Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer complications

This is just going to be one of these deeply weird, marginally frustrating summers, I can tell right now. Which is fine, I guess. We went to Australia last summer and Italy in 2008. Karma-wise, we're kind of due for one of those summers where things are just off-kilter more often than not.

On the upside, I found this site listing all of the things going on around Ottawa being put off by the Government of Canada. And it looks like there are a few things I would be interested in seeing, especially seeing Amelia Curran and Hey Rosetta! play. So that's taken care of.

We're starting to put together the lists of things we need when we hit Ottawa. I think we've dropped the idea of the I Shop 4 You people because we really don't need them if we're doing all of our shopping and just deal with TSC directly. We're still thinking about trying to get a vehicle while we're in Ottawa. Because of time constraints I'm contemplating using a broker. Has anyone ever done that before and what were the results? As you can imagine, I'm reading mixed things about it online.

And no, I still have decided if we're getting a Suburu Outback or a Honda CR-V or if we're getting a new one or something just off-lease. Judging by some of the prices I'm seeing online, the savings on just off-lease vehicles are not that great.

Anyway, then things get complicated. We're flying down on First Air. We got the tickets from someone else who had won them and we bought them off of her cheap. Now, where it gets complicated is that First Air insists we fly together. However, on July 5 I'm flying back to Iqaluit. Cathy is flying to Rankin Inlet for a workshop. That means barring some last minute dose of common sense from First Air, we're just going to have to eat that portion of the ticket, which is deeply, deeply annoying.

After Cathy is finished with her workshop in Rankin, she's flying home to spend a month in St. John's. Now, here's the next part of the weirdness. Air Canada is offering an insane seat sale from Deer Lake (on the west coast of Newfoundland, for those of you not in the know) to Iqaluit for what amounts to $300, taxes included. The fight actually goes Deer Lake-St. John's-Montreal-Iqaluit. She actually has to over night in St. John's on that flight. So what would make sense if that she simply not go to Deer Lake, but instead just hop on the plane in St. John's.

Except, of course, in a stroke of airline genius, Air Canada won't let her do that. If she doesn't board the plane in Deer Lake, she's considered to have missed the flight altogether. Incidentally, a flight from St. John's to Iqaluit is more than $1,000, plus taxes.

So she has to catch a flight to Deer Lake, wait an hour, fly back to St. John's, over night there, then catch her flight to Iqaluit. If that makes even the slightest bit if sense to you, then Air Canada is hiring. Go crazy. Because someone there already is.

So yes, that's just the start of a deeply weird summer. We were supposed to sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, zip lining through rain forests and then milling about in San Diego with thousands of geeks. Instead, I'm in Iqaluit and Cathy is playing plane tag with Deer Lake.

sigh Yes, I'm whining like a mule (It's a favourite line of Cathy's from "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", which we watched the other day. Man, that movie has aged badly). I'll deal. But man, I really hope this Christmas or next summer we go somewhere fun again. I've gotten spoiled.

Last Five
1. Fountain of sorrow (live) - Jackson Browne
2. 16 shells from a 30 ought 6 - Tom Waits
3. I can't be wrong - Sean Panting*
4. Isolation - Snow Patrol
5. Cornerstone - Arctic Monkeys

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The big melt

I'm wondering if ski-doo season in Iqaluit didn't take a fatal hit yesterday. We had a lot of good, old fashion Newfoundland weather - rain, drizzle and fog. Even today, after the rain had stopped, you could see large pool of rain water collected on top of the ice. That, combined with a week or more of above freezing temperatures and I think we're getting pretty close to the end. I hope.

Having said that, I'm pretty sure I saw some people on ski-doos on the ice this afternoon. I also saw people using their para-sails for a few hours. But that was all in the inner bay, where the ice normally lingers the longest. Nearly all the snow is gone from town (I saw someone using their ATV to tow a trailer carrying their ski-doo last week to the ice.)

I normally don't have a problem with the sea ice. Hell, given the right time of the day and the sun, it's really quite beautiful. And the tidal flats that are going to replace it are kind of ugly. But hey, it's a change. I've been staring at sea ice for about six or seven months now. I'm kind of done with it. Besides, the earlier it breaks, the more sea lift boats can get in, and I suspect we might need that before the shipping season is over.

There was one other things about the rain yesterday, and that was a confirmation that it's going to cause a bit of havoc with our satellite dishes. I kind of already knew that, but still. Not only was the TV behaving poorly last night, but the internet was pretty irregular. I was lamenting about how a signal can travel hundreds of kilometres from outer space, through god only knows how much wacky radiation without any problems, but a little bit of water screws it up. A friend pointed out that's just the way these things work, hence the problem of using similar technologies to transmit information underwater.

Fortunately Iqaluit is pretty dry most of the time, what with it being an arctic desert and all. And for some reason snow doesn't seem to affect it as much as rain. Go figure that one out.

For those wondering how the satellite internet is working out, so far I'm mostly pleased. It went down for a couple of hours this evening for reasons I couldn't figure out. It also appears not to be significantly faster than NWTel. But, as I've said before, there's no cap on usage. Considering Northwest Tel sent this beauty of a link out on Friday that made me want to spit bullets - friendly tips on how to not use the internet in ways everyone else in the bloody country can in an attempt to not blow your cap - I'm more and more glad every day about the switch. Especially if things get bloody later this summer, as I suspect they will.

Anyway, it's the end of May. I can be forgiven for wanting the end of ice and snow.

Last Five
1. Rub me raw - Warren Zevon
2. Murder in the Southlands - Mark Bragg*
3. Running (live) - Allison Crowe
4. Pasties and a G-String - Tom Waits
5. Mohammed - The Dandy Warhols

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yard sale

Today we took part in a long-standing Iqaluit tradition...having our own yard sale and fending off the hordes. Man, people in this town love a good garage sale. Now, I understand this is the case in many communities. There are travelling caravans of people roaming the streets of St. John's on Saturday mornings hitting yard sales.

I guess the difference in Iqaluit is that at this time of the year there are easily a half dozen or so every weekend and you can certainly hit them all if you want.

Anyway, we decided to have one this morning. Lots of people asked if we were moving, but no, we're not. It's just we've been here nearly five years now. Things accumulate. We don't really need the UV plant lights. Or the humidifers. Or the DVD player. Then there's the stuff you grossly over-ordered on seal lift. We had enough pesto to do us for another two years and it was all going to go bad before then. So why not sell some of it now. Plus, the previous owners left a few things that we have no interest in keeping.

Plus, Cathy was on a spring cleaning purge. It's kind of terrifying to be around, to be honest. For the past week I've been getting Cathy pop into what ever room I happen to be in at that minute holding something asking "do we need to keep this?" And if I said yes, there there had to be at least some justification as to why we needed to keep it. One of the differences between us, I guess. I like keeping stuff. I'm not a hoarder, but I generally need a better excuse than "it's taking up space" as the reason to toss it. Cathy, on the other hand, abhors clutter. And when she gets in one of those de-cluttering moods, well...

Well, I joked that I was worried I was going to wake up this morning tied to a chair with a piece of green tape on my forehead with a price. This produced the usual round of sympathetic Twitter and Facebook responses from my friends saying they had some spare change lying around, and did I do dishes.

