Friday, April 30, 2010

May contain language

I'm not saying this has been a bad week...far from it. It feels good to be back in a proper office and doing work again. I imagine it'll feel even better in a few weeks when that first check lands in the bank account. There's quite the back list of crass capitalist things I wish to do. Not the least of which is trying to make a dent to the horribly long back list I have at Chapters.

Having said all that, my brain is a tad mushy this evening. It's not use to, what's the word, working. Plus, we watched Pirate Radio this evening, and that was such a crushing disappointment that I suspect it killed off some brains cells, just from pure sadness that so many talented people made such a very, deeply mediocre movie.

So rather than the lengthy examination of Kick-Ass, which I was thinking about doing this evening, instead I decided to give my friend Sara a stroke. This is a clip from a British movie called In The Loop, which I now officially have to see. I believe it was also nominated for an Oscar for its writing. It's a montage of some of the swearing Malcolm Tucker does in the film. It is epic swearing, I must say, and not for the faint of heat. I am, however, suitably impressed.

I'm also reminded of something Warren Ellis wrote in his graphic novella "Crecy" (highly recommended, by the way). "We're not very pleasant people, the English. The French speak in music, but English only soars when we start being bloody 'orrible to people."

So sit back and watch the language soar, if you dare...

Oh, one last thing, I've directed people to my friend Seamus's blog from time to time. Well, I direct you to this post. It's a lovely rant, and "born-against Christian" is now my new favourite phrase. Cheers, my friend.

Last Five
1. Feel like myself - Brendan Benson
2. Holy shit (what a relief) - Hey Rosetta!
3. Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac
4. Kid - The Living End
5. Shinning eyes - Matt Mays and El Torpedo

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Republic of Doyle season wrap-up

Normally at some point during the day Cathy asks what I'm going to blog about. And pretty much every day for the last three weeks I've said, "I guess I should do the season wrap-up on Republic of Doyle." When I said that this evening, she suggested it might be time to "piss or get off the pot."

And she's right. I've been procrastinating quite a bit on this. So let's have a go at it.

How was the first season of Republic of Doyle? It was, well, fine. It's not the greatest show on television right now (Right up until this evening, I would have argued that it's Fringe, but god, I gave up after 15 minutes trying to watch the musical number this evening. What a ghastly misfire). It's probably not the greatest show on in Canada right now. But it's fine. It's an entertaining little TV show. It does some things quite well, but needs to work on some others.

But let's not be batshit crazy like some of the people on Twitter claiming that it's the greatest TV show in Canadian history. Um, no. For that matter, there were people after the very poor episode involving the horse saying it was the best one yet. Um, no. And go back and take your meds.

So let's take a look at the pros and cons.

The Cast - It mostly works. Jake, Mal, Rose and, even after a disastrous start, Bennett all are entertaining characters. They work well together and are obviously comfortable working with each other. Is there room for improvement? Sure, and I'll get to that in my suggestions for next season.

The cinematography - The show looks great. God, I can remember those hideous days when it was easy to spot a Canadian production because it looked like it was filmed using the cheapest, crappiest equipment that could be found. However, the look of the show is fantastic. St. John's looks so good I'm trying to remember if I ever actually lived in a placed like that. But full props to the crew. The show looks fantastic. It's a high quality production, so we can all be glad about that.

The writing - I'm not saying there weren't a few clunkers and there have been times when they haven't been up to quality I would like. But for the most part, the show's writing has been quite good. There's a nice zip to the humour, there's normally a half dozen great one liners or exchanges in each episode and even the mysteries are normally pretty good. It's not, you know, Chinatown or anything, but for network TV writing, it's not half bad.

The Mixed Bay
Tinny and Des - I'm starting to warm up to them, and lord knows Tinny has come a long way from the beginning of the season, when I was close to begging the producers to get rid of her. And I understand that Des has a fan club. I admire the fearlessness of the performance, even if I cringe most of the time he's on the screen. The good news is there's some real spark and fun between the two of them. Here's hoping they continue moving forward with them next season and don't slip back into Tinny being a stupid, annoying brat again.

The Guest Stars - For every Gordon Pinset there was a Victor Garber. For every Mary Walsh there was a (shudder) Greg Malone. Not to mention many of the supporting and background characters were iffy at best in terms of their acting ability. I realize this isn't Law and Order, with a near infinite supply of New York actors to dip into, but still. It was a real mixed bag this year.

The Music - I kind of wish it was better, or at least more distinctive. The "Oh Yeah" got annoying in a big hurry, and I could really do with a little less fiddle music, although I guess that's just going to be a signature of the show. And I'm not saying every song played during the show has to be by a Newfoundland band. But I think the music could be better used. There could be more power to the song selection. There was only one "All right, that's cool" use of music this season, and was Ron Hynes "No change in me" at the end of the season.

The Bad
Nikki - No surprise that I hated the character. Not the actress, who I think probably did the best with a character the writers never had a clue what to do with. There's only so much you can do with a crazy ex-wife character. She was annoying and was well on the way to becoming a "Three's Company" extra by the end of the season. You know, when you need a character to do or say something annoyingly stupid for no reason? Well, you have Nikki.

The use of Walter - I honestly thought Walter was going to be a bigger part of the show. Certainly the previews at the start gave that indication. But he never was and I have no idea. If you can't find comic gold with a sleazy rogue lawyer who is well connected, then you're clearly not trying very hard as a writing staff.

Next Season
So how do they improve things for next season? Some suggestions.
1. Let Nikki go. Don't get cute. Don't have Jake suddenly realize he needs her in his life. If Aaron Sorkin realized he made a mistake in the first season of the West Wing with Mandy, you guys can own up to Nikki. Just let her go.

2. More Walter. 'Nuff said.

3. Tighten up the writing. It's good, but there's still too much stupid and lazy stuff that creeps in there from time to time. It's writing. It's not meant to be bloody easy. It's meant to cause you pain. So if there's the choice between doing something quick and easy, or beating away at it until you get it right, then do that. In other words, if I see one more scene with a character walking in at a bad moment and misinterpret what's going on, I will smack people.

4. More Jake and Mal. I honestly don't know what was going on the last third of the season, but the father-son dynamic between the two is a blast. So I have no idea why they essentially abandoned it towards the end of the season. It was weird. More of Jake and Mal works.

5. More on Bennett's relationship with the RNC. That was interesting towards the end of the season. For that matter, the on again, off again thing with Jake, there's only so long you can pull that off and you're rapidly coming to the expiry date on it. Thing of where you're going with the characters because right now it feels like they're making it up as they go along, which will burn them in the long run.

6. For that matter, it's time to delve a bit more into the history of some of the characters, especially Jake. Here's the thing, everyone tends to view him as a bit of a scumbag. But except for one big act (sleeping with a client's wife) he wasn't that bad a guy. That's a bit of a fault of the writers, who wanted to make Jake bad, but lovable and never really pulled it off.

So in lieu of making Jake more of a bad boy next season (it actually worked towards the end of the season when everyone treated him like dirt, even though he didn't really deserve any of it), perhaps more of his history. What did he used to be like, and why did he change? For that matter, more on Mal's history would be good.

7. Watch the guest stars. I know Victor Garber is supposed to be coming back, which is a mistake. But hopefully there will be more Gordon Pinsent. However, I swear to god, if you bring Greg Malone back, I will be forced to harm people...

