I walked home this afternoon by way of taking the trail along Kent's Pond, and was grateful to have noticed this scene: a mother duck, guarding her ducklings as she nudged them to keep moving through the woods. I presume they would eventually make their way to the pond!
On Friday night, Martha and Nick took me to dinner, and it was a new spot among St. John's restaurants: Rio Brazilian Restaurant, on Torbay Road. It's on the intersection with Newfoundland Drive, taking up the space of a former Pizza Exprerts restaurant.
It's an interesting concept: you're seated at a table and invited to check out the salad bar (which also features, oddly enough, chicken nuggets, I guess for families with young kids) before the main event happens. Everyone pays about $27 for a meal (except for drinks desserts), and you can keep the food coming until you turn the green card on your table over, and leave the red side facing up: the visual cue to the staff that you've had enough.
Every few minutes, a server comes by with a long, two-pronged barbecue stick with a type of meat. It may be sirloin, it may be pork ribs, it may be chicken wings. If you want some, they'll off a slice ... or two, or three. It's an all-you-can-eat affair, so no one's judging. We loved the lamb, and had different preferences for other things, like sausages and beef ribs. Martha was delighted to have cod and shrimp offered up. My seafood allergies, of course, had me choosing sirloin and lamb.
There's more to choose from, too: barbecued pineapple, which we liked, and grapefruit and banana given the same treatment, which didn't catch my fancy. We also waited a bit for some of the All the same, it's a fun way to eat, especially with a group; we noticed a number of tables were quite enjoying themselves.
Rio does not offer fine dining, so expectations need to be in check. As well, if you're not hungry or only need an appetizer, this is not the place to come. But for a night out with the family and/or friends, I'd recommend it. We didn't feel rushed, and we enjoyed a night of food and conversation.
It's also nice to see a new alternative in the city for restaurant choices, especially one that's in walking distance of our neighbourhood.
This is a shot I sent to Instagram last Monday night, while I was walking as the night was falling. I was attracted to how the dark blue in the sky was gradually turning black.
I took the photo along Military Road, near Government House, as I was heading to Bannerman Park to meet up with Nick's Scout group as they finished an "urban hike" around the neighbourhood. It was a great evening for it.
It was a beautiful and sunny day today in St. John's, although the ocean was on a full roll. This is one of the pictures I took as we putter along the Marine Drive, showing the waves pounding Middle Cove and Motion right behind it.
Click on the image above if you'd like to see a larger version.
I snapped this picture yesterday after Nick and I got our hair cut and had a snack, before heading home. Everything was too blue not to notice (it was also very, very cold), so I headed to a corner of the harbourfront, just kitty-corner to the Fortis Building.
A corner, of course, that is currently bound by a temporary fence which remains open much of the year. That will change if/when a new permanent fence is built, at least as disclosed.
Every June, as the kids are itching to get out of school, Thomas Amusements shows up like seasonal clockwork, pitching its trucks, rides and canteens in a lot somewhere in the city. (For at least the last couple of years, it's been in a lot near Zeller's, off Stavanger.)
I walk by the bust of Winston Churchill, which stands on a pedestal near Elizabeth Avenue, on the grounds of the park of his name, pretty frequently. I'm always intrigued by getting a "pose" out of the old fellow, too.
Across from the Confederation Building (that is, right across the Parkway) is a field that is largely obscured from the road. I trek through there every now and again when I'm walking home from work, depending on where I have to go. I saw these three trees a few weeks ago, and made an Instagram snap of it.
[Surf’s Up, as published in the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012.]
A little while ago, my wife got a notification from the library that a book she had wanted was ready for her to read. Instead of driving over to pick it up, though, she made a few taps on a screen and the book was hers to enjoy.
The eLibrary program of our public library system is a great addition to its services, and I’ve really been happy to see (or rather hear) ads that promote it. After all, advertising is really necessary to reach a new audience.
We learned about it first during a library visit, but as any regular patron will tell you, a great many people never set foot on a library floor. That means you need to get their attention through other means.
I’m a great believer in libraries. I love them, I love going there, I love wandering the stacks, and I love finding surprises. I also see them as essential to the meaning of community, and believe that reading stokes our economic engines.
However, I have to be honest and say that Newfoundland and Labrador does not truly value its libraries, and sometimes seems to neglect them. I’d love to see the library system truly transformed, and given the respect that libraries deserve, and that goes far beyond offering e-books.
But first, let’s take a look at what’s on offer with the digital library. That notification my wife got? That will sound familiar to anyone who’s used a library regularly, and used to get a call or a notice in the mail (and more recently an email). Getting the book is simple enough: you need to log in, add the title to your cart and check it out. It’s available for precisely two weeks.
If it’s just a digital copy, why wait at all for it to be become available? That’s because the library pays for digital licences for the books in this program. If it has, say, two licences for one book, only two people can have it on their Kindle or Kobo or tablet at any one time.
I have yet to use the service with my own card, by the way. As digital-minded as I am, I still actually read my books the old-fashioned way. I am planning to get my own tablet soon, in part because reading news headlines on a phone can be a headache-prompter, and in part because I’ve seen how my wife (a nonstop reader, like me) has really enjoyed having an iPad.
What I’ve seen in the eLibrary selection is not bad. A lot of popular fiction, a smattering of material in various other sections, some surprises. And don’t forget, we’re still in early days. I hope that the variety expands continually.
