Row on row
books rest, wise and eager
waiting for a hopeful reader
Someone seeking information
or an escape into fiction.
In racks and stacks
new worlds await
and the library is the gate.
Row on row
books rest, wise and eager
waiting for a hopeful reader
Someone seeking information
or an escape into fiction.
In racks and stacks
new worlds await
and the library is the gate.
My father’s 100th birthday is being celebrated at our Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow, though there are still 2 weeks until the official day. (Yes, I was a late in life baby). 🙂
Dad was born in Montreal in 1914. He had two older brothers, but he was the only one to survive to adulthood. He remembers the soldiers returning from World War One. He was run over by a (new!) Model T Ford when he was 3. He was an active member of Boy Scouts and saw Lord and Lady Baden-Powell when they visited North America in 1935.
He worked for Burroughs-Wellcome Pharmaceuticals in the 30s. During WW2, he tried to enlist, but they refused him, because the doctor heard a heart murmur. He built aircraft at Fairchilds in Longueuil, instead. In the 50s, he and a friend came to Vancouver and started Maco Industries, a building supply wholesaler. For the next forty years he worked for them, retiring finally around 70.
He was married twice. He had 3 adopted sons with his first wife who had tuberculosis and couldn’t have children. His second wife brought 3 children into the marriage, they had one biological child (me!).
He was an avid tennis player and table tennis player. He was playing tennis into his 70s. He was still playing table tennis when legally blind, into his 80s. He couldn’t see the ball, but he could see the shape of his opponent’s paddle, and knew where the ball would be. He walked several kilometers each day until his 90s.
Dad never passes a children’s drink stand without buying a cup.
For entertainment at his party tomorrow, I’m looking for questions for an Ask a Centenarian! event.
Here’s your chance. Leave a question in the comments, and we’ll ask him. If technology allows, we may even film him responding to your questions. If there are quite a few, I’ll keep asking over the next few weeks during the season of his birthday festivities.
So– what would you like to ask?
“I want to look,”
the focus of
a slow, studious circle
with a glint in his eye,
thankful for circumstance
that made her
Another poem based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander; this one based on Ron Moore’s TV series, specifically episode 107, “The Wedding.”
It’s grey and misty out
like our future
Rain on our
(This is actually about the BC Teachers’ ratification vote, but since Scotland is also in the midst of its independence vote, I dedicate it to the Scots as well!)
“Score one for the pig,” she said,
but a hunter limping, partially gored
not prudent from the perspective
of a boar.
A roar marks the victory:
Geordie’s blood stains the earth
entrails pour onto leaves
at what is the more satisfying score
for the boar.
An Outlander poem, based on TV show ep 104 “The Gathering”
I am not a political person.
I voted conservative most of my life. I have never canvassed for a political party. I have never held any union position, even something as innocuous as shop steward.
I write a daily blog of POETRY, not political commentary.
I believe in a ‘live and let live’ attitude about most things, but I have voted every election since I was old enough. I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously. I try to be educated about my opinions. I seek information from those who know what’s going on. I don’t trust the news to tell me the whole truth. I am living in an Orwellian world these days where politicians and some news stories are making declarations completely opposite to what I know is true. Because I am a BC teacher, I live in an alternate reality to the one the government describes.
Calling a black cat white does not change the fact that it is a black cat!
Here’s what I know.
After then Minister of Education Christy Clark ripped up contracts with BC teachers in 2002, I watched money leak out of our schools. We haven’t been able to replace text books. Our rooms don’t get cleaned thoroughly because custodial time is the bare minimum. I’ve seen libraries closed, until to be full time a librarian must work at 3+ schools. I’ve seen arts education cut. I’ve seen learning disabled kids unable to be diagnosed because there isn’t funding for it. I’ve seen needy kids partnered with kids who have a designation so that a Education assistant can help several of them together when they each need one on one help. I’ve seen buildings and equipment falling into disrepair. I’ve seen copying budgets run out months before the end of the year. I’ve seen teachers feed kids. I’ve seen parents and local corporations donate food to kids who would otherwise not have breakfast or lunch. I’ve spent a fortune on supplies for my class room- supplies that I can not deduct from my taxes like other professionals can.
The BC Liberal government announces that they’ve ‘increased funding to school districts’ and on paper that’s true, except they’ve also required districts to pay millions of dollars from their budgets, for things that the government previously funded separately. Money that used to go to students now pays for earthquake proofing and the like. Hydro has gone up. Gas has gone up. But the allowance to pay for them hasn’t.
During the strike the government announced that teachers are demanding triple the benefits of any other group. Such doublespeak! They don’t tell the public that what they call ‘benefits’ in that statement refers to ‘everything that isn’t wages’. In other words, things like class size and composition funding, support staff like teacher assistants, and non-enrolling teachers like librarians and counsellors. These are not benefits! Those are properly staffed and funded schools! Does a doctor call his nurse, receptionist, and stethoscope ‘benefits’? The public, of course, imagines ‘benefits’ are simply extended health and dental and so believes the government lie that teachers are greedy.
