Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Two photos

I was home sick today so I wasn't much in the mood to do anything. I'll probably go back tomorrow, but we'll see how I feel.

So the day was spent doing very little other than reading books and reading the manual on the camera. I know others must have said it previously, but people who write technical manuals must be the writing equivalent of the anti-Christ. Or they're failed novelists who feel like punishing the world by making the world suffer through horrific and not all that helpful advice on how to work your new toy, etc.

Anyway, I played with the camera a little bit. Most of the photos are junk, to be honest, as I play with settings and features. But I took the two below just to give an indication of what it can do and the power to the lens.

The first is taken at the widest setting (18 mm or about 27 mm on a normal 35 mm camera. Off in the distance you can see the new Airbus 380 which is back in town again for more cold weather testing.

You know, I have some really nice views out the windows of our apartment if it wasn't for all the goddman wires. the airport is not that far away, but it's not exactly close. However, that is also a big bloody plane. Holds about 550 passengers.

This is with the zoom on maximum, which is 200 mm or 300 mm if we're using its 35 mm equivilent. It's not bad.

So that's not a bad zoom at all. I'm still getting use to how fast it is. Also, I haven't quite got the camera to where I'm happy shooting inside in low light. Then again, I've yet to have a camera where I was, but enough was spent on this one that I hope it's the exception to the rule.

More photos this weekend.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


So let's see what is new today.

1. My uncle is apparently in town. He's up here for meetings. Haven't seen him yet, but I left a message at his hotel, so hopefully he'll get back to me in the next couple of days. I didn't get a chance to much of my family over Christmas, including this uncle, so it will be nice to catch up with him. Perhaps we'll watch the Super Bowl on Sunday as I'm sure Cathy is desperately looking for some excuse to either get out of the apartment or get me out of the apartment.

2. The rest of my camera equipment has arrived. That being the lens (a Tamron 18-200 mm), a standard UV filter, a 2 gig SD card and a new carry bag. So the playing with of the camera has officially begun. I'll try not to subject folks here to too many photos of Cathy and Boo, but I will probably put some up on Flickr. I'll have to find out at some point how well the camera handles the cold up here. Probably this weekend.

It also made it through customs unscathed. The only thing I had to pay at the post office was GST and a Canada Post "handling" fee of $8. No brokerage fees. I'm quite pleased. I probably saved $100 or more going through the company in the US as opposed to any Canadian companies I checked out.

3. Called the garage today to politely inquire where the fuck our car is. Was told that the transmission just arrived today. Apparently there was a backlog of freight. It was supposed to have come up last Thursday. So I would say the earliest we'll get the car back will be tomorrow, but that's probably a pipe dream. In all probability we'll be lucky to get it before Friday. That will mean two weeks of walking back and forth to work in -40 temperatures.

As I've said, I know people in the north walk in colder temperatures than this all the time. And I know it's decent exercise. But I really, really would like the car back. If for no other reason than I miss having lunch with my wife.

4. Definitely coming down with something and I might take the day off work tomorrow. I've been pretty good about avoiding the majority of the post-Christmas bugs, but one of them was bound to land on me sooner or later.

5. Hmmm, it seems we've just realized that we've been married 18 months today. I'm not sure really what you get someone for a year and a half anniversary other than a kiss and a hug. Oh, and a new transmission. Nothing screams happy anniversary like expensive car repairs.


I forgot to post up how much I weighed last night. Well, turns out I didn't lose anything last week. I was 236 last Monday and was still 236 when I stepped on the scales yesterday. Not unexpected that I would go the occasional week without losing anything. Still....bollocks.

Out of curiosity, I stepped on the scales again this morning when I got out of the shower and I was 233. So in the space of 12 hours, I lost 3 pounds. So instead of watching what I eat and getting more exercise, apparently I just need to sleep more.

Biology is weird stuff.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pretty well completely useless

I haven't delved too much into Newfoundland politics recently, but this one has been festering for awhile and it's an old wound. So let's reopen it and have a bit of a rant, shall we...

So, we have a series of by-elections coming up, the first three taking place on Feb. 5, the other one taking place on Feb. 12 and presumably the one to replace Randy Collins will happen sometime in March or April. So, we have five by-elections all with about eight months or so until a general election. The average cost of a by-election is $75,000 to $100,000 each. Overall cost will be $375,000 to $500,000. Now, with the province's overall debt standing around $10 billion, I appreciate that's chump change. Still, you figure it might be an idea to try and pinch pennies, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, where you can.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be by-elections when an MHA relinquishes his or her seat. The people need to be represented in government. So clearly if there needs to be a by-election then one should be held. No matter that the general election is in October. If an MHA, God forbid, keels over and dies tomorrow, then obviously it's not fair to leave the people in his or hers riding until the next election.

My gripe is that each and every one of these by-election should never have taken place to begin with. Not one of them. The five people stepping down were more than capable of toughing it out until October. Or hell, if it was too onerous a burden to take all that money and constituency allowance, they could have stepped down in July. They would leave their constituency without representation for a couple of months, but at least they wouldn't be costing them tens of thousands of dollars needlessly on by-elections.

Let's look at those who are stepping down and causing these by-elections, shall we.

1. Ed Byrne. Yes, Ed has had a pretty rough last year or so. At one point he was probably favoured to succeed Danny Williams when he was finished being premier. Now, he's viewed as a crook. If he stepped down last summer when these accusations were first made against him, I could have almost understood and accepted it. "Obviously with this cloud hanging over me, it will be impossible for me to serve the people of my district, so until my name is cleared I'm stepping down as the MHA for Kilbride."

But he didn't. And once he decided to try and tough it out, then he owed it to people to stick around until the next election. If he decided to not run again, fine, no one would have blamed him. But this stepping down and forcing a by-election is foolishness. Suck it up and tough it out the last few months, for the love of God.

If the Auditor General is right, Byrne might have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now we can apparently add another $75,000 of wastage to the bill.

2. Loyola Sullivan. Perhaps the worst of the bunch. He steps down in December and then lands a cushy, and of dubious use, federal government job a few weeks later. He's widely rumoured to have been at odds with the premier of financial matters.

Again, if Sullivan didn't want to be Finance Minister anymore and had had it up to here with Williams, I understand. But you do what Paul Shelley did. "I'm done. I'm not running again, so I'm going to resign as a Minister, and take my seat in the backbenches." If Sullivan had done that, I would understand. But instead, the man who was famous for histhrift is going to waste $75,000 on a by-election because he couldn't stomach being around the premier anymore.

By the way, to Byrne and Sullivan I add this – no one has been screwed more by Williams than Elizabeth Marshall, who is probably smarter than half the cabinet combined. And yet, there she sits in the backbenches, doing her job. You might learn a thing or two from her.

3. Jim Hodder. Is about the only one of the bunch I'm inclined to cut some slack. He's citing health reasons. And if they're true, then that's an acceptable reason to step down. Nobody expects you to die trying to do this job. From the way he phrased, however, it does sound like he could have held on until October. He stepped down now to take advantage of the Byrne/Sullivan resignations.

4. Kathy Goudie. I enjoyed how several months ago some people in the province, and Avril Baker jumps immediately to mind, saying Goudie was getting an unfair shake over the story on how she left the province to maintain her professional nursing standing. Men had done it for ages and no one said anything to them. It was a double standard. It was a clear sign of sexism.

