Friday, July 30, 2010

Anniversary tales

Many years ago, and I'm guessing this was at least 15 years back, possibly even as far back as 20, I proclaimed that I thought I had a pretty good understanding about what made women tick. Alas, I made this statement in a bar surrounded by many of friends. What was worse was that I was sober so I had no excuse for saying something that stupid. What damned me was that many of my friends present were women.

Now, under other circumstances I might have gotten away with it. Perhaps some people have female friends who would have just rolled their eyes, and went "whatever." However, most of my female friends tend to be the physical embodiment of pure evil on this plane of existence, so naturally they made my life a living hell for the rest of the evening, pointing out that I was pretty stupid. There was much mocking going on. I probably deserved it, but hey, when you're young you're cocky, generally stunned, but think you know it all anyway.

I got another reminder years later about the fallacy of trying to understand women. I was talking to one of my friends who, by my estimate, was about 60 weeks pregnant and feeling....grumpy. I was getting a vent about how annoyed she was with her husband because he was coddling her all the time and, damn it, she was quite capable of taking care of herself. Except two minutes later she was venting about another time when she needed help and he didn't do anything. I pointed this out to her.

"So you're problem," I said "is that you're pissed off he isn't psychic."

"Yessss," she said with almost a hiss. "That's it exactly."

If I had been in the same room, I probably would have backed away slowly.

So yes, trying to understand women is a dangerous bit of business. However, I figured if there was one woman who I had a pretty good grasp of, it would be my lovely wife. We've been together now for more than eight years and, as of today, married for five of them.

We've had conversations over the past few months about how we really wouldn't do anything for our wedding anniversary. We weren't going to be together on the big day (not unusual, we've only been together for two of the five), plus we were going to be tight on money after the sealift. Made sense to me. Other than a call wishing her a happy anniversary, I figured that would be the end of it.

Yes, you can all see where this is going.

I'm at work this morning and coming up for air after a particularly intense 90 minutes or so trying to get a project finished by deadline. That's probably why I didn't hear the door knock or only just barely heard someone say my name and that they had a package for me. By the time I looked up, there was this being put on my desk.

I was in shock, although I immediately knew who they were from. Understand, my brain was a little fried at that moment, which explains why I was alternating between laughing and saying "oh fuck" a lot.

Naturally this is when one of my female co-workers swung by, noticed the flowers and exclaimed, "Oh my God, they're beautiful! Who gave you flowers?"

"My wife. It's our anniversary today."

"That's so sweet! What did you get her?"

"Um, nothing."

(It should be noted there was a temperature drop of several degrees at this moment. In fact, on Twitter a friend of mine in Iqaluit mentioned seeing snow fall today at roughly the same moment. It is likely the two are linked.)


"We said we weren't going to get each other anything," I said, laughing because I was still giddy from the flowers, the first onset of panic and the stress of the morning. It was probably not the best reaction.

"Well, you've got to get her something. Flowers. Or a spa treatment. Something."

"Yes, yes. I should probably do that."

(cue another temperature drop.)

"Yes, I most definitely will do that."

So part of the morning was then spent scrambling trying to get flowers delivered to her (mission accomplished) and enduring the pitying looks of co-workers who couldn't seem to understand how I didn't know that just because my wife said we weren't doing anything for our anniversary didn't mean that she actually meant it.

Look, in my defence, there have been years where Cathy wouldn't have remembered our anniversary if I hadn't mentioned to her. Lovely woman, heart as big as the moon, tons of excellent qualities. Being good with dates and numbers - not one of them. So I think I was well within my rights for believing her when she said we wouldn't do anything because I honestly half expected her to forget what day it was.

Cathy was bemused/mildly horrified when I was talking to her this evening. Bemused because I had sent her flowers as well. Mildly horrified when I mentioned I got teased and mocked at work (I should mention most of it was good natured and I may have been exaggerating certain things for dramatic purpose. Although it really did snow briefly in town this morning). She just had to send them to me at work because that was the only place the delivery person could be sure to catch me.

Plus, she thought I might like them because I had been sounding a little blue this week. It really was incredibly nice of her to do that and it did put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

It's also nice when you can still be surprised after being together for that many years. Not always understanding isn't always a bad thing. I think.

Anyway, happy anniversary, babe. Love you....

Last Five
1. Queer - Garbage
2. Underneath days - Bob Mould
3. Brothers in arms - Dire Straits*
4. The Canadian dream - Sam Roberts
5. Factory - Band of Horses

Thursday, July 29, 2010


It's been an odd, and occasionally scary week, watching some of my friends and what's happened to them. Three of them have gone though traumatic events, but appear to be coming out the other end for the better. Which is always nice to see.

One friend went to Hong Kong for a job interview, got stuck there because of visa issues and was getting pretty frustrated. However, it looks like he's going to get a job out of it, so that's good. I'd have hated for him to have been stuck there for all that extra time when I know he was anxious to get back home to his wife and daughter.

Then there's Dups, who finally launched his baby this week to the whole wide world - Empire Avenue. Plus he continues to get good press about this, such as this story. I'm not sure I've ever seen a friend of mine work harder at something in my life. I certainly couldn't have done it. My current job is beating the snot out of me. I love it, but I'm going home wiped most evenings. I can only imagine what Dups has gone thought the past year getting his baby this far.

It's turning into a remarkable thing. It's almost unrecognizable from the beta he launched earlier this year. There are fan sites popping up offering advice on how to best play the game. I said in two years Dups is either going to be a millionaire or sleeping on my couch. I'm definitely leaning towards the former.

But in terms of "Oh holy fuck" moments this past week, certainly nothing beats a friend of mine who found out last weekend that her ex wanted a divorce and, because of the laws of the country she's in, was also facing a custody hearing a matter of days after getting this news. It all happened so fast she didn't even have time to get a lawyer before going to court.

I was terrified for her and I wasn't even involved in the process. The concept of having to go through all of this and risk losing your daughter...I can barely comprehend it. But because she is a rock, and a ninja and a host of other awesome words, she walked right in there, kicked some ass and walked right back out with full custody of her daughter. She's also moving to another country right now, which I think is a good move, all things considered.

When I joined the Muse, gah, 20 years ago I made friends with some people at the time I thought were pretty cool. It's only as I've gotten older and watch what they've done with their lives, and how they faced challenges and succeeded, for the most part, that I've come to appreciate how remarkable they all are as well.

One of the best things I ever did in my life was walking through that door on the second floor of the TSC...

Last Five
1. Seven nation army (live) - The White Stripes
2. Lua - Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch*
3. Thanks to no one - Colleen Power
4. The old apartment - Barenaked Ladies
5. Wedding song - Andy Stochansky

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Last weekend I went and saw Inception and mentioned it on passing on Facebook. One of my friends said I should write a review about it. I was hesitant because I'm quite rusty on the writing movie review front. Plus, I figured a movie like that might prove a bit challenging to try and sum up.

Except, the more I thought about it, the more obvious it seemed to me. Inception is a good movie, but it's certainly nothing stellar. It's not the greatest movie of the 21st century so far. I doubt it will end up as the best movie of this year. Hell, it's not even the best thing Christopher Nolan has directed recently; The Dark Knight is a vastly superior movie.

