Friday, July 28, 2006

And we're off...

So that's it for me for the next couple of weeks. Not that many will notice my absence, judging by the numbers coming here according to Statcounter. The summer blog doldrums are in full effect. I'll be heading down to Ottawa shortly to meet up with Cathy.

Hopefully.

She called me a couple of hours ago and her flight is fogged in. Granted, I'm not in St. John's, but the weather forecast doesn't look that terrible and none of the webcams in town I can find make the fog look that bad. Yes, it's always different at the airport, but I hope she gets away. I was very much looking forward to seeing her this evening. Not to mention the chaos it would cause if she can't make it to Ottawa before our flight leaves for San Francisco.

Typical. There's only one leg of this flight dependent on Air Canada. We're actually flying United to San Francisco just so we didn't have to deal with Air Canada. And yet, they still manage to find a way to potentially fuck it up.

Anyway, assuming all goes well, we'll be in San Francisco Saturday night, spend a week there with friends. Then we're heading down the coast highway to LA and San Diego for a couple of days to hit Disney World and the Zoo.

It'll be nice and we're looking forward to it, even if California is baking in a heat wave.

In the meantime, I doubt if there will be much on this blog. I think I'd rather be on a beach or meandering around San Francisco than doing blog updates. I might check my e-mail a couple of times if people really need to get a hold of me.

Other than that, I'll be back in Iqaluit on August 14. Behave yourselves…

Note: Just spoke with her parents. She made it out on the last Air Canada flight. I believe the rest for today have been cancelled...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Balancing act

You know, I do believe in some kind of karma...that if bad things happen, it will be balanced out by good things in the long run, and vice versa. That if you do bad things, bad things will happen. I don't pretend to be full versed in the eastern mysticism of it all, but it's just the way things seem to work out for me.

To call the past week stressful would be a touch of an understatement. There was packing up everything in the apartment and then moving it to the new place. Some of it I did myself, some of it was done with some movers in town. To say I wasn't 100% happy with the movers would be a touch of an understatement. My favourite part was where they decided the best way to move the deep freeze was to tip it upside down and transport it that way. There was also a last minute intervention with how the very expensive TV was going to be moved. Had it not happened, the TV would now be pulped. More than one glass did not survive the move.

Also, I have the sneaking feeling that $300+ for 90 minutes work might be a touch of a rip off.

The apartment building we left through one last indignity by taking most of our damage deposit because the place wasn't clean enough, despite spending five hours Monday night cleaning the place. If I had known I was going to lose the money I would have left the place filthy rather than trying to clean it.

Then there's all the unpacking and trying to find homes for stuff. I've been so sore the last couple of days that it's felt like someone has taken a baseball bat to my legs while I slept.

But the worst was the several hours I spent today thinking I had lost my wedding ring.

I do have the bad habit of fidgeting with the ring. I don't wear or like much in the way of jewelry. I have no piercings of any kind (I know, more information than some of you need), nor chains or bracelets. Hell, I wore a pocket watch for years. I only started wearing a wrist watch again about a year or so ago.

But there was no getting around the wedding ring. It still feels a bit weird on my finger and I play with the ring all the time, something that drives Cathy mad. She's warned of dire consequences if I lost it.

So I'm at work for about 30 minutes this morning when I notice the ring isn't on my finger.

After quickly determining that it isn't in my office, cold hard panic set in because I have no idea where it could be. I was desperately afraid I lost at the movie theatre last night, although I was fairly sure I hadn't. So I have to wait until after work, check the theatre only to find it's not there. A thorough tossing of the apartment and I find the ring buried under a pillow in the bed. Apparently I've learned a new trick - sleep fidgeting - where I can now play with the ring while I sleep.

This is not a good thing, I should think.

Anyway, I don't care about the pain in the ass move, the moving company, the damage deposit and all the unpacking. Because I found my wedding ring and when I see Cathy on Friday, she won't have to kill me.

Which means all the bad stuff that's happened the past week have been nicely balanced out. Karma.

Monday, July 24, 2006

And then there were two

Apparently one of the puppies has scampered off to her new home, leaving only these two - one male and one female.

We still don't know which one we're getting right now. The breeder would like to keep the male, but apparently her family has fallen in love with the female. So we likely won't know which puppy we're getting until Cathy goes there to pick him/her up on August 17.

Two other things. The puppies are now about eight to nine weeks old. And we've decided on a name - Mackenzie. Which works for either a male or female. The fact that it can be shortened to Mac and that I'm a Mac computers geek is pure coincidence...

Once again the usual caveats apply: We are not responsible for any hearing damage caused by squealing when people see pictures of the puppies. Nor are we responsible if you are bugged into submission by small children who want one.



Tired

What a long weekend...and not in the best sense.

No surprise that I hate moving. Most of the planet does unless you have the money to hire professionals to do it all for you. Which, alas, we don't. So the weekend was spent taking things down from walls, unplugging, folding, spindling, mutilating and whatever else it is you do when ripping apart an apartment and trying to condense it into boxes.

It's taken the better part of two days. The movers are late arriving this morning (mechanical problems) to heft the heavy or awkward stuff that won't fit into a Hyundai Accent (although you can fit a surprising amount in one of those wee cars). However, since they're charging an equally hefty rate per hour, I felt it was best to move as much of it as I could on my own.

