30 March 2010

I can still teach.

From the time I was 6 until sometime in the midst of my third year of university I wanted to be a teacher. (Actually, there was also a brief year or two when I wanted to be a neuropsychologist, until I realized how many biology classes I would have to take.) I clearly remember announcing in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, in part because my teacher, Mrs. Johansen, was great. I never really outgrew the idea but instead circumstances changed.

When I worked in England, assisting the house mother in looking after about 30 boarded kids under the age of 12, I grew restless during the day and convinced the Headmistress to let me assist in the school. I taught drama class in the junior school and eventually took on whole sections of math and English classes in the senior school -- completely unsupervised! I was 18, with a (Canadian) high school education and I was teaching classes of 14-16 year olds (8-10 year olds in the junior school). Even then I thought it was bizarre that they would let me do that, but I loved it. More than anything it convinced me that I was on the right track.

When I returned to Canada and entered University, my initial plan was to get an English major and a math minor then follow up with the Post-degree Professional Program (teaching certification). I figured while I wanted to teach English, I would be just as content teaching math. That didn't pan out because I had so much trouble with calculus; I changed course and ended up pursuing the History major/English minor that I completed. In third year my plans changed again as it became clear that 2 out of 3 of my classmates were planning to follow the same crowded path as I was in a province that was laying off teachers.

I never did that certification. Instead I worked in the library shelving books for a while then tried my hand at plumbing after which I returned to the library and stayed. Even through plumbing, I tutored several classmates through the algebra and geometry sections and from time to time, I still get to use the teaching skills that I always knew I had in me.

A few weeks ago, realizing that I needed to train several people how to edit the union website, I wanted to use one of the library classrooms. I offered to build an Introduction to Drupal session and open it up to library staff. Last week, to my surprise, I found the class was full!

Over the weekend I pulled together the outline, built a Powerpoint presentation, and tidied the original handout I had built for training the content editors. Though I was nervous and I realized later that I didn't even introduce myself (doh!), I got into the swing of it and even though I hadn't even done a dry run through, I finished with time enough for questions. I got some good feedback, too.

Sometimes I wonder whether I would have been better off as a teacher; most of the time, I look at "kids these days" and think, "not likely," but there's always peers to be taught. And... if you believe in personality typing, I sit on the cusp between INFJ (which lands me squarely in teacher territory) and INTJ (typically scientists and strategic planning-types but also teachers and professors). Either way, I would probably still do OK.

p.s. if you are curious, the Introduction to Drupal presentation can be downloaded in pdf format

27 March 2010

Guerrilla Garden Drama Continues

One thing I missed on Thursday: after a relatively peaceful memorial at the garden/lawn site, the group marched over to the Administration building and seemed threatening enough to those inside that Campus Security instigated a lockdown.

Here's a follow-up article in the Times-Colonist: Garden Protest at UVic Heats Up, and a piece run by CBC News: UVic Rips out Unsanctioned Student Garden -- some of the comments on the CBC piece (both pro and con) really got me annoyed. Here is one voice from inside the protest group: Resistance is Fertile UVic Students and Community Members Seek to Remake Campus.

I wish that the Food not Lawns/Resistance is Fertile group would accept that they have the spotlight and use it to their advantage. They are calling for more action on Wednesday and I suspect it will be more confrontational this time.

I'm sure there are ways that they could work with both the Campus Community Garden and also the Administration if what they truly wanted was a resolution. Unfortunately, I think they just want attention.

If their issue is about growing food, they could join the CCG -- there are collective plots available to all students and the community -- or they could sign up for the Sharing Backyards project coordinated by LifeCycles, or they could even go big or go home by working with Linking Land and Future Farmers through the South Island Orgainic Producers Association. Both Sharing Backyards and LAFF seek to match people with land they cannot work with people who lack land to work.

If it's about helping the CCG find a new location, why not work with them -- start a garden on the Cedar Hill /CJVI lands. This area, adjacent to Mystic Vale is pretty much the last remaining farmland from the HBC Uplands Farm [see Planet U for a great description] and is currently used as a dog park and a disc golf course. This area has been set aside for "future development" for a long time. The 2003 Campus Plan (which is still being used to drive development) notes:

The primary area reserved for future development is the CJVI site. This 12.4 ha (30.7 acre) property of open-space land adjoins Cedar Hill Cross Road at the southeast corner of the campus. The property is surrounded by residential neighborhoods on one side and by South Woods on the other side. In view of the moratorium on natural areas, the timing of permanent development of this property may be advanced.

