Dallas Road cliffs. Photo © Stewart Butterfield, via flickr and Creative Commons

We live in a part of the world many other people envy us for. We have ocean, mountains, beach, forests, a pretty darn awesome year-round climate for a place just south of the 49th parallel, and a number of big-town services and restaurants for what is, in many ways, a small town.

And on one of those perfect summer or fall or spring or even winter days, you just have to stop and say to yourself, “Seriously, why do I live in such a hell-hole? Let’s just stop the clock, and the moon and the stars and sun, and hold this moment. Forever.” More »

View of Olympic Range and Juan de Fuca Strait along Victoria's Dallas Road walkway. Photo © Stewart Butterfield via flickr and Creative Commons

View of Olympic Range and Juan de Fuca Strait along Victoria’s Dallas Road walkway. Photo © Stewart Butterfield via flickr and Creative Commons

The Coast Collective Arts Centre opened its summer show last week. Destination Victoria: Small Local Treasures features small works by Island artists and craftspeople. Each work celebrates the region, its land- and seascapes, and uniquely local experiences.

The show perfectly reflects the centre. Coast Collective resides in historic Pendray House on the shores of Esquimalt Lagoon, and combines a taste of the region’s history with a quietly spectacular setting. It is, itself, a local treasure. More »

Pianist. Photo © Alan Cleaver, via flickr and Creative Commons; strangebritain@gmail.com

Hermann Neiweler loved jazz.

His jazz club, a cozy venue that has operated on View Street for 29 years, was a labour of love for him. It allowed him to host—and see—the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Dewey Redman, Loudon Wainwright III, Judy Collins and David Francey, and provided local musicians with a place to perform. It fed his desire to hear live jazz and to share the jazz experience with others.

Nieweler died last month, just as the Victoria International Jazz Festival was about to kick-off. He was 79.

Playing saxophone. Photo © woodleywonderworks, via flickr and Creative CommonsHis commitment to his club speaks of music’s power to enrich people’s lives.

We groove and move to music. We listen. We appreciate. And some of us make and play music. It seems simple enough on the outside, but inside the blackbox we call the brain, much more goes on when the music starts playing.

Brain scans show that listening to music engages a sweep of different areas within the noggin. And if just listening to tunes does that, playing those same tunes on an instrument is like sending your brain to bootcamp. Playing music exercises the parts of the brain that perceive and analyse sound, sight and touch. It drills the parts of the brain that control movement, behaviour, decision-making and expression, as well as memory, emotion and reward. It also stimulates neuron development between the brain’s regions, strengthening neural pathways and making those connections more efficient….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Photo © Rebecca Pollard, via flickr and Creative CommonsSeven of Victoria’s video-game studios recently launched new games. The games, which include TinyMob’s Tiny Realms and GameHouse’s new version of Slingo, highlight the industry’s growth in the region.

The 20 or so Victoria-based studios employ 240 people and spend about $25 million annually. Eight years ago, about 40 people worked in local game studios.

On a global scale, gaming revenues are predicted to grow to $78 billion in the next two years.

The industry’s growth mirrors that in other digital technology industries. As the Internet advanced in sophistication and conquered both the wider, geographic world and our personal time, so have video games.

We’ve come a long way, baby, from Pokémon, Doom and The Legend of Zelda.

Game designers have also become more sophisticated in attracting and retaining players.

In many games, designers intentionally manipulate players to keep them online and to keep them returning to play more, again and at higher levels. They design consequences into games to prevent players from stopping play, and build in rewards for players who stay in the game, move up to higher levels and to subscribe to advance the game….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Blue camas, buttercups and spring gold bloom in a south Vancouver Island Garry oak meadow. Photo © Monique Keiran

When I first moved here, one winter many years ago, a long-time area resident gifted me with a list of some of her favourite outdoor spaces.

She rattled off the names of parks and trails that she enjoyed. Then she let slip the name of a small hilltop Saanich park.

“For spring wildflowers,” she said, adding, as if no explanation were needed, “It’s original Garry oak meadow.”

The following April, I found my way there. The day was damp and blustery. Watery-looking sunlight filtered through evergreens towering along the path. Not far into the woods, the sound of traffic from the busy roadway behind dropped off.

