Friday, November 30, 2007

Get them while you can

I was reading Jen today as she was talking about buying a new iPod. And since I had iPod's on the brain today, this story caught my eye. It's still little vague on some details, such as when or if this new iPod levy will come into place. I know the Conservative government is looking at introducing some fairly drastic new copyright law, which is touched upon in Michael Geist's blog in far more eloquent ways than I can manage.

But the thing that caught my eye is the thoroughly ridiculous notion that a levy of up to $75 could be added to the cost of iPods of 30 gigs or more. I was tagged with an iPod levy several years ago when I bought my first iPod. Technically I was supposed to have been refunded that money, but since I didn't have a receipt, I was out the $25 they illegally gouged from me.

But a $75 levy? That's a whole new level of stupidity.

First of all, I'm surprised any retailer in Canada that sells MP3 players aren't howling blue murder. Because it will cost them millions in sales. When you consider how much of the Canadian population lives near the Canada-U.S. border and the near parity with the US dollar, how many people do you think are going to head south to buy an iPod if this levy comes into place?

Granted, I live nowhere near the border, so I'm out of luck if I want to upgrade, right? Of course not. How hard is it for me to buy one on eBay? I have friends in the US. How hard is it for me to send them some money via Paypal and get them to buy and mail a new iPod for me? And that's what I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways of getting around the levy.


But here's the other thing. I was talking about this story with Cathy, and she was a bit perplexed about why there is a need for a levy. "It's assuming you're going to do something illegal with the device?"

"Yes," I said.

"But it's a legal device to buy and you might never do anything other than copy your music from CD onto it or buy stuff from iTunes."


"So you're being fined for an illegal activity that you may never do?"

"Pretty much."

"Well, that's stupid."

It absolutely is stupid. But then again, the music and movie industries have always managed to find the most stupid, counter-productive and alienating way to react to a situation with online media and new technologies.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, maybe this Christmas would be a good time to get that new MP3 player, just in case this particular piece of idiocy manages to get passed.

Last Five
1. Don't give up (live) - Peter Gabriel
2. Roy Orbison came on - Ron Hynes
3. The guitar - They Might Be Giants
4. Mohammed - The Dandy Warhols*
5. I will be there - Nellie McKay

Thursday, November 29, 2007


So let's see what we have today:

1. A stomach bug of some sort which laid myself and Cathy out today. It's either a virus kicking around town or the KFC we ate last night. Pick and choose, but the results have pretty much been the same for us today.

2. Very high levels of traffic coming through the blog today. Most of it has to do with the sealing book racket. When you search for the author's name, my blog is one of the ones that show up. And judging by the fact that Macleans, CP and CBC national have picked up the story, the author is just getting oodles of free publicity today. She must be very happy.

3. First piece of semi-hate mail landed in my gmail account over the blog yesterday. Someone either linked to it or emailed it around to a bunch of people. I really do hope I don't get a bunch of anti-hunt nutjobs landing here over the next couple of days.

4. There was talk of the local blogging community getting together on Sunday. If that's still on, I guess we should pick a time and place. Fantasy Palace around 2 p.m. work for people?

Last Five
1. Welcome to the jungle - Guns 'n Roses
2. Mother - Tori Amos
3. Long and lazy river - Nellie McKay
4. Evening gown - Mick Jagger
5. Until the stars turn blue - The Corrs*

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Giving it away

This kind of story drives me nuts. The Downhomer is "boycotting" an anti-sealing kids book by a local author. I mean, it's a win-win for the people involved. But for those who want to pull out their hair every spring when sealing madness lands on the province in full force, then you want to go and smack around everyone involved.

I'm curious how the CBC got the story. If I had to guess from what's there on the website, it sounds like Young called the CBC and told them he wouldn't sell the book. I could be wrong about that, of course. But that's the way the story reads to me. Why would he do that? Well, because then he can look that much better to the general public in Newfoundland. "Look at me. I went and banned one of those nasty anti-sealing books." It's the only reason why I can think of doing something this boneheaded.

The author of the book, Morgan Pumphrey, has to be delighted. Had anyone even heard of her book before this? Probably not. Trying to get publicity for your book is a hard racket. It's expensive and trying to get the media to pay attention is difficult. But hey, a bit of controversy is always good for sales. Maybe not in Newfoundland, where it was always going to be a hard sell for this kind of material. But she'll have no problem with it now on the Mainland. I imagine IFAW will be selling her book on their website any day now.

So God bless the Downhomer for giving her all that lovely free publicity. Especially if the story gets picked up nationally. How wonderful.

For this kind of thing, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Do you think the producers of the Golden Compass are worried that this idiot from the Catholic League (By the way, that's not anti-Catholic bias. From what I've read, most American Catholics think he's a bozo) is trying to get people to boycott this movie? Of course not. They're thrilled he's kicking up a racket about it. Tons of free publicity and more people willing to go and watch it to see what the controversy is about.

Donahue, for the record, isn't an idiot either. He likely knows that by kicking up this racket more people will go and see the movie. He doesn't care, as long as his name and his organization gets lots of publicity first. Nor are they too worried about Ontario Catholic Schools pulling the books. More free publicity, although school boards removing books from the shelves because they don't like the content always gets my back up. I dislike books being censored for ideological reasons.

It's all a racket, folks. I just wish in the case of the Downhomer, they weren't in such a hurry to get a few headlines and attention for themselves. Even if the CBC called them and not vice versa, they could have simply said, "no, we're not carrying the book because we don't think it will sell and shelf space is limited." Ta da. Not a story.

"We're boycotting it because we support the seal hunt and Newfoundlanders." Ta da. Story and free publicity.


Last Five
1. Rena - Blue Rodeo
2. In too deep - Genesis
3. Under your charms - Josh Rouse
4. Champagne supernova - Oasis*
5. Mostly waving - Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Top blogs

So every now and then I get this odd blog search from a site called Blogshares. As best I can figure it's a fantasy stock market for blogs. I have no earthly idea why someone would want to play in a fantasy blog stock market, but there you go. Anyway, people have apparently been buying and selling shares on my blog for a bit. I haven't particularly cared much one way or another.

But today I was bored and followed the link back and noticed there was a ranking of the "Top 100 Blogs in Nunavut." I have absolute no idea how they came up with the criteria to decide which blogs were among the top. At least one of the blogs in the top has absolutely nothing to do with Nunavut as best I can figure. But if any of you are curious, here's the link.

Anyway, congrats to Claire, who apparently has the top Nunavut blog. I'm in second and John is third. For whatever that's worth. If someone can figure out how that ranking works, be sure to let me know.

Actually, while I'm congratulating Claire on stuff, I'll tip my hat to a more serious and impressive accomplishment. He's finished his screenplay. Granted, he can't sell it in the US for the foreseeable future, but hey, at least he's finished it. And never let anyone diminish that accomplishment.

I have to get back at the book this week. I haven't written anything in several days and my goal of getting it finished by the end of this month is pretty much toast. But I have to get it done before we go away next month. It's been three months since I started writing it. I at least want to get the first draft finished so I'm still not writing that in the new year. I'm 124,000 words in. I figure I have another 30,000 or so to go to finish this draft.

I will finish this damn thing of it kills me.

