Sunday, November 30, 2008

No luck this time

So I checked out the Canadian Blogging Awards this morning to see who from the North managed to make it to the Final Five in the categories and the answer is....nobody.

I mean, perhaps I missed one or something, but I didn't see any of the northern blogs make the final list. Which I actually find a bit disappointing. I don't pretend to know how seriously people take these awards. I heard talk of Facebook campaigns and whatnot. Plus, I think this is the first year people from the north have made an active attempt to make the finals. This might be one of these things where you have to build up awareness of your blog over several years before it reaches a certain critical mass.

And I honestly wasn't expecting to make the final five in anything I was nominated in. Best Blog? Please. I had some small hopes in the Best Blog Post category because I'm partial to that rant on Levi Johnston, but no. Which is fine. After the Nunavut Blogging Awards and my attempt to get on MUN's Board of Regents, I think I had used up all my grovelling for votes in 2008.

I will make the minor complaint that it would have been nice to have seen the vote totals for everyone nominated on the long list. Not for bragging rights, but it is nice to have an idea of the number of votes you received and how many it takes to make it to the next round. Ah well.

But I really did expect Clare or Darcy to get nominated for something. I am surprised by that.

Oh well, maybe we'll get them next year. An if nothing else, I had a nice, steady stream of traffic from the awards website, and perhaps picked up a new reader or two. Which is always nice. Here's hoping you stick around

Last Five
1. Detroit '67 - Sam Roberts
2. How to save a life - The Fray
3. How my heart behaves - Feist
4. Lime tree - Bright Eyes
5. Little girl - The Beatles

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Arctic always wins

I think we're currently in one of these windows of time where the Arctic is personally reminding us who is in charge. You can get lax living up here sometimes, especially in Iqaluit. We have it relatively easy in Iqaluit compared to the rest of Nunavut which is why I generally don't like complaining when little inconveniences crop up. Compared to the challenges that come with living in place like Arctic Bay or Igloolik, the hassles we face here are very minor. So we try to be zen.

Besides, picking a fight with the Arctic is always a losing proposition. It will always win. There are time when I think that the Arctic is just luring us in with climate change. Then, one year, we're going to start getting winters that last 10 months and never get above -40C. Over the howling of the winds you could probably hear the Arctic chuckling, "Is that the best you got, bitches?"

As I said, I can be lured into the occasional romantic hopeless cause, but taking on the Arctic....that's just insane.

So what has been thrown at us recently that's causing this self-examination? Oh, nothing dramatic. On their own I might not have even noticed them. But a few things came to a head today, which is why I'm thinking on it.

There's the truck, for example. The driver's side door handle snapped off during a blizzard/ice storm a few weeks ago. Down south, a quick trip to the garage. Up here, three weeks later and I'm still waiting for the garage to get a handle shipped in. I managed to lose my care keys. Annoying, but we have a spare. Down south, quick trip to Canadian Tire. Up here, nobody has that particular kind of key, so we can't get another one cut.

One of the tires was running low on air. There are three gas stations in town. One doesn't have an air hose, the other one's was broken. The last one had an air hose - but they charged for it. Yes, today I paid for air. Welcome to the north.

For the better part of the last two weeks Northwest Tel has been having intermittent Internet failures. Nothing has dramatic as the Internet disappearing and you have to wait for three days for the parts and technician to fly in with the parts. Something as simple as the signal will drop out for 10-15 seconds and then pop back in magically. Except it's been doing this non-stop for days now. I thought it might be a problem with my modem or the router, but no, others are going through it as well.

A little nuisance, but one where after a few days you start asking, "why can't you fix this already?" Then again, Northwest Tel has managed to completely screw up the government phone system no less than three times so far this year.

It's the north. Complain about the service and how much you pay for it, they come back with how expensive it is to operate, then challenges of providing good service and how had it is to hire skilled professionals.

Today we also went to pick up our Cape Dorset print, which we love and were eager to get our hands on. There's a guy in town who does framing, so we were hopeful that this print could be done here in town.

Oh, here's the print, by the way.



Alas, this is the print back in our apartment. Why? The guy can't do the framing up here after all. Turns out the print is that much too big for his equipment. There are other options, but we're concerned as it involves sending it out for framing and then them shipping it back. But as the guy pointed out, there's a better than 50 per cent chance the glass gets shattered on the way up, ruining the print. Apparently more than 50 per cent of the glass he orders for his framing businesses gets broken on the way from Ottawa to here.

So we're now once again faced with what to do with an absolutely beautiful print that we desperately want to hang on our wall, but don't know how to go about doing it. We're both kind of depressed about it, really.

Hell, I even thought briefly today that we might eke out a small victory. When buying $85 worth of gas (our gas is insanely expensive because the year's supply was bought when oil was $140 a barrel, as opposed to the $50 dollars or so it is now), I popped into the gas bar. Where they sell McDonald's hamburgers, specially shipped up from Ottawa.

"What they hell," I thought, "We're having a less than great day, let's treat ourselves." So after spending almost $15 on a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a Big Mac, we bring them home to heat them up. Only to discover there is no lettuce and secret sauce on the Big Mac.

The Arctic has managed to deprive of us of even a junk food treat. It is devious.

I'm not completely oblivious to the shallowness of my complaining, by the way. As I said, there are people in smaller communities to the north that go through daily hassles that would drive me nuts. We haven't had to go through what poor Rob and Tina have, which I assure you would have sent me on a murderous rampage through their town looking for the culprits. And I didn't die working at a Wal-Mart this week, unlike this poor bastard.

We'll get over it. It's just today, well, bugger.

Last Five
1. I think I smell a rat - The White Stripes
2. A rush of blood to the head - Coldplay
3. Chillout tent - The Hold Steadys
4. Well alright! - The Hives*
5. Sweet fire of love - Robbie Robertson

Last chance

Just an unsubtle reminder that today is the last day to vote in the Canadian Blogging Awards. And in case you're thinking "Ahhh, I'll do that at some point later today," well, maybe not. I believe the cut off is around 4 pm EST if not a little before. So throw a little love to a northern blog and vote for one of us in a category. I listed most of the relevant northern bloggers here.

I'm not going to say "go and vote for me!" because really, most of the people I'm up against in these categories are friends, although I haven't met them all. Saying vote for me ahead of them just seems kind of...gauche.

Of course, if the miracle occurs and I make it to the top five in any of the categories this blog is nominated in, well, all bests are off....

(I kid, of course. Besides, there are only so many polar bears heads you can leave in people's bed before people start asking questions.)

Anyway, here's hoping Sunday morning brings at least one or two northern blogs in the finalist category. I've said it many times, but there's a nice community developing in the northern blogosphere (God, what a hideous word). We seek not fame, glory or money (although, hey....), but a little recognition from the South certainly wouldn't go astray.

Last Five
1. Heart to heart with Lionel - Joel Plaskett Emergency
2. On every street - Dire Straits*
3. God - Tori Amos
4. Sampson - Regina Spektor
5. 100 feet to go - Kelly Russell and the Planks

Friday, November 28, 2008

Picture perfect

Like most photographers these days, I cheat. I'm not saying all photographers cheat and if you can take excellent, perfectly composed photos, then good for you. However, if you give even those photographers access to a photo manipulation program, they'll soon find ways to mess around with their perfect pictures to make it even better.

I've been thinking for awhile that I needed a new picture of the top of the blog, but I haven't taken one recently that I really loved. And then, by a bit of pure flukery I glance out the window lunch time earlier the week and saw just an absolutely perfect photo. I ran, grabbed my camera and snapped a bunch of pictures.

So what's the problem? The problem is I loaded the picture into Aperture, which is Apple's photo program. Some people like Lightroom, but Aperture suits me just fine. It does the trick without me having to get into the deeply complicated overkill that is Photoshop.

Anyway, I've been playing with it for a couple of hours now. And it's hard to stop.

So let's take the original image, which I like. And feel free to click on it to get a larger version of the picture.



I like the picture a lot, but I knew there was some tweaking that needed to be done. So you start running Aperture and playing. And next think you know you're messing with the saturation levels and get something like this.