So I ache because I'm just a tiny bit out of shape. I'm exhausted. And not just from all the work. I got little sleep last night. Apparently the lunatics decided to come out, so there was one bunch screaming for about 30 minutes or so and another woman was screaming "Fuck you, Albert!" at the top of her lungs for at least an hour at 3 a.m. I'd be impressed with the vocal performance and stamina if I hadn't want to crack open ooone of the boxes and heave a frying pan at her so very badly.

But then I would have had to repack everything and that's a bloody nuisance.

So yeah, I'm a little wired right now.

As for the new place, we don't even know how long we're going to be there. While moving stuff in yesterday I ran into one of my neighbours. Turns out they're moving out at the end of the month and their apartment is much larger than ours. So I'm going to throw a Hail Mary and ask the housing people if we can move in there instead once we get back from vacation. They'll probably say no, but I have to ask. But at least it's just down the hall, as opposed to this move.

I've also been in a grumpy mood. Moving does that, but myself and Cathy have been at each other a bit the last few days. Thank Christ vacation starts on Friday. Two weeks off sounds really good right about now and I imagine whatever grumpiness will quickly pass.

Although California is experiencing a heat wave right now. Should be interesting to see what happens. My IQ tends to dip once temperatures hit 30C and are in freefall by the time you approach 40C. I might be in a vegetative state by the time I get back to Iqaluit...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

On the move

So yeah, the last couple of days have been interesting....We've decided to take the new apartment, even thought it's smaller. We need a place that allows dogs and this has been what's offered. If we say no, it could be months before we're offered another apartment. So we go and while it will be a big snug, I suspect we'll manage fine. Plus I figure between the decreased rent, utilities, fees (we don''t have to pay for the washer and dry, nor the hook-up for the car) we'll save at least $3,000 a year.

It's meant the usual fussing around...getting power transferred (no fee), cable switched (fee, which is annoying considering how bad my reception has been the last week) and phone/internet (big whopping fee). Oh, and just to add to things that while I'm moving it's going to take an extra couple of days to flip the switch and transfer the Internet. So I might be off-line from Monday to Wednesday.

Then again, I'm gone as of Friday evening for two weeks, so I might as well get use to not having my usual level of Internet access anyway.

And, oh yes, the moving company. Given their hourly rate and estimates, they've given me a price that's currently inspiring me to pack and move as much as I can. So there's my weekend. Weekend of Sloth III has been cancelled. And, karmically-speaking, I'm making up for the previous two weekends big time.

Ah well.

So I might not be around much the next couple of days. But as a parting gift, I leave you the link below. There's no nudity, but it does feature scantily clad women. Why do I include it? Because I found it on another site and they called it one of the most disturbing things they had seen in the past month and I tend to agree. Don't worry, it's not gross or really offensive. Just....mentally odd.

I'm not sure what's worse...that the women came up with the idea themselves or that they did it because their gamer boyfriends asked them to. Or to get them to finally pay attention to them in the only way they had left.

Anyway, here it is.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nerd Prom '06

If you're a geek there are two major, annual events that you circle on your calendar. The first is E3, which the electronics and gaming expo that's held mid-May each year. The other is the San Diego Comic Convention, which is going on right now.

Yes, there other big events in the life of geeks. But they're not annual events like these. Every year, for about four days it's one big geek orgasm of news, toys, games, comics and booth babes. Never underestimate the power of a booth babe on geek in testosterone shock and his mind already in sensory overload from everything that's going on around him.

I have no idea what fries the synapses of female geeks. I haven't heard much about booth hunks, but I'm sure it's something.

It's mildly frustrating that I'm actually going to be in San Diego in about three weeks time. I'd love to go to the SDCC at some point in my life, and this is a very close call. Then again, I'd like to go to a much smaller convention first just to get used to it. SDCC is a massive event. Over the next four days they're anticipating approximately 150,000 people in attendance. To put that in some perspective, that's double the number of people who attended the Republican and Democratic convention in 2004...combined.

I've never been to a comic convention before. Well, there were a couple of attempts to get one going in St. John's, but to call them affectionately half-assed would be generous. I recall one organizer swearing he was bringing in Mark Hamill - right until it got out that he wanted a $10,000 appearance fee, plus his airfare and hotel covered. Then, oddly, plans for the convention fell through.

It's not just comic books at SDCC. There are games, toys, movies, books, original artwork and God knows what else for sale. There will be panels talking about everything under the sun when it comes to popular culture. Studios will be there promoting TV shows and movies. The major comic book publishers will be releasing details of projects for the next year.

Like I said, one massive, sweaty geek orgasm. Try not to dwell on that image. It'll give you nightmares.

Anyway, if you're curious about what's happening there, here are a few sites to hit over the next few days. If they aren't reporting it, they'll link to those who are.

Newsarama
Newsarama Blog
Comic Book Resources
Publisher's Weekly

However, my favourite page is likely to be this Flickr pool. Basically, anyone with a camera can upload what they're shooting at the con. It's tame so far, but it's likely to explode as the days progress. And yeah, a lot of it is going to be boring photos of fans standing next to pros who you may or may not know. But I'm really looking forward to the freaky photos. The folks in just bizarre costumes. The best one I saw last year was a guy in a Stormtrooper outfit. That, in and of itself, is nothing new. There are so many people dressed as Stormtroopers at cons all over that they've actually taken to using them as security at some of them.

