Friday, August 31, 2007

Cleaning frenzy

Cathy has just started going back to school. No classes with kids yet, just the usual pre-school stuff that teachers have to go through each year. As you can imagine, it's filling her with unbelievable joy. Then again, she was starting to go a little crazy. The previous 10 days involved either boredom or completely gutting the apartment. So I think she's actually a touch happy to be back in school.

I’m did my small part in the gutting of the Chateau, but let us be honest, it was mostly Hurricane Cathy tearing through the place. After being away for the better part of seven weeks, she came back and declared that a purging of the place was necessary. For the record, I’m behaving like FEMA during Katrina – staying out of the way until the cries for help become too desperate, and angry, to ignore.

First up were the closets. We had new clothing from our recent adventures down south. Since we have limited space, things had to go. So about seven bags (admittedly small bags) of clothing were donated to a shelter. Two boxes full of magazines went out to the trash. Several boxes of food that we’ve horribly over-ordered on in previous sealifts have been donated to a food bank. I guess we really didn’t need quite that many cans of corn or that much instant soup.

Hell, even the DVDs have been organized into alphabetical order. I have created a database of what DVDs we have, since it’s getting confusing trying to remember them all. There was a moment when we looked at each other, after having spent the better part of an evening organizing and cataloging our more than 200 movies (we haven't gotten to the TV shows yet) and realized that this was the highlight of our evening.

I think we quietly wept for our total lack of life.

But the final piece was renting the steam cleaner.

I don’t get steam cleaners. Never have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an idiot. I understand what they’re for. I’ve just never understood why people, especially women, seem to love the damn things so much.

The steam cleaner seems to produce a two-pronged effect. The first is the obvious joy that the carpets are now clean. “See how much cleaner they are now that I’ve used the steam cleaner?”

I confess I have rarely, if ever, noticed a difference in the colour or cleanliness of the carpet unless they were truly disgusting in the first place. Sometimes I wonder if steam cleaners actually work or if the entire device is simply a machine that turns water brown and leaves the carpet damp for several hours.

The second reaction is a mixture of glee and revulsion over just how much filth the steam cleaner has sucked from the carpets. “Look at the colour of the water! It’s disgusting!” And never have you heard those words said with such happiness.

I can understand the joy of knowing that filth is no longer in the carpet. However, it’s also been tempered with me by the knowledge that for months, or possibly years, the place was that dirty to begin with. At what point is this knowledge a good thing? Does anybody else get a skin-crawling feeling when looking at that brown water? I like to think I’m a reasonably tidy person, but looking at the water from a steam cleaner makes me feel like I’ve been living a dirt bag for months.

Anyway, the apartment is now in spic and span shape. It is clean, organized and less cluttered than before. It won’t last, of course. But for right now, the little place is about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Now this is kind of evil.

For those not clicking through on the link, Bruce Springsteen has announced a fall tour with the E Street Band to support his new record Magic. And one of the two shows in Canada he's doing is in Ottawa on October 14.

There are only a handful of musical acts I would desperately like to see before either I die or they give performing. That would be U2, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. And not just Springsteen solo. No, I want to see him perform with the whole E Street Band. Which, of course, he's doing. And since he's not likely to pull a White Stripes and come to Iqaluit, this is as close as I'm going to get to see him perform.

So now comes the decision - do I fly down to Ottawa in October to see Springsteen play? It might seem obvious. If I've always wanted to see him play, then go to the show. However, there is the little matter of cost. Assuming I can get a ticket, let's figure they're going to be around $100 each. Then there's a hotel room, meals, and other costs. Which are all still fairly minor.

No, the real killer will be the plane ticket. Unless there's a seat sale between now and when tickets go on sale Sept. 17, a return ticket will cost $1,500. And even though I'm making good money these days, that's still enough to make me twitch. A weekend in Ottawa to see Springsteen will cost something in the area of more than $2,000.


Believe it or not, Cathy has said if i want to go, then I can. She won't be since she has no interest in seeing Springsteen play. The deal, and it's quite reasonable, is that's my solo trip out for the next year. I was debating going to Montreal for St. Patrick's day next year or going to New York for a Comicon in April. But if I do this trip, then those are out.

Decisions, decisions.

Of course, I'd be seeing Springsteen by myself, which will kind of suck. I might see if I can convince my father to fly up and see the show. Or perhaps OM might be interested in popping down from Petawawa for the evening and joining me.

We shall see. Damn, why couldn't Springsteen be playing in New York next April...

Lono's run

I won’t pretend I’m close friends with Simon Lono. In fact, until the 2005 municipal election I’m not sure I ever recall hearing of him before, although given his stints in Liberal governments I’m sure I must have. In all likelihood I probably cursed on him at some point.

But over the past few years I’ve gotten to know him a little bit. Both through his very well written blog and that he’s been over for supper in out apartment in Iqaluit. Simon does some work putting together the hansard for the territorial government up here. I found him to be nothing less than a nice, exceptionally intelligent man. And hell, he even watched the Brier final with me and put up with all of my cursing when Brad Gushue fucked up that shot in the 6th end (Still not over it, still pretty bitter).