Last Five
1. The Jessica Numbers - The New Pornographers
2. Alternative girlfriend - Barenaked Ladies
3. Helmet head - Great Big Sea
4. Before the deluge - Jackson Brown
5. This is your land (Live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*

Monday, November 26, 2007

In it now

So I guess there is no longer any ducking of the Christmas season. I was driving into work today and there was this hideous Christmas song on Raven Rock by Randy Bachman sung to the tune of 'Taking Care of Business" called "Taking Care of Christmas." It was one of those songs so horrific that it makes you repeatedly stab at the radio wildly to make it go away. It's a wonder I didn't run anyone over. I normally don't bother with the iPod while driving because it's a fairly short ride to work. But if there is the risk I'm going to hear that song again, I might have to make an exception.

Also today, the first of our Christmas packages arrived from our parents, which was a good thing and nicely compensated for the horror on the radio. And this evening I was helping Cathy with music for her Christmas show, which is only a couple of weeks away. Cathy's deciding to go with a tropical theme. So I've been hunting for tropical Christmas songs, and we've found one Hawaiian one, and an Australian one. So it ought to be an interesting Christmas concert. Cathy always tries to come up with something a bit different each year. Last year she did a Spanish themed one.

So yeah, we're in it now. My office is decorated, the Christmas party is coming up, music on the radio, packages arriving, Christmas concerts being planned. It's not that I'm a scrooge about Christmas, I just like to wait until December before I get into it. I can't remember the last time I succeeded, but I always try anyway.

Last Five
1. Death of an interior decorator - Death Cab For Cutie
2. American Roulette - Robbie Robertson
3. At midnight I will kill - Patton Oswalt (comedy)
4. Chocolate Jesus (Live) - Tom Waits*
5. Pink chandelier - Nellie McKay

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It ain't cheap

Well, here's a news flash, hotels in New York are expensive. I've been doing some poking around today to see where might be a reasonably priced place to stay. Ummmm, I guess I need to redefine reasonably priced. I haven't found too many place in Manhattan for less than $200 a day. Since I was thinking of staying there for about four night, well, that adds up in a fairly big hurry.

So I strongly suspect if I go, I'll end up staying in Brooklyn or New Jersey and make the commute. Yeah, it costs me a bit of time, but I figure it will save me hundreds of dollars. Which could be better spent on Yankees games, tickets to Avenue Q or other fun things. But if anyone can suggest a place in Manhattan, I'm all ears.

Anyway, I have one trip to take care of coming up before I can think about another one later on. One thing at a time.

Besides, I'm feeling like crap today, hence the relatively short post. And it's not all muscle aches from the weekend. There's always a bug of some sort kicking around Iqaluit. Given how mentally fuzzy I've felt all day, I wonder if I'm not coming down with a bug. I hope not, but it's kind of out of my hands at this point.

Right. A more constructive post tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Victory from the jaws of defeat...

Well, that was a pretty damn successful curling bonspiel. How successful was it? Well, I lost.

Trust me, couldn't be happier.

I played four games. Friday night's was a bit of a blowout, but I was on the right side of it. And my opponent just missed a couple of shots. If he makes them, things become a lot more complicated. The second game saw us down by four early, but we managed to rally back to the point where I had an open draw for three to win. Instead, I through it heavy and took only two, forcing an extra end. He had to hit and roll a little bit to get shot rock. He hit and didn't roll quite enough. We won by about an inch.

Third game was the semi-final. Again, buried early but managed to rally back and forced an extra end again. I had to make a perfect draw shot to the four foot to win. It was a touch heavy, but stopped just in time. Again, I won by an inch. The team we beat is one I consider the best in the club, I was pretty damn happy.

So clearly, having won two extra end games by an inch, the curling gods and karma were about to make me pay for it. Just after the semi-final win, one of my player said to me, "You know, we haven't lost as a team yet." This was the same team I played with for the first bonspiel of the year and won. So yeah, we were doomed. We lost 10-3. I could have called it after six ends, but really, despite being blown out, I was having fun out there. So why not stay out and play the full four ends?

Also pleased to report, no psychotic episodes during the bonspiel. Perhaps that's not something to cheer about, but seeing as how I'm trying to behave better when I curl, I'll take the small victories.

All that was left after that were the prizes. I won't get into the structure, but for losing in the final I still got to pick something from the prize table. Which turned out to be a comforter. There were door prizes, which was basically anything left on the prize table. And my name was miraculous drawn again. So this time I grabbed a cold weather extension cord.

Finally there was the draw for two plane tickets. Curtis, playing on the media team, got the first ticket. And then he drew the second ticket.

Let's just say there was an audible groan when my name was called out. This is about the biggest thing I've ever won, so I'm pretty damn excited about it. But I'm really glad now I lost the final. Because if I had won two bonspiels in a row, plus a plane ticket, well, I'm not saying there would be a mob of irate curlers with brooms waiting for me in the parking lot, but I'm glad I don't have to find out.

(Yes, have a chuckle at the notion of roving gangs of irate curlers. You can laugh right up until they come for you, my friend. Then you will learn fear.)

This is only a couple of hours old, so I haven't decided what I'm doing with the ticket yet. It's good until November 1, 2008. I figure I'll either use it to go to New York and attend the New York Comic Con (along with maybe catching The Daily Show if the writer's strike is over, a Yankees game, perhaps Spamalot) or to pay for part of our trip to Italy in July.

I think I've burned most of my good karma for the rest of the year. In retrospect, perhaps I should have bought a lottery ticket as well, but I've been told the machine is down (yes, there is only one lottery terminal is all of Iqaluit) until the end of the month. Ah well...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Watching what you write

It was interesting to note the “death” of an arctic blog that has happened in the last few days. Larry was always a pretty blunt blogger, which I enjoyed. He had controversial opinions and argued them well. If he had a fault, it’s that he didn’t update the blog enough for my liking, but hell, there was some solid craftsmanship in his writing. I’m prepared to wait awhile if the writing is good enough.

However, one thought always used to go through my mind when reading Larry’s blog. And that was “how much longer is he going to be able to get away with this?” Because he didn’t pull any punches. If there was shit going on in his community that he didn’t like, he said it. He was very blunt about it. And I knew that was going to piss someone off enough eventually that they would complain to his employer. And lo and behold, they did.

This marks at least the fourth incident I know of regarding northern bloggers getting into trouble for their writing with employers. Only one has lost their job and that was before my time up here. Penelope Cholmondeley, aka Polar Penny, was fired after writing some things that upset a couple of people, who complained to her employer, who promptly fired her. That actually created a small international racket, about whether or not her employer was right to do that. For what it’s worth, and from what little I know second hand of the situation, I think they over-reacted.

The other three bloggers have received warnings and took steps, including removing the offending posts or, as in the case of Larry, killing his old blog. Again, for the record, I don’t think what Larry has done to deal with the situation will hold up for long. But we shall see.

I understand the frustration. When you get annoyed about something, it's great therapy to be able to rant about it on your blog. I’d love to write about what I do at work or even issues tangently related to what I do. I think it’s quite interesting. But it would be insane. I could do it with the best of intentions and it wouldn’t matter. I would get in trouble. Especially when you consider the volume of reporters who are bloggers in Nunavut (there are at least four), let alone the ones who don't blog, but still surf them. And you can't say reporters won't give you a call if they see something interesting on your blog, because they will.

