February 4, 2014



The lights are flickering madly on and off as Hurricane Aethelstan flails around out there, jumping in the ever-deepening puddles and whacking the trees with his big stick.  If there’s no proper post after this it’s because I’m off the air.  Curled up in bed with a good book and fresh batteries for my torch I hope.

Outage today

Due to a massive network outage affecting multiple Web hosting companies, the blog and forum were down for the better part of the day.  Sites are back up but not sure how stable things are.

There may or may not be a blog post tonight.  — Blogmom


No post tonight – Blogmom

Blogmom’s blood pressure is slowly coming down after wrestling with a technical problem on the blog.

A calming photo of my cat Joe Boxer.

Joe has Buddha nature.

Joe has Buddha nature.


The Butchart Gardens (Guest post by B-Twin)

A couple of years ago I visited Vancouver Island with friends. I didn’t really need a reason to visit The Butchart Gardens – it is, after all, a National Historic Site of Canada – but when my friend mentioned roses it may have taken wild horses to stop me…

We were visiting in the summer and the day we were there it was quite warm and very sunny. Unfortunately, I discovered a few deficiencies in my camera’s abilities (some of which were my fault due to it being new and unfamiliar) but hopefully you will still enjoy this little selection of photos.

This lovely sculpture was one of the first things I fell in love with in the garden.

Not far along the first walk was a covered area with dozens of fuchsia in hanging baskets. I couldn’t get the photo that truly conveyed how overwhelmingly large the display was. So I had to settle for individual shots.

Fuchsia. *love love love*

More fuchsias. *dreamy sigh*

The Gardens were started over 100 years ago. The vision required to “see” this result when confronted with a quarry is amazing.

The Sunken Garden. This started out as a quarry.

Those familiar with the Pacific North West will know how easily moss grows…. Take some notes – it can be used to great advantage in the garden!

The Bear Family. In moss.

Animals like these were dotted all over the gardens. My favourite was the squirrel but the photo came out too blurry to use. :(

The rose gardens were lovely. Most of my photos don’t do them justice. (I’ll have to go back again…!) We’d missed the spring flush of blooms but there were still quite a few in bloom.

One of the many climbers.

‘Tamango’, Hybrid Tea from France.

This arbour was very inspiring. Want.

A rose arbour I wanted to lift out and take home!

The rose gardens didn’t just contain roses. This was some heliotrope and geraniums.

Within the gardens there are various theme gardens. So, besides the rose garden and sunken garden there was also the Italian garden and the Japanese garden.

A view through part of the Japanese Garden.

In the Japanese Garden

The summer flowers were in and there were begonias everywhere in the garden beds.  I’ve always been a little ho-hum about begonias. This experience changed my mind!

Some of the MANY begonias on show.

And finally, the Gardens have the only carousel on Vancouver Island:

The Rose Carousel.

If you ever get the opportunity to get to Vancouver Island then visit the Gardens. In summer they have fireworks in the evenings too (check their website for times though). And they have a lovely giftshop… ;)


“You’re a what, now?” Guest Blog by Black Bear

One of the first questions that comes up in any social situation is “so, what do you do?”  When I worked in retail, I said, “I sell stuff!” and the conversation pretty much stopped there.  But now that my answer is “I’m an exhibit developer,” the questioner usually gives me a knowing look and a nod, followed by a frown, followed by a slightly embarrassed, “Er… So what does THAT mean, exactly?”


Glad you asked!  As it happens, my real-life job is working on exhibits at a huge children’s museum.  We’re one of the oldest such museums in the US (there are two older than us, I think) and we’re also one of the only large collections-based children’s museums in the states as well.  What that means, essentially, is that while we focus on children and families as our primary audience, we are more than just sand tables and splash areas.

Forearmed is forewarned… so what’s twenty-armed?


We have a tremendous collection of over 120,000 objects, ranging from toys to dinosaur bones to 19th century dresses to Maori war clubs to old television sets to birds’ eggs to real samurai armor, and everything in between.  Our challenge is to create exhibits that use these objects in ways that encourage learning and questioning between kids and their adults—and while the objects usually can’t be touched by our visitors, we try to come up with all kinds of ways to promote hands-on learning and engagement for them.  And that’s where I come in!  I work with the curators and designers to develop the messages of our exhibits; then later in the process I write labels and work with our production team to create interactive stations that are more than just “Push a button to hear the cow moo!”


My first full on exhibit project with the museum was LEGO Castle Adventure.  In addition to writing labels about real-life castles and how those castles were planned and built, I got to come up with an activity involving a catapult. Because—come on, right?  There HAD to be a catapult.  Since the exhibit was about building strong castles, though, we didn’t want to have an activity about knocking castles down… so the creative media team and I worked to put together a game where kids could build a virtual castle wall, making choices (thick/thin, blocks stacked or interlocked, etc) and then crank and release a giant LEGO catapult to “test” their wall.  It was…. popular.  :)  The exhibit is still travelling around, being rented by other museums, so if you see the catapult, tell it I said hi.

This is one of my co-workers. Trust me, she’s having fun.


My most recent project was a kind of pop-up exhibit we put together for Spring Break at the museum.  We combined stuff from our pop culture collection and stuff from our world cultures collection to create an exhibit talking about super powers and characters from around the world.  The figure above is a painted wood statue of a villain from the Ramayana named Ravana; one of his attributes is wisdom, evinced by his ten heads (because he is as wise as 10 ordinary men, of course.)   Below is a more generally familiar character who you may recognize…


Don’t sai for me, Argentina…

The costume’s from the nearly unwatchable “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.”  Cool costume, great character, dreadful film.


We didn’t have a lot of time to develop a really elaborate interactive station for this one, so I went with a simple but (I hope!) fun fill-in-the-blank activity that let kids make up their own superheroes and villains while practicing basic reading and creative decision-making.  I thought that little guys would have fun with this, but was surprised how many older kids and adults also seemed to really get a kick out of turning the dials and picking their hero’s “superpowers.”


My hero’s weakness is smelly socks. Whose isn’t, really?

So that’s what I do.  I work with an amazing team of people to make some out-of-this-world exhibits for families to learn from and enjoy.  Sometimes it’s stressful, like any job, but overall it’s a blast—I’m never bored, and I love my work.  Come visit our museum sometime and you’ll see why!

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