So I’m happy to see he’s running for the Liberals in St. John’s North. People of high intelligence with a willingness to try and make positive change are always welcome into politics. So I wish him the best of luck in what is sure to be a completely insane six weeks until the provincial election happens in October.

You also have to admire the courage. Or the insanity. St. John’s is pretty Tory blue under the best of circumstances. With Williams polling at levels that makes you wonder if the water supply has been contaminated with some kind of mild altering drugs, running for the Liberals in St. John’s is a little akin to running face first into a wall. It takes some balls.

So with a city that tends to vote Tory, a Tory premier whose personal popularity is polling around 70 per cent or higher and a Liberal party that doesn’t appear to be able to find its ass with both hands, a mirror, GPS and Google Maps, what does Simon having going for him?

Well, his party might be in shambles, but he’s a good guy and good candidate. That does count for something. As proven by his municipal run several years ago, he’s good at running a campaign that draws attention and has little money for traditional advertising. Also, I don’t think Bob Ridgley is exactly a powerhouse incumbent. If I recall from the ’03 election, he wasn’t the first choice for the Tories to run in that seat. Given Simon’s debating skills, a debate between him and Ridgley would be vastly amusing, I suspect.

Do I have any advice? Well, I imagine he knows better, but if I recall there are a lot of Pentecostals in that district, and they vote (at least they certainly did for Lloyd Matthews), so try to be nice to them.

Also, a lot of post-secondary students live in that riding. Some of them are going to vote in their home district, but many will vote in St. John’s North. So educational issues will play a big role. I suspect Simon is already out ahead on that, having come out and opposed to making Grenfell into a separate university.

I wish him the best of luck. If this was simply candidate against candidate, then I think he would have an excellent chance. It is, however, party politics. Ridgley has wide, velvet coattails to ride on. Lono has a ball and chain. It’s going to be a hard fight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sneaking away

Jamie Weinman of Macleans catches something I noticed myself in this brief blog post. That US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales choose to resign from office on the Monday when both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert went on a two week vacation.

Now, initially when I heard this I was just going to go with the old theory that politicians try to bury announcements like this at quiet times of the year. It’s the week before a long weekend, so yeah, Gonzales will announce he’s quitting now in the hopes that most Americans are too busy trying to enjoy the last few days of summer and not pay much attention to the scandal.

This is nothing new. Politicians of all stripes do this. Announce things they aren’t happy with right around holiday weekends or after 5 pm on a Friday. Those sorts of things. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that this minimizes impact. The fact that it coincides with Stewart and Colbert going on vacation was just coincidence as they each have about 10 weeks of vacation a year and tend to go around major holidays.

But the more I think about it, the more I don’t know about this one. Or previous ones, for that matter. For shows on cable with viewership only around two million each, Stewart and Colbert have a devastating cultural impact. Yes, the Republicans are beating their own path to hell (or electoral oblivion), but obviously Stewart and Colbert are doing some damage as well. And they have hammered Gonzalez in recent months (the video clip of Gonzalez saying “I don’t know”, “I can’t say”, etc about 70 times in a minute at a Senate hearing was especially crippling). I’m trying to recall a political figure other than the president and vice-president take a beating like that in recent years and nothing comes to mind.

So I could see the administration honestly not wanting to give Stewart and Colbert the pleasure of a coup de grace. Not that it’s going to matter that much in the long run. It’s not like either man is going to come back from vacation on September 10 and say nothing about Gonzalez. They’re still going to take a final whack at him and just prolong this mess.

Then again, prolonging messes seems to be something the Bush administration has really specialized in these last six years.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back on the program

So you know you're in trouble when you get back from the gym and your arms are wobbling too much to type when you get home. It's been close to a month since I was last at the gym and apparently it doesn't take much for what little tone I had to vanish. I'm also up about 5 pounds to around 235. Not really much of a surprise. I ate lots and exercised little during the month of August. I was on vacation, so that kind of sloth and gluttony is allowed. But now it's time to get back at it.

There really is nothing like a bunch of vacation photos to show that, yeah, you haven't gotten as far as you might have thought when it comes to getting in shape and dropping some weight.

So, back at it at the gym, trying to cut back on the snacking and reduce the portions. I don't think losing the 50 pounds this year is doable, but I would still like to be closer to 200 than 250 at the end of this year.

And hey, with the fall coming up, you all know what that means. Curling! Aside from some more exercise that will help me get in better shape, it also means writing about a subject that I know many readers on the blog absolutely adore.

Well, there might be one somewhere that doesn't mind it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Two years

I think it was actually a couple of days ago, but we've now been in Iqaluit for two years. Cathy has been in the north longer, having spent a year in Rankin Inlet. But for me, it's been two years.

I think it's gone better than I could have expected. We came North with a five year plan and so far it's gone according to schedule. We're both employed with good jobs. We've been able to save money, go on a few nice vacations, buy some nice things for ourselves and managed to retain our sanity. That's not to say there haven't been problems along the way, but nothing that's made us want to leave or change our plans.

So far, so good. We'll see if we make it to 2010. And there's nothing to say we won't stay longer than that. Although 2009/10 should be interesting, between my current contract ending, plus the likely issues involving the elimination of government housing, well, it will be an interesting time.

