June 30, 2004

Election Fever Down Under

Especially after casting my vote by special ballot a few weeks ago, it has been agonizing tracking the federal election in Canada from such a distance.

Today, though, I was lucky enough to get a little taste of home. After a meeting at the Australian Greenhouse Office, I headed over to the Canadian High Commission, which was hosting an election-watching event. Strolling into the "functions room," I was immediately confronted by the familiar face and voice of Peter Mansbridge. The CBC! One entertaining rant from Rick Mercer and one letter-reading session with Rex Murphy later ... and it felt like home.

I got a chance to speak with the Deputy High Commissioner, who explained how they got the satellite CBC feed. The subject came up when we were told that the feed would end abruptly at 2:00 p.m. AEST.

He told me that Satellite CBC is carried by an Anik, a North America-anchored geosynchronous satellite that never pays a visit to the southern hemisphere. So the satellite signal is downloaded in Los Angeles and sent by fiber-optic cable under the Pacific Ocean to Sydney. From there it's beamed up to an Optus satellite which transmits the signal for viewers here. (Optus, when it's in a good mood, also transmits our mobile phone signal.) The High Commission in Canberra, along with its colleagues in Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington, negotiated a contract for a four hour block of time ending at midnight Eastern Standard Time or 2:00 p.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. Indeed, when 2:00 p.m. rolled around, the screen went black and we had to watch the live streaming feed from CBC over the Internet (which was remarkably good).

While I'm on the subject of things political, I also paid a visit to the Australian parliament last week, sitting in on Question Period in the House of Representatives. The experience, dominated by the typical slagfest, confirmed my view about the institution of Question Period, which is that all of its virtues aside, it consistently makes governing parties look smug and opposition parties look petty. It's quite an interesting phenomenon. In any case, sitting in on parliament is the sort of thing one does in Canberra. Compare this with Melbourne, where our last month involved a moonlight cinema, a Comedy Festival performance, and a viewing of an Aussie Rules football game, and you'll see what we have to contend with here. ;)

Joking aside, one of Canberra's strengths is, not surprisingly, the presence of many interesting national institutions (Parliament, of course, the National Museum and National Library, etc.). This past weekend, Miriam and I visited the War Memorial. It is both a memorial (shrine) and a museum (and a research/archive centre), and it is truly impressive. It made me both feel and think more than most war museums do, which I think is a very good thing for this sort of place to do. I hope that the new war museum in Ottawa can pull off a similar feat. Visitors to Canberra: the War Memorial is described as a "must-see" for good reason. Don't miss it.

Posted by anatole at June 30, 2004 02:12 AM

Not only do we get a post, but you made me all nostalgic by talking about geosynchronous orbits. (How many people can say *that*, I wonder?)

Good times, good times...

Posted by: Tyla at July 1, 2004 03:32 AM