The following policy directions provide guidance on the urban design and landscaping matters. Wherever the A’ symbol appears, this denotes that there is a corresponding action item in Section 5.

Policy Directions – CJVI Property

LB#26 Potential Uses The CJVI Property has potential for temporary uses and permanent development, including academic expansion, faculty and student housing, sports and recreational facilities, parking, and any special opportunity uses that may arise.

LB#27 Master Planning Study – A Prior to any permanent development taking place, a master plan for the CJVI Property will be prepared with these caveats:

  • The plan will be guided by the vision and principles of this plan, as it may be amended from time to time.
  • Permanent development will provide landscaping and visual buffering to minimize its impact on nearby neighbours and on the adjoining forested areas of the University.
  • Creative thought must be given to the best way to provide links and connections from these lands to other areas of the campus.

The use of this area for communal agriculture in one way or another has been well documented for about 15 years and if the protesters are aware of all of these plans then I can understand their frustration. However considering how slow the wheels sometimes turn at UVic, I also understand that we are likely some months (or years) from a decision.

If you find this subject as interesting as I do, here is some additional background reading:

25 March 2010

Guerrillas on Campus

Regular readers know I am not one who loves lawns. They are great if you have kids or pets who need somewhere to run but in a city like ours, there are far better uses for land and I don't mean houses with bigger footprints. And don't get me started on golf courses.

I mean gardens. Food is ideal. Landscaping with native plants is good too. Hell, even reclaiming one's yard as a Garry Oak ecosystem would make me happy. That said, I'm not about to go ripping up someone else's lawn to make my point.

That's exactly what a Facebook group called "Urban Agriculture at UVic" did yesterday:

DSC00355 DSC00356

They started over the lunch hour and inside two hours, they had built an impressive little garden. Campus Security officers watched from a distance and called the Saanich Police who also observed before returning to other duties. Gardening continued. When I left work at 4 there were still people working at the details but the musicians had packed up and the crowds had long since dispersed. A coworker noted that when she left a lab at 9 pm the garden was still in place. On arriving this morning, it was all gone; it had been leveled before the janitorial staff arrived around 6 am:

Might as well be paved.

The event was called Resistance is Fertile: a Food Democracy Teach-Out. Planning for the guerrilla garden/flash mob looks like it started last fall. The activists brought shovels, plants, musical instruments and a soundsystem. It's not clear where the dirt came from but the buckets I saw being used were the smokers' ashtrays (wonder where they dumped the butts?) and the rocks were removed from the retaining pond on the other side of the library.

I don't think it is a coincidence that this event was timed in the same week as a Campus Food Forum, hosted by the Campus Urban Agriculture Collective, part of the UVic Sustainability Project (which is student run and not affiliated with the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability though they do work together on some fronts) and the Food Matters! Regional forum on food security, hosted by Capital Region -Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable.

I do think it is unfortunate that all of this takes away from the very real issue of the relocation of the existing Campus Community Garden -- an issue which, coincidentally, prompted Hubby to suggest exactly this location as an option for the relocation; others have suggested the Cedar Hill Corner (aka CJVI lands).

While Twitter was a-buzz with the goings-on yesterday and my co-workers kept an eye on things out their office windows, the media was largely silent. Nothing was reported on either local evening newscast -- the only UVic story was about the rabbit problem on campus. However, this morning I did find a brief piece in the Times-Colonist: "Budding Gardeners Spring into Action at UVic."

So, what's next? This morning, as we sipped our coffee in the Bibliocafe, we watched a small subset of yesterday's guerrilla gardeners gather at the scene. Will they try again? Possibly. Will the University administration remove it again? Most definitely. Everything on campus needs to happen according to a plan -- it's not all about bureaucracy, either. Issues such as access, safety, maintenance and much more all have to be considered before any project begins whether it's a warehouse or a greenhouse.

To plant a garden is one thing, to maintain it is quite another. Even the most laissez-faire gardener like me has to devote a certain amount of time to weeding, thinning, watering, fertilizing, and general care. A lot happens between seed and harvest and I suspect that the enthusiasm these gardeners showed at the outset would wane long before the first carrot was ready to be plucked.

If you want to support urban agriculture on campus, please write a letter in support of the Campus Community Gardens. They've been growing food on campus since 1996 and any extra food is donated to the student food bank. There is currently a waiting list for plots -- tell Campus Planning and Sustainability that local food matters.