The anniversary of our move up also saw one slight change. A friend of ours from St. John's moved up and arrived today. She's working at one of the local hotels. It'll be nice to have a little more company. She seems quite excited to have moved here. Hopefully she'll enjoy it as much as we have the past two years.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


And while we're on the subject of clothing...

When you’re a boy you only need one pair of shoes. Those shoes are sneakers. Ideally, they should be reasonably cheap ones. If they are white, they must immediately be made as filthy as possible because other boys will make fun of your new, white sneakers. They are a uni-purpose pair of shoes. Ideal for wearing to school, running around with friends or going to special events. Having more than one pair of shoes just seems plain silly.

Your mother will disagree with you on this. There will be arguments about shoes. About how you can’t wear them during the winter (disputable) or to weddings (why not?) and that you need to take care of them (whatever).

Eventually you get older and the sneakers rule falls by the wayside. But for much of my life I have operated on the three pairs of shoes rule – one pair of sneakers, one pair of black dress shoes and one pair of winter boots. That’s it. No more were needed. Why would you possibly need more than three pairs of shoes?

And yet I counted the shoes in my porch after returning from St. John’s. Bafflingly, I now own 11 pairs of shoes. Eleven! How did this happen? And why on earth do I need so many? I don't even care much about shoes.

So this is how they breakdown right now and their purpose in my life.

1. Brown Clark dress shoes. For days I wear outfits at work that go better with brown shoes.
2. Black Clark dress shoes. For days I wear outfits at work that go better with black shoes.
3. Black dress shoes. Snazzy dress shoes only to be worn on very formal occasions. Thus far, have not been worn very often. Most recent wedding took place outdoors on a farm, which is not the best place for these kind of shoes.
4. One pair of black Reebok sneakers. Previous used only for the gym. Now relegated to casual wear status because of…
5. Black New Balance sneakers, which apparently are better than the Reeboks for my workouts.
6. Brown Nike sneakers. Comfortable and completely shit-hauled. One day I will come home from work and they will have mysteriously disappeared. Cathy will feign ignorance and glance meaningfully at the dog, who will look cute and baffled, as always.
7. Brown Rockport sandals for walking around when it’s warm, but not to be worn on beaches or near water.
8. Black crocs, because Cathy is a devoted member of the Cult of Crocs and made me buy them. They are also to be used on beaches and near water, unlike the sandals.
9. Brown hikers, for going around the rocky terrain surrounding Iqaluit.
10. Rubbers, which I bought before coming here, since Cathy swore they were indispensable when she lived in Rankin Inlet. I have not yet worn them; however, I’m not allowed to throw them out, as one never knows about such things.
11. BFB – Big Fucking Boots needed to survive the winters up here. Rated for cold to -100C.

I understand the necessity of these shoes. However, I am freaked out to discover that I managed to acquire so many shoes. I'm even more freaked to discover that I apparently own as many shoes as my wife. It’s not like I planned this. It just kind of happened (although there was clearly an escalation in my shoe level once I started seeing Cathy. Hmmmmm....). Suddenly, I have shoes. It’s very odd. I’m really hoping that I’m at my limit. I can’t imagine needing more than 11 pairs. There was a time I only needed one pair of shoes.

(Then again, I'm not like my friend Jaap who collects limited edition sneakers, which I think he often doesn't wear. Even for a collector geek like me I have to admit is a touch odd.)

I used to mock the section in Esquire magazine where they talked about clothing and shoes. I still can’t comprehend dropping $600 on a pair, but I can hardly mock about the number of shoes you need to get by anymore, can I?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Suits me fine

So here’s yet another way in which men differ from women…

We booked a cruise when we were back in Newfoundland. Nine days out of For Lauderdale heading to the Southern Caribbean, with stops in places like St. Lucia, St. Marteen and St. Thomas. The boat we're travelling on? The Miracle. And we leave on Christmas Eve (which also doubles as Cathy's 30th birthday). So you might see a theme, albeit an inadvertent one.

While booking the cruise I discovered I need a suit jacket for supper. I’ve never done a cruise before, so the logic of having one when traveling in Caribbean waters escapes me, but fine. I need a jacket.

I don’t wear suits if I can help it. Yes, this explains why I might have been single for many years since women like men in nice suits with ties. I do not have a nice suit. I can’t, for the life of me, do an acceptable knot in a tie. I’ve long considered anything that restricts the flow of blood to the brain, especially in men, to not be a useful fashion device.

But anyway, I was told I needed this otherwise they might not feed me on the cruise. So Cathy and I go to Moore’s to buy a suit jacket, figuring I would get just the one, and probably something lightweight, like linen.

A nice saleslady comes over and it turns out remembers me from two years ago when I was there to rent a tuxedo for the wedding. This is a good sign, I thought. So she takes me over to see a selection of jackets. After rejecting a couple, I finally settle on a nice charcoal black one. I would have thought something with a lighter colour would have been more appropriate, but it feels light, I like the material and it looks good on me. Done, I think.

“Now, I think we have a pair of pants that would go nice with that...”

