Monday, August 31, 2009

Marvel and Much Music

So today kind of marks my first real day of unemployment. Yes, technically I've been out of work since July, but today is the first time I'm home alone during the day. Cathy's gone back to work leaving me home alone during the days. Also, my first EI check magically appeared in my bank account.

The other thing is that with the kids starting to go back to school this week, it means a lot of the jobs that were frozen from hiring this summer, either because of summer students or people with hiring authority off on vacation, will start trickling out into the open over the next week or so. That means the job hunt, which has been more informal at this point, will start kicking up a notch.

August was just kind of an extension of the vacation. Today was back to work, even if the work was trying to find a job. Oh, and earning my keep. That meant laundry, dishes and other household chores.

So once that was all done, what caught my eye today? Well, this was the big thing that floored me - Disney buying Marvel comics for approximately $4 billion. It's not exactly a secret in these parts that I'm a comic book collector and certainly a large-ish portion of my collection comes from Marvel. I never thought I would see Marvel bought out by another company. Marvel was practically bankrupt in the late 90s and nobody rushed into snap them up. But I guess now that Marvel is making money, it makes sense to buy them.

I'm actually a touch surprised they got Marvel for only $4 billion. Considering the characters they have available in their stable for development, it's kind of cheap. Disney is not buying Marvel for the 75,000 copies of the Iron Man comic that sell every month. They're a touch more interested in the millions and millions of dollars their characters can make in the movies.

We'll see how it all plays out. I'm skeptical, but Disney/Pixar has worked out all right so far, so we'll see.

The second thing that caught my eye today is that it's apparently the 25th anniversary of Much Music. I agree with Doyle that Much Music is well past its useful date. And yes, I understand that I'm much older that the demographic that's been aimed for. But God, you have to work to find music videos and I can't remember the last time I saw and actual living, breathing VJ. God, how many reruns of the OC, the Hills or some hideous thing featuring Paris Hilton do you need?

Give me some music videos, interviews with bands and political activism. I'm not sure it was ever cool to like Music Music. Even during it's glory times you still kind of dissed the place and mocked Erica Ehm for being a ditz. But hell, you got to see some cool videos, got introduced to some new bands and occasionally even had a little youth politics thrown in.

Maybe I'm missing something and today's Much Music is better than what I'm catching any time I channel surf the station. But I kind of doubt it. It's just a relic these days.

Last Five
1. Hey Jude - The Beatles
2. My three songs - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
3. Piano man - Billy Joel
4. Highroyds - Kaiser Chiefs
5. But, honestly - Foo Fighters

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer sunset

Not much to report for this evening. Today marks an unofficial end to summer for us. Cathy is back to work tomorrow so at least part of the day was consoling a very sad wife. It's not that she doesn't love the job and, if she's honest, she was probably getting a bit bored and fidgety. Still, it's back to the grind tomorrow for her.

So in honour of that occasion, a picture I took a week or so ago in Iqaluit. I just didn't have the heart to load it onto the computer and work on it a bit until now because the Australia photos consumed so much time and effort. But I like this photo of a sunset. There's nice colours to it.

And say what you will about sunsets in other parts of the world, there is something to be said for the ones up this far north. If nothing else they tend to last longer, so you can have a proper appreciation for the colours as they develop.

Anyway, more tomorrow. After all, I will have plenty of time on my own to think of things to write about.

Last Five
1. Burn your life down - Tegan and Sara
2. Withering heights - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
3. Hop a plane - Tegan and Sara
4. Memo from Turner - Mick Jagger
5. Hypnotize - The White Stripes*

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Getting Active

I seem to be fighting something off today, which is kind of annoying. I wasn't anticipating getting sick at the end of August. Around mid-September, sure. By that time everybody has come back from summer holidays and Iqaluit begins to swing back to life after the small coma its been in during July and August.

With all of those people back in town, of course they bring all their germs and bugs with them. Give them a couple of weeks to mingle and bake a bit and voila! By mid-September there's normally a couple of nasty bugs swirling around town. With swine flu still lurking out there and whatnot, it should be an interesting fall.

In the meantime, I'm still trying my best to take better care of myself. So is Cathy. When we were in Australia, we did quite a bit of moving, but then again, we did quite a bit of eating as well. So when we came back to Iqaluit we resolved to try and eat a bit better and get some more exercise.

We're doing better on the eating front, to the point where we're considering food mail again because we've been going through so many vegetables. The issue was going to be with the exercise. Yes, we've been walking more and Boo has been getting out for walks at least four times a day for about a half hour or more each time. However, we wanted more. And both of us knew the gym was going to be a waste of time and money because we either hate going there or can't be bothered.

On a lark, we bought a Wii "game" when we were coming back through Ottawa called "Active". Cathy had heard good things about it so we figured we would give it a try. We had the Wii Fit, but it was too easy to skip the hard stuff and just do the fun games if you wanted.

Active is pretty brutally evil, it must be said, but it is effective. There was a point today when I was doing jump lunges that I seriously considered hurling the remote at the TV set when the video trainer started chastising me for doing it wrong. Exercise isn't effective if you don't want to kill your fitness trainer at some point. At least mine is digital so there's no jail time if I delete her.

However, it is a pretty effective workout. You're doing a nice mix of upper and lower body. Some of it is straight exercise routines, but other times you're playing "sports" like basketball and tennis. You do two days, then take a break for one. The work-outs last anywhere from 20-30 minutes and you normally have a decent sweat going by the time its over.

Is it perfect? Probably not. But I suspect it's better than nothing and it feels like it's making a difference. It's set up for a 30 day challenge right now and it's on medium setting. Depending on how I feel at the end of it - I'm about half way through - I'll either do it again at medium or see if I fell lucky and try the hard setting.

After all, I've got to be in some kind of shape for the Dominion in November. And until I land some work, I've got to be careful to not just sit around the house all day watching movies. Although I am expecting my friend Anne to call any moment now to yell at me that it's time to start writing the novel again.

Although, honestly, is there anyone interested in another 'hero journalist saves the day" book?

Last Five
1. The gospel - The Dandy Warhols
2. Turn this car around - Tom Petty
3. All I a is all you're not - Sloan
4. Scarlet - U2
5. After the rain (live) - Blue Rodeo*

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some surprise rock and roll next weekend

I try not to complain about customer service in Iqaluit all that much. Because I honestly don't know if it's any worse than anywhere else. Plus, as I keep telling people, you need to have a level of zen and patience in dealing with things up here. But I don't know, today I guess my patience was at a lower ebb or something. Then again, waiting 25 minutes in the post office to get served will fray most people's nerves a bit.

If they were busy and the line was long, I would understand. However, the first 10 minutes or so of waiting there was simply no one at the front desk. I assumed the counter person was in back looking for something. But then like magic he showed up, seemed startled there was all these people waiting to be served, and started helping people.

Canada Post hasn't had a good year with us so far. A couple of packages got waylaid. One large box was actually sitting in the back of the post office for weeks with traces out for it and everything until, like magic, it was found in the back of the building. We're currently waiting on a Chapters order from two weeks ago (which according to Chapters website has been in Richmond, BC since the 19th) and another that was put in the mail on August 8.

So yes, I was leaving the post office in a bit of a mood when I glanced at the bulletin board and noticed a band I know is coming to play in Iqaluit next weekend. After nearly having a stroke, I went over to DJ Sensations, where I thought they were selling the tickets.

I walked in, clearly interrupting a conversation and got a glacial "can I help you?" I asked about tickets, and was told that tickets were on sale at DJ Specialities and not at their store. The tone of voice insinuated that clearly I was an idiot for not knowing this.

Anyway, I finally got my tickets to see Hey Rosetta! at the Middle School. And for a mere $30 each. According to a guy I know who works at the store where I bought the tickets, half the Newfoundlanders in town have already bought them.

Hey Rosetta! is one of those bands that I liked, but never as much as I thought I should. I always figured the problem was that I'd never seen them perform live. Once that happened a little light switch would go off and I would suddenly "get" them. Much the same thing happened with the White Stripes.

This technically violates the "we have to be more careful with our money until I get a job", but really, we don't often get a chance to see a band we kind of like up in this part of the world. And the price is reasonable. Actually, I give props to the band. I notice on their website they're also playing Inuvik and Yellowknife in September as well. Good for them.

There's honestly no reason why more bands can't do this. Yes, tickets to Iqaluit are expensive. However, there's no way the band paid will pay full price for their tickets as Canadian North is one of the sponsors for their show. They probably paid half price. I have my complaints about northern airlines, but they do help out in situations like this. First Air was tremendous last year with the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship. So I really wish more bands would make the effort. People up here appreciate it when musicians take the time to fly to this part of the world and play and they're willing to pay a premium to see them.

Anyway, we're looking forward to it. And for people in Iqaluit who have never heard of them, give them a try. They're also up for a Polaris Award.

Last Five
1. Basket case - Green Day
2. Stop wanting her - Mark Bragg
3. Waiting for a miracle - Bruce Cockburn
4. The night inside me - Jackson Browne
5. Combat baby - Metric*

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Moving to Iqaluit FAQ, v. 2.0

An updated version of the FAQ can be found here.