But this guy did his costume as a Japanese Samurai Stormtrooper. No kidding, he had swords, flags flying off his back, a headband, extra armour over the outfit. It was bizarre, but seriously amazing. And that's the kind of stuff you'll likely find in the Flickr site.

Here's a taste of what you can find...and yes, that's an Elvis Stormtrooper.







But in case you don't want to wade through all that, head over to Warren Ellis site. He won't be in San Diego, and he will mock to within an inch of his life everyone in attendance, but he likely will run some of the more bizarre photos that people send him over the weekend.

Enjoy the weirdness. I plan on it...

Back to school

Huh…well, that was a bit of a surprise in the ol' in-box this morning. On a lark I applied to the University of Victoria to do a Certificate in Public Relations a week or so ago. The courses start in September so I was doing this a bit late, but I figured "what they hell". Besides, it was only $40 to register and I didn't even have to hunt down previous university transcripts or anything.

Yes, I know how it sounds…that it might be one of those degrees you can get off the Internet. But UVic has a good reputation and several people I've spoken with have had positive things to say about this particular program. Plus I can do the courses over the Internet, so my actual presence in Victoria is not required. Which is nice. I think I've been permanently scarred about Victoria after some of Mireille's rants while she lived there.

(Her best, for the record, was on the boom trade in stolen motorized carts that the elderly or disabled use to get around. Ask her about it)

So for the first time in eight years, I'm doing an academic course. That was a single course necessary to finish my journalism degree (long story short - I got very sick my last semester in school and couldn't finish the full course load. It took three years of begging before King's would let me do a course long-distance to finish the degree). So really, it's been about 11 years since I did any kind of serious post-secondary work.

This is only 10 courses, so by doing a one or two a semester I should be able to complete this in a couple of years. If I'm feeling cocky, perhaps less. I guess we shall see how long it takes to knock the rust off my mind.

I always said I wanted another degree. I called it Masters Envy because most of my friends have at least two degrees and many of them have Masters. I think Corey holds the record with four (BA, BSc, Masters, and a law degree). God help me, he's talking about getting his Masters in Law, which would mean five degrees. And I have several doctors as well. Whereas I only have my piddling Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Journalism. A certificate is actually a step down, but I neither have the time, money or inclination to do a Masters in public relations or a MBA. It would take years and cost probably about $20,000 or more. I really like not owing money to Student Aid.

I suspect I will do a Masters in a few years time. I'm debating doing one in creative writing. It might be the only way I'll ever manage to figure out how to write a book…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Anniversaries

It's weird, but it was Simon's piece on this being the anniversary of the moon launch that reminded me that today would have been my parents' 37th wedding anniversary. Weirdness.

I can remember dad telling me they were on their honeymoon and watching some of it on TV. I'd mock that and say perhaps it was a harbinger to come, except on myself and Cathy's honeymoon (we did ours before we got married, knowing what the weeks after our wedding were going to be like) we watched the pope die from the Dominican Republic. I have no idea what that's a harbinger of.

It's easy for the anniversary to slip my mind because my parents aren't married anymore. In fact, they're rapidly approaching that point where they've been separated longer than they were married. Which I suspect is going to be one of those odd moments of realization in a few years time.

I'm hardly alone in having my parents divorced. There are lots of kids out there who have gone through this. And I suspect I'm more fortunate than most. In retrospect it was pretty easy to see my folks hadn't been happy for many years leading up to their split. But the combination of them doing a mostly pretty good job of hiding it, the utter obliviousness to all things concerning your parents that comes from being a teenage boy and their desire to wait until I was "old enough to handle it" made things much easier. I was 19 when they split. Considering what I was like at 14, it might have been a lot more scarring.

Goes to show what parents will do for their kids, I guess, even when they're unhappy.

I've handled their divorce well, for the most part. I think the most drama that came out of it was when I found out they were splitting about three days before my girlfriend at the time was heading to Greece for a month. I didn't tell her because I didn't want her to worry about me and ruin her trip. Unfortunately, her parents heard (her mom and my mom worked in the same mall). I also didn't tell her the night she got back because, well, why dump all of this on her when she just got home. I'd tell her the next day.

Sadly, her parents told her, accidentally (they thought she knew) right after I went home that night. She was a redhead with a temper so I was used to some fights. Still, that was an epic chewing out, I must say.

Anyway, my parents are better off. It was about the easiest, friendliest divorce you're ever likely to see. They're better friends now than they ever were when they were married. Mom is still close with all of dad's family. They talk on the time. Mom's remarried, but I rather doubt dad ever will. But they're both happy. Funny how things work out.

Still, 37 years. I'll be 72 when myself and Cathy celebrate our 37th anniversary….

Seventy-two. Jesus. Excuse me, but I feel the urge to jump off something tall at this moment...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oh this should be interesting...

Three of my co-workers have come down with the stomach flu in the past week and they're all in offices right next to mine. So either I'm coming down with something right now or it's psychosomatic. I'm really hope for the later. Every time I get the stomach flu I lose a food I like to eat. I start to think about it when I'm sick, which then makes things worse. So anytime I think about that food from then on I relate it to being violently ill.