Whoa. Wait a second. Pants? I have pants. But Cathy is gently nudging me towards the change room with a couple of pairs of pants to try on.

I walk out of the change room, and Cathy and the sales woman are conferring over a table. On the table are three different dress shirts with an assortment of ties.

At this point I accept I’m doomed. The change room wasn't so much for me to try on pants as for the wife and the saleslady to conspire without my presence. Clearly, the idea of walking out of the store with anything less than a new formal wardrobe is a futile. I’m just along for the ride at this point.

So, to clarify, I went in for a suit jacket. What I walked out with was a jacket, three dress shirts, three ties and one pair of dress pants and two pairs of Dockers. Oh, and the suit and dress pants had to be altered.

I lamented this later to OM at a party as I believed this was suit overkill. I can’t even wear much of it to work as attire up here is very casual. Wearing a suit to work, especially in February, tends to arouse suspicion. People think you’re up to no good if you’re wearing something that impractical when the weather is that unpleasant.

OM was her usual sympathetic self.

“Oh, stop whining. You needed a new suit, you got a new suit.”

“But I didn’t need that much suit. I just need a jacket,” I said.

“Don’t be silly. You needed more than a jacket. You can’t just get a jacket,” she said.

“I didn’t know that.”

“Of course you didn’t know that. But Cathy did.”

I turned to Cathy. “You knew?”

“Well, yeah,” she said.

“And you didn’t feel like sharing that information with me?”

“I didn’t want to stress you out. It was just easier this way.”

Women are devious creatures. Their minds work in mysterious ways.

But now I have an outfit. Which, hopefully, I will wear one day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Asking the questions

In lieu of recent comments from certain media about the nature of bloggers critical of Danny Williams (ie. They all must be Liberals and work for communications firms therefore are biased and wrong) I’ve been waiting for someone to try that bullshit on me.

They haven’t, and there are any number of reasons for that. I don’t live in the province anymore. Nor is this a straight political blog. I would likely go mad if I only wrote about politics all the time.

But the most important thing is that I am no Liberal flunky. I have a long history of criticizing Liberal governments in Newfoundland. I raked poor Roger Grimes over the coals. I thought Brian Tobin was a slick tool. I danced the Dance of Malicious Glee when Beaton Tulk had his fall from grace.

Hell, I cut my journalistic teeth criticizing Clyde Wells. Which I highly recommend. Nothing quite sharpens you up so much as trying to question someone who is clearly not only more intelligent than you are, not only more intelligent than 98% of the population he is leading, but who also clearly knows he is.

This is the thing that drives me nuts in Newfoundland right now. And it’s not just the Hebron MOU (and MOUs are like pixie dust. You can scatter them everywhere and people think they’re cute and meaningful. But they can blow away awfully fast if the wind changes), but anything to do with Williams government. This howling reaction of outrage whenever you ask basic questions to the premier.

Are Ed and Simon, to give but two examples, diehard Liberals? Of course. To say otherwise is foolish. But to dismiss the points they make because they have a Liberal background is even more foolish. They are smart men with enough communications and policy wonk experience on them to choke a horse. They’re going to notice things that the average person, and the average journalist, might miss. To ignore what they have to say is silly. To question their desire to see Newfoundland thrive is idiotic. Their desire to see Newfoundland prosper is greater than their desire to see a Liberal government in power. Never doubt that.

People who dismiss Ed and Simon are missing a very basic, very simple point. It is your duty as a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador to question everything any government tells you. Not just the Williams government. It was our duty with Tobin and not nearly enough did it and the result was him scurrying away before people caught onto the mess he made. We treated the word of Smallwood as Holy Script and look where that got us. It’s also our duty with any future premiers.

There’s nothing wrong with asking hard questions and demanding answers. If your leader can answer a question to your satisfaction, great. But there are always other questions and you should never stop asking them.

That why I like Ed and Simon. They never stop asking questions. They never stop doubting. And when the answers aren’t forthcoming, they dig and try to find them. This is good because amidst all the glee over the Hebron MOU, there are a lot of questions to be answered. And hell, I might even be willing to give Williams the benefit of the doubt on confidentiality agreements and needing to get things locked up first so we can’t get into specific details if he had done this a year ago. But he didn’t. He made this announcement mere weeks before an election for which this is clearly going to be a main plank in his campaign.

Look, I don’t care what your political loyalties are. There is simply no way any leader can stand up and announce they have a deal that will fundamentally alter the province for a generation or more and give only the most vague details. And when people ask for more information go, “Nope, sorry I can’t tell you until well after you reelect me. But trust me, it’s great.”

Nope. No way. No chance in hell. There’s no human way you can let a politician get away with that. I don’t care if the guy has the recombinant genetic structure of Gandhi, Lincoln and Nelson Mandela. There is no way you can let him get away with that. It’s like putting a sign around your neck that says “I am a sucker. Abuse me.”

To reiterate a few points for those slow on the uptake: I sincerely hope the deal is as good as Williams is singing. And of the three party leaders in the province right now, Williams is by a large margin the most qualified to run the place. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be asking lots of questions and getting of answers in return.