8. Ignore the griping from some online looking for trips to Gander or whatnot. Look, it's not a Newfoundland show, it's a St. John's show. If you want CSI: Dildo, go get the funding to film it. It's not a damn Newfoundland Tourism ad. Focus around St. John's area and you'll be fine.

And that's all I can think of. It's a good start to the show. With some tweaks and dodging some pitfalls I think the second season could be great. I guess we'll see in January.

Last Five
1. Hammering in my head - Garbage
2. Superstition - ESTELLE
3. Exactly like you - Diana Krall
4. Real world '09 - Rob Thomas
5. Ball and biscuit - The White Stripes

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Building empires

I talked about some of the downsides of social media the other day. Having said all that I am pretty involved in it, although not as much now that I'm working. I don't visit those sites while I'm at work. And yes, this is where Megan shows up and complains about organizations blocking these sites which could actually be beneficial to them. I tend to agree, but that's a decision above my paid grade.

Anyway, I also mentioned nearly two months ago my friend Dups was the CEO of a new website company called Empire Avenue. You can reread that post to get all the details of what he and his cohorts are trying to do, but boiled down to its simplest description - it's a stock market for social media.

For the first few months, Empire Avenue has been a closed beta. Meaning a select group of really cool people (ahem) got to play with the site. I've got to say, it was a bit of fun. I was in the Top 10 for earnings, always tended to flirt around the top 20 for highest share value and portfolio value. I was never going to be at the top, simply because I'm not one of these people who put updates on Twitter and Facebook 20 times a day, but I was doing fine.

Then they rebooted everything and wiped it all out.

That was, of course, part of the plan. The great reboot puts everyone back at even footing. It also means they've opened the doors to more people to join. You still need an invite, and it's still beta, but you can join. And it so happens I have three invites I can use.

I'm willing to give them away to readers of this blog. However, there are three conditions involved.

1. You should be actively using social media. You do really need to be active on either Twitter, Facebook or blogging. If you're not doing at least two of the three, I'm not sure how much fun this is for you.

2. I want you to really promise to give this a whirl. I think Dups and the gang have created something kind of cool here. Whoever gets the invite, I'd like them to give this at least a couple of weeks of serious playing around. I think if you do, you'll grow to really love what they're doing.

3. You have to buy at least 50 shares of my stock (I'm "Townie" on the stock ticker). I admit it, I'm totally shallow. And I will buy some of your stock to reciprocate. However, I am an excellent investment. Trust me.

If you're interested, post a comment or drop me an email and I'll see what I can do about getting you an invite.

Last Five
1. Letterbomb - Green Day
2. Whatever gets you through the night - Los Lonely Boys
3. Sunday bloody Sunday (live) - U2*
4. Chinese - Lily Allen
5. Jesse James - Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book club

I'm on one of my reading jags right now. I can go months without reading a book (I don't count graphic novels), which is odd considering the size of my library and how much I enjoy reading. I just need to find the right book to hook me, and then I keep going for awhile.

Traditionally I get on one of my reading jags when I go on vacation. Not exactly a radical idea, taking a book along. However, I need something to read while on planes, or sitting around a pool or beach. Cathy laments that I can't just sit still and relax and I was certainly guilty of that last vacation. I had every intention of doing that, but I just couldn't pull it off. There's something about sitting on a beach, being slowly cooked by ultra-violet radiation, running the risk of getting a sunburn (I hate sunburns. They drive me crazy) that I can't seem to handle. I like the idea, but the reality only works sometimes.

A book helps, but even so, there's only so much I can ask of an author. Even the very best can't keep me sitting enraptured on a beach in the sun for long.

Still, I've managed to go through five books so far this month, which isn't bad for my recent history. And they are:

"Horns" by Joe Hill. The book actually comes with one of those awesome quotes that you must love and dread as an author. On the plus side, Neil Gaiman raves about your writing. On the downside, he calls your first book "Heart Shaped Box" the finest debut horror novel since Clive Baker's "Damnation Game", which came out more than 20 years ago. So, you know, no pressure.

"Horns" is a grand little book, scary, funny and kind if disturbing all at once. Plus it has the bonus of having the devil as the good guy, sort of. Ig Perrish has had a nightmare year, what with his longtime girlfriend being raped and murdered and everyone thinking he did it. So it makes a perfect kind of sense that he would wake one one morning with horns on his head. And that people can only see those horns sometimes, and when they do, they feel compelled to confess horrible things.

But when his new abilities get him a line on who might have killed his girlfriend, well, things start to get messy.

I liked the book, although it's not as good as his first one. "Heart Shaped Box" was just propulsive. The only time you didn't turn the page in the book was when you were scared to turn the next page in the book. It was gripping and remains one of the best books I've read in the past 10 years. This book is well written, clever and I admire the balls of using flashbacks as much as he did. But it just wasn't as gripping. Still, I recommend it a lot.

After that I read I read "Iron Sunrise" by Charles Stross. This is a sequel to "Singularity Sky", which I both loved and wanted to pitch through the window. It's a clever bit of sci-fi, involving a future where humanity has been spread across the stars, but because of a super-intelligent computer messing with things. It was filled with lots of great ideas, but Stross occasionally spent too much time hammering you with how clever he was and explaining things at length.

This book follows up with some of the characters and introduces a new conspiracy and a pretty scary group of villains in the ReMastered. It's a better book if for no other reason than Stross isn't beating you over the head with all the technical scientific information. It's still complicated and requires your attention, but I was certainly burning through the pages at the end.

After that I bought a copy of "The Princess Bride" by William Goldman on a whim. It's my favourite movie of all time, and I have read the book before, but probably 15 years ago. So I was curious to see how it held up. It's one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the movie. The book is fine and all, and there are some details that I like which I wish were in the movie. For example, Humperdink is a bit scarier in the book than the fop he is in the movie. On the otherhand, some of the key lines from the movie "I'm on the brute squad." "You are the brute squad." are missing. And the Zoo of Death is one of those scenes that kind of left me luke warm.

Besides, too much of the book is Goldman rambling on about different stuff not to do with book. Some of it is entertaining, but some of it for deeply hardcore fans. I love the movie, but apparently I'm not hardcore enough for this.

Next up is "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". I picked it up on a whim because I read some of the reviews for the movie, which were glowing. The book is actually a really great thriller, involving murder, corporate greed and not exactly a glowing view of Swedish society. In fact, I remember posting up on Twitter a week or so ago asking if all Swedish authors felt compelled to do disturbing things to children, given the only other Swedish book I've read recently was "Let The Right One In" by John Lindqvist. The response I got was that Swedes were, in fact, pretty disturbing people.

Of course, this is a simplistic view of the world, much akin to reading "The Shipping News" and thinking that's an accurate view of Newfoundland. Still, it's weird that those are the books I've managed to read.

It's quite a good book, really, despite the stuff going on with kids. A decent mystery, a good thriller, and a look at computer hacking plus corporate politics. Steig Larsson and the translator produce a nice, smooth, easy to read book. There's lot of diversions and unnecessary detail, but it all works. You're willing to go along with it because Larsson is such a good writer.