My "friends" are bastards, have I mentioned this lately?

Anyway, we had a pile of stuff in our kitchen this morning for sale. We put the posters out a few days ago and sent a PSA to Raven Rock. The sale was supposed to start at 10 am this morning. We knew we were going to get some early birds, but figured they would show up around 9:40 at the earliest.

So imagine Cathy's shock when she tried to take Boo out for a walk at 9:20 am and there were cars already pulling into our driveway? That pretty much opened the floodgates. We had people pouring into the kitchen going through all of our stuff. By 9:45 we were essentially cleaned out. I felt bad for the people who showed up at 10 because there was hardly anything left. By 10:30 we put a sign up in the door saying the yard sale was over. At that point all that was left was Cathy's old winter coat and some things in a 25 cent box.

We made several hundred dollars and, most importantly for Cathy, we cleared out some stuff we didn't really need. So mission accomplished.

The only disappointing thing about the whole process was discovering that a couple of pieces of old electronics I had hoped to resell were essentially dead. Two older digital cameras no longer worked. One of them I paid an obscene amount of money for it back in 2004, so that was really depressing. The other was the first iPod I ever owned. I discovered that sucker is dead as well.

I don't know why I feel bad about tossing electronics more than anything else that goes in the garbage. Yes, I know some of these electronics are bad for the environment when thrown into a landfill. And to my knowledge there is no electronics recycling program in Iqaluit. So there isn't much I can do, but there you go.

Our first yard sale was a success. Now we'll see how long it takes before Cathy needs to purge house again. I give it no more than a year, but we'll see...

Last Five
1. Back at your door - Maroon 5
2. They never got you - Spoon
3. Drunk again - Mo Berg
4. We've got everything - Modest Mouse
5. Here comes your man - The Pixes*

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Best of the finales

The end of the TV season just wrapped up, and so before it drifts too far away, I thought I'd do a brief recap of my favourite finales. I'm not reviewing Republic of Doyle because that was back in April. But if I had to list it, I'd put it in the middle.

1. Chuck - It's not that Chuck is the best show on television, because it's not. But it's consistently fun and, most importantly, the writers realize when they've pushed something as far as it can go and it's time to change stream.

So when the Intersect 1.0 has gone as far as it can, they bring in the 2.0, which allows Chuck to go from wallflower to Neo ("I know Kung Fu" was an awesome line from the season 2 finale). After 2.5 seasons of keeping Chuck and Sarah apart, they decided to make them spies in love, and it works. When Casey can't be grumpy with Chuck anymore, they give him Morgan to boss around. Oh, and they give him a daughter, who Morgan flirts with, making Casey even more cranky.

And when the Buy More plot is feeling strained, well, at least it went out with a bang.

So the Season 3 finale was great. There was suspense, humour, good action, twists and some genuine peril as you were pretty certain one character wasn't going to live (alas, Scott Bakula). Plus, the big show down between Chuck and Shaw to the song "Blaze of Glory" as covered by Jeffster (not as good as their version of "Mr. Roboto" from Season 2, but still...) was pretty fantastic.

So it was great fun. And if they had wrapped it up, I would have been perfectly happy. Chuck has the girl, quits spying, is happy and is surrounded by friends and family. Except there is a twist in the last couple of minutes that means I can't wait for next season. Plus, there is the secret involving his mom. I side with many online who argue Kate Jackson (Charlie's Angels, Scarecrow and Mrs. King) clearly should play her. Considering how good the show has been at casting guest stars, I would think it's a given.

2. Fringe - I enjoy how some people are annoyed because they could see the "twist" minutes before it happened. Dudes, I saw the twist the episode before it happened. Who cares. Fringe doesn't do the big cliff hanger suspense endings. They do the quieter mindfuck endings. The end of season one had Olivia wake up in an alternate dimension where the World Trade Center is still standing. This season, the Olivias get switched up - with ours in a cell in an alternate dimension and the "Altivia" scheming in ours.

Also, if you're going to have two characters get romantically involved, then at least sticking one of them in a jail in an alternate dimension is an interesting way of keeping the two of them apart. The writers of two of the shows further down might want to take note.

Anyway, it was fun. The little touches in the alternate dimension (the comic book covers were cute) and the scenes between Leonard Nimoy's William Bell and John Noble's Walter Bishop were such a blast I'm bitterly disappointed Nimoy is retiring. I hope he reconsiders, but if he doesn't at least he went out on a high note. And the line "This is the 77" couldn't have been delivered any better if Arnie had delivered it. It's a classic, but you really need to see the scene to appreciate it.

Fringe is consistently the best show on TV right now and Walter Bishop is its most tragic character. Noble manages to find a way, just about every week, to break my heart. You know it's not going to end well for him, but you kind of hope, despite all the horror he's unleashed, that it does. Now that's good acting. And good writing.

3. House - Some people hate the non-procedural episodes, but I do enjoy switching things up from time to time, even if the patient of the week was at risk of losing her leg, something House could clearly relate to. It was a perfectly fine episode for the first 45 minutes or so. Then, in the last 15 minutes, Hugh Laurie found another gear. He went from resigned, to shocked, to numb, to furious, to the absolute depths of despair to, finally, a ray of hope. In 15 minutes. It was a freaking acting class in action.

And it was the last couple of minutes that sold it. The quiet little scene between Cuddy and House. I like that they finally brought them together. After six seasons, keeping them apart was getting tiring. As for Cuddy being with such an obviously screwed up man and that doesn't make sense, yeah, like we don't all know people who are involved with people they know is a huge mistake. Brains have little to do with things when the heart is involved. "I love you. I wish I didn't, but I do." Perfect.

I'm curious to see how it works, and doesn't, next season.

4. Human Target - I kind of like this show, despite the fact I kept managing to miss it. But I like the actors quite a bit. However, I don't know if your last show of the season, when you're on the bubble of getting renewed (miraculously, it did), should be a flashback to how Chance became who he is now (although the Lee Majors cameo was freaking cool) and having one of the main characters get kidnapped. It was an odd, ballsy, but not entirely well constructed hour. But hey, I'll swing back next season to see what happens for the few episodes Fox gives it until they swing the axe.

5. The Amazing Race - All I will say about this is if they make this show much dumber and easier for the contestants then you're going to need to fail an IQ test to make it on the show. Seriously, watch the first couple of seasons. Those challenges were bloody hard and scary. This season, not so much.

6. Castle - A perfectly fine episode involving the murder of a spy, or was he?, gets mired into the will they or won't they hook up subplot they've been building hard the last few weeks. Which is stupid on behalf of the writers because they're not hooking them up yet, since it's only the second season and the shadow of Moonlighting still haunts shows like this. And we know they're not going to hook them up yet. So we're all sitting back waiting to see how the writers are going to sabotage the two of them from being together.

And it's done with Castle's ex-wife walking in right in the middle of Beckett's big confession and announcing she's going off to his summer home with him while Beckett's co-workers look on with sad faces. And it's so sad and contrived I wanted to find the writer who suggested it and beat them. That's the best you can do? It's a hack piece of writing. Castle is a fun little show, I understand. I know it's not The Wire or anything, but I really would like it if the writing wasn't so obviously bad in this case.