We’re not. We’ve taken YEARS of zero, zero, zero on wage increases. At 2.3% inflation, we’ve been losing money every year. Our current offer is also less than inflation. We’re not unreasonable. Our extended health benefits are not even slightly out of line with other public sector groups. All those contracts are available on line if you want to investigate.
Think about it. Would you give up thousands in wages to stand on a picket line in the rain for a few hundred dollars worth of benefits?
We wouldn’t either.
This is so much bigger than that. The government is trying to distract you with sound bytes. The only folks after unlimited massages are the government as they massage the truth. Their misrepresentations and bald faced lies definitely seem unlimited!
One thing is holding up the settlement:
Twice the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the BC Liberal government bargained in bad faith when they ripped up the contract in 2002. They were ordered to pay a settlement and court costs. They don’t want to. They’d prefer to spend millions of our tax dollars appealing the judgement. Honestly, they did not expect to still be in power by the time this worked its way through the courts, so they were sure it’d be another government’s problem. They were wrong. Here it is, and (God help us) they’re still in power. They don’t want to pay the settlement they’ve been ordered to pay twice. That is the infamous clause E80 that the BCTF will not accept.
Imagine for a moment:
Thieves break into your home and steal, let’s just say, 2 billion dollars.
You know who they are.
You take them to court.
The court says, “Give back that money, and pay him the court costs!”
(Imagine a box full of money that belongs to you, just sitting there in front of the judge).
The thieves say, “Ha! Can’t make me!” and appeal.
They lose again. The court says “Give him his money!”
They appeal again.
Your money is still sitting in that box. You don’t have it yet, but the final judgement is close. You need that money. It’s expensive taking rich thieves to court. Your house needs some work done, because while you’ve been busy with court, the thieves have been sneaking by to break your windows, dig up your flower beds, and scrawl graffiti about how greedy you are across your front door.
The thieves know that the next time, the judge is going to say the same thing that’s been said before. So they say, “We’ll make you a deal. It’s very generous! We’ll take this box and give you $75 million in exchange!”
What would you say?
I would say, “Let the courts decide.”
And I would actually MEAN “let the courts decide,’ unlike Mr. Fassbender.
The BCTF requested binding arbitration because contrary to what Fassbender says in his media moments, this government does not want to negotiate. What they call ‘negotiation’ is really extortion. They want that upcoming court settlement nullified and they are willing to leave teachers on the picket line until it happens. Rumour has it, “Let them starve!” was heard to be the plan. They will tell the public they want to ‘negotiate’ and that they want to ‘let the courts decide’ but those terms mean very different things to this government. It’s Orwellian double speak of the first order. The BC Liberal government is holding your kids hostage because they don’t want to face the consequences of their violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Think about that.
Justice Griffin in her decision last February pointed to the government that you can’t claim to be negotiating if one side refuses to move. Nothing has changed. This government is still bargaining in bad faith.
The BC government seems to have an agenda to destroy public education. They’re holding the kids of this province hostage by refusing an impartial arbitrator to settle the deal. They know that an arbitrator will be objective, and that will not go well for them. An arbitrator will see through their doublespeak.
You should care about this. When a government thinks that it is above the law, and that it is immune from respecting the citizens’ basic rights, no one is safe. The middle class is at risk. Democracy is at risk. BC public education is at risk.
This sounds ridiculous. But think.
When the government orders MLAs to close their office doors, because it’s dangerous to speak to the public, what is it afraid of? When MLAs are ordered not to speak to constituents about education issues, is the leadership afraid that if individual MLAs hear the other side of the story, they will disagree with what leadership is ordering them to do? Their JOB is to listen to you! They are paid (starting wage!) $101,859 to listen to constituents. One hundred thousand dollars! And they are not listening. (Let’s deduct 10% a day because they’re not doing their jobs, shall we? cough)
Write your MLA. Write Premier Clark. Write Minister Fassbender.
Demand that they settle this strike by accepting neutral arbitration.
If you don’t?
Well. I’ll be Nostradamus for a moment:
If the government doesn’t accept arbitration, I predict that sometime around September 23rd, an announcement will be made that the teachers are so intransigent that it is impossible to work with them and that the government is saving the day by bringing in a whole new system.
One that further widens the gulf between rich and poor communities.
One that destroys the middle class.
One that will change life as you know it.
You should be afraid.
Do something to stop it! Demand the government accept binding arbitration!
Another literary reference is probably appropriate here. Have you read Dicken’s Bleak House? There are some unfortunate similarities to that story, as well.
