25 years of The Observer

Though I didn’t know it at the time — how could I, I was but a lad of 16 — my blogging alter ego, The Observer, was born 25 years ago today.

Twenty-five years ago, my family took me to the airport, dropped me into the hands of chaperones who would keep me out of the gulag (or at least out of serious trouble), and I set off on my first real adventure.

Well, that’s actually kind of unfair. The problem with “adventure” is trying to understand it through perspective.

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So, I wrote a book…

I like writing. [Insert world's largest 'Well, DUH!' here.] And while I’ve been content to write a blog — great practice for any writer, if you ask me — it’s just not the same as when you write for someone else.

Which I have. I’ve been fortunate enough to write a few things (articles, not long ones) for which I’ve been paid, and presumably read. That’s a bit more rewarding than merely standing on a soapbox and yelling into The Void. But even that isn’t quite enough.

I think that’s what I wanted to write a book. But not the one I just published.

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Selling the awful to the angry

Yesterday evening, my family trucked down to 96th Ave SW, invited by the Calgary Board of Education (along with the other families in the Westgate School Bilingual Spanish program) to view the “new” school, Eugene Coste Elementary. It was supposed to be a chance to see the new location, and ask questions of the CBE Area IV director, as well as the Planning & Transportation folks.

I emphasize the word “supposed” — that was the CBE’s perspective. They thought they would get a lot of interest, and a lot of people who were genuinely happy that a solution had been found for the accommodation woes at Westgate School, which is at over 90% of its rated capacity.

But, funny thing, there weren’t many happy people.

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Trying to save Westgate Spanish

Way back in 2012, the Calgary Board of Education asked the parents of Westgate School what they thought of the CBE’s plan to try and alleviate the overpopulation problem. We were engaged, we went to many meetings, and then we waited. A lot. And, heaven help us, we told them to make up their minds.

A week ago today, they told us. And we didn’t like the answer. Not remotely. It wasn’t worst-case — it was worse than that: it was an option never previously hinted at, and while it did address some of the things that the parents had been asked for, it was wrapped up in a big ribbon of stink. In short, the Westgate Spanish program was going to be taken away.

I suppose this is a lesson in “be careful what you wish for”.

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New year, renewed hope

I blinked, and 2013 kind of vanished on me. It’s a blur, a seemingly endless stream of activity that rarely relented long enough for me to appreciate any of it. I have pictures to prove it, sure, but I have to struggle sometimes to remember the date, or what else might have happened.

I’m fairly certain this isn’t (solely) a result of age. It’s parenthood. It’s a rigorous schedule that keeps the family machine moving at quite a pace. Between work schedules (which alternate such that Alex and I resemble “ships passing in the night”), school schedules, various after school activities, and the family activities, there’s very little time for much else.

Like, say, writing a blog.

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New Year’s (Eve) Tea

By tradition, our family does afternoon (or high) tea on 1 January, and thus far it has always been at a Fairmont hotel (which, frankly, does excellent afternoon tea). This year, almost exactly one year ago today, we had our tea as planned. But last week, we came to the realization that we could not effectively hold to our traditional date, as Alex has an evening shift, and getting back from Banff in time was nigh-impossible without rushing.

Local? The Palliser doesn’t start until 2pm, which makes rushing just as much a problem. And no-one else in Calgary seems to be open on New Years Day. For afternoon tea, that is.

And it wasn’t for a lack of looking. I even went to my internet compatriots for suggestions. I got the name of nearly every tea house in Calgary, but no others that served afternoon tea. It seems harder than it should be…

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Making hibiscus mead

So some time ago, my neighbour told me about a mead-making course being offered by the Squareknot Cooperative. While he ended up not able to go (his mead is now approaching epic levels, I should add), I went, learned a few things, and started making my own.

At the course, I sampled a hibiscus mead with rosehips. It was one that convinced me that I should make my own mead. It was deliciously red, sweet without being coying, and exactly the thing I’d expected from a mead.

I finally got around to making it. And boy, did it ever turn out. I can’t help but share this so others can try, too.

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Calgary Board of Education: we need a decision on Westgate Elementary

Hi, CBE? I’m a concerned parent. Yeah, I know you’ve heard from a lot of us in the last year regarding what you want to do with Westgate Elementary. You’ve heard so much, you’re not listening to us anymore, which I can understand — there’s only so much you can hear before you’ve heard enough.

But we — that’s you as the Board, and us as parents — have a problem: there’s no decision. The school is still over-populated, and despite having pulled another grade out, there’s going to be too many students for next year.

So … what’s going on? We need an answer. And preferably now, and not at the end of this school year.

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An open letter to Nest Labs: please don’t outsource your support

Dear Nest,

Yesterday, you launched your new Protect smoke detector product. Pretty much my entire social feed is filled with people lusting over the device, especially those — like me — who already have enjoyed the Learning Thermostat and want the amazing experience that comes with a Nest product.

You have another experience beyond your products that also receives massive accolades, and rightly so: your product support. From what I understand, you’re about to do it a terrible disservice.

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A miscellany of know-it-all-isms by Geoff Sowrey

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