I was so happy with it, I went out and bought the sequel, "The Girl Who Played With Fire". Which just goes to show that there is a thin line between rambling and engaging and rambling and "get to the freaking point already." Hey, I like little bits of useless information to add character development. I haven't finished the book yet, so perhaps Salander's lengthy intro to her time in the Grenada might have a point, but as I'm 50 pages from the end, I kind of doubt it. Plus, there is a vast chunk in the middle involving a police investigation that I couldn't care less about it. I understand it needs to be there, but an editor could have hacked 50 pages out of it and the book would have been better for it.

It's a decent book, and when it gets rolling, it really gets rolling. However, there's just too much stop and start to make it as entertaining as the first book.

So there you go, five book reviews. Not really certain what I'll read next. Perhaps I'll give Douglas Coupland's "The Gum Thief" another try. That'll be my third go at it, though. If I don't finish it this time, then off to the library book sale it goes.

Last Five
1. The mountain - The Stills*
2. The cloud prayer - A.C. Newman
3. Army dreamers - Kate Bush
4. Well worn hand - Editors
5. Sweet the sting - Tori Amos

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New day

Tomorrow marks my first day back to work in awhile. Yes, I did have another job earlier this year, but I was working from home, with the head office thousands of kilometres away. As I've discovered, I don't like working from home. I know some people do, they like being able to set their own hours, be able to dress however they want and other perks. However, I just find it too distracting. Plus, it's a bit lonely. Not to mention working from home tended to emphasize some of my anti-social habits.

So yeah, walking into an office tomorrow, it's going to be nice. A bit nerve wracking, because that's always the case when you walk into a new office for the first time. You have new co-workers to get to know, new systems to learn and you want to make a good impression. I have to hit the ground running pretty hard over the next few weeks. Still, I am looking forward to it. It'll be nice to be doing something closer to my skill set.

As for this weekend, it was spent mostly just enjoying ourselves. Cathy is determined to try and get rid of as much of the snow as she can, so she spent time hacking away at the snow on our decks. Oh, and we also hit the first of what I'm sure will be many yard sales over the next few weeks. We're entering prime yard sale season in Iqaluit. Over the next two months there's some stuff we're hoping to pick up for the house. We managed to nab one of the big ones, well, in Cathy's mind, when we got a BBQ.

Now, I like a good BBQ every now and then, but Cathy does have a pretty large craving for it. Saturday was a touch brisk in town because of the wind, but there we were out on the deck trying to get the damn thing to work. Which we did, and the steaks were lovely.

Next up on the list - bookshelves, a desk, coffee and end tables and I'm sure some other things that I'm forgetting. You can get some good yard sales in town, what with people selling off a bunch of their stuff if they're moving out of town. It's cheaper to sell it and buy new stuff down south, rather than trying to ship it out. May and June are the months people typically move out as it's the end of the school year.

Having said that, it's still yard sales. You're just as likely to go to one filled with a lot of crap as you are where there is a lot of good stuff. Anyway, here's hoping the search goes well. Oh, and the first day at work. It would be nice if that went well also.

Last Five
1. In our bedrooms after the war - Stars
2. Laser guided love - Matt Mays and El Torpedo
3. Bamboo - The Pursuit of Happiness
4. If Venice is sinking - Spirit of the West*
5. Thanks to no one - Colleen Power

Friday, April 23, 2010

Social media

I have a friend of mine is pretty knowledgeable and observant when it comes to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and other things. We had a discussion about this a few weeks ago that was pretty interesting and I meant to blog a bit about it then, but it slipped my mind. However, he reminded me of it again today and I think it's worth mentioning. Certainly because it reflects some of my thinking and frustrations lately.

The thing about social media is that it does bring you in touch with more people than you ever would have thought possible. People from elementary school who you might not have thought of in years are back and want to be your friends. Complete strangers may follow you on Twitter or read your blog. So on one hand you have a greater reach than any other point in your life. You can let friends and family know what's going on in your life without actually ever having to talk to them. And I'm as guilty of following my Facebook news feed closely to see what's going on as anyone else.

However, you're inevitably going to reach the point where you're not going to be comfortable telling a group of people that you may or may not know so well every details about what's going on in your life. This is the point where you tend to be more vague about certain more intimate details. That you're going to the movies, that's fine. That you're having marital troubles, or that a parent is sick, well, perhaps you don't feel like broadcasting that to the world.

The thing of it is, and I know this has happened to me and others, since it feels like you're still "connecting" with friends and family you're perhaps less likely to dig a little further - to call or visit - and see how people are doing. After all, you know how they're doing, you can see it on their Facebook status. Or their Twitter feed. Except most of them are quietly censoring what's going on in their lives.

So what you get on Facebook and whatnot, is a very polite, watered down version of most people's lives. However, since we're increasingly using these tools as a way of keeping in touch, we're actually growing a bit more distant from what's going on in our loved one's lives.

At least, that's his theory, and I have to admit, there's validity in his thinking. He also expresses it better than I do, but you get the idea.

However, it is interesting. On the one hand, I have a better idea of what's happening with some of my friends in their day to day lives. On the other hand, if they're actually depressed or going through a rough patch, something I would be more likely to know if I actually talked to them more often, I'm not as likely to know it.

Hell, I've had a pretty mixed blessing of a week. But beyond the vagueness of me being pissed off, I simply did not feel comfortable venting that in public. It's funny, but for the better part of the last 15 years I've been part of a private Yahoo groups with some of my closest friends. It's been fading a bit in recent years, what with social media sites. But it's been coming back a bit lately as my friends and I realize it's still a private place where we can vent about work, or personal life things that we can't vent anywhere else. So when I had my "I am going to murder someone" spurt this week, that's where I went. I might have 150 friends on Facebook, but I really only have a dozen or so truly close friends that I would walk through fire for. Most of them are on that list.

It also made me realize I actually ought to call and talk to these people more often. I have the better part of 150 friends on Facebook, more than 100 Twitter followers and I'm averaging between 7.000 to 9,000 unique readers per month on this blog. Still, you need friends to talk to when things go askew on you. I think we occasionally forget about that, figuring social media will keep you in touch.

Human relationships require work. Computers can't do it all for you. It's good to have that reminder from time to time.

Last Five
1. I could never take the place of your man - Prince
2. Feelin' this - Blink 182
3. When I get home - The Beatles
4. Miles David and the cool - The Gaslight Anthem
5. Gyasi went home - Bedouin Soundclash

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Long days

There are times when I hate being logical. Or having common sense. It would be much more fun to just blog my top, run wild and let the chips fall where they may.

Sadly, I strongly suspect the chips would fall in a pretty disastrous way. Also, this happens to be a particularly touchy period in my life, so as tempting as it would be to go off half-cocked, it also would not be terribly bright. One of those "it will feel good at the time, but will regret it in the long run."

So yes, let's just say there's been some high drama the past few days. On the upside, I have a new job, which makes me very happy. It's a job I've been angling for pretty much for the past nine months. I start on Monday. So that's very good news and it makes me very happy. Granted, I suspect it's also going to completely screw with my summer travel plans, but hey, such is the price for having a good job.

Also, today it was absolutely stunning in Iqaluit; one of the nicest we have this year, and there have been a few really good ones. I think it got up to +3C, but the sun had so much power that the UV index had to have been way up. Cathy and I took Boo for a longish walk this afternoon and I think I got more colour than when I was in Florida.

A new job and gorgeous weather. So that's good.