Good God, no. It's a clear sign that Goudie is a horrifically bad politician. Look, when the reporter was hunting this story, all she had to say was this: "Yes, I did go outside the province and nurse for a couple of weeks. I'm required to do this in order to maintain my professional standing. I've spent a lot of years of my life as nurse, it means a lot to me and I might want to return to the profession at some point in my life. It's also worth noting that many other politicians, especially in the law field, do similar things to maintain their professional standing.

"I opted to go outside the province because I felt it would be a conflict of interest to have a sitting MHA also practice nursing in a hospital. I was offered a temporary position in the North, which I did for three weeks. This allowed me to keep my professional standing, and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to do this."

If there were questions regarding salary, just say that any salary as an MHA would be deferred during that time and that you used your vacation time to go be a nurse.

That's it. She says that and there is no fucking story. The reporter might have even spiked it. She made it so much worse with her response. And then to dig the grave even deeper there was the double billing incident, including submitting bills for things before she was ever elected.

I've heard rumours that Williams might have told her to go before she managed to accidentally burn down Confederation Building. Still, she was in the backbenches. Tough it out for the next few months and then opt to not run again rather than cause this useless by-election. And if Williams forced her out, well, he ought to know better.

5. Randy Collins. Yes, yes. His union won't give him anymore time off and he has to make a choice. And yes, he knows it sounds awfully convenient, but he doesn't care what you think. So away he goes. And you know what, I don't believe him. I think it's a lifeline thrown by his union. And he could have certainly toughed it out until October. But no, he's going to bail...sometime. Just add another $75,000 to the tab, will you? Thanks.

So there you go, out of the five of them, maybe one of them has a good excuse for leaving now. I desperately wish there was a rule in place to at least partially bill either the party or the candidate for the cost of a by-election when it's caused by a non-medical emergency.

And that's my rant.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Night Links

I'm doing the lazy Saturday thing, hence the not posting earlier. And really, this isn't much of a post now, just a few links to keep you amused.

1. God love Vicky, for posting up this link to the National Research Council's Sunrise/Sunset Calculator. It's a pretty nifty way to find out not just when the sun rises and sets, but also how much daylight we're getting.

So for January 28, we will get 8.72 hours of daylight, by the time you take in civil daylight hours. Not great, but certainly better than a month ago. I can already feel the difference. Pity you can only do it from certain locations. I bet other people in Nunavut would find this useful.

2. This has been making the rounds for a bit, but I'm only getting around to posting it now. It's tremendous fun for geeks, especially those of the Star Wars variety. This is basically a reworking of what Star Wars IV means in light of the events of the prequel. And according to this guy, R2D2 and Chewbacca are the secret leaders of the rebellion.

Feel free to be horrified that someone took the time to work this out or at how often you'll nod your head in agreement at what he's writing.

3. Free Comic Book day is still more than three months away, but they've already announced what's available. I'm a big supporter of this day. Take a look at the list, especially if you have kids. There are several really good books for kids there. In St. John's both Downtown Comics and Timemasters participate.

Oh, and do me a favour, if you go and grab some of these books, don't just bring your kid in, grab some free comics and leave. I've seen some parents do this, with a look of barely tolerated patience at having to be in a comic book store. Let the kids take a look around. And remember, just because the comics are free doesn't mean the store owner didn't have to pay for bringing them in.

I highly recommend Amelia Rules, which I discovered myself at a Free Comic Book day several years ago.

Also, I have no idea if the comic will be any good, but "Last Blood" certainly caught my eye. Clever enough idea. Here's the blurb: "After zombies take over the Earth, vampires must protect the last surviving humans so they can live off their blood. This ongoing horror series begins with a thrill-packed free first issue virtually guaranteed to hook you on the zombie vs. vampire action of Last Blood. Good to the last drop!"

I admit, I wouldn't mind reading that issue, just to see if it's as fun as what it should be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Guitar hero...

So one of the toys we got for Christmas was Guitar Hero. I resisted buying much more in the way of PS2 games because I figure the price on those games is going to go down quite a bit this year. And really, I don't need a PS3 or an Xbox. I've never been much of a gamer. Give me a copy of Civilizations and I'm a happy camper. I don't need much more.

But I played Guitar Hero while in San Francisco and discovered that I liked it quite a bit. And more importantly, Cathy liked it as well. So we put it on the Christmas wish list, got it from my mother who also got the extra guitar so myself and Cathy can play against one another.

Despite a few early hiccups (i.e. I learned how to play it faster and got grumpy looks from Cathy along with the suggestion that it might be in my vested interest to throw the occasional game) we both enjoy playing for an hour or so every couple of days.

There are, however, drawbacks. Such as if you play "Iron Man" by Ozzy or "You got another thing coming" by Judas Priest enough you start thinking dark and evil thoughts. Such as "You know, maybe I ought to go and download some Ozzy and Priest."

Dark and evil thoughts indeed. I had sudden flashbacks to my nightmare metal summer of 1984. Pretty much everyone goes through a metal phase in their teens (watch the deniers come out of the woodwork now, but most of you, especially if you grew up in the 80s, had your moment of infamy), but I thought I was through it with minimum damage. Some don't, you understand. They become country music fans. It's tragic.

But as it turns out you can have flashbacks and rock out a little too hard playing the song. "You enjoy playing that song waaaayyy too much," Cathy said after playing "You got another thing coming."

Eventually we'll get Guitar Hero 2. There's talk of a Guitar Hero: 80s edition, which would be bad.

The other problem with Guitar Hero is that it is physically hurting me. Admittedly I'm not in great shape right now. However, I am curling two nights a week and going to the gym three nights a week. And I get the bonus of walking back and forth to work in -40 temperatures this week thanks to the car. And yeah, I can sometimes get a bit sore.

But I had to stop playing Guitar Hero the other night after three songs because my shoulder was killing me. There's just something very wrong about that.

You know, there was a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers who came down with a mysterious injury just before the World Series. The Tigers are a young team, but still, you dream your whole life of getting into the World Series. You figure it's got to be something pretty serious to keep you out because you never know if you're going to get another shot.

The story came out a few weeks ago. Turns out he hurt his shoulder playing too much Guitar Hero with his buddies. I laughed when the story came out and thought "What a shmuck." Now, I admit, I have a touch more sympathy.

Only a touch thought. Because let's face it, me hurting my shoulder from playing too much of a video game is no big deal. I don't think I'll be going on Worker's Comp or anything. But playing too much of a video game and hurting yourself before the biggest game in your life...yeah, that's still pretty dumb.

So I guess I'm going to have to work on my upper body a bit more at the gym if I want to keep playing my video game. And there's something very wrong about that. Almost as much as enjoying a Judas Priest song quite that much.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Near miss

I'm only now beginning to realize exactly how lucky we are right now. For all the lamenting and cursing on stuff like the dog and the car, we caught a major break last night. The kind you tend to take for granted until you really think about it.

We woke up this morning to find out that The Snack burned down. The Snack is famed throughout Iqaluit, and probably a fair bit of Nunavut, for being the take-out restaurant. It's also your only hope if you want a half decent poutine. Myself and Cathy were also quite fond of their club sandwiches. The Snack also had a reputation many years ago where you could get food with your drug order. Depending on who you want to believe in town, that may or may not be the case anymore. Well, up until last night.