At it's heart, Inception is a caper movie. Instead of stealing something, they're trying to plant something. Instead of gold or top secret documents, it's an idea. The rules are perhaps more elaborate and sci-fi, but there are always rules when running this kind of caper. They're nice twists, but Inception isn't The Sting, The Usual Suspects, Inside Man or even the under-appreciated Heist starring Gene Hackman that came out in 2001. Part of the fun of a good caper movie is trying to figure out what the players are up to. You know more than their mark, but not everything. So when it all comes together, there still should be some surprise and delight that you were kind of swindled along the way.

But that never happens with Inception. You know what they're going to do the whole way pretty much. Oh sure, there are complications, but that's to be expected. But there aren't many surprises. And honestly, if you can't see the twist coming at the end, then you're a touch stunned.

Which I understand is the natural state to be in while sitting in a cinema, especially during the summer months. So yes, there is some thinking required here, and yes, you can have some discussions about the nature of reality and all, but I don't think this movie ought to be generating epic philosophical discussions or anything.

I remember when Duplicity, the Clive Owen/Julia Roberts caper movie from last year, came out and some people complained that it was too complicated. Really. Look, if you couldn't follow that movie, then you've gone from sitting slightly slack jawed in a movie theatre straight on to persistent vegetative state. Get someone to slap an EKG on you to make sure you're not brain dead. That movie was dead simple to follow. This one isn't much of a challenge either if you're paying any attention at all.

It might seem like I'm hating on Inception and I'm really not. For what it is, it's pretty good. It's a good summer action flick that's certainly smarter than normal. Great visuals and good acting, although I agree with some of the criticism about it being emotionally cold. The Dark Knight, even though it was just a comic book movie, had a lot more emotion to it than this movie. It's a fine movie, but let's try not to make it into the second coming, shall we?

Oh, and the twist at the end? Total Recall did it 20 years ago and it was annoying then and time has not diminished how annoying that kind of ending is. And that's all I'll say about it.

Last Five
1. On the back of a broken dream - Flogging Molly
2. House of smoke and mirrors - Matthew Good*
3. Please please please - Fiona Apple
4. This town - Blue Rodeo
5. Jacob's ladder (live) - Bruce Springsteen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dog update

Somebody is missing her dog quite a bit. She's probably missing her husband a bit as well, but I'm not fooling myself, I know where I sit on the pecking order.

So, to help ease her missing of the dog (although she got to play with a pair of Newfoundlands recently and discovered, to her joy, that her allergies to them seem to have abated), and because it's been entirely too long since Boo has graced the pages of this blog, I give you some Boo moments from a walk on the weekend. Enjoy.

Last Five
1. NW Apt. - Band of Horses
2. Drowning man - U2
3. Ice cream - Sarah McLachlan
4. I'm on fire (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*
5. There's a place - The Beatles

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The past week saw quite a few boats out in the bay, considering we have no where really to dock them. During the past week we had two sealift vessels, a coast guard ship and a small cruise ship. Of course, that doesn't count the dozens of small craft zipping in and out of town during that period.

I have a pretty decent view from our living room window of the comings and goings, but there it is a little outlook nearby that I take the dog when we're doing his walks. So I figured I'd grab the camera and take a few pictures. These all happened over the period of a few days, but I still think they came out pretty nice looking. Well, except for the night shot. I tried taking that one spur of the moment from my front porch without a tripod. So it's a touch soft. Oh well...

Last Five
1. The lucky one (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station
2. Oh you girls - Franz Ferdinand
3. Exodus - Bob Marley
4. All these things - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
5. Instanbul (Not Constantinople) (live) - They Might Be Giants*

Friday, July 23, 2010

I love Comic Con

So the Westboro Babtist "Church" (otherwise known as some of the worst, most hateful scum the US has to offer) decided to show up at the San Diego Comic Con to protest all those godless heathens doing terrible things such as having fun and enjoying pop culture. The Con attendees, God love them, decided to....counter protest in their own little way.

"God Hates Michael Bay" and "Kill All Humans" are my personal favourites, although a friend of mine who pointed out this video said he's fond of the "The Cylons Destroyed 12 Colonies For Your Sins." I also enjoy, as Warren Ellis pointed out, that different groups were making monetary donations to organizations such as the Foundation for AIDS Research or the Human Rights Campaign based on how long Fred Phelps and his crew protested outside at the con. The longer they stayed, the more money they raised for groups they hate. I like it.

My friends, you do not fuck with the geeks during Nerd Prom. Because they will fuck you back, twice as hard and in a far more creative manner. Although I am not there in the flesh, I salute you my geek brethren. Go boldly. And hey, if you can get God to kill Micheal Bay, I could go for that too...

Last Five
1. Let's get lost - Lloyd Cole
2. Mahogany - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
3. God - Tori Amos
4. Bad blood - Figgy Duff
5. Two birds - Regina Spektor

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

California dreaming

So to quote the immortal Dante Hick, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

So where am I supposed to be? San Diego.

Allow me to explain.

When Cathy and I first moved to Nunavut we had our Glorious Five Year Plan. One of the sections in the plan was travelling. We both like to travel and have had serious envy over the adventures that some of our friends have had over the years. However, that wasn't possible while living in Newfoundland. It is expensive to get in and out of there, but an equally large problem was the lack of money in our chosen professions. All we could have afforded was an all-inclusive resort every few years, assuming we didn't make an RRSP payment that year.

That changed when we came to Nunavut. We had more...resources at our disposal. When we saw just how much, we mapped out the next five years worth of adventures. Despite some hiccups, we've done pretty well sticking to the schedule. We said San Francisco in 2006, Costa Rica in 2007, Italy in 2008, Australia in 2009 and probably Ireland/Scotland in 2010.

Like all plans, you have to make adjustments on the fly when the unexpected happens. In 2007 some of our friends got married, so we decided to bump back Costa Rica until 2010. I then had the bright idea of linking that trip with a stop in San Diego. I've always wanted to go to the San Diego Comic Con and that idea only grew stronger after I went to the con in New York City in 2008. Even Cathy went along with it. So, done deal, right?

Yeah, well, funny the twists and turns. After my time on EI went on longer than anticipated and then we bought a house, well, big expensive trips went on the backburner. So I'm not in San Diego for the con this year. Oh well. Hell, we were talking about maybe doing it next year, but I don't know about that either. U2 have gotten around to rescheduling their Toronto concert - July 11, 2011. Next year's SDCC starts July 20. It's a little hard to see U2, go to Costa Rica and hit the SDCC in that window. We'll see, but I'm not optimistic.

There's going to be no shortage of coverage on the SDCC this year. Comic Book wise I'd recommend Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and Comics Beat. But big entertainment players like Entertainment Weekly will be doing coverage as well. Hell, a reporter with the Toronto Star has managed to convince an editor of the necessity that he be there.

But some of the most fun of the weekend will come on Twitter, where people will be posting update and pictures. I imagine it will be a trending topic all weekend. Also for pictures, I'd poke around a bit on Flickr. Honestly, if I were there I wouldn't be spending much time at the announcement panels or trying to grab sneak peaks of the movies coming out in the next year or the celebrities (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are expected to grace the geeks with their presence). I would be spending a lot of my time at artists alley meeting some of my favourite creators and just watching the costumes. The people who go to SDCC are often hardcore cosplayers. For people watching and sheer spectacle, it's kind of hard to beat what you'll find at SDCC.

