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2011 Annual Letter


Hang on. (Puff, puff.) Give me a second to catch my breath. (Sound of loud gasps eventually subsiding.) Well, 2011 was it. Finally rowed ten million meters, the distance from the Equator to the North Pole. Kind of anti-climactic. Got a complimentary sweatshirt, and kept rowing. A good week is four or five sessions at 10k per. Have slowed down, though. Used to finish in the high forty minutes. Now it's the mid-fifties. Morphing from a hare to a tortoise?


Still enjoy teaching at Surrey College, with occasional head-shaking moments that ensure a lack of hubris. The most recent example was at a school-wide staff meeting called by the new Principal. Was a bit surprised to hear fellow instructors repeatedly use the term updo while discussing the mission statement of the College. Not as jarring when you realize that, along with the Early Childcare and Education and Child and Youth Care programs, there's also a thriving Department of Cosmetology offering a Hairdressing Certificate. An added bonus is that my students frequently return from breaks with exquisite nails.


Life is also good in the family corvidae. Several years ago, Chris and I adopted two crows by placing peanuts on the windowsill. It was clearly the same two crows as one had a twisted foot. The pair begat babies for the next few seasons, and we took some inter-species pride in the growing family. This year it appears half-cousins, nieces, in-laws, and stragglers have joined in the daily murder that perches on the utility wires, peering into the office to see if the dispensary is open for business. B.F. Skinner would be proud--our corvine friends seem to understand that operant conditioning is a two-way street. One bold crow has begun landing on the sill and tapping on the window when caws don't elicit a quick-enough response.


After eleven years, my Teach-In column for JUGGLE magazine is ending. In January of 2012, the International Jugglers' Association is moving to an online e-zine instead of a printed magazine. Worry not, though. It looks like some form of the Teach-In will cross the digital divide.


In other news, Chris thought she had lucked out and married a modern, sensitive man when tears began trickling down my cheeks during sentimental commercials and other emotional events. Turns out the lachrymose reactions to hugging my wife, seeing cute puppies, and tying shoelaces were just manifestations of conjunctivitis. Yep, 2011 was the year that colonies of unwelcome bacteria used my eyes as a nest. Moist, dewy evenings with free-flowing tears preceded vision-impaired awakenings. Ocular molting became part of the morning ritual ablution. A few globs of unguent took care of the problem.


An unattended fortieth high-school reunion reminded me of the great salad-days music of the sixties. Disappointed doesn't describe the feeling when research unearthed the Top 100 songs of 1971. Expecting classic rock from The Who, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, et al, it was unnerving to see the seeds of disco had already been planted. Not only were the Jackson 5, the Partridge Family, and Donny Osmond well represented, Perry Como and Andy Williams also made surprise guest appearances. Sadly, I no longer look back on my teen years as the golden age of music. Instead, I may be guilty of coveting my older siblings' music.


Chris and I flew to San Francisco in the spring. She attended an educational conference; I tagged along. Lesson Learned: Don't be too conspicuous when freeloading. One afternoon I borrowed Chris' registration tag to sit in on the Incorporating Improvisation in the Classroom workshop. "Take a seat as close to me as possible," the workshop leader implored the early arrivers. I strode up to her, nose to nose, and then sat at her feet. She handled this well, expressed delight at the initiative, and used me as an example of a great attendee. Should have expected that several fellow participants (who were teaching other workshops during the conference) wanted an exemplary participant to attend their seminars. They also planned to stay in touch, requesting my name and e-mail address. It took several stammers and shades of red to create a plausible story while wearing a big badge that announced to the world that I was Chris from the Vancouver School Board.


This year's card was inspired by Lieutenant John Pike, the UC Davis police officer who chose to pepper-spray peaceful demonstrators. The collage was created from images found on the Internet by Teach-In illustrator Cheryl Brant. In spite of global financial carnage, the happy family in the illustration is prepared to make the best of the situation. Here's hoping that your holiday spice does not include unwanted doses of capsaicin, nor visits from uninvited government agents.


copyright 2011 by Todd Strong


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