I climbed the hill and stepped out of the trees. Blue camas, buttercups and spring gold carpeted the ground. A few gnarly, naked oaks stood guard. Beyond some rocky outcrops, I found a patch of fawn lilies. A few satin flowers lingered on.

“So this is a Garry oak meadow.”

Shooting stars - pink and white. Photo © Monique Keiran

In the years since, the small farms that once bordered the park have bred single-families dwellings and townhouses instead of sheep and horses. Ivy, blackberry, Daphne laureola and other invasive plants choke the lower forested slopes, while other non-native plants invade the south-facing meadows.

But the greatest threat to this quiet, little jewel remains ill defined and uncertain, as it does to special places everywhere. Scientists predict that, over the next decades, the seasons here will feature greater extremes. Hotter, longer, drier summers will anchor the year, with frequent, intense storms punctuating the other seasons. How changing climate and its attendant baggage will affect Garry oaks and their attendant plants, microbes, insects and other critters remain unknown. Whether this Garry oak meadow will survive also remains uncertain….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist.

Clover Point, site of one of Victoria's primary sewage screening plants, from across Ross Bay. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

Clover Point, site of one of Victoria’s primary sewage screening facilities, from across Ross Bay. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

The new sewage-treatment schedule that the Capital Regional District proposed earlier this month contains tight deadlines.

In order for this latest development to pan out, proponents for building a secondary treatment plant in the region must determine a new timeline and acquire all approvals and a site for the treatment plant by this time next year.

At stake is an $83.4 million grant from PPP Canada for a facility to handle material removed from liquid sewage.

Project opponents may see the extension as yet one more year to cause delay.

Of course, if the CRD or either group of municipalities that is exploring sewage-treatment options doesn’t meet the March 2016 conditions, the larger initiative will churn on. Two other federal grants, worth $170 million, and the province’s contributions have roomier deadlines that may accommodate the region’s revised forecast for completion by 2023.

Delay, in fact, may result in better sewage treatment options. For example, researchers announced this January that they had identified and successfully extracted appreciable amounts of rare metals from biosolid samples collected from cities across the U.S. Their study focused on 13 high-value minerals, including gold, silver, copper, iridium, and platinum. Extrapolating their results, the researchers estimate $16 million dollars worth of metals could be accumulating every year in the sewage of a city with one million residents.

Of that, the researchers say almost $3.5 million could come from gold and silver alone….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Clover Point, from the west. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

Orion nebula. Photo © NASA

Orion nebula. Photo © NASA

Ring Nebula. Photo © NASA

Ring Nebula. Photo © NASA

Next weekend, a few hardy members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Victoria chapter will mark the start of spring with a little-known ritual. Clear skies willing, they will stay up until dawn on Sunday to participate in an astronomical test of endurance, knowledge and night-sky navigation skills.

Their marathon differs from most. Instead of running long distances, participants will spend the night hunched over their telescope eyepieces, twiddling knobs and adjusting their instruments by hand.  They seek not to cover territory on the ground, but in the sky. Their goal is to locate 110 very specific heavenly objects before dawn. The objects were first catalogued by a French astronomer named Charles Messier more than two centuries ago….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

One block along Victoria's Government Street. Photo © Jason Vanderhill, via flickr & Creative Commons

One block along Victoria’s Government Street. Photo © Jason Vanderhill, via flickr & Creative Commons

I have little need for t-shirts, caps or jackets emblazoned with our capital’s name. I don’t bother with coasters, tea cozies or trinkets to remind me of my day-to-day existence here.

When I can step out my door to live the dream, I rarely think of shops that sell souvenirs to people who visit and want reminders of their brief time here.

I’m not the intended market.

However, a market clearly exists to keep the souvenir-type shops along Government Street in business, year after year.

They comprise about a dozen of the 50 or so shops along the eight blocks between Humboldt to Fisgard streets. This stretch of Government Street has been in the news lately, after Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps suggested lowering commercial property taxes along the street to encourage revitalization. The number of empty storefronts and For Rent signs—13 blackened storefronts at recent count—prompted her proposal.

Yet, while shops catering mostly to tourists are a minority along that stretch, their presence greatly influences the street’s informal, local brand. When many local residents think of Government street, it is often these shops that come to mind – and long lines of idling tour buses, sidewalk-clogging crowds, and phalanxes of kamikaze scooters.

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….