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Last rant for 2011

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I’ll be off until Jan. 2.

Child the elder arrived by train from the west coast Tuesday night, child the younger by air from Upper Canada just after midnight last night, first time in two years we’ve had the entire family home for the holiday. This time last year, our son wasn’t yet halfway through his bicycle trip around the States.

But in the meantime, so commenters can display their anonymous bravado and skills in picking out derogatory terms about me from the thesaurus...

The University of Saskatchewan sent out a news release this week that Ilene Busch-Vishniac has been appointed the university’s ninth president.

She’s coming from McMaster, and previously held senior positions at Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas. Her master’s and PhD are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You might have heard of some of those schools.

It’s a good sign that such people are willing to come to the prairies. It’s also a good sign that U Sask placed so much emphasis in the news release on Busch-Vishniac’s having led Mac’s apparently successful efforts to boost aboriginal enrolment, especially among the Six Nations in southern Ontario.

Another education bit....

I had never heard of Ferrum College, and have no idea how I ended up on its mailing list. But I received a news release that began "Ferrum College announced today that the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (Tobacco Commission) has awarded the College $375,636. The money will be used for improvements and renovations to Garber Hall, the College’s primary science facility."

This money came from a pot created by a financial settlement with Big Tobacco, money dispersed to promote alternate economic development in areas dependent on growing tobacco. The news release says the tobacco commission has distributed an amazing $834 million so far throughout Virginia.

When I lived in Upper Canada, I vaguely recall efforts to get the tobacco growers around Tillsonburg and Aylmer and Simcoe to try other crops — peanuts among them, as I recomember — but there was nothing like this fund that I can ever recall hearing about in Ontario.

On to other topics....

Here’s an item from Academica’s Top Ten, attributed to the CBC and a Saskatchewan government news release....

"Following concerns over how math is being taught, the Saskatchewan government has ordered a review of the province’s math curriculum. Critics of the current curriculum say it abandons teaching math basics in favour of new discovery-based instructional techniques, resulting in graduates with poor math skills. As part of the province’s review, a pair of Saskatchewan Party MLAs will consult with math teachers in the coming months. A member of WISE Math calls the government’s review a good first step, but says parents should also be consulted, as well as academics in mathematics and other disciplines such as economics, engineering, management, medicine, and science."

So it’s not just here.....

I was in Dakota Collegiate for reasons you’ll read about one of these days, and someone told me it was ugly Christmas sweater day. And indeed a few staff with whom I met were wearing red sweaters adorned with all sorts of designs and accessories, but I kept quiet, remembering the day I was invited to Miles Mac to write about a Hallowe’en event, and complimented someone on her costume, to which she replied, "I’m not wearing a costume."

Pause while I blush in perpetual shame.

Meanwhile....

I’ve received two holiday cards this Yuletide, from Brandon University and U of M.

U of M president David Barnard chose among 168 poems submitted by the university community, and picked a haiku by Barbara Crutchley, the director of research services:

"Crystalline flowers

drifting peaceful reflections

giving is joyous."

Moving on.....

I had a keeper almost sway me this week when I was doing adult soccer. As we went onto the field, she said, "Remember, we’re old, they’re young." Good point, I thought, establishing an ‘us and them’ theme to the match which would lure me into seeing myself as part of ‘us’, but I recovered in time, and told her, "No, I’m old, you’re mature."

In the spirit of my fellow English geezer Ebenezer, I’ve been busy spreading dismay and despair on soccer fields lately.

I had a nine-year-old girls game, and during the second half gave both teams bench minors for too many players. In both cases, I saw players run on, then counted six fully engaged in the play, and off to the side saw the substituted players still heading towards the sidelines, which meant that the players coming on had raced straight into the play before the subs had gotten anywhere remotely close to leaving the field. And both coaches did their exasperation routines, railing against the injustice rampant in such a wretched world. One proclaimed, "I can’t believe he would call that!" The other said to the player who asked why she had to serve the penalty, while putting on a performance of utter bewilderment for the parents in the upper deck, "Don’t ask!"

And in that same match, what’s so hard to understand about a player’s not being allowed to shriek from just behind the shooter every time the opponent is about to take a shot?