I'll get there one day. Just not this year. Oh well...

Last Five
1. Come together - The Beatles
2. Jesse James - The Pogues
3. In my time of dying - The Be Good Tanyas
4. Misery - Soul Asylum*
5. If you were there, beware - Arctic Monkeys

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Burn baby, burn

A couple of my friends, always seeking a way to get a rise out of me, have pointed out that there is a massive class reunion taking place on August 7th at my old high school, Booth Memorial. This is amusing to them because my hate for Booth is well known. That link is to the nice blog post I wrote about my old high school, by the way. There is another one involving me running through the ashes of the burnt out building, rubbing them on my naked body and laughing manically. I have to admit, that even disturbs me a bit.

I like to think that I can grow past certain things and stop nursing grudges. It is a sign of maturity, after all. Of personal growth and spiritual enlightenment.

Apparently I'm not there yet. And I'm perfectly all right with that. I responded to one friend who emailed me a Facebook link about the reunion that it would probably be a bad idea given the volume of guns I have access to up here.

I kid, I kid, to all those RCMP officers who follow the blog, but still...

I am currently friends with exactly no one from my old high school. Well, my former English teacher is about as close as it gets. He was, and is, a nice man who will probably be a touch hurt when he reads this. I do feel a bit bad about that. He was one of about five positive things I can list about my time at Booth versus the 1,000 or so things that made me want to scream.

I honestly thought they had closed the school already and were hopefully making plans to build something useful at that location, like a Wendy's or a Burger King.

I'll get over it one day, I'm confident of it. Probably shortly after someone sends me a picture of a vacant lot where the school used to stand. Hating your high school is, I think, a perfectly sane thing to do. If you were forced to go to a place that you loathed for three years, filled with people who more often then not made your life a living hell, well, you might have a few lingering resentment issues.

So if anyone who reads this blog is planning on going, be sure to pass on my....regards, won't you?

Last Five
1. Four seconds - Barenaked Ladies
2. No, not now - Hot Hot Heat
3. Working on a dream - Bruce Springsteen
4. I can't wait - The White Stripes
5. Sonny came home - Shawn Colvin*

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sealift season

The boats out in the bay and the barges running back and forth are not the only signs that it's sealift season. Just a basic glance around town and the extra bustle of activity will let you know that something is going on.

Sealift season always has a certain frantic edge to it. The boats only have so long to hit not just Iqaluit, but also a host of other communities in Nunavut. Companies only have so much time to unload things from the barges and get them squared away. Construction companies are normally slipping into overdrive, trying to get as much construction completed as they can before the weather begins to turn, which will happen in a little more than a month. The plateau subdivision is going insane with activity. And I notice they're getting ready to start a new building right across the street from my old apartment. One more reason to be glad to have moved last year. Once they start going with the compressors to drive the support pylons for the new building the ground, I would have started to lose my mind. Twelve hours a day for six days a week....gah. My condolences, Jordan. Tell Stephanie to buy ear plugs if she wants to get any sleep during the day.

So you see things like the hardware stores going crazy (I was in one over the weekend to get my propane tank topped up and was nearly run over several times by trucks bringing in crates). There are trucks going around town with crates and dropping them off in front of different houses. Some people are very well organized and managed to get their sealift order up on the first couple of boats. We'll have to wait until closer to the end of August before our order arrives.

Although, as Montreal is the point of departure for most of the sealift boats, this obviously has us a touch concerned. Hopefully it won't last too long. I can't see that happening, but if it does, it's going to cause some real chaos up here.

Oh yes, and it's not just boxes of stuff arriving on the boats, it's also new vehicles. I've already noticed a few new cars and trucks on the roads around here. One thing about a place this small, you tend to notice all the vehicles and can quickly spot new ones.

We don't have a new one coming up, alas. Perhaps next year.

So yeah, it's an odd time of the year. A lot of people have left town for vacation or we're in transition as one group has moved out at the end of the school year and the next group haven't yet arrived. But once the boats show up, the place does have a beehive-like feel. It makes for entertaining viewing, if nothing else.

Now, if only the damn mosquitoes would hurry up and die already. That's one season I can't wait to have over with...

Last Five
1. No ones gonna love you - Band of Horses*
2. Leisure suite - Feist
3. Two hears (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
4. Tightly - Neko Case
5. My music @ work - The Tragically Hip

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Revisting ads

Every now and then I'll revisit the idea of putting advertising on the blog. There's never appeared to be much sense of putting Google ads up - the amount of money I would get from them would literally be pennies per month. Plus, the ads would more likely annoy people who comes to the blog. I do try and make this a reasonably friendly and inviting place. So if the ads are going to piss people off, why bother for an amount of money that won't even buy me a cup of coffee up here.

However, the idea has been rattling around a bit more lately. My friends Dups' baby, Empire Avenue is getting ready for its public (ie. you will no longer need an invite to take part) launch. Dups has some interesting ideas on how people might be able to make money on their blogs via that website that I may take advantage of one day.

(By the way, if you're at all into social media, I highly encourage you to go and take a look when it goes public on July 20. Dups is building something magical over there).

Also, a funny thing happened this past week. When I did the new version of the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ a number of people put the link up on Twitter. Kent Driscoll, a local APTN reporter (and former blogger) has some especially kind words. I'm both flattered that he sends the link to anyone he knows thinking of moving here and amused/horrified that he does this not only to provide information about Iqaluit, but also to terrify them. There appears to be a bit of a success rate with the terror, by the way. That was never my intention, but I do get a bit of a kick that something that was meant to be helpful and informative to new arrivals apparently also scares away more than a few people as well.

Anyway, he also "tagged" a number of companies - Future Shop, IGA and Well - saying I should be charging them for mentioning them in the FAQ. I thought it was amusing and gave it no more thought, until a day or two later when a marketing representative from Well contacted me.

It was a nice note, very polite, thanking me for mentioning them and also finding the FAQ informative about life in Iqaluit. They also invited me to take part in their affiliates program. Now, this is intriguing.

As I've said, Google ads are little better than spam and I would make pennies. But a Well ad would be more targeted and more likely to actually clicked on, especially by people living in the north. Out of curiosity I checked and Chapters also has a similar program. As it stands, since we used both Chapters and Well on a regular basis, the rewards would actually be useful to us.

However, I am curious as to what regular blog readers think. Would ads on the blog be an annoyance after so many years of the place being ad-free? Plus, would you be likely to click on them at all? Not much sense in putting them there if no one is going to use them.

Last Five
1. You will be my ain true love - Allison Krauss
2. The furious curve - Amelia Curran
3. Love runs deeper - Lindsey Buckingham*
4. My old friend - Bob Mould
5. A fishing tale - Grapes of Wrath

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Case study

Not really in the mood to blog too much this evening, I'm afraid. Not really mad or upset just a bit...disappointed over some news. So when faced with sets of circumstances such as this, there is a three step process.

1. Allow anywhere from 5-10 minutes to feel sorry for yourself, depending on the severity of the disappointment. This was, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively minor setback and correctable with work. Probably not even worthy of the full five minutes, but you have it so you might as well use it.

2. Remind yourself that nothing of value that you truly want should ever come completely easy and without some struggle, otherwise how would you truly be able to appreciate it once you have it?