7. Bones - On the upside, not as bad as last season's horrific dream sequence episode. But that's about it. A pedestrian murder case involving a hoarder with Bones and Booth and the rest of the cast considering the future and agreeing to all meet up one year from now, where they can hit the reset button. Many people say Castle is just ripping off Bones, which is fine because Bones is ripping off Moonlighting, which ripped off...well, you get the idea. But Castle staff might want to take a hard look and ask themselves if they want to be like Bones at the end of season five. The answer is no.

But we're five seasons into Bones and, boy, is it starting to feel its age. Maybe the "one year later" revamp will give it a chance to pump some fresh blood into the show. I hope so because there's not much life left in these old bones...

Last Five
1. Magnificent - U2
2. Texico bitches - Broken Social Scene
3. The other side of summer - Elvis Costello
4. Hold me in your arms - The Trews
5. Pussy-whipped Satan (comedy) - Bill Hicks

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Write the future

Ruthlessly stolen from my friend Seamus, I will admit that Nike does do a pretty awesome football commercial.

And that I am looking forward to the World Cup. I tend to cheer for England, although I know that's hopeless. But I also cheer for France to lose every game without scoring a goal. Karmic payback, if you will, for cheating in their win over Ireland, which got them into the World Cup and knocked Ireland out.

Last Five
1. Sunflower - Andrew LeDrew
2. Intimate secretary - The Raconteurs
3. Gloria (live) - U2*
4. Me just purely - Brendan Benson
5. We got the beat - Th Go-Gos

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The best laid of plans

Well, I'm still sick and Advil Cold and Sinus, SinuTab and Cold FX are barely making a dent into it. I'd take a sick day, but as I'm not hired permanently yet at the new job, whenever I take a day off, I don't get paid for it. I'm not annoyed about that, by the way. I rarely take sick days, so this is just bad timing. It also means I'm heading to work drugged up and contagious. So if you see me around town, fleeing in the other direction is not a bad idea.

Just to add to the fun, I read news today that is altering our summer plans...again. Thanks to Bono's back, we won't be running down to Toronto on July 3 to catch U2 play. So not only do we not miss a band both both of us have wanted to see play live for years, but we're also going to be out a couple of hundred dollars. Yes, I can get a refund on the price of the ticket, about $100 each, but that's assuming we paid that much for the tickets. Since we bought them through an online broker, let's just say we paid a bit more than that and leave it be.

I'm kind of losing track of how many times our plans for this summer have changed, but let's see if I can sum up.

1. From about 2006 until November 2009 the plan was to go to Costa Rica for two weeks and then spend a week in San Diego. We (well, mostly me) were going to go to the San Diego Comic Con, something I've wanted to do for 20 years or more. That plan up and died when we bought the house and realized there was no way we would have the money to be able to afford that.

2. Back-up plan was then to spend a couple of weeks around Southern Ontario and Quebec. We bought tickets to see U2, we have friends in Toronto, Petawawa and Montreal we'd like to see, plus we would do our sea lift order. Spending two weeks down there up and died when it took longer than anticipated for me to land a new job, and then realizing it was very unlikely a new employer was going to give me two weeks off.

3. The new plan was then to head down to Ontario for a few days during Canada Day weekend. It would give us a chance to do a mad dash sea lift order and then nip down to Toronto to catch U2. That up and died when Bono's back up and died.

4. The new plan now is to run down to Ottawa, do a sea lift and that's that. The one good thing still remaining is we will be in Ottawa on Canada Day. If you have to be somewhere for that day, Ottawa is a pretty good place. Plus, we're trying to convince some of our friends to come to Ottawa for the day. It'll be a little insane, but hopefully it will work out.

You'd have to think that one thing for this summer's vacation plans will work out. It's also going to produce a first. Since we moved here nearly five years ago, we've only spent partial summers in Iqaluit. I've spent more time here than Cathy, just because she gets the entire summer off. But with the exception of five days in Ottawa, my entire summer will be in Iqaluit.

So I guess I better find a way to entertain myself this summer as I'm going to be spending a lot of time here. Plus, Cathy is going to be out from June 30 until about August 22. I'm going to have some time on my hands.

Last Five
1. She's like the swallow - Pamela Morgan and Anita Best
2. Ghost wiring - Neko Case
3. Waiting - City and Colour
4. Need you tonight - INXS*
5. Firecracker (live) - Elton John and Ryan Adams

Monday, May 24, 2010

Still alive

So no, not dead at all, although I've been sick since Saturday with a head cold. My first one in quite some time. I'm trying to recall the last time I felt this crappy and I really can't. I'd like to say it's healthy living, but I doubt it's that. Although it certainly helped that there were few cases of the flu kicking around the last nine months or so. I've been skeptical about flu shots for years, but hell, that mass innoculation during the H1N1 scare certainly did the trick for putting a damper on the flu this winter.

But if I have to be honest, it's not just the cold keeping me from writing. Hell, I feel worse today, but here I am doing this anyway. It's also not my reoccurring blogger's block. I have, right now, anywhere from 2-4 posts I could write up (Facebook security, Bono's bad back, evolving summer plans, why all religions are wrong and abortion - get over it, it's just a phase). I just don't feel like doing it. And the proof of that is I haven't checked Statcounter or Empire Avenue since Wednesday either. You know when I'm not tracking how many people are visiting the blog or what my stock price is, you're in trouble.

I think it simply might be blogging old age. This blog is now officially five years old. The first post was February/March 2005. In that time I have written 1,167 blog posts (including this one) and at some point I think that starts to wear you down a bit. I notice most of the Nunavut bloggers aren't updating as much these days either.

I'm not saying this blog is dead. Far from it. However, I can see the days of me trying to blog every day coming to an end. I just don't know if I can keep it up. That might change, especially if I get bored and lonely up here all by myself this summer.

So, as always, subject to change. But this blog may be evolving to an every second day format. We'll see. Although hopefully there won't be anymore five day gaps in-between posts. I'll try and do better.

Last Five
1. Everything (between us) - Liz Phair
2. A widow's toast - Neko Case
3. Yo George - Tori Amos
4. New world man - Rush
5. Love runs deeper - Lindsay Buckingham

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bye, bye NWTel...

It's not exactly a secret how much people in Iqaluit have, oh, let's say contempt to be kind, for Northwest Tel. I'm not exactly exempt from that kind of thinking as this blog as been used more than once as a pulpit from which I could expound upon the many sins of Northwest Tel, in particular their internet service.

There are three main sins.

1. The Sin of Reliability. While they have gotten better over the past year, with much fewer signal drops, it still happens too much. Plus, the speeds fluctuates wildly. When I was testing this evening signal speed varied from 0.8 mbs to 1.5 mbs, all in the space of a minute or two.

2. The Sin of Cost. For their Ultra High Speed (if you're in Iqaluit, try not to choke too hard), you're paying $100 a month for that service. It's not cheap. I understand it's the north and there is a cost to these things. However, given the quality of service, it's borderline if it's worth the cost. Which leads us to our third sin.