Then I got into it with a coach in a women’s match. In indoor soccer, especially at U of M, the ball goes out of play dozens of times a match, and a fair number of those balls goes out around one of the benches. Someone stops it, or retrieves it a foot or two away, and tosses it back and the game continues, fine, no problem.

With the really little kids, I’ve had to tell the coaches to let the players play the game. You often get an adult coach who not only retrieves the ball, but walks over with it, then spots the ball on the line so his or her kid can take the kick. These would be the nine-year-old matches in which each team has four coaches who are all micromanaging at the tops of their lungs. And I tell them to let the kids play the game, give them the ball, let them spot it. And the coaches don’t like that, which distresses me mightily.

One game a while back, maybe 11 or 12-year-olds, the coach retrieves the ball after it goes out, and stands there holding it while he substitutes all of his players. I call four seconds, declare that the ball will go to the other team, and he goes Vesuvius, arguing that the four seconds can’t start until one of his players has control of the ball.

But I digress.

Back to this adult match. It’s tied, less than two to go, the opposing team hoofs it down the field and it’s going out, way down by the corner flag. This coach, who looks as though he doesn’t sprint all that often, starts doing a Usain Bolt down the sidelines, intercepts the ball a good 20 yards from the bench, reaches out and swats it to stop it — I wasn’t even sure the ball had gone out of play at that point — and immediately spots it for his right back, who’d have used up a good 15 seconds to chase it down, bring it back, and get it in play. But before she can kick it, I stop play, and go over and tell the coach not to do that again, that he’s not a participant in the match, let the players get the ball. And he yaps back at me, and I self-righteously and with maximum pomposity repeat my decree, and those 15 seconds had been eaten up by the time the right back takes her kick.

Slight problem that occurred to me later...I wasn’t sure where in the so-help-me-Seth-Blatter rules I can do that. It’s not really addressed in the indoor soccer rules we receive each season.

I later consulted FIFA’s Laws of the Game, which do speak to the issue of outside agents, but only when they enter the field of play. But I kept looking, and of course The Laws do restrict non-playing personnel to staying within the technical area — the bench — unless summoned onto the pitch by the omnipotent referee in case of injury. And under Law 5, powers and duties of the referee, there it also was: "stops, suspends or abandons the match because of outside interference of any kind."

So I read that as having the authority to act imperiously as I did, and just let the players play the game, eh?

Harumph.

Another adult match, I call a foul, aggrieved team is moving up to kick, but a player from the offending team walks up about a metre to her right, not trying to block it, but too close, and an obvious distraction. I blow the whistle, call her for infringing on the five metres, and one of the coaches goes, "But they do that in the EPL all the time!"

Can’t say I’ve noticed that they get away with that, but I’m not Mr. Webb, you’re not Sir Alex, U of M isn’t Old Trafford, and that isn’t Wayne Rooney taking the kick.

 Sigh.

 Back to school stuff.....

I received several emails from someone alleging that an unspecified ‘hate crime’ had occurred at a parent council meeting at a rural school. It centred around a supposed dispute between a few parent council execs who wanted a Christmas concert, and parents supporting the school division’s telling the parent council that the event had to be an inclusive concert for all children. I’ve emailed back several times, asking the person to call me, give me his/her phone number, that I won’t consider doing a story until we’ve talked.

It’s been the better part of a week, and I’m still waiting.

Sigh.

You’re still reading? This time of year, you’ve got nothing more urgent to do?

Then I’ll rant again about people who misuse the word decimate. It does not mean wipe out or destroy. A football team with a dozen injured players is not decimated by injuries, it’s lost one starter on offence and one on defence.

The word means one in 10, and comes from Latin.

Here’s an example of how it started:

Roman soldiers stationed in Northumbria were spreading their civilization of slavery, blood sports, and armed conquest, when one of them took a peek over Hadrian’s Wall and saw my barbarian ancestors approaching in their animal skins. The Roman soldiers all yelped in terror, and took off running as fast as they could go.

When they finally stopped running, they were lined up in front of the rest of the Roman army, and every 10th man was executed.

Decimated.

Got that?

Speaking of my roots, we have our Yule tree all ready. Should any of the lairds of the manor wish to celebrate Boxing Day in the traditional historic manner, and come among us peasants to distribute your leftovers, we’ll already have some turkey in our hovel, thank you kindly m’lords and m’ladies, but we would gladly accept Jets’ tickets while tugging at our forelocks.

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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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