Late last year I wrote a post called "Moving to Iqaluit FAQ". I did it because I thought I had a bit of knowledge to share having done this myself and having lived up here a few years.

Since then it's become, I'm pretty sure, the most read post on my blog. I still get messages left there thanking me for the information and I've had several people email me to thank me for the post and to ask follow-up questions. Which is both very cool and quite gratifying to know it's helped people.

I always knew I would do an update of the original post, I just didn't think it would be this soon. However, information has changed since I first wrote it and there are follow-up questions that I think are worth including. A lot of the information remains unchanged, but there are tweaks, updates and extra information. Once again, if you can think of anything I've missed, please add it in the comments section. And if I've missed something or get something wrong, then I beg you indulgence.

And, as always, if you speak to someone who has lived here for 20 odd years and what they're saying contradicts what I'm saying, I'd go with them.

Question #1. Should I move to Iqaluit?
Answer. Why not? There are certainly challenges to living here, but there are perks and advantages as well. It's a nice place to live, there's a good sense of community and the place is growing quickly. It's a lot different now than what it was even five years ago. The challenges, however, are a bit different than what you might find in other cities in Canada.

Question #2. So what are the main challenges?
Answer. There are 5 things, right off the top, you need to know.

A. It's cold up here. No kidding, but people still fail to take it seriously sometimes. I've seen people walk off planes in February wearing a leather jacket, which is insane. The coldest I've experienced is -62C with windchill. Every day you get warmer than -30 from December 1 to April 30 is a gift. So make sure when you come up here you have the proper winter gear. More on that later.

B. The daylight up here can mess with your mind. It doesn't get completely dark in the winter, but during the darkest part of the year, you're only looking about six hours of daylight. During the summer, the sun does set, but it never gets truly dark. All that daylight can mess with people as much as all that darkness. So if you are sensitive to these things, take it into account. The darkness can make people tired, cranky and depressed. All the daylight can make people wired insomniacs.

C. Things are expensive. A case of a dozen Pepsi is about $15. A large bag of chips is $6. A smallish honeydew is about $10. Gas is about $1.60 a litre. A mechanic will run about $100 an hour. A return plane ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa costs about $1,900. There is that shock the first time you walk into Arctic Ventures or North Mart. But odds are you're making good money working up here anyway. And there are ways to save some money on food. More on that in a minute.

D. The amenities you're used to in the south are likely not here. There is no Wal-Mart. There is no book store (but there is a library). There is no full time vet. And there is no Tim Hortons (but several non-chain coffee shops). There's a rumour one might coming here, and to give you an idea of what the place is like, it was front page news in one of the local papers. And there is a very limited number of restaurants. So if you like those things, well, you're going to have to adjust or reconsider coming here.

E. You are isolated. There are only two ways out of town - boat and plane. You're not getting to another city by skidoo. And the bay is frozen seven to eight months of the year. So airplane it is. Montreal and Ottawa are three hours away by plane and a normal ticket these days is $1,900. There are seat sales, but even then, a ticket is still around $1,400. So unless you're rich or work with the airlines (who give huge discounts to employees), you're not popping down to Ottawa for the weekend.

Question #3. And the good things are?
Answer. There's a nice sense of community. For a small city (forget Stats Canada estimated of 6,400, the population is between 7,000 and 7,500) there's a decent arts scene. If you love the outdoors and can't stand cities anyway, then there's a lot to be said for Iqaluit. Hop on a skidoo for 15 minutes and you're in the middle of nowhere. It's a growing community and there's lots of opportunity.

Question #4. Do I need a car?
Answer. It wouldn't hurt. Iqaluit is a bit of a sprawl and it's hilly. You can certainly get around walking, but when it's -50C, ask yourself how much walking you really want to be doing. There are no buses, but there are taxis, which run at a flat rate of $6 per person. Taxis will stop for multiple people, so don't be surprised if you're sharing a cab with three or four people.

Also, a car might not be the best thing for you. Snowmobiles and ATVs operate freely within the city limits. You might want to consider one of those if you plan on travelling out on the land a lot.

Question #5. How can I get one?
Answer. You can buy new and used cars up here. There are also plenty of posters kicking around offering ones for sale. The best time for buying one tends to be around June, when people are most likely to move south (end of the school year). Or you can buy one down south and ship it up. This will cost at least $1,500 and probably more, depending on the size of the vehicle. Make sure you have a block heater and a battery blanket installed. Vehicles are normally shipped up on the sealift out of Montreal.

Normally I would say a 4x4 with a bit of ground clearance would be a good option because of the number of dirt roads. However, a nice chunk of Iqaluit was paved over the summer, so the roads should be much better now. However, I suspect 50% of the community's roads are still dirt and the potholes during spring (ie. June) can be huge.

Also remember that this level of cold is hard on vehicles. Get used to being friends with your local mechanic and get used to the idea of large bills for simple things. For example, an oil change, which you can get done in Wal-Mart down south for about $25 will likely cost about $100 or so here.

Question #6. What's a sealift?
Answer. The sealift runs from approximately June until November each year, which is when there is no or little ice in the bay. Boats run up all kinds of supplies and if you wish you can ship things up this way. Furniture, cars, building supplies and food just to name a few. Many people in town take advantage of the sealift to ship up a year's supply of dried goods. It's a way to save some money by buying in bulk. There are a number of businesses that will help you with that. A Google search should do the trick, although here's the one for Northmart.

The sealift is also interesting to watch. There are no real port facilities in town and the tides can vary by as much as 10 metres. That means the vessels anchors out in the bay and, at high tide, barges run back and forth between the vessel and the beach. It's a bit odd to watch.

Question #7. I'm a vegetarian. Can I still be one in Iqaluit?
Answer. Yes, but it will be a bit more expensive. Both North Mart and Arctic Ventures get fresh produce in on a regular basis and both cater a bit to vegetarians by offering some soy and veggie foods. Fresh produce is expensive, but after awhile you'll learn to ignore it. There is also Food Mail, which can help out.

Question #8. What's Food Mail?
Answer. Recognizing that healthy, fresh food can be a expensive in the North, there is a program run through Canada Post in which healthy food can be shipped up from Montreal at a subsidized rate. It can only be healthy food, so if you want cans of pop, you're out of luck. But if you want fresh peppers or milk, then you can get it.

We don't use the program much because we've found it to be a bit erratic in terms of how much money we save and the quality of food you get. It is, frankly, a bit of a mess, but governments are looking at ways to make it run better. But others swear by it. It's worth experimenting with once you get here. Ask co-workers and they'll give you the name of a couple of stories in Montreal that take part in the program. Here's the government's take on the program. And here is a link to one of the supermarket's that partake in it - IGA. You can email them at foodmail(AT)igapelletier(dot)com for more information.

Question #9. How easy is it to get a job in Iqaluit?
Answer. Depends. Crappy answer, but it depends on your skills. If you're a nurse or doctor, you will be welcomed with a ticker tape parade. If you're curious about the jobs available go to the Government of Nunavut site, Nunatsiaq News or News North.

It's also worth remembering that some places, and I'm thinking specifically of the Government of Nunavut (everyone calls it the GN), but others follow it as well, having hiring priority procedures in place. For example, with the GN, land claim beneficiaries get first crack at all jobs. If no one is qualified in that "first tier" then the next tier is long-term northerner (ie. people who have lived in Nunavut for at least one year) and then it's pretty much everyone else. So just because you see a job that you think you're really qualified for it, don't believe you're a lock for it an don't get discouraged.

Some jobs will come with perks, such as relocation costs being covered, air fare, housing, etc. It never hurts to ask, but don't go in expecting all of these things. There are still plenty of positions that need to be filled, but they're not scrambling quite so hard to fill everything these days.

Question #10. How hard is it to find housing?
Answer. Again, depends. If you get a job with the federal government, then odds are they provide it for you. If you get one with the GN then some jobs come with housing. Remember it's easier to get housing if it's just you or your spouse. When you start involving kids, pets, etc, it gets that much harder to find housing. Still, these position will give you a house/apartment and rent will be deducted from your check, but the GN does pay for a portion of it.

Also, the GN is increasingly getting into offering a housing subsidy. What does this mean? It means they won't find you a place to live, but they will give you $400 per family towards rent or a mortgage. Go here if you want to learn more. Please make sure which they are offering you, as I've had some emails express confusion.

If you're coming up here to work on construction sites or with a local business, odds are they're not giving you housing. Which means you have to find it on your own. A small, one-bedroom apartment will set you back roughly $1,700 a month. A 2-bedroom apartment cannot be found for under $2,000. Check this site for some of the rental proprieties available. And if you want to take the plunge and buy a house, average cost is around $350,000. But it can be a complicated business, what with land leases (you do not own the land your house rests on), water trucks (not all of the town is connected to water and sewer), etc. So go into that carefully. This site lists some of the proprieties for sale, among other things.

Question 11. Are there banks in town?
Answer. CIBC and Royal Bank both have branches with ATMs in town.