And if Williams doesn’t answer them, then just keep asking again and again and again. If he doesn’t answer them, then you might ask why that is and keep it in mind when going to the polls. Because this is too important to not have answers. If you wait until after the election and then discover you don’t like the answers, well, too bad, eh? And you get what you deserve.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Newfoundland in August

August is a hard month to visit Newfoundland if you want to leave without feeling sad. I was home last Christmas and couldn’t wait to leave. The weather was terrible and I was exhausted with trying to catch up with so many people in such a short period of time. I was actually glad when we touched down at Iqaluit airport. Finally, myself and Cathy could get back to our apartment, our bed and our stuff.

This time it was different. I’m not going to go all melodramatic and say there is no better place on the planet than Newfoundland in August. Clearly there are. However, if you have a choice on when you can visit Newfoundland – meaning no weddings, meetings, funerals or whatever – then I honestly don’t know why you would pick a time other than August.

For the two weeks I was home, it rained twice (although one of those days was the outdoor wedding we went home for). The temperature was consistently around 20C or so, which is perfect for me. It was nice and green. The trees were in their full glory (and lacking the spanworm infestation of previous years.) And while we certainly were kept busy shopping for the resupply and hanging out with friends, it wasn’t the insane pace of Christmas. We took a day and went to Cathy’s favourite beach in Conception Bay. We spent a day lounging around her backyard. We ate at our favourite restaurants. We actually relaxed. It was a pretty good vacation.

Although part of that has to go to Cathy. Let us just say that I’m not the most organized person in the world. Cathy took it upon herself to make sure that key things were scheduled in – meeting with a travel agent, dentist appointment, financial advisor – along with making certain I got to see certain friends who might only have limited time available because of work or travel.

I used the line “Cathy is managing the fun for me” more than once. Really, it’s a wonder I haven’t been killed yet.

All of this did have one unanticipated side-effect. I had made my peace with leaving Newfoundland. I never particularly wanted to go, but now that I was gone, I was gone. Yes, I still had some family there to visit and a few friends (two fewer as of the end of this month), but that was it. I’d made my peace that the next time I’d live in Newfoundland, barring miracles, would likely be never.

However, I genuinely regretted leaving on Sunday. The beautiful weather, Newfoundland looking as pretty as it gets, having tons of friends around. It sucked getting on the plane and coming back here. I had to remind myself constantly that I was falling in love with an illusion. That in a few weeks the weather would turn back to Newfoundland standard. That in a few days, if not hours, most of the friends I saw back home would also be on planes and heading to different cities.

So yeah, I didn’t enjoy leaving, which caught me a bit by surprise. Then again, if we hadn’t had such a horrific summer up here, it might have been easier.

That also represents my last trip home for the foreseeable future. I may get home for a few days next summer on the way back from Italy. But considering Cathy wants to try and squeeze a few days in Cairo and I had friends trying to persuade me to spend a few days in England on the way back to hang out, I’m not sure that will be happening. Australia is in 2009. I only have so much vacation time. So that might be it for back home for awhile.

Of course, we shall see. Best laid of plans and all…

Monday, August 20, 2007


I'm just plain wiped out. I really don't think you're supposed to feel quite this tired at the end of your vacation. But here I am, ready to sleep for about a week and I have to go back to work tomorrow. Bah.

Several things account of the exhaustion. The stag on Thursday. The wedding on Saturday. And travelling on both Sunday and Monday. Even when we got back in town, there was no rest for the wicked. We had to unpack, buy some groceries and generally get straightened away.

I have plenty to blog about over the next few days - some shopping realizations, the wedding, being back in Iqaluit, a few observations about Newfoundland and some political commentary. And I'll get to all of it. But I think for this evening, the bed is calling me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Final days

Theoretically I should be out this evening. It's one of my last days in St. John's and I think a few of my friends are out and about. But as a sign of my impending old age, the stag Thursday night has worn me out and I've decided to take it easy to get rested for the onslaught in the next day or so. I got home around 3:30 in the morning, although not nearly as drunk as I would have thought. I consumed a measly three glasses of Scotch for the evening. Guess I just wasn't in the mood to get drunk.

The groom-to-be, however, was something just barely short of annihilated. I honestly lost track of the number of Strongbow he consumed, but surely God it had to be north of 20 pints from 4 pm to 3 am. It was an impressive feat, equalled by the fact that he was able to walk home with a ball and chain around his foot.

The police actually stopped at one point while escorting him home and asked what we were doing to the poor bastard. He seemed satisfied that we were all relatively harmless. A brief sighting of the groom-to-be today was reported with the description of "ghastly" being used. Hopefully he's in fit enough shape to get married tomorrow.

Then again, here's hoping things go all right tomorrow. It's an outdoor wedding and the forecast is pretty firmly locked into rain. So it should be interesting. Then again, there will be plenty of good friends milling around and I have a bottle of Glenmorganie Scotch that I'm curious to try out, so I imagine the day will be quite successful.

And then on Sunday, we begin the journey back to Iqaluit. But that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The DVD haul

Dear God.

We are never, ever, never allowed into a store that sells DVDs. Or at least for the duration of this trip. We popped into Wal-Mart yesterday to buy soap. Soap! And we walked out with more than a dozen DVDs. We might as well open a rental store in Iqaluit when we get home.