The BCTF is not a ‘whipped organization’ like the BC Liberals. We are free to meet with whomever we like. We are free to voice our own opinions. This commentary is my opinion as a BC teacher, and a BCTF member. The BCTF does not hire professional unionists to govern our union. We are all teachers. We don’t hire ‘image consultants’ for our leader (that is probably obvious). 😉 Our leadership learn to serve by serving. This may be a disadvantage against professional union-busters hired by government, but it means we are genuine, caring professionals, not slick polished shells with dubious motives.
I receive no compensation for this blog. (Any ads you see pay Wordpress).
Paid Liberal social media trolls are not welcome to comment here. Seekers of truth are invited to do so.
And just because this is so stinking depressing, I suggest you now go read this poem:
Here is a really great blog post explaining the issue of class size and composition:
Here is a lawyer’s explanation of E80 and why the BCTF is right to demand it be removed prior to binding arbitration:
A older lady stopped by one of the picket lines to deliver doughnuts to the teachers. She had grown up in Nazi Germany. She said she new first hand what happens when citizens don’t fight for democracy and the rule of law. Wow. #Iwillholdtheline
Make no mistake. The BC Liberals have got the province into a terrible mess. It’s not unlike their BC Hydro fiasco in which years of lack of oversight of the crown corporation have led to retroactive costs that will need to be funded by sudden massive increases in citizens’ Hydro fees. In education, the problem is similar. Bad policy has led to a huge burden on taxpayers years later.
The trouble started on January 26, 2002, when Education Minister Christy Clark stood up in the BC Legislature and proudly announced the new Bill 28, which removed class size and composition limits from the teacher contract and enshrined them in law.
In effect, what Christy Clark was announcing was that the government was reneging on its part in a contractual agreement, and creating a law that prevented the teachers from ever even asking for such an agreement again.
Naturally, the teachers’ union took the government…
View original post 1,034 more words
The following is a response written by Tobey Steeves to a Maclean’s magazine article about the BC teacher’s strike. It was posted on http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/b-c-teachers-strike-readers-respond-to-macleans-editorial/Since I can’t link just to his comment, I’m pasting it here, because it is a very informative explanation for those who don’t understand why BC teachers are striking.
(Reprinted with permission of Tobey Steeves. Twitter: @symphily)
In an unattributed op-ed published on Aug. 12, Maclean’s frames the current bargaining impasse between B.C.’s teachers and the B.C. government as a “perpetual clash over salaries and education funding” (B.C. Uses Shrewd Negotiating Tactic in Teachers’ Strike). Setting a stage for readers, the editorial states that:
Little has changed to smooth things over in the past three years. In April, the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) began an escalating series of job actions. Teachers first refused to supervise students outside of class time, or to communicate with administrators. Rotating strikes followed, closing every school in the province one day per week. Finally, a province-wide walkout in June shuttered all schools two weeks early. Forcing an abrupt end to the school year has long been the ultimate weapon in any teachers’ union arsenal.
Left unaddressed in this framing is the fact that teachers in B.C. are attempting to bargain with a government that broke laws to cut services for kids. B.C.’s Supreme Court has twice ruled that the B.C. Liberals used illegal bargaining tactics to strip contracts with teachers and health care workers. The International Labour Organization has ruled a handful of times against the B.C. Liberals—declaring multiple pieces of legislation illegal under international agreements. In other words, the United Nations agency that looks over labour standards and advocates on behalf of justice for workers and decent work for all has positioned B.C.’s ruling government as flouting international treaties to push its political agenda.
Admittedly, the B.C. Liberals have chosen to appeal their most recent loss at the B.C. Supreme Court, arguing that it would be too expensive for them to implement the Court’s ruling: placing money and profit above laws, and kids’ needs. To fight this appeal, the B.C. Liberals have hired a high-priced “legal superstar,” “an expensive, top-drawer corporate lawyer.” That is, instead of investing funds and resources in serving public education, the B.C. Liberals are investing funds and resources in fighting to uphold (illegal) cuts to services for kids.
Meanwhile, during this round of bargaining, the B.C. Liberals have tabled more concessions for teachers and cuts to services. For instance, there has been a refusal to address the student-to-educator ratio in B.C., currently the worst in Canada. Similarly, there’s been a refusal to address operating grants per student—currently the lowest in Canada. The B.C. Liberals have also denied the impacts of cuts to learning specialists and rejected the need for meaningful intervention to improve classroom composition. In other words, while classrooms across B.C. are getting more complex—more students who don’t speak English at home, more students with special needs, and more poverty—the B.C. Liberals would rather spend money and resources to legitimize further cuts to kids’ access to learning specialists than spend money on providing kids with access to learning specialists.