Anyway, up she went last night in what is tentatively being called a fat fire that got out of control.

Here is a picture of The Snack from just before Christmas. It was taken out the window of the lobby on the second floor of our apartment building.

And here's what it looks like as of this morning.

It actually looks worse than that now. All the water used to hose down the building has frozen and collapsed the rest of the building. It's basically just a pile of rubble now.

The thing of it is, we didn't know anything was going on until we heard it on the radio this morning before we left. Our apartment faces away from The Snack, so we didn't see or hear anything. Well, not completely true. We heard a siren go off for a few minutes around 1:30 a.m. However, there was snow clearing going on in town last night and we thought perhaps the siren was involved with that for some reason.

It was 1:30 and we were tired. It's fuzzy logic so give us a break. Oh, that siren? Turns out one of my co-workers is a volunteer firefighter. The siren was telling the firefighters inside the building to get out because the roof was collapsing. They all got out, barely. No one was hurt in the fire.

No, the big break for us last night was that it was calm. There have been precious few of those days and nights in the past three weeks. The wind has been up, which accounts for the windchill being what it's been. And there is a blizzard in the forecast for this evening and tomorrow. So last night having no wind was a small miracle.

Because across the street were houses and given their current state, I suspect it wouldn't have taken much for them to go up. To the right of the Snack (if you were facing it) are a small furniture store and a convenience store. Behind it is Arctic Ventures, one of the big stores in town. And to the left is our apartment building.

So really, a strong easterly wind last night and I might be writing a different blog entry today. I'm still debating what might have happened if the car had been in its usual spot. You can tell from the first picture that it would have been parked awfully close to the building. I didn't notice any damage to the railing where we normally plug it in, but who knows. If the car had been there, maybe something would have happened. Again, I'll let others debate if that would be a good thing or not.

We have tenants insurance for up to $30,000, which sounds like lots until you start to look around and realize how much stuff we have crammed in here. Clothes, food, books, electronics...I wonder if $30,000 would cover it all? That's not bragging, by the way. Just the simple realization that you take so much stuff for granted that you don't think of how much it would cost to replace it if you had to, especially everything all at once.

So bad karma on the dog and car; good karma on the wind last night. It all tends to balance out in the end.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Well, fuck

(Warning: Contains Language)

So the garage finally got back to calling me today about the car. I put it in last Friday and they only got back to me this morning. I should be grumpy, but between a weekend, a blizzard and the fact that the place looked very busy when I dropped the car off, I shouldn't complain too much.

Anyway, they got back to me this morning. "Yeah, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you're going to need a transmission."


"I'm assuming you don't want a new transmission because honestly it's probably going to cost more than what the car is worth."

Oh Christ.

"So we're going to get a used one if that's all right with you. Should be around $1,500."

Shit. Fuck. Goddamn mother fucking cock-sucking son of a bitch. Fuck!

That wasn't the end of it, by the way. That was just the cost of a used transmission. It didn't include little things like shipping to get it up here ($400) and labour (six hours at $110 an hour). Oh, and taxes.

So by the time we throw in an oil change and possibly get new wiper blade motors, let's say $3,000. It's a 2001 Hyundai Accent so I'll let you figure out if the transmission is worth more than the car.

Ironically enough, $3,000 is about what a nice all-inclusive vacation to St. Lucia would have cost. See, I said the mechanic was going to get a good vacation out of this.

Out of curiosity I asked my boss today if she thought anyone would have a problem with me putting the car out in the middle of Frobisher Bay and selling tickets on the day and time it would go through the ice in the Spring. "Yeah," she said after a moment's thought, "might have to fire you if you did that."

So that option is right out. Pity. If I could get half the action on that as the average bingo game does around here we would have made enough money to buy a half decent new vehicle.

Sigh. We should have it back by early next week. With some luck I might have stopped cursing by then.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Correctional measures

So we're debating a mildly controversial decision here at the Chateau. We were woke up at 5:40 this morning by Boo informing us that the dog in the apartment across the hall was awake and making noise. He did this with an explosion of barking that they surely must have heard half way across Iqaluit. I'm surprised Cathy didn't have to pry me off the ceiling.

Boo refused to settle for the next couple of hours, continuing to bark and trying to squirm away from us so he could go to the door to the apartment and bark some more. Fortunately we both had the morning off because of the blizzard, but there is no guarantee that we won't get a repeat performance tomorrow morning. This has been going on pretty much every morning for a week now. And yes, I appreciate those of you reading this blog who are parents and who get up with small children might not have a lot of sympathy. However, that is one of many reasons why we don't have children right now. We like sleeping. Quite fond of it. And when it gets disrupted, we become unhappy.

Boo has actually been barking a lot more since he came back from St. John's. It's a bad habit he picked up. And regardless of what the other dog does, we have to discourage him from doing it otherwise our neighbours are going to rightly start complaining about us. So far, we're not having much luck. Shaking a can with pennies didn't work. Telling him to be quiet in a forceful, but quiet voice didn't work. Picking him up and asserting our dominance over him hasn't worked. We're running out of ideas.

That's why we're debating getting a correctional collar.

Yes, I know, not exactly a popular decision among many, I suspect. But we're still in the early stages of doing research. As best I can figure there are three types. One that squirts the dog if he barks, sometimes with water, sometimes with a scent that the dog will not like. One emits a frequency only the dog can hear that will annoy him every time he barks. And, of course, one that will give the dog a little shock every time he barks.

If we go down the route, odds are we'll go down with the one that emits the frequency. The scented one strikes me as a bit risky in that we've tried spraying stuff that Boo likes to chew on and it hasn't deterred him, plus Cathy could be allergic to the smell. And the electric shock is a bit to cruel for my liking.

We haven't exhausted the possibility that we can get him to stop barking quite so much and perhaps Boo will stop freaking out every time he hears a noise out in the corridor or from the other dog. If he does, great. If not, well, we'll probably give him another week or so and then seriously look at ordering a collar. He wouldn't wear it all the time, but he would when we're sleeping.

Because really, this whole being awoken at 6 a.m. by a sonic explosion disguised as a small dog is getting really tired, real fast.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Weigh in: Week 2

So let's see, this week's weight is 236 pounds, down from 238. Not bad considering the week I had. Along with a birthday food splurge there was the issue of getting to the gym as much as I would like. We're still having car problems which makes getting to the gym difficult. Yes, we could walk there. However, it is easily a 25 minute walk. I walked to work this morning (the cab failed to show) and home this afternoon when placed closed early because of a blizzard. Try doing that in a ton of snow gear. Not quite the same as a gym workout, but not bad all the same.

I know other people walk long distances outside in other parts of the north. I know Cathy did it regularly when she lived in Rankin with temperatures as cold as -70. But walking to the gym when the temperatures at in the high -40s and then going and working out for an hour, then walking home when you're a bit sweaty in the same temperature, well, that's not my idea of a good time. Or a particularly smart thing.

So we haven't gone as much. Hopefully the car will be taken care of soon and we'll get back into our routine.

Ah yes, the car. Put it on Friday and we still don't know what's wrong. That's because they haven't gotten around to looking at it yet. "We're awfully swamped." Which I understand, but if it's that bad maybe you could have let me know first to see if one of the other garages could fit me in.