A single patron can have three e-books out on loan at a time, and after two weeks, your licence expires, which means tapping on the icon won’t work. The upside is that there are no late fines! You can renew in a jiffy, though, should there be no one waiting for the book.
This is a convenient system, and I imagine it’s very welcome news for people who don’t live at all close to a library. The geographic gap has been made considerably shorter.
But the eLibrary is not enough to transform our libraries into the institutions they ought to be.
My local library happens to be the A.C. Hunter, the flagship in the province’s system, and a place I’ve been going since I was a little kid. Our family has made a habit lately of “library night,” and every two weeks (sometimes three) we trek over, split up and then regroup with what we’d like to borrow.
Some nights, there are readings and activity. More often, though, the place feels deserted, and it’s such a shame. Compare that to the buzz and the crowd at the same time at Chapter’s, around the corner on Kenmount Road. It says something – quite a lot, actually – that many people prefer to hang out and relax at a place where books cost money than where they are free.
I don’t like the physical space of the Hunter. It’s not nearly big enough, and is constricted by how it’s wedged into the Arts and Culture Centre. The fiction stacks bore me; I see the same old (decades-old, in many cases) hardcovers every time.
We need to rethink all our libraries, top to bottom … with the exception of Memorial University’s library, which has a first-rate and publicly overlooked collection. Very few of the schools in the province have a dedicated, full-time librarian; the threshold for such a position is several hundred more students than the typical school actually has.
As kids grow up, the public libraries are hardly designed to be places where they would want to go.
Simply stated, the public libraries are not particularly welcoming places. The librarians themselves? They’re great, and I always find them helpful. But the spaces are cold and institutional, and feel like they’re meant for storage, not active use. Believe me, it takes more than a couch to get that feeling across.
Nor do we make them as accessible as they could be. They are not funded to be open seven days a week, let alone six. It pains me that the libraries aren’t open on Sundays – and don’t get me started about summer hours.
Yes, the answer involves money (we spend far too little per capita on the knowledge sector of the economy), but it’s more than that. It means some visionary thinking has to come from the owners of the libraries, and that includes politicians and consumers alike. That’s no easy nut to crack.
But think about what libraries could be. As my wife puts it, “libraries should be our city squares,” where people simply want to go, regardless of whether they’re planning to borrow anything or not.
The eLibrary is a great step toward connecting the public with a good resource in our midst. But let’s work at making it a great resource, once that involves bricks and mortar as much as bits and bytes.
Rajaton, the Finnish vocal ensemble, sang at Festival 500 last year in St. John's; one of the songs in their set was a cover of Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure. CBC Radio 3 posted a video of the live performance here.
I was working today, so I missed out on the impromptu walk that Nick suggested today on Signal Hill. Martha went with him, and while it didn't last as long as it might have (it was incredibly cold, they both reported), it was evidently inspiring. Martha took this picture along the way.
One of my favourite shirts at Living Planet, which relocated just before Christmas to the old Woof store (and, if you're old enough to recall, the long-ago London store) on Water Street with Johnny Ruth. (Hint: update the website!)
A little bit of snow fell overnight - sugar frosting on the trees, as Martha put it. Enough to make it seem like winter again, and not even close to the amount we'd need to worry about (although the forecast has that possibility looming).
We weren't able to make it to the Mummers' Parade in downtown St. John's on Saturday (Nick and his schoolmates are dressing up today for a visit to local seniors), but I've enjoyed seeing pictures over the last day or so. Here's a video compilation I saw. Great costumes!
If you've ever gone to see Handel's The Messiah sung at the Basilica, you know it's an experience your ears will never forget.
This is a video made by Peter Walsh on Sunday as members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra's Philharmonic Choir made a flash-mob-style performance at the Avalon Mall here in St. John's. Not your conventional background music for shopping!
I snapped this while walking from work this afternoon, on Memorial University's campus next door. There's a good reason why it's named Memorial: it was founded, as Memorial University College, in 1925, when the wounds of the Great War were still very ripe. (The National War Memorial downtown was dedicated the year before.)
As an alumnus and now a neighbour, I always like seeing a poppy on campus.
We tried something new at cbc.ca/nl today - an infographic. Peter Gosse, our web developer, and I had been talking for a while about doing one. Yesterday, Peter Gullage, the executive producer of our newsroom, came up to me and said, "You want an infographic? Here's an infographic."
It was the annual collisions report prepared for St. John's city council - filled with interesting tidbits, and kind of heavy on the numbers. I picked out some facts and wrote some text, and Peter Gosse produced the following. It was published here, as part of this report.
I was really happy with the results, and would definitely like to do more. An infographic, after all, adds to the palette of the ways we can tell stories.
On the morning of Oct. 10, I walked into work, and I was able to get the panorama you see above.
That was Thanksgiving Monday in St. John's, and almost everybody had the day off. For much of my walk along Prince Philip Drive (better known as the Parkway), I didn't see any cars at all, and even then it would be small bursts of two or three that had been briefly halted by a light.
Just past the Confederation Building, I darted out into median and took this 360-degree shot.
I was surprised and rather flattered to have been asked to be among a group called the "Reel Men" - a set of St. John's fellows who are all wearing a shirt and scarf promoting the upcoming St. John's International Women's Film Festival.
Everything launches on Tuesday, and the city will be filled with screenings. It's easily one of the key events of the arts calendar in St. John's. Check it all out here.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.