Saturday, July 11, 2009

Backyard surprises

Victoria continues to surprise me.

Like yesterday when I walked into the house. I just happened to glance up at the plant that grows at the front of the overhanging porch roof -- and discovered that purple flowers had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. For the last two months, the plant has been covered with yellow flowers which eventually dried up and faded away into the greenery. But now -- there are purple flowers!

When I looked carefully, I saw that another type of vine had been planted at the base of the first plant, and it was the new vine's turn to flower. Very clever gardening, if you ask me!

Another surprise: about three weeks ago, I took a closer look at the ancient and strange looking bush planted in a square in our patio. It looked familiar... and then I took a sprig and rubbed it between my fingers. It's rosemary! I've never had fresh herbs growing outside. For the last two weeks we've had roast chicken with rosemary for Sunday dinner -- delicious!

The climate here is so different from anywhere I've ever lived. The greenery is lush and extremely varied, and our yard seems to have one of every kind of thing that is able to grow around here. Just when I think that things will stop growing, another kind of flower blooms in our garden.

The people who owned this house in years past went crazy with perennial plants. There must be at least 50 different kinds of flowering plants in our yard, and I can only identify three or four. We have at least two different kinds of poppies in four different colours, three kinds of flowering vines (no idea what types), a large overgrown grape vine and a huge fig tree.

We've never been much for gardening, but we're being forced to pay attention to our yard this summer. It's going to take us a long time to get it all figured out!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shooting a math video at the beach

Yesterday we shot a video at the beach for the Math 8 course that I am overseeing at work. It was a beautiful morning to be there! The sun was shining and there was a bit of a breeze, so the temperature was just perfect.

The video is about integer multiplication, and I wanted to make it a stop-motion video because I think it will appeal to kids in grade 8. I think it will also be a fun video because it stars kids -- specifically my kids -- Cameron and Meghan.

Sean looks through the camera to see if all of the numbers are visible.

A few weeks ago we scouted out the location by checking out all the sets of stairs that lead to the beach off Dallas Road in Victoria. We thought we needed at least 21 stairs going straight up and down (it turns out that we didn't need that many) that were not shaded by bushes -- and given all the plant growth around here, bushes are hard to avoid!

But we did find a great set just off Douglas St. south of the Terry Fox Mile Zero memorial. So yesterday morning, the kids and I drove down, parked by Beacon Hill Park, and trudged down the stairs to the beach to meet up with my co-workers Sean and Caitlin.

The kids soon found out how boring it can be to film something. It's all in the preparation -- and as soon as we started stapling the numbers to the stairs, we realized that we weren't going to be able to see them all in the camera. After ripping off all the numbers, redoing a few of the equations, and some bleeding on my part after putting a staple through my thumb, we had a new set of numbers in place, and we were ready to shoot.

Redoing the numbers

By this time we'd lost the kids, but luckily they were just sitting over on the next set of rocks waiting patiently for us.

We ended up having an audience while we were shooting the video -- a man who was sitting at the top of the stairs when we first arrived, and who stuck around to watch the fun but moved over to sit on the rocks, and another man who came a bit later with his two grandsons to play at the beach. And how could I forget the minks! During the shooting, two little, thin, black furry creatures appeared from behind a pile of rocks where Cameron was sitting. They were very cute, and not very afraid of people.

Two of our audience members: one doesn't seem to be paying attention; the other one might be Martin; and the minks are nowhere to be seen.

We found out the name of one of the grandsons, because I mistakenly called it a marten (close, same family, but not quite right), and one of the kids yelled, "Hey, my name's Martin!"

Anyway, Cameron, Meghan, Sean and Caitlin all did an awesome job! Once we were set up, it took less than an hour and we were done. Sean had a great idea for the ending -- the kids are going to spin around and disappear! I can hardly wait to see the end product -- I'm so excited about all these videos we've been doing for Math 8. I think we'll try to release some of them on YouTube, so if we do, I'll post a link to them here in my blog.