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October 8, 2007

Well, it's been another half-year since my last update.  Time for one now, I'd say.

It's been an exciting time since last I wrote.  I went for a second round of surgery in May.  Dr. Arthur did an absolutely fantastic job and my vision is now better than it's ever been.  No more double vision!  Hooray!

While waiting for surgery, I had to wear a prism to correct things.  This was better than seeing two objects superimposed all of the time, but it heavily distorted what I saw.  I was quite worried that I wouldn't get in in time before our trip to Greece and Turkey, (more on this in a minute.) but Dr. Arthur got me in in time and I was seeing perfectly in time for our trip.

Ah, our trip.

We left for Greece on June 29th and spent three weeks in Greece and Turkey.  I've put up a section on my site with have travel notes that we sent out as emails.  We also have a boatload of photos: Here are the photo highlights and here is the whole trip.  (500+ photos)

Since our return, work has been incredibly busy.  (Sorry, the next few paragraph will be work-related.)

We arrived back in Canada on July 21st.  This gave me just over a month to get everything in shape for the undergrad labs at work, and there were far more changes than usual: 

Until this year, CASLab had been a shared facility between ECE and the School of Computing.  Over the course of the summer, ECE decided to break away from CASLab.  This was fine from our point of view, but gave us yet another reason to reinvent CASLab as a purely School of Computing teaching facility.

On top of this, because of privacy concerns, ITS sprung a few well-intended changes on us, so this meant more development work than usual for me.  The end result was good:  A nice on-line account activation and password change system that really opens things up for me for future web-based work. 

We also moved labs from grungy Jackson Hall to a brand new facility in Walter Light Hall.  There were many delays, some preventable, some not, but at the end of the day, it has been a real improvement.  It's a beautiful space and the students love it.

Part of the lab move and ECE/SoC changes resulted in us adding an information Kiosk and iButton enrollment area.  The kiosk project was done pretty much completely by one of my co-workers, Dave Dove.  Through the course of this project, he came up with a lovely new web design for the kiosk.  Since we had new labs, a kiosk and new web services, I just had to update the look of the CASLab website and blatantly stole hes fantastic design which he and I tweaked slightly for the new CASLab site.

Since updating the look of the site, I've also added a subscribable-calendar, basic RSS support, and have more changes planned.

Okay, enough of my work.  On to my favourite topic: Sarah.

Sarah has submitted her depth work.  She has a defence scheduled in a few weeks.  When this is done, she will officially be a PhD candidate.  She's done her course work, has a journal paper submitted, has co-chaired a session from her paper submitted to the conference in Kos, is working on a paper with Mohammad Zulkernine, and is TAing for a first-year Java course. More on that:  As the senior TA, Sarah is heading weekly tutorials.  It involves a fair bit of prep time, but Sarah really enjoys working so closely with the students and loves doing the tutorials.  Yet another indicator that she really would like to teach when she graduates.  Somewhere in there, she's also working on her research.  No, really.  I don't know how she does it either.  Plans seem to be progressing nicely.  She's doing some very interesting work with the Health Unit.  Nifty stuff.  I don't know how much more I can say on this subject, so that's enough for now.

Alright, we're through with work now.

There haven't been too many house projects lately.  We're very pleased with our home and it's been great to not feel like there are scores of projects that have to be finished by winter.  Sure, we have lots of ideas, but for now we're mostly just letting the house take care of itself.  I did put in window wells at the side of the house, we have continued on the mulching in the gardens, and we have done electrical and duct cleaning work.  Oh, and we should be getting three new windows in the next two weeks.  Other than that, though, it's been smooth sailing.

I'll be getting back into Bass lessons this week.  I haven't been since before our trip.  Things have just been too hectic.  I've been practicing every day, but not as much as I should, so progress is slow.  However, I do enjoy it immensely, so it's okay.

Now, to what prompted me to start writing today:  We hosted our first Whittaker party yesterday!

There were 13 for dinner.  (Well, 13 is unlucky and Xander is four years old, so we'll call it 12 and a half for good luck.)

Sarah baked two pies, a chocolate cheesecake, made baked beans, and cooked an 18lb turkey complete with roast potatoes, yams and gravy.  Most of Sarah's family made the trek to Kingston.  In attendance:  Doris, Bruce and Lorna, Chris and Jo, Julie, Paul and Xander, Jenn and Dale, Mom Hall, Sarah and me.  Dad couldn't make it, as he was on training in Madison Wisconsin, and Gal and Jamie were over at a Walker feast.

It was a huge feast.  On top of what Sarah contributed, everyone brought salads and Mom brought a nifty squash dish.  We received many compliments on our home, thanks everyone.  Jenn and Mom helped with turkey advice, and many of the Whittakers chipped in with dishes etc. and everything turned out great.  It was awesome and I'd say that everyone had a good time.  It was a lot of work, but Sarah and I both loved having everyone down.  I can't wait till the next time.

Okay, it's 10:28 and I hear Sarah stirring.  I'm also pretty much finished my third cup of Bailey's and coffee.  I'd say it's time to wrap up.  Thanks for reading!