3. To make yourself feel better, get some chocolate. Or, almost as good, find a song with Neko Case belting out something upbeat sounding. I'm not even sure the lyrics to the New Pornographers "Crash Years" make all that much sense, but I don't really care, as I can just listen to Neko's voice and automatically feel better.

God love music...

Last Five
1. Streets of sorrow/Birmingham six - The Pogues
2. Carpetbaggers - Jenny Lewis
3. That teenage feeling - Neko Case
4. The laws have changed - The New Pornographers*
5. Smokers outside the hospital - The Editors

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back on the air

So, not dead, I assure you. Nor even facing one of my bouts of writer's block. Instead, I wasn't able to blog because of the weather.

Not many bloggers can say that, I suspect.

I really am enjoying the new Xplorenet service. It's proving to be more reliable, in most cases, than NWTel. However, it does have one weakness. The past two nights we had pretty decent amounts of rain falling and it just wrecked havoc on my internet signal. Iqaluit is essentially an arctic desert, so we don't get as much rain as other parts of Canada. So that's the good news. The bad news is that when we do get it, there's not much I can do, except pick up a book, as I did last night when I finished off "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (One Line Review: Larsson was in dire need of a good editor to gut that sucker like a fish).

I guess we'll just how to tough it out, but it is something to consider for those of you in Iqaluit considering switching over.

Other than that, I fear there isn't much to report. Cathy and I talk on the phone each night and she keeps asking what news I have. I know she understands it's Iqaluit in the summer, but she still has to ask. There's only so many times you can say the mosquitoes are trying to kill me, that work is good, but hectic, Boo is doing just fine and that I'm now on Season 3 of Babylon 5 (it's aged...disapointingly). Ta da...

Meanwhile, Cathy is out with a bunch of our friends, has been enjoying warm temperatures and having fun. Oh, and she also committed an act that I understand, but still saddens me...she purged the last of our books and CDs that we left at her parents house.

I understand why it had to be done. It's been five years since we left them there. We're not moving back to Newfoundland any time soon. There were too many books to try and ship up here. So the compromise was to sell them. She copied down a list of the authors and titles that I might be interested in purchasing again, but still, it was kind of sad...especially when all of my Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov books finally were sold. I know I was never going to reread them again, but still, I've had some of those novels since I was 12. It hurts knowing they're gone. I just hope they find a good home.

Not all the CDs died...I had a bloody huge collection of Chieftains CDs when I left St. John's. I didn't put them on my iPod at the time because there wasn't room for them all. However, I'm going to get her to bring them up now and then I'll decide if I'll put them on the iPod or not. I have about 25 Chieftains CDs coming up. I'm kind of afraid they'll overwhelm everything else on the iPod.

And that's it for this evening. Tomorrow, something on blog advertising, I think. We shall see...

Last Five
1. Lisztomania - Phoenix
2. Man of a thousand faces - Regina Spektor
3. Run - Vampire Weekend
4. I am a man of constant sorrow - Soggy Bottom Boys*
5. Harry Worth - Elvis Costello and the Imposters

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Moving to Iqaluit FAQ, v 3.0

Towards the end of 2008 I wrote a post called "Moving to Iqaluit FAQ". I did it because I thought I had a bit of knowledge to share having done this myself and having lived up here a few years.

Since then it's become the most read post on my blog. It's to the point that I know some locals give out the link to people thinking of moving here because they think it's the best resource available. I still get messages left there thanking me for the information and I've had several people email me to thank me for the post and to ask follow-up questions. Which is both very cool and quite gratifying to know it's helped people.

This is the third version of this post. You can go here and here if you want to read the previous versions for some reason I keep updating because information keeps changing and people keep coming up with new questions. Most of the front section is unchanged, but as you get towards the bottom, you should see some new questions and answers. Also, some information on flights, sealift and house purchasing have been updated. Once again, if you can think of anything I've missed, please add it in the comments section. And if I've missed something or get something wrong, then I beg you indulgence.

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

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

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

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

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

C. Things are expensive. A case of a dozen Pepsi is about $15. A large bag of chips is $6. A smallish honeydew is about $10. Gas is about $1.20 a litre. A mechanic will run about $100 an hour. A return plane ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa costs about $1,400. There is that shock the first time you walk into Arctic Ventures or North Mart. But odds are you're making good money working up here anyway. And there are ways to save some money on food. More on that in a minute.

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

E. You are isolated. There are only two ways out of town - boat and plane. You're not getting to another city by skidoo. And the bay is frozen seven to eight months of the year. So airplane it is. Montreal and Ottawa are three hours away by plane and a normal ticket these days is $1,400. There are seat sales, but even then, a ticket is still around $1,200. So unless you're rich or work with the airlines (who give huge discounts to employees), you're not popping down to Ottawa for the weekend.

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

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

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

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

Normally I would say a 4x4 with a bit of ground clearance would be a good option because of the number of dirt roads. However, a nice chunk of Iqaluit was paved during the summer of 2009, so the roads should be much better now. However, I suspect 50% of the community's roads are still dirt and the potholes during spring (ie. June) can be huge.

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

There are insurance companies that operate in town. Try Nunavut Insurance, for example. Motor Vehicle registration is located in Inuksugait Plaza. Vehicle registration is some insanely low price like $40 a year. However, they do not send out reminders, so it's up to you to notice when your vehicle registration has expired.

Question #6. What's a sealift?
Answer. The sealift runs from approximately June until November each year, which is when there is no or little ice in the bay. Boats run up all kinds of supplies and if you wish you can ship things up this way. Furniture, cars, building supplies and food just to name a few. Many people in town take advantage of the sealift to ship up a year's supply of dried goods. It's a way to save some money by buying in bulk. There are a number of businesses that will help you with that. For example there is Northmart, I Shop 4 U or if you want to do it yourself, TSC can help you.

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

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

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

Significant changes to the Food Mail program are currently in progress. Previously Canada Post ran the program, but earlier in 2010 the federal government announced changes, which will start to be phased in this fall. Rather than explain at length what those changes are, go to this press release and make sure you go to the bottom, where there are a number of links that should be able to answer your most detailed of questions.

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

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

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

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

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

If you're coming up here to work on construction sites or with a local business, odds are they're not giving you housing. Which means you have to find it on your own. A small, one-bedroom apartment will set you back roughly $1,700 a month. A 2-bedroom apartment cannot be found for under $2,000. Check Northern Properties and Nunastar for some of the rental proprieties available. Iqaluit Online lists some of the proprieties for sale, among other things. You can also try Used Iqaluit.

Question 11. Could I just buy a house?
Answer. Sure. In fact, we bought ours in December of 2009. Average house price is around $375,000 for a three bedroom house. There is only one real estate agent in town, John Matthews. You can reach him at 867-979-1343 (he has no website). A lot of houses are private sales, which means either finding them online or, just as often, wandering around town and reading the bulletin boards.

Housing in Iqaluit also has some issues you may not encounter elsewhere. All houses are built on stilts due to shifting permafrost. Some may find the idea of a house with about 10 feet of open space between it and the ground...disconcerting. Not all houses are on water and sewer, which means trucked water. There are land leases to deal with. I wouldn't recommend buying a house when first moving up here. It's really a move after you've been here a few years first.

Question 12. Are there banks in town?
Answer. CIBC, Royal Bank and First Nations all have branches with ATMs in town.