Because of the uncertainty with the transmission we've decided to forgo the Caribbean vacation. Odds are we're about to hand our mechanic enough money to take his wife on a nice Caribbean vacation though. Yes, it could just need some fluid and it will work out fine. But I doubt if we'll be that lucky. The karma on the car has been a bit shaky the last six months.

While we're not going to a nice beach we did decide to book tickets to Ottawa. So we'll be spending a fun-filled, action-packed week in our nation's capital. Ottawa in April may well suck, but I suspect there will still be more warmth than up here. Oh, and Mireille, we'll have to try and make arrangements to have lunch or something while we're there.

That's assuming the car doesn't blow up or something first...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Waste of a day

People thing when you live in the Arctic you must get all kinds of days off for bad weather. Raging blizzards, wind chill warnings and whatnot.

The fact is that so far this winter we haven't had one day off for weather related issues. Yes, it got down to -52 or so a few times the last week, but that's not cold enough to make things close. And we haven't had one blizzard yet.

Well, until right now. As I speak I'm looking out the window and I can sort of see the Nortwestel building, which is about 200 feet away. And it's cleared up a bit. Last night I couldn't see that far, but I could certainly feel the building move.

Remember all housing in the north is built on stilts to compensate for permafrost shifting. It means it's more susceptible to moving in high winds, which can make it slightly disconcerting.

The forecast says the blizzard is supposed to last until at least tomorrow. Which I hope so. Not so much because I want a day off work, which would certainly be nice, but because I have an unhappy Cathy who views the blizzard as the waste of a perfectly good snow day.

On the off-chance there are any kids reading this, take some heart in this statement - as much as you might want a snow day so you don't have to go to school, odds are your teacher wants it more.

I can remember Cathy calling me when she was working in Rankin and I was still in St. John's when she was in the middle of a five day blizzard. She would be slowly losing her mind because she was bored with nothing to do. And she used to get blizzards all the time there. In Iqaluit we hardly ever get snow days. We got maybe four and two of them were lame over-reactions.

In terms of weather, Iqaluit really does have some of the best in the north. It doesn't get as cold as some of the other communities, the winds aren't as bad and we don't get as much snow. Even with this blizzard, I doubt more than 5 cm fell. Although, if I recall, Environment Canada says we lead the country in some of the worst weather categories. I guess it's all in perspective.

So Cathy is hoping for a snow day. Actually, she wouldn't mind another one of those five day blizzards. When I pointed out they used to drive her nearly mad she replied "Yes, but I now have the doggie and you to pick on." So I'm kind of hoping it clears up before then. If you don't hear from me over the next few days I suspect one of us may be dead.

(Note: I had just finished typing this and checked the forecast again. They cancelled the blizzard prediction tomorrow. EC tends to be more wrong that right with their forecasts up here. I now have a fairly unhappy wife who wants to smack EC for lying to her about getting a snow day. I'm just relieved it's not a five day blizzard that would result in one of us dead.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Morning links

A few links for your Friday...

1. I was having some problem figuring out how much I was going to end up paying in extras by ordering from a photography company. Then I found this site which explained things to me. Basically, I should pay no duty because there is none on photo equipment. It also gives good advice on what kind of shipping you should use.

It becomes very apparent that using basic UPS or USPS will get you burned pretty badly and end up costing you more money because of brokerage fees.

2. Cancer rates in the U.S. are continuing to decline rapidly. Strong anti-smoking campaigns over the past couple of decades are being given the credit.

3. Just in case you're wondering how much dope goes for in Iqaluit, Voila. Judging by the writing skills of the person involved, I suspect that he might be a regular user.

4. I originally got this from Warren Ellis site, where he was concerned about "zombie babies." But it does sound a touch creepy.

Here's the story. Doctor's feel they are getting close to a womb transplant. Basically taking the womb from a recently deceased woman and transplanting into a woman who wants to have children, but is unable for whatever reason. Theoretically no different than getting a heart transplant.

Except that it sounds really creepy. A live baby being born from the womb of a dead woman. I realize it should be no different than any other transplant, but man, there's something just weird about this. Not even getting into what would happen if the body started to reject the womb if she were pregnant.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The (birth)day that was...

I actually meant to post something mentioning that yesterday was my 37th birthday, but the day just got away from me. We went out for supper at the Frobisher Inn. I had the pork tenderloin in a mushroom cream sauce and Cathy had a steak. We skipped dessert because I had a birthday cheesecake waiting for me. You can actually get really good New York style cheesecake in Iqaluit. It’s at Baffin Cannery, which is a bit hidden, but worth the effort to find if you’re in town. They always managed to bring in a few interesting things.

So yeah, the birthday...not so much good at the diet. But it’s my birthday and by God if there is a day of the year I’m allowed to splurge a little, then that would be it.

But it was a good day. Cathy tends to fret these things a lot more than I do. Birthdays are a big deal for her, whereas they tend to be just another day for me. I appreciate that people who have birthdays around Christmas tend to get the short end of the stick, but having one in mid-January is not much better. People are tired after Christmas and don’t want to go shopping, have no idea what to get you and, odds are, have just received the Visa bill and are quietly moaning in a corner somewhere.

Still, Cathy worried for no reason. I woke up next to my lovely wife, who managed to surprise the hell out of me by buying me the camera that I had been eyeing for several months. It’s a lovely beastie. Here’s a pic.

It’s just the body right now. I just ordered the lens, memory card and bag so hopefully that will arrive next week. So that’s a use for some of the birthday money I got right there. And yes, it would be nice to be able to play with the camera right away, but I’ll use the time until the equipment gets here reading the 250 page instruction booklet.

The rest of the day went fine. Work was good. Supper was lovely and I spent a portion of the evening on the phone with my mom and dad and friends.

The world didn’t end and all that happened was that a got another day older. Granted, Dups dropped me a lovely line wishing me a happy 40th birthday. I told that to my mom, who was upset Dups felt that she looked old enough to have a son who was 40, so that’s something he’ll have to explain to her when he goes home in August.

So, to sum up:
1. Still healthy – check
2. Still have loving wife – check
3. Got great gift – check
4. Had lovely supper – check
5. Job still going well - check
6. Phone calls from friends and family - check
7. Life in generally, pretty good – check
8. Got Dups in trouble – bonus

I’d say 2007, and my 37th year, are off to a pretty good start.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A wee bit nippy

So it's been cold the last few days in Iqaluit. Temperatures hovering around -30 with the windchill down around -50. Today it's -44 with windchill and tomorrow it will get up to a balmy -39. There are consequences to this, of course. Boo hasn't been out of the apartment in days. Even with his coat we feel that the temperature is too cold for him. This means he's going slightly insane. The fact that a new couple have moved onto our floor with a new puppy - a husky who is not happy about being left alone - means he's going binky and being more vocal than normal. We're thinking about taking him into Cathy's school to let him run around a bit. We tried once before and he didn't seem that interested, but maybe this time it will be different.

Another wonder of the cold is that the car is apparently getting cranky. As best we can figure, the transmission has partially frozen. We can start the car and it will go in first gear, but that's it. It won't go much faster than 20 km/h and it also won't go in reverse. The later isn't a problem at home, believe it or not, but it is at work. Basically I have to put the car in neutral, push it out into the middle of the parking lot, put it in drive and then go.

