don't really hold water any more, actually start to look like they're doing their jobs during the spring -- which unfortunately also means that they are slowly degrading, since they're not maintained any more.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brockway Tree

A lonely tree with its shadow, overlooking Copper Harbor.
A tree looking at its shadow, at the Brockway Mountain "nose".
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I took this photo while my parents were visiting a couple of weeks ago. We stopped at this overlook on Brockway -- which is a great place to watch the 4th of July fireworks, by the way.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A proud little tree

Weathered tree on a rock at Seven Mile Point.
A cedar tree that's managed to hang on to the rocks at Seven Mile Point.
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Seven Mile Point is one of my very favorite places in the entire Keweenaw. The point is a beautiful little Michigan Nature Association preserve, with pebble beaches and rocky outcrops. This tree was on one of the outcroppings. Somehow, it had managed to seed, grow, and maybe even flourish while being completely exposed to everything Lake Superior could throw at it.

I had wanted to stay and take some sunset photos at the point, so I asked the woman who was tending to the preserve how long she would be staying. Her answer was: "Probably until 7:00 or 7:30 -- it's the first night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!" Instead, I went to breakers and stayed until 10:30, when the last light of the sun finally disappeared. I love the Keweenaw in summer!

The colors here are straight from the camera. I used a polarizer, but otherwise it's unmodified. For some reason, the colors remind me of mid 70's photos, when color rendition was a bit flat -- it has that "old fashioned look". Maybe that's the polarizer's fault?