Question 12. Is there high speed internet service in town?
Answer. Yes...sorta. It's very slow high speed, certainly slower than what you're likely used to down south. Northwestel and Qiniq both offer internet. Keep in mind that it is expensive. In the summer of 2010 NorthwesTel changed their internet.

Their High Speed Iqaluit Classic service gets you download speed of 768kbps, upload speed of 256kbps, 2 e-mail addresses, 5GB usage cap ($25 per GB of additional usage, charged in 0.0001 GB increments). Their High Speed Iqaluit Ultra includes the following features: Download speed of 1.5mbps, upload speed of 384kbps, 5 e-mail addresses and 10GB usage cap ($25 per GB of additional usage, charged in 0.0001 GB increments). That goes for $120/month. By the way, those are...optimistic speeds. Don't be the least bit surprised if you come nowhere near them. Bitching about NorthwesTel is practically a recreational activity.

I also cannot emphasize this strong enough - watch your usage per month. NWTel are not kidding around with that cap. I've heard too many horror stories about people coming up here, not knowing about the cap and downloading all their movies, TV shows, music and whatnot and running up an internet bill into the hundreds. 10 gigs goes by quick. As someone who has blown his cap more than once, trust me on this.

Qiniq is around $60 a month with a cap around 2 gigs. I know very few people in Iqaluit who use Qiniq. They mostly serve other Nunavut communities that NWTel does not deal with.

Also, there is Xplornet, which you can ask about at the Source. Go here for more information online. It's a dish attached to the side of your building. We switched to this in May of 2010 after being frustrated with NWTel. It is not for everyone. It involves having a satellite dish attached to the side of your building, and signing a contract of 1-3 years. However, if you're a long-term resident, I would recommend looking into it. Their three year contract gives you internet at the same speed as NWTel, the speed is better and there is no cap. (well, there is, but not a seriously evil one like NWTel has).

Our phone bill is around $50 a month. That's for regular service and our long distance calls. It's not great, but all right.

Question 13. Are there bars in town or is it a dry community?
Answer. There are several bars in town - The Storehouse, the Kicking Caribou and the Legion (which is supposedly the most financially successful one in Canada). Several restaurants also serve alcohol. Neither myself nor Cathy are big drinkers, but $5 for a can of beer (no bottles nor any kegs. Which means no Guinness) is around par for the course. There is no liquor store, so if you want to order beer, wine, hard liquor, you need to order it and it will arrive several days later from Rankin Inlet. You can also order beer from the Sea Lift. This link gives you some ideas.

Question 14. How safe is it in Iqaluit?
Answer. I tend to be a touch anti-social, but other than some petty vandalism, neither of us have had any problems. I think Iqaluit is reasonably safe as long as you're not stupid. If you get drunk and belligerent at the local bar, well, yes, you're going to have trouble. Single women should follow the same precautions they take if they were going out in Toronto.

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

Question 15. Are there things I really need to bring with me before coming up?
Answer. You can actually get most things you need either in Iqaluit or buy ordering online. There are also good yard sales, especially in the spring, from people selling things as they head south. However, I recommend buying your cold weather gear down south if possible. It is expensive up here. And buy proper warm weather gear. What will get you through a Newfoundland winter, for example, won't cut it up here. Get coats, boots and gloves that are rated for temperatures around -70C. And your coat's hood should be fur trimmed. It makes a huge difference in keeping your face warm

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

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

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

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

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

Question 16. Are there any non-Inuit, non-white people in Iqaluit?
Answer. It's not Toronto or Vancouver, but yes, there are. I'm very careful to use the word "Southerner" to describe non-Inuit in Iqaluit because there are people here who are not white. There's a decent-sized Filipino population, for example. I used to work with someone who came here from Africa. Cathy has a couple of girls in her school who moved here from South America who barely spoke English when they moved to town.

Question 17. What about medical issues?
There are no private medical clinics, so odds are you're going to Public Health or the hospital to see doctors. There are a couple of dentists. There are several pharmacists. And there is a brand new hospital in town. Serious medical cases are normally sent to Ottawa. We've both been fortunate to not need any real medical attention, so I can't speak a lot about it. However, this one of these things where, unless its an emergency, a bit of patience goes a long way.

Your provincial medical card is, I think, still good for a year after you move up here. If you're staying longer than that, you'll need to get a Nunavut medical card, which can be a bit of a slow process. This is the GN's Department of Health's website. Good luck.

There are also at least two pharmacies in town, although they can be short staffed at times. Again, patience is your very best friend.

Question 18. What about entertainment and sports?
Answer. It's not Toronto with its options, but there is lots to do. There's a hockey rink, with a second one reopening this fall. There's a curling rink (and as a member, I encourage you to join as well) a racquetball club, the Atii Fitness Centre, a swimming pool (which might close soon as it is very old). The first Saturday after Labour Day in September there is something called Mass Registration where you can sign up for everything from ball room dancing, to speed skating, judo, the greenhouse society, etc. If you're in town I highly recommend going to this. The City of Iqaluit lists most of the recreational activities on their website.

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

Question 19. What are the schools like?
Answer. That's a touchy one and at least partially because my wife is a teacher. There's no doubt that some parents do not like the school system and move down south because they believe their children can get a better education there. On other other hand, I've met a lot of hard working teachers doing their best. There are opportunities for travel and programs that might not be easily accessible in other parts of Canada. The high school has been making great strides in improving its graduation rate and offers some unique programs. And the government pays for one year tuition at any Canadian university for every four years your child attends school in Nunavut.

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

Question 20. Any other tips
Answer. Avoid being a racist is a nice start. Sadly, you still get some of that up here. Avoid giving the impression that you're just up here to make a few bucks to pay off your student loan or mortgage and then getting out of town. Go figure, people who live and work here, trying to build the territory, take it kind of personally. Avoid the attitude that you know better on how things should be done. Just because things are done differently up here than you're used to doesn't means they're wrong. Oh, and if you have issues with fur products - like sealskin gloves or fur coats - I'd lose them or keep it to yourself. Many people wear fur because it's warm and comfortable. You can get some very nice things up here at a reasonable price.

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

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

Question 21. Do you like it up there?
Answer. We still wouldn't be here if we didn't. That's not a flippant answer either. The one thing about Iqaluit is that you will know within a couple of months if you're going to like it here. There are people who only came up for a few months and 20 years later are still here. And there are people who come up for 1 year contracts and don't last three months.

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

Question 22. We're thinking of bringing our pets. Any suggestions?
Answer. First, please be sure they travel well. I speak from experience on this. When we came up in 2005 we brought my cat. He hated travelling, but I thought sedating him with the help of a vet would help. It didn't. He collapsed once I took him out of the crate and died two days later. I would spare you that kind of pain if at all possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 23. I have young kids who need daycare. How hard is it going to be.
Answer. Pretty hard. The bad joke in town is that you should call a day care to get put on the wait list as soon as the pregnancy test gives you a positive result. Still, if you need some numbers, these are the ones I can find.

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

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

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

Some people sponsor nannies to take care of their children. I'm afraid I know very little about that, but there are a couple of dozen operating in Iqaluit. You'll have to do your own research on that.

Question 24. What are taxes like up there?
Answer. Well, there's no territorial sales tax, which is nice. The only sales tax is the GST, which is currently 5%. There is a payroll tax which is, let's just say, not that popular.