We're hoping that warmer temperatures will thaw things out and the car will go back to normal. I really, really do not want to have to take it to the garage and say "I have a problem with the transmission." Short of "I have a problem with the engine." few things make mechanics drool more. And it's always uncomfortable having to wipe up drool while at a garage.

The car has been mostly good to us. The problems we've had haven't been its fault. So I really hope that streak continues.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

From above

I noticed the other day that Darcy had a few of Arctic Bay using Google Maps and I figured, what the hell, if they have Arctic Bay, surely they have something using Iqaluit.

And lo and behold, they do.

Now, I have no idea how Darcy was able to cut and paste the map onto his blog. Messing around with this for about 30 minutes succeeded only in thoroughly frustrating me. That includes looking at Google Maps API documentation, but that is currently frying my brain trying to figure it out. If you can explain that to me in simple language, I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, the image linked to is a very tight shot of Iqaluit. Towards the centre of the map you should see three buildings with redish rooftops. The one on the upper left is out apartment building. The underneath is the famous Snack. And the one to the right is Arctic Ventures.

Towards the top left there's a large building with a red roof and a baseball diamond in front of it. That would be Cathy's school. Across the street from that is Northmart.

You can zoom out and see a bit more of the city if you wish.

Not certain when this was taken. I think probably last summer as I noticed that some of the construction that's been happening around town is barely started in these images. Also, you may notice that while our building is relatively near the bay, there is no water near by. That's because this was taken at low tide and there is about a 10 metre difference between high and low tide.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Weigh-in: Week 1

So we have our first weigh-in which, just for the record, is pretty well meaningless. Previous to this evening the last time I stepped on a scale would have been Christmas Day shortly after eating a massive turkey dinner. So three weeks later I've stepped on a scale again. The real test will be to see how I'm doing next week. To see if I keep up with the gym and with the new food regime.

Having said that I stepped on the scale this evening and got my weight - 238 pounds. So down eight pounds. Which is certainly better than still being at 246 pounds.

Next week's goal - 237 pounds. Like I said, one pound at a time, one week at a time.

Now if you will excuse me, I must now make a sacrifice of thanks to the small alter we've created in the fridge to Karin, our patron goddess of weight loss.

Mostly con

I'm beginning to reappraise this whole "Internet as a valuable research tool" thing.

Oh yes, I know there is tons of information out there. And it's great and wonderful stuff. But it's also been slowly driving me mad as I research a few things.

I've always been like this. Before I go ahead and spend my precious money, I tend to research any major expenditure within an inch of its life. I recall doing this back in the late 80s when I had some birthday money to spend and decided to get a new ghetto blaster. I spent weeks going through consumer and electronic magazines (Internet was not readily available for the common folk back then) until I thought my girlfriend at the time was going to kill me if I didn't finally buy one.

It turns out it was a good choice. It still works and is currently sitting in my office at work. I use it primarily for the radio, but the at-the-time high tech CD player still works also.

So plenty of research is something I still do. I did it for my first new computer in 2000 (previously could only afford used ones), my car in '01, the iPod and my first digital camera. Lots of time and research went into it to make sure I wasn't buying junk and that I knew the pros and cons. And it's worked. There's been very few major purchases I've been disappointed with.

But there's something in the last couple of weeks that's making me go mad. Either I'm getting old or the Internet is getting weirder. Probably a little of column A and B.

It began researching the camera and equipment. Now, I half expected to run into crazy people because folks are pretty loyal to their camera to the point that anyone who doesn't use their brand is crazy and an idiot. Still, it was kind of mind-boggling trying to get through it all. And that was before I started researching stuff like lenses and flashes. I had a moment where I vented to a few friends that the Internet was filled with nothing but crazy people.

However, I do have the camera settled on - the Pentax K10D. Trying to figure out the lenses and what flash to get is still driving me mad, but I'll get there eventually.

But the one that got me to this ranting happened last night when I was checking out resorts to visit in the Caribbean. A fairly useful site for opinions is Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews, where people can post what they thought of the resort they stayed at.

Or at least I thought it was useful. I had a moment of epiphany last night when researching a resort in St. Maartin where one person who was bitching stated that "since St. Maartin is one of the richer countries in the Caribbean, I guess the staff didn't feel they had to work as hard for the money."

It was a moment where I suddenly hated all white people.

I don't know, we're supposed to see a travel agent tomorrow and I'm certain she will find us a perfectly nicely place to go. But I don't know, I always liked reading different opinions about items, just so I could figure out the pros and cons. But after all the sites I have in the past few months, all people seem to be interested in writing about are the cons. It's very frustrating.

Plus, I still thing white people suck right now after reading that review. Jesus...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Northern challenges

When we were home at Christmas I'm sure we must have bored a lot of people with our stories of living in Nunavut, but then again, people kept asking. Not many people get to this part of the world, so naturally they're curious. It just felt like we were saying the same things again and again. I'm sure we probably told some people the same story. So if we bored anyone when we were home, sorry about that.

However, we also got some people curious about moving up here to work, and they had a different set of questions.

I've discussed the challenges of living up this far north before, but it probably doesn't hurt to mention it again. Because Nunavut very clearly isn't for everybody. The sheer turnover rate in the population is proof of enough of that. And as much as we'd like to see more of our friends up here, of all the ones who asked, there was only one couple that I thought could probably handle it. And they might be moving here later this year with a little luck. I'd honestly feel bad if friends came up because we told them to and they hated it.

Still, for people thinking about coming here, please bear the following points in mind.

1. The cold. No kidding, it's cold up here. I appreciate people hear about climate change and the North warming, but this place is still far from being the tropics. And the hard cold lasts at least six months a year. Not everyone can handle it. The fact that people still show up here in February wearing leather jackets is proof enough that people tend to underestimate it.

2. The isolation. There is no driving in and out of Nunavut. And a cheap flight to anywhere down south (Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton) will set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on where you live. So there is no hopping out of here for a break when the isolation starts to drive you a bit buggy. Again, you've got to be able to handle being in a small community (Iqaluit is the largest at around 7,500) for months and months at a time.

3. Lack of amenities. There is no Wal-Mart. No MacDonald's. No Tim Hortons. No Chapters. If those are the kind of creature comforts you enjoy, then you're going to have to get used to not having them. There are coffee shops and other things, but that varies from place to place. But it's certainly nothing like what you would find in many places down south.

4. The expense. Yes, odds are you're going to make very good money. But if the thought of spending $4.50 for a 2L of coke or $10 for a honeydew fries your mind, then you might want to reconsider. Believe it or not, you get used to the prices. And there are ways to minimize expenses. But it's an expensive place to live.

5. Weird Daylight. People think the dark of winter is hard to deal with. And for some it is. But don't forget that during the summer you have all that daylight, which can make it hard to sleep. People are up doing things at 3 a.m., because really, how much of a difference is there in the amount of daylight at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m.? If you're sleep patters are easily messed with, think again.

6. It's the North. Really, things work differently up here. And it's a dozen little things that I don't think about anymore because you get used to it. It's the things that happen and it doesn't even phase us anymore. We just shrug and go "It's the North."

