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University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, December 17, 1998

  • Amid wars and rumours of wars
  • Notes on a subordinate Claus
  • A present for Warrior cage fans
  • A few events for today
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Amid wars and rumours of wars

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Well, it snowed, a few flakes anyway, so we're closer than we were before to "looking a lot like Christmas". Those who are making Yuletide preparations might want to stop off at the UW Shop in South Campus Hall; a note yesterday from Olga Nohra in the shop announced "a surprise sale on holiday gift items" such as frames, candles, toys and decorations.

The former Married Student Apartments got a new name this fall: the University of Waterloo Apartments. Yesterday Marita Williams, the manager of space allocation and planning, said a building abbreviation has been approved for the complex. MSA becomes UWA. "The building name and abbreviation will be changed on our computer system tables by December 23."

As announced, the first draw in the 1999 Dollars for Scholars raffle was made this week. Winner of the $2,000 "early bird" prize is Harold Colquhoun of Sarnia, grandfather of engineering student Daniel Colquhoun. "Tickets are still available until January 15," says Meredith McGinnis in the UW development office. You can't win the early bird prize now, of course, but the $2,500 grand prize is to be drawn on January 20, and monthly draws will follow until November 1999.

And you think you get wrong numbers? Tom Galloway, head of custodial and grounds services in UW's plant operations department, tells about his calls: "The Custodial Section Direct in Dial (DID)# is 888-4000. It is very easy to remember and we like it. Since it doubles as an internal extension (4000) and it appears as a second line on my set I answer it whenever it rings. The only problem is that the number may be too easy to use or misdial. I answer the phone for Mutual Life (Waterloo Branch office) (885-4000), the Texas BBQ Restaurant (886-4000), C.N. Weber (888-4200), Continuing Education (888-4002) and the Marine-Midland Box Office 888-4000 but area code 716. It seems the Buffalo TV station ads do not put up the area code for Canadian viewers."

If you've had frustrations lately trying to load web pages from UW's central server -- including the UWinfo home page -- you're not alone. Yes, there is something wrong with the machine behind www.uwaterloo.ca and www.adm.uwaterloo.ca, says Roger Watt, director of systems in the information systems and technology department. At the heart of the problem, he said: the information on thousands of web pages is concentrated on too few disks, which spin frantically trying to keep up with the number of "hits", or user requests for data from them. IST staff are working on changing the disk configuration and fixing other, apparently unrelated problems. There's hope.

Notes on a subordinate Claus

[Portrait of elf] December may be the busy season at the North Pole, but it's Christmas all year round for Egfrth Spleng, vice-elf for research at one of UW's least-known spinoff companies. "Here at WatClaus we develop some of Santa's most popular new toys." says Spleng, who took a degree in recreation and leisure studies at UW before going to work for WatClaus some ten years ago. (This report is largely based on a report published in the Gazette in December 1992.)

Originally the little firm occupied a single igloo on UW's north campus. Now there are more than a dozen snow-houses occupying part of an industrial mall on Phillip Street, and the WatClaus staff has grown from four to 52. It employs only elves and co-op students -- two of the world's most misunderstood life forms.

"Some people think we're little and merry," Spleng comments. "If we were so merry, do you think we'd have managed to carve out such a high-tech niche for ourselves this fast?"

The firm's specialty is toys with a Waterloo flavour. He demonstrates one of the playthings that WatClaus created this year and that thousands of boys and girls will find in their stockings this December 25: a Grahame Farquhar doll that scurries tirelessly from laboratory to laboratory delivering forms that must be filled out for granting agencies.

"That's a terrific example of how our products are based on ideas developed at the university," Spleng beams. "That kind of cross-fertilization makes Waterloo the best place in the world for small-scale high-tech companies to develop. We just thrive in the university environment."

The James Downey doll, with unique mediation features and a vocabulary of more than 250,000 literary quotations, has been a perennial best-seller, but WatClaus is now retooling for the David Johnston doll, with hard-wired Internet connection. A less successful product is a scale model of the Davis Centre that glows with the energy of more than 1,500 tiny computer terminals. "Santa loved it, but it never took off with the kids," Spleng said sadly. "The terminals only lit up between midnight and 4 a.m., and most kids are in bed then."

Coming soon, Spleng promises: a virtual reality system involving a glove, goggles, a touchpad and a computer chip that lets you turn your microcomputer or television set into a convincing replica of a faculty of engineering. You can move walls, robotic equipment and teaching assistants with equal ease, and can simulate enrolment increases (extra batteries may be required).

A present for Warrior cage fans

The men's basketball Warriors, who are 11-2 in pre-season play (and 9-1 against CIAU teams) received an early Christmas present this week with the news that Mike Stroeder, who starred for the team this year but had taken the fall term off for job reasons, will be back. He'd been the only starter from the 1997-98 Warriors not to take the floor in 1998-99.

"Last year," a keen observer of the team reminds me, "Mike was the team's leading three-point shooter and was second on the team in scoring (11.5 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg), assists (2.1 apg), and steals (0.9 spg). Perhaps more importantly, the versatile 6'7" Stroeder played all five positions for Tom Kieswetter last year, creating match-up problems for opposing teams.

"Mike's return means that all nine Warriors who saw playing time in last year's OUA West semi-finals and finals are back. It also means that the Waterloo Warriors are one of the tallest teams in the country with posts Derek Maat 6'7, Mike Zavershnik 6'9, Dan Schipper 6'10, Kieran Del Pasqua 6'9, and wings including Mark Eys 6'5, Woody Kwiatkowski 6'3, Remy Donaldson 6'5, and Mike Stroeder 6'7.

"The Warriors are excited to have this key ingredient to last year's league championship team return for the remainder of the season. Adding a player of his ability and with such a strong desire to win will be a real plus for the Warriors and their fans."

The team's next action is December 29-30 in a tournament at the University of Findlay, Ohio; then they'll hit the Purple and White tournament at the University of Western Ontario January 2-3, before returning to the Physical Activities Complex for a game against McMaster, January 16 at 2 p.m.

A few events for today

The Faculty Computing User Support group will meet from 8:45 to 9:45 in Engineering II room 1310, for a tour of the computing support and computing facilities in the faculty of engineering.

Mature students are having their Christmas luncheon today at the Ali Baba Steak House downtown. It's by reservation only, but the mature student services office at ext. 2429 might be able to provide last-minute information.

The pension and benefits committee is meeting today, first for lunch, then for an afternoon of discussion on such topics as "postponed pension calculation", pension contribution levels, group Registered Retirement Savings Plans, and the sick leave and long-term disability benefits for faculty and staff members.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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