There are also other tax benefits to living in the north. Some (governments) give a northern allowance, the amount depending on how isolated you are. In Iqaluit it's about $15,000. There's also a northern tax benefit you can claim. Andy Wong, who is a columnist with News North does an excellent column with the paper regarding tax breaks and other financial advice for people living in the north. You have to pay to view it online, but it's worth taking a look at.

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

Question 25. Is there much interaction between Inuit and non-Inuit?
Answer. As for how much interaction between the Inuit and southerners, well, it depends.

In smaller communities, where there is only a couple of hundred people, I think there's a lot more interaction. But in places like Iqaluit, which has more than 7,000 people, it's certainly pretty easy to keep to yourself and other people from down south if you choose.

Then again, some Inuit prefer to keep to themselves and not deal much with southerners. It works both ways.

We have friends who are Inuit, although more would always be nice. But that's just because we're a bit insular sometimes. Hell, I'm not sure how many close southern friends we have in town, a situation we're trying to resolve.

Like anything, it depends on how much effort you want to put into it. You can have as much, or as little, interaction as you want.

Question 26. What's the difference between the airlines, if any?
Answer. There are currently three airlines operating into Iqaluit from Ottawa - First Air and Canadian North have operated up here for years. In March of 2010, Air Canada Jazz began flights into town.

All three, idiotically, arrive and leave at virtually the same time, so there's no real benefit of picking one of the other in terms of timing.

Canadian North and First Air's advantages would be they have much better in-flight service than Air Canada, with meals, cookies and other treats provided for free. They also have a better baggage limit, 70 pounds per bag as opposed to Air Canada's 50 pounds per bag. They're also heavily involved in the local community, often offering up free plane tickets to different charities and sports organizations.

Air Canada's advantage is they have better able to accomodate you if you have to make a connection. Also, the other two airlines have a restricted number of seats available if you want to use Aeroplan miles. Air Canada has many more seats available. Also, a flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit is a mere 15,000 miles, a pretty good deal.

Do be aware, however, that the plane Air Canada uses cannot fly if the temperature is colder than -40C. They have cancelled many flights flying into White Horse and Yellowknife in the past. They haven't really flown in here during an Iqaluit winter, so there might be a risk flying with them during the really cold times of the year.

Question 26. What are the list of useful links you'd recommend?
Answer. There are a lot. Here they are broken down by category.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Weekend marathon

I've decided to take a break from my Babylon 5 marathon to do an actual blog post.

I'm not sure why I decided to sit down and watch the series again. It's been years and I've always dearly loved it, so I guess it was due. It's certainly not the special effects or the design work. And the acting is quite patchy in spots. But damn, the writing is good. Just from the individual character arcs, the philosophy and humour, it really was a top notch show.

"What is it, Vir, you moon-faced assassin of joy." Now that's a lovely insult. You just don't see high quality insults like that on TV very often. Well, on House, but that's pretty much it. I might have mellowed in my old age, but I can still appreciate and treasure a well crafted insult.

I know Battlestar Galactica is everyone's poster child of excellent, political science fiction, but back in its day, I still think the writing on B5 is better. If it had the budget BSG had, it would be considered a classic.

So yes, that's most been my day, but I think I needed a break after yesterday. For those visiting from outside, yesterday was Nunavut Day. I was one of the volunteers who helped out. And somewhere out in the wild world, there is photo and video evidence of me dressed up as a polar bear (well, I had the ears and some fake paws) chasing kids around during a game. First thing Monday morning I plan on tracking down all the evidence and destroying it, but for right now it exists.

It was actually a surprising amount of fun, but man, I was wiped at the end of it. I imagine most of the volunteers were. There was a lot going on and I think it all went pretty smoothly. However, I did manage to neglect eating or drinking much during the day. There was plenty of food and drink available, I just managed to not find the time to get any of it. So by 6pm, I was starving, dehydrated and exhausted. A friend of mine was playing at the Kicking Caribou and I had the idea of seeing her play, but I had no energy left. I guess that's why sitting in front of the TV and watching B5 seemed like such a good idea. So good that it continued into today. And may well continue into tomorrow, although a break to watch the World Cup final will likely be in order.

It's a decidedly slothful weekend, but I suspect I'm allowed a few of them this summer.

Last Five
1. My dark life - Elvis Costello*
2. It's good to be king (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
3. Back to black - Amy Winehouse
4. Red belt - Sara & Tegan
5. Rag & bone - The White Stripes

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Good-bye Frazer

My mom had to go through one of those things that everybody who owns a pet dreads having to do...put her dog to sleep. She knew this day was coming soon. Frazer, the Shih Tzu in question, was getting up there in age. He was 15 years old and just not in good shape anymore. He had a whole host of ailments, but it's so hard to have to make this decision. At what point does your unwillingness to let your beloved pet go actually do more harm than good?

Mom made the right call though. He'd stop eating and his liver was failing. He was an old dog and it was simply his time to go. It broke her heart, though. I was talking to her this evening, and she's obviously still pretty upset, saying she'd give up using tissues for crying and was using towels instead. He was a pretty cool Shih Tzu and I'm not one normally fond of that breed. But he was built like a truck. Seriously, he was the Incredible Hulk of Shih Tzu, but very friendly and completely spoiled rotten. My mother fed that dog with a spoon and taught him how to sing for company.

He was a good dog and I'll miss seeing him when I go back to St. John's.

There was only one thing to do when you get this kind of news. After I got off the phone with mom, I went over and picked Boo up, who promptly huffed at me because he was napping. I scruffed him for a bit, gave him some of his favourite treat and then threw his favourite toy up and down the hallway. Afterwards, I put on a hoodie and braved the mosquitoes and took him on a decent length walk. He's curled up at my feet right now, a white dust mop of a dog, but one that's perfectly content. It helps easy the melancholy over losing Frazer, just a little bit.

They're only here for a little while. Love them while you can.

Last Five
1. Song with Rose - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
2. The boy come home - Matthew Good*
3. Sour cherry - The Kills
4. Sleep spent - Death Cab For Cutie
5. The big exit - The Editors

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Summer plotting

If I have a regret about my run of unemployment last year, aside from the stress it caused Cathy, it's that it was wasted time. When I wasn't looking for work or doing my part to make sure the house was in good shape, I didn't have much else to do. The thing is, there were things I could have been doing, and should have been doing, but instead I kind of just puttered away on the internet or played Civilizations for too much of it.

I think it's safe to say I was not functioning at full mental capacity during that bout on EI. It's not one of the prouder periods of my life.

Anyway, I now find myself in possession of more spare time on my hands. I still have work, and I do have to take care of the dog and the house, but it's not like I anticipate that occupying every waking moment. So I've been coming up with a list of things to do while Cathy is back in St. John's (she made it safely home this evening after spending the better part of three days in airports). So far on the list of things to do.

1. Scrape and paint the front step and the deck. This really can't be done until more paint arrives on the sealift. Oh yes, and until the plague of mosquitoes at least eases a bit.

2. Finish the book. Seriously, it's been three years since I started it. I barely looked at it last year and that's just insane. I either finish the book before Cathy gets back home or I never mention it again.