EDIT to ADD: At 1:00 today, a small group planted makeshift gravemarkers and three signs in the remains of yesterday's garden. They stood in a circle and held a memorial, leaving the signage behind.

memorial4 memorial1

23 March 2010

Well, it isn't orgainized.

... but it isn't ugly, either.


Above is part of my garden last summer-- it's pretty typical of all the gardens I've kept. Sometimes, I look out over my garden and think "it's beautiful" -- in the same way that a forest, marsh or other natural ecosystem is. When everything is working together and producing life, that is the pinnacle of beauty. And while that may seem a little melodramatic, it's nothing compared to the gutter-sniping in the blogosphere these days over ugly gardens.

In the article that started it all, Robin Ripley says, "If gardeners are going to approach grocery gardening in that lackadaisical way, I suggest they find another hobby."

First of all, who decided to call it "grocery gardening" -- that makes it sound like food stamp collecting and frankly I find it condecending -- like Marie Antoinette suggesting cake to the hungry -- I'll take eggplants over orchids any day.

Secondly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sweetheart, and order does not always equal beauty. When was the last time you saw a field of wildflowers in even rows? And did you think it was ugly? I guess Mother Nature needs a new hobby.

Which reminds me, much like the term "grocery gardening" calling gardening a "hobby" dismisses everyone who is gardening because of food security issues or out of the need to stretch a budget.

Mary Schier suggests that ugly gardens might be a feminist issue -- hell, yes it is! Ripley's article reminds me of 1950s postwar ideals of housekeeping that led to the proliferation of jellied salads among other atrocities. In my mind, laying down landscaping fabric is the equivalent of putting on pantyhose -- you are not likely to find me doing either.

Do I plunk and plant? Not entirely. Do I plot out one foot squares in grids and allow for perfect spacing? Not a chance. My method lands somewhere in the middle and I get a decent amount of food and enjoyment for my (minimal) efforts. I also cut corners; I use and reuse whatever I can to get the job done -- last year I used plastic forks as plant markers; I pull weeds only when it is necessary or convenient. I have a laissez-faire attitude to gardening and I am totally OK with that. I think if I were to fret over row placement and companion planting and soil acidity and balancing plant heights and colours and persistent weed control, I would never plant another thing.

Yes, there are some important issues that need to be considered, especially for first-time gardeners but Ripley's offhand comments only serve to add a layer of guilt to an otherwise relaxing activity and do nothing to encourage new gardeners to give it a shot.

22 March 2010

Book News

Two book-related items of note today --

1. I got my proof copy of Haiku Miscellany today:


I was so excited to open it and hold it in my hands!! Now that I've approved it, it will be sent to various publishers' catalogs and online sellers like Amazon for listing. Of course you can already order a copy at Lulu:

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

2. I got this email today:

"Dear Cheryl,

We're thrilled to inform you that your submission, Rockbot plush robot, made the cut and is included in the Regretsy book, which will be published on April 6th.

During the weeks ahead, you'll receive your copy of the book, directly from Random House. We'll also be sending you information on the free week of advertising for your Etsy store or web site on Regretsy.com.

This has been a very exciting time for us and it would not have been possible without your enthusiasm, support and sense of humor. We greatly appreciate it and look foward to hearing your reactions to the book.

Best Wishes,

Team Regretsy"

If you are interested, the book can be ordered now through Amazon or your local bookseller: Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF.

20 March 2010

Honey Do List Day

While we didn't get everything on our list done, we made a few dents.

We finally replaced the bathroom basin partly because it was broken (the faucet was useless and the basin itself had a crack on the outside) but mainly because it's a really cramped room and the new basin gives us an extra 5" of clearance even though we lose some storage area from the sides of the old basin. We'll figure it out... consider it a work in progress. Of course most people won't notice ("I can't see the difference. Is there a difference?"*)


We also put together the IKEA Mosjö entertainment unit we bought last week to give us a little more streamlined storage for our media centre; the unit we replaced was designed to fit in the corner of a room so, again, we gained a little extra elbow room. In the process of moving everything, I cleaned a LOT of dust off the PVR -- probably a big part of the reason it's been sluggish.

Meanwhile, Hubby had a peek at what is under our lower deck. We've been talking about digging down and building out, adding a room below (with hopefully another bathroom) and putting a new kitchen above then turning our current kitchen into a dining room. Anyway, if we found a big rock under there, it would change our plans somewhat. He has yet to start digging to find out.

Otherwise, it's just been a day of sorting, tidying, and organizing stuff... plus some hanging around, gaming time.