By the way, I'm not slagging Nunavut reporters. They're doing their job, looking for stories. If you start writing about, for example, how terrible things are at your school, don't be surprised if one of them calls. I don't blame them for trying to find a good story. I would certainly do it if positions were reversed.

You can argue its suppression of free speech. You can argue what you do in your spare time when you’re not at work is none of your employers business. And hell, I’m not inclined to argue with you too much. But here are a few simple realities about blogging in the north:
1. We live in a small territory population-wise. Maybe in places like Toronto or Vancouver you could blog about work related issues and your employer would never find out. There is little chance of that happening here.
2. This is even more the case if you live in a small community. The fact is, very few Inuit blog. So if you’re a Kablunak blogging in a small community, someone will figure it out eventually. Even posting anonymously will only cover you for so long.
3. If you talk about work in a public forum, either what your job entails or interpersonal relationships at work, your employer will eventually make it their business.

So you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Most employers do not want you to talk about work. Perhaps some do want you to talk. Perhaps some don’t care. But many, especially if they are governments, care very much about what you say in public about your job. Most of us write blogs as a hobby. There's no money involved. I write because I go mad when I don't. But if I was told to stop tomorrow or lose my job, well, I'll find other creative outlets.

This isn’t to get into a free speech debate. This is your annual reality check if you’re a northern blogger. Be careful what you write about. Always ask yourself “do I really need to post this” before clicking “send”, especially if you're upset. And remember, as shocking as it is, there are people outside your friends and family reading your blog. Install Statcounter if you don't believe me. And they will not always like what you have to say.

If it’s an important issue and you need to speak out, then by all means I think you should do so. Just make sure you pick your fights. Too often bloggers get in trouble over relatively minor events.

Last Five
1. The way you want it - Keane
2. The shadow governments - They Might Be Giants
3. Rhythm and soul - Spoon
4. Falling through your clothes - The New Pornographers*
5. Armor and sword - Rush

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cutting remarks

Along with psychic book sellers, I think I'm now fond of a psychic barbers. The place where I normally get my hair cut closed last month. So I found a new place, conveniently located in the phone book as "The Barber". Nice Scottish man who sat me down in the chair and started cutting. Which was interesting. Normally I have to explain what it is what I done. Given the amount of hair on my head, you wouldn't figure it would be that easy to mess up. And yet, I haven't had many good hair cuts since I moved up here.

This guy, just starts cutting. I thought about telling him what I wanted, but figured it would be more interesting to just see what happens. And, as it turns out, best hair cut I've had since I was in Ottawa back in April.

Seems like a nice guy to. I asked him if he was happy England lost in the EuroCup qualifiers. He was thrilled, although that got me a 10 minute rant about how Scotland got screwed on the weekend against Italy by the goddamn refs. There's nothing quite like a rant in a Scottish accent. So I'll be a regular from now on.


On a totally unrelated note, it seems I must mention this at least once a year for those who can't take the hint. The anonymous posting function remains on this blog for family and friends who want to post, but don't have a blogger account and don't want to go through the hassle of setting one up just to post a few sentences. It is not there for people to take personal cheap shots and then scuttle away without having the balls to sign their names.

As is the policy of this blog, such posts are deleted without comment. You want to go take anonymous cheap shots? There are plenty of other blogs. Or hey, if you live in Newfoundland, there's always VOCM's open line shows. But not on this blog.

This is not suppression of free speech. I believe in certain drastic circumstances, anonymous writing has its place. When your life is threatened, for example. Saying I suck on a blog is not covered under those drastic circumstances clause. It's just cowardly.

So really, don't waste your time.

Last Five
1. Dark Angel (live) - Blue Rodeo*
2. Drawn to the rhythm - Sarah McLachlan
3. Harder to breathe - Maroon 5
4. Down the wall - Drive
5. The piano has been drinking (not me) - Tom Waits

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Needing a psychic

I’m having an odd pang of longing today. It came reading John Rogers blog when he asked people to submit favourite pieces of writing. And one person submitted this:

"It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."

- Iain Banks, The Crow Road

And I smiled because it is a brilliant bit of writing. At some point I’ll become depressed because it is a fucking awesome piece of writing that I will never hope to match, but right now I can just look at those two sentences and be happy. I still remember reading those opening lines, sitting in my damp apartment in Clarenville and being instantly hooked. It’s a great book and I really must sit down and reread it again at some point.

But no, it wasn’t for excellent writing that I was longing for today. The whole reason I read The Crow Road was due to a woman named Jocelyn who ran a little book store (I’m ashamed I can’t remember the exact spelling of the name, but I think it was Braewan Books) in downtown St. John’s years ago. A bad winter and Chapters ultimately killed the place. But I loved it for the fact that whenever I walked in, Jocelyn always said hi and had three of four recommendations for me.

And she was always right. Always. She helped introduce me to Andrew Vachss (although Vachss latest novel is garbage. A series of flashbacks in search of a plot. Vachss really feels like he’s phoning it in now.). She gave me a copy of Sophie’s World and I thought she was mad because I have almost no interest in philosophy, but the book was oddly charming.

And one day I walked in and she said, “Here, you should try this” and gave me a copy of Whit by Iain Banks. The book was a trade paperback and about $20 and was about a girl who was supposed to be the head of a Scottish religious cult. I was dubious, but I trusted Jocelyn a bit at this point, so I gave it a shot. The very next week I got the bus in from Clarenville, marched down to her book store and demanded more Iain Banks, which she conveniently just happened to have lying around. I didn’t have the money to buy more Banks, starving journalist that I was. But I didn’t care. The next two books she sold me were The Crow Road and Espedair Street. Again, among some of my favourite novels.

And this isn’t a cry for reading suggestions. I can go to Chapters right now and drop money (I’m trying very hard to resist as we’ve spent quite a bit of money recently). But it’s almost entirely on graphic novels. No, for whatever reason, when I read that quote from The Crow Road, I just flashed on how nice it was to have a person who impeccable reading taste and an almost psychic ability to know what people will like. I may never have even heard of the author. It might not be something I would be interested in, having read the description, yet it was something I ended up loving. And Jocelyn always seemed to know.

It’s a rare gift. I wish I had someone like that I trusted. I love Cathy, but our reading tastes rarely intersect. In fact, other than the Harry Potter books, I don’t think they even come close. I just find it hard to find good books to read today. They’re out there, I’m sure. But surfing the Chapters website isn’t the same. Even going into one of their stores and spending hours isn’t the same. I can still walk away frustrated that I didn’t see anything that grabbed my attention.

But walking into a tiny bookstore with a fraction of one per cent of the books that Chapters has, but almost always managing to come out with something great in my hands because of the owner’s psychic abilities…that’s what I’m missing today.

Last Five
1. Look happy, it's the end of the world - Matthew Good Band
2. Tomorrow never knows - The Beatles
3. Doesn't have to be this way - Allison Krauss and Union Station
4. Emergency roadside assistance - Sean Panting*
5. Listen like thieves - INXS

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pre-Christmas planning

So we're well into Christmas prep here at the Chateau. I think because of some of the challenges involved with living in the Arctic, you have to prepare for Christmas a lot earlier than people down south. For example, we had our plane tickets to from Ottawa to Iqaluit booked back in September. We simply have no choice in the matter. If you wait any longer than that, you won't be able to fly out. Or if you do, it will cost a small fortune.