These are all things to consider. I'm not slagging the North. Nunavut has been good to us so far. We were struggling to make ends meet when we were in Newfoundland. Now we find ourselves financial comfortable for the first time in our adult lives. And we manage just find with most of the challenges I just mentioned because we're quite happy being on our own and doing our own thing. But if you come up just for the money and think you can handle all the other things I mentioned, you might just be surprised. Unpleasantly so.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Still running

One of those days where it was cold enough to actually make it difficult to drive around Iqaluit. The exhaust fumes from cars made huge plumes that could leave the streets look like they were covered in thick fog. So if you weren't careful going through intersection, well, a car could magically there as well.

Actually, plumes of exhaust were everywhere, not just on the roads. It was cold enough that people generally leave their car running if they're going into the post office of the store. It might seem like a real waste of gas, but cars really don't like -40. Leaving them unplugged at this temperate for even a short time is like begging to have the battery die or other unpleasant things to happen.

Drivers in Iqaluit are actually pretty polite and cautious. Well, except for taxi drivers. But that's pretty much a universal constant. And even here, the taxi drivers are some of the more courteous ones I've seen.

This obviously doesn't count snowmobile drivers, who operate under a set of laws known only to them and God. And they apparently have a pretty good relationship with God judging by the way they frequently drive.

The car is holding up remarkably well, all things considered. I mean, it's a Hyundai Accent. I never had a large opinion of Korean cars, probably because of the time I spent in the country. I saw this one car that was little more than a toaster with wheels and an engine. No way it could ever be sold in North America because there is no way it would pass any kind of safety inspection. Unfortunately, I saw one of those cars after it hit a transport truck. No kidding, you could have have the cars remains (and sadly the family of five that were inside) in a garbage can.

But that was 1996 and I guess Hyundai has come a ways. Even I admit the Accent is doing well. In fact, it's taken on this peculiar thing where I think it has adapted and prefers the cold. Right now it's running fine. Give it five or so minutes to warm up and it's good to go.

But once the temperature gets warm, the brakes start squeaking and she doesn't seem to run as smoothly. Weirdness.

Then again, I'm just happy she's lasting in the cold. I was worried we would bring it up here and it wouldn't last the first winter. She's well into her second and still going.

I guess Koreans do know how to make cars after all.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We need a beach

Well, Environment Canada says it's -47 with windchill right now and the next couple of days are not promising to get any balmier. So a plan has been hatched. We need to go some place warm. Next week would be ideal, but it's going to have to wait until Easter break. The thought of it will keep us warm until then.

We're meeting with a travel agent next week and will try to find somewhere to go and take advantage of the First Air/Canadian North "seat sale" to get to Ottawa. The seat sale, by the way, means it only costs about $1,250 per person return. And yes, we could just stay in Ottawa for the break. But really, Ottawa in April doesn't strike me as an appealing way to spend a week's vacation. Mireille will back me up on this.

Anyway, we're trying to figure out where to go. We have about a week, we want to go some place warm and with a beach. We don't want to go to Mexico because, you know, a few too many Canadians are dying there recently. Nor do we want to go to Cuba because we have a hunch that something bad is going to happen there and we really don't want to have to depend on the federal government to evacuate us just in case.

Yes, there is still the Dominican Republic, but we were there a couple of years ago and would like to go somewhere else. So if anyone out there has suggestions for countries or resorts, by all means let us know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Yeah, I got nothing this evening. It occurs to me that I haven't actually talked to much about Iqaluit since I got back here. Well, ummm, there's not too much happening. It is mid-January. It's is quite cold outside. The temperatures look like they're going to be dipping into the -30s the weekend, and that's before windchill. When it gets that cold, people tend to just want to stay inside.

Yes, I know there are colder parts of Nunavut. But if it gets colder than -40 with windchill, that's cold any way you cut it.

Anyway, the point being, not much going on. Work has been busy for me, but I can't really talk about it. Oh, and if you gave us Chapters gift cards for Christmas, they've been well used. The books arrived today. It's occurring to us that we are rapidly running out of bookshelf space. As we plan on staying here for several more years, I'm not really sure what we're going to do about this. I guess we can get rid of the couch and just start sitting on them or something.

Right, clearly rambling here. I got nothing. Hopefully tomorrow I can entertain you with some more interesting.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Townie: The T-Shirt

So while back home I popped into Living Planet to see if there were any t-shirts that I might want. Not that I need any more judging by how many I have. But I like their shirts and they inevitably get commented on whenever I go somewhere. I have the 'Free Nfld" shirt along with the "Joey" shirt. I keep contemplating the "I (club) baby seals" which I think would be a huge hit up here.

And really, when I saw this one, I had to buy it. It's completely me. Granted, few people in Iqaluit are going to get it, although I did get compliments on it while home.

I contemplated going and getting "Bastard" put somewhere on the shirt, but this will do for now. They also have "Bayman" and "Baygirl" shirts, although it's beyond me why you would want to buy one of those when you have the vastly superior "Townie" shirt for sale.

There's no "Da Pearl" shirt, which is clearly no surprise. The site hasn't been updated in awhile so the shirts aren't actually listed, but I'm sure if you contact them and want of the high quality Townie shirts, they'll send it to you.

You know, I guess I could get Townie Bastard t-shirts. With the image of the little guy smashing his head on the keyboard to go along with it. I just need a slogan. Hmmmm.....

Monday, January 08, 2007

In for a penny...

I haven’t mentioned New Year’s Resolutions yet. I don’t know why I bother with the damn things as they don’t work out 90 per cent of the time. Still, miracles can happen.

Anyway, I have hatched a plan to make one of them work. I think. Of course, it involves a bit of humiliation on my part, which ought to no doubt amuse my friends and inspire me to actually complete the challenge.

It dawns on me that 10 years ago at this time I was in South Korea. Now, the country has many wonderful qualities, but one of the more interesting ones I found was that it made me lose lots and lots of weight. No kidding, in my time in the country, which was about eight months, I lost 20 pounds.

I recall after being there about five months visiting my friends Chris and Lisa in another city and they were horrified at how gaunt I looked. I didn’t think I looked that bad, but apparently I was appalling. It was the result of months of not eating much because I lived in a smallish Korean town and trying to figure out food other than ramen noodles and rice was proving to be a challenge.

My weight at that time, and I remember because they made me get on a scale, was 177 pounds. Which I would hardly call gaunt, but it’s certainly low to what I am now. (The lowest I’ve weighed as an adult was 160 pounds, but that was the result of two months of not being able to eat much other than soup after an injury that required 13 stitches in my mouth, followed by strep throat, a vicious flu and a wisdom teeth scare. As a weight loss regime, I can’t really recommend it.)

What I am now is 246 pounds. I made the mistake of stepping on a scale at my mom’s house over Christmas.

This is clearly an unacceptable amount of weight to be carrying around. Twenty-five pounds ago my doctor was pissed off at how much I weighed. I imagine current circumstances would not make him any happier. But it’s things other than a potentially pissed off doctor. It’s noticing that most of my friends now appear to be in better shape than the last time I saw them. It was shopping for clothes and getting increasingly pissed off.

So that’s that. The weight has to go.

The problem actually isn’t over-eating or eating crap. Could we eat healthier? Absolutely. But we’re not eating really poorly. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Extra lean ground beef. A decent amount of fruits and vegetables. Very, very little take-out. And I’m sorry, I’m not giving up chocolate so we might as well not even get started on that one. I give up chocolate and I’m going to be eating prison food because eventually I will kill someone.