3. The Sin of Gouging. Right now there are 10 gig caps on your usage per month. If you go over it, things get very, very expensive. I didn't pay attention to my usage last fall and went $200 over the cap. I know a guy in town who blew his 10 gig cap on May 14 and said he'd have to hide his computer for the rest of the month if he didn't want to have to pay Northwest Tel a small mortgage payment next month.

This would be bad enough, except Northwest Tel has been crying poverty lately so its entirely expected that at some point this summer they are going to either A. Cut internet speeds B. Cut the cap back down to 5 gigs per month or C. Raise the price again, probably to around to $120-$130 a month.

So we decided to hell with it. We've been threatening to switch over to XploreNet satellite internet ever since we bought the house. We held off until my job situation became more stable, which it now appears to be. So today we finally got it installed. So, what are the pros and cons, as we are one hour into using it?

1. I have another dish on the front of my house, but at least it's smaller than that bloody Bell Death Star dish.
2. There is a $600 installation/equipment cost.
3. It's $119/month, however I fully expect NWTel to be charging that much by the end of the summer.

1. You do have to sign a contract. Not a big deal for us as we plan to be here for the next three years anyway.
2. Download speed has been a constant 1.44 mps, upload at .20 mps. That's comparable to NWTel speeds...when it's working right. At least XploreNet has been giving me constant speed so far.

1. No. Bloody. Cap.

Seriously, for the first time in five years I can do software updates without checking my usage for the month. I can go to iTunes and buy TV shows and movies without worrying about breaking the bank. I can watch YouTube videos and movie trailers without worrying if that 45 mb of video is going to haunt me in a few weeks time when the bill shows up.

So I like this. We'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks and months, but right now, I am a fan. And if NWTel goes ahead with their plans for reducing services or increasing prices, I suspect XploreNet might have a lot more fans in short order.

Last Five
1. Make it rain (live) - Tom Waits
2. El Manana - Gorillaz
3. The sound is fading - Robbie Robertson
4. Patriarch on a Vespa - Metric
5. Elanor Rigby (live) - Paul McCartney

Monday, May 17, 2010

Waiting for the inevitable sucking

I figure right about now is when the Toronto Blue Jays are due to start breaking my heart. It's pretty much inevitable they're going to do it - with the exception of two years there in the early 90s, baseball in my life has been more about heartbreak and frustrating than joy. You can't grow up being an Expos fan and not get used to the sport killing you.

Then again, it could be worse...I could be a Chicago Cubs fan.

The Jays have actually gotten off to a pretty decent start this year. However, as I recall, they got off to a pretty good start last year. Then, as if by magic, someone reminded them that they were punching way above their weight class and they proceeded to suck. I kind of viewed them as being a perfectly mediocre team. And a mediocre team tends to kick the ass of bad teams, get their ass kicked by good teams and split the difference with average teams. Their little winning steak aside, I suspect the Jays will be perfectly happy to finish right around .500.

Although the one thing that frustrates me right now is my inability to catch a game. For the first time in 25 years TSN isn't covering any Jays games. Neither is CBC. That means the only way to see a game on TV is to get SportsNet, which I don't want to do. However, I might bite the bullet and get those channels of a couple of months over the summer. Cathy is going to be gone for six weeks, so being able to catch a few games on TV might be nice. I don't think they're going to win anything this year, but they at least appear to be a fun team to watch.

I've also decided this year to come up with a back-up plan for teams to cheer for when the Jays inevitably collapse. Team #1 is the Rays, just because A. I want some team other than the Yankees and Red Sox to win in that division. And B. I saw them play a game. Despite the the minor miracle of seeing them lose one of their few games, and to the Orioles of all teams, they look like a lot of fun.

The other team is an odd choice - The Phillies. I'm pretty much interested in them only because Doc Holliday is pitching for them and the man deserves a World Series ring. It's not without some pain, though. I've hated the Phillies for years. I suspect the origins of it go back to the '93 World Series. Yes, the Jays were playing the Phillies. However, there was also the matter of my girlfriend at the time leaving me for a guy from Philadelphia, who was a Phillies fan.

Let's just say my hatred of all things Philadelphia was pretty high there for awhile, and I may have gotten greater emotional satisfaction from the Jays kicking the Phillies asses in the World Series than might really have been merited.

Still, time heals all wounds, so I'm told. So for this season, I can cheer a bit for the Phillies. Unless they meet in the World Series. In that unlikely event, all bets are off.

Last Five
1. Major Tom - Shiny Toy Guns
2. Don't bother me - The Beatles
3. My all time doll - Elvis Costello
4. Norwegian wood - The Beatles
5. In repair - John Mayer

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Retro thinking

I've been doing some time travelling the last week or so. I try not to indulge in nostalgia music too much. I grew up in the 80s and I thought I was more than aware of the weaknesses of the music in that decade. Yes, we have U2 and a few other choice bands, but I think if you look at the last 60 years of popular music, "cheesy" is probably the word that describes the decade the best.

So even while I'm constantly trying to find new bands or acts, or hoping acts that I already like have new music coming out soon (next up, I believe, is a new Band of Horses album) I do occasionally like to listen to music coming out of the 80s.

But here's the thing...I thought I had a pretty good grasp of 80s music. I knew which acts were popular, along with the music trends and who influenced what. However, I think I'm coming to the conclusion that I do not know nearly as much as I would have thought. This comes from a series of events rolling together over the past few weeks.

First up was flipping the TV over to Galaxie to the 80s channel a couple of weekends ago, just to have some music on while we were cleaning. And yes, some of the hits were there, and some of the songs I have literally not heard in 25 years or more. There were songs that came off of such a beast as "New Wave Classics, Vol. 13" (seriously?). But then there was music I'd never heard of before and was kind of good. Which was weird.

Then I picked up a copy of the last Spin Magazine, which was their 25th anniversary issue, which was talking about different acts and musical scenes and songs...again, a surprising chunk of it I'd never heard of. Then today, on a lark and because there's nothing else to watch on a lazy Sunday morning/afternoon, I watched something called "Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s." I think I had the most fun arguing about whether or not acts like Madness, Big Country and Thomas Dolby were really one hit wonders with people on Twitter and Facebook. But again, there were a number of songs I'd never heard of before. For that matter, I was shocked to see Aldo Nova and Red Rider on the list. The show was American, and I never figured "Lunatic Fringe" and "Fantasy" were ever hits in the US.

So yes, there is a surprisingly large void when it comes to my knowledge of 80s music. And in retrospect, I blame this on OZ FM. And maybe Much Music, but they came later. For those who can remember such things, Much Music was a pay TV channel during the first few years of its existence. And my father, well, he's not cheap, but he hates to waste money. Moreso back then. So the odds of getting him to splurge on a music video channel were slim.

So yeah, counting on OZ FM and Casey Kasem's American Top 40 for you music education in the 80s means there were bigger gaps than I might have thought (I don't think The Cure or The Smiths were played that often, for example). I guess I could have tried listening to CHMR, but with due respect to the friends I have who were DJs on the station, or are still there, CHMR in the 80s was a nightmare to listen to. The "90% of everything is crap principle" was taken to the extreme and DJs were either playing crap music or were sounding like condescending pricks because you couldn't get the awesomeness of whatever they were playing. Or they were stoned and incoherent.