The rest was just dealing with people lying to me, breaking promises and general craziness. I'll get over it, but it's just so exhausting dealing with bullshit. I suspect I'm out of practice. Lord knows when I was a journalist dealing with lying and bullshit was a regular part of the job. However, today it was probably a good thing I didn't have firearms in the house. Even Cathy looked concerned at various points during the day.

This too shall pass. However, until it does, certain people would be wise to stay out of my line of sight.

Anyway, something happier tomorrow.

Last Five
1. She's hearing voices - Bloc Party
2. Fake tales of San Francisco - Arctic Monkeys
3. Jammin's me (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers*
4. The weight of the world - Editors
5. I'll be back - The Beatles

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some Tuesday night links for you

This evening, a few links. I haven't done one of these in a while, and I think there's some good stuff here.

First of all, Jenn Deon put the link up for this on Facebook. A new Ron Hynes song always makes me happy. Funny, I never had much time for Ron when I was younger. Probably hearing Sonny's Dream too many times and thinking that was it for him. Goes to show what I know.

This is a fun little song, with a touch of heartbreak in there, about the card game 120s. And perhaps just a little bit more. I can't wait the new album and hopefully it won't be too long a wait.

Next, we've had our first entry into the "Design a Townie Bastard" t-shirt contest from Clare. I don't think this is going to be the winner, and I confess to having a mild urge to "greet" him at the airport when he swings through here in a few week's time. Still, for your consideration...

Third, there is a movement to make William Shatner the next Governor General. I'm kind of for it, if for no other reason then people will officially no longer take the position the slightest seriously and will probably be a major step in eliminating the position.

So yeah, Shat for GG. It's even a good slogan. Sign me up for it.

Finally, courtesy of Seamus, a link to a graph explaining how trustworthy a guy is depending on his facial hair. I'm pleased to note that I have the third most trustworthy type. I've considered growing a full beard, but I don't want to think about how much gray there would be in it.

Last Five
1. Marching bands of Manhattan - Death Cab For Cutie*
2. It was you - Lindsay Buckingham
3. Spiralling - Keane
4. Speaking confidentially - Cowboy Junkies
5. A case of you (live) - Diana Krall

Monday, April 19, 2010

T-shirt logo

I was wondering if anyone was going to comment on the current header to the blog, and in the previous post I sort of got one. Allen informs me his girlfriend works at the Downhome Shop and Gallery in St. John's and someone popped in over the weekend looking for a Townie Bastard t-shirt.

I admit, I laughed at this quite a bit. And not maliciously. People have suggested I make them before, but this is the first time I've heard of someone actually taking the time to wander around downtown looking for that kind of shirt. It's all kinds of cool to me.

The TB hat in the header is not, in fact, a new line of Townie Bastard clothing. It came about through a trip in a Wal-Mart in Florida. Cathy and I were wandering through the store, once again questioning the wisdom of making one of Wal-Mart's superstores our first stop out as they tend to be massively overwhelming.

Anyway, we're walking past men's clothing and Cathy notices a t-shirt with a stylized TB on it. And she says, "Oh look, Townie Bastard."

That causes me to do a double take. Because, of course, all I saw was the logo for the Tampa Bay Rays. To give you an idea, here's a pictures of the two of us that I like. It's on the beach, at sunset. I'm wearing a Rays shirt.

So yeah, just to go and prove that my wife is occasionally much more clever than I am, she noticed that and I never would have in a million years.

Except now we're rolling. A couple of days later we went to see the Rays vs. Orioles and naturally they have a store selling Rays stuff. I managed to only buy a hat and a toque. Cathy bought a pair of TB earrings. With some effort we put back the teddy bear. Although I've also acquired the above Rays shirt and also another plain t-shirt with TB on it.

So yes, I have my own, very unofficial line of Townie Bastard clothing, courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays.

But now there's at least one person wandering around downtown St. John's looking for Townie Bastard clothing. And hey, I'd love to have a proper Townie Bastard shirt or whatever. But I don't think it's enough to just put the words on a shirt. I think there needs to be some kind of design work to go along with it. I like what Warren Ellis has been doing the last few months - having one of his friends design a t-shirt of the week based on some random saying of his. There are a lot of fun ones there that I'm deeply tempted to buy (Space Bastard, Science Gangster and Cocktail Recipe are the ones I'm tempted by).

So I think a design is kind of needed to go with the saying. Then I would probably put it up on Cafe Press and sell it for anyone who wanted one. Jennifer thoughtfully offered up the design she used for my Nunies mug, but I think as nice as a polar bear holding a laptop is, it doesn't really scream St. John's and bastardness, which is kind of what's needed here.

So if someone wants to design something, and I like it, we can work something out for the "profits" the sale of any such shirt would make. Which I suspect would be minimal. But hey, it would be nice to have my own t-shirt instead of borrowing from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last Five
1. The bends - Radiohead*
2. The first time - U2
3. Low - Coldplay
4. Banquet - Bloc Party
5. Christmas Eve - Spirit of the West

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nice day

I know I probably should have watched the Junos this evening, but even with it being held in St. John's I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It just felt like it would be too depressing an experience to endure. I recognized so few of the nominees and I was kind of dreading turning it on and seeing all sorts of weird bits of Newfoundland humour mashed in there.

Yeah, I would have liked to have seen Metric perform, but I'm not certain it was worth enduring the whole thing. I also have some bitter memories of the last Junos held in St. John's. I remember having a press pass and getting to go to the show, figuring I would be back stage or something. Instead, they stuck us in the convention centre across the road. We never got to see much of the show, except on TV. And they cut the audio everytime someone came into be interviewed.

Let me assure you, the guys from Nickelback don't need to be interviewed more than once (God help me, I think they won four awards that evening). Although it was funny when Mike Bullard came in (I think he presented an award) and we were asked if we had any questions for Mike. Silence. I mean, people had a few token questions for even some of the relatively unknown acts. But for Mike, nothing. I mean, he wasn't a musician, he was a talk show host, and one of questionable talent. And man, he was pissed. I think he told us to go fuck ourselves. Kind of funny.

Anyway, that's my Juno memory from the last time the awards were held in St. John's. So I wasn't exactly eager to watch the show this evening.

Besides, I had a nice day up here today. It felt like spring for the first time. It was still below zero but you could feel the power in the sun. Stuff was melting everywhere and you could hear the gentle, persistent crackle of snow melting. After six months or so of snow, I got to say, that's music that beats anything I would have heard on the Junos this evening.

I'm sure I've said this before, but Iqaluit really is at its best this time of the year. It's finally warm enough to go outside without 15 layers on, the snow is a brilliant white with all the sun and projects something approaching warmth as opposed to the bitter cold we normally endure.

And because people ask for pictures from time to time, here are some I grabbed today.

Believe it or not, there is pavement underneath all that dirt. And I enjoy the rivers of water running down it, although it's still below freezing.

Cathy doing her part to get rid of some of the snow on our front porch. No jacket required.

Our neighbours down the street getting rid of some of the snow on the roof.

Boo enjoying a good romp in the snow.

Last Five
1. Rhythm and soul - Spoon
2. Boys from the county hell - The Pogues
3. I can't sleep - Sloan
4. Jungleland (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
5. Beautiful day - U2*

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wish list

Someone in the comments section asked if I got the snazzy Bose noise reduction headphone. Um, no. They're pretty and all, but one of the problems with an extended time being unemployed and, oh, buying a new house is that it tends to focus your spending habits into more practical, and less fun, areas.

