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Hitting the road, grabbing my paddle

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I’m off on vacation, returning to work Aug. 2. Lots of kayaking ahead, some hiking in the woods, a lot of swimming, and a whole pile of books.

We’ve splurged on the latest Henning Mankell Wallander translation, I’ve just become hooked on Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec series, came across an Inspector Rebus I hadn’t read, and have also discovered the books of Arnaldur Indridason, the Icelandic mysteries that are even gloomier than the Swedish.

There’s a shortage of good political thrillers around right now, no new Stephen King until the fall, no sign of a Scott Turow, always hoping for some good standalone science fiction — though not fantasy, or those annoying 89th in a series of 147 sci-fi books. No new Robert J. Sawyer yet.

Anyhow, having started to read the types of books we watch on Masterpiece Mystery, I’m thinking there’s a template out there for male police detective novels, and that includes Michael Connelly: they drink too much, they’re overweight, they smoke, they’re grumpy, they’ve messed up every relationship they’ve ever had, they’re estranged from their kids, live on fast food and bad coffee and cheap whiskey, can’t get along with their bosses, but are amazingly brilliant and always solve the crime.

Sorry, long digression there, back to education...

The ongoing crisis over parking at the new stadium on the U of M campus — here’s my story today — raises questions about what constitutes a parking spot, and where people will be allowed to park.

There seems to be some bewilderment that U of M wouldn’t have a precise figure on every spot available on campus.

OK, there are specific parking lots for staff and students, and there’s the parkade, and there are some lots with meters. Regardless of the count, I think it’ll be a nightmare getting off campus after games, just as it is now at the stadium, which is a half-hour walk from my house.

I’m not telling anyone where I park for the Manitoba Marathon, but there are hundreds of places that people park that morning that aren’t official parking spots, and most aren’t on campus. They’re on empty lots, and shoulders of the roads, and on residential streets, and if people can walk back to their cars after running for hours, they can walk back to their cars after sitting for three hours. I don’t see anyone’s getting ticketed on Father’s Day.

I’ve never set foot on the Southwoods golf course, which U of M now owns, and have no idea what roadways and parking lots and shoulders of roads exist in there, and that would probably be another nightmare to exit from after the games.

Alas, too far for me to walk, but I’ll take a bus if it doesn’t take me seven transfers and waiting for ages after those November playoff games.

You’re probably ready for some trivia...

As part of the back-to-school deluge of news releases I get from the U.S., I received a pitch to do a story on "Crayola ColorStudio HD for iPad, an accessory and app combo that blends coloring with cutting-edge mobile technology".

Seriously.

I know I’m ancient, and it’s been quite a while since I had little kids, but apps for Crayola? Isn’t a Crayola device meant to interact with the digits of a three-year-old, and interface with a wood-based paper product or the bottom three feet of a living room wall?

Sigh.

Quite the diatribe I received from nivnews@hotmail.com, who sent a rant against both Roseau River First Nation Chief Terry Nelson and the stories I’ve written about the school situation there, one of which you can read about here.

My correspondent told me: "I do not believe you have the guts or ambition to write a true story."

Sorry I’ve failed to meet your expectations, disappointed reader, though I would point out that, unlike you, I do have the guts and ambition to put my name on what I write.

Harumph, he said self-righteously.

Moving on...

You know how hard it is for something to irritate me as a grumpy old man, but here’s one that bugged me, as amazing as that may seem: I had to leave a sensitive message for a university professor, something I want to pass on to only that person for possible comment, and the prof has used the MTS robot automatic voice mail response, "The person at this phone...." which doesn’t even give the name, so you can’t be sure it’s the prof’s phone.

Grumble.

Speaking of my adoring fans, those of you who send me emails expressing your bewilderment at my inability to understand why you have the right to use the public school system to indoctrinate someone else’s children into your religious beliefs, I won’t be reading your messages until I get back from holidays, so try to hold that thought.

Another change in topics, to give you some breaking news: still no date for the Winnipeg School Division Ward 1 school trustee by-election to replace Tory MP Joyce Bateman. Word is that it could come sometime in the fall, after the Oct. 4 provincial election. I’ll keep updating you with these nothing-new breathless announcements.

BTW, the Manitoba School Boards Association is aware of only one trustee running -- Jim Murray for the NDP in Brandon. The MSBA says Murray will take a leave of absence when the writ is dropped, but says that, unlike trustees running for council, Murray doesn’t have to resign his school board seat unless he wins.

And here’s a pitch from an American company touting an online high school curriculum which promises that "Each student will be an educated citizen who is well-prepared to maintain our God-given freedom." Students will receive a traditional education which The Founders received — so would that be the type of education reserved back in the day for white males of money, some of whom owned slaves?

Just asking, for purposes of clarification.

See you in August.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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