Previous losses include Kraft macaroni and cheese along with cheddar and herb bagels. Although if I could lose hamburgers, it would probably make dropping the 40 odd pounds that I ought to lose considerably easier.

On top of that, I got the call we've been waiting months for today - we have an offer of a new apartment. However, since this is the North it can't be anything straight forward like the apartment is a dive in a crappy neighbourhoood so obviously we have to say no. Or that it's spectacular and we of course want it.

No, no...it has to be perfectly nice with just one or two glaring, and potentially deal breaking, problems. It's nice, clean, allows dogs, is about a three minute walk to work for Cathy, has free usage of the washer and dryer, in a secure building, next door to one of the major stores in town and the rent is cheaper than what we pay now.

The downsides? Well, I'm not sure if there is a plug-in for the car during the winter. I have to check on that in the morning (assuming I'm not puking my guts up). If there isn't, then forget it. There's no way the car can survive the winter without being plugged-in.

But the really annoying thing is that it is actually smaller than where we live now. How much smaller? Well, the rent is about 20 per cent cheaper, so I would say about 20 per cent smaller. We can barely fit everything in this small apartment, so it's going to be an interesting bit of logistics if we say yes. The bedroom is about the same, but the living room and kitchen are clearly smaller.

Oh, one more thing. I have seven days to move into the new place if we say yes. Starting this morning.

Yeah, so that whole Weekend of Sloth III might not be happening now....

Monday, July 17, 2006

Weekend of Sloth II

The first Weekend of Sloth was such a huge hit that I decided to try a sequel this weekend. Alas, while still quite successful, it wasn't quite as good as the first Weekend of Sloth. The first had three whole days of doing nothing, whereas the follow-up only had two. Not to mention the fact that some actual work was done this past weekend. Dishes had to be cleaned, the apartment tidied and laundry done. Not to mention for reason yet determined the cable TV went out and as of this typing has not returned.

Still, it was successful enough that I strongly suspect the trilogy of Sloth will completed this coming weekend. However, there are indications that the audience is getting a bit restless of Sloth and this weekend may even be less successful and in all likelihood the final one.

With the cable out, I decided to make this a Babylon 5 marathon weekend as well. As I'm sure I've said before Babylon 5 is one of my favourite shows. While I've had all the episodes for awhile, I've never sat down and watched them all in a short period of time before.

Does it make a difference? Well, other than the joy of not having to wait weeks or months for new episodes, as I had to when the show was airing, or the months between DVD releases, there is the pleasure of being able to watch the story arc and see the momentum build and ebb over the course of the seasons in a few days.

There are some things that stand out, though...

1. The computer special effects have really not aged well. The show is 10 years ago and it looks like it. Funny, Deep Space Nine was on at the same time with many of the same themes. But that show's special effects hold up much better.
2. Season one remains terrible. There are maybe six good episodes in the whole season. I appreciate that many of the episodes had to set up things - both large and small - that would be developed later. But you really wish it could be better. It's a bit of a miracle the show made it out of the first season. It's also hard to recommend to people when you have to be constantly telling them, while they watch the first season "really, it gets much better than this."
3. I'm only half way through season three, but it really is the best of the seasons so far. The first was terrible, the second really good, but it was still laying foundations. The third is where everything came together. The writing was top notch and the actors finally looked comfortable.
4. Not that there was anything terrible with seasons four and five, but they just weren't as good. Four was clearly rushed as the producers feared the show was going to be cancelled at the end of the season and they wanted to get everything tied up. Five was too much filler. They tied up a lot of the plot points in four, which meant they had about half a season of filler with a telepath crisis.

I honestly don't know how many people will like this show, but I still consider it one of the finest sci-fi shows on TV. I suspect people who like the current Battlestar Galactica might like it. I'm hoping to get the rest of the shows watched before heading to San Francisco, but we shall see.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Change in style

So, taking a lead from OM's desire for a new hair do, I've been debating if I need something similar.

Yes, that sound you hear is my friends hysterically laughing. As they will quickly point out, I'm rapidly losing any hair to play with. I kind of regret not doing weird things with my hair when I was a teenager or at MUN. I mean Mireille did weird things to her hair every other week when we were in university. I must get a scanner and put some of those pics up one of these days. She had some great, weird hairstyles back in the day.

Anyway, aside from seeing OM's fabulous new do, there's also a couple of other reasons for thinking of a change. I got a photo ID taken last week, and it was quite possible one of the worst ones I've ever had taken. It kind of emphasized the fact that my hair is a vanishing commodity.

Plus, it's been about a month since my last hair cut. Which means my hair is entering that lovely stage of where it's thin on top, but puffy on the back and side. Cathy calls it my "Bozo the Clown" phase.

I'm thinking about just going "ahhh, to hell with it" and just shave my head. I've been debating it for ages. I didn't do it with The Express because my boss already shaved his head. And there was just something about have the editor and assistant editor having shaved heads that struck me as being rather....gay.

(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

As an aside, it's remarkable that most of the men who worked at The Express started going bald. I'm a bit worried about Kelly, actually. It hasn't happened to the women yet, but you never know.