I missed a lot of fun music in the 80s, it appears. And that kind of makes me sad. Stuff that was great, but that never would never had made it onto the Top 40 or on OZ if you put guns to their heads (my one and only time I ever called OZ to request a song was to hear "Istanbul, not Constanople" by They Might Be Giants. The DJ laughed at me and hung up). I'm not sure if it would have made a difference in my life, but I think it might have.

I remember how important music was in the Muse in the 90s. People running into the office after getting a tape from some unknown act called Nirvana or Tori Amos. I discovered a lot of cool music at the Muse. Those are the friendships that tend to stick and last, when you can bond over music or movies or TV. So I wonder what it would have been like to have found someone who could have introduced me to the cool music, rather than whatever was popular on OZ at that time.

Just some thoughts on a Sunday afternoon of watching too much 80s music video...

Last Five
1. Bad (live) - U2
2. The Guitar - They Might Be Giants
3. Maybe sparrow (live) - Neko Case
4. Don't believe it all - Treble Charger
5. Leaving on the evening tide - Ron Hynes*

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm not saying he should have done that, but...

If I had to pick my three favourite stand-up comedians right now they would be the sainted Bill Hicks (although Hicks, if he were still alive, would likely scream at me for five minutes for calling him that), followed by Patton Oswalt and Chris Rock. It was Rock I was thinking about today and, in particular, a bit he did on OJ Simpson years ago.

It's a masterful five and a half minute routine and I recommend tracking it down and giving it a listen. It's one of those things you really shouldn't be laughing at, but find yourself doing it anyway. The pay-off is when Rock points out that OJ's ex-wife was getting huge alimony, with her boyfriend driving around in his Ferrari, and fucking her in his house. The punchline? "I'm not saying he should have killed her.....but I understand."

Cue big laughs.

I kind of thought of that when I was reading this story on Nunatsiaq News. The paper, by the way, has been doing some really good stories lately, so I tip my hat to them. Anyway, the story is about RCMP Const. Kipanek Eegeesiak, who plead guilty to two cases of assaulting prisoners. At first blush, that sounds very, very bad. But when you read the story and you hear his reasons for why he did it, well, Rock's words came back to me. "I'm not saying he should have beat them....but I understand."

One of the guys was a repeat sex offender that had broken into the constable's grandmother's house several times. The other guy was the common-law husband of a cousin who had beaten her in the past.

There is some merit to the argument that he never should have been policing in Iqaluit, given the volume of family he has in town and that he was so widely known. There's a reason why so many RCMP officers in small communities tend to stick with other officers or a very tight circle of never know when you're going to get the call to go and arrest somebody you're friends with, or even related to.

Ordinarily I'd be inclined to say he should be tossed and that's that. However, it sounds like he's a good cop who just did something stupid...something anyone of us would have been tempted to do if in his situation. My inclination would be to move him to another community and keep him on a very, very short rope. That might upset some people, but I find myself not really caring all that much if the people upset are repeat sex offenders and men who beat women.

But that's just me...

Last Five
1. Out of my hands - The Donnas
2. The pearl - The Trews
3. Babydoll - The Fratellis
4. Maggie's farm - Bob Dylan
5. Napoleon sheds his skin (live) - Red Rider

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I honestly would have thought we'd be hard pressed to find a bigger story in Nunavut this month than the mismanagement of a housing fund that lead to a $60 million cost overrun, but that just goes to show what I know. I don't know if it's as big, but it's certainly as interesting.

So, for those of you outside the territory, an abbreviated time line. Last week Nunatsiaq News does a series of highly critical stories regarding the conditions at the Baffin Correctional Centre. I'd advise reading the stories, as they're pretty interesting, but to sum up, it's badly over crowded and in not great shape.

Then, things get weird this week when CBC breaks the story that Nunavut's fire marshal has been fired. He claims in stories with the CBC, Nunatsiaq and the Globe and Mail that his employment was terminated because last Friday he went to the RCMP to express his concerns about the state of the BCC. He claims that did not make certain people in senior management happy.

Add to all of this, and all of this drama happened during the last few days of his one-year probationary period with the GN. A little longer and, in theory, he would have been past his probationary period. It would have made it more difficult for them to terminate him. Plus, they would have had to give him severance pay. But as he was still in probation stage, they can, and did, cut him loose.

Believe it or not, I am not going to get into whether or not the GN was right to do this and the ethics involved with firing a fire marshal for pointing out problems. I think there will be plenty of people eager to do that. Instead, there's something about this story that bugs me a bit. And it's this - why did Tony Noakes, the fire marshal, go to the police mere days before the end of his probation period and take an action that he surely must have known would have severe repercussions?

That's what doesn't make sense to me. He knew about the problems at BCC for months. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if his predecessor left a note for him reading "You really should go and take a look at the BCC" waiting for him when he arrived on his first day. He could have acted months earlier, if he wanted.

Or, conversely, he could have waited another few weeks or months. Yes, there was the risk the BCC could burn down, but that risk has obviously been there for quite some time. He waits another few weeks, he's no longer on probation. It makes it that much harder for the GN to dismiss him. Plus, if they do, there's compensation they have to deal with.

So this is my theory - and I admittedly have no proof at all of this, it just feels right - that he knew last week he was dead at that job. It could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps he had just clashed with senior management one too many times over safety and other issues. Perhaps he wasn't actually very good at his job. I suspect we'll never get to the truth on that one, although I lean more one way on that theory than the other.

But after months of knowing what the problem is, and days after Nunatsiaq runs those stories on the prison, and days before the end of of his one year probation period/contract he walks over to the RCMP to tell them to investigate knowing what the likely consequences are? No, I think he knew he was done.

And whether that last act was one of conscence, spite or thinking that being fired for revealing fire safety violations looks better than not having your contract renewed for not getting along with your bosses is, again, something we'll never know.

But it just smells weird. I'm open to other theories. Perhaps it doesn't actually matter why he did it, just that he did it and helped shed light on a problem. And it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

But yeah, I think he was done and knew it. What about the rest of you?

Last Five
1. Southtown girls - The Hold Steady*
2. Asshole - Rilo Kiley
3. Vienna - The Fray
4. Rebel rebel - David Bowie
5. Love and some verses - Iron and Wine

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Change of (entertainment) seasons

The TV season will be winding down over the next few weeks, which means I'm going to essentially stop watching TV, with the exception of DVDs (assuming Canada Post ever delivers my PS3 - still in Vancouver, by the way) and the World Cup next month. It's always kind of sad to reach the end of the season...I'm not as badly addicted to some of these shows as I was to ones in the past - dear God, the X-Files season finales were brutal - but I will miss some of these over the summer. Although I strongly suspect Fringe might give me a seizure, given the build up the last month or so.

The good news is for the first time in my life, every single show I watch is coming back next season. Chuck, House, Castle, Republic of Doyle, Human Target, Bones, Fringe and The Amazing Race all got picked up. Granted, at least two of those shows - Chuck and the Human Target - I don't expect to live through all of next season. But I get more of my favourite shows, and that makes me happy.