Or there's the shadows function



I kind of like the black and white version of the picture, although you do loose the nice colours of the sunset. But the arctic really is something that looks good in stark colours.



And that's all before I start cropping, which I will end up doing. Cropping actually improves the photo quite a bit, I think. And then I have to be tempted to mess with the colour balance again.



So yeah, this is going to be the new image on the top of my blog. If I can ever stop messing with it enough to actually put it up. Because right now, I just can't stop picking at it.

Last Five
1. Long division - Death Cab For Cutie
2. Too many - Sloan
3. Freedom for the stallion - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint (Clare, it occurs to me you would really like this CD. You should wreck your credit limit a bit and get it).
4. Future language of slaves - Hawksley Workman
5. Newfoundland weather - Colleen Power* (I absolutely love this song and will argue it is one of the best songs written by a Newfoundlander in the past 10 years).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Getting them and keeping them

So I got an email from a friend asking "I just started a blog and wondered if you had any advice on attracting readers (or in my case, viewers)."

I'm sure there are no shortage of blogs out there offering professional advice on how to get people to read your blog. But this is just a few of my tips. Regular readers can feel free to offer up their own tricks.

First of all, getting people to link to your blog helps. So in this case, the friend asking the question was John Andrews and is new blog can be found here. Some of the first people to link here were John Gushue and Ed Hollett. Without them, I don't think anyone would have known I'd existed the first four months this blog existed.

Is it always that simple? Well, no. I've had other people ask me to link to their blogs in the past and for various reasons I've said no. So why say yes this time? Two reasons. First, John is a friend of mine. We survived the Transcon wars when I was associate editor with The Express and John was in charge of layout. Not just of that paper, but a whole whack of them. Plus, whenever a paper was in need of a redesign, they called on John.

It's an under-appreciated skill, but John's probably one of the best in all of Atlantic Canada at newspaper layout design. He also worked for the Independent, and whatever complaints people might have had about the editorial direction of the paper, it was a damn good looking.

So yeah, I'll link to him. Plus, I want this image on a t-shirt, which I will buy from him if he makes it, and I'm not above sucking up to him to do it by mentioning him on the blog.



Tell me that's not cool.

But what are other ways to get people to your blog? Well, set up Statcounter on your blog. It's addictive, but you will see how much traffic you're getting and how they're getting to your blog. Through links from other blogs or what keywords on your blog are being caught by Google or Yahoo.

John wants to do mostly an image blog, but I think a bit of writing to go along with the images will help drum up some extra traffic.

What else? Get involved in networking and linking. That means joining different blog groups. My blog's traffic was minor until I joined the Newfoundland and Labrador blogroll. Then it essentially doubled in a month. Being involved in the Nunavut blogging community has also increased the traffic.

Post to people's blog. Blogger has this new thing where you can be a "follower" of someone's blog. If they list who follows you on the blog (like I do) it's free advertising for your blog. Post comments on a wide variety of blogs. You do kind of have to dive into blogging communities, either by territory or area of speciality.

Some believe in making sure certain keywords are in blog posts because it drives traffic to your blog. Clare has joked that he gets more traffic for people looking for information about Purple Saxifrage. You guys would be appalled if you knew how many search requests I get from people looking for pictures of naked curlers because I did a joke post on it two years ago.

But above all, you have to post regularly. I try to post every day and it's hard. People think I'm nuts. There are people who post multiple times a day and I think they're nuts. But you've got to post several times a week. Otherwise, people are just going to give up and stop coming to the site. There are a lot of cool blogs out there. If you're not giving people something new and interesting to look at on a regular basis, then forget about it.

I care about who comes to the site for, admittedly, strictly ego reasons. I don't have ads on the blog. I don't make a cent off the blog. If you're blogging to try and make money, I imagine there's a whole different level you can take to promoting yourself and getting people to your blog.

But if want to start with a modest readership (I'm getting about 200-250 unique viewers these days which, trust me, is very modest), then these are the basic tricks to get them to come check you out.

Once you get them there, well, the rest is up to you to be interesting. With John, I'll be curious to see what else he comes up with his artwork, so I'll keep coming back.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Last Five
1. This silence - Ian Foster Band
2. Take me with you - Tori Amos
3. Families - Neil Young
4. North American for life - Matthew Good
5. The littlest birds - The Be Good Tanyas

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Your dose of culture and entertainment

It occurs to me that since I'm nominated in the Best Entertainment/Cultural Blog category at the Canadian Blogging Awards (and you've gone and voted, right?) that I really ought to do a little of that cultural and entertainment writing that I am apparently famed for. So here are a few quick hits.

1. I'm currently reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. While I've been a fan of Gaiman since the first issue of his classic Sandman series, his last few books have left me feeling awfully flat. Even his collection of short stories didn't do it for me, and I've always thought short fiction was Gaiman's strong point and not full novels. So I was beginning to wonder if I had just out grown him.

But The Graveyard Book is marvelous. Clever, funny and scary without ever having to go over the top to prove that something bad is happening. The opening chapter where Bod's parents and sister are murdered by a man named Jack with a knife is deeply disturbing, but never graphic. And that's a hard trick to pull off.

Then you have a chapter like "The Hounds of God" which offers a new take on werewolves and ghouls, that's both funny and, again, kind of scary.

As I said, I'm only half way through, so it could still go off the rails. But so far it's the Gaiman I loved back in the 90s, which is good news.

2. On the movie front, I finally caught Zach and Miri Make a Porno. And I'm beginning to wonder if I'm done with Kevin Smith. It had it's moments (the anal sex scene was utterly predictable and gross, yet still got the biggest laughs of the evening).

I think the problem is that Smith is really, desperately trying to interject more Heart in his movies. The last quarter of the movie was about Zach and Miri's feelings. The same thing happened with Clerks II and you were going to like all the Heart in Jersey Girl even if he had to tie you down and ram it down your throat.

And they're all likable enough movies. But Smith still hasn't mastered mixing his insane humour with humanity and making it really interesting. He came close with Chasing Amy, but it's been wobbly going ever since then. His days of being shocking and cutting edge clever are over and done with.

It's a funny enough movie, I guess, but it's definitely a rental.

3. Twilight - Ahahahahaha - no, I haven't seen it and you will have to prod me to the theatre with a gun in my back to make me. Furthermore, might I add, if your lead vampire does not drink human blood, have fangs, can walk around in the daylight without bursting into flames and is not affected by stakes to the heart, crosses or garlic, then you have created a character that is something other than a vampire. Some clever wag online suggested they be called VINO's (Vampire In Name Only). I can go for that.

I do, however, really want to see Let The Right One In, which sounds really creepy and clever and has been getting fantastic reviews. Of course, it's subtitled from the Swedish, so the odds of it playing up here are fairly remote.

4. On the TV front, I think the show I'm liking best into this season is Chuck. Yeah, it came out last year, but they've really hit their stride this season. Monday wrapped up the "Chuck's ex-girlfriend is back and is a spy" trilogy, which lots of crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses while cheekily acknowledging that some of this stuff is deeply silly. But there's always good, instantly quotable dialogue (This week's - "Unleash the Casey". Last week's was "Tastes like high school" a nice double meaning after one character drank too many wine coolers).

It's funny, clever and deeply geeky. Which means its in trouble rating wise, but here's hoping it lasts, unlike poor, doomed Pushing Daises which was always far too quirky and amusing for network TV. Knight Rider continues to air while Daisies is dead. TV is the land of great injustice.

5. As for new shows, the only one I'm making an effort to keep up with is Fringe. This is a doomed effort, I'm sure. There are shows where you can miss an episode and you're fine. It feels like if I'm late coming back to the channel after a commercial break, I'm hopelessly behind on Fringe. Plus, it looks like they're trying to do some mutant, hybrid epic Mythology; some kind of bizarre crossing of The X-Files with Lost.