Anyway, the point is, I've been trimming my hair shorter and shorter over the years. I'm wondering if it's time to bite the bullet and just shave it. Cathy has given me the "Well, if that's what you want to do" line. Depending on the tone of voice you can read it as "You can do that, but you're an idiot" or "What took you so long to come up with what is patently obvious?" In this case, the tone of voice appears to be the former.

Anyway, I throw this open to opinions. Any thoughts on whether I should just keep it trimmed short or just shave the damn hair all off and be done with it?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Out of season my ass...

So this report was making the rounds at work today with much amusement. Apparently mosquitoes are "Out of Season."

My friends, allow me to give you a situation report on the mosquito situation in Iqaluit. They are far from being "Out of Season." In fact, they've taken to banding together, have put on leather jackets with phrases such as "Crips" and "Bloods" on the back and are roving the city at will. I saw someone walk out of from a government office without bug spray and they sucked the poor bastard dry in less than two minutes.

I imagine they will be gone soon enough and then the black flies or something else will come in. It's one of the joys of norhtern living. Just when it gets warm enough to go outside without five layers of clothing, the bugs make sure you have to leave them on least they skeltonize you.

Today was actually one of those rare days when it was warmer here than it was back in St. John's. It's my understanding that it was about 12 degrees with RDF. It got near 20 here today with little wind (hence, the bugs out in force).

Tomorrow is Parks Day. Perhaps if the bugs call a truce I might head out for some of the activities.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Return of the puppies

Plug your ears and grab the kids...it's time for more puppy pictures...



It's my understanding that they're about seven weeks old now. They are definitely a lot fluffier and appear to be entering peak cuteness stage.



Cathy picks up our boy (or girl. I guess we should know soon) in about a month.

Ah, my friends...

I miss my friends. This isn’t a purely Iqaluit thing. If I still lived in St. John’s I’d miss my friends. While I have more back in town than I do here, the sad fact is that I suffer from the same problem that many Newfoundlanders do – friends and family scattered to the four winds

Although I should mention this one staggering fact. That of my both my mom and dad’s side of the family, taking in parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (and I have about 20 cousins) there are only two of us not living in Newfoundland. That would be myself and my cousin Randy who lives in Calgary. I don't know if that makes us unique in Newfoundland, but I guarentee there are not many families with that few in exile.

But anyway…I miss my friends. I still exchange e-mail with them and all, but we rarely chat on the phone. I’m horrible for calling people and I suspect most of them have their own busy lives so regularly calling isn’t always an options.

But I can still hear their voices, especially when I read something brilliant like this.

Understand, I love OM to pieces. She's one of my best friends. It’s been a year since I’ve seen her and God only knows when I’ll see her again. But I read that conversation and cracked up because it’s her. The logic train skipping the tracks, the resolve to quit smoking, all of it. She might as well have been in the same room with me for that moment. I could hear her voice.

My favourite OM phone moment came in 1995. I was in Halifax studying for my journalism degree. She was still at MUN, slowly losing her mind trying to run the muse. It was early in the new year and I had just returned after Christmas break. I was also feeling a bit lonely at that point. The phone rang and OM was on the line.

I don’t remember what was said in the conversation. I’m not entirely certain I understood what was being said to me, to be honest. The important points were the following:

1. In 1995 you could not get Jolt Cola in Newfoundland. As a Christmas gift I brought her home a dozen cans from Halifax. Why? Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
2. OM at the time weighed next to nothing (probably still does). She was less than 100 pounds and always a touch on the…hyper side.
3. Prior to calling me, she drank four cans of Jolt Cola in the space of about 30 minutes.
4. In my defence, I kind of thought she might drink one or two in quick succession and then bug the shit out of her boyfriend. I never dreamed she would drink four that quickly.

I was not her first call. That was to her boyfriend at the time. However, recognizing that I was the cause of this hyper-caffeinated whirling dervish, suggested that she call me. Which she did.

The result was a 45 minute conversation in which, I swear to God, she did not stop to take a breath. I don’t know how you can talk that much, that fast on one breath for 45 minutes. Perhaps a hose pumping oxygen straight into her lungs. There’s probably a biology paper to be written on it.

But she did and she cracked me up. I still laugh at it. But most importantly, I felt the world better even though my friends weren’t nearby (I had issues with one or two people at j-school. We’ll leave it at that). She’s good like that. Most of them are.

Anyway, I miss my friends. But it’s nice to know that they can still make me laugh from a long ways away…

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

No thanks...

Colette mentioned in the comments section the other day why not just bite the bullet and buy a house up here. After all, the mortgage payments would probably be around $2,000 a month on a $300,000 house and we would get out of an apartment that we're clearly feeling a little frustrated with.

The problem, of course, isn't that a mortgage would be $2,000 a month (although that it is a mildly freaky number to look at). It's that there is also increased costs in electricity, not to mention costs we don't have right now, such as water and sceptic, municipal taxes, heating oil, homeowners insurance and other expenses that I can't even think of right now. I think it's safe to say that our costs would balloon up to closer to $3,000 a month on a house, which is considerably more than double what we have to pay right now.

People have different reasons for coming to Iqaluit. Some come here and love it. Some come here and last weeks. It's like any place, I suppose. Lord knows there are plenty of Newfoundlanders in Alberta working. Some may well love it there. But I suspect that most are there because the money is good.

