Olivia Margaret Johnstone

Two years ago, we welcomed Olivia into our family. Her arrival did more than just add to the family head-count, though. She pulled me out of a depression that I am ashamed to remember.
2009 was not a fantastic year for me. Mom died. I lost a job that I loved; It wasn’t my fault, and I felt cheated out of a great thing. I lost a job that I hated; To be fair, my contract expired and wasn’t renewed, but I am at least partially to blame for the lack of renewal. I spent a lot of time unemployed, feeling unemployable. I did land on my feet thanks to a friend’s finding some work for me, and I appreciate it, but the damage was done. I shambled through my life. I had no idea what to do with my career and I was restless and feeling completely helpless.
Then Olivia was born, ass-first into the pool in the kitchen. I don’t know if it was a sense of accomplishment, some kind of dad-protective hormones, or just that I was insanely busy, but all of the futility, all of the bad feelings were gone.
As with the other kids, we have our good moments and our bad moments. But also, as with the other kids, I owe my daughter a debt.
Nick taught me to stop living just for myself. The impending arrival of Lily taught me how to be a man and helped me past some selfish behaviours that threatened my marriage. Olivia saved me from myself at one of the lowest points in my life. So I owe them.
I owe them my best efforts as a father.

Happy birthday, Olivia.
I love you.

V A C A T I O N…In the summe time!

View from Condo balcony


This year we picked a few weeks to take for our summer holidays.  I often like just chillaxing and sticking around home, after all it is two full weeks we don't have to get up early and drive downtown every day.  But this time we decided to head out to Vancouver Island and Seattle for a little getaway.

I love Victoria and wanted to go the to Butchart gardens and Chad's grandmas has been asking us to come for a visit so we thought we could make a vacation out of it.  We decided to fly and stay with his grandma.  She has a beautiful condo on the inner harbor in Victoria and was a very gracious host.  We were within walking distance of the downtown and took a trip around the Empress hotel and some of the other touristy spots.

Beady eyed bird -
I didn't zoom in..he was this close.
One evening we went to a Brewpub called Spinnakers.  Its an old house and we sat outside on the second level.  We had some drinks and ordered some Nachos.  While we were eating a big seagull came and sat beside me just outside the glass divider.  He stared at us with his red beady eyes for quite a while.  I think he REALLY had a craving for some nachos!

Sunken Garden
And now comes the garden porn.  Chad was a great sport and spent about 4 hours with me and his grandma hanging out at the Butchart Gardens.  We took pictures, oo'd and aww'd over the roses and the Japanese gardens.  It was spectacular.  It was started in 1904 and is a Canadian national historic site.  The sunken garden was started in the abandoned limestone quarry.  Everything seems so carefully planted and yet somehow random.  Everywhere you look there is contrast in color, leaf shape, foliage color.  It really is living art!

At the end of the sunken garden is small spring where they have a dancing fountain.  There is also a waterfall coming down the side of the quarry.



The site has approx 55 acres of gardens to walk through.  Even flowers as basic as geraniums look beautiful in mass plantings.  Some of the color groupings were fabulous.



One of the most popular areas was the Rose garden.  Camera's were out and people taking in the heavy fragrance that was surrounding us. Apparently a Garder snake was also taking in the smells, but luckily I was too occupied to notice him.  (did I mention I don't like snakes?)  There were many lovely tea roses from all over the world as well as climbing roses and rose trees.

Many of these roses can't be grown here in Alberta as they will winter kill.  One Butchart gardener did say that over 1300 roses had to be replaced last winter as Victoria experienced a flash freeze.  It went down to -12 very quickly and the roses were not ready for this drastic change.  Last winter sucked by Victoria standards.

Here come the close up porn pics....viewer discretion is advised.
 


 One of the other spectacular areas of the garden is the Japanese garden.  This is such an interesting spot.  It isn't one of flowers and color, but a spot that looks like it has been there for years. 

With interesting trees covered in moss that look like they could tell a story.  Small little creeks of water trickled under the cool shady canopy.  Its an area where you want to just sit in contemplation.  I love this style of landscape design. 


One of the final areas we looked at are the Italian gardens.  This was a bit more of a formal garden and next to the restaurant.  It was great to have a great lunch on the patio of the garden restaurant and look out over the Italian garden.  You can enjoy a lunch menu or ask to have the tea. 

If you get the tea service you get a fancy little plate with small sandwiches and pastries. We sat for a few hours and took in the view and the wonder food. 


Finally we hit the gift shop and the Gallery and made our way out of the Gardens.  I hope to go back again one day for my next flower fix! 

Seattle


We decided to take a side trip into Seattle.  You can catch a Clipper from the Victoria harbor that will take you right into Seattle harbor.  It takes about 2.5 hours and was a fairly nice boat. 

Once we got into Seattle we had to find our way to our hotel.  We wanted to walk rather than cab it so we could tour around a bit.  We just barely got off the ship and were walking down the main harbor street when a group of Naked people on bikes rolled by!    It was kind of surreal.  Much to Chad's dismay almost all of the cyclists were doods!  Some on bikes, some on roller blades, some with body paint or fairy wings. 

I have since learned that this is an annual event that is meant to draw attention to biking and loving your body in it's natural glory.   I have to wonder how comfortable it would be to ride a bike with no pants on : (


We walked through the Pike Market which was crazy busy.  It has shops on many different levels so it was confusing to get around and there we tons of people as it was a Saturday afternoon. It is a bunch of old buildings and you can really smell the age of the place.  I think this would have been a better place to explore during a weekday  as it was hard to get around with the mobs of people.  It had a combination of food and shops like you might find on Whyte avenue except on multiple levels.