So with the end of the TV season, I swing now into summer movie season. It's going to be a bit weird for me this year as I'm likely going to be down south for only a few days. That means most of my movies will be seen at the local cinemas. They're lovely and all, but the screen isn't as big. Plus, it can takes weeks for "new" releases to make it here. Iron Man 2 isn't play here yet, and it doesn't look like its coming this week either as a Nightmare on Elm Street is opening.

So let's see what movies coming out this summer I'm marking on calendar. With Cathy going to be gone most of the summer, I'm certainly going to have some free time on my hands in July and August, so I'll be in need of entertainment.

Iron Man 2 - duh.
Robin Hood - still on the fence and the initial reviews are not great.
Prince of Persia - Never played the games, so this has no sway on me one way or another. If the reviews are good, I'll give it a chance.
Sex and the City 2 - Not if you put a gun to my head, my dog's head and my wife's head.
Shrek Forever After - The third movie really wasn't that great, so I have my doubts about this one as well.

Knight and Day - It's Tom Cruise being crazy, which is a real stretch for him. Probably not.
Jonah Hex - It's based on a comic I quite like, so I will go. It stars Megan Fox, so it's not likely to be good. At all.
Twilight: Eclipse - See answer to Sex and the City 2
The Karate Kid - Probably not, no.
Toy Story 3 - It's Pixar, so I'll go. But I really wish they had come out with another original instead of a sequel. And if you had to do a sequel, then Incredibles 2 would have been my preference.
Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Undead - It will never play here in a million years, but I really want to see it.
The A-Team - Probably, but I honestly have my doubts it could be more fun than The Losers, which I saw last night.

Inception - Oh hell yes.
Predators - Could be awful, could be good cheesy fun.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Sure, I'll chip in a few bucks towards Nicholas Cage's "Please get me out of bankruptcy fund". Looks stupid, but if it's stupid and fun, then I'm in.
Despicable Me - Looks fun. I love a movie based on super villains.
Salt - Angelina Jolie playing a spy bad-ass. Could go either way.

Eat, Pray, Love - See answers to Sex and the City 2 and Twilight.
The Expendables - I know it's going to be deeply, deeply stupid. Just be fun, that's all I ask.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Oh hell yes.

Any suggestions?

Last Five
1. Here comes the sun - The Beatles*
2. 21st century - The Living End
3. Beautiful, sorta - Ryan Adams
4. Volcano - Beck
5. Sing the changes (live) - Paul McCartney

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Postal issues

Complaining about Canada Post is a regular sport in this country. And when you've spent most of your life having a father who also happens to be a letter carrier, lord knows you're more than aware of the flaws and faults of the organization. For example, I know the inherent risk of getting a magazine subscription. Let's put it this way, if you're getting a subscription to a magazine odds are you're not going to be the first person reading it. And the sheer volume of Playboys the likely have disappeared in the mail over the years can never be counted.

For the most part, I've been reasonably happy with Canada Post's service in Nunavut. Other courier companies, and UPS in particular, are as useless as tits on a bull. But Canada Post has been pretty reliable. However, for the last six months or so it feels like somebody at the organization has had a stroke and has managed to forget how to deliver mail in a timely fashion.

We're currently well into week #3 of waiting for packages from Chapters (books for Cathy) and Future Shop (a PS3/Blu-Ray player for me) that haven't arrived. No idea where they are or what the hang-up is. If it were Christmas, I'd understand. But as its May, I don't understand why it's taking about a week longer than normal to get these packages. Plus, it's not like these things are coming from the far ends of the earth. They're coming from Southern Ontario.

And then there's other weird stuff. We had new Visa cards arrive a few weeks ago, about three weeks after they were put in the mail. The cards were late being sent out anyway, so we were cutting it close in changing over the card information with our utilities (we just direct bill to the cards). Bell sent us two notices warning us our cards were about to expire. They were mailed 12 days apart, but both arrived on the same day.

And then are stories about people in Iqaluit putting a letter in the mail to an address in Iqaluit and that letter taking nine days to arrive at its destination.

Look, I don't know what's going on. I know it's not completely the fault of the Iqaluit post office. They can only process what Montreal sends them. And I suspect the plea that mail has a pretty big significance up here wouldn't fire up the spark or sympathy with them. It's not like we can pop to the nearest outlet mall if you want new books, clothes, movies or whatever. For some of this stuff, you have to order it in. Yes, our books and PS3 are not vital things, but damn it, you order the stuff you don't want to wait forever on it. Especially if you have a tracking number and see it's been sitting in a plant in Montreal for more than a week.

There have been times where I've almost felt like flying to Montreal, going to the postal factory/warehouse/whatever and asking for my package. It's not just that it shouldn't take this long, it's that I don't understand the very noticeable deterioration in quality of service in the last few months. I'm certainly not the only one who has noticed.

So can we get things straightened up, please. Can we not have basic letters take three or more weeks? Can we not have packages take the same amount of time? Can we not have magazine subscriptions arriving weeks after that edition has been on the stands in Iqaluit (which normally gets its magazines a solid 10 days or more later than down south)? Can we actually get our subscriptions, because Cathy is missing several copies of her Discover magazine.

The cheap shot is to say asking for competence and quality service from Canada Post is farcical. And I know people shit on them all the time. I just want the decent service we've been getting most of our time in Iqaluit back. I'd be perfectly happy with that. Thanks

Note A friend pointed out, after Cathy and I both ranted about this earlier on Facebook (I may have used more colourful language than she did) that Canada Post has an Ombudsman. Might be time to send a letter and see how long it takes for it to reach him, just to make a point.

Last Five
1. Lonely song - Ron Hynes*
2. Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
3. Loves comes tumbling - U2
4. Your bruise - Death Cab For Cutie
5. I don't like you anymore - The Last of the Shadow Puppets

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Washing away

It's the things that you don't think about when you buy a house. I always assumed the houses on the other side of the street from us had an advantage simply because they had the best views of the bay and the rest of the community. The last couple of days I've also learned they have another advantage...they avoid the worst of the melting water.

No, we haven't flooded and the house hasn't washed away or anything. However, our house, and all the houses on our side of the street does have a gentle slope running behind it. And that slope has had an awful lot of snow accumulating on it over the winter. The past week or so the temperatures have kicked up a notch. This past weekend was particularly mild, with temperatures around +4C. Oh, and it rained a lot. So everything has been melting at a quick rate. All of that melting snow, plus the rain water, has to go somewhere since the soil around here isn't exactly absorbent.

It's the stuff I guess you should think about when buying a house, but I certainly didn't. Plus, the road in front of our house got paved this year, so that's added a bit to things.

So yes, lots and lots of running water this weekend. On the upside, I've forgotten just how relaxing gently burbling water can sound. Seriously. I was outside for a bit just listening to the water trickle down. It was kind of soothing.

Right up until I saw it eat into the drive ways of my neighbours. That was a touch alarming.

There are actually culverts under the driveways of all the houses on this side of the road. However, there's been so much snow and ice, several of them got blocked up. Water has to go somewhere, so it's been running over the top of driveways, leaving huge gouges across them. City tractors have been by a couple of times the past few days to try and clear things up so the water can run the right way. They've had some success, but some of the culverts are still jammed.