So why keep watching it? First, the writers are clearly on drugs and hitting as many deeply weird science websites as they can find. This week's episode with hallucinogenic frogs is actually fairly pedestrian compared to others. But you get the feeling that there's a writers room with a bunch of stoned, nutjob MIT drop-outs sitting around and cackling over the latest bit of weirdness they've found.

But mainly I keep watching for Dr. Walter Bishop (give John Noble an Emmy right now for Best Supporting Actor. I demand it), who is mad. He was probably mad before he spent 18 years in an inane asylum, but he's delightfully mad now. He's a character I literally wait with anticipation to see what he's going to say next, because you never know what it might be.

I almost pity the rest of the actors on the show. They're all kind of drab and marginally interesting compared to Walter.

There, is that enough culture and entertainment for the time being?

Last Five
1. Tickle Cove Pond - Great Big Sea
2. In your eyes (live) - Peter Gabriel*
3. Death by chocolate - Sia
4. Fish in the jailhouse - Tom Waits
5. Mrs. Robinson - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A miracle



So if you bet that it would take 33 days and three tries as the correct answer on how long it would take UPS to get the above piece of software to us then congratulations, you win the prize.

It is, of course, a complete joke that it took this long and I still pray for the demise of the company. Even the guys at Canada Post were mocking them as useless. And yes, there might be some lingering rivalry between the two. But really, no one on the comments section of my previous post had anything nice to say about them. Nor am I the only person in the north having problems with them.

About the only good thing that might come from this is the possibility that in a few weeks time another copy of the same software might magically show up. But that's assuming UPS gets their act together, so I'm high skeptical.

Oh, and on a passingly related note, heard an interesting piece of gossip from St. John's way. There's a rumour going around that Future Shop is on the verge of folding up shop. I find that hard to believe and especially right before Christmas, but there it is. Has anyone else heard anything similar?

Last Five
1. Man-sized wreath - REM
2. The well and the lighthouse - The Arcade Fire
3. Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da - The Beatles
4. Pastures of plenty - Allison Krauss and Union Station
5. Jesus gonna be here (live) - Tom Waits*

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sickness post

So after three weeks of Cathy being sick with pretty much everything coming through town short of tuberculous, she's finally on the mend. Which naturally means I finally caught something. It was inevitable, really. So my head currently feels like an overinflated balloon and my sinus want to explode out of my head.

All of which makes it not exactly the best set if circumstances for coming up with creative ideas for the blog. My apologies, especially for all the people visiting the blog for the first time from the Canadian Blogging Awards. I assume you I'm normally much more clever and witty.

(Excuse me a minute while I go and slap around the regulars to prevent them from snickering.)

Anyway, I will try and think of something pithy to write tomorrow. But for this evening I'll leave you the cartoon below. It was sent to me by my friend Sara, who I've known since my Muse days. She was one of a group of women from that time that I knew who was not only insanely intelligent and sweet, but also had a real god given ability to take the piss right out of me without trying hard.

So when I saw this cartoon, I managed to laugh and mutter, "you wench" at the same time. Then again, that's Sara.



The Cartoon is by Andy Riley and comes from The Observer Magazine over in the UK. The strip isn't online, so this is Sara's picture of it. Click on it to see a larger version.

Still, pretty accurate. Except I started the blog first before I began to ramble on about a novel.

Anyway, something amusing or outraged tomorrow. Oh, according to UPS, my package arrives tomorrow. Place your bets on that happening.

Last Five
1. Face me - Neil Diamond
2. Arizona - Kings of Leon
3. Gone, gone, gone (Done move on) - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
4. Helicopter - Bloc Party
5. Curiosity - Sean Panting*

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Welcome to the cold

So let's just say it's a wee bit cold up here today. Cathy perhaps summed it up best by saying, "it's a beautiful day, just as long as you don't have to go outside."

I think it's around -41 with windchill today. We're going to have colder days this winter, but this is the first really cold day of this winter and that's always a bit of a shock to the system.

How cold is it? Well, let's see if this picture can sum things up accurately.



That fog is, I'm pretty sure, actual steam coming up off the ocean because the Arctic Ocean is that much warmer than the air above it. The inner bay is pretty much already frozen. It won't be too much longer before the outer one will be as well. Then we can enjoy watching snow mobiles zipping out at warp speeds across the sea ice.

Still, despite the cold, we did go outside briefly to get brunch at the Frobisher. Their brunch is one of the few good deal on food in town if you want to eat yourself sick. I'm reminded of this xkcd cartoon every time I come back from their brunch.



All you can eat bacon. That's never a good thing, really.

Round one of the voting for the Canadian Blogging Awards has officially begun. I kind of feel odd as this will be the third time this year I will have asked people to vote for me. There was the Nunavut Blogging Awards and MUN's Board of Regents election. At some point, you're just taking advantage of people.

Then again, I haven't actually won any of these things. So until I win something, I think I'm just going to keep on bugging people.

And now, because it's been awhile and I know you're craving for a return appearance, here's some pictures of Boo.


Sunning himself on top of the couch.


Just hanging out.


Perhaps the reason why my internet has exceeded its 10 gig cap the last couple of months....Boo is cruising for music and porn while we sleep.

Last Five
1. Someday soon - KT Tunstall
2. I can't take it - Andy Stochansky*
3. Living the dream - Sloan
4. Peace on earth - U2
5. Kiss that frog (live) - Peter Gabriel

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Your northern blogging nominees

I was planning on mentioning the Canadian Blog Awards as I believe the call for nominations closed yesterday or are closing today. I guess it's all in how you interpret things. However I notice that both Darcy and Megan have already mentioned that the nomination period is essentially over and done with.

So starting from November 23-29 will be the first round of voting. The top five go to the final round of voting, which runs from November 30-December 7.

Why mention this? Well, a couple of reasons. From a pure ego-stroke point of view I'm on the long list in several categories, which is both strange and very gratifying. Secondly, several of my online friends, both in the arctic and back in Newfoundland are nominated as well.

And finally, there's some talk about trying to organize an arctic voting block. We're all very proud of our arctic blogging family. Clare and I make jokes about Nunavut's blogging godfathers, but we proud of the "family" that's developed up north. I think Clare, in particular, has been a gateway blog to a lot of other northern blogs over the years.

I'm not going to tell who people who they should vote for. However, if you swing by this blog on a regular basis, then I encourage you to take a look at some of the blogs nominated, then take a few minutes and toss your vote on them. If you want to vote as a bloc, that's cool. But I think the important thing is to go and vote.

Why? I mean, it's just an online award after all, right? Yeah, but it's a bit more than that. I've won a couple of journalism awards and I assure you, the cynicism around those are equal to any online blogging awards. Still, it's nice to win these things. It's nice to get the recognition that what you're writing is being read by a large readership and liked.

You write blogs for many reason, but surely one of them is to be read and liked.

Anyway, here's the list of arctic bloggers nominated, along with a few from back in Newfoundland that I recommend. Apologies if I miss anyone.

Best Blog
The House and Other Arctic Musings
Townie Bastard
Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills

And while not northern, I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Bond Papers

Best Blog Post
"Levi Johnston's 2008 so far" by Townie Bastard

Best Blog Post Series
"The Being David Hasselhoff Contest" by Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills
"Land Claims for Dummies" by Stage Left

Best Cultural/Entertainment Blog
Townie Bastard

Best Family Blog
The Adventures of Matt, Kara and Baby Hunter in Faro, Yukon
Dispatches from the Failed Mommies Club
Just Below 63
Fawnahareo’s Place: Life as a mom in the Yukon

Best Local Blog
The House and Other Arctic Musings
Tales From The Arctic
Way Way Up
Townie Bastard
Jen of Nunavut
The Adventures of Matt, Kara and Baby Hunter in Faro, Yukon

Best Personal Blog
Dispatches From the Failed Mommies Club
Way Way Up
Jen of Nunavut

Best Photo/Art Blog
The House and Other Arctic Musings
Kluglanoch Corner
Inuvik Phil

Best Political Blog
The Bond Papers (in lieu of an arctic blog in this category, I highly recommend Ed's blog)

Best Professional/Career Blog
Habeas Corpus Under Aurora Borealis
Tales from the Arctic

And that's it. Remember to go here on Sunday and I'm sure there will be directions on how to vote in each category.