3. Read lots and lots. I have a small ton of books that I want to read. However, I think I need to get out of the house and maybe go to a coffee shop and read for a bit. Among the ones I've got to read include "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Larsson, "Stories" by Gaiman and Sarrantono, "Wireless" by Stross, "Bite Me" by Moore (although I'm pretty annoyed that at a very thin 300 pages, he spends the first 18 recapping the first two books. Weak shit, my friend), Kraken by Mieville, "Eating the Dinosaur" by Klosterman and The Passage by Cronin.

So yeah, that'll keep me going this summer.

4. Take the dog on lots of long walks. Both because he needs to get out and romp and because I need the exercise. Somehow, much to Cathy's annoyance, I lost weight when I was home and unemployed. Since I started my new job, and its easy access to a Quickstop that sells donuts from time to time, the weight is creeping back.

So that's four things to keep me busy. Hopefully there will be a few things going on around town for me to take part in. It's going to be a different summer for me, with Cathy not around and no big trip for me to look forward to. Here's hoping I actually do the things on the list. I think that'll due for a start as a distraction.

Last Five
1. Gone (Live) - Ben Folds
2. Let it die - Foo Fighters
3. How can you mend a broken heart - Diana Krall
4. Rollin' and tumblin' - Bob Dylan
5. Soloman's Row - Sean Panting*

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Death from a thousand bites

So it appears the dog is disappointed in me. I can tell such things.

It was all well and good yesterday afternoon when I first came back from Ottawa. There was much jumping up and down and generally ecstatic dog behaviour that one of his humans was home. However, after a couple of minutes of this he stopped, went to the door, looked at it, looked back at me, and whined.

The clear comment being, "it's nice you're home and all, but where's my favourite human?"

I've never been under any misconception about which of us Boo likes best. He's Cathy's dog. Always has been. And I'm fine with that. One day we'll get another dog and he's going to be "mine". But right now, Boo is clearly annoyed his preferred human is not around.

I'm not helping matters by not giving him all the walks he wants, either. It's not that I don't want to walk him, or that I'm too lazy to walk him. It's just that being outside for more than a few minutes right now is not feasible. I walk outside and somewhere a dinner bell must go off for every mosquito in the Iqaluit area. I was killing them inside the truck on the way home today with a rolled up magazine. It's like they were laying in wait for me. Bug spray's are like an aphrodisiac to them or something. I'm convinced I could cover myself in radioactive waste and they would still go through it just to suck my blood.

So no, going outside for anything more than the few minutes he needs to do his business isn't happening. Not unless it's raining or there's lots of wind. Neither of which is happening right now. So Boo has to content himself with brief bursts outside.

So yes, a 14 pound piece of fluff is currently pissed with me. This could be a long summer, especially is the plague of mosquitoes doesn't abate at some point. I swear, they're starting to drill through the side of the house to get at me.

Yes, I'm complaining, but I'm really excellent at it. On the other hand, I could have had the last few days that Cathy has been going through.

Cathy's plan on Monday was to head to Rankin Inlet for a two week forum. Sounds lovely. Except it's been foggy in Rankin since last Friday. No flights in or out. So when she tried to fly out on Monday, her flight was cancelled because of fog. Today's flights were also cancelled by fog and tomorrow wasn't looking all that great either. So the backlog is getting huge, nobody's made it into Rankin for the forum and the days are bleeding away quickly. Meanwhile, she's stuck in Winnipeg, more specifically, Winnipeg Airport. Which I hear is lacking in charms and, more disastrously, a Tim Hortons once you get past security.

Anyway, they finally pulled the plug on it this afternoon, leading to a mad scramble by a couple of dozen teachers to make other plans. She's in Ottawa right now, trying to get to St. John's on Wednesday. Coming back about two weeks ahead of schedule is also going to cost her an extra couple of hundred dollars. So yeah, she's in a mood. Can't say as I blame her.

So I have an unhappy dog, an unhappy wife and mosquitoes want me dead. Summer is off to a lovely start so far...

Last Five
1. U got the look - Prince and Sheena Easton
2. Cardiac arrest - Madness
3. Holy shit - Hey Rosetta!
4. Don't look back in the sun - The Libertines
5. You can't do that - The Beatles

Monday, July 05, 2010

Home safe

Despite my many worries that I'd just spent a lot of money on something that was going to get smashed to pieces, my new TV set made it to Iqaluit just fine and currently sits in its new perch in the living room while the old Sharp Aquios rests in the spare bedroom until I can find a new home for it. It's possible it sits there, quietly sobbing and feeling inadequate. Then again, I saw Toy Story 3 last night, so it's entirely possible I'm anthropomorphizing things.

But more on that in a moment.

The sea lift has successfully been concluded. I'm sure once it gets up here we'll inevitably think of something we meant to get this past weekend, but I don't think we forgot anything crucial. Hell, we even finally managed to get a copy of Rock Band Beatles, so we have that to look forward to in August. That's when we're being told we'll get it. Last year's sealift schedule was shot to hell because of weird ice conditions, but with the ice vanished from the bay hopefully it will arrive on time.

Still, it is a bit weird to have dropped so much money and have nothing to show for it for probably about two months.

The last thing I did in Ottawa was pop out to see Toy Story 3. I couldn't drag Cathy out, because as much as she loves Pixar, she's not the biggest fan of the Toy Story movies. Neither am I, to be honest. There's no rational reason for it, they're just not my favourites in the Pixar library. And the only think more disappointing than realizing Toy Story 3 was this year's sole Pixar film is the realization that Cars 2 is the only one in 2011, as Cars is easily my least favourite.

Is Toy Story 3 one of Pixar's best? No. I'll still take Monsters Inc, WALL-E, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Up over this one. That doesn't mean Toy Story 3 is a bad movie. It is, in fact, probably the best one I've seen this year. And just like Up, if you're not crying during the last 10 minutes or so of this movie, you have no soul.

Additionally, Toy Story 3 provides the single scariest scene I've watched at the movies in years, and quite possibly the most traumatic animated movie sequence since Bambi's mom mysteriously vanished.

That's what I love about Pixar. Aside from putting genuinely moving scenes in a film, as opposed to blatantly manipulative ones, they show more understanding of humanity with a robot or toys than any other movie studio and most directors.

Plus, they are not afraid to terrify a younger audience. I'm sorry, that scene in Toy Story 3 scared the shit out of me. It was absolutely terrifying and I could tell everyone in the audience felt the same way. And there's nothing wrong with that. Some people seem to think you shouldn't scare kids at the movies. I see nothing wrong with it as long as it's handled right. And, of course, with Pixar, it was.

There is one thing about Pixar that baffles me, though. And that's why more people don't try to copy them. Oh sure, more studios put out computer animated movies, but it kind of missed the point. Pixar has very exacting processes in place with their movies. And those processes work. Every movie they've produced has not only been a commercial smash, but critically beloved (except maybe Cars, although kids love that movie). These processes are not exactly a state secret. They talk quite openly about how they go about making their movies.

Hollywood loves money, plus a little praise to stroke the ego never goes astray either. Still, I'm baffled why more studios do not simply rob Pixar's processes and talent blind when creating their own animated movies. That might be changing...Despicable Me looks quite funny, and there are few movies coming out later the year that have some potential.

Still, they will have to go a long way to top Pixar for balls. Even in a movie that didn't floor me like their predecessors, Toy Story 3 is still miles ahead of anything else I've seen this year.