So yes, I'd like to have them, but on the list of things we want/need, it might crack the top 20. When we got back from Florida Cathy and I sat down and did up a plan of attack of what we need to get over the next few months. The list is long and I doubt we'll get through it all this summer or even this year.

I mean, we could if we wanted to go into debt. We have a healthy line of credit that hasn't been touched and lots and lots of room on the Visa card. However, we've always tended to be people who try very hard to live within our means. We know people who have massive credit card debt, who basically pay the minimum amount on their cards each month and that's it. We're not those people. If we can't pay for it with cash on hand, and leave enough in reserve in case of emergency, then we don't buy it. We're silly that way.

So what's the wish list of things?

1. Sealift. After a couple of frustrating years dealing with NorthMart, we've decided to do our own this year. Yes, home delivery is nice and all, but I'm not sure we save all that much money with them, and the two month delay in it arriving last year was just ridiculous. Add to that the grief we had to go through when they were insistent on delivering it when we wanted another month delay so we could move into the new house first, and that's that.

We'll go to Ottawa in July, spend a few days hitting Costco, Wal-Mart and whatnot and getting enough supplies to do the winter. Then we'll drop it off at the I Shop For You people, who will then box it up and send it off to the sealift for us. At least that's the plan. If someone knows a better way of doing it, by all means let me know.

2. House stuff. It's a lovely house and all, but a house hasn't been built that a woman will not want to fix or change in some way once she moves in. Stage One includes a lot of paint, new curtains and possibly laminate flooring. We shall see how the budget holds up.

Oh, and we'll be hitting the local garage sales for a coffee and end tables, book shelves and possibly a desk.

3. Satellite internet. With NorthwesTel about to screw internet users in Iqaluit pretty hard in the next couple of months, we're clearly going to need an alternative. So I suspect we'll have to bite the bullet and get a dish. The cost is going to be about the same, but with comparable speed and, no fucking cap, the investment will be worth it.

4. Probably a PS3 to replaced the seemingly dead Blu-Ray player. sigh...

The next level is stuff that would be nice to have, but depends on funds.

5. New vehicle. Our current truck is about 10 years old. She's holding up pretty well, all things considered, but I wouldn't mind getting rid of her while she's doing all right. We need an AWD and something with a bit of clearance. And if you have to ask why, then try driving around town today. Hideous. Right now, a Honda CRV, Subaru Outback and a Chevy Equinox are on the short list. So was the Toyota RAV-4, but it's not like Toyota's enjoying a really good year.

Here's a question for some of you out there. Someone recommended to us we buy a two year old, just off-lease, vehicle. The reason is that truck will be "broken in" at a normal speed of, say, 100 km/h. It also performs better if broken in around that speed. A new vehicle will never get broken in at a higher speed in Iqaluit. Because if you're doing a 100km/h on the roads in town, well, you're achieving some kind of miracle.

So is there validity in that argument? Just curious.

6. A new computer for Cathy. Because she needs something new to kill.

7. I would like a new 46 inch LCD TV (Sony or Sharp, probably) with accompanying sound system (preferably Bose). Because that's what you buy when you're a guy with a new house. I'd go large than 46 inches, but that's the limit Cathy's set. I'm wondering about those new LED sets, but I'm not sure about them yet. I think that technology might be a bit too new to mess around with yet.

And that's the top 6. We could get into others. We were looking at a wood pellet stove, perhaps getting another dog at some point. There's a ton of books I'd like to have and so on and so forth. However, I think that'll do for for now.

Hmmm, I think I better add lottery win along with new job to the list of things I need...

Last Five
1. Nothing more to say - Joel Plaskett Emergency*
2. You are what you love - Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
3. On the lookout - Barenaked Ladies
4. Jet stream - Brendan Benson
5. Closer - Kings of Leon

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My wife, the mutant

A little know fact about Cathy is that she is actually a mutant.

Does she possess the power to control men's minds, like Professor X? No (well, outside of mine).

Can she change shapes like Mystique? Nope.

Leap tall buildings in a single bound like Superman. Uh uh.

However, if you have an electronic devise that you would like to desperately kill, then Cathy is your girl. I don't think she has Magneto level powers or anything. And I wouldn't want her to be your go to person if you needed to kill a rogue super computer about to launch nuclear weapons and wipe out humanity. Her powers require more time and patience. But if you locked her up in the room with the rogue super computer for a couple of months, she could do the job.

Cathy murders electronics. I don't know exactly how she does it, but it happens on a regular basis. She cannot wear digital watches at all. She kills those in short order. So they have to be ones with gears in them or you might as well toss your money in the garbage. And it's not that the battery dies. You could swap the battery and the watch would still be dead.

This house is an iPod graveyard. Her digital cameras fare about the same as iPods.

More recently we were in Florida when the Garmin (henceforth known as the Bitch) displayed a tendency to have little strokes anytime Cathy handled it. It would start screaming "Recalculating" at random and would occasionally state that the car was in the middle of the bay ("Recalculating. Turn left, then right." "Um, according to the Bitch we're in the Gulf of Mexico, so I don't think that's going to work). When I handled the Bitch, it was fine. Not a problem at all. We drove the same route over the period of two days, one time with Cathy in the car, once without her. The Bitch didn't make a peep when I was travelling solo. When Cathy was around, it freaked out no less than 20 times.

Since we've come back from Florida, the Blu-Ray player has up and died. The bloody think is only 16 months old and I'm quite annoyed by this. I have no idea how Cathy's anti-electronics field managed to do the trick on that. She rarely used it and quite actively disliked it. And for good reason. I'm kind of annoyed with the Blu-Ray player, specifically how bad the audio was on it. However, it is dead now. I've tried all the tricks to revive it and none of them work. It is, of course, off-warranty.

Then, last night, we noticed Cathy's laptop ceases to work when it's not plugged in. The battery worked just fine when we left to go to Florida. It could hold a charge for hours. Now, nada. Plus, it has a host of other little quirks and glitches. It's about 2.5 years old and pretty clearly we're going to have to add a new computer to the ever increasing list of things we need to pick up this summer.

I'm thinking she should get one of those wind-up ones like they've been giving to kids in some third world nations. That might be more resistant to her abilities.

I'm not saying everything electronic dies around her. The TV is still going strong after more than four years. And, um, her headphones. Plus most of the stuff in the kitchen. So that's something.

It's not a particularly good super power. Or a cheap one, but hey, at least now I can say I've married a mutant. I wonder if the X-Men are looking...

Last Five
1. Death of an interior decorator - Death Cab For Cutie
2. Mind games - Gavin Rossdale
3. Where I was before - Blue Rodeo*
4. Disorder in the house - Warren Zevon
5. Whip-smart - Liz Phair

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Belated Review: Republic of Doyle, Ep. 12

So, here we are at the end of the first season of Republic of Doyle. This is a belated review as I was in Florida last week and couldn't see the show. The CBC blocks people from outside of Canada from watching the show on their website. Which I could understand if there were US networks airing the show, but that isn't happening, so why not let people from outside Canada get a taste of the show? Typical short-sightedness.