Question 12. Is there high speed internet service in town?
Answer. Yes...sorta. It's very slow high speed, certainly slower than what you're likely used to down south. Northwestel and Qiniq both offer internet. Keep in mind that it is expensive. In the summer of 2009 Northwestel changed their internet. At a minimum you're going to need their $79 a month plan. They also have a faster one for $99, which is what we use now. Qiniq is around $60 a month. There are also caps on usage. NWTel has a 5 gig cap on the $79/month plan and a 10 gig cap on the $99 plan, Qiniq around 2 gigs. So if you're used to downloading all your TV shows and movies and 20 records a month, well, that's not happening. Or, it can happen but it could get very slow or expensive once the penalties kick in.

Also, there is Xplornet, which you can ask about at the Source. Go here for more information online. It's a dish attached to the side of your building. We can't use it because our landlords won't allow us. The speed is about the same as NWTel, but there's no cap. However, it is considerably more expensive. I can't speak to its reliability, although lord knows both NWTel and Qiniq have had issues.

Our phone bill is around $160 a month. That's internet, regular service and our long distance calls. It's not great, but all right.

Question 12. Are there bars in town or is it a dry community?
Answer. There are several bars in town - The Storehouse, the Kicking Caribou and the Legion (which is supposedly the most financially successful one in Canada). Several restaurants also serve alcohol. Neither myself nor Cathy are big drinkers, but $5 for a can of beer (no bottles nor any kegs. Which means no Guinness) is around par for the course. There is no liquor store, so if you want to order beer, wine, hard liquor, you need to order it and it will arrive several days later from Rankin Inlet. You can also order beer from the Sea Lift. This link gives you some ideas.

Question 13. How safe is it in Iqaluit?
Answer. I tend to be a touch anti-social, but other than some petty vandalism, neither of us have had any problems. I think Iqaluit is reasonably safe as long as you're not stupid. If you get drunk and belligerent at the local bar, well, yes, you're going to have trouble. Single women should follow the same precautions they take if they were going out in Toronto.

A lot of the violence you hear about, and I hate saying this, the victim and the attacker tend to know each other. And yes, there are also drug problems in the city. However, we don't feel any less safe than when we lived in St. John's.

Question 14. Are there things I really need to bring with me before coming up?
Answer. You can actually get most things you need either in Iqaluit or buy ordering online. There are also good yard sales, especially in the spring, from people selling things as they head south. However, I recommend buying your cold weather gear down south if possible. It is expensive up here. And buy proper warm weather gear. What will get you through a Newfoundland winter, for example, won't cut it up here. Get coats, boots and gloves that are rated for temperatures around -70C. And your coat's hood should be fur trimmed. It makes a huge difference in keeping your face warm

Clothes selection is somewhat limited, but you can order online. People will quickly give you their recommended sites for order, but we've ordered from Eddie Bauer, Land's End and l.l. bean with no problems. Furniture is also expensive, but you have to weigh that against the cost of shipping it up. Be careful shipping anything with glass in it up here, as glass tends to not travel well. The Source is here if you need electronics.

I would bring enough entertainment to keep you amused for a few months until you get settled in. So if you like video games, bring them along. If you like books, bring some of your favourites. If you like movies, bring some of your favourite DVDs.

We brought plants with us up here, which was silly because stores sell plants. We brought lots of books, which was silly because there's a perfectly good library here. Not to mention Chapters and Amazon offer free shipping over $40. Whatever you don't take with you, odds are you can get it here or get it sent to you.

Bring an open mind. It helps. Iqaluit is about 60% Inuit, 40% non-Inuit (and of those, most are Newfoundlanders, Quebecois and Ontarians). It's a different culture and way of life.

Finally, bring your patience. No kidding, things operate at a different speed up here. This is still a growing, developing territory and government. Things work at a slower pace. If you want things done right now a lot, you will lose your mind because it's not happening.

Question 15. What about medical issues?
There are no private medical clinics, so odds are you're going to Public Health or the hospital to see doctors. There are a couple of dentists. There are several pharmacists. And there is a brand new hospital in town. Serious medical cases are normally sent to Ottawa. We've both been fortunate to not need any real medical attention, so I can't speak a lot about it. However, this one of these things where, unless its an emergency, a bit of patience goes a long way.

Question 16. What about entertainment and sports?
Answer. It's not Toronto with its options, but there is lots to do. There's a hockey rink, and possibly even a second one once they get it fixed up (long story). There's a curling rink (and as a member, I encourage you to join as well) a racquetball club, the Atii Fitness Centre, a swimming pool (which might close soon as it is very old). The first Saturday after Labour Day in September there is something called Mass Registration where you can sign up for everything from ball room dancing, to speed skating, judo, the greenhouse society, etc. The City of Iqaluit lists most of the recreational activities on their website.

There is also a movie theatre - two screens normally showing four movies a week. There are several video rental stores. Cable and satellite is available here, although remember they are pricey. There are things to do; it's just a matter of going out and doing them. If you want to be kept busy, there's plenty of people willing to help you do just that.

Question 17. What are the schools like?
Answer. That's a touchy one and at least partially because my wife is a teacher. There's no doubt that some parents do not like the school system and move down south because they believe their children can get a better education there. On other other hand, I've met a lot of hard working teachers doing their best. There are opportunities for travel and programs that might not be easily accessible in other parts of Canada. The high school has been making great strides in improving its graduation rate and offers some unique programs. And the government pays for one year tuition at any Canadian university for every five years your child attends school in Nunavut.

But yeah, there are problems. There's stuff that can break your heart. Does that make it any better or worse than some places in southern Canada? I can't really say.

Question 18. Any other tips
Answer. Avoid being a racist is a nice start. Sadly, you still get some of that up here. Avoid giving the impression that you're just up here to make a few bucks to pay off your student loan or mortgage and then getting out of town. Go figure, people who live and work here, trying to build the territory, take it kind of personally. Avoid the attitude that you know better on how things should be done. Just because things are done differently up here than you're used to doesn't means they're wrong. Oh, and if you have issues with fur products - like sealskin gloves or fur coats - I'd lose them or keep it to yourself. Many people where fur because it's warm and comfortable. You can get some very nice things up here at a reasonable price.

And get out there and try things. It's a different world and culture in Nunavut, in all likelihood completely different than anything you've experienced before. So try some seal or caribou. Get out on the land if given a chance. Talk to an elder. Do stuff.

Finally, we both think it's important to treat yourself. It can be hard for some people to live here and living an austere life doesn't help. I'm not saying going out and blow your paycheck every week, but do make sure you take care of yourself and do things for your mental health. Cathy and I like to travel and we go on at least one large trip a year - Italy in 2008, Australia in 2009. It does wonders for your mental health. Travel might not be your thing, but whatever it is, do it. It helps.

Question 19. Do you like it up there?
Answer. We still wouldn't be here if we didn't. That's not a flippant answer either. The one thing about Iqaluit is that you will know within a couple of months if you're going to like it here. There are people who only came up for a few months and 20 years later are still here. And there are people who come up for 1 year contracts and don't last three months.

We like it here. We're comfortable and happy and considered buying a house for a bit, until we landed our snazzy new apartment. We came up here with a five year plan that would have taken us to 2010. We're now looking at staying here well beyond that. We have friends, we like our jobs, we're paid well, the cold doesn't bother us much (unless it gets silly cold, like -50C or so) and we're comfortable. We have more freedom to live and do things we want by living in Iqaluit than if we had stayed in Newfoundland.

Additional Questions - August, 2009
Question 20. We're thinking of bringing our pets. Any suggestions?
Answer. First, please be sure they travel well. I speak from experience on this. When we came up in 2005 we brought my cat. He hated travelling, but I thought sedating him with the help of a vet would help. It didn't. He collapsed once I took him out of the crate and died two days later. I would spare you that kind of pain if at all possible.

There are no vets in Iqaluit. There isn't so much as a pet groomer in town. There was a vet who could do basic check-ups and vaccinations, but she's moved. The Legion brings in vets twice a year. However, if there's an emergency, you're going to have to send them down south. The hospital sometimes can help with fluids or stitches if they're not busy and you catch the right person on duty, but they aren't trained to treat pets so don't depend on them.

If you have to send them to Ottawa, realize it's going to be very expensive. For example, our dog Boo had a digestive infection of some kind and stopped eating and drinking early in 2009. We had to fly him to Ottawa, get a courier to pick him up at the airport and take him to the vet, then he was treated plus stayed at the vets for four nights. That was about $2,000. We have no regrets, but just be aware of the costs.

We dealt with the Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Ottawa who can walk you through what you need to do when freaking out. But as there are only a few planes heading south each day. If something catastrophic happens like your pet gets hit by a car, there's a limit to what can be done.

Also, if you're staying in an apartment, realize that many do not allow dogs. They may allow other pets like cats, fish or birds. But dogs are touchy.

I'm not saying don't bring pets or get one when you're up here, but realize they are going to be more challenging to care for up here than down south. For example, does your pet need to go outside and can it handle the cold? Our cut-off with Boo is -30C, which means he can go weeks without going outside (he's paper trained).