Last Five
1. Captain of a shipwreck - Neil Diamond
2. Is it any wonder - Keane
3. That summer - Andy Stochansky
4. How will I find you in heaven - Mo Berg
5. Look away - Big Country*

Friday, November 21, 2008

Time to die now

It feels wrong, in this fragile and troubled economy, to wish for a business to go bankrupt. But there is something almost Darwinian at work in the economy right now. The big three automakers have behaved like dinosaurs for decades and that's why the recent troubles are beginning to look a bit like a certain comet or asteroid that hit Earth 75 million years ago.

They're not dead, far from it. But you get the feeling they're going to look a bit more like alligators that brontosauruses at the end of it.

Still, I'm afraid I have to wish for a company to die now. It's time for them to die, really. Because if you're in the business of deliver parcels and you fail not once, not twice, but apparently now three time to deliver the same item then you are to stupid to exist anymore.

Or, to put it more bluntly, UPS couldn't find its ass with both hands, a 10-foot high mirror and a GPS tracking device all of the while standing in the middle of the West Edmonton Mall, during Christmas rush, screaming, "Hey, has anyone seen my ass?!"

This is a incompetent company that apparently employs morons. I swear to God, I'm wondering if they do IQ tests when hiring people and only pick the ones who fail it.

"Wow dude. That's harsh. Surely they can't be that stupid."

Why yes. Yes, they most certainly can. Allow me to explain.

My disdain for UPS goes back to last year when my laptop managed to get from China to Montreal faster than it did from Montreal to Iqaluit. In fact, it was missing long enough, and UPS was that unhelpful, that I called Apple and told them it was time to crack the whip. Apple cracked the whip and, like magic, the computer showed up the next day.

So anyway, let's travel back to a more recent time. Specifically October 22 of this year. That's when I placed another order with Apple. I ordered an iPod Nano as part of Cathy's parents Christmas gift (they know they're getting it, so I'm not reveal state secrets here) and a copy of Microsoft Word for Mac. Cathy's been wanting a copy of this for her computer for awhile now so I figured, what the hell, let's order it.

During the order process I told Apple I would prefer it not be shipped by UPS because of the troubles last year. They said they would see what they could do. And I thought no more on it.

Then on or about Oct. 27 the iPod arrived at the local post office via Fed Ex. I hate saying one of the good things about Arctic Express's warehouse burning down is that Fed Ex and other couriers now ship directly to the post office but, ummm, it is. Arctic Express was, well, let's be kind to the recently fallen, very erratic at getting these packages to the right people in a timely fashion.

Still, I had my iPod, and very promptly. No MS Word, however. I thought no more on it and figured it would show up in a day or so.

Some time passes and I notice I still don't have the copy of MS Word, which is weird. That's when I crack open the Apple email and notice that MS Word, for some reason, had been shipped by UPS. And they were having troubles delivering it.

Why?

Because they had shipped it to Inuvik.

Let that one sink in for a moment, if you will. Same labelling and everything gets put on both packages. Fed Ex gets the iPod to Iqaluit, no problem. UPS sends the the package to the other side of the Goddamn country!

Anyway, on November 6 I decide to take matters into hand and call Apple. Because calling UPS is a waste of time. From my previous experience, they will not give a shit and I will talk to someone who sounds like they're 15 years old and live in India.

So I'm chatting with Apple. To their credit, they don't even try and save the package. Acknowledging that UPS has pretty well screwed the pooch on this one, they send me out a brand new copy of the software. "Cool," I say. "But look, seriously, for the love of God, don't send it via UPS. You're dealing with serious morons there."

"I'll make a note of that and see what we can do," the guy with Apple says.

So naturally they sent it using UPS again. I sighed. But then I got busy with work and the curling championships and thought no more about it. Except now it's November 18 and I'm thinking to myself "I still haven't seen that software yet" and check the UPS tracking number to see what's up.

They sent it to Inuvik...again.

Now I'm about ready to pop a gasket. Because while it's not a rush to get the software or anything, this is a level of incompetence above and beyond the call of duty. So I call Apple...again. And I explain to them what's going on.

"So Inuvik isn't near Iqaluit, right?" the Apple guy says.

"Inuvik is to Iqaluit as Vancouver is to Montreal, just add on about $3,000 extra air fare," I say.

"So they messed up big time?"

"Oh fuck yeah."

So Apple agrees to send out another copy of the software. They're even going to ship it priority. And I tell them, explicitly, for fuck's sake, for the love of God, do not send this via UPS. Do Not Do This.

"No problem," says the Apple guy.

Next day I get the email notice from Apple that the software has shipped. Via UPS.

If a definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result, then Apple is nuttier than a fruitcake baking contest at the Waterford Hospital. I love the company, I love their products and I will recommend Apple computers to anyone looking for one.

But really, guys, seriously. This is about $600 in software Apple has wandering the lands looking for a home right now, thanks to UPS

So I'm watching it closely this time. And on the 19th of November, the software magically manages to make it to the east coast. Montreal, to be specific. So I'm thinking it should show up on the 20th, the 21st at the latest. Except I checked the UPS tracking number this morning.

It's delayed until December 2nd. No reason given. They're just not sending this priority package for another 10 days or so. Oh, and out of morbid curiosity, one of the other pieces of software is also, apparently, now in Montreal, with someone at UPS managing to fire up the ol' synapses enough to realize that Inuvik and Iqaluit and pretty different place. But I guess communities in the arctic that both start with the letter 'I' can be confusing to the brain damaged.

And I have a message on the answering machine from a UPS rep wondering if I've received the package of October 22nd. I could call them back but, and get this, the cheap bastards didn't give me a toll-free number to call. So I can find out where it is, once I call on my dime.

If they aren't the cheapest bunch of sons of bitches...

UPS's slogan, at some point, was "What can Brown do for you?"

Might I humbly make a suggestion?

Die, you useless, brain-dead, prehistoric bunch of motherfuckers. Please. Just go bankrupt and die and do the world a favour. Stand as an example of what happens to inefficient, useless and stupid companies that are incapable of performing their core functions with even a half-assed amount of efficiency.

Just die already.

Thank you.

Last Five
1. In the sky - Mark Knopfler
2. Annie's song - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
3. Thank you Louise - Ryan Adams
4. Waiting for a miracle - Bruce Cockburn
5. Good Ship Venus - Loudon Wainwright III (one of the filthiest songs ever recorded)*

Pirates

A quick link for your afternoon reading - a map of all the piracy incidents so far in 2008. I knew about the incidents around Somalia, obviously. And I knew there were incidents around Indonesia. But still, the sheer volume of piracy this year is kind of surprising. And hell, the tradition appears to be alive and well in the Caribbean.

Anyway, I thought you might find it interesting.

Come back later in the day when, barring a miraculous burst of competence, I will be tearing a very, very large strip of UPS. I've called UPS incompetent before, but recent actions have managed to surpass even their high levels.

Yes, it will be a rant. So bring popcorn and something to protect yourself from the spittle. I'm told I can be entertaining when I go off the rails on someone/something like this, and this rant has been building for awhile.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving up the fight

I had a much longer rant written about the new appointments to the Board of Regents, especially on St. John's lawyer Bob Simmonds being appointed as the Regents new Chair.

But then I deleted the whole works of it. Why? Because it was one of those rare cases where it sounded too bitter even for me. Look, the provincial government has won. And maybe that's a good thing for the university in the long run, I don't know. But if the students are upset about the government having that much control over the university, they don't seem to care. And if the faculty is upset with it, then they're only making the smallest of noises. And I strongly suspect the general public simply does not give a shit what happens at the university anymore.

The fact of the matter is, the government is going to get who they want to be president of the university. The recent alumni election (Alumni Affairs still refuses to release the results) and these most recent appointments assures that. I don't know why the government is all fired up to control the university, but they seem to be and they have. Williams will get who he wants as president. And if you think he wasn't the one pulling the strings all along, you weren't paying much attention to who did, and didn't, get shuffled in cabinet recently.

