Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

By training, I am a geographer. That is sort of hard to pin down, but there is an element of generalist in the position. One my professors in undergraduate used to say there are only three main disciplines – geography, the study of space, history – the study of time and mathematics – the study of the abstract. Everything else flows from those three.

Google Earth was the most amazing web tool that I could imagine and many an hour has been spent searching the globe from my desktop. A couple of days ago, I stumbled across a game that someone has made using Google Earth Street View, called GeoGuessr – http://geoguessr.com/.

It is simple but brilliant. You are given a Google Earth Street View scene and you have to guess where it is. And you get points for how close you are to the actual spot. Nothing more, nothing less. But this is geography heaven. You can move around in Street View, but you can’t zoom out to see where you are. I have shared this with a couple of friends and they have all come back and said it is addicting. So to whoever came up with this one – well done!

BTW … my high score is currently 18260.




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Normally I don’t pass along things that appear in my e-mail, but this one made me giggle. Canadian, eh? (The last reference is one that may not translate well … have to be either a Canadian or hockey fan.)

50 Fahrenheit (10 C)
Californians shiver uncontrollably
Canadians plant gardens

35 Fahrenheit (1.6 C)
Italian Cars won’t start
Canadians drive with the windows down

32 Fahrenheit (0 C)
American water freezes
Canadian water gets thicker.

0 Fahrenheit (-17.9 C)
New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
Canadians have the last cookout of the season.

-60 Fahrenheit (-51 C)
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.

-109.9 Fahrenheit (-78.5 C)
Carbon dioxide freezes makes dry ice.
Canadians pull down their earflaps.

-173 Fahrenheit (-114 C)
Ethyl alcohol freezes.
Canadians get frustrated when they can’t thaw the keg

-459.67 Fahrenheit (-273.15 C)
Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
Canadians start saying “cold, eh?”

-500 Fahrenheit (-295 C)
Hell freezes over.
The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup


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Writer’s Block

Last week I returned home from a 12 day, 7,500 kilometre road trip to Saskatchewan, Ontario and back. You would think that I should be able to come up with some interesting writing after all that.

But I feel as if I need time to process all the thoughts and experiences that occured during my time away. I have done the drive between Alberta and Ontario quite a few times before, but the last one was 15 years ago. This time I took a voice recorder to put down my thoughts on the road but even that hasn’t helped me. I assume the words will come eventually … until then, here are some photos from my journey – with more to come.

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This has been the trip of thunderstorms. I left Estevan Saskatachewan around 8 in the morning. For the first three hours I dodged thunderstorms and it rained from just north of Minot to almost Devil’s Lake, N.D.

I am writing this in a Super 8 in Superior Ws. in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. Lots of rain, lightning and thunder. I am on the top floor and the rain is making quite the racket.

So, some thoughts from the road:

  • This has been a very civilized drive. By contrast, the trip from Edmonton to Calgary is way more stressful. I quite enjoy the vast expanse of the prairies and once you get into the rythmn, the miles just flow by.
  • My tires, Toyo’s, don’t like some concrete roadways – they make lots of noise.
  • I was asked how many miles I expected to do in a day – never think of miles – it is all in hours. Today was a good day – about 11 hours and around 1000 kilometers and I still feel pretty good.
  • The one thing that causes stress is all the changes in speed limits – lots of mental arithmetic as I convert Imperial to metric measurements. On a Canadian speedometer, the miles per hour are in red and almost impossible to read.
  • It has obviously been a wet year on the prairies. There was one spot on Highway 39 in Saskatchewan where the water was up to each side of the road. If the water was a metre higher, it would have been over the road – never seen that before. And the red-winged blackbird population is in good shape.

So, hopefully the car will survive the storm and we have a good day tomorrow.

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On Saturday (March 30), it was +10 C with sunny skies.

Today – April Fool’s Day – it snowed for a good part of the day with a high temperature of +2 C.

Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny and +12 C.

Just shake your head and realize this is spring in Alberta!

Penny looking for a spot for her morning constitutional

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One of the things about living in a northern climate is that it does get cold sometimes. Not just cold … but COLD.

The temperature hasn’t risen above -28 C today and the wind chill has hit -40 C several times during the day. Environment Canada has issued a wind chill warning. That means a wind chill of -40 for at least three hours with a minimum 15 kph wind.

Our digital thermometer - the bottom reading is "off-line", which means it is below -30 C!

Beside the fact it is cold, interesting things happen when it gets this cold. After a couple of minutes, my winter jacket sounds like it is made out of paper. The extension cord to the car’s block heater doesn’t want to bend at all. I left my lunch, in an insulated bag, inside the car when I went to teach at university this morning. The container of stew was frozen solid after three hours. The car’s automatic transmission doesn’t really want to shift gears until it gets somewhat warm and the tires feel like they are square for the first few blocks. And walking outside and having that blast of cold hit is something else. This morning we were close to a 50 degree difference in temperature from inside to outside. The first breath sort of catches you but you adapt – quickly.

In February 1994, a colleague and I spent five days in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, which is just south of the Northwest Territories border. That was my first experience with a -40 air temperature – doesn’t matter if it Celsius or Fahrenheit – they are both the same at -40. I think facing the cold is somewhat a matter of attitude. We were appropriately dressed and it was a great experience. But I have some understanding how tough it would be to endure for months at a time.

Standing at the Fort Chipewyan historical marker - @ -40

As a good friend once put it; after the winter solstice, every day you are one day closer to spring.

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I have had a number of ‘careers’ over my working life. The first part involved maps and aerial photography. From there I moved into the administrative end of things. I might have continued along that path except I saw the job being phased out. So, asking myself what I liked to do, I went back to university and earned a two-year diploma in Adult and Continuing Education. That was probably one of the smarter things I have done in my life. It led to getting with a position in environmental education and then a secondment and finally a permanent position working on the climate change file. And now I have sort of gone full circle.

I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago from a friend who had retired and is teaching at MacEwan University. Due to circumstances, they were in desperate need of a lab instructor. So, with the help of my section head, I am teaching a lab in Earth Science to first year students. In the interview for the job, my adult ed diploma did count so it came in handy again.

It frankly has been a blur for the last two weeks but I did my first lab this morning – 8 to 11. It was a busy time but it was fun. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching and to be able to teach a geography themed class was even all the better. This could be the start of another career and then again … but no matter I will enjoy the experience. Thanks Don for recommending me. Life just got a bit busier!

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