Our tickets weren't too bad, actually, thanks to a little known deal Canadian North has. If you leave for an international destination within 24 hours of arriving in Ottawa, they give you a special rate on the ticket. Since we're leaving for Florida a scant 14 hours or so after hitting Ottawa, we're well within the window. I think our tickets were about $850 each. Which, for those of you down south, may still seem ridiculously expensive, but compared to normal ticket prices, it's a steal.

We've also got a fair chunk of our Christmas shopping done. Our gifts for each other is pretty simple this year - we're going on a cruise. I still have to get Cathy something for her birthday, but our gifts are pretty simple. I know what both of my folks are getting. One will be put in the mail shortly and I'm ordering the other for my dad in the next week or so. Cathy has either ordered, or has just put in the mail, the gifts for her parents and brother.

I know this might seem strange, but that's pretty much it for us and gifts. Most of my friends and I have long since come to the understanding that we don't exchange gifts. My family is large enough that rather than try and bankrupt each other getting gifts for all the respective aunts, uncles and cousins, we just draw a name out of a hat.

So essentially I have Cathy and my parents. That's it. Maybe that's not very Christmasy, but hey, at least I'm not going bankrupt this Christmas. Although we are doing cards this year, which will be sent out shortly.

So yeah, by the end of November, I imagine most of our Christmas stuff will be done. That's all right with me. Although waking up Christmas morning on a boat in the middle of the ocean will be a bit weird. But I imagine we will get used to it pretty quick.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


A big old weekend of sloth. About the only thing we did today was to dig the car out from the blizzard we had last night. Which, by Newfoundland standards, was a pretty minor blizzard. But enough snow was dumped that I had to dig out. Still, not like I'm going to complain. I think it's about the fourth time I've had to shovel the car out since we moved up here more than two years ago. There were winters when we lived on Bond Street where I was digging out the car that much in the run of a day.

The highlight was the craft sale. Last year we picked up a lovely narwhale sculpture. I think the craft sale was better this year than last year in terms of the kind of things available. There was less, for lack of a better word, junk. There were plenty of people with tables last year that didn't have crafts. There were selling DVDs or used books, clothing and that sort of thing. They seemed to have weeded out a lot of those tables this year. Most tables were selling sculptures, home made clothing (knitted or made from seal, caribou, etc), beads, pictures or food. It was really nice looking at everything, although I was kicking myself for not remembering to bring my camera.

Ironically, we bought less this year than last year. Cathy picked up a few little things, but I didn't even grab that much. Simply we don't have many gifts to buy and what we do need to get is pretty much already taken care of. And as for buying things for ourselves, well, the old axiom comes into play - we won't buy it if there is no room for it. And these days, we have room for very little in the apartment.

Other than that, about the most exciting thing was booking hotels and rental car for Florida. Now, I know it's more expensive to rent a car from the airport than say from a place in the middle of town. But the difference between Fort Lauderdale airport for an economy class car ($450 USD for four days) versus the place about four miles away ($117 USD for four days) is slightly retarded.

We're trying to get the best deals we can, but at some point you just have to accept that there are times you're going to spend extra money despite your best efforts and not to lose your mind over it.

Anyway, one last piece of evidence that I'm not the only one being slothful this weekend. It's pretty contagious.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday night update

Not much to report this evening. I've spent most of the time playing with the new computer. I think I finally have all the files transferred over, the programs updated or downloaded that I need. I'm still organizing files a bit as I let the iBook get quite sloppy towards the end. Plus, it's going to take days for me to explore all the new features on the new operating system.

It's funny the things you fall in love with right away, though. I absolutely love the keyboard. I'd been grumbling in recent weeks that the iBook's keyboard was what was preventing me from doing much writing recently. I have no such excuse with this machine. The keyboard is a dream.

Tomorrow should be interesting. It's the annual Iqaluit Christmas Craft Fair, which means two hours of pure madness at the high school. And while there's plenty of junk, there ought to be a few gems hidden into the mix. We picked up a beautiful narwhale sculpture there last year. So nice we didn't have the heart to give it away as a gift.

As for the weather, well, last year is was a bitter cold -30 or so. Tomorrow is calling for lots of rain and snow with temperatures getting as high as 3. So we shall see which is worse. I suspect tomorrow is going to be more trecherous for walking and getting around, but at least we won't freeze or ass off in the line up to get in.

That's it for this evening, kids. Hopefully more interesting news tomorrow...

Last Five
All songs came from "Sleepy Little Sailor" by Oh Susanna

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zen and brains

1. So much for my "zen master of curling title", which was always more than half ironic to me. I was nice and relaxed in tonight's game, until I missed a shot in the sixth end, so that instead of scoring six I gave up a steal of one. Then missed a couple of shots in the seventh, another steal of three. And there went the zen master thing, up in smoke. Or, more accurately, in a cloud of profanity.

Which is annoying. I really thought I was doing better and keeping my temper when I missed shots this year, but apparently there are still ways to go on this yet. sigh...

On the upside, while I did have two players fall down, at least no one was injured this evening, so that's a positive. ANd to give credit where it's due, Stephanie curled a hell of a game.

2. Cathy knows that when I die my preference is to be cremated. Just because I would prefer not to run the risk of coming back as a zombie. Which I think would suck. But anyway, find a pizza oven and stick me in it. The take the ashes, bring me out to Cape Spear and toss me to the wind. Or, stick me in a 2L Coke bottle with a note, so that if some 13 year old kid in France finds me, I can cause one last lingering bit of trauma.

However, the one thing I do not want happening is this. People have been taking the ashes of their dearly departed and sprinkling them around Disney rides, like the Haunted House and Pirates of the Caribbean. As this is a health hazard, not to mention the US tends to freak out when people start scatting fine powder in public places, Disney is having issues with this.

All I will say is this - If Cathy spreads my ashes at a Disney park, I will haunt her for eternity.

3. There are no shortage of comic books about zombies these days. Zombies and the new monkeys. Or pirates. Or Robot Overlords. Ooooh, look, the robot overlords have video.

Ahem, anyway. Zombies. Lots of zombie tales these days. But this comic looks like it could be fun. It's done by a creator living in Halifax, which is pretty cool. And I like the art and story from the preview pages.

Oddly, two people came to mind when I was reading it. First was my friend Tara Murphy, who is a big fan of zombies. Probably has something to do with her working on horror movies in the past as a special effects person. Which is a pretty cool job. The other person is Sheena. No idea why. I don't know her all that well. And yet, I think she would get a kick out of it.

Anyway, it's now on my list to buy. Unless some kind soul wants to buy me a zombie comic for Christmas. Because nothing says Happy Holidays quite like brains. Braaaaaiiiinsssss......

Last Five
1. Mystery and Crime - Joel Plaskett Emergency*
2. Always look on the bright side of life - Spamalot
3. Things have changed - Bob Dylan
4. Your cloud - Tori Amos
5. Sunrise - Norah Jones

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


So the shinny new computer arrived today. Well, let's be more specific here...I went and retrieved the shinny new computer from the bowels of Arctic Express. Having grown frustrated with calling both UPS and Arctic Express and getting nowhere, I decided a more direct approach was required. So I went to their office and spoke with the person manning the desk and told them that UPS said my package should be here.