Last Five
1. Sea of love - Tom Waits*
2. Sunday bloody Sunday - U2
3. Get back (live) - Paul McCartney
4. Hold back the dawn - Robbie Robertson
5. All the trees are hers - Hawksley Workman

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Winding down the lift

Today was much less gory than Friday. For one thing, the hordes of people were not as great, which is weird. The original idea was that a Friday wouldn't have as many people in the stores. I think what we forgot to take into account was that it was a Friday between a holiday and a weekend. So plenty of people were opting to take the day off, do all of their shopping and then get out of dodge for the weekend. Wal-Mart and Loblaws were positively sedate today in comparison to yesterday.

Having said that, we dropped probably another $500 at Wal-Mart and about $200 at Loblaws. On the up side, it also means we're now finished our sealift order. Grand total is about $5,500 which is, believe it or not, under budget. Yes, we still have to actually get it to Iqaluit, and that's going to cost, but we managed to buy a year's worth of groceries, plus enough laminate flooring to kill an invading horde.

As for some of the other things, I still haven't bought the TV set yet, although Best Buy has a sale on, I've done some more research and it looks like I know which one I'm getting. It's a slightly older model, but the difference between it and the brand new one is minimal in technology and about $600 in price. So the older one it will likely be.

I also went and bought curling supplies today. Because it is, after all, July, which is clearly the time to buy such things. But I now have new shoes, a couple of replacement broom heads, new gloves and a new pair of pants. There's some big changes at the club next season, so new gear is nice.

It is a lovely distraction from the thought that we're supposed to be seeing U2 this evening, if only Bono hadn't thrown out his back. sigh...

You know, I understand to some this might be viewed as "crass consumerism" - I was once accused of it - or perhaps even bragging to others. However, this is a method to the madness.

1. For those new, or contemplating a move to the north - I throw some of these numbers out there to give you an idea of the costs. Even if you remove the flooring and some of the stuff from IKEA, we just spent around $3,500 for groceries and supplies for a year for two people. That's the cost of living up north.

2. I do have friends who find this kind of madness interesting. The whole concept of doing a year's shopping in a few days and what kind of things you had to budget and plan for.

3. The blog also serves as a kind of historical record/diary for myself. So next year when we're in the planning stages of doing this madness again, at least I can look back on these few posts and remember what we did and what mistakes to avoid.

Sunday is shaping up to be a day of sloth, I think. Perhaps a few hours at the Market. I'd like to catch a movie, but I'm having a hard time convincing Cathy to go see Toy Story 3 for some reason. And I might go and pick up the TV. I'm pretty sure I can take it as luggage on the flight up to Iqaluit. I've seen others do it before.

And then on Monday, back to the grind for me, and off to Rankin for Cathy...

Last Five
1. Gimmie a sign - Ryan Adams
2. Only love (live) - Kathleen Edwards
3. Get in line - Barenaked Ladies
4. The spirit of radio - Rush*
5. Night driver - Tom Petty

Friday, July 02, 2010

Death by sealift

Here at Townie Bastard, we live to fill your base, craven need for Knowledge. So to help appease your filthy habit I am making myself a bitch to Science.

Because, you see, at this time of the year I am getting a lot of hits on the blog wondering about moving to Iqaluit, and what you need, and what the hell is a sealift anyway.

A Sealift is basically a small stroke that you inflict on yourself so you don't endure a much larger one later on. Or, put another way, you go and spend the better part of $7,000 on supplies over the period of a few days so you don't spend something in the order of $14,000 during the course of an entire year living in the north.

Logically, this makes sense. The key thing is to remind yourself of this (and to keep breathing) when someone at Costco asks you for $2,400 please and thank you. Which is what happened today. Seriously, my Costco bill is about two feet long. It took six carts to contain everything we bought today. And we were good. Normally when we hit Costco all sorts of unnecessary things find their way into our cart, but aside from a pair of books, one video game and the BBC Life DVD set (with Richard Attenborough, not Oprah Winfrey, doing the commentary. These differences are important) we bought all useful things for the next year.

So what, you may ask, does $2,500 buy? Well, let's see"
20 kg of flour - $12
8 kg of sugar - $7.40
8 cases of 32 cans of Diet Coke at $11.99 each
3 1.85L of salsa at $6.89 each
A big bloody box of Honey Nut Cheerios at $8.55

And so on and so forth. Really, I'm not typing out the whole bill. I'll be here all night.

Alas, that was not our only stop for the day. After leaving our six carts of Costco goods with them, where they will be picked up on Monday by our shipping company, we headed off to IKEA. First of all, let me say this, if you're cruising the parking lot of an IKEA in a Smart Car, I think you might be hitting out of your league. For example, we brought a big bloody Ford Escape and still barely managed, so I don't know who you're kidding with a Smart Car.

Yes, IKEA managed to drain us for $1,200. That was for a cabinet, leather chair cushions, baskets, lamps and some other odds and ends. Which we loaded into the back of the Escape and dropped off to TSC. We joined a considerable line up of other people from Nunavut doing the exact same thing, except most of them appeared to be shipping up enough beer to keep a bar going for several weeks.

Then, after deciding we clearly had not spent enough money for this day, we went off to Rona because Cathy had a hankering for laminate flooring. The logic works like this - we have carpet in our three bedroom. Carpet is disgusting because it gets so dirty and is bad for allergies. Nevermind we have a Dyson that could suck dirt from the moon from our living room. Therefore, we will rip up all the carpet and replace it with click laminate. At some point, blood will be spilled, either when we try to deliberately kill each other, or merely accidentally when we try to use the different saws we also purchased to cut up the flooring.

Naturally we'll have to buy rugs to put on the laminate flooring, because it can be cold on the feet during the winter. This will complete the carpet-flooring-rug cycle and likely cause my brain to explode.

We got enough flooring for three bedrooms which was mercifully on sale, 40% off, so it and the saws only cost $1,100.

For those of you keep track at home, that's a grand total of $4,700 we spent in a little under 12 hours.

There are three additional facts to consider:
1. We're not actually finished yet. Yes, we still have to hit Wal-Mart and Loblaws, possibly Bulk Barn. Because we couldn't find certain things, like scent-free Tide or Sprite during our Costco adventures. So I anticipate an additional $700 yet to come.

2. None of this includes the actual cost of crating and shipping it to Iqaluit, which I estimate will likely cost $1,000 to $1,500. So, at a ball park this will be about a $7,000 sealift.

3. This is putting my TV set in jeopardy. The set I was looking at was a 46in LED Samsung. Alas, the cheapest place I've seen it has it for sale at $1,900, which has caused Cathy to do a serious balk. So I have two options...either go back to a 42in set, which will be around $1,500, something that will cause Cathy to have a minor aneurysm as opposed to a massive one or simply wait to buy it at Christmas when the price might drop. However, I will likely still have no way to get it up here.

A finally decision will be made on Sunday. Stay tuned, science lovers.

That's how things currently stand. So for those of you contemplating moving to Iqaluit or doing a sealift, this is what you will face. If this terrifies you, well, you may want to reconsider your options. If you go "Weeeee, shopping spree!" welcome to the north.

Last Five
1. Subterranean homesick alien - Radiohead
2. Dark eyes - Bob Dylan
3. For the pleasure of your company - Lloyd Cole
4. Fuck and run - Liz Phair*
5. The bends - Radiohead