Also left unmentioned in Maclean’s framing is the fact that before the teachers escalated their job action, teachers struggled to broker an agreement for more than a year before the B.C. Liberals locked them out and cut their pay by 10 per cent. Then, under direction of the Labour Relations Board of B.C., teachers were “directed” to be off-site 45 minutes before and after school, and were “directed” to avoid using any school facilities and to avoid helping students during lunch and breaks.
However, Maclean’s op-ed does mention that the B.C. Liberals plan to pay some parents $40 a day to offset the costs of child care, should the teachers’ strike go unresolved by the start of the 2014-15 school year. Only students under the age of 13 will be eligible, parents will need to register online, and payments won’t go out until October—at the earliest. Limited access to child care and students over the age of 13, apparently, aren’t much of a concern. The program will reportedly cost the government around $12 million a day—to keep schools closed and kids at home. Alternatively, some parents may use the $40 subsidy toward tuition and fees at private schools. In effect, the $40-a-day plan is akin to school vouchers, and is best understood within the context of a privatization agenda and a broader push to attack and diminish public education. (See, for example, “Public Education in British Columbia: The Rise of the Shock Doctrine or Kindling for a Shock-Proof Otherwise?”)
Notwithstanding, Maclean’s op-ed encourages the re-direction of “savings from public sector strikes to taxpayers’ pockets,” and insists that:
The most productive and fruitful negotiations are those in which both parties have equivalent power and face similar risks. Compensating taxpayers for their losses from savings generated by a strike balances out the power in public sector labour talks and gives everyone a reason to settle. That seems like $40 a day well spent.
It takes a special genius to view the current bargaining impasse in B.C. as one in which teachers are inordinately advantaged. And there is no warrant for casting a government that has shown a willingness to let politics trump laws—and kids’ needs—as facing “similar risks” as teachers who have lost thousands of dollars in pay fighting for more equitable access to public education in B.C.
Malcolm X said, “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Maclean’s anonymous op-ed ought be seen in this light, and recognized as a push for an anti-democratic policy agenda regarding labour negotiations. From this vantage, it seems like reading unattributed op-eds in Maclean’s may be something other than time well spent.
Tobey Steeves, a concerned citizen and public school teacher in Vancouver
The Writing Process Blog Tour has stopped in my neighbourhood.
In the past 9 days I’ve been invited three times to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour.
The questions are:
What are you currently working on?
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My current poetry tends to be conversational in style. I make observations that are often snap shots of something seen. Other times they’re commentaries, but always they are short, frequently just 3 or 4 lines, sometimes a page, but rarely longer.
My novels focus on teens who are like my students: full of contradictions, dreams, and barriers. I feature small town Canada (or big city Canada in the case of Grace Awakening Dreams), sometimes mixed with supernatural elements.
Why do you write what you do?
I started writing a daily poem on my blog in response to the feedback I received from readers. It’s been very good discipline, and I believe my skill has improved since I’ve been doing it over the last 14 months or so.
I write YA because I’m a high school teacher and I feel like I can reflect messages and stories that my students relate to.
How does your writing process work?
I might notice something on the way to work, and ponder it a bit, spinning various phrases until a poem emerges. I might record it before I get started at work or during my break, or perhaps it will foment all day, or for a couple of days. Other times, I need to post a poem, and without any plan I open the “new post” form. In the title box I type: ‘poem-‘ and then the next word or phrase that comes to mind. I’ll type whatever comes in response to the title, and if it feels right, I’ll post it right away, or I’ll let it simmer a bit, then come back to tweak it a bit in an hour. (I always feel free to tweak, even poems that have been up for years).
During the school year I don’t settle down to write until 9:00 p.m., or so. I’ll work until midnight during school days, later on the weekends.
In the summer, it’s really hot here during the days, and it remains light until after 9:00, so I don’t tend to start writing until closer to midnight. I write through the night until 3 or 4:00 a.m.
With Grace Awakening Dreams and Power, I ‘quilted’ writing scenes from all over the novel and once I had about 120,000 words, laid it out and figured where everything went, and wrote the filler.
With the next two books in the series, told from Ben’s point of view, since I had the framework already, I just had to expand on what was happening in the mythical Other Realm.
I was introduced to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat last year. He lays out of a format for plotting a screen play. With my latest project, I prepped all the key events following that model. Now I can just flip through the chapter headings (‘crisis with best friend,’ ‘discover betrayal,’ etc), pick one that appeals, and write it. I’m still writing all over the place, but the structure helps me be efficient with my writing time. I confess, I sometimes miss the adventure of not knowing where I’m going, even though I don’t plan any of the specifics in the pre-plotting.
I invite the following writers to join the tour!
2014 in review December 29, 2014
Tags: progress, report, year end
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Thanks for being part of this year’s amazing growth!
Just in case you’re curious…
Click here to see the complete report.
I think it’s always interesting to compare where you are with others, just for a sign post of development, so here are my stats.
I think it was a great blogging year!
Special thanks to the 13,000+ followers who visit regularly!