People might have mocked and called Joan Burke incompetent, but she's still running Education. And there's a reason for that.

At this point, it's kind of hard for me to get worked up about it when no one really appears to give a shit. I believe in a good fight as much as the next person. Hell, I'll even fight the occasional noble lost cause. But this...this is something else entirely.

(I put that ellipse in there just to annoy Megan. You're welcome.)

But the thing is, I really wish the new Chair of the Board gave a shit. I wished he would at least make the pretense of being happy to be appointed to that position, to talk about what a great honour it is, and what a tremendous responsibility it is to Chair an organization charged with creating a learning institute vital to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Instead, we get this.

"It's a position that I don't get paid for...It's a position that where no doubt there has been some difficulties and, you could say, acrimony that's become so public. And believe me, I can pick enough fights in my profession that I don't have to step outside it to do it...And I'm going to be away from my office for significant periods of time, so I'm going to lose revenue. If that's the definition of a patronage appointment, so be it."


If that's the definition of enthusiasm and commitment to an important cause, well colour me a little depressed. He might be an appointed crony of the Williams's government, but it would be nice if they had appointed one who actually sounded like he wanted to do the job as opposed to someone whining about the burden of it.

Last Five
1. You can't always get what you want - The Rolling Stones*
2. Not about to lose - Ron Sexsmith
3. Lakes of Pontchartain - The Be Good Tanyas
4. Hell's ditch - The Pogues
5. Born to be a dancer - Kaiser Chiefs

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dinner and an excerpt

Just concluded a nice evening with Clare where I made supper and succeeded in not poisoning anyone. I can cook two meals pretty well. One is Macaroni and cheese and the other is chicken parmasian. I went with the chicken dish this evening and Cathy made a blueberry cake for dessert.

So a good time was had by all. There was lots of intelligent conversation, plus we gossiped about all the northern bloggers. Yes, all of you. Why? Because we are are old men, plus elder Nunavut bloggers (we have been blogging for more than three years. In Nunavut blogging years, that makes us about 80). If Nunavut blogging was the Mafia, we would be the godfathers.

So appropriate fear and dread should be in order now.

Anyway, one of the things Clare mentioned when he was here at the penthouse (we've moved from a chateau to a penthouse) was that he wanted to read some of the book I've mentioned for more than a year.

The book, for those who don't know, is called "Paper Trails". It's the story of Derek Prescott, a journalist with a community newspaper, who is trying to find a bit of redemption from a series catastrophic mistakes 10 years earlier when he was editor of a student newspaper. Mistakes both professional and personal. Now he's chasing the biggest story of his career while a few old ghosts come back to visit.

The story is set both in modern times and a decade earlier. This excerpt is from Chapter 4, set in early 1994. And please remember, this is an early draft, so there are likely mistakes. Constructive criticism welcome, abusive anonymous comments will never see the light of day.

***

By the time I stomped through the door of the Gateway office I was soaked to the skin. My coat could handle cold and snow, but its designers clearly had never designed it to handle what was falling outside today. I took it off and draped it along a heater that ran along one wall. It wasn’t the first coat there and the office already had a stale, damp smell.

I could feel the beginnings of a cold creeping into my system. This kind of weather breeds sickness. Half the staff would be down by the end of the week. The other half would be down by the middle of next week. It was going to play havoc with trying to get a half decent paper out. One more things to put me in a bad mood.

I glanced around the office. It looked like a bomb had hit it, which is to say it looked perfectly normal. A few people always tried at the beginning of each academic year to keep the place tidy, but they were so ruthlessly taken advantage of they normally gave up after a few weeks. The place eventually reached critical mass when the maintenance staff refused to come in and clean the floors until the rest of the place was tidy. At that point Megan did what the rest of the staff referred to behind her back as a “Krakatoa” and threatened to kill people if the place wasn’t cleaned within the hour.

It resulted in a mass purging of fossilized pizza boxes, abandoned lunches, piles of papers and other refuse quickly being cleaned. However, it was too early in the semester for Megan to have gone off yet.

I looked at my watch and saw that I had five minutes to make it half way across campus to my class. I was soaked and in a foul mood. Instead I marched over to a cubicle on the wall I had claimed as mine, grabbed a towel I kept for such occasions and dried off my hair. Fuck the class. My next one was at one. I needed a couple of hours to get in a better mood before hitting classes.

There were only a few people in the office. A couple I didn’t know, but they were over chatting with Rich, who was the paper’s main photographer. He was probably also the paper’s most popular person, or at least he was with the female staff members. The long blonde hair tied back in a pony tail just seemed to trigger some sort of hormonal response with them. He also had a steady stream of girlfriends, about a half dozen since last September. A “likeably rogue” as Megan described him. I didn’t recognize the couple of girls he was chatting with, but neither of them were the girl I saw him with at New Year’s. I shook my head and glanced around.

The only other person in the main office was Jim, the paper’s film reviewer. Barely 20 years old, his red hair was already showing signs of thinning, something that annoyed him immensely. He had put on weight since he took over the position in September. He blamed in on all the popcorn and candy he was eating at the theatres. Since he got in for free, he could take the admission money he saved and blow it on junk. It was as good a theory as any.

He was in the corner, sitting on one of the paper’s beat to shit couches rereading an old movie magazine. I walked over and sat on the couch near him. He looked up.

“Remind me again the merits of a post-secondary education,” I asked him.

“It increases our chances of gaining meaningful employment after graduation,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. I paused a moment. “So, how are your English courses going this semester?”

“Pretty good. I’m currently skipping early 20th Century Canadian literature. How’s your poli-sci classes?”

“Wouldn’t know. I’ve managed to miss them all so far this semester.”

We both started laughing quietly.

“Fuck, we’re doomed,” I said.

“Nah. One day you will run the local newspaper and then I will come grovelling to you for a job as a movie reviewer.”

“I’ll expect kickbacks.”

“Naturally.”

I shook my head. It was weird how many people on staff just assumed I was going to end up working as a journalist in town. I had managed the rare feat in the last six months of selling a couple of freelance stories to the local daily. Most of the staff volunteered their time or worked for the small pittance that editors got for working extra hours. A few hundred bucks a semester. The idea that you could write and people would pay you for it was something that many of them had difficulty getting their brain around.

Then again, it had taken me awhile as well.

It was only after I was getting comfortable in the couch that I noticed one of the two office doors across from the couch was closed. Along with the main office there were two smaller ones. One contained a trio of computers that belonged in a museum, yet still functioned barely well enough to allow people to write stories on them. They were dubbed Lenin, Stalin and Mao by a former member of staff who had a strong socialist bent. No doubt he intended them as some sort of tribute.

I just viewed them as fitting. Communists were evil. So were these computers. It worked.

The other office, the one with the closed door, was the editor’s office. The door was normally left open since it also contained the bound volumes of old editions that people needed to reference. It also had one of the few useable desks and a phone with a jack to plug in tape recorders. However, Megan also used to close it from time to time when she was having a meeting.

“Is Meg in there with someone?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” Jim said. “Some newbie walked into the office this morning and said she wanted to join the paper. Meg took her into the office to chat about what she might like to do. They’ve been in there about 20 minutes I guess.”

New staff members in January was a bit weird, but not unheard of. The majority of staff joined in September. You might get 20 or 30 new people interested in working for the paper. If you kept a third of them, you would be lucky. Some found out it wasn’t for them or they were misled about how much free stuff there was. And then there were the inevitable personality conflicts. Someone would get on someone else’s nerves and that was that.

I managed to drag myself off the couch and stood up. “Well, I suppose I should go and introduce myself. Maybe I can recruit a new person into writing news.”

I paused. “Did you say she?”

Jim didn’t even look up from his magazine. “Yup.”

“Cute?”

“I’ve got a girlfriend, remember.”

“Yes, and I’m not asking you to betray her. I’m asking you, as a man, to assess the physical attractiveness of a member of the opposite sex. You remember how to do that, right?”