We're fine, but that's for right now. If nothing else, it's something I'm going to have to keep an eye on in future years. We didn't get any ice jams or water eroding the driveway this year, but that's not to say it won't happen next year. Oh yeah, and I have no idea what you do with an eroded driveway. Get a load of dirt to fill it in, I guess.

This is the shit no one ever told me I'd have to deal with when it came to home ownership. I like the house, but it's stuff like this - the unknown, out of left field weirdness - that's going to give me a stroke one of these days.

Oh, and on the other side of the road? Nothing. No running water at all. I'm not certain if a better view and less of a chance of the house washing away is worth the extra $30,000 to $50,000 (a butt ugly box towards the top of our road has an asking price of more than $500,000. You're on drugs if you pay that for it, though), but there are days I do wonder what other surprises might be coming our way.

Oh, also made two dump runs this weekend to throw out a bunch of crap left in the shed and underneath the house. Apparently a cat has been making its home underneath our house this winter, which is a touch odd. You rarely see cats outside, just because of the volume of dogs in town. I can't imagine one also decided to tough out the cold as well. That's got to be the meanest, toughest cat in town.

And yes, this is a bit rambling. Something more coherent tomorrow.

Last Five
All from "My Weakness is Strong" by Patton Oswald.

Friday, May 07, 2010


I'm thinking of mixed CDs this evening, through an odd little confluence of events. I honestly can't recall the last time I put together a mix CD. I have piles of blank CD, but people just don't use them anymore. You don't use them to play music on because everyone has an MP3 player of some kind. You don't use them to store data on hardly anymore, because every is using jump drives or back up hard drives. So the little blank CDROMs have kind of fallen by the wayside.

Point #1 came when I finally began to melt down against Raven Rock. It happens. Normally I can use Raven Rock for background noise for those times I'm driving around in the truck. I'm not actually listening for good music...let's not expect miracles here. However, I am kind of hoping for not offensive music.

That hasn't happened the last few weeks. Whether it's the hideous dance music they play at lunch time, the God awful and staggeringly depressing "What would do?" song by City High, which was a hit ages ago but they keep playing it all the time or an ad from Baffin Deli that is so dumb I want to go and either punch someone from Raven Rock for producing it or someone at the Deli for approving it.


All right, I can breathe again now. So yes, done with Raven Rock. Ordinarily I'd fume, vent and hope for a change in taste at the radio station. Cathy, apparently tired of the venting, suggested I put together a mix CD. Which is not a bad idea at all. I could bring the iPod in the truck, but I'm always afraid I'll leave it there and that'll be the last of it. If that iPod dies or is stolen I'll be very sad. It'll take days, if not longer, to rebuild the library. I have 7,600 songs on the bloody thing.

So yes, a mix CD was rattling around my head last night when I sat down to watch "Fringe". And there, in the intro, is a waitress talking to Peter. She puts together mixed CDs for people based on "reading their aura" and offers to make one for him. She does, but let's just say she doesn't meet a happy fate.

("Fringe", as I keep saying, has just been knocking it out of the park since it came back from break. It's a little too late to jump on this season, but I really do recommend buying it on DVD, or getting a season pass from iTunes or something. It is, no kidding, the best network show running right now).

Anyway, at the end of the episode, Peter does get his mixed CD and promptly put it in a, no kidding, Discman. Way to keep up with technology there, Peter.

The song Peter listens to is the brilliant "Is there a ghost?" by Band of Horses, which nails the mood so well it's kind of scary. So that pretty much confirmed I need to put together a mixed CD.

(Another aside, I don't know who decides to put the music on certain shows, but "Fringe", "Chuck" and "House" consistently have some of the best. For example, whoever decided to use Nina Simone's "Feelin' good" on Chuck the other week deserves a pay raise.)

Now it's just the matter of figuring out which songs to put on it. The Band of Horses song is pretty well a given. I bought a small ton of music this week and there were actually a bunch of albums I wanted. New ones from Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers and Josh Ritter made this a very good week. So I'll put something together over the weekend. Whatever I end up with, I'll put the track list up on the blog for your amusement.

Last Five
All from "Together" by The New Pornographers

Thursday, May 06, 2010

In a blind

We're starting to enter silly season in Iqaluit when it comes to daylight. Sunrise this morning was 3:53 am and sunset was was 9:08 pm. When you toss in about an hour on either side of that for civil twilight, we're now down to less than four hours of darkness in town. That, coupled with the warm weather we're having - it's forecast to be +3C with rain most of this weekend - also means the crazies are coming out of hibernation. We live in a relatively quiet part of town now, so I don't think we'll get it too bad. However, as we've only been here five months, I guess we'll see.

There is one thing we're learning about this house, though. And that's the guys who built it and designed it had a mean streak in them. That's the reason, I assume, they put the master bedroom on the side of the house facing east. So bright and early in the morning, the sun is blasting through the windows. We have two sets of blinds on that window, but they are not very good. I'm managing to sleep through the worst of it, however I'm waking up in the morning and noticing Cathy either has sheets or a pillow covering her head. So she's not managing quite so well.

Which probably explains her course of action last night. We'd been talking about buying new blinds during our resupply run in Ottawa this summer. However, Cathy had a small brainstorm. Her parents are coming for a visit in June. They are going to have space in their suitcases to bring things up for us. The original plan was paint, but that got killed because you can't fly with paint (apparently the pressure change causes things to pop, making for a very messy cargo hold). So Cathy got the idea of blinds. She'd buy them via Sears and then have her parents pick them up and transport them up here for us.

This lead to several days of asking what I think about different kinds of blinds. This was on top of several weeks now of asking what I think about different shades of paint for different rooms in the house. There are those little paint samples stuck to every room in the house so that we can "see what the colours look like depending on the time of the day."

You know, I never thought I was a typical guy. You know, beers and sports and hating home decorating. And while I haven't acquired a taste for beer, I probably watch my fair share of sports. And, apparently, I could not care less about paint colours. Or, in this case, blind colours.

I don't. I tried, but I honestly can't determine which blind is the best for whatever room. Can't do it. I do not know if a solid colour blind, or one with red stripes, or blue stripes or black stripes look best. I can't really make the mental leap to make that judgment. Or even to really care. I realize leaving that much control in Cathy's hands is potentially a mistake. But I have no sense or, more importantly, taste on these things.

Anyway, after abandoning all attempts at getting me to make a decision, Cathy ordered them. We'll have new blinds around June 10th or so. I'm sure they'll be lovely. And hopefully keep things dark in the bedroom. Now there's just the paint to get later this summer. God help me...

Last Five
1. A slight discomfort - The Hold Steady
2. I wanna be around - Tony Bennett and Bono
3. Tournament of hearts - The Weakerthans*
4. Broken down - Ian Foster Band
5. Dirt in the ground (live) - Tom Waits

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Greek madness

I'm doing some of this by memory, so if I have some historical facts wrong, then I apologize. However, I'm reading and watching Greece have a major mental breakdown and all I want to do is grab them by the collective throat and shake some sense into them.