It's not dissimilar to what we're doing in Iqaluit. We like the place well enough. If we didn't, we would already be getting fidgety and be planning on when we would be moving. But we're not. However, it doesn't feel like home either. Which means the original plan is in place - to save as much money as we can so we can do things that we want. We'll reevaluate around 2010.

And what do we want to do? Travel.

We're going to San Francisco in a few weeks. We haven't officially decided on 2007 yet, but a co-worker showed me this place in Costa Rica that's now high up on the list. I've just got to figure out how rainy is the rainy season of Costa Rica in July. We're thinking Italy in 2008, although that might change because of how annoyed I am with Italy winning the World Cup. It might be Greece instead. Australia or New Zealand is in 2009. Ireland and Scotland are tentatively 2010, although I'd love to go to the World Cup at some point. Perhaps I can strike a deal with Cathy - she can go to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver that year if I can go to the World Cup in South Africa. Hmmmm.....

And realistically, I don't see how we can go to those places and do fun, interesting things if we get a house up here. I mock Dups, but really, he's been to some amazing places and done some amazing things. I'm a touch envious of that. Not his Visa bill, you understand. But he's done some great travelling. So have many of my friends. And that's what we want to do.

So the house might be smart in the long run, but I think I'd rather look forward to Australia, personally...

Oh, and if people want to get an idea of some actual houses for sale in Iqaluit, go here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Too far, you think?



An honest-to-God real poster campaign launched by the SPCA South Auckland, New Zealand. As might be expected, it's upsetting a few people, although I have to admit it's clever. Not sure if it's all that bright, but it is clever. And I've certainly seen PETA do stupider and more offensive things.

"He answers to Mr. Whiskers." Heh...

Dups still alive...

Vicky asked in the comments section how Dups was doing during his whirlwind tour...

Despite his best efforts at trying to get crushed, blown-up, shot or married off to a Russian woman, Dups remains alive and unscathed. As of July 9 he successfully escaped Russia/Siberia and is now in Ulaanbaatar , the capital of Mongolia.

That means he managed to climb Mount Elbrus without killing himself. That doesn't mean the trip has been without a close call. Some of you may recall this story about a plane crash in Irkutsk, Siberia. I didn't think much of it because I assumed Dups was on a train. What's the odds of him being involved...

Worse than you might think, apparently. He had flown into Irkutsk about a week beforehand on the same air carrier. Different plane, however. He flew in on a Tupolev-154. I'm sure Dups won't mind if I mention the brief note he sent to our mailing list...

"On a freakin' Tupolev 154. Not only that the plane was literally duct taped together and falling apart."

He also described the plane as being worse than some of the ones he flew during an adventure to Thailand in '04. Although how it could be worse than the flight he had in Africa several years ago, where they weighed you before getting on to decide where you sit, is beyond me.

Oh, by the way, that trip to Thailand? It wrapped up about three weeks before the Tsunami hit, killing hundreds of thousands.

I swear to God, I don't know if Dups arrival in an area is a harbinger of the apocalypse or if Death's aim is steadily improving each time he goes on vacation. It only missed him by a week or so this time.

Dups is staying in Mongolia until July 26 and from there he heads to Beijing (assuming Chinese authorities let him cross the boarder, what with him being a Harbinger of Death and all) and then to Shanghai, where the journey comes to an end. I think he's back in Canada on August 7.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Flickr update

I finally bit the bullet and got a pro Flickr account so I've been throwing up a ton of photos and getting them more organized. Feel free to take a poke around. There are some more pictures of Iqaluit, of musicians, friends, St. John's scenery and more.

I'll likely throw up some more wedding photos because really, I feel the need to subject the world to the 10,000 wedding photos I have on my computer.

And I imagine there will be more photos after the trip to San Francisco. And god help me if I ever get access to a scanner and start going through photo albums. It could get messy...

What 300 grand gets you

I thought I would show you a picture of this house, which except for one detail seems to be fairly unremarkable...



Although it's not for sale and I don't have a clue as to the specifics of the place, this is what a $300,000 house looks like in Iqaluit. It's a guess, you understand. But the average house in town costs $330,000. There are some very nice, large houses kicking around town. But there are also places you wouldn't use as a cabin out on the pond.

So I imagine this place is pretty close to the average. Also, and you can't tell it from this angle, but it has a nice view of the city and bay. So it wouldn't surprise me if the actual price would end up closer to $350,000.

It's part of the sticker shock that most Newfoundlander feel when they get here. If you're coming from Toronto or Vancouver and were told this house was $300,000 you would like go "Yeah, okay. That sounds about right." In Newfoundland, if you're spending that much money you're expecting to get something more...grand. Perhaps something like this.



Which I imagine is probably in the $500,000 to $600,000 range here. It also has a pretty good view.

Now, even if we had that much money to spend, I don't think I could buy the first house. There's something entirely too off-putting about having my ass hanging over quite that much open air when I go to bed. I'm sure the house is well-constructed and all. And every house is built on stilts. Every building in the north has space between the bottom and the ground because of the ways permafrost shifts.

Just not normally quite that much.

However, in case you're thinking that an apartment would be a better, more affordable option well here's the information on that. There's a new apartment complex going to be opening up in town by November. Out of curiosity I e-mailed them about rent costs. Here are a few samples of the prices of the units available...