And lo and behold, there it was. I've spent most of the evening tweaking and setting up different things. Obviously I'm liking it quite a bit right now. The keyboard is amazing and I'm liking lots of the little things I'm seeing so far. It'll take another couple of days before I have it broken in and set up the way I like.

Two more bits of surreality with regards to the computer. First was a conversation I had with UPS yesterday. This is exactly how it went.

UPS: That's strange. You should have your package by now.
Me: Well, I don't.
UPS: Well, I'm not sure where it is, but you should get it by tomorrow.

I just love that. There's something completely surreal about that statement. About not knowing where it is, yet have the utter certainty that I will get it, not soon, but the very next day. And hey, she was right, so maybe she's onto something.

The other bit was the shipping information on the side of the box. There was a sticker attached to the box saying when it shipped from Montreal to Iqaluit. It was November 7. Now, someone can correct me on this, but that means it was in Iqlauit since last Thursday at least. That means, and here's the point that had me fuming today, when I called on Friday and Tuesday at Arctic Express and asked for my package, it was there. They said they'd call back if it was, but they never did.

So that means they not only didn't get around to delivering a package that was in their warehouse, they couldn't be bothered to go and check to see if it was there.

Now, I could be wrong and if I am I will own up to it. But I don't think I am. So let's make this perfectly clear - if you are shipping something into Nunavut and it has to get there in a hurry you should absolutely never use either Fed Ex or UPS. Because both contract out to Arctic Express, which doesn't seem to be able to deliver items in a timely fashion. Need something shipped fast, use Canada Post.

Anyway, that's the vent. I am now going to go and enjoy my new toy some more.

Edit: Ooops. Forgot to put in my last five last night

Last Five
1. When loves comes to town - U2 and B.B. King*
2. Mari Mac - Great Big Sea
3. Barons of Suburbia - Tori Amos
4. Kiss on my list - Hall and Oates (I know, I know...)
5. I'm so tired - The Beatles

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Second chance

So I had a rant set-up for this evening because I had a fairly frustrating day. And hey, I had at least one brilliant phone exchange today that simply needs to be repeated to be believed. But that's for tomorrow. Because as crappy as the day was, it took a turn for the better around 6 p.m. That's when Jen dropped me a line with some good news.

Some of you might recall that I vented a bit last month about not getting the Cape Dorset print we wanted at the sale here in Iqaluit. I'd resigned myself to not getting the print when Jen dropped me a line. She told me that Cape Dorset itself wasn't having their print sale until November. However, she wasn't really going to bother since there was nothing there this year that caught her eye.

I dropped her a line and did some polite grovelling, asking if she wouldn't mind going to the sale and get the print we wanted for us and that we would happily send her a cashier check to cover the cost. Jen did one better. She talked to the gallery and they agreed to let her act as my proxy. She could try and win the print. If she did, she would just give them my name. I'd call the next day, give them my credit card info and we'd get the print.

So today was the big day. Jen went to the show, drew #7 (meaning she picked 7th) and lo and behold, look what happened:

Owls and Moonlight by Ningeokuluk Teevee is now ours. And, as an added bonus, it's print #50 of 50. I don't know if it means anything, but it's pretty cool.

Just for the record, so is Jen. That's an awfully nice thing she did for us, although she told me she had a blast. I guess there is something nice about getting to win something, but not actually have to pay for it. She had fun, and I'm glad.

We now just have to figure out what we're going to do with it. Nobody in Iqaluit can frame it. I think there might be a couple of people around town who do some framing, but that's mostly posters and whatnot. This requires some special material to make sure the print is preserved properly.

We'd considered shipping it to Ottawa, get a framing company there to do it and we could pick it up on our way back from vacation. But I've heard framers in Ottawa are expensive and trying to get the frame and matte board straightened out over the phone and email would be challenging.

Barring any last minute changes, we'll probably ship it to Cathy's folks. The print is probably too big for them to handle (they run a small framing business), but they know people who could do the job for a reasonable price. Plus, they could help in picking the matte.

Anyway, it's all details. I'm sure it'll work out fine, although it might be awhile before we get to see it. The important thing is we got the print.

Thanks again, Jen. You know, this is a pretty cool little northern blogging community we have going here.

Last Five
1. Nothing and nowhere - Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton
2. Wicked girl - Band of Horses
3. Don't walk past - Blue Peter* (Can't resist some good old early 80s New Wave)
4. Northwest passage - Stan Rogers
5. Exit - U2

Monday, November 12, 2007


So with the long weekend over, this is our last extra day off - barring blizzards or sick days - until Christmas vacation. Which is a bit sad. On the other hand in a little more than a month we're off on another grand adventure, this time to Florida. Of course, I'm not sure if you can have a grand adventure in Florida, but that's where we're heading. Ideally we'll spend a few days in Orlando hitting a couple of amusement parks, then perhaps do some shopping and take advantage of that high Canadian dollar I've read so much about, before heading to Fort Lauderdale and hopping on board a cruise ship, which takes us a Caribbean saint tour. Well, the islands of St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Martaan. It's Christmas, it seems appropriate.

The cruise and the plane tickets are taken care of. Well, I need to get some travel insurance on the cruise. I accidentally cancelled it when dealing with our travel agent. I'm not too worried as our insurance agent says I can get some through them. But we've only just started poking around hotels around Orlando and what parks to visit. I figure we have time to hit two parks. We're looking at Disney, Epcot and Universal. So we'll see.

Also have to figure out where to stay. The problem with looking online for hotels is that there appears to be several million hotels in the greater Orlando area. I almost don't know where to start. Something clean and cheap would be ideal. Maybe a Motel 6 or a Holiday Inn.

We'll figure it out. This requires a certain level of zen-like patience when dealing with it. It's the fine line between planning your vacation so your not wandering around, lost in a daze, and having it planned to within an inch of your life. We're getting better at it, but we're still learning.

I think this vacation will be fine. It's not too complicated. It's the one in Italy that we're looking at next July that has the potential to be a real logistical nightmare. But one worry at a time.

Last Five
1. Better off dancing - The Donnas
2. She's got her ticket - Tracy Chapman
3. Compliments - Bloc Party
4. I'm the man - Joe Jackson
5. Daniel - Elton John*

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The zen of curling

I found this post by Kate amusing, specifically that I am somehow a "zen master" of curling. I think those who have seen me curl in previous years would not use the word "zen" to describe me. Zen indicates calm, and I was rarely that.

And yet with the exception of the first bonspiel of the year, I've been pretty relaxed this year. As best I can figure it's come from my acceptance that I'm not going to win the league play this year.

Yes, yes, it's only November. There's no sense in giving up yet, especially since I've only played two games. And yet, barring miracles, this year is pretty much a write-off.

On my Thursday night games, I have five players on my team. Of those, only two (including me) have previous experience. However, the other guy with experience can't play until the new year because of previous commitments on Thursday evenings. That leaves me with three new players. One of them hasn't played yet because of commitments on Thursday evening. His first game is this week.