No, the real problem is inactivity. Which is perhaps easy to understand when it’s -40 or so outside. You oddly don’t see many joggers in Iqaluit in February. Come to think of it, considering how much joggers generally piss me off, it’s actually one of the perks of the place.

So no, steps are required. We’ve both done the cliché thing and joined the gym and resolved to go at least three times a week. Tonight was our first night and it's not a bad gym. A touch small, but not too crowded and it's not packed with steroid goons.

We’ll watch portions a bit more closely. And we’ve both set the realistic goal of trying to lose 50 pounds each by the end of 2007. That’s basically one pound per week. I think that’s entirely doable. I’ll be 196 pounds, still a touch heavier than I would like, but a damn bit better than what I am now. My mom managed to lose nearly 50 pounds in the past year and is keeping it off. And mom has been on her share of diets so whatever she is doing on this one it's working for her.

(As a side note, she’s actually at 46 pounds down. When she loses 50 pounds she’s getting her belly button pierced. I’m honestly torn if I want her to reach her goal of 50 pounds down if there is going to be piercing of my mom going on.)

So why mention this on the blog? Because I have the grand plan of every Monday putting up on the blog how much I currently weigh. I got the idea of the novel writing challenge in November. I figured there were two reasons I was able to reach 50,000 words. One was that I had people to compete with. And as Cathy has lamented, I am very competitive (we may end up killing each other playing Guitar Hero before the month ends). The other reason I hit my mark was that I put the writing online. I don’t know how many were reading it, but I know that when I missed a day, I would get a few people wondering where the next chapter was. Towards the end, when things began falling apart and I was running out of juice, there was real concern I might falter so close to the finish.

So that’s the plan here. By putting my weight online each week, I can monitor how I’m doing, compete with myself a bit and I know I have people out there who will keep me honest.

And with a bit of luck, at this point next year it will be a thinner me writing on this blog.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

End of an era

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but a big part of my New Year's tradition, and Cathy's in recent years, has been going to our friend Anne's. She's the mother of our friend Ted (soon to be married and with some luck living in Iqaluit with his lovely wife-to-be Sarah). We figured out that there's been a New Year's party at her house each your for the past 10 years. And there are certain traditions that go with this kind of party.

Yes, there is drinking and plenty of friends. But as this is a Scottish New Year's there are rules. For example, red heads are considered bad luck. So if they enter the house, they either must leave before midnight or, if they remain, can't leave until sunrise.

All the men, sans redheads, are kicked out a few minutes before midnight (I have lamented, loudly, that in recent years this exile has gone from a few minutes to close to 15 or more) where we are given Scotch to keep us warm. Then, at midnight Anne literally sweeps out the old year and then sweeps in the new. Then the men enter the house left food first and give Anne a gift (normally just a piece of wood or some bread for expediency sake). Then you go up into the house where all the women are waiting, ling the staircase to give you a kiss and a hug.

After watching the fireworks (normally a brief affair in St. John's) there is the toast, which involves more Scotch. It's to absent friends and loved ones, where you pass your Scotch over a wooden bowl containing salt water. Then you drink.

This is followed by normally a massive buffet including honest to God haggis that Anne makes. Normally the party goes on until 4 a.m. or so. Those who stay the night get breakfast the next morning, normally consisting of the rare delicacy of fried haggis in bacon fat. There have been no fatalities from that breakfast so far, but that's kind of a miracle.

My first New Year's would have been in 1998/99, I think, although it might have been a year earlier. I know I wasn't at the first one. Sadly, I was just at the last one.

After 10 years of these parties we just marked what will likely be the last one. Anne lives in a wonderful house on Bond Street. However, the place is huge and is in need of some repairs. With Ted moving away it means it will just be Anne in this fairly massive house. Which means she's made the hard choice to sell it this year.

I honestly wish I had the money to buy it. The thought of someone other than Anne or Ted owning that wonderful old house makes me a touch ill. But I understand why the house has to go. I just hope the new owner fills it with as much love as Anne and her family have over the years.

Granted, I don't know when or if we'll be home again at New Year's. We missed the one in 05/06. Still, I'm going to miss the knowledge that it was going on regardless. It's a nice tradition.

The final party was a small affair, much like the first one was apparently. There was probably no more than 20 people through the house the whole night. In previous years it wouldn't be unheard of for 100 or more to go through the place. So it was a nice night. We left around 2 a.m. A bit early for us, but Cathy was dying of a cold. You know you're in trouble when you go to a party and bring vodka, 7-Up and Buckleys.

Still, I'm glad we were there. I would have been sad to have missed the last New Year's at Anne's.

Now, we have to figure out a new tradition.

Friday, January 05, 2007

DVD fever

I mentioned previously that we resupplied when we were home. And yes, some of it was practical. We bought a ton of spices and herbs at Bulk Barn. We got a new Foreman grill because the last one died a sad death when it was dropped on the floor. We picked up some clothes and a few other things.

But really, we went batshit on the DVDs.

I mean, we got a nice few from parents for Christmas. That alone would have held up for a bit. But then we hit the Boxing Day sales and things went straight to hell. I thought Future Shop was going to be bad. And it was. But that's nothing compared to the carnage we inflicted on our Visa at HMV in the Mall. Even the cashiers were a little shocked.

However, we bought that many DVDs precisely for weekends like we're going to have coming up. Very cold when you would feel much better cozied up in the apartment watching a movie then out roaming around the community.

Keep in mind that most of it was on sale pretty cheap (some as little as $5). Although the really painful thing for me wasn't the money, but the method of which we transported them up north. Rather than carry all of those boxes, we took out the discs and put them in a carry case. However, we don't really have a place to store all those cases up here and we don't want to impose on our parents to store any more of our stuff than they already are.

So we threw them out. All except the Bond sets and the Superman case (which was made of metal for some reason). I understand the logic, but the collector inside me weeps when we do this sort of thing. Even for the junky movies.

For bonus points, try to guess which ones are my DVDs, which ones are Cathy's and which ones are a joint purchase.

The List
- The Complete James Bond (The box sets were on sale so it worked out to about $10 a movie. Which is a good deal as far as I'm concerned.)
* The West Wing - Seasons 5,6 and 7
* Gilmore Girls - Seasons 5 and 6
* Space: Above and Beyond (Complete Series)
* Justice League: Unlimited - Season 1
* The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Special 4-disc edition)
* Airplane
* A Fish Called Wanda
* Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
* The DaVinci Code
* The Little Mermaid
* Cars
* X-Men: The Last Stand
* Air Force One
* In The Line Of Fire
* The Perfect Storm
* Das Boat (Directors's Cut)
* A Cinderella Story
* Hitch
* Lethal Weapon
* Footloose
* Superman Returns
* U2's Zoo TV Tour
* Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Live in New York City
* The Road to El Dorado
* Spirit
* Trainspotting
* Apollo 13
* Madagascar
* Excalibur
* Clerks II

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Home for a rest

There was a moment on New Year's Eve when myself, Dups and Mike looked at each other over glasses of Scotch and came to the conclusion that we wouldn't being doing this again anytime soon.

No, not drinking Scotch or going out at New Years. No, it was coming back to Newfoundland at Christmas. It's just too God damn exhausting. We'd run the gauntlet at that point and were fried.

