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No Allan insights looming

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I hope you haven’t been holding your breath until you read my first interview with new Education Minister Nancy Allan — it won’t be happening.

An aide to the minister says Allan’s much too busy to give media interviews, and plans to spend the next few weeks meeting with stakeholders — that awful word that suggests that the pod people already have her, and implies that Allan is out and about dialoguing with stakeholders about achieving consensus on positive learning outcomes.

As the province’s only full-time education reporter, and an ink-stained wretch on the province’s biggest paper, I’ll let you know if I ever get a word with the minister.


Some advice if you’ve got kids in university living in residence, if you want to be a really useful parental unit. Find out what coins they need to operate the washer and dryer in the laundry room, and save those coins. I’ll trade you pennies and nickels for loonies and quarters.

And in a skilful segue...

The things you learn by subscribing to Ken Steele’s daily email of Academica’s Top 10.

Here’s today’s batch, and yet another famous person with Manitoba connections has been named chancellor of a Canadian university. This time it’s some fellow named Peter Mansbridge, and he’s just been named chancellor at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

And Steele has another item reporting that University of Toronto — which has enough students to start its own province, and bazillions of bucks — will receive a $170-million sports complex at the Scarberia campus, thanks to Toronto’s hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games. That includes two Olympic-sized pools. And the sports field on the downtown U of T campus gets artificial turf, and Varsity Stadium gets turf upgrades.

I don’t think I’ve ever met Ken Steele, but his daily package of nifty news says he works out of offices on Wharncliffe Road in LondonOnt, Wharncliffe being a main drag about a block west of where we lived when child the elder was born. And taking this opportunity to keep in touch with my friends in LondonOnt: to Anne, to Mark and Cathy, and to Kathy, how’s it goin’, eh?

But enough of that, let’s switch topics again...

I passed my beep test, and now I get to inflict myself on kids as an indoor soccer referee. At the UM complex, this means I get to enter the level that has water fountains, which is off-limits when you’re there as a parent.

And now for something completely different...

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying The Inspector Lewis series on PBS Masterpiece Mystery, the spinoff of the late Inspector Morse, enjoying it for its high quality and not just because Robbie Lewis is a fine Geordie lad with working class roots who enjoys real fish and chips, a full English breakfast, and a pint of dark ale, which pretty much all describes me too, except for not having eggs with my full English — but I digress.

Yes, I know the Lewis series season is over, but through the magical powers of PVR...

Anyway, given that several people get murdered in and around Oxford University every Lewis episode, I’m wondering how people in a place such as Cambridge University feel about the show. Is Cambridge envious of all the attention paid to those magnificent streets and buildings, not to mention the pubs, or has Cambridge cranked up its publicity machine to tout its own world-class education minus Oxford’s murder rate?

I used to wonder at some shows — the government of Hawaii co-operated with Hawaii 5-0, which depicted the islands as somewhat more corpse-and-crime-filled than Deadwood circa the 1870s.

And as my attention span wanes on that one...

I was really disappointed in last week’s opening episode of V, having so looked forward to it. With Battlestar Galactica gone, Torchwood probably finished, Lost yet to resume, and only Fringe to sustain my inner geek, I hoped for another great sci-fi series.

But that first show moved so fast in leaping from major plot point to major plot point... nothing drawn out, just revelation after revelation. Lost and Fringe certainly didn’t tell you everything the first night. If they wanted to do a series about a small band of human and good-alien resistance fighters taking on supposedly-benevolent fascist lizards, why not just get right into that, and tell us through flashbacks how we ended up in that pickle? But I’ll PVR tonight’s episode on high definition, and stay with it, at least for a while.

The first episode... look, I know the interviewer was from TV, and that he was super-fluff, but why didn’t he ask why the Visitors look like flawless copies of us, why they have first names only, and names that are just like ours, and perhaps ominously, if their entire species is in that enormous fleet, where are the old Visitors and where are the children Visitors?

We don’t watch all that much TV — sports and Canadian news, Jon Stewart, Strombo, PBS Masterpiece — but when we invest in a series, we’d like to know it will be around for a while. CBC burned us with Intelligence, an incredibly good show that left us hanging, and we have our fingers crossed for The Border. I have no idea if The Tudors will go right through queen six, and I sure hope they’ll keep pumping out Murdoch Mysteries, that thoroughly enjoyable cop show set in 1895 Toronto with an ahead-of-his-and-her-time police detective and forensic pathologist.

This is hardly among the biggest issues of our generation, but a few years back I made the time commitment one year to watch several new shows. I tend to record them and then watch them late at night. Not a one made it past the end of that first season, and two very, very good ones, Invasion and Surface, had cliffhanger endings that would have been resolved the next fall.

All together now — NERD!

I know, I can hear you out there thinking that you feel my pain — we can read your thoughts once you log onto the blog, that particular conspiracy theory is factual.

And in another topic altogether...

There’s another new/old minister with whom I’ll be dealing occasionally. Jim Rondeau is our fourth healthy living minister, and he was also the first.

I’ve never understood the feeling of mistrust and sometimes vague hostility I’ve had from healthy living ministers. Here I am close to becoming a senior citizen, and I’m a huge advocate of physical activity, especially for those of us who don’t have a single athletic gene in our DNA.

Jim, I’ll probably be talking to you when you get into the school nutrition policies and school phys ed, such as the compulsory credits for grades 11 and 12 physical education.

But look at the ghastly photo accompanying this blog, and try to remember that that is I, Jim... every time I ran into Jim Rondeau the first time around as healthy living minister, he would ask me if I’d stopped smoking yet and become in any way physically active.

Jim, I think I know with whom you’re confusing me — nay, I will not betray that fellow by name — and I’ll talk physical activity with you any time.

As for smoking, I will not say that I have absolutely totally never ever tasted tobacco — back in the early 60s, I got the notion that taking up chewing tobacco would make me a better baseball player. Alas, it was a very short and regrettable experiment, with several hours of side effects, and that may already be more information than you would care to have.

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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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