As for the other two, well, one shows some promise. He's noticeably improved over the last couple of weeks and keeps asking questions, which is good. I think if he sticks with it, he'll be a good player.

As for the last player? Well....

I admire her commitment. However, during her first game she slipped, fell and hit her head. She was all right and I made sure she got home OK. Everybody falls at some point during curling, so I wasn't too worried. However, during the first end of her next game, she was running out to sweep a rock, slipped and landed hard on her arm. She tried to go for a bit longer, but it was hurting too much. So I took her up to the hospital and waited until a doctor saw her. The next day I dropped her a line to see how she was doing, figure it was just a sprain or a bone bruise.

Nope. She fractured her wrist in two places.

Now, she's saying she's coming back after Christmas, but we will see. I should mention for those who might freak out (hi Kate) that this is the first injury involving broken bones in years at the club. It doesn't happen all that ofter. Just unlucky

Anyway, that's my team. I made it to the finals last year. I have my doubts about that this year. But oddly, I'm all right with that. I mean, I muttered a bit, but that's all I can do. If I was that serious about it, I would have put my own team together, but I didn't.

So instead I've just resolved to try and help new players. I've been coaching the new players on my team. I'm sparing on Tuesdays and trying to give tips to some of the new players. And I've been going to the club on Saturdays during the open house and I'll help anyone who asks for it. I spent about an hour helping someone yesterday.

It's nice, really. I'm more relaxed (zen, if you will) and less of an asshole. Which, admittedly, is the way I tend to behave during my more competitive moments.

So I'm going to lose more (I lost my first two games my forfeit, but that's all right, I had to make sure my player wasn't hurt), but I'm having more fun and I'm teaching people, which feels all right.

Oh, Kate also mentioned doing an Iqaluit blogger coffee get together sometime. Next Sunday works for me, if others are interested.

Last Five
1. Money for Nothing - Dire Straits*
2. Suil a gra - Anita Best and Pamela Morgan
3. Oh! The breeches full of stiches - The Chieftains
4. Fools in love - Joe Jackson
5. All along the watchtower - Bob Dylan

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Waiting for the Mac

So it was two weeks ago yesterday that I put in the order for my brand new MacBook Pro. And I'm writing this on my...same old iBook.

I know I shouldn't be surprised. It's the north and this is the way things operate. Patience is the watch word. If you're not patient with the way things work up here, then you won't last.

Still, it's a touch maddening. I think the tracking information that UPS gives you actually makes things worse. For example, it left the factory in Shanghai on the 29th of October. After some shagging around in China, it finally made it to Hamilton, Ontario after stops in Anchorage and Louisville on Nov. 4. According to a little distance calculator I found online, that's still roughly 12,500 km in about five business days. Not great, but not too bad. I mean, there was a time when you would have to wait months to get something shipped from China. Now five days is considered a bit on the slow side.

But the maddening thing is how long it's taking to get that last few thousand kilometres. Two days to get from Hamilton to Montreal. Where it has been sitting since last Tuesday, the 6th. Neither UPS nor Arctic Express can really tell me much other than it might arrive on Tuesday. But, you know, don't be surprised if it doesn't. As for why it takes a week to get a package From China to Montreal and another week to get it from Montreal to Iqaluit, well, welcome to the north.

sigh I just want my toy. This weekend would have been nice. Cathy's busy with report cards, so I would have plenty of time to play with it, transfer files, install programs and whatever.

Anyway, listen to me whine.

On an unrelated note, Mireille asked me to bring back an old thing I used to do on the blog, that being listing the last three to five tracks played on my iPod. I got out of the habit of doing that, but now, why not. As a bonus, I'll put an asterix next to the song that is my favourite of that bunch.

Last Five
1. Sucker Row - Mark Knopfler
2. Know it all - John Rouse
3. Tried to rock - Lloyd Cole
4. Controversy - Prince
5. Elegy for Elsabet - The Weakerthans*

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Current affairs

Note: I've had this written for about a week and just remembered I had it in the bag. The story I link to ran in last week's Muse.

Now this is an interesting story. At least one, if not two, papers in St. John’s are selling editorial space in their paper. In the case of the Current, you can also buy the front page for about $1,200.

I’m with Kerri on this one. I used to be an arts reporter in St. John’s, both with the Muse in the early 90s and the Express from 2001-05. I consider arts reporting serious business. This offends my sensibilities a great deal.

I used to like the Current quite a bit right up until they sold it about a year or so ago. It was a fun paper, had interesting layout, nice photography and not afraid to tweak a few noses along the way. And hell, their most expensive houses in the metro area feature certainly got people talking, along with others stories they were telling.

As for the Town Crier, well, that’s always been junk.

But anyway, the Current was sold and I read the first couple of papers under new management. Geoff Meeker ripped them quite thoroughly for the sloppiness of the final product. I just lost track of it. There’s enough good media for me to read online, both Newfoundland based and otherwise, to waste time keeping track of the junk. And the Current had quickly slipped into the junk category.

But after reading Kerri’s story, I took another look at the paper. Guess what? Still junk. You have to hit page 4 before you get any editorial copy and it’s a “13 questions” on fashion and something else about style. That’s what you’re using to hook readers? That’s your first story, the story you’re going to use to hook people into continuing to read? The rest of the paper is just as bad. Ugly layout, filler photos because they don’t have copy. The stories they have are poorly edited, lousy headlines, you name it. It’s junk. I don’t know who Karla Hayward is, but I’m assuming she's editor because she has the patience to put up with James Baird for prolonged periods of time and not for any editorial skills and decision making ability.

But I can almost forgive a paper for just being bad. Running a good newspaper can be hard work. I only ran the Express occasionally and it nearly broke me. I thought about starting a paper in the late 90s, but decided it was going to be far too much work for far too little money. But selling your front cover as advertising space for the story you’d like to run inside? Ick. Seriously ick. If I recall, the St. John's Daily News, in its desperate last few months, sold the whole front page of the paper to Black Horse. I knew the ad guy who did it. That man could sell anything, it was kind of terrifying. He’d have no problem with the Current selling its front page to arts groups who want coverage.

But that’s why he was in sales and had nothing to do with editorial. And no editor worth their salt would say “yeah, let’s sell our front page. That’s a good idea." I know more than one who would simply walk (in the case of Craig Westcott, he'd probably set the building on fire as he was leaving) if a publisher suggested that to them, feeling their authority, credibility and ethics were being sold down the river.

I know no one takes arts reporting seriously because I did it on and off for the better part of five years. Editors frequently view it as a waste of space, something of a necessary evil. There is far more bad arts writing than good stuff. Those in the arts community can be in equal turns fascinating and frustrating to deal with. Trying to do good, solid stories that are not fluff pieces or handjobs is far, far harder than trying to write for the news section.

And yet, it can be fun and rewarding work. You can meet interesting people and get to tell some cool stories. It deserves to be treated with respect. And this, it isn’t respect. It’s a money grab. It's an attempt to milk an arts community desperate for any publicity they can get. More than once when I was with the Express I was asked if this story could go on the front page of the paper. Or the front page of the arts section. They knew the value of that space.

But we never charged them for it. Editorial made the decision of what went on the front page of the paper or the arts section on the merits of the story, not how much begging and pleading went on. And certainly not based on whether they spent any advertising money with us that week.