Jim had been seeing his girlfriend since Grade 11, so it was questionable whether or not he remembered. But he managed to dig deep and come up with an answer.

“Yeah, she’s cute.”

“Cool,” I said. I went over and knocked on the door. Megan shouted from the other side to come in.

I opened the door and stepped into the office. I then promptly stopped dead in my tracks. Megan was in her usual spot, sitting on the desk with her feet resting on the chair she was supposed to be sitting in. Sitting in a black office chair nearby and partially facing the door was Kate Ellis.

I’d been doing my best the past month or so to put the incident with Kate out of my brain. I was alternating between feeling guilty over what I did to her father and rage over having beer tossed at me. Seeing her in the office, evidently sharing a laugh with Megan, all I managed was what I imagined was a look of complete bafflement.

“Problem, Derek?” Megan asked.

I managed to gather my wits enough to ask, “What is she doing here?”

“I’ve decided that the best way to address something you’re upset with is to go and try and fix it. That’s why I’ve decided to join the paper,” Kate said.

The bafflement was quickly evaporating and rage was nicely sliding in to fill the gap.

“The paper needs ‘fixing,’ does it?”

“Evidently so,” said Megan. Normally that kind of derogatory comments about the paper got Megan’s ire up. Instead, she just looked vastly amused. She was bouncing her feet on the chair, as if that might contain her glee.

This was rapidly getting out of control and I needed to try and stop it before it went completely off the rails.

“Moment of your time, Meg?”

She seemed to be expecting that. She slid off the desk, walked out of her office and into the computer room next door. I followed behind her and pushed the door ajar behind me as it never been able to close properly.

I will not blow up, I thought to myself.

“You know who she is, right?”

“She’s Kate Ellis, Professor Ellis’s daughter. She seems quite nice…”

My voice popped a bit a louder than I would have liked. “Really. Quite nice. Did she tell you about our little run-in downtown last month?”

Megan was bouncing quietly on her feet again. She was trying very, very hard not to break out laughing and not even remotely succeeding. “She might have mentioned it…”
And then she did lose it and doubled over, laughing.

“For fuck’s sake, Megan, she threw a pint of Guinness at me!” I shouted.

“Who threw a pint of Guinness at you?” Jim called out from the outer office.

“That would have been me,” I heard Kate say through the door.

“And you are?”

“Kate.”

“I’m Jim.”

“Lovely to meet you. I’ve just joined the paper.”

“Excellent.”

“She has not just joined the fucking paper!” I shouted, throwing the door open.

“I think I might have some say on who can and can’t join this paper,” Megan said. She had managed to stop laughing and was trying to look stern, but only partially succeeding. There were still tears in her eyes from laughing. I took a deep breath and tried to regain some composure.

“Look. Remember how we said that it would be really, really nice if we could spot some of the crazy people before they joined the paper and weed them out before they did any damage? Well, here we go. Normal people do not throw pints of beer at people.”

The fact is, we did attract our share of crazy people with the newspaper. Those who would come in and rant about some conspiracy or some group on campus that was evil and needed to be exposed. We tried to give them as little to do as possible, once we realized they were crazy in the hopes they would go away. It took time, but it normally worked.

I didn’t think Kate was crazy. But I did think she was going to make my life exceedingly difficult over the next few months if I couldn’t get rid of her. Unfortunately I wasn’t fooling Megan for a second

“First, we both know she’s not crazy. Second, we both know you had that coming,” Megan said. I started to protest, but she cut me off. “You wrote a story that embarrassed her father. Karmically speaking, she owes you a lot more than just a pint of Guinness to your face.”

“Really?” Kate said. “Does anyone have a tin of pop I might be able to borrow?”

Jim got up from the couch and began angling towards the door. Across the hall was a vending machine that sold Coke.

“Buy her a can of Coke and Julia Roberts will win an Oscar sooner than you’ll get to review another movie for this paper,” I said, pointing a finger at him.

Jim stopped in the doorway. He hated Julie Roberts with a fiery passion and for reasons I’ve never been able to figure out. I didn’t have the power to back up what I just threatened, but the thought of losing his precious movie reviewers pass froze him in place. Either that or Megan was gesturing behind my back for Jim to please sit back down.

Kate, meanwhile, was looking around the office with some curiosity. Rich had stopped paying attention to the couple of women he was with and smiled at her. Kate smiled pleasant back at him and began to review the list of possible stories for this week written on the white board.

I was about to go over and say something to her, when Meg grabbed my arm, pulled me back into the computer room and pushed the door to. The mirth was gone and she was being serious again.

“Look, I know this isn’t going to be easy for you…”

“Are you kidding?” I said.

“…but we need her and I want you to do this. We both know there aren’t enough women on staff and with the exception of the occasional news story I find time to write, there are no women writing news. And we both know that’s bad. It’s a perspective that we’re missing.”

I flopped down into one of the chairs in front of a computer. It creaked ominously.

“You’re killing me, Meg. She’s going to make my life absolute hell for the time she’s with the paper. Which won’t be long. She’ll get off on making my life miserable for a few weeks, get bored and leave.”

Meg grabbed one of the other computer chairs, turned it around and straddled it so she could face me.

“I don’t think so.” I started to protest again, but she held out her hand. “Look, I was talking to her for 20 minutes. She’s clearly very bright, quite articulate and she even brought writing samples. She’s working on a History degree. They’re a touch too academic for the newspaper, but she at least understands that she’s going to have to adapt her writing style for it to work in the paper.

“And I don’t think she’s going to quit. I think she’s genuinely curious about the paper. Once you get her up to speed and give her a few tips she’s going to make a good reporter.”

I was defeated and doomed and it must have shown. Megan stood up and put her hand on my shoulder as she was walking past. “Cheer up, Derek. I think this is going to work out really well.”

“Oh, you mean she isn’t going to make my life a living hell for the next three to four months?”

Megan stopped before heading out the door, turned around and smiled brightly. “Oh, I’m quite certain she is. Just not in the ways you’re expecting.”

And with that, Megan walked over to wherever Kate was standing, welcomed her to the paper and told her there would be a staff meeting at 2 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to it,” I heard her say.

Last Five
1. Hey Jude - The Beatles
2. Let's get it on - Matthew Good Band
3. Undertow - Bowling For Soup
4. Subcity - Tracy Chapman
5. New Favourite (live) - Allison Kruass and Union Station

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nuclear options

There have been occasions where I've heard people in Nunavut say what they really need to solve the energy problems facing the territory are nuclear power plants.

Now, this has been one of these things that gets a raised eyebrow from me. First of all, nuclear power plants are phenomenally expensive. If I'm not mistaken the power they generate can only be transmitted over relatively short distances. And, you know, they're nuclear power plants. I don't have a strong opinion on nuclear power one way or another, but if one was being built in Iqaluit, you can bet I would start learning a whole lot more about the critters before I would feel comfortable living that close to one.

Then I found this website (courtesy of the usual culprit, Warren Ellis). Basically, imagine very small, very portable nuclear generator that could provide electricity for about 20,000 homes.



Now, I have no idea how legitimate this company is, if the technology actually exists or if these people are complete cranks. Nor does it say anywhere that I can find how much one of these generators would cost. The cost of a single generators could still be in the tens of millions of dollars range.

But if this technology is legitimate and if the costs aren't completely insane, then it certainly is an interesting option for Nunavut's power issues. Most communities burn an insane amount of fuel to provide electricity and oil isn't cheap. Wind or hydro-electric still might be preferable, but if this portable nuclear generator is legit, then I guess the idea of nuclear power for Nunavut isn't as silly as silly as I once thought it was.

Last Five
1. She has no time - Keane
2. My way to you - Lloyd Cole
3. Call it a day - The Raconteurs
4. Tired of pretending - Blue Rodeo
5. Dignity - Bob Dylan

Monday, November 17, 2008

The space in between

I haven't really commented much on Newfoundland politics recently. I don't know why. I guess after the drama of the US election, Newfoundland politics seems so pedestrian and small. Even the "cabinet shuffle" a few weeks ago was so small. I almost understand leaving Ross Wiseman staying in Health because they're going to keep him in there until the judicial report on the massive fuck-up with the cancer screenings get released. Then they'll hang him out to dry.