Also, the CBC's media player does not play well with Firefox on Macs. I tried three times to watch the last episode when I got home and it always locked up about five minutes in. I finally switched to Safari, where it worked, albeit very slowly. Oh, and I think I missed a scene on the video player, because I didn't see the bit where Jake gave the bottle of pills to Sgt. Bennett.

Anyway, back to the finale, which is a much more somber affair than previous episodes. We get an ominous opening, with Mal being rushed through the hospital, with Tinny desperately trying to reach Jake. When Jake finally picked up the phone it's not Tinny, but his brother Christian, who is having a small problem, what with the amnesia and blood all over the place. Jake tracks him down and tells him to call a lawyer and surrender to the police. Christian, being a prat, instead grabs a bag and runs for the hills. Literally, since the house is on top of Signal Hill. And hey, look, snow. Apparently it went from summer to winter awfully quick. Then again, that kind of thing does happen in St. John's. That could be Labour Day weekend for all we know.

So the question is, did Christian murder someone or was he set up by the people he used to work with? Alas, we'll have a long wait on our hands to get that mystery solved. Unlike previous episodes, that's left up in the air. I assume it'll get solved at some point, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it's not the first episode next season. If Christian being on the run and who murdered the woman he knew from rehab is a subplot for a bit. It's a good plot and I'm glad they didn't try to solve it this episode. There was a lot going on and trying to solve it in the time they had wouldn't have worked, I think.

So yes, the Doyles are having a bad few days. And it's about to get worse because Des is now on the case. What with Mal having heart pains and Jake trying to find out if his brother murdered someone, they're a little too busy trying to figure out what's going on than dealing with clients. That means Des is in charge of trying to find a missing husband with a $1.2 million lottery ticket that his soon to be ex-wife would like a piece of. Of course, the husband is also looking for the ticket, what with him giving it to his best friend to cash in for him, but he's scampered off. Des doesn't have a clue, but fortunately (and I never thought I would have said that in the first few weeks of the show) Tinny shows up, takes charge and solves the case.

The Des/Tinny story is about the only comedic relief in the show. This is a bit of a dark season finale for most of the characters. Yes, there is the nice moment of Mal proposing to Rose, but what with him about to go in for heart surgery. But what with finding out just how far Christian has fallen (Why yes, confessing to your father just how big a scumbag you are while he's hospital for heart, my friend, are too smooth) and the tension with Sgt. Bennett's handling of the case, well, it wasn't the cheeriest episode of the season.

Still, it was a solid end to the season and certainly a large step up from the massive misfire involving the race horse in the previous episode. My favourite bit was actually the Sgt. Bennett storyline, watching her deal with a tricky murder investigation and with a partner who is a bit more of a scumbag than we were originally led to believe. Her breakdown towards the end of the show was some of Pellerin's best acting of the season. Jesus, but she's come a long was since the first episode. That's a nice little subplot worth cultivating, seeing how Bennett deals with the old boys club at the RNC who might be out to trip her up while claiming to have her best interests at heart. I hope they deal with that more next season.

So yeah, a bit of a downer note to end the season on, but not a bad show overall. And hey, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Nikki. Please let this be it for her. It's an obvious out, let her take it and be done. Don't have anything stupid like Jake rushing off to Toronto to be with her. She never fit as a character and the cast is big enough as it is. They've managed to salvage Tinny as a character, but I think Nikki was just a write off from day one.

Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, that's the first use of a Ron Hynes song in the show. I'd forgotten he'd written "No change in me", what with the Ennis Sisters having the more popular version of the song. Jesus, though, the man's a national treasure. I was wondering when they were going to use one of his songs. I figure they could do an entire episode just featuring his songs and it would work. But if you've got to sing out the season to a song, one of Ron's is a way to go.

I was going to do a recap for the season and what to do for next season, but this post is getting long as it is. That's one for tomorrow, I think. Instead, some of the best lines from the show.

"Heimlich!! Omigodohmigodomigod I killed him, don't tell Jake! Omigod!" - Des, master of keeping calm.

"Take a few more sips of your juice box, and try to focus on not having another heart attack." - Jake

"If there's anything this hospital can do it's heart disease." "Well I guess a diet of salt beef and cabbage is good for something." - Nikki and Jake

"This is all your fault. If you had shovelled the driveway just once like I asked you to this wouldn't have happened." "Oh, and the seven pork chops you shove into your gob every day had nothing to do with it." - Mal and Jake.

Last Five
1. Train song - Feist and Ben Gibbard
2. In God's country (live) - U2
3. You don't know what love is - The White Stripes*
4. Streets of fire (live) - The New Pornographers
5. Crazy love, Vol II - Paul Simon

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gushue shake-up

I thought I was done with curling until September or so, but then someone nicely asked me in the comments section what I think about Randy Ferby, a curler I'm not exactly fond of, joining Brad Gushue's team. And so, what the hell...

There is a bit of history between the two, going back to some comments made at a Brier years ago, but I understand that's all water under the bridge. I certainly understand why Ferby would want to jump at the chance to curl with Gushue. Ferby surely knows he doesn't have too many years left of being able to curl at a national level. And he's done trying to get out of Alberta to curl at a Brier. Next year at the Alberta provincial playdowns the defending Olympic gold medalist, Kevin Martin, will likely play the defending Canadian and World champion in Kevin Koe. Not much chance of Ferby sneaking out a couple of upsets past those two to make it to the Brier.

So yeah, why not jump at the chance to curl with Gushue. He's practically guaranteed to play at the Brier next year as there is no competition for him in Newfoundland. I think residency requirements mean that Ferby has to live in Newfoundland, so if he's willing to do that, then it's a good thing for him. He might even get another shot at the Olympics if he can tough it out for four more years.

However, I have no earthly idea why Gushue thinks this is a good idea.
When he went and got Russ Howard back in 2005, it was a stroke of genius. Howard is/was a great curler and a brilliant strategist. He gave the Gushue team some wisdom and needed maturity. He talked them down from making the dramatic high risk/low percentage shots they were always so fond of.

But Gushue has gotten to be quite a good skip over the last four years. In terms of skills and strategy, he's probably one of the top five skips in Canada. So yes, Ferby certainly brings a lot of wisdom and decent shot making skills, but I'm not sure that's what the Gushue rink needed.

It was pretty clear at the end of the Brier Gushue was frustrated. It doesn't surprise me at all that he was going to try and change things up a bit. I just don't think Ferby is what he needed. What he needed was a new front end. That Jamie Korab chose to leave doesn't shock me that much. I'm not sure his head and heart were really into it that much since the Olympics. And he wasn't shooting all that well during that last Brier. And Ryan Fry doesn't wow me that much either. His shooting was pretty average, he complained a lot and his strategy advice during the last Brier was insane. What Gushue needed was a lead who could actually throw a guard and a more consistent second.

Instead, he's got an aging skip looking for one last shot of glory shooting Third, one of the best Thirds in the game being bumped down to Second stone (and don't underestimate Nichols ability to get his team out of a jam by clearing out a ton of crap with accurate bomb take-out weight) and Fry, who is also known more for his take-outs than his draws, being placed as Lead.

So yeah, I think a shake-up is a good thing and probably needed. I just don't think this was the way to go. We'll see if it works, but I won't be at all surprised when it doesn't.