If you're thinking of getting a pet up here, then give the SPCA a shot. Sadly, there are many dogs who are not properly taken care of. Many are sent to Ottawa for adoption. Although remember that the huskies, while beautiful, are high maintainance and not use to being kept inside. And the sled dogs are not pets, so don't even go there.

There's also no kennels, so if you're going to be travelling a lot, you're going to need to find a house-sitter to watch your place and pet. There are people who do the "House-sitting circuit." Ask around and you might be able to find someone.

Question 21. I have young kids who need daycare. How hard is it going to be.
Answer. Pretty hard. The bad joke in town is that you should call a day care to get put on the wait list as soon as the pregnancy test gives you a positive result. Still, if you need some numbers, these are the ones I can find.

Thanks to Sarah for the expanded list - August 29
Aakuluk - 979-7766
Aaralaat Uqariuqsajut Preschool
Ecole des Trois Soleils Afterschool
First Steps - 979-0505
Garderie les Petits Nanooks - 975-2400
Joamie Afterschool Program
Kids on the Beach - 979-0303
Tasiuqtigiit Hand in Hand—Preschool and Afterschool Care

Inuktitut Daycare
Tumikuluit Saipaaqivik (program and language is in inuktitut; first language at your home does not need to be inuktitut to parcipate.)
Pairivik - 979-6460

And yes, you can get sitters, but they go at a premium ($10/hr is the minimum wage, and you won't get one of that) and they can be....unreliable, according to some parents I've overheard. The names of the reliable ones are guarded the same way the army guards gold at Fort Knox.

Question 22. What are taxes like up there?
Answer. Well, there's no territorial sales tax, which is nice. The only sales tax is the GST, which is currently 5%. There is a payroll tax, which is, let's just say, not that popular.

There are also other tax benefits to living in the north. Some (governments) give a northern allowance, the amount depending on how isolated you are. In Iqaluit it's about $14,000. There's also a northern tax benefit you can claim. Andy Wong, who is a columnist with News North does an excellent column with the paper regarding tax breaks and other financial advice for people living in the north. You have to pay to view it online, but it's worth taking a look at.

For that matter, at least in your first year, it might be worth hiring a tax specialist to help make sure you don't miss anything. We use a family friend down south, although there are people here in town who can help with your taxes.

Question 23. What are the list of useful links you'd recommend?
Answer. There are a lot. Here they are broken down by category.

1. Government of Nunavut
2. City of Iqaluit
3. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated
4. Iqaluit on Wikipedia
5. Nunavut Blogs - There is an excellent community of Nunavut bloggers. Go read what they have to say about their experiences. And join in yourself.
6. Nunavut Tourism
7. Nunavut Online

1. Nunatsiaq News
2. News North
3. CBC North

1. Government of Nunavut
2. Government of Canada
3. Listings in Nunatsiaq News
4. Listings in News North
5. Teaching positions

1. Chapters and Amazon takes care of your books, DVDs and video games. Free shipping over $40 and only 5% tax makes this one of the best deals in Canada, especially when you take into account their online discounts.
2. An online drug store with free shipping, even to Nunavut. One of the best deals you're going to find.
3. Canada Goose (you can't buy them online, but it does list retailers who will) and Woods Canada for arctic apparel.
4. Costco will sometimes offer free shipping across Canada on certain items. Worth poking around and seeing what you can find.
5. Apple and Dell both have free shipping to Nunavut. They are probably the two most popular computer brands in Nunavut. Many schools use Macs.
6. MEC has good shipping and the quality is good, but be aware their cold weather is often not the best match for the environment up here.
Zappos is a popular option for shoes of all kinds and their shipping is reasonable.
7. Sealift if you want to try and order a year's worth of soup or toilet paper.
8. There are numerous clothing stores online. We're fond of Tilley and LL Bean, but please check carefully how much shipping will be, as it can vary from time to time and on the size of the order. Plus, remember than ordering from the US means you can get dinged with duty or customs, so be extra careful of that.
9. IGA for your food needs if you want to use Food Mail.
10. Not a store, but a link to Jen of Nunavut, who did some comparisons of online stores that is worth taking a look at.
11. Future Shop was a joke for many years because of their ridiculous shipping rates. For example, asking $15 to ship a DVD. However, they've recently changed their shipping so that it's free if you spend more than $39. There are exceptions, such as large appliances and TV sets, but Future Shop is again worth taking a look at. Thanks to Ron for the tip.

And that's all I have for now. If you have any further questions or can think of something I miss, please feel free to add it to the comments section.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stealing the show

It occurs to me, having just gotten home from Julie and Julia, that each year during the Oscar broadcast someone should come up on stage and say, "We notice that Meryl Streep has a movie coming out this year. We're just going to give her the Oscar nomination now, if that's all right with folks."

And honestly, who the hell would have a problem. Because everyone loves Streep and every time she's on the screen she's great and completely steals the show. Although I've noticed that in three of her recent movies she's been in - The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia and this one, she's co-starred with younger, hot actresses and completely destroyed them. Yes, I understand the appeal of wanting to work with one of the greatest actors of this generation, but is it really worth getting out acted like that?

Anyway, Cathy loved it and I found it surprisingly fun. Actually, aside from Streep, my other favourite performance was from Stanley Tucci, who played Paul Child in the movie. I honestly don't know if it was a good job of acting as the loving and supporting husband, or if he was just having that much fun acting against the scene destroying Streep.

One of the characters in the movie, Julie, played by Amy Adams, is basically a self-absorbed blogger trying to do Child's French cook book in one year. Which is true enough, most bloggers are narcissistic. Lord knows I am. So I could kind of relate to that character. Cathy can vouch that I got a little morose when my daily numbers fell during our time in Australia.

However, it's since bounced back nicely. Although I'm noticing one odd thing. There's someone coming from Temecula, California to the blog an awful lot the last few days. And is downloading pictures from the blog, if I'm reading Statcounter right. Care to introduce yourself? Because honestly, I find it hard to believe I'm that interesting to read pretty much every single blog post of the past four years that I've written.

Finally, I forgot to mention that I had my first curling meeting of the season earlier the week. I know how much regular readers of the blog pine for curling news. We're trying to get a bit more organized for this season. So we're already preparing for the Mass Registration on September 12, planning on when we're taking back the curling rink (October 1, hopefully), when we're going to bring up a professional curling coach to help with new curlers and give tips to those who have a few years under their belts (looking like around Oct. 21) and when the season will start (last weekend of October).

It's a good feeling getting ready this early. I'm looking forward to getting back on the ice. The Dominion Club Championship is only three months away so I need to get in some practice.

If you're in Iqaluit and you're interested in giving curling a try, swing by our table at the Mass Registration at the Cadet Hall (ugh. It's going to be crowded and hot) and say hi.

Last Five
1. Whitechoclatespaceegg - Liz Phair*
2. True patriot love - Joel Plaskett Emergency
3. Cold turkey - Lenny Kravitz
4. New slang - The Shins
5. Stepping out - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writing pain

So today was a day of writing, if not a day dedicated to blog writing. I spent more than an hour filling out online questions for a job that I'm applying for. I shan't name the people I'm applying because I might like to actually work for them after spending that much time answering their questions. Let's just say they're very thorough and made me pine a bit for the day where you mailed in your resume and cover letter and then prayed for the best. We'll see how that goes, but I suspect I'll be waiting awhile to hear back from them, if I hear anything at all, of course.

Then I started my second freelance article for the Packet about the Australia trip. The first one was painful to write. Sort of like exercising for the first time after you haven't been doing it for years. It hurts when you're doing it and it hurts worse the day after. So it was painful to write and then agonizing to edit. The second one seems marginally better and at least I have a funny story to put in there, which helps. My former editor Barb hasn't told me yet what she thinks of the first story I sent. She's not exactly one to shield a reporter from telling him or her they suck, so I'm kind of dreading her comments.

Finally, still working on the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ revisions. I've tweaked stuff on the roads, internet and cable and add new parts on day cares and pets. I'm thinking of including something on useful websites and some places online where you can buy necessary arctic apparel. Can anyone think of anything else they'd like to see added to that FAQ? I figure I'll post it on Thursday so you have until Thursday morning to let me know.

Oh, and finally, completely unrelated to anything else, but I guess I should thank Megan for putting me on the list. I'm even getting a traffic spike from it, God help me (no stalker emails yet, though) I guess I should also be grateful she used that picture and not the one of me in the wetsuit.

Last Five
1. With a bullet - Sam Roberts
2. Spring will spawn - Sean Panting
3. An honest gamble - Spirit of the West*
4. Firewalker - Liz Phair
5. When or where - Diana Krall

Monday, August 24, 2009


I'm not Obsessive-Compulsive by any stretch of the imagination. I'm pretty laid back and don't particularly obsess over anything. But I do have one small thing that I get fixed on sometimes. And that's what's happening with my iPod.

For the past four months or so I've been in the middle of an accidental experiment with it. When I turn on the iPod I put it on Shuffle. Even after I've put 10 new records on it, I'll still put it on Shuffle. I don't create playlists or anything like that. I just like being surprised and not knowing what the next song will be. And yes, I can listen to radio stations for that effect, but most radio stations annoy me. Although I will say that Raven Rock shocked the hell out of me when I was out this evening by playing "Birdhouse in your soul" by They Might Be Giants.