But leaving the obviously incompetent Joan Burke in Education? Please. And once again the staggeringly qualified Elizabeth Marshall gets excluded. And then there's the whole idea of the House of Assembly getting called into session at the end of November, essentially just in time for it to break for Christmas.

God, it's just such an annoying government. I've probably used this quote before, but one of my favourite assessments of Bill Clinton was when someone essentially said that the gap between the potential of Clinton and the reality of Clinton was where the real tragedy of his presidency his lay. I feel that almost every time I look at what Williams is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Williams is a deeply smart man. And it's not so much that the rest of his cabinet is stupid - although I do wonder about a few of them - it's just that they aren't playing with the same number of marbles that Williams does.

And yet so much of his government is tied up in petty crap or vapid attempts to gain favour with the public. You're are 70% popularity levels, if you believe some polling - why not try and do what's right from time to time, even though it might not be the most popular thing in the world.

So where did this come from? This story about the province throwing a party next year about finally making it as a "have" province. Yes, now that we temporarily seem to have some money, all of which could be vanishing as oil prices plummet, lets waste a few million dollars on a party that is absolutely unnecessary except as an ego-stroke to the premier.

The party is symbolic all right. Not as a sign of Newfoundland's emergence on the national scene as a financially solvent entity. It's a sign that even in hard times, Newfoundland can still find a way to waste and fritter away money. And if you can't find better ways to spend that money, then you aren't trying very hard.

George W. Bush always argues (and prays) that history will be kind to his presidency and show that he was right on issues like Iraq. I think he's dreaming in technicolour on that one. I sometimes wonder how history will look at Williams premiership. Will he be the one to help turn the corner for Newfoundland and Labrador or will he be viewed as the one who frittered away a great window of opportunity for the province?

Time will tell. But I'd lean towards the latter and not the former right now.

Last Five
1. Montreal (live) - Blue Rodeo
2. Lou Reed - The Little Willies
3. Scar tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
4. One world - Dire Straits
5. Dear John - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Sundown

One more reason to like the new apartment. We live higher up so when I see something cool out the window, I no longer have dozens to power cables in the way of the shot.

So if I want to take a picture of one of the many cool looking sunsets we get up here, I get something like this.



Which makes me happy.

And now to work...

Last Five
1. Don't believe it all - Treble Charger
2. California - Josh Ritter*
3. Ana Lucia - Sloan
4. Hollow men - REM
5. Peaceful valley - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Curling wrap-up

So the good news for those of you who read the blog but don't care much for curling is that I think this is the last post on the subject for awhile. Most of the curlers began their trip home today and other than one post-mortem meeting that I imagine will be taking place sometime next week, this year's Canadian Mixed Curling championship is over and done with.

The final was a good game and was pretty even right until about the 7th end when Ontario's skip missed a shot, allowing Manitoba to steal a point. And that really seemed to take them out of their game.

But the real gem was Friday night between Ontario and Saksatchewan. That was a beaut and people were still talking about it on Saturday. Any game when the skip has to draw to essentially the pin (the hole in the centre of the ice) on his last rock to win the game, is a pretty good one. They were mixing it up all game, with one end having six rocks in the four foot. I was pretty happy because I was an on-ice observer for the game, so I was literally a few feet away from all the action.

When the losing term curls 88% and the winning team curls 89%, you know you've seen a good game.

And the awards last night were fun. The teams were enjoying themselves and Ontario didn't seem to be mourning their loss too hard, judging by the amount of alcohol on the table and the volume coming from that area. I think my favourite moment was when the top three teams were each given sealskin mittens as a present. The guys seem to think it was cool, but the women were really happy. I thought the two women from Saskatchewan were going to bust they looked that happy.

(And all I had going through my head was "made from genuine Saskatchewan sealskin bindings...from Air Farce, I believe)

Anyway, it was a good week. I'm occasionally amazed it got pulled off, but a lot of people worked hard and put in silly amounts of hours to make it successful.

Tomorrow, something non-curling related. I have no idea what, what with no curling and no politics really to talk about. But I'll figure something.

And finally, some pics from yesterday.


Ontario third Kim Tuck.


Manitoba skip Sean Grassie.


The closing ceremony with all the teams out on the ice.


The winning team.

Last Five
1. On the way home (live) - Neil Young
2. Highway girl - The Tragically Hip
3. You can call me Al - Paul Simon
4. Beautiful sorta - Ryan Adams
5. Tournament of Hearts - The Weakerthans (only played 100 times during the week, and I still love the song)*

Curling and politics

I'll post some photos of the Mixed Curling finals and offer up some last thoughts of the entire event later. I only got home from the awards banquet a short time ago and I'm kind of wiped out. But I did have this interesting discussion and I think it's worth mentioning and something possibly of interest.

I'd completely forgotten that our new premier, Eva Aariak, is actually a member of the Iqaluit Curling Club. And that she is, in fact, not a bad curler. She normally curls with Hunter Tootoo, who skips. However, Hunter is now a cabinet minister in her government. Odds are he's about to become Nunavut's new health minister as he's been the main critic of the department for years.

Granted, given how busy their lives are about to become, I don't know how much time they're going to have for curling, but there is some amusement to be had at the thought of a government minister yelling at the premier to "hurry hard!" and other such curling euphemisms.

But here's the other kicker for me. I don't think it's much of a secret in curling circles that the Iqaluit Curling Club and the Nunavut Curling Association have been pushing hard for Nunavut to be allowed to start sending teams to some national competitions. Specifically, we'd love to have teams at the 2010 Mixed Nationals and Juniors. This would mean a playdown with teams from all three territories playing down or, ideally, all three territories enter their own individual teams from now on.

And hey, Eva and Hunter aren't bad curlers. It's not beyond the realm they could represent either Nunavut or all the Territories at a National Mixed championship.

So has a premier ever made it to a national event as one of the competitors before? Because that would be really kind of cool.

Last Five
1. Fleeting trust - The Trews
2. Square one - Tom Petty*
3. Good to me - Brendon Benson
4. Can't stop - Maroon 5
5. Still crazy after all these years - Paul Simon

Friday, November 14, 2008

New blood

More on this later, as I'm off to officiate at the at the arena for the semi-finals between Saskatchewan and Ontario (Ontario won a play-down with Nova Scotia this afternoon)... but Eva Aariak is the new premier of Nunavut. And judging by the excitement going around the arena as I was leaving and at the post office, people seem awfully happy about it.

As I said, more later. But I'm absolutely not surprised by the choice. And congratulations. A lot of people were disappointed only one woman was elected as an MLA in the last election. Well, the two most politically powerful people in Nunavut are women. Which is pretty cool, really.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last ship



I'd heard there was supposed to be at least one more boat for the year, but was finding it hard to believe, given how cold it was getting and how quickly the bay was starting to freeze up. But the weather turned mild yesterday and lo and behold, there's a boat in our bay this morning. I'm pretty sure she's an oil tanker doing one last supply run until June.

This was shot around 8 am this morning. The sun was just starting to come up. I kind of light the light in this pic, although I couldn't tell you why. The boat is still out there this evening, all lit up. I would have shot it again, but my tripod is in the truck and Cathy is off doing a jewelery-making course this evening.

As for curling, we're in the last stretches of it. Only one more draw left and then, unless there are tie-breakers, the semi-finals and finals. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are pretty much a lock, with Nova Scotia and Ontario fighting for the last spot. Northern Ontario still has an outside shot, but they're fading fast after a quick start.

As for the event itself, it's fun. The CCA officials are all tremendous nice and helpful, but do take the job seriously. But they're never anal about it. If you make a mistake, they're there to help fix things and never get pissed with you. Plus, most of the players seem to be enjoying themselves. They're looking forward to the Christmas craft sale on Saturday. And there's a traditional food tasting tomorrow that ought to be interesting. Sadly, they appear to be cooking most of the food.