*this quote is from a laundry detergent ad (a series of ads, actually) for ABC detergent -- it hasn't aired for 20 years but it is still stuck in my head.

18 March 2010

Well, that week flew by.

I'm not going to bother trying to catch you up on everything but if you missed it, I did review Tim Burton's Alice and Wonderland, over on the Medianook. I've also been failing to find the time to finish the review I started of Up in the Air, which we saw in a double feature with The Hurt Locker last weekend.


Also in the mix was Kiddo's birthday party, for which I baked and decorated 20 cupcakes (not from scratch, but close enough) -- the birds and butterflies are paper on toothpicks and they match the liners (both by Wilton).


The remainder of my evenings have been spent fighting the stupid timechange and trying to find my way around Drupal 6 since Hubby was kind enough to upgrade my FrugalVictoria site (that was still stuck back in version 4.7)

Work has been crazy busy -- we are almost done scanning and uploading the backlog of theses (we have about 60 remaining out of about 400 when we started focusing on them in November), we snuck in a side-project that turned out to be really interesting (I'll post the link as soon as it's officially "live" -- hint: it's related to the Abbey Theatre in Ireland) and we are trying to finish our other outstanding projects while shoehorning in another rush and... well, you get the idea. Busy.

12 March 2010

Kiddo is Nine Today

I can hardly believe how fast she is growing up. She had a great time at Great Wolf Lodge and even managed to feign interest when we detoured to the geek-tacular Science Fiction Museum in Seattle; she preferred the Experience Music Project upstairs in the same building.


We went out for dim sum for her birthday treat (and later we will be making nachos for dinner) and she was showered with gifts -- LEGO, a Build-a-Bear, an iPod Nano and Skullcandy headphones plus a half dozen volumes of Yotsuba and a giant bubble wand. She'll get more on Sunday from other relatives and friends at her birthday party.

06 March 2010

Craft fair chronocide

While today wasn't a complete bust -- I made a sale and got a commission -- it was largely customer-free. Much like the Little Shop of Horrors in the fall, the LoudSpeaker Festival Market lacked promotion but it also ran up against a beautiful day and a half dozen other events, including the torch's return to Victoria ahead of the Paralympic Games and the annual Be A Tourist in Your Own Town promotion.

On the other hand, it was as good a place as any to focus on creative things so I whipped up the felt "Hello" badge that I've been meaning to for a long while -- I will likely start selling these as custom items on Etsy:


I also set myself a goal of writing 100 haiku while I was there. I got to 38 and, while they are not all keepers, there were a few good ones and a few more that could benefit with some polishing. I'm back tomorrow (come visit me at the Victoria Event Centre on Broad St!) and suspect I will get to 100; I'll share more tomorrow.

On a side note, look at these wonderfully-creepy "Beaster Bunnies" from another member of the Monster Etsy Street Team!

05 March 2010

Soapbox Moment

I get really tired of people thinking that free speech can be demanded and denied in the same breath. What got me on my soapbox this time is the UVic Student Society (UVSS) versus Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), a pro-life group whose opinions make me curl my nose in a funny way. While my own views on the abortion issue generally fall under the pro-choice banner, I stand firmly in the YPY courtyard in defending their right to have and make known their opinions.

However, the UVSS chose to deny club funding to this group because of their opinions. More precisely, it is because their posters are "offensive" and make women "feel guilty" for choosing abortion.

This is quite plainly bullshit and it makes me grumpy.

I feel guilty every time I see a poster for a yoga group -- and I am offended (as a "person of size") that the women pictured are usually very muscular and slim -- but I'm not deluded enough to think that I can crush their right to a campaign because I feel threatened by the messages implied by the posters.


Over the past few days, the students have been voting and it has been (at least from my vantage point), brisk. This subject is one of the issues dividing candidates and I hope there is some change in the board that will support a more reasonable application of the concept of free speech.

03 March 2010

Haiku Miscellany is ready for the world

The project I was working on that I didn't want to talk about until it was done is DONE! I think I annoyed hubby because I wouldn't even tell him what I was doing, but the tactic works so I may employ it again.

Anyhoooo, Haiku Miscellany is a collection of 25 haiku poems acompanying 25 photos of 25 of my creations from Creative Miscellany. It's available through Lulu.com in print or as a download.

Next on the to-do list: Craft Market this weekend, followed by spring break, then I can set up my Zibbet shop!

01 March 2010

World of Tomorrow interlude

aww, this stuff makes me sooo happy! This is a little featurette from the Seattle World's Fair that focuses on the telephones of tomorrow :)