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Archive for July, 2013

Summer Thoughts

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It has been over a month since I have blogged. You’d think the summer semester, with fewer students and faculty around, would give more time for reflection, but such is not the case for me and my immediate colleagues, especially with a new provincial government in session until next week. The good news is that the KPU community now has 6 ministers among its MLAs: the “bad” news is that expectations are higher for all of us to get out there and tell our story. The launch of KPU’s Strategic Plan: Vision 2018 provides a great opener for any discussions, and now we are trying to interpret that into specific initiatives that align with the government’s priorities and with our communities’ economic, social and cultural plans.

But let’s get to the important matters of summer. The weather of course has been amazing, and there is no better place to be when the sun is shining than in BC. This is my first summer back here in several years, so I am re-discovering the pleasures of warm days and cool evenings, and although the lawn is going brown, the gardens and parks and forests look wonderful. Casual clothes at work and shorts and a T-shirt at home: you forget how easy life becomes in summer in so many small ways.

The academic year derives from the needs of agriculture way back then, when all hands in the family were needed to work during the summer months. I remember when I was on the school board in Chilliwack trying to open a discussion on year-round schooling: that didn’t go far, especially since a lot of tourism also depends on student workers.

And then there is the food. Summer heralds fresh, simple and local food served on the patio: Insalata Caprese, white wine sangria, and berries with ice cream. The problem is that my doctor is worried about my blood chemistry and my kidneys: all that old man stuff. So no sugar, no salt, less potassium and phosphates, fewer carbs (I am gluten intolerant as it is), less meat and fish, no booze, and (worst of all) no oranges, tomatoes, potatoes and bananas.  It all comes down to white rice, carrots, cabbage and small dollops of fat free yoghurt if I am to be strict.  It is tough on the catering department at home I can tell you.

Summer is also the time for conferences and professional development in the academic world. It sounds like a pretty nice deal, and it is, but many jobs include or require the same, and, since almost everyone takes it very seriously, it actually takes a lot of effort and preparation, and hours sitting in airports. I was in London earlier this month at the e-Portfolio and Identity Conference as a keynote. This all arose from one of my blogs from November 20th on Learning, which led to a keynote at the BC PLA Network conference, which then inspired the invite to London. After my presentation I was invited by a nice woman named Olga to attend a 2014 meeting at SFU: the Siberian Federal University. Anyway, the presentation went very well, and I will try to post what I did for wider consumption. The title was “What would Marcel Proust have done with an e-Portfolio?” which may or may not intrigue you.

London was very hot and thick with tourists, but I enjoyed my brief stay there, and was able to explore an area I didn’t know so well, around Fleet Street and the Inns of Court.

Summer is also the time for festivals and all the fun and horrors associated with them. Lavatories are key of course, and the first thing I want to know about an event is the washroom situation. I went to the Khatsahlano street festival before the crowds arrived. (Trendy people in Vancouver get up late.) I am with that Ricky Gervais character in “Ghost Town” (a great movie) when he is invited to a big reception by Téa Leoni, wildly paraphrased as follows:

TL: Would you like to come to the reception?

RG: Oooh. Will there be a crowd?

TL: Well, yes. ….Don’t you like crowds?

RG: Oh I don’t mind crowds; it’s the people in them that bother me.

I attended the great S.U.C.C.E.S.S. walk in Stanley Park on July 21. A trip to the PNE in August is a must, plus of course a few of the great festivals around the south Fraser region, all subject to satisfactory washroom information.

The washrooms are lovely at the new BC Place (or whatever they call it now) where I saw the Whitecaps beat Chicago, although the crowd pumping, multi-media propaganda at the start of the game (it’s the same everywhere now in professional sports) put me in mind of the Nuremberg Rallies: manufactured enthusiasm. Likewise, why would the Southside fans at one end of the pitch (trying to emulate European soccer louts) taunt the Chicago goalie by calling him, in unison “a fat bastard” every time he took a goal kick? How is that in any way sporting or decent? And how can it be condoned when the MLS has self-righteous TV ads about tolerance and bullying, and while trying to encourage children and families to enjoy the game?

I inquired via the Southsiders web site, but no response. But once you read the blogs about “situational chants”, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And in the interests of full disclosure, I was a soccer hooligan as a young man, and some of the chants I joined in on were offensive, but that was the UK in the 60’s; this is B.C. in 2013. At US football games recently, I saw very little tolerance for foul language, and people get hauled out of the crowd for over-doing it. But I digress…..

Summer reading is an important time to catch up on all the books I received at Christmas. I have 3 on the go right now, with Richard Ford’s “Canada” and Alice Munro’s “Dear Life” being so good that I don’t want them to end. And a deposit of 2 more books last week from a friend: historical art fiction, which will take me on to Christmas at least.

Not to end on a downer, but there is also a sadness to summer for me. It doesn’t really get started until July, which means that the days are already getting shorter, and the inevitability of the approach of rain and fall and the onset of winter sometimes bothers me. (I really must try to live more in the moment.)

Our dog Pete died on August 1st last year and his brother Max is having his last summer with us, so maybe that is the cause of my mixed feelings. All good things must end.