Anyway, normally I play the iPod on Shuffle for a week or so and then plug it back into the computer and update the songs, which resets. However, back in May I stopped plugging it into the computer for updates. Quite unintentionally, but there you go. At some point I just became curious if I could play the entire contents of the iPod on Shuffle, what the last song would be and what would happen. Yes, I could have done this on an iPod with a few songs as opposed to the 6,877 songs I happened to have on it during this period, but no one said this was a sane quest.

I didn't listen to every song, but I say I listened to about 95 per cent of them. I enjoyed the 6,666 song was "God, Part 2" by U2 for reasons I know are silly. Sadly, the last song was kind of anti-climatic. I've always thought there was a hidden intelligence buried deep inside the iPod given some of the song selection. So I was hoping the 6,877th song was going to be something cool. Alas, it passed up a nice song by Tom Waits, "San Diego Serenade", which played two songs before the end. Or "At Last" by Etta James, which was eight songs before the end. But instead it went with a perfectly pedestrian song by the Bloc Party.

Oh well. And then the iPod went back to the main menu. A very anti-climatic end to four months of silliness. But at least now I know.

And yes, I know this is a light weight post, but I spent part of the day working on the Moving to Iqaluit blog post, so this is the best I could throw together at the last minute. Tomorrow, something a touch more substantial.

Last Five
1. Gunshy - Liz Phair
2. Song for Myla Goldberg - The Decemberists
3. All the small things - Blink 182
4. Little girl blue - Diana Krall
5. Arizona - Kings of Leon*

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dorset prints 2009

Although it's still about a month and a half off, I see that this year's Cape Dorset prints can now be seen online. Go here if you want to take a look at them.

This the the 50th anniversary of the Cape Dorset collection, so this year is a big deal for them. We've looked at the collection online already and there are two that we like.

This one is Cathy's favourite.

And this one would be mine.

Of course, it's kind of a moot point. Barring something strange happenings we won't be buying a Dorset print this year. We've bought prints each of the past two years. I'm not saying they're not worth it, but we have spent quite a bit of money this year (we got the Visa bill for Australia on Friday. Gah) and we have virtually no wall space left to hang anything else.

Plus while it's a nice show and I'm sure many people will find things to like in it, but there's nothing there that leaps out and says "we must have that" like the past two shows. Still, if you're in Iqaluit, I encourage you to go to the museum and see the show when it opens which will be, I think, around the middle of October. The artwork is spectacular and you can get quite a nice print and a reasonable price if you're looking for one.

Last Five
1. Warm beer and cold women - Tom Waits
2. Why God why - Mo Berg
3. Brandy Alexander - Feist*
4. Country roads - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
5. From the Ritz to the rubble - Arctic Monkeys

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting recognized

Occasionally this blog weirds me out. Writing is often a very solitary thing. As I've said before, I got my start writing for the Muse. I was so used to vast swaths of the students on campus hating the paper and everything we represented that the first I overheard someone talking about what I wrote in a positive way (it was a movie review) I near passed out. I assumed I was writing for the love of it and that no one was paying attention.

Even during my years with the Packet and the Express I often had those feelings. There were always those moments of shock when I got corrected in the "real" world. When someone at the grocery store would yell at me for a story or column I wrote that week, or when a musician or actor would thank me for something I had written about them the previous week. I got more used to it as the years went by, but that doesn't mean being recognized for my writing is any less weird.

Why mention this? A couple of things of the last few days. First, I'm noticing that an increasing number of reporters/media are following my Twitter feed, which is probably nothing, but certainly one of those things that makes me go "Hmmmmm...."

Then last night we were out at a bar hanging out with a few people watching our friend Nicole sing. This is all part of our Grand New Plan to actually go out and socialize from time to time instead of being anti-social hermits. Anyway, we're chatting when this guy I've never met before comes up, introduces himself and says "You are Mr. Townie, aren't you?" While I'm trying to recover from that, he then says "And you must be Cathy" while shaking her hand. He then asked after Boo.

So yeah, all right, weird but kind of cool. I'm occasionally recognized around town for the blog, but it's still a touch odd.

Finally, there was the weirdness for when I got home. I did a post the other day saying people should vote for Simon Lono for Councillor at Large. I confess being a bit surprised by the usual anonymous assholes who came around and slagged the idea, although I shouldn't have been.

Although I was surprised that Mark Wilson came by and thanked me for the back-handed and apathetic endorsement for his run at the mayor's chair. And really, I have nothing for that, because it really is kind of back-handed and apathetic (You don't suck as much as the other two is hardly a ringing endorsement). However, I promise once the race gets going to look at all the candidates platforms to the best of my abilities and make my picks. But the fact Mark took the time to drop a note on my blog while he's touring with the Idlers in Ontario is kind of strange to me.

However, the oddest thing by a mile is that another municipal candidate emailed me and asked for my endorsement. Seriously. And no, I'm not going to say who it is.

Look, I know how many people come and visit this blog. I'm mostly happy with the numbers but I'm under no illusions that I have a massive amount of influence with this forum. So I don't think my endorsement is really the kind of thing you can stick on a flier and convince a lot of people to vote for you. For example, I seriously doubt Simon is going to do up a pamphlet that says "Endorsed by Townie Bastard".

It's kind of strange someone would think that, but all right.

Like I said, a bit weird. It feels like I'm entering a period where things might be getting weird for a bit. Not bad weird, just "wtf" weird. We'll see...

Last Five
1. Dull life - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2. Alphabet street - Prince
3. Monkey gone to heaven - Pixies
4. Come on, teacher - Joel Plaskett Emergency*
5. This is such a pity - Weezer

Friday, August 21, 2009


So I'm back on the pogey again. Nearly four years to the day I last applied for it, when I first hit Nunavut in 2005, I finally seem to have all the kinks worked out. I did the "Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes" like a dutiful person. This certainly isn't my first time on EI in my life. I was on and off it during my 20s. And I've never liked being on it. Back then, it was always stressful, seemingly needlessly complicated and you always felt like you were a terrible person for having to go and file a claim. As if there was something damaged in you that prevented you from getting a real job like everyone else.

Plus, every time I put in a claim, I always got the Wonderful Grand Band's "UIC" stuck in my head for days. Shockingly, the video for "UIC" isn't online. Actually, I thought for sure there would be a bunch of Wonderful Grand Band clips on Youtube, but if there are, I can't find them.

Anyway, "UIC" stood for Unemployment Insurance Cheque. Years ago the feds changed it to Employment Insurance, thereby ruining a perfectly clever song. The chorus, which is stuck in my brain forever, went:

"And it's you I see
standing in the long line,
You I see, waiting for a cheque
It's you I see thinking you're going to have a great time
but three months later you're a nervous wreck."

Or perhaps you just have to be from Newfoundland and Labrador to appreciate it.

Anyway, compared to some of my previous experiences with trying to get employment (or unemployment) insurance, this was astonishingly free of hassles. There had been previous times when I felt like murdering the person I was dealing with or leaving the building and walking out in front of a car to rid the world of my worthless existence.

But this time, dead easy. My last employer actually emailed my Record of Employment to the feds, so I didn't have to mess around with that (I remember nearly having to strangle one former employer to get it). Then I filed for my claim online, which was dead simple. When Canada Post didn't deliver the necessary PIN in time, I called the feds, they gave me a temporary one, which allowed me to take care of the last necessary details. And no waiting for a cheque to show up in the mail, it'll be direct deposited into my account. I should get my first cheque in a little over a week's time (you don't get any more for the first two weeks of your claim, for whatever reason).

So that's good. Nice and stress-free. But I think the other thing that certainly helps was that the previous times I applied for EI there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Certainly in my 20s, when I was fresh out of university and had no clue about what I was going to do next. Even the last time I applied in '05 had some uncertainty because I had just moved to Nunavut, I was switching careers and not 100 per cent sure it was going to work.

This time, well, perhaps it's cocky, but I think I'll have something landed by the end of October. So it's nice to have the maximum EI and to know I'm solid for the next 50 weeks. However, I'll be shocked if I have to dip into even a fraction of that money.

Although I will say one thing - maximum EI won't get you far for long up here. If you had to make do with that in Iqaluit, let alone some other places in Nunavut, you'd be cutting it pretty tight at the end of the month, once rent, food and utilities were taken care of. I'll be able to cover my share, but that's about it. No more splurges at Chapters for awhile.

Thank god for a loving and understanding wife...

Last Five
1. Light in the tunnel - Red Rider
2. Undercover of the night - Rolling Stones
3. MLK - U2
4. Train song - Feist and Ben Gibbard
5. Vox - Sarah Mclachlan

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vote Lono

Sadly, I can't vote in next month's St. John's City Council elections. I did in the 2005 elections, although I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to. The elections happened about a month after we moved up here and yet thanks to the deeply flawed mail-in ballot system used by the City of St. John's, it was easy for me to be able to vote since they sent me a ballot.

