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Thursday, August 5, 2004

  • July: and the rains came down
  • Recorded lectures move to CD-ROM
  • Award for energy service; other notes
Chris Redmond

Raoul Wallenberg born 1912

July: and the rains came down

People have been talking about this summer as a wet one in southern Ontario, but in fact there was less rain than usual through most of July, as measured at the UW weather station on the north campus.

[Actual below average until the end of the month]

Actual day-by-day precipitation at the weather station (red) compared to average (blue), July 2004 -- measurements in millimetres

"The precipitation ended up higher than normal," writes Frank Seglenieks, coordinator of the station, "but this was a result of over 40 mm falling in the last two days of the month. Without that storm the total precipitation would have been below normal.

"One reason that it might have felt like a wet month was that there was precipitation on 19 of the 31 days, where on average we only get 10.5 days in July with precipitation."

A graph (right) shows cumulative precipitation through the month, compared to the average. By month's end, total rain was 108.6 millimetres. That's noticeably more than the average of 91.8 mm (based on 1970-2000 data from Waterloo-Wellington Airport).

In other words, July brought almost enough rain to submerge a CD-ROM standing on edge, while the average of past years would bring only enough rain to cover a floppy diskette.

Seglenieks reports that the temperature in July was lower than average, with 20 of the 31 days having a lower than average high temperature. "The daily high temperature was on average 1.6 degrees below the long-term average. The daily high temperature on 11 of the days of July was more than 3 degrees below average, with July 15 coming in 9.4 degrees below average (17.4 C compared to 26.8 C)."

Average temperature all month was 19.3 Celsius, or 66.7 Fahrenheit. The highest temperature reached was 29.3, and the lowest was just 9.0.

[Green in laboratory]

Howie Green officially retires September 1 after 39 years as a faculty member in the department of kinesiology. A 2001 winner of UW's Excellence in Research Award, he has worked in such areas as repetitive strain injury, exercise for heart patients, and the neuromuscular basis of activity and fatigue. A special interest for Green -- himself a former varsity hockey player for Queen's and Alberta -- has been issues of fatigue and stress for athletes. Four years ago he reported on a study of tissue samples taken from Warrior hockey players, concluding that the sport is so tough it actually makes muscles begin to waste away in the course of a season.

Recorded lectures move to CD-ROM

The "taped" lectures that have been the heart of UW's distance education program for almost four decades are moving from tape to a new, high-tech medium. As of this fall, most students will get their lectures in MP3 format on a CD-ROM instead.

"Unlike past terms when you had to return the audio tapes to us, there is no need to return the CD-ROM," says a letter to faraway students from Don Kasta, director of the distance education office. "In addition, this change will provide improved audio quality. . . . This change to CD-ROMs will enable us to handle the audio more efficiently and reduce our costs for duplication, storage, handling and mailing."

Lectures for off-campus students, in what was originally called the "correspondence" program, were first sent on reel-to-reel tape and then, starting in the early 1970s, on cassettes. At its location on Phillip Street, and more recently on Gage Avenue in Kitchener, the distance ed office operated what amounted to a tape factory, duplicating, sorting and distributing hundreds of thousands of cassettes.

Students are being told that "a very small number of courses" are staying with cassettes for the time being. In addition, somebody who wants cassettes in addition to the MP3 version of the lectures -- perhaps to play them in a location without a computer or up-to-date CD player -- can order them for a fee ("between $8 and $20 per set") from the UW bookstore.

About 250 distance education courses are currently operated, with about 100 of them online and the rest using traditional mail. (Even with online courses, some material, including audio lectures, are mailed on a CD to reduce download times, Kasta notes.)

Students have also been told that as of this fall, they have to use Quest "for many administrative type tasks including course selection", a change that on-campus students experienced in 2001.

"We're right out of the tape duplicating business," Kasta says about the latest change, adding that "we're right into the CD duplicating business." But that takes less space, less mess and fewer people. The change has been foreseen for a good while, and tape duplication has been being done by staff hired on short-term contracts, he said. As a result, "we're not having to eliminate regular positions."

Last year there was another simplification, as the distance ed office got out of the bookselling business: students now order their texts from the bookstore. "That really had a major impact on our space needs," Kasta says. With the end of tape duplication and shipping as well, he's foreseeing much less need for space -- something that could make it more possible for the department to move to the main campus when its lease on the Gage Avenue space runs out late in 2005.

Award for energy service; other notes

The two leaders of UW's Residential Energy Efficiency Project have been awarded "Excellence in Education" awards for this year from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation -- the federal housing agency. The CMHC honour is given for "promotion of sustainable practices", which is exactly what REEP does. Based in the faculty of environmental studies, it's a consulting service that "uses the EnerGuide for Houses home energy-use modelling system to provide a comprehensive report of heat loss in your home, and advice for energy improvement". REEP has assessed some 4,000 houses in Waterloo Region so far, and collected data for use in research and students' academic projects. The CMHC award goes to Paul Parker of the geography department and Ian Rowlands of environment and resource studies, and will be presented at a ceremony this fall.

The other day I promised to report on food services hours for August; a little late, but better late then never, here's the word. Several outlets (the Ron Eydt Village cafeteria, the CEIT, Psychology and Matthews Hall coffee shops, Tim Horton's in Optometry, the Festival Fare cafeteria in South Campus Hall) have been closed all through the spring term. Most other outlets will be open for their regular hours until the end of exams on August 14, then closed until Labour Day. Open all month will be Brubakers in the Student Life Centre, Pastry Plus in Needles Hall, Browsers in the Dana Porter Library, Tim Horton's in the Davis Centre, and the Jolly Chef grill in Davis.

Jan Willwerth of information systems and technology sends a note on UW-ACE, otherwise known as the Angel Course Environment system for "course management", which is the successor to UWone. The team, she writes, "wants to ensure that faculty members/instructors have as much notice as possible regarding the registering of their courses. We've asked people to have their requests in by Friday, August 6." That's tomorrow. An instructor who wants to use ACE services can put in a request online, and that's also the place to find more information. "Although UW-ACE courses for the fall 2004 term will be accepted after August 6," Willwerth writes, getting things in this week will allow time for training "as well as provide you with sufficient time for course development and access to support people." She adds: "We expect to accommodate all requests for courses for winter 2005 when UW-ACE has its official grand opening."

The parking services office will be closed from 11:30 to 1:30 today because of a departmental meeting. . . . The mathematics undergraduate office is closed as it begins a move to the fourth floor of the Math and Computer building. . . . The University Club will hold a "Treasures of the Sea" lobster buffet on Friday night, 5 to 8 p.m. (reservations ext. 3801). . . .

Janos Aczel of UW's pure mathematics department -- long a "distinguished emeritus" professor, but still active in his field -- is this year's winner of the Kampé de Fériet Award from IPMU. That's the every-two-years international conference on Information Processing and Management of Uncertainty in Knowledge-Based Systems. The latest IPMU was held in early July in Perugia, Italy. The award honours "exceptional contribution in the field". Says a citation: "The theory of functional equations has developed very rapidly in the last two decades by the effort of Professor Janos Aczel, who has developed both theoretical researches and applications in many fields, such as information measures, index numbers, group decision making, aggregation, production functions, laws of science, theory of measurement and utility theory."


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