Looking at the Current, they certainly have no problem getting advertising. Of course, how much they’re actually getting for those ads (they have their rates listed, but deal are not unheard of with newspaper. For that matter, are they collecting on all of them) and how long that stands up if no one is reading remains to be seen.

I never actively wish for a paper to fold, for a voice to be lost. However, having read the Current and hearing about how they're managing their copy, there really isn't much of a voice to keep alive, is there?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's wrong with the Liberals

Just ridiculous amounts of traffic through the blog in the past 24 hours, most of it to do with Cst. Scott. There have been updates, of course, with the name of the person accused of doing the shooting being released, along with stories about what guidelines should be in place for RCMP officers responding to potentially dangerous calls.

I'm no expert, but the new guidelines do seem overdue. Even in small communities of only a couple of hundred that might only have two officers, something more needs to be done. The officers are overworked and being put into dangerous places far too often.

I actually had three other posts written and ready for this evening. But two of them just don't seem appropriate given the serious events of recent days up here. They're mostly bitching about personal stuff. So they can wait another day or two.

However, try as I might, I simply can't let this story pass without some comment. I'm weighing whether or not this is more pathetic than what happened to the Liberals in the byelection on Tuesday. Because for all the stupidity going on with that byelection, the Liberals realistically had no chance of winning that seat. They looked like idiots, but they were doomed anyway. But not showing up for a recount? It's only seven votes. Seven votes is nothing. The Liberals could easily pick up that seat. And they don't show up for the recount. And wait...they didn't show up for a recount for the leader of their party. What the fuck?

They've gone from being idiots to professional idiots. Premier Williams is saying that it could take decades for the party to recover. It's an exaggerations, but not by much if the current state of affairs keeps rolling. Simon is advocating a whole scale purge at the top. If I were a card carrying Liberal, which mercifully I am not, I would consider a lawsuit against party officials for being morons.

When you can make the NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador look organized, you know your fucked.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In passing

There are communities in Nunavut with reputations. Perhaps those reputations are justified, perhaps they’re not. But most northern bloggers know them – the ones where there appears to be more violence, that there are greater rackets involving the youth in the community, where unemployment or drinking can be a problem.

I don’t think Kimmirut was on anyone’s radar. It’s south of Iqaluit and you can get there in less than a day by snowmobile if you feel like pushing it. And many people do head back and forth between the two communities during the winter. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to has had nothing but nice things to say about the community. There are people in town, when things get too much for them around here, head to Kimmirut for a break.

I’m not saying the place doesn’t have problems. I’m absolutely sure it does, but you rarely read or hear about the community. But it’s just one more element that makes the news of the murder of RCMP Constable Douglas Scott on Monday night so shocking. Kimmirut?

My condolences to Constable Scott and his family for this tragedy. The death of an RCMP officer is always horrible, but I admit it tends to hit me harder since I moved to the north. All northern bloggers know RCMP officers and most are friends with them. The communities are too small to not know who they are or get close to them. Most are hard working, dedicated and genuinely nice people doing a tough job under dangerous circumstance. These kind of days are horrible for anyone who lives in the north.

Special condolences to Claire, who is a former RCMP officer (in as much as you can be a former RCMP officer. I suspect he just retired and never stopped being an officer) and Jen, for which I imagine days like today must be especially traumatic.

The hardest job in Nunavut is the one that involves knocking on a door at 3 a.m. and not knowing what's waiting for you on the other side. We should never forget that.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Welcome to the cold

1. Today was the first day of “Oh my fuck” cold in Iqaluit for the season. It hit -31 with wind chill. I’d been getting by with my fall jacket, a fleece coat underneath that and just sneakers or hikers for shoes. Throw on a knit hat for warmth (what’s left on my head right now is most cosmetic and certainly will not keep me warm) and I was fine.

But today there was no chancing it. It was out with the BFC and BFB. I turned the car on for about 5 minutes or so before going outside to let it warm up. And I plugged it in at work. After what happened earlier the year with the transmission going, I’m taking no chances when it comes to plugging in the car.

I might end up flipping back and forth between the BFC and the lighter fall coat. It wouldn’t be unusual for the temperature to go back up to above -10, but I suspect those days will be few between now and next May. Still, you can always hope.

Then again, I should complain too much. My real sympathy should be for the poor bastards doing construction around town. I know a guy working on the soup kitchen and I can see people working outside on the Snack, the new apartment building and another group doing some water and sewage work. My heart goes out to them, having to work outside in this cold.

2. Jennifer of Nunablog sent me this bit of weirdness that I was previous unaware of. Walrus Magazine just did an issue on Arctic issue. Even put a Cape Dorset print on the cover, which probably explains why it was the first one taken at the recent showing in Iqaluit. I haven’t read the magazine in ages. I tried when it first came out, but found it dry. I suppose I should give it another try, but I already have a stack of magazines I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

But here I am quoted in the magazine. Which is cool and all, but they didn’t ask me first. They probably didn’t have to and I’m not seriously upset. But it would have been nice, as a courtesy. I’ve had reporters ask me before to comment on northern issues for stories they’ve been working on, but I’ve declined, mainly because they would have to use my real name, and given the context of my job, that’s not something I feel comfortable with. But this is relatively harmless.

It’s also interesting to note that I have seen no appreciable spike in my blog statistics since the article ran. That says something, I suspect, but perhaps it’s best not to read too much into it.

3. My computer is continuing its slow, winding way over from China. The UPS tracking page is providing unintentional mirth. In the course of 24 hours the computer went from China, to Hamilton, back to Alaska, then to Kentucky then back to Hamilton. I suspect that’s not completely right, but if UPS can’t get their tracking software straightened out, it does leave me with some concerns about when and what state my computer will arrive in.

On the upside, my copy of Aperture arrived today, via Puralator. Now, the software only had to come from the States and the computer came from China, so even though they were ordered at the same time, this is not unexpected. However, when talking with the Canada Post guys I asked who in town handles UPS. And my worst fears are realized in this it is Arctic Express.

I may have to call on higher power to get my computer here in one piece, in working order and on time. Actually, considering the web page says the computer would arrive by November 5, I’m pretty skeptical of that happening now. I suspect Wednesday will be the earliest, barring a miracle.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New lows

Honest to God, is the Liberal party run by idiots?

I'm not even referring to the federal Liberals, to which a case can easily be made. But if you need more proof that the people running the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador are morons, then this story ought to do the trick.

Aside from not vetting the guy to make sure he didn't have a shady past, they manage to provoke him into quitting days before the byelection so they have no candidate in the district. Granted, they probably had no chance of winning the seat. Given the massive discrepancy in the size of the governing party vs. the opposition parties, odds are the people of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans were going to vote Conservative anyway.

But still. Come on. I mean, I know it was hard work to look more inept and idiotic than the party did in the recent provincial election, but there's no need to actively go out and try.

And yet, there you go. They managed just that.

I think the size of the opposition parties will ultimately be a bad thing for Newfoundland and Labrador. Governments that have that much power tend to abuse it, no matter how good their intentions. But really, given how bad the Liberals are right now, I can't blame anyone for not wanting to waste their vote on them.