Here's the grand list of DVDs we've bought since I arrived in St. John's a scant 10 days ago.

The Muppet Show - Season 1, The Tick - Season 2, Bones - Season 1, The Green Mile, The Usual Suspects, True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Evil Dead II, Hellboy - Blood and Iron, Wallace and Gromit - Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Pretty Woman, Seven, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, St. Elmo's Fire, Stranger Than Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, High Fidelity, The Neverending Story 1+2, Bull Durham, The Godfather 1+2, The Hunt for Red October, Labyrinth, Center Stage, The Prince and Me, Annie, The Untouchables, The Last of the Mohicans, The Italian Job, Hamlet, 300, Field of Dreams, Mary Poppins, Babylon 5 - Crusade, Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales, Benson - Season 1, Bones - Season 1, Planet Earth

For bonus points, see if you can figure out which one of us bought which DVDs.

The scary thing is this isn't the complete run of DVDs we were looking for. There were at least three DVDs I was looking for that I couldn't find - Real Genius, Much Ado About Nothing and Rosencrantz and Gilderstern are Dead.

Anyway, that's the DVD haul. Oh, and two video games - Resident Evil for the Wii and Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s for PS2.

So yeah, that's it for us for, ummmm, years hopefully...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fragile sanity

If you spend enough time in the north there is obviously going to be a bit of a jarring transition when you come back down south again, even for a short time. For some, it's the heat. For others, it might be the trees or the volume of people that are just casually milling about you. The concept of going to a movie theatre and there's more people there than who live in your community can be weird to experience.

For many, it's the stores. If you've ever walked into a Wal-Mart and found someone by the front entrance in a kneeling position, weeping, just asking what part of Nunavut they were living in.

I've experienced parts of these feelings in previous trips down south, but never the full blown Oh...My...God moment. Until today.

That's when I walked into the Dominion (Lablaws to the rest of you) superstore in Mount Pearl.

For whatever reason, I don't think in any of my previous trips down south I've gone into a supermarket. I've been into a Costco, which is close. And I've been in Wal-mart, which is also close. But I've never done the full-blown experience of walking into a supermarket and seeing fresh fruit and vegatables for what seemed liked miles.

And it was all so cheap. I nearly wept. Cathy had to escort me out of the store before I had a breakdown of some kind.

I'm better now, but I dare not risk another supermarket during my time in the south. I doubt my sanity can handle it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

For the record...

...this is probably my favourite quote of recent days. Courtesy of The Telegram's editorial writers.

New York newspaper columnist Murray Kempton once famously, and aptly, said "the function of an editorial writer is to come down out of the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded."

Well, if that's true, then Internet bloggers are the partisans who stay safely in the hills and indiscriminately mortar the ambulances.

Lovely. I laughed out loud. The editorial sited several prominent local (i.e. Newfoundland) bloggers in the piece. Alas, I was not one of them, but then again, I'm not in Newfoundland much these days, and I tend to write about everything, not just politics.

I also understand there is something more going on here, which lead to this editorial being written, but I guess I'm out of the loop as to what's going on.

Funny quote, though. I think that might go in the sidebar at some point.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Silly argument

I wasn't going to comment on news related items while I was on vacation. I figured I would only do a few blog updates on how the vacation was going and that was it. But when you hit upon something so radically stupid, it's hard to pass it up.

The mind-boggling stupid thing is this story which says the Newfoundland chapter of the Right To Life Association is against the provincial goverment's plan to start vaccinating Grade 6 girls against HPV, a virus that has been known to cause cancer. Their reasoning? That might give teenagers...

"a licence, a green light to go ahead and be sexually active … leading to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and promiscuity in general."

Which, to my mind is a little like saying 2+2= car. Yes, it has four wheels, but the answer still doesn't make all that much sense.

It's been a few years since I was a teenager. I recall being stuck with needles when I was in Grade 9 and I don't really recall why. I suspect something similar will happen here. They're going to stick Grade 6 girls with needles, and there will be some crying and freaking out, but most will neither know nor care what the injection does. And it will certainly make no impact on their sexual decisions in the coming years.

I defy the Right to Life group to find me a teenager who will go "Well, now that I've had the HPV shot, I don't need to worry about pregnancy and sexual diseases anymore." Their brains do not work like that.

If you can get them to use birth control and condoms, that's 90% of your battle right there. And given that teen pregnancy rates have come down in recent decades, they must be doing something right at Sexual Health Centre.

Who are also right to say that RTL arguments are .silly.

I've tended to be more pro-choice myself, but I've never thought the debate on when life begins was a bad one to have. But honestly, if RTL groups are going to start making arguments against vaccines that could save lives and get into abstinence debates, then their credibility is going to take an even bigger hit.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another anniversary

As I said previously, dates tend to stick in my brain. Today is another anniversary, although this one is hardly one to celebrate.

Ten years ago today I arrived back in St. John's, putting an end to my experiment of living and working in South Korea as an ESL teacher. I like South Korea and consider it a marvelous country. But I can't really look back at my time there with any kind of rose coloured glasses. I was fairly miserable as I didn't enjoy teaching, didn't get to know many people there and it took months before I got to understand and like the food.