There is something to be said to walking into a hall with slabs of raw caribou, char and seal placed on cardboard boxes with ulus. And, of course, maktaaq - whale blubber. But that might be a bit too much, so I guess cooked char, caribou and muskox is a safer bet. Less amusing, though.

But like anything, there are a couple if disappointments. I was involved in one game today I could have killed myself from boredom. It was technically excellent...if you like nothing but perfectly made take-outs. But from a strategy point of view it was maddening. One of those old school curling games where one team was perfectly content to play the whole game clean and have no rocks in play if that's what it took to win. Very boring.

The other frustrating thing is that none of the local spares have gotten into a game. I'm not wishing sickness or injury on anyone. But I really did believe that something would happen where some of our local players would get in a game. And there was an incident in a game today where a player was clearly injured. There was a medical time-out and the player was limping. But rather than coming out of the game, the player stayed in. She shot her two rocks and then sat out the rest of the end, meaning the team had only one sweeper. And this went on from mid-game until the last end.

If this was a game for a play-off spot I almost might understand. But both teams were out of it. So why not sit out, rest the injured player and let the spare play? I have no idea, but there were a lot of unhappy people in the arena.

There's some talk about the four spares getting a game tomorrow. Nothing in competition, just an exhibition game...a friendly, if you will, against one of the teams in competition. I hope it happens. It would be nice to show some of the other provinces and the CCA folks how good some of the players up here are and that we could compete at a national championship.

Anyway, for those who couldn't care less about curling, the end is in sight. The final is Saturday. I think the weekend also might see a book excerpt. Just for something a bit different.

Last Five
1. Old Polina (live) - Great Big Sea
2. The long plastic hallway - Camper van Beethoven
3. Pretty bird - Jenny Lewis
4. Up sister - Sam Roberts
5. Blue - The Thorns*

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not yet, please God

So I'm just back from three shifts of curling and decide to veg in front of the tv for a bit and watch Law & Order. I haven't watch any of the new episodes in years and it's apparent I haven't missed much.

But that's not the thing that's traumatizing me. There's an ad on right now advertising something called WNIC - a Detroit radio station that is already playing Christmas music 24 hours a day. It's November 12. What kind of sick, demented bastard wants to listen to a single Christmas song at this time of the year, let alone 24 hours of it, day after day.

I only pray that the radio station is completely computerized. Because if there are DJs then I imagine they will be criminally insane by the time Christmas comes along.

Don't get me wrong...I like Christmas. I have no choice, really, given how much Cathy loves it. If I were a scrooge about it, I honestly wonder if we would have gotten married. But this is way too much, way too early. And you're sure sign that I'm right about this is that Cathy agrees with me.

Our rule is no Christmas music until December 1. It's the only sane thing to do, really.

Last Five
1. Ex-pats of the blue mountain symphony orchestra - Matthew Good
2. Cheating on your - Franz Ferdinand
3. Idaho - Josh Ritter*
4. Sweet Caroline - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
5. Your cloud (live) - Tori Amos

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Mixed so far

I'm doing some hiding this evening. I'm sure if I went to the arena they could put me to work quickly enough. Between colds, stomach flues and the occasional unreliable volunteer not showing up like they promised, there's always work to be done. But I've already worked two draws today, two yesterday and at least two each on Wednesday and Thursday. So I'm hoping no one begrudges me an evening in my nice, warm, new apartment with my wife who misses me, rather than freezing my ass off at the arena.

Don't get me wrong, I really am enjoying myself. It's fun being involved and getting to see curlers of this calibre. But there does come a time when lounging around the apartment has greater appeal.

So what exactly am I doing this week? Well, not as much media managing as I might have expected. The local media aren't really interested in the draw scores or the day by day standings. They're more interested in the event itself and those are the stories they're doing. Which is fine. I haven't been fielding as many phone calls from southern media as I thought, but that might come later in the week when the play-offs start coming into focus. So far, Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario appear to be locks for the play-offs, with Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia fighting it out for the final play-off spot.

Alas, poor Newfoundland and Labrador and the Territories, the "unofficial" home teams (the Territories for obvious reasons and Newfoundland and Labrador just because of the volume of cheers every time they're introduced) aren't doing so well. The Territories haven't won a game yet, and Newfoundland has only won once as of this writing. So there hasn't been much to cheer for.

So instead of dealing with media, I'm helping out with officiating. There are three levels to this. The most basic is being an on-ice observer. You basically take a seat at ice level with a metal board with little magnetic rocks. You watch one game and note where the rocks are located on the ice, just in case there's a wipe out or some other catastrophe that has people wonder what goes where. You change the scores, signal to senior officials if a team has called for a time-out and make sure no rule violations are happening.

Fairly simple stuff and you get to be right at ice level, which is nice. The downsides are that it's bloody freezing if you're not dressed properly (for only the second time in my life in the arctic, I broke out my thermal underwear today) and you have to be careful not to be a distraction to the players.

Next up is timekeeping. Curling at this level means they're running on a clock. Each team gets 73 minutes to complete a 10 end game. They also get two, one minute time-outs. And a fine minute break after the fifth end. I've done this a couple of times as well. You sit high up in the arena with a wireless device that controls the clocks at ice level. You have to carefully watch the game to make sure one team has finished their turn so to switch the timers.

You also have to watch for hog line violations. Again, fancy computer curling technology at work. The rocks and ice are outfitted with special sensors that can tell if you've slid past the hogline with the rock still in your hand. The rock will flashed red if there's a violation, green if it's good.

Sounds straight forward, but like everything there are rules and catches, so you have to watch it and not get distracted by what's happening in other games. Teams get touchy if you don't switch the clocks at the right time. Nobody has come close to running out of time on their clock yet, but even 10 seconds can make a big deal.

Fortunately there are plenty of Canadian Curling Association officials around to bail us out when we screw-up...which happens. Nothing serious, mind you, but mistakes have happened.

The last one is one I've avoided so far....statistician. You watch each player in your game and determine what shot is being called, what turn the player is using (in-turn or out-turn) and rate how successfully the shot is complete on a scale of 0-4. You can give bonus points for exception and game-saving shots. And it's hard. The games move at a quick place and what I discovered in practice was that I was making too many mistakes and was scoring the players was too hard. So unless things get desperate, I'm giving that a miss.

Overall things are going pretty good. Remember, this is the first time a national championship has ever been hosted in Nunavut and we're doing it with a small a deeply committed (in more ways than one at this point, I suspect) group of volunteers. A few more bodies in the stands would be nice, but I think that'll change in the next few days. We're having kids from the local schools come down for draws starting on Wednesday. And hopefully there will be a nice turn-out for the final on Saturday.

And now, because The Curling News asked so nicely, a few photos I took from the last week.


Ice-makers can multi-task.


Making the ice and rehearsing the opening ceremonies at the same time.


Teams practice before the opening draw.




A couple of Nova Scotia players practice.


Ed Sattleberger is one of four spares from the local club. If a male player withdraws, Ed can take their place. He's also doing extra duty by helping the ice makers and doing statistics.


Wade Kingdon, also of the spares for the event.

Last Five
1. Got no secrets - Brendan Benson
2. You look so fine - Garbage*
3. You don't make it easy babe - Josh Ritter
4. If it feels good do it - Sloan
5. The crane wife 1 &2 - The Decemberists

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday morning sharks

I got to say, there is something to be said about getting up in the morning and watching the sun rise from your dining room table. I'm liking this new place a lot.

Off to work, then off to curling. However, before I start a week of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I give you a new site that might appeal to, well, I suspect at least two of you out there. Perhaps even more. Consider it a more....violent version of LOLcats.

I give you....Fuck Yeah, Sharks.

And what will you find there? Oh, something like this.



Have fun with it...

Last Five
1. Classic cars - Brights Eyes
2. Emergency roadside assistance - Sean Panting*
3. Paradise by the 'C' - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
4. Put out your lights (live) - Matthew Good
5. MLK (live) - U2