From my understanding of the situation, the previous Greek government lied for years just how bad their books were. That includes both their own people and the rest of the EU. Now, with the economic crisis still rattling around, they're deeply fucked. And there are no other words for it other than "deeply fucked." I'm not an economist by any means, but when your economy is in such bad shape that A. You're at risk of possibly destroying an economic union and B. You're making Iceland look good, then you are in a world of trouble.

So yes, that means pain. Yes, salaries being lowered, pensions being screwed with, retirement being delays, taxes increased....all that stuff is going to suck mightily. I have sympathy for the people who are going to suffer a lot over the next few years.

However, I have yet to read of a single, solitary better idea. Defaulting would wreck Greece and harm millions of other people in the EU and around the world. No, the Greeks instead appear to be pissed off and want to take it out on...somebody. However, I'm not sensing any self-recrimination. That perhaps, just perhaps, they brought this onto themselves.

I couldn't help but notice that and remember something from almost 15 years ago. Back then, I was teaching in South Korea. As it happens, I left in August '97 and a few months after that the Korean economy went right down the crapper. Too much speculation, too much corruption, the big companies in Korea thinking they could get away with murder for too long and then it all catching up with them at once. And because of that, Korea had to go to the IMF looking for help.

And yes, there was plenty of rage and wanting of blood. Koreans have riot and protest season, for God's sake. But there was also deep shame that they had to go outside and get help. I recall reading an extraordinary story about some Koreans going to banks and donating gold jewelry and money to help the government get its books straightened out. And they emerged from their crisis a strong country again.

I'm not sensing any shame coming out of Greece that they're in this situation. I'm not sensing any remorse over what's happened. They seem to expect things to go on as always and not suffer any consequences to their country's actions over the past decade or more. Oh, and to blame the Germans. Which is fine and all, there's a long and justified history of blaming Germany for a lot of things that have gone wrong in Europe. However, you might want to try and look in the mirror. Last I saw, the Germans didn't put a gun to people's heads in Greece and told them to borrow insane amounts of money.

And I'm sorry to be all grown-up, but that's not how it works in the real world. If you do stupid things, if you live beyond your means, if your throw money away like it was cheap candy, there's going to be a reckoning.

I'm not saying I want to see the country beat themselves with sticks. However, I think I would like them to grow up, acknowledge their in deep trouble and instead of burning shit down or murdering innocent people, try and fix the problem. A little remorse and a lot of commitment to fix things would be nice. In other words, if Greece tried being a little more Korean right now, I think everybody would be much happier.

Last Five
All from "Heaven is Whenever" by The Hold Steady

Monday, May 03, 2010


Geoff Meeker pointed out this interesting article on Facebook yesterday. It's about six weeks old, but I'd never heard talk of it before. About 200 companies have announced they are boycotting Glenn Beck's show on the Fox News Network. Some, like Apple, have announced they're done with Fox altogether.

I had an initial mixed reaction when I read that. On the one hand, good. I confess my only real exposure to Beck is when watching Jon Stewart ruthlessly mock him. I'm not sure what Stewart would have done this past year if he didn't have Beck to go up one side and down the other on. But from everything I've read and seen, the man is a serious douchebag. Yes, I believe in opinions and commentary. Yes, I believe a little exaggeration for comedic effect can have value. But whatever Beck is up to it's of little value to public discourse, although probably of large value to Beck's bank account.

Let's put it this way, if Beck and Anne Coulter ever had a child, I'm pretty sure it would be meeting the Messiah on the Fields of Armageddon in about 20 or 30 years time.

Here's the thing though, boycotts like this have always made me a touch squeamish. There's something about "we don't like what you're saying, so we're not going to advertise with you" that triggers a reaction. Conservative religious groups have used similar tactics for years against radio stations, movie studios and television networks. Yes, I understand it's a perfectly legal and valid method of protest, but it always felt like "we can't beat you in a fair argument, so we're going to go after your money."

Although at least those boycotting Beck have not, to my knowledge, done what some of those groups did...go directly to people advertising on a tv or radio station and tell them they were going to boycott their business if they didn't stop advertising with the offending party. That always pissed me off. That always struck me as particularly cowardly.

No one is putting a gun to your heads and saying "you must advertise even if you don't like what they're being said." And considering Beck is more often then not spreading hate, I should be glad there are companies willing to take the stand and say, "no, we're not giving our money to you so you can keep saying that."

However, it still makes me feel a bit weird. Any thoughts?

Last Five
1. Saltwater joys - Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas
2. Seven seas of Rhye - Queen
3. The other side - Sloan
4. I'm blessed - Brendan Benson
5. Weather out the storm (live) - Figgy Duff*

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Murder, he wrote

So, funny thing happened last week. Yes, I started a new job, but on my second day there, a guy comes up to me and starts chatting while scribbling on a piece of paper. I'm still not familiar with everyone in my office yet, so I figured it was simply one of my co-workers swinging by to meet me. Then he stop writing, looks up at me and says, "Oh, you're being give a summons for jury duty right now, in case you didn't know."

I must have sat at my desk with my jaw hanging open for about 30 seconds before I managed to speak.

"How the hell did you manage to find me?" I asked. "I just started here yesterday. Nobody knows I'm here."

The guy grinned. "Well, you're still in the system as being employed with your old employer. So I went in there looking for you. I was told you didn't work there anymore, but some guy said you were working in the offices across the parking lot. He pointed me over here."

So to whoever it was at my old office who pointed the guy from the sheriff's office over to me...thanks. Thanks a lot. Granted, they probably would have found me eventually. Although I have no idea how. He didn't even know my home address.

Me getting jury duty is just slightly shocking. It was the wonder of the office once word got around. There have been people living in Nunavut for decades and never received a summons. I get one on the second day of my new job. Brilliant. As it's been explained to me, they tend to only have Inuit serve on the juries involving Inuit. Non-Inuit tend to get called for jury duty only if there is a non-Inuit case involved.

As it stands, there is a big whopper of a case coming up in the next few weeks. That would be the Chris Bishop trial; he's accused of murdering three men. The trial was supposed to be in Cambridge Bay, but they got a change of venue. I knew that, but I'm still kind of floored that I've been entered into the jury selection pool.

Now it could be something else. I haven't called the court house or anything, but this does seem to be the most likely case that I'm being called for.

This will be weird for me. I've been called for jury duty before, but always got excused almost immediately when I pointed out I was a journalist. They want nothing to do with journalists being on a jury, which I think is unfortunate. God forbid you have an intelligent person used to taking in a bunch of facts and coming to conclusions and who does that for a living on a jury. Anyway...

But this time, I don't think I really have any reason. Normally I'd love to be on a jury. I think it would be a fascinating experience. However, the timing could be better than just after I started a new job and I'm still trying to make a positive impression. Disappearing for a few weeks to sit on a jury will not help.

So we'll see. Perhaps I'll be involved in a murder trial. That would be deeply surreal.

Last Five
1. Scattered and small - Amelia Curran*
2. Lake fever - The Tragically Hip
3. Breakdown - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. Jesse James (live) - Bruce Springsteen
5. Blowing bubbles - The Pursuit of Happiness