Last Five
1. An speic seoigheach - The Chieftains
2. Closing time - Tom Waits
3. No change in me - Ron Hynes*
4. Honour, riches/Breakwater boys breakdown (live) - Figgy Duff
5. Mandolin rain - Bruce Hornsby

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Florida wrap-up

Back in Iqaluit again. Or, as Cathy noted, we've come from a place with white beaches and arrived at a place with white beaches, it's just that the white stuff here isn't as much fun as what we left in Florida.

So, a couple of wrap up points.

1. One of the things that surprised me the most was how cheap some stuff was, but especially food and clothing. I'm use to prices for food in Iqaluit being double what they are in Ottawa or St. John's. However, in Florida I was finding Iqaluit prices were four times more expensive than what we were seeing there. And you can't talk about the dollar, because it's essentially on par. It was staggering how cheap the food is.

So was the clothing, for that matter. I was buying work pants that would have cost me $60 in Ottawa for $25 in Florida. I have no idea why there is such a difference in price, but it was kind of mind boggling. The one place where there was no saving was in electronics. I found DVDs, cameras, TV sets and whatnot were all at the same price as in Canada. In some cases, it was even cheaper.

2. Our trip back up was pretty smooth. The only bit of scariness was some pretty rough turbulence over Newark. I'm not normally a white knuckle flyer, but there were a few minutes on that tiny plane leaving Newark when we were turning and bouncing at the same time that made me grab the hand rests extra hard. However, it then settled down and I got to enjoy a beautiful view of Manhattan out my window. God, I really need to get back there some day. I notice this year's New York Comic Con is the same weekend as Canadian Thanksgiving. Hmmm.....

Although I did have a small revelation during the travels. People bitch about air travel a lot and complain about airports, airlines and security. I'm not saying those things aren't issues. Just off the top of my head I can certainly think of ways Continental could set up their check-in at Tampa that wasn't quite so confusing.

However, 95% of the dumb things I saw on this trip were not by security or airlines, it was by people. A guy getting pissed off with the security at a metal detector because the guard kept sending him back to take of metallic items that set off the detector. Like it was the guard's fault the guy couldn't remember to take off his watch or remove his keys. Or stewards on a plane constantly having to tell people to not stand up to get their luggage while the plane was moving.

This isn't Advanced Flying Knowledge here, folks. If you've been on a plane in the last 10 years you ought to know this stuff. It's not that air travel needs to be made easier or simpler, it's that people need to get fucking smarter. If you're showing up less at a major airport less than an hour before your flight is to leave then you're too stupid to fly.

I don't know, maybe an IQ test is needed before you're allowed to get on a plane.

3. Then again, who am I to talk. Most smart people know better than to go to a Costco on a Saturday, yet that's where we went when we hit Ottawa yesterday. We needed to do a resupply on some food, and it was the best choice for price, is not sanity. We survived, but it was touch and go there for a bit.

Then after that bit of stupidity, I willingly gave money to go and see Clash of the Titans. I was expecting spectacularly dumb and I got it in spades. Although, if I have to admit it, I went just so I could hear Liam Neelson turn dramatically to the camera and say "Release the Kraken!" But it was just kind of dumb. Not fun dumb, or eye-rolling dumb. Just plain ol' dumb. A few fun bits, but mostly it was

And that's it for now. Tomorrow, hopefully some other news, but we shall have to see...

Last Five
1. See the light - Green Day
2. Minimum wage - They Might Be Giants*
3. Please please me - The Beatles
4. Ulysses - Franz Ferdinand
5. English girls approximately - Ryan Adams

Friday, April 09, 2010

Last day in the sun

If you want a conversation starter with some of the locals, you could certainly do worse than wearing a Tampa Bay Rays shirt.

We were out beating around yesterday and I spotted a decent looking Rays shirt for half-price, only $25. So I figured, what the hell, the Jays are probably going to suck this year anyway (I'm not going to get suckered into getting excited just because they went 2-1 in Texas. They were in first place in the AL East at the end of May last year) and everyone seems very big on the Rays. Plus, we decided to go and catch a Rays game last night. Everyone else was going to go and catch the Lightening play the Senators, but I'm not the biggest hockey fan in the world. And I love a good baseball game.

We walked up to the box office, bought perfectly fine tickets for right field and had a grand old time. Plus, it was cowbell night at the stadium; everybody got one. My ears are still kind of ringing from thousands and thousands of the things ringing.

It was good fun...a bit slow starting off, but it was exciting at the end, with some controversy over a call, and the Rays had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but came up just short. The fans aren't on par with the Yankees fans from the game I caught in 2008, but they were fun enough.

But yeah, anyway, I decided to wear the Rays shirt I bought again today and was stopped three times when out running around, asked about the game last night, their chances for this year and if there were in town this evening. So that was kind of fun. I neglected to mention I normally cheer for the Jays.

The other memorable thing from yesterday was eating at a place called The Golden Corral. Cathy's family raved about the place, because the food was good, plus it was an all you can eat buffet.

By the time we got there yesterday afternoon, it was a little after 1:30. Now, what we didn't know is that from 1:30-3:30 they offer a seniors discount on's about $5.50 for the buffet and a drink, which is pretty awesome. We were in line to get in - the youngest people by several decades - and when we reached the cash gave the woman the full meal price. She handed me back a whack of money. When I gave her a funny look, she smiled and said, "Honey, if you're going to have to fight through all of them to get at the food, you might as well pay the same price as them."

Which was both kind, pretty funny, and an awesome deal. We spent basically $11 between the two of us for all we could eat. Which was a lot as we didn't eat for the rest of the day.

Today wraps up our Florida adventures. We're off early tomorrow, get into Ottawa in the afternoon and then have to do a mad, last minute resupply at Costco. The weather was looking kind of crappy today, the first time this week. However, the sun has broken out, the temperature has warmed up and Cathy is saying we ought to hit the beach one last time. So I'm off. See you later...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

At the Gardens

It's not that Busch Gardens is a bad park, but it certainly makes you appreciate Disney more. Busch Gardens is kind of minor league hockey compared to Disney. Now, minor league hockey can be entertaining and lively, but the lack of professionalism and sloppiness can kind of infuriate you.

Disney is just such a well oiled machine. From making sure you're always moving when you're lining up for a ride, to the quality of the rides, to making certain there's a gift show waiting for you at the end of the ride, to food consignment stands everywhere, Disney is social engineering at a Frankenstein level. It's scary as hell when you're witnessing it, but you still have to appreciate the craft.

Busch Gardens stores are kind of boring, the food stands are scarcer, with longer lines and not as good. And the rides are so-so. Although they do appear to take decent care of the animals in the wildlife areas, so that's a plus. And hey, for those of you who like to drink, you can buy beer and walk around the park while drinking it. Which I suspect is a huge plus, given the number of parents I saw drinking while their kids were running around them.

So yeah, it's fine enough, but I figure it's been about 30 years since I was last there, and I think it's safe to say I can probably go another problem.

I know I'm supposed to keep those of you still lingering around here updated on acts of Floridian weirdness, but it's been relatively quiet the past few days, if you discount the whole being about to get drunk and walk around an amusement park. I actually saw someone try to get on a roller coaster with a beer, and was annoyed when he wasn't able to.