Downtown Seattle is a very busy place, lots of big stores like Macy's and Nordstroms.  I think would be a good place to visit if you are a shopper.  I have to say though, that the wackadoo per square block ratio was high.  I am used to some of this working in downtown Edmonton but it is nothing compared to the folks in Seattle. 



Within our 10 block walk we must have passed every religious nut faction there is.  There were the Harry Krishnas, some Muslim faction with nutso signs, the Scientology gang and many others that were just chanting and preaching stupid crap.  Plus just a whole bunch of other random people with signs looking for money.

We met some friends for Dinner at a restaurant called Zoes and had a nice evening out.  We didn't stay in Seattle long and did a fair amount of walking around.  I can't say it was my favorite place, but maybe if we got out of the downtown area it would have been more to our liking. 

We headed back to Victoria which was much more our speed and did some touring around the city.  We went out to the Oak Bay Marina where Chad's grand parents took them as a kid.  We saw a very cute seal and had a lovely dinner with a beautiful view of the Marina.

All in all it was a great trip, I could certainly live on Vancouver island and be very happy.  The weather was nice and apparently we missed a lot of rain here in Edmonton.

Tales of an Absentee Blogger

You probably haven’t seen much of me lately. I haven’t been the most consistent online presence, that’s for sure.
“But Liam,” you say, half-mockingly, “you’ve never been a consistent online presence.”
Fair enough, imaginary devil’s advocate. But I’ve been trying. I had a pretty good spring, but aside form a couple of posts here and there, I’ve kinda let the ol’ blog down.
That’s not gonna change right away. I’m trying to get through the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire by the 12th so I can be caught up and read the new one when it comes out.
And then there’s the Malazan Book of the Fallen, written by Steven Erikson. He finished writing it, but I haven’t come close to finishing my read-through. And there’s teh Wheel of Time series as well. I haven’t re-read it since book 10 came out. I want to have that finished by the time the last book comes out. All told, that’s 24 books right there, which doesn’t even touch on the rest of the books I’m excited about.
Matterhorn by Carl Marlantes, the rest of the Monarchies of God series by Paul Kearney, the rest of the Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Everything else by China Miéville. The list goes on and on. Cormac McCarthy, Walter M. Miller, John Scalzi, Richard Morgan… There are so many good authors out there, and yet, I read so slowly.
But you are never far from my thoughts, o constant reader. While I continue to read, I will try to keep you up-to-date on my comings and goings. There’s always twitter, Goodreads, and when they finally open up the gates, Google Plus.
Don’t think I don’t think about you, poor blog, or that I don’t want to post every single day. I just have other things to do as well.

Liam

Bird is the Word

So today is our first day of vacation - so nice to sleep in and not have to do the drive into the crap ass Edmonton downtown core.  The weather is really nice out and we took a nice walk to a coffee shop for some lunch. 

1 of the 3 babies in our front yard.
Just before we were ready to go, Chad noticed a baby bluejay in our front yard.  I look and there he was..right in the middle of the road!!  Aaahhh.    So I ran out and shoed his little butt back onto the front grass area before a truck came and smooshed him.  Then I noticed he has two little siblings all huddled around various bushes.  They are at the - been kicked out of the nest but can't yet fly stage.  They take a day or two on the ground to get going. 

This is causing me stress!  I see a cat out across the street and I panic.  I see them run onto the road with he garbage pickup truck heading our way.  Sheesh!  So I have been sitting out front and reading a book so I can keep an eye on them.  So far two are bogeying around pretty good and one is just getting started.  I will feel better once they can fly up into the trees and get off the ground.

Then I noticed a lot of commotion in our back yard and I see we have a baby magpie sitting there doing the same thing.  So tis the season for babies....human ones and birds : ) 

Google Plus: The New Facebook, or The New New Myspace

When it comes to social networking, a question that one should ask is, “How much is enough?” I walked away from Facebook because of diarrhea of the feed. I was reading people’s statuses. I didn’t really know them, their stories were not important to me. Their in-app game achievements were even less important to me. Yet I read it. Why? Out of a sense of obligation? That’s entirely possible.
So, how much is enough? How do I throttle back the amount of information being thrown at me without turning the tap off completely?
Hopefully, the answer lies in Google’s new Social Networking site, Google Plus.
Instead of the idea of shouting everything to everyone a-la pre-groups facebook (a feature I don’t know anything about, but which apparently was a pre-emptive reaction to Google Plus), you have the option to add all of your connections into different circles. There are some pre-created ones that you can start out with: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Follows. You can also create your own. Once the population of Plus fills out a little bit, I imagine I’ll have one for sharing football news, one for hockey, one for programming geekery.
I haven’t checked out every feature yet. Hangouts, a video chat room, seem like a good idea, but I don’t have a bunch of friends to hang out with on Plus. Seems like it would be a good collaboration tool for a development team that’s spread out. Huddles are another feature I haven’t looked into. Seems like private messages, but I could be wrong about that.
Sparks are basically a search aggregation of something of interest to you. I have NHL, WWE, Biking, and Web Development sparks, and clicking on a spark takes me to a search results screen with a synopsis of what is available for viewing. It’s like a subject-based RSS, to borrow some thoughts from Shaun.
I don’t know if Google Plus will mean the end of Facebook. They’ve taken a lot of complaints against Facebook – too much noise, security issues, etc. – and made a beautiful social networking site that, if people actually use it, could stab the dagger of irrelevance into the big blue f’s heart, but I really liked Google Buzz when it came out, too. I thought it was a happy medium between Facebook’s all of everything every time and Twitter’s text-only interface, so you can take everything I say with a grain of salt.