Still, I haven't followed St. John's City Council as closely as I did in the years leading up to the 2005 election. Between 2001-2005 I spent my fair share of Monday nights at the bunker so I knew who was on council and many of the people running. So I had a good idea of who should be elected and who shouldn't. St. John's City Council was also the only journalism beat in Newfoundland with a body count. I know of at least four reporters who fell ill while covering council. It's a miracle I survived.

It's been four years since I left St. John's and I'm not as familiar with the current crowd, although I still know the majority of them (actually Hanlon, Ellsworth and Collins are the only three who weren't there when I was). And honestly, most of them should go now. If there's anyone impressive on council, I haven't heard of them. I mean, there's no Paul Sears or anyone that spectacularly incompetent. But I certainly don't hear anyone talking about the wonderful job the current bunch are doing.

That's why I'm advocating two things. First, is a scorched earth policy to the current group in the bunker. Everyone except for Shannie Duff. I think you need some institutional memory in there and Duff is least annoying of the batch that I know. So the rest of them...boom.

And yes, I know there are three people running for mayor - the incumbent mayor, the deputy mayor and the lead singer of the Idlers, a ska/reggae band. And yes, I have no problem with Mark Wilson being mayor over O'Keefe and Ellsworth. None whatsoever.

This is also a long winded way for me to get around to this point. While the official list of candidates won't come out until September 1st, let me say this - if I have any influence on your way of thinking, then you should vote for Simon Lono for Councillor-at-large. Yes, I'm biased. I consider Simon to be a friend. But he's smart, knows policy, has ideas, is a good debater and I think would be an excellent fit on St. John's City Council. If you spent as much time as I have with most of the current councillors, you'd realize what a staggering rarity those qualities are.

I can't vote this time, and honestly, I'm not under any illusions of my ability to sway voters. But at the very least take a look at Simon, listen to what he has to say and give the man a chance. I guarantee you will find few candidates with as much brains as Simon has.

Last Five
1. The bachelor and the bride - The Decemberists
2. Written all over me - Joel Plaskett Emergency*
3. Things that scare me - Neko Case
4. Affirmative action (comedy) - Chris Rock
5. Quand j'etas fille a l'age quinze ans - Figgy Duff

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Change is coming

For those of you who were curious about more photos of our trip to Australia, you can try going here. I've been ignoring Flickr for most of the past year. Part of it was that loading photos the site always seemed so slow. And I guess with that surging popularity of Facebook for putting up photos, it made more sense to use that.

But two things happened. Unless I'm mistaken, Flickr is using a new uploading program, which makes things a lot easier. And secondly, Cathy and I have different sets of friends. That means we'd realistically have to upload the photos twice. Which is a pain in the ass at the best of time given northern internet speeds, but with caps to take into account, well, it just seemed easier to put it on Flickr and tell people to go there.

Not all the photos are up yet, but I'd say about 90 per cent of them are. The only ones not up yet are some of the interior of the Sydney Opera House and some night shots of the opera house and the bridge.

I may bring back the Flickr badge, just to make it easier to find the photos in the future. Actually, I'm going to have to do some tweaking to the blog in the next week or so. Aside from the Flickr badge, I need to change the header on top (the walruses need to go back to modelling for me again) and I also have to face a small quandary. I now have enough former Nunavut bloggers who have moved elsewhere that I want to keep track of. But since they're no longer Nunavut bloggers, what do I do with them on the sidebar? I'll figure something out.

I also want to put up a dedicated link to my most read post, by a mile, which is the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ. I also need to update that post with some new information I think. And I need to do all of that without making the sidebar too cluttered.

I really need someone to design me a website one of these days, like Megan has. Anyway, some changes will be coming in the next week or so. After all, I have some time on my hands.

In the meantime, I hope you like the Australia pictures.

Last Five
1. Evening gown - Mick Jagger
2. Negative attitude - Lloyd Cole
3. Real love - Regina Spektor*
4. You have placed a chill in my heart - Eurythmics
5. Happy - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

More contempt

I'm a little late to the ball game on this story about how Newfoundland's Health Minister doesn't need a briefing binder, such is the depth and width of his intelligence that he can remember every single detail of a complex government department that eats approximately 30 per cent of the province's annual budget.

So why mention this a day after the story broke and people like Ed, who has a far greater knowledge than I about how government works at that level, have already mocked it as ludicrous?

Because this is a clear cut example of a government thinking the people it governs (leads, rules, dictates to, whatever) are idiots. Because only a group of people who think those beneath them are morons would honestly try and pitch that statement out there with what passes for a straight face.

I've worked with government at small levels with far smaller budgets and its insane to think that even the brightest of people can know everything that's going on in their department. There's too much going on, a lot of it very technical. And that's at this level.

There's no way Paul Oram can seriously believe that with little in the way of a health background he's perfectly capable of accurately processing the staggering level of complexity that must happen in a health department of that scope. No, the government doesn't want briefing notes because they've been burned by Access to Information requests in the past. If briefing notes were exempt from such requests, just like magic, you would see ministers starting to use them again.

No. This is your government thinking that you're stupid. Again. Is there a magic point for most people where that gets tiring? Or do Newfoundlanders just have an endless ability to take this kind of shit?

Last Five
1. Walls - Beck
2. The lone wolf - Kathleen Edwards
3. All you need is love - The Beatles
4. Fuck and run - Liz Phair
5. No you girl - Franz Ferdinand*

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well, that was careless

So today you had pretty much a text book example of one silly, careless mistake neatly derailing a carefully planned bit of public relations.

I honestly thought when I read the original press release on Jim's blog that a few people in Iqaluit (not Iqualuit as the press release says) would get annoyed. I got a laugh out of it, more than anything else. However, I never dreamed it would go national in the way it has. But I probably should have. And lord knows the Prime Minister's Office should have. Because it's always the stupid stuff that derails the most carefully laid of plans.

And let's be clear...this is a very carefully planned visit. The Prime Minister shows up in Iqaluit with a good chunk of his cabinet. He arrived on the eve of a major military exercise to firm up Canadian arctic sovereignty. Plus he makes a major commitment to the region by announcing a new agency to help with economic development which will be based in Iqaluit.

Hell, this is also apparently Harper's sixth visit to the regions since becoming Prime Minister, which is probably more times than the last two Liberal PMs combined. So all in all, this should have been a good PR day for the Prime Minister. Weeks, if not months, of preparation went into this.

And what was today's story? That the Prime Minister's office doesn't know how to spell the place he was visiting. Oh, and that "Iqaualuit" is actually a mild obscenity in Inuktitut.

Yup, so that's a good day down the drain.

I'm not going to get mortally offended by this. I'm not saying heads should roll over this, not by any stretch. What I am saying is if you ever want a text book case of last minute sloppiness ruining a careful plan, you'd be hard pressed to find a better example.

And yes, as many people have pointed out, including the PMO, this is a common mistake. It gets made all the time. Absolutely right. However, you work for the Prime Minister's Office. So no, you don't get to make those kinds of mistakes. Sorry, you get held to a higher level of quality control.

I'm a bit surprised, actually. During my previous life I've dealt with communications people with the federal government. Let's just say they have an obsessive commitment to detail to the point where it's maddening, but kind of commendable.

So yeah, someone is going to get yelled at it. Someone should, really because it was careless and preventable. And it perhaps says something about the PMO.

Or perhaps not. It's also useful to remember that it's August. It's journalism's silly season. The time of the year when little is happening so when something does, it tends to get blown out of proportion. I don't think this will have a lasting impact. But more people today will remember that typo than the big economic news. And that's bad PR, no matter how you look at it.

Last Five
1. Same ghost, every night - Wolf Parade
2. PA - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
3. Sweet goodbye - Maroon 5
4. An cat dubh - U2
5. Waves - Metric*

Monday, August 17, 2009


Just as we were getting ready to sit down for supper the buzzer downstairs went off for our apartment. Once we recovered from the heart attack from the combined noise of the buzzer and Boo freaking out, I went to check who it was.

Turns out it was someone from Fed Ex delivering my didgeridoo.

I got to say, I was doubly shocked. First of all, I didn't think Fed Ex did home delivery in Iqaluit anymore, so I'm quite wrong on that front. And secondly, I know the guy in Airlie Beach said it would get her around this time, but honestly, given the way shipping works up north, I had my doubts about it getting here quickly. But lo and behold, here it is.

Of course, I still can't play the thing worth a damn. And whatever noise I can manage to produce tends to scare the hell out of our dog. And I can only imagine what the neighbours will think if I can finally get the thing to work. But I would like it be able to play it. I keep thinking that a didgeridoo and throat-singing would be an interesting mix if played together.

We're actually planning taking a space in the apartment just for Australia. We're going to put the didgeridoo up, frame some photos from Australia and we're going to put these boomerangs and bull roarer.

We also bought another boomerang when we were in Australia. These two were hand-painted by local artists (I tried to be as sure as possible) so they were never going to be thrown. So I did get one just for throwing because I was curious. It turns out I'm not half bad at it once I got the hang of it. The problem is you really need a flat space to properly throw it. And a flat space that doesn't have boulders all over the place. For those not living around here, there aren't many of those around. My throwing boomerang already has a few chips from misadventures with rocks during a few errant throws.