The absolute cheapest is a one-bedroom, no balcony (most of the apartment's in this building have them. Yes, a balcony where it is below zero for about eight months of the year might not seem like something you want, but apparently there are people who really want to barbecue) with 63.32 square metres is $1,723 per month

A one bedroom with a balcony, but still with the same amount of floor space, is $1,823 per month. So I guess you must really want to barbecue to spend an extra $100 a month, even for those months when it's -40.

The cheapest two bedroom, with 78.97 square metres, is $2,211 a month.

The most expensive apartment in the building is a two bedroom on the fourth floor with 128.86 square metres of space. It goes for $3,737 per month.

It's a new building so perhaps the rents are possibly a little above average. But working out what our rent is, once you remove the government subsidy, it isn't too far off what we're paying.

Here's the kicker to all of this - according to statistics the vacancy rate in town is zero. When a house or apartment becomes available, it gets snapped up in a hurry. There are 28 units in that apartment complex. It's another 3.5 months before they're ready for occupancy. Already a quarter of them are rented.

And again, I understand that if you're coming from a large metropolitan area when mortgages and rents are sky high, that these prices will barely cause you to blink, let alone sweat.

I guess coming from St. John's, where the most I spent for rent was $600 per month for a two storey, two bedroom apartment on Bond Street with a view of the harbour and a balcony (I still miss that place), it's a bit of a shock. I can only imagine what it's like for people coming from some parts of rural Newfoundland where a three bedroom house with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean gets you maybe $40,000. If you can sell it.

So just a note for people thinking of coming here. If you get the right job the money you can get is amazing. Just keep in mind there's a reason why they're paying you that much....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Redefining lazy

To call this a lazy weekend for me would be a massive understatement. I have done little or nothing the entire time and it feels bloody marvelous.

Yes, yes, I know. It's a long weekend (July 9 is Nunavut Day) and I should be out doing....something. Anything. But honestly, doing what I'm doing right now (that being nothing) is what I want. It feels brilliant.

As most probably know, Cathy is now home. In fact, she left last Monday. And I do miss her. Lots. But we've done this before. We went 10 months with only 10 days at Christmas and a week at Easter as the only time we saw each other during that time. Now that sucked. It was brutally hard and if we never going through anything that stressful again for the duration of our relationship, I would be quite happy.

So really, the 24 days we're apart...it's nothing. It's a little breather, for a lack of a better word. And hey, she gets the better end of it this time. Last time I got to stay home and she had to go to Rankin Inlet. This time, she gets to roam around St. John's (albeit without a car) and I have to stay up North. It's a fair cop...

I know she's worried about me, and it's sweet. But really, I have the apartment all to myself for the next three weeks. It's the first time I've had an apartment or house all to myself for a prolonged period in a very long time. As I've said before, I'm a fairly private person. It's all part of being the damaged goods/only child thing, I guess. But I do like time alone. It took awhile to get used to the fact that when I got an amazing, lovely, wonderful woman, the amount of privacy and alone time that I was accustom to was going to have to go.

And I don't mind. It's much better for me in the long run. But to have the place to myself for three weeks is a very nice break. It meant all I've done this weekend is play Civilizations IV, watch sports, watch movies that Cathy hates (so far Monty Python and the Holy Grain, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, Gettysburg and Fight Club. Next up, rewatching all of my Babylon 5's) and putter around on the computer.

I've been too lazy to even blog. Although I've got to stop that before I get out of the habit of blogging. I've worked hard at trying to blog every day and I don't want to let that slide too much.

So yes, lazing around the apartment all weekend doing nothing of importance might sound terribly boring to most of you, but to me, it's a little piece of heaven.

Still, I'll be glad for the 28th when I see Cathy again. I imagine the pleasure of having the apartment to myself will have worn off by then.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Road to Nowhere



Meet the sign that is probably stolen about as often as the one pointing out where you have to turn to get to Dildo. This was taken about a week ago. I haven't driven by there this week, but I will be honestly surprised if it's still there. It tends to "disappear" quite a bit.

I'll be updating Flickr this evening with some more pictures take around town. I'm not completely happy with the way some of them are coming out, to be honest. I'm wondering if I'm rusty or if there is a problem with the camera....

...which of course is a lovely excuse to go and buy a new digital SLR, which I've been wanting on and off for awhile now. I guess we'll see what happens in San Francisco...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cats and dogs and mice...

So for those of you looking for your fix of puppy pictures, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait at least another week. The breeder is a bit too busy this weekend to take any new photos. Which is a bit disappointing as we want to see how they're doing, but it's not like I can force her to take photos.

In other critter news, we're now down a critter in the apartment. Cathy brought her classroom critters home for the summer -a gecko named Minnie and a mouse named Sparky. However, there was a problem. Sparky was obviously not doing well. We knew this because our keen powers of observation detected a large tumor on the mouse's back where the fur had fallen off.

This left Cathy with a problem. The mouse's days are clearly numbered. It was five years old and was beginning to look like Mickey Mouse reenacting the Hunchback of Notre Dame. So, did we let it eke out the summer, only for it to die in the classroom this fall, causing mental trauma to young children? Or, better still, would it die while we were away the summer, meaning the person we have swinging by the house to water plants and tend the critters would find a dead rodent - one that might have been an ex-mouse for several days and leaving that wonderful smell that dead animal leaves.