This was my first time running it. In previous years I was always the one back in St. John's watching others try to cram as much Newfoundland into their brief time home as they can. Even Cathy has done it a couple of times before. This was my first. I won't say never again, but it will be a while before I go home at Christmas again if I can help it at all.

It's just too much. I arrived on the Dec. 21 and hit the ground running. I had a dentist appointment along with a meeting with a financial adviser. I had to get Christmas gifts and try to see as many family and friends as possible in a short period of time. A task I had only marginal success with as there are several friends I didn't see, or see enough of. And hell, I didn't even see most of my side of the family other than my parents, my grandparents, a couple of aunts, one uncle and a smattering of cousins. To everyone I hoped to see when home and didn't, I really am sorry. Hopefully the trip home in August will be more sane.

Oh yes, we also had to resupply on some things we needed and dozens of other small things. By Boxing Day Cathy had one of the more severe allergic reactions I've seen her have in the five years we've been together followed by a cold she still hasn't managed to shake. Naturally, I've got it now as well. I currently sound like Tom Waits after a weekend bender.

It's not that we didn't enjoy our time home or getting to see people. It's just too much. It's too crazy with too many things happening at once. You should come home from a vacation feeling somewhat relaxed. Instead we staggered through the door on Tuesday, unpacked and collapsed on the couch. And, no kidding, we flipped on the TV and Spirit of the West's "Home For A Rest" was playing on one of the stations. We're still tired and plan on doing absolutely nothing this weekend other than watch some of of the many, many DVDs we bought.

Hell, even Boo seems tired. He's been much quieter the last few days. Then again, maybe cutting off his balls has something to do with that.

Cathy's always going to be home over the summer because she has those two months off. My vacation time is more limited. I suspect there's going to be more than one year when I don't make it home at all. But from now on I think I'm going to try come back when it's warmer, there isn't a thousand things happening at once and you can actually relax. So that pretty much rules out Christmas.

I'm pretty sure I enjoyed myself. I just wish I had found the time to actually appreciate it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Up in the air

Oddly enough, despite hanging out with a considerable number of exiles who returned for the holidays, I heard few complaints about airlines. Which, in and of itself, should be considered a Christmas miracle. You go to a pub and have a few drinks and inevitably someone is going to complain, especially about Air Canada.

Yet, I heard little. Perhaps they all flew WestJet.

This holiday season Cathy flew three airlines while I managed to hit four. So from best to worst, here's how we rank our travel on the airlines.

1. WestJet – It was my first time flying with them and I liked them for the little things that I suspect regular fliers of the airline like them for. The satellite TV, the fact that flights left on time and tended to arrive a bit early (I got into St. John's 20 minutes early) and the very friendly stewardesses. However, they also went above and beyond for the two of us, especially Cathy.

My flight into Ottawa was delayed (more on that later), so I literally arrived 10 minutes before my flight to Toronto was departing. Complicating matters is that my luggage couldn't be forwarded on to WestJet, meaning I was supposed to get my luggage, check back in, clear security and then run to the gate in 10 minutes. Clearly this wasn't going to happen. Instead, they let me check in at the gate. My luggage was picked up at the carousel (admittedly by a First Air rep) and arrived in St. John's 12 hours later. I was given a $100 credit to use next time I book a ticket with airline because of the delays with my luggage, even though it wasn't their fault.

Cathy had deeper troubles. Boo decided part way through the Toronto to St. John's flight he had enough of the carry bag he was traveling in (because of delays, Cathy was unable to get him out of the bag for a break for many hours) and promptly shredded it. WestJet was very understanding (so were the other passengers) and let Cathy keep the dog on her lap for the rest of the trip.

Sadly, the same thing happened coming back. Despite being tranked and the purchase of a much more expensive, and theoretically sturdy, travel bag, Boo still shredded it. Again, they let Cathy keep him on her lap until she reached Toronto. Once there, they had a hard carrier waiting and made an exception to their no pets in the baggage hold for the short haul to Ottawa. Cathy was very grateful for how nice they were during a very stressful situation.

The only negative for WestJet was they lost Cathy's luggage to St. John's and it took four days to arrive (Mitigated by the fact that Visa allowed Cathy to spend $500 to get close and toiletries to cover her until her bags arrived). Also, they forgot to tell her that the $100 credit was available (You can either get the baggage delivered to your house or take the credit. She had them delivered because she didn't know about the credit). But it's a minor point. They did a good job during a busy time of the year. Grade: A.

2. Air Canada – Honestly, Air Canada gets the second place because of lowered expectations. I expect to get crappy service in uncomfortable planes and for something horrific to happen that will screw up my travel.

Instead, the planes were new and comfortable. The St. John's – Toronto flight had touch screens so I could watch a variety of TV shows or movies. So I spent the three hours watching "The Illusionist" (very good) and the first half of "The Queen" (also, very good). The Toronto – Ottawa leg actually saw the plane arrive early, which was helpful as I had a short window to catch my flight to Iqaluit.

The only negative; they wouldn't let me check my bags through to Iqaluit, even though Canadian North is a partner with Air Canada for "security reasons." Still, I have to give Air Canada a shocking grade of A- .

3. First Air – The airline nearly finished last for the simple reason that both Cathy's flight and mine were late leaving Iqaluit. Cathy's was 20 minutes late going, meaning she had to scramble to catch her flight in Ottawa. Mine was 45 minutes late leaving, so I figured I was a dead duck in Ottawa. And with planes packed I had a very real scare that I might not get home for Christmas.

Instead, with about 10 minutes left in the flight, they moved me to the front of the plane, so I was the first one off. They had someone waiting for me at the gate, and ran me down to the WestJet gate. The guy also told me he would go and pick up my bags and get them checked in at WestJet. They wouldn't be on the plane I was catching, but they would arrive in St. John's on the next flight. Sure enough, my bags were waiting for me at the airport 12 hours later.

Oh, and First Air's plane was clean and they do a little thing like give you actual food during the flight. I choose the chicken over the Bison meatloaf. Grade B.

4. Canadian North – It's not that the flight was bad. It left on time and arrived early, which is normally all you want from an airline. Although the arriving early caused problems in Iqaluit. First Air's flight got in just ahead of ours, which meant chaos in the terminal as there were too many people there at once and the baggage carousel couldn't handle all of it at once.

No, it was a few little things. The fact that they wouldn't reserve a spot for Boo so Cathy didn't know until she got to the airport whether or not she could fly with the dog. That the plane felt a little more cramped and dingier. Oh, and both meals had egg in them, which meant Cathy couldn't eat them. But that's as much our fault. You can reserve a specific kind of meal when you book the ticket.

It's not that Canadian North was bad, just less above and beyond that we saw with the other airlines. Grade B.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And we're back...

So, we're back...

I'm sure there will be plenty to discuss over the next few days about airlines, Christmas at home, the joys of travelling with small puppies and whatnot. Oh, and New Year's resolutions. I have something I'm debating right now and we'll see if I'm going to do it in the next few days.

However, right now we're both exhausted as we didn't get much sleep last night (Cathy because of a cold, me because my flight left 5 a.m.) and we're also both feeling like crap. Oh, and we have to go to work tomorrow. Blah. Ah well, it's only a three day work week. Surely god we can tough it out the extra few days.

Oh, and thanks for all the kind Christmas messages, both on the blog and in e-mail. Things should get back to normal on the blog now. No more extended breaks until at least Easter...