We've been back a week. At some point I'll stop talking about Australia, I promise.

Last Five
1. Off Broadway - Ryan Adams
2. Elemental - A.C. Newman
3. The frown song - Ben Folds
4. Thunder road (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*
5. My way to you - Lloyd Cole

Sunday, August 16, 2009


So hear I sit in front of the computer as random children scream off in the distance for no reason that I can figure out. They're either doing it to be annoying or vast numbers of them are being tortured. It's actually getting to the point soon that if they're not being tortured, I'm willing to go down there and work on it.

Hard to believe I don't have kids, isn't it?

I haven't been posting as much as normal. It's been surprisingly hard to get back into the swing of things. It's one of the reasons I always try to blog every day because once you get out of that habit, it's a complete pain in the ass to try and get back into your rhythm. It's all right to miss the occasional day of posting, but once you start missing three or four days in a row, well, then you've got to work to get back into the swing of it. I've been writing this blog for near four years straight now, with very few gaps or breaks. There's more than 1,400 posts accumulated. I'm not saying every post is filled with wit and wisdom, but you have to keep going to keep the writing muscles strong.

I mean, there's all the stories about the kids sleeping at NorthMart and I haven't written about that yet. So clearly I need to get on the ball.

So to make sure that happens, at least one post a day, every day, for the rest of the month. No more excuses. Hell, if I want to keep my plan of one post for every day of the year, I think I have some catching up to do. The last couple of weeks have seen me drift behind.

So let's see, what else...

Cathy and I actually did a rare thing last night...we were sociable. A couple of days ago Cathy did the Brigg-Myers personality test on Facebook. I did it a couple of years ago during a professional development course. Perhaps not surprisingly, we're both introverts (although Cathy argues, rightly, that I am far more introverted than she is). But here's the thing, which I never realized until the instructor explained it to me, is how much both physically and mentally it takes out of an introvert to go out and do things and be sociable.

When the instructor pointed it out, it was like a little light went off. It did make sense to me. I can be sociable, but I need far more recharging than most people.

Granted, there's always the risk of becoming too introverted. You do have to go and do things and be with people. So I was glad when one of my friends invited us out last night to a house party. One of Cathy's friends showed up as well and nearly had a stroke when we appeared. So yeah, we clearly need to break out of the shells a bit and go to a few more parties and see a few more people.

People seem to like us, so we really have no excuse for it. So that's also on the list of things to do from now on.

The only other thing to add is that we finally saw Up today. Circumstances contrived to prevent us from seeing it before now (for example, it doesn't open in Australia until September), but there was one last matinee at the local theatre that we greedily took advantage of. After it was over, the owner came in and asked people what they thought and then added "that's going to be nominated for Oscars, you watch."

He's absolutely right. And not just for Best Animated Picture, which is a lock. Since the Best Picture category has expanded to 10 nominees this year, I think Up is a lock there as well. It's the most sentimental and touching of the Pixar movies, but no less visually stunning and fun. And the critics were right, the first 10 minutes of the movie were absolutely devastating. If you don't get misty during that sequence you don't have a heart.

Is it the best Pixar movie? No, probably not, but that means it's only better than 98% of every animated movie of the past 20 years.

And for the record, this is my current Top 5 Pixar movies.
1. Monsters Inc (because this was the movie where I met Cathy so it will always be #1)
3. The Incredibles
4. Finding Nemo
5. Up

Last Five
1. Live on - Sloan
2. Glass onion - The Beatles
3. Beautiful thing - Andy Stochansky*
4. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
5. Lillian, Egypt - Josh Ritter

Friday, August 14, 2009

Only 1,400 more to go

Finally got Aperture straightened out on my computer and with that I loaded all the pictures we took during our Australian adventures. The final total - 1,400.

Dear God, but that's a lot of pictures.

I'm still going through them. Right now I'm just purging all the ones that are out of focus or badly exposed. Not to mention all the duplicates I have. Perhaps I don't need 50 photos of butterflies. Nor are the 30-40 shots of the rain forest I have really necessary. There are only so many pictures of giant trees that I need to commemorate the vacation.

I figure of the 1,400 photos, I took about 1,000, Cathy took about 390 and the remaining 10 came from photos that we bought. We bought three from the day we were snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef and a half dozen or so from when we went white water rafting. So yeah, trying to go through all those, purge, touch-up, crop and whatnot is going to take a few days at the very least.

It also brings up two other things I'm going to have to consider in the days to come. The more immediate is our internet service here. Trying to upload even a couple of hundred photos to either Facebook or Flickr has the potential to put a crimp into our internet cap. And one of the surprises we had waiting when we came back from vacation was that we blew past NorthwestTel's cap just before we left. I have no idea how we managed that, but we did. And that was when the cap was at 10 gigs. It's been cut to 5 gigs now, unless I want to pay the extra $20 a month.

We're actually looking at getting xplornet. I'm sure the speed is all that much better, but there's no cap, which is nice. However, it is more expensive than NWT. Does anybody in Nunavut use it? How do you find it?

The other issue I'm going to have to look at is the camera. I confess to not being 100 per cent happy with the Pentax K10D. This is the second vacation is a row that I've been not pleased with how its performed. Last year the camera was hopping back and forth between RAW and JPEG mode all the time whether I wanted to or not. I was still getting some of that this time. Add on to it that the monitor for the battery life doesn't work. Our last night in Sydney and we went down to the Rocks area to take some photos of the Opera House and Bridge at night. I took about 10 pics and the battery died, even though the monitor said I still had a full charge. That was deeply annoying.

Plus, the auto focus is a little glitchy. So we'll see. I've got the body, two lens and a flash. It's a bit pricey if I want to dump them all and switch over to Nikon or something, but it would be nice to have a camera I'm not grumbling over while on vacation.

Anyway, I'll hopefully have photos up some photos up next week for those who are curious. Despite my grumbling, I think we managed to get a lot of nice ones.

Last Five
1. The chamber - The Last of Shadow Puppets
2. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend
3. Hungry like the wolf - Reel Big Fish
4. Throw your arms around me (live) - Crowded House
5. Hello time bomb (live) - Matthew Good*

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Killing time in the rain

One of the nice things about when we were in Australia was that we never had a day lost to rain. It might have been winter over there, but it was still pretty dry. I think we might have gotten a few hours worth of rain while in Sydney, but that was it. Oh, and I think it rained one night after we went to sleep in Airlie Beach. But we never woke up to pouring rain and wonder "well, now what are we going to do today?"

So, karmicly speaking, we were kind of due.

It started raining in Iqaluit yesterday afternoon and hasn't really let up since. It's varied in intensity, to be sure, but it's a steady rain. And if Environment Canada knows what it's talking about (questionable at the best of times) then it's not going to let up for several days.

There might have been things to do when it rained in Sydney. Lord knows there was no shortage of shopping in Sydney, for example, if we wanted to do something to kill the time. However, time-killing activities in Iqaluit are somewhat lacking.

We kind of need them. Cathy's still on summer vacation until the end of August and me, well, I'm getting to experience the joys of unemployment. The nice thing about Australia was that I was kind of able to avoid that reality for awhile. But not so much anymore. I've applied for my EI (although I'm still waiting for my ROE). I'm going to write the couple of freelance articles I owe the Packet about Australia and then get to work again on the book.

Oh, and I suppose I should be job hunting as well, but realistically, there will be nothing available until the end of the month. Nunavut effectively shuts down for the months of July and August. Still, I'm confident I'll have something by the end of October, barring catastrophe.

Oh, and sorry about the delay on pictures, for those waiting for that kind of thing. I use Aperture to organize and edit my photos. However, when I sent the computer off for repairs (fried motherboard, as it turns out), it erased the serial number for Aperture off my computer. No idea why, just the way it is. So I'm waiting for Apple to send me the serial number. I was hoping to have it by now, to be honest. So when I get it, check Facebook if you're friends with me. I may also restart my Flickr account, which I allowed to go dormant. We'll see.

And now, I should go and write about a 1,000 words on Cairns. Being paid to write. I think I remember how to do that....

Last Five
1. Something so strong (live) - Crowded House*
2. Running out of fools - Neko Case
3. Berlin - Ian Foster
4. The mists of Crofton - Spirit of the West
5. Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back in the north

Ah, back in Iqaluit. I'll get used to this again....eventually.

It's not that I hate Iqaluit or that I've grown tired of it. It's just the last month has been pretty extraordinary. Travelling around Australia has been one of the great experiences of my life. All that adventure, wildlife, scenery and's been a great month.

And then I hit Iqaluit. It's a gray, cloudy day with a temperature around 9C. First Air left two of our bags behind in Ottawa (we got them later) and when we went to get groceries at NorthMart we were greeted by a public health nurse who gave us a friendly squirt of disinfectant to help combat swine flu, which has taken off in the Baffin region.

Oh, and then I read this story, which made me get up and move away from my recently repaired computer lest I pitch it through the window. I'll settle in a few days or weeks, I know I will. But it might take a bit longer to settle in after this vacation than in previous years.