Or, we could take matters into our own hands. Cathy sought opinions from others on the most humane way of euthanizing the mouse, but most of them seem to consist of flushing it down the toilet. Which struck us as being a bit of a cruel way to end the life of a faithful class pet.

Fortunately, Cathy knew I had experience with ending the life of mice.

About 10 years ago when I was in Korea, I went and bought two mice. They didn't even last long enough to get names. They got them posthumously - Cain and Abel. That's because one killed the other and, in a matter of hours, committed suicide.

Really. Leapt off a table while I was cleaning it's cage. Mousy death leap. Apparently it felt really, really bad about killing his brother mouse.

The solution we came up with was to give Sparky some last days of freedom. So we took him just outside of town, opened up his cage and let him lose into the world. Freedom!

Except, of course, he really didn't want to go. We took the cover off the cage and he sat right where he was. For all his attempts at trying to break out of the cage, apparently they were half-hearted at best.

Finally, with a little nudging, he landed on the ground and scurried away under a rock. So hopefully Sparky is enjoying his new freedom and hasn't become raven food.

Let's see, two other pet related things. Both are a little cruel I'm afraid. I love animals, you understand, but they just caught my eye today.

If you don't like cats then this is your game, If you do, then don't look. Seriously. If you like them and look and get pissed off, you can't blame me. Oh, and my high score is 1167.

Ummm, and then there is this story, which will not win Air Canada any more pet lovers. Seems a dog they were transporting got out of its kennel and wandered around Halifax airport for two weeks before being on the wrong end of a dog-airplane collision.

It is worth mentioning just for this part, where the reporter asks if there was a risk to travellers by having a dog loose on the runways.

He said the dog posed a Ă‚“very minimalĂ‚” safety hazard to the aircraft that struck it.

"This is a small- to medium-sized dog up against an A-320," Mr. Spurway said.


And that's enough weirdness for one day, I should think.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And now, for something completely different

I'm surprised the Internet hasn't exploded from geeks losing their minds over this video.

And what is it? Well, what if you were to take one of the funniest scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and toss in some Star Wars. Well, you might end up with something like this...

Online

After all I've gone through in the past few months to get the job I currently have as a full-time position, it would seem shocking that in the home stretch, with just one simple hurdle to overcome, that things might suddenly go horribly awry. And yet, I think that came close to happening today.

The hurdle? A simple RCMP background check to verify that I am, in fact, not a criminal mastermind. Fortunately excessive parking tickets are not an offense that would cost me the job.

Blowing up NorthWest Tel, however, probably would. And I was getting near that point today.

To recap, we lost our phone and Internet access Friday evening around 6 p.m. Prompt calls to the Emergency line informed us that it would be Tuesday before anyone could come by and repair the phone because it was a long holiday weekend. I thought that bullshit, figuring that must have someone on for emergency service calls. But no, the earliest was Tuesday.

So we made do for the weekend without. And it wasn't too bad, what with the weather being excellent and Cathy leaving to go home on Monday. Really, I had better things to do than being online all the time.

So Tuesday morning comes along, I call NWT to ask when they're coming by. And then the excuses begin. They had only just entered my work request. They tested the line and it seemed fine. Still, I persisted. They promised someone would be by that day. I called again at 3 p.m. to see when they would be coming by. They promised by the end of the work day. They would call to give me a heads up on when they would need me home.

The call never came.

So by Wednesday morning I'm starting to get homicidal. No phone or Internet means I can't talk to my wife, nor can I kill time online. I call first thing in the morning. The excuses become more bizarre. Apparently they called Friday night and a teenager answered the phone and said things were fine. When I said there is no teenager in our apartment, then it apparently became the apartment super's responsibility to fix things. When I talked to them, the expressed some confusion as they don't mess with phone lines. "There are miles of the stuff in the building. We leave that to the experts." The experts, presumably, are NWT.

I was told that someone was in Friday afternoon repairing a problem in another apartment...so guess what probably happened?

So by 3 p.m. I'm becoming fairly deranged. Which is probably coming across on the phone at this point. I'm pretty close to threatening to go to the local office, finding a repair guy and drag his ass to the apartment to the fix the problem. Or, barring that, blowing up NWT in the hopes that maybe a decent phone company will come to town.

It got fixed. As best I can figure, the phone magically started to work around 4:45. At least that's when I called home on a whim and got my answering machine. No one called to ask me to let them into the apartment. No one has called to explain what went wrong in the first place.

So I guess NWT lives for another day.

But they are getting a letter of complaint and I do want a credit on the next phone bill for the five or so days I was without phone service. Good luck with that, I know. But I'm still pretty pissed off about this.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Off-line

By my estimate sometime about five minutes after nearly all businesses in iqaluit closed for the long holiday weekend our phone up and died. So I have no telephone and no internet at the apartment right now. Calls to NorthWestTel were...less than useless. We've been told that the earliest phone service can be restored to us is Tuesday.

I'm fairly certain the company has a legal obligation to make sure we're not without phone service for more than 24 hours, but good luck explaining that to their help line person, who may have very well been working in India.

So yeah, I'm posting this quickly from another location, but don't expect blog updates until Tuesday, barring a miracle. Probably just as well, what with this being a long holiday weekend. I figure most people have better things to do that read blogs.