Say what you want about Danny Williams, at least he's competent. I don't think the current batch of Liberals could find the word in a dictionary.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Zombies of the north


Thanks to John Gushue, I now know what the odds are of me surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. At 56 per cent, it’s not the best odds in the world, but hey, it’s a better than 50/50 chance. My odds would be greater if only I did two things. First, was not make sure my loved ones were all right first before taking shelter. Curse my conscience for wanting to make sure Cathy was safe first.

And secondly, I need to become more comfortable with fire arms. I’m not, really. Jen and her husband would be just fine in case of imminent zombie attack. They have loads of guns and like to use them. Me, not so much. The only time I’ve ever fired a gun was back in ’95 when covering a story about the then impending gun control legislation. I went out to the Magnum Gun Club out in Witless Bay (jokes have already been made. Move along) and fired both hand guns and a rifle.

The consensus was that I shouldn’t really bother with guns if I could help it. It’s not that I was a bad shot. I’m a half decent one. It’s something far worse; I’m careless. I tend to forget the thing in my hand can kill people.

So really, I’m quite content to go through life without having a gun. Unless there’s a zombie apocalypse, in which case I will likely curse the fates that I never took more target practice.

However, I’m still feeling relatively safe up here. First of all, I’m not worried about zombies coming out of the ground because, hi, the ground is frozen. People would be waiting at the graveyard with guns, tapping their feet and wondering when the zombies were going to hurry up because it’s goddamn cold just standing around waiting for them all day.

Secondly, it’s goddamn cold. I don’t think zombies function all that well in -50. But I could be wrong. Who knows, maybe they can move faster than the average person up here bundled up in a parka.

Third, I suspect of all the capital cities in Canada, none has so many guns per capita as Iqaluit. I have no scientific numbers to back that up, but I’m fairly confident in that fact. So if there are zombies, many of the hunters in town will be grateful for the target practice.

(Terrifying fact: Cathy's says of the 25 kids in her class there are about 30 guns between them. Not every kid has a gun, but several have multiples. How many Grade 5 classes can you say that about?)

Finally, I think the Inuit would get a kick out of zombies. Again, no hard proof, you understand. I just think zombies would be an interesting game for them. Many Inuit found interesting ways to amuse themselves during the cold and dark (where do you think throat-singing came from?) so I can see zombies be entertaining.

One odd, final thought. I had a linguist up here tell me that qallunaaq, which is essentially the Inuktitut for “white person” comes from the Greenland dialect of the language. It means the colour of rotting flesh, which happens to be white. I have no idea if that’s true or not, by the way, before someone starts arguing the linguistic merits of that definition. It’s what I was told by a local linguist. So I’m going to go with what he told me until someone offers up proof he was pulling my leg.

So my final thought is this: would the Inuit call zombies qallunaaq?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Gassing up

Gas went up in Iqaluit, and the rest of Nunavut, on the first of November. I think it’s now around $1.29 a litre. I haven’t hit the gas station since it went up and with luck can avoid it for several weeks. One of the stations in town was trying to burn off old stock and was selling it at 97 cents a litre. So I filled up. If I had the space or the gas cans, I would have been down there filling up for an hour or so.

I honestly don’t mind the price of filling up a car in Iqaluit. First of all, the price of gas is heavily subsidized up here. Secondly, I probably only fill up maybe twice a month. And during the winter that’s likely due more to having to let the car warm up than it is driving around. So it's not like I spend a fortune on gas for the car. Probably between $80-90 a month.

But I think the thing that hurts is the increase in aviation fuel. That’s going up a substantial amount and already the airlines are increasing fares. I think First Air has said prices will be going up by six per cent or so. Which might not sound like a lot, but when the average ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa runs about $1,500, well, it’s now going to run closer to $1,600. I suspect that even with the occasional seat sale, it’s going to now be nearly impossible to buy a ticket between the two cities for less than $1,000.

And hell, that’s one of the cheaper flights. I have sympathy for people living in Igloolik, Arctic Bay and other high arctic communities. I know a woman who spent about $5,000 getting from Arctic Bay to St. John’s last year for Christmas. Throw six per cent on top of that. It might not be much once you’ve already spent the five grand, but it still adds up.

I know that the high price of gas is nothing new in Canada. Hell, things being expensive is just one of those things you have to get used to when living in the north. If you can't handle it, you won't last. But there's just something about the cost of airline tickets that gets to me. Yes, I know the gas is expensive, that their staffing costs are probably higher than almost any airline in Canada (I met a guy the summer who flies into Nunavut for three weeks to work with First Air as an engineer, and then flies home for three weeks. That can't be cheap). And there are likely all sorts of other costs that I can't think of. Oh, and Canadian North and First Air probably do more to help help local groups and charities than just about any airline I've heard of in Canada.

For example, we have a bonspiel coming up later this month which First Air will probably offer up a couple of free plane tickets. Canadian North will likely do the same thing next year. I know the Girl Guides had their cookies flown up at no charge. And the airline do this for any number of non-profit groups across Nunavut. It's good that they do that.

And hey, they feed you on the plane. Half decent food at that. None of these things are cheap.

So yeah, I understand that with gas prices going up, tickets have to go up. But at some point, when you're looking at the Visa bill with that return ticket to Ottawa on it and you see the dollar amount next to it, you can't help but go "fuuuucccck."

Thank God we already have our tickets out for Christmas booked. Theoretically the next tickets out we buy might not be until next July when we're looking at going to Italy. Although I was thinking of flying to New York in April for a few days. Now I think I’ll wait and see what the new fuel costs are.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The day after

A quiet Halloween for us. Not much in the way of costumes as Halloween tends to always sneak up on me and I forget to buy something. I know I could try and make something, but my creative abilities pretty much start and end with writing (and maybe a bit of photography). When it comes to costume design, not so much.

Cathy didn’t do much either, stealing my Mickey Mouse wizard hat from last year and accessorizing with a cheap plastic cape and white glove. We also didn’t have to worry about trick or treaters; we live in a secure apartment building, so no one came to our door. There aren’t even any kids in our building. I suppose we could have put a white sheet over Boo and brought him around the apartment building looking for doggie treats. Hell, Cathy nearly bought him a costume anyway. But I think there would have been something a touch odd about that. No need to freak out the neighbours more than necessary.

So we got off real easy. I heard this morning of places getting more than 200 visits. According to Facebook, a friend in Baker Lake appears to have resorted to giving out beef ramen noodles to kids once the candy well ran dry.

So all we did last night was watch Pushing Daisies (“I love you, shovel”) and had a discussion about why Cathy doesn’t like Halloween so much. It makes sense, really. As a teacher, she’s dealing with sugar mad fiends for most of this week. If they aren’t wired at the thought of getting the candy, then they’re wired once they finally get it. Then she has to deal with the sugar crash as they’re coming down off of it. Essentially this week is a write off. I can get that.

But the other thing is that Cathy has allergies. To nuts, for example. So when she was a kid her memories of Halloween were of being cold and going around door to door asking for treats, of which about half she couldn’t eat. So yeah, I get where that’s kind of sucky and might not give you the best memories of the day.

I always like Halloween, but have just fallen out of the habit in recent years. Next year I’ll have to try and get a proper costume. Of course, I’ll also have to try and find a place to store it. No kidding, space in our apartment is at a premium these days.