Plus, as I'm sure I've related before, the owner of the private school I taught at was a rogue and a cheat. Certainly not an uncommon experience for many doing the ESL circuit during that time in the 90s. But of the group of us that went over there to teach - Chris, Lisa, Corey, Donna and Melissa (who is still there) - I seemed to have the worst of it.

I think the weeks before and after I came back from Korea were a real low point in my
life. I felt very much like a failure and adrift. It took me sometime to figure out what I wanted to do next. It's worth remembering these things, if for no other reason than to appreciate how much better my life is now, a mere decade later.

It's also worth remembering that Korean Airline Flight 801 href="">crashed 10 years ago today. It was a tragedy and one that indirectly impacted me. First, I was in the check-in line with passengers that were on the plane. There were people with Guam stickers on luggage and were chatting about going there as it is a popular honeymoon
destination for Koreans. I can remember thinking that I would rather be heading to Guam than going back to Newfoundland. As best I know, that plane was the next in line to taxi and depart Seoul that day. So that's always been a bit freaky.

Also, I didn't realize for many hours later that the crash had happened. Oddly, airports and airlines don't announce planes crashing as it tends to unnerve the passengers. So it wasn't until I arrived in St. John's, about 24 hours later and exhausted that I found out the plane had went down. I think my legs wobbled for a moment. I also found out I freaked out a good number of friends and family who
knew I was flying home that day and that I was flying on Korean Airlines, but little more. Dad apparently got bombed with calls wanting to know if I was all right.

So that's what happened 10 years ago. I'm much happier all the way around today than I was back then

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Arrival and decompression

So, how the vacation has gone so far...

1. Every single flight on Friday that I was supposed to was delayed. The one from Iqaluit was a particular gem as I'm sure when I booked the ticket it was leaving at 1:10, but when I checked on the day of departure it was leaving at 1:45. Add onto that a 45 minute delay while they waited for passengers from Resolute, and the two hour window I had in Ottawa evaporated.

That lead to something that's never happened to me before - I missed a flight. Fortunately, they got me on another one, which was then delayed. It was delayed enough that I would have missed my flight from Montreal to St. John's, but thank God for weather, which made a 100 or so Newfoundlanders sitting for 40 minutes on board of the plane cranky, but enabled me to catch my flight.

2. Loading a bunch of comedy albums onto my iPod was both a good and bad thing. Listening to Patton Oswalt was about the only thing that prevented me from going insane sitting on the tarmac in Iqaluit. The downside is I think I ruptured something
trying not to laughout loud.

The worst of it was during the end of one of his records when he was imitating
a series of radio ads done for ESPN by a coked out 70s movie producer. I actually had to stop the record and compose myself before I exploded. The people sitting next to me (including one reading bible pamphlets)must have thought I was insane.

3. Mexican food at Zapatas. All is better with Mexican food from Zapatas.

4. I still haven't seen my parents yet, who both decided to go out of town the weekend I arrived. I can feel the love.

5. Seeing The Planks for the first time in 10 years at the Folk Festival. Sweet fiddle punk rock awesomeness.

6. Having Colleen Power pop over and say hi when she saw me. Her new kid is also adorable and appears destined to be a rock star, given her determination to crawl towards the stage during the Planks set. Sadly, the only show she's playing in the next two weeks is on the night of the wedding we must go to. Plus the show is at Cape St. Mary's.

We're still tempted to blow off the wedding, for the record.

7. St. John's Councillor Frank Galgay coming over and asking if I wanted to cover council again. Informed him that a frontal lobotomy with a spoon would be preferable.

And that's where we stand. Next up...Wendy's! And then an hour or two at Chapters.

For the record, it feels like I've never left. It always does.

Well, except the part where I hugged a tree. That always weirds out the neighbours...

Friday, August 03, 2007

In transit

So I'm all packed except for the things I've forgotten and will remember somewhere between here and Ottawa. Not that there was much to pack as I'm traveling fairly light. Like any trip down south, you don't take much with you because you'll be buying a ton of stuff once you get down there. Much of my wardrobe could using some touching up, so I'll be buying some new clothes when I get home.

I don't know why I bother, really. It's a highly relaxed dress code at work, but I still like wearing something half-decent. I still feel weird wearing jeans to work, although most do.

Traditionally, this type of blog post would tell you to come back in two weeks as I'm away on vacation. However, it's likely I will be posting over then next two weeks. I'm staying at Cathy's folks' house, which now has a new(ish) computer and high speed internet. I won't be posting every day, but I imagine I'll have something to say every couple of days or so. It's my vacation. I would prefer to spend as little of it as possible in front of a computer.

For those who would like to see me when I get home, drop me a line on email or on Facebook, if you're part of that cult. Or you can always call – 364-8066. I'm home until Aug. 19.

And not to get melodramatic here, but I think this will be my last trip home for awhile. Christmas will be spent on a cruise. Next summer is Italy for a month and I doubt I will have much vacation time or money left after that for a jaunt back to St. John's. And 2009 is promising to be a weird year, where we'll either go to Australia, move back south or possible both. Getting to St. John's is once again going to be difficult.