I will point out that it is, I think, pretty quiet down here for a Easter week. We're on St. Pete's Beach and several of the hotels on the strip that have Vacancy signs lit up. I think at this time of the year, that's pretty unusual. The stores have been relatively easy to get around. Hell, but 3pm this afternoon at the park it was pretty easy to get around. We walked right up and hopped into a roller coaster without having to wait for 20 minutes.

Living in Iqaluit doesn't always give you the best perspective on how fast, busy or crowded something all seems like madness. But it does seem a And others have commented on it as well. I don't think Florida has recovered from the shock of '08 yet. It's getting there, but still has a ways to go yet...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Further Florida ramblings

We're having some internet issues here at the condo, hence the delay in posting. But here's a few updates on what's been going on since last I posted.

1. I suppose since we're staying at St. Pete's beach I should talk a bit about the beach. Cathy gave me some grief for saying I liked Whitehaven beach in Australia better. Considering Whitehaven is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world, that's not exactly a shocker. Also, St. Pete's looks like it got hit hard by winter storms and, apparently, some tidal surges from the recent earthquakes to the south. It's pretty heavily eroded.

It's also a family beach. So you see lots of kids, families, older people and people not exactly in prime shape walking around. Not that I'm complaining as I'm hardly in peak physical fitness. It's just a bit different than some beaches I've been to. In fact, I've only seen once act of marginal public skankiness...a peroxide blond wearing a thong and three inch beach stripper shoes. Oh, and there was the girl who looked like she just walked off the set of a holocaust survivor film, she was that badly anorexic. But other than that, it's a perfectly normal beach.

2. We did our main lot of crass consumerism on Monday. We hit Bells and then drove out to one of the outlet malls. Normally I don't have much time for those kinds of malls. Previous ones have had junk and the only sizes available have tended to be extra small, or 4XL. But this was pretty good. Cathy and I managed to get new work wardrobes, which were kind of necessary. I also managed to not buy the Bose noise reduction headphones, although it was a close thing. Cathy managed to not buy the red high heel shoes. So we each resisted temptation while dropping hundreds elsewhere.

3. If ever there was a place where an investment in a Garmin would be a good idea, it is Florida. We have one, but it's from 2007. We haven't been able to buy a map update in stores and since the download online is huge and would nuke our cap in Iqaluit, we've been making do. However, the result has been the Bitch (as we call the Garmin) stroking out several times. She hasn't tried to deposit us in the ocean yet, but I'm pretty sure she sent us 16 miles in the wrong direction yesterday looking for a movie theatre that doesn't exist. We're going to have to do something about that.

4. I'm off this evening on an IMAX adventure. Alice in Wonderland and Avatar are playing at an IMAX in Tampa. And as I think this is a proper IMAX, I'm looking forward to it.

5. Oh, and in the course of my wanderings, I picked up an iPad to play with, but not buy. It's pretty and all, but surprisingly heavy. Great interface and I'm sure it's a lot of fun to do things with. And the keyboard is much easier to use than the one on the iPhones. But there is a surprising heft to it. I think I can easily wait a few years before engaging in a serious debate on whether or not to buy one.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Welcome to Florida, Day 2

By the way, as an information note, our vehicle of choice for the week we are down here is a Toyota Corolla. So if I happen to disappear for several days and you read of a Corolla trying to imitate the General Lee off one of the innumerable draw bridges that are in the Tampa Bay area you may safely assume that A. I'm dead and B. Toyota is still working on that accelerator problem.

Anyway, today's adventures in Floridaland took us to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market. I mentioned this on Facebook last night, only to have my mother pop up and tell me she was envious because it's one of her favourite places to go in Florida.

I think I have different feelings about it. For example, I can't be sure, but I think I nearly died there about 30 years ago. I've only been to St. Pete's area once before and it was in 1982. And my sole memory of the place was visiting a flea market in the middle of July and passing out from heat stroke. The next three or four days was spent in bed being pumped full of fluids while I tried to recover.

I'm not sure it was the Wagon Wheel, but I remember it was a big flea market and, sure God, there can't be too many more places like the Wagon Wheel even in a place like Florida.

So yes, some trepedation about heading out there. We actually bought very little. Some bags that are supposed to be good at preserving fruit and some DVDs at prices that I suspect might mean they were obtained in less than legal means.

But, but by God if I wanted t-shirts featuring heavy metal bands, I had hit the gold mine. I think the Wagon Wheel is where metal band t-shirts go to die. I also mentioned this on Facebook and a depressing number of my friends asked if I was going back and for me to pick them up. The answer is No. And also a reminder that science has proven that prolonged exposure to metal leads to acquiring a taste for country music. So you've been warned.

Actually, that might explain the guy performing country music in the beer tent area, now that I think about it.

I guess it was an interesting enough place. We spent about two hours walking around the place and that's about all we needed. I mean, I don't know how many t-shirts, 1000 thread "genuine" Egyptian cotton bed sheets, Slap chops, socks, cheap jewelry and useless knickacks you need, but I assure you the Wagon Wheel has it.

Although, really, the guys selling VHS and cassette tapes outside (the majority of the market is in a sheltered area) were the ones I really felt sorry for. If this is how you're spending your weekend - trying to sell washed out copies of Roadhouse on VHS and INXS and Def Leopard cassette tapes - then I think the emotion I have for you is pity, with perhaps just a hint of wanting to put you our of your misery.

The best table? The guy selling fresh fruit and swords, flying stars and knives. I could have bought a flat of strawberries for $6 (if you live in Nunavut, it's all right to weep now) and then apparently cut them up in overly elaborate ways.

So that was todays main adventure. Tomorrow we're going to do the main shopping blitz by hitting outlet stores. That should also be fascinating.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Welcome to Florida, Day 1

I've always believed that Democratic, liberal hippie nutcases end up in California while Republican, redneck whackjobs tend to end up in Florida. I'm current only into Day 1 of this theory, but so far the supporting evidence includes:

1. Driving down the main strip in St. Pete's Beach only to see a guy dragging about a 10-foot tall cross down the sidewalk, on wheels, with a big ol' smile on his face. I was very tempted to pull over and ask him if he needed a lift or, barring that, any help being nailed to it. However, traffic was heavy so I didn't have time. Hopefully he made it to his appointment on time, though.

2. Desperately needing a haircut I asked about a good local barber and was promptly directed to one. So good, in fact, there were at least four people in front of me and I had to wait nearly an hour to get my haircut. He did a great job and, at $13, is a wee bit cheaper than the $30 my grumpy Scots barber charges me in Iqaluit.

However, and this was certainly worth the $2 tip I gave him, I got a fascinating education on everything that has gone wrong in the area for the past 30 years, not to mention that "those people in the White House right now are trying to take away our freedoms and the right to think for ourselves and that aint right." He also complimented a fellow who came in wearing a Ronald Regan t-shirt.

So yes, this will be a fascinating week or so, I suspect. On the other side of the ledger, a woman who sat next to us on the plane ride from Newark to Tampa complimented Canadians on coming out of the recession much faster, for having a better banking system and that she wished they'd passed a health care plan like the one we had.

She was from New Jersey, though, so I'm not sure she counts.

I always like visiting America. It's like staring at the looking glass while on acid. It's a weird experience. Tomorrow we're going to the Wagon Wheel flea market. If I were Hunter S. Thompson I would not consider such a trip without a blotter full of acid, some ether and guns. As it is, I will go naked into the belly of the beast. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.