So what have we been up to the last few days? Well, going flat out, really. Sunday morning we headed out to the airport to catch our flight. I think I'm pretty much convinced that if you're going to travel for 15 hours, then going executive class is the way to do it. Granted, I have no idea how much that ticket would cost - I imagine it would be brutal - but there's something to be said for a good, comfortable chair and decent food for a trip of that length. Cathy managed to get some sleep on the trip. Oddly, I didn't.

We arrived in Vancouver, cleared customs without incident, shopped at the Olympic shop and then hopped on the flight to Ottawa. At this point we were operating on will power and little else. We didn't see much point in trying to get any sleep at this point. The hope was to make it to Ottawa, get some food, bake it to our bed and breakfast and then collapse around 10 pm. We nearly managed that. I think we passed out around 9 pm.

We actually did all right on the jet lag front. Once we woke up on Monday we were over the worst of the jet lag and exhaustion. We weren't at 100 per cent and there was stuff we meant to get done in Ottawa but didn't simply because we were a touch out of it. Although we did remember to go back to the airport and pick up Boo.

I'll put up photos over the next few days, but his current look is not his best one. He was pretty badly matted when we sent him to Newfoundland for the month. So a trip to the groomer was inevitable. But dear god, they sheared him like a sheep. He's deeply ugly right now and seems a touch self conscious. Or perhaps after a month of being spoiled by Cathy's parents, he's just disappointed to find himself back with us.

So here we are, back where we started, just a month later. I'll get back to blogging on a regular basis again, I promise. Also, while there will be a few more posts about about Australia, the worst of it is over. So if you were tired of the travel posts and come here for, well, for whatever reason you'll get those posts again.

It's been a great month, but back to business...

Last Five
1. American gangster time - Elvis Costello and The Imposters
2. Weapon (live) - Matthew Good
3. Pump it up - Elvis Costello*
4. Songs of love - Ben Folds
5. Feelin' alright - Joe Cocker

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Not dead, just vacationing

So yes, still among the land of the living. The place we're staying in Sydney appears to be in some null zone where there are no free hotspots to tap into and all the internet places charge obscene rates per hour. Plus, we've been busy, trying to cram all the vacation we can into our last few days. We leave Sunday morning and begin the long journey back home. Needless to say, it's a blindingly depressing thought.

So, let's see, what have we been up to since last we updated. Spent Thursday with Chris and Lisa. In the morning was the aquarium, which was very nice, although I can't help but think that Pixar must have an interesting relationship with the Aquarium given the volume of Finding Nemo toys that were kicking around. In the evening Chris and Lisa made a small mortgage payment and got a babysitter so we were able to go out and have a nice supper and a few drinks. The supper was interesting in that we accidentally stumbled into an Italian restaurant that clearly caters more to locals than tourists. Which meant it looked dingy, but the food was spectacular.

It was good to see Chris and Lisa again. I so rarely get to see my old Muse friends and what with those guys living in Shanghi, it's an even rarer event to catch up with them. I'm trying to convince them to go to San Diego for the comic con next year, so we'll see.

Most of Friday and Saturday was spent shopping for last minute stuff. We found a wonderful Saturday morning market down by The Rocks and dropped a healthy amount of money, but came away with some great stuff. And yes, I finally broke down and bought a kangaroo leather hat, so I should make for an interesting sight when I get back to Iqaluit.

The highlight of the past few days thought was a show we caught at the Sydney Opera House on Friday night. We'd been hoping to catch a show there, but most of the shows there were opera, classical music or odd Shakespeare productions (such as Romeo and Juliet told in 45 minutes...with puppets). But then we noticed there was going to be a show doing the entire Beatles White Album by four Aussie rock stars. Seriously, I've never heard of these guys before and I don't have their names in front of me, but they're a big deal here. They're playing three shows at the Opera House and they all sold out immediately.

Fortunately, we were able to rangle a couple of tickets. Not great seats, but still, we got inside to see the show.

And it was amazing. We might never have heard of these guys, but they're obviously gods here in Australia. And they were all top flight musicians. They dude who played guitar and sang for Helter Skelter just about brought the place down (his guitar did not survive the experience). So it was a great show inside a simply spectacular building. The acoustics have ruined me for other buildings for many, many years. I'm glad we splurged on the tickets.

So that's it for our adventures in the land of Oz. We catch a flight tomorrow morning, arrive in Vancouver 4 hours before we left, and then off to Ottawa. We're back in Iqaluit on Tuesday. I'll recap everything once we get home. But I think it's safe to say it's been one of the better experiences in our lives.

See you on the other side...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Quick notes

Just a few quick notes today. I'm at an internet shop that charges an arm and a leg, although still cheaper than the gouge me rates most of the hotels in this country charge for internet access. Anyway...notes from the last 36 hours.

1. We caught the train from Brisbane down to Sydney. Because the train ride was more than 14 hours, we figured we would splurge on first class. Here's a tip - don't bother. I'm still trying to figure out the difference. As best I can figure it's this; in economy you get 1000 mm of leg room. In first class you get 1100 mm of leg room. That's it. No extra meal (which were awful for the most part) and the chair were remarkably uncomfortable. We spent most of the time trying to get comfortable.

I'd always dreamed of taking the train from Sydney to Perth. If that's the quality of trains the Australian rail network has, I think I have to reconsider that.

2. Having said that, it was a lovely view. Lots of rolling hills and trees capped by a beautiful sunset. Nice to look at, but once the sun went down at 5:30, there was little to do for the next four hours.

3. Arrived safely at hotel in Sydney. It's the Menzies, which has the feel of a hotel that once used to be grand, but got swallowed up by downtown Sydney's expansion in recent decades. It could use a serious revamp, I think. Still, it's nice enough, we're getting it cheap and it's in the middle of everything, which is nice.

4. Concierge desks are still kind of freaky to me. I'm not use to staying in hotels that have them. They're very useful, but I'm not sure if I'm suppose to tip the guy for helping us out. Still, the guy this morning helped get us tickets for a show at the Sydney Opera House Friday night. So we're very much looking forward to that.

5. Spent most of the day with Chris, Lisa and Kitty and the zoo, and had a marvelous time. For a 2.5 year old, Kitty was quite the trooper, despite being disgusted that Chris and Lisa wouldn't let her go and join the meerkat colony. Still, lots of things to see and most of the areas for the animals were large and well looked after. It's a good zoo and we spent a lovely day there.

6. Off to the aquarium tomorrow and then the start of our last minute Australian shopping. Not sure what we're going to buy, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Last day in Brisbane

So today was a twacking day, as they say in Newfoundland. And thus, not much happened. We went to the Pacific Fair Mall in the Gold Coast. We were debating going to the beach as well, but it's a bloody big mall and the temperatures felt a touch on the cool side. Apparently, we're becoming wussy like many Aussies are when faced with temperatures that hover around 20C. It was funny, we went to the train station this morning around 8:30 to catch the train to the Gold Coast. That meant as we were entering the station the hordes of Monday morning commuters were coming out. And they were almost all bundled up against the "cold" wearing coats, sweatshirts, scarves and whatnot. And there's Cathy and I wearing linen shirts, shorts and sandals.

It feels bad just doing a day at the mall when you're in Australia. But never every day can be an exotic tour or a day on the beach. Sometimes you just need to wander around a mall, especially if you come from Nunavut, where seeing so many shops can be an overwhelming experience. And supermarkets still produce the usual shock and awe. Look at all the selection. And it's all so cheap! It's a wonder I don't drop hundreds in Coles, the local supermarket chain.

We also caught a movie. I've got say, Australia builds some nice movie theatres. I'm not even comparing them to what we have in Iqaluit. I've been to theatres in Ottawa and they pale in comparison to some of the ones we've been to here. We saw Public Enemies today, which was good, but not as good as I was hoping. It was just missing energy, I think. The acting was great, Michael Mann's direction was top notch, but the heart of it just didn't feel like it was there. It wasn't a bad movie by any stretch, just not as good as we were hoping for.

We've seen two other movies since hitting Australia. Tragically, we wasted perfectly good money on Transformers 2, something I will be embarrassed over for quite some time. The first one I wanted less of the comedy and a tighter script. This one I wanted more comedy to make up for the absolutely nonsensical script. I think I'm just too old for Transformers. The toys broke big when I was in my teens, so they've never had the same appeal to me that they have for others.

We also saw the latest Potter. And I like it, but some of the cuts from the books to the movies are starting to bother me now. It has lots of charms and I did like it, but there were things that bothered me (Harry and Ginny's first kiss is different, the climatic battle at the end of the book is completely absent). I understand that slavish devotion to the text doesn't necessarily make a great movie, and I've never minded some of the cuts in previous movies, but they bothered me this time.

Anyway, something a bit different than the usual Australia rambles in case people are getting tired of hearing me talk about this awesome adventure or this super cool trip. Although I can't really bring myself to take anything more than a cursory look at the newspaper headlines. The world hasn't ended, that's about all I need to know.

We're off to Sydney tomorrow on the final leg of our adventures. Which is depressing, but I'm trying to block it out. There may or may not be a post tomorrow. I doubt there's internet on the train and we leave here at 7:30 am and don't arrive in Sydney until going on 10 pm. But I'll see what I can do.