This is a long-winded way of saying if you want to see me, either track me down in St. John's or be prepared to do some flying.

And with that, I'm away....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More Air Canada suckiness

It had been a few weeks since I had a really good cause to hate Air Canada. And since I will be flying with them on Friday, I was obviously concerned. I figured for certain that meant something horrific was going to happen with the flight.

And something may well happen, but Air Canada has, in the meantime, offered up something else for me to grumble about. Some of you may recall how annoyed I was that the airline was going to stop allowing pets to be carried on the plane. This was going to prove to be a nuisance not only to me, but to many Canadians who happen to be pet owners.

So once again the Air Canada has stepped up and found another way to make things inconvenient by reducing the amount of points they offer on Tango flights. It’s a way of reducing costs although their reasoning is absolutely nonsensical to me.

As might be expected, people are deeply in love with Air Canada's latest brilliant business decision. Not that I expect them to pay attention or anything.

The plan myself and Cathy have is this. We are currently locked into Air Canada and Aeroplan because of the amount of miles we have. However, as we plan on burning off most of those miles on a pair of first class tickets to Australia in 2009 we feel that will be as good a time as any to get out of both Air Canada and Aeroplan.

We’ll switch credit cards to one that awards miles, but we can use them with any airline we want. We’ll fly Air Canada as little as humanly possible. And when we do fly internationally, as we did last year to San Francisco, we’ll try and fly on Air Canada partner airlines rather than the mothership itself.

Banning pets from travelling was the final straw. Cutting the points – not to mention the time limits they put on their usage earlier – is just a bit more salt in the wound.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Williams speaks in tongues over MUN

This is just a goddamn weird story. I mean, not Premier Williams casual dismissive arrogance on the issue. When I first read John Crosbie’s defence of the unity of Memorial University of Newfoundland I thought he raised some good points, but also thought it was only a matter of time before Williams ripped him.

And it’s honestly easy to rip Crosbie these days. Yes, in his prime he was a cunning and intelligent politician. But he’s not in his prime anymore. And for every time he makes really good points as he does here, he’s prone to saying really stupid things. Ed has catalogued more than a few of them this year alone.

Still, I thought his dismissal of Crosbie was a touch on the cold and arrogant side.

But there was the fact that he completely dismissed any of the very well reasoned arguments against dividing MUN and Grenfell.

There was this quote:

"Obviously, the higher-ups - (MUN president Axel) Meisen and Mr. Crosbie - have a different opinion, but they're not the government," the premier said.

Followed by this gem:

“…to put a rural Newfoundland and Labrador emphasis on education and higher education in this province."

The first quote is just the usual arrogance...we know everything, we are wiser than all of you, even those poncy academics at MUN. The second is just nonsensical. I have absolute no idea what it means. Anyone? I mean, I like to think I’m a fairly smart person, but I have no clue what that quote means and how splitting Grenfell from MUN will accomplish whatever the hell Williams is talking about here.

But the really disappointing this is that the story is really quite lightweight. I have a hell of a lot of respect for Rob Antle. I think he’s one of the best reporters in the province and he’s certainly not afraid of getting up in a person’s face or asking hard questions. But there was no detail in this story. Why did the government ignore the recommendations of the White Paper? Why did the government drop this without consulting more with MUN? Does the premier respect MUN’s president and the Board of Regents (given some of his statements, it’s a fair question)? What about the concerns for proper funding for a divided MUN? Will this impact the resources that students have available to them on both campuses? Will this lead to a tuition increase? Will this impact the ability of MUN to recruit students from outside the province, something that has been emphasized a lot in recently years? Isn’t this a waste of money, duplicating management for MUN and Grenfell? How will this impact fundraising?

And those are just questions off the top of my head. I’m sure a reporter as good as Rob can think of many others.

I actually wondered if the Premier’s quotes were taken from a press release, but I couldn’t find one. It’s just such an odd story from Rob, who normally does such good work. I wonder why there isn't more detail?

I have faith that The Muse will probably do the best work on this story come the fall. There’s a lot of meat for a good reporter to dig into here. A nice one-on-one with either the Minister of Education or the Premier (Sheena, don’t let them do it over the phone. Make sure you go to Confederation Building and get them in person) to try and find a rational reason for this move.

Sheena was right when she commented in my earlier post – it’s likely with all the politicking going on, and with an election coming up, it’s the students who will suffer the most. Of course, trying to get students to actually care about this decision and its impacts will be something else entirely.

Then again, perhaps a “rural Newfoundland and Labrador emphasis on education and higher education in this province” will be just the thing they need. Whatever the hell that means.

White Stripes video

Typical. I was going a few days without having much to write about. But now that I'm getting ready to go on vacation, work gets busy, I have things to do around the house before I leave (including pack) and now magically I have a half dozen things I could write about.

My muse is a weird creature.

So until I get the time later this evening to write, here's something to tide you over. The new White Stripes video, shot in Iqaluit and Apex. I'm not sure if it's the first video of a major band to be shot in town, but I can't imagine there have been many.

Cool song. I would have liked to have been able to see the scenery a bit better, but I guess they had to be artsy...