Saturday, September 30, 2006

Banned books and imaginary libraries

I knew there was something I was forgetting this week. It is, in fact, just about over as I post this, but it's still worth mentioning. While it's being marked by the American Library Association, it still merits attention here in Canada. This is Banned Books Week. It's not so much a celebration of book banning, as it is a warning that there is an unfortunately large percentage of the population that wants to ban certain books. The target is libraries right now, but one gets the feeling if they had their way there would be bonfires in the town square, and people would be throwing in copies of the offending books. Like a scene from Indian Jones and the Last Crusade.

You can go here for more information. And yes, I've ranted about this before, but there is something about people trying to ban books that really annoys me. Plus, I love libraries. I don't go to them that often, you understand, but it's not because I don't love them. I'm just trying to build my own, which you would understand if you could see my Visa bill and the number of times Chapters or Amazon is mentioned.

My dream is to have my own house with a nice big room just for myself. Some guys would want to have a shed for their stuff, or their tools. I just want a room where I can put all my books, comics and pictures that Cathy hates. Once I get this imaginary house with this imaginary room, I'm buying a David Blackwood print. If I'm rich, I might try a Barbara Pratt. And if I'm really wealthy perhaps even something by the sure to be ridiculous rich and famous Mireille Sampson. Oooohhh, and a kickass Mac with one of the 24 inch screens. Mmmmmm...

Of course, my wife will never see me again, which will pose a problemÂ…

(Note - Cathy says I can have this room and never be seen again as long as this imaginary house has hardwood floors, a kitchen large enough for a table and a dishwasher, a washroom with a deep bath that has jets, two sinks in the bathroom, and a bedroom that could fit a queen size bed. And lots of Ikea. It's entirely possible that this small apartment might break us before we're all said and done with the North.)

Anyway, I want my own library, but I still have a fondness for them. I practically grew up in the library in Virginia Park. The librarians were great people who encouraged me to read and while they might raise the occasional eyebrow (I was checking out Stephen King books at 11) they never gave me any grief. So attempts to mess with them annoy me.

So put up the link on your blog, or talk about some of your favourite books that apparently piss people off or even buy something from the ALA to help support them. Don't let the bastards winÂ…

Friday, September 29, 2006

D is for dumb, not democratic

I don't get all the Newfoundland news sitting here in my Arctic home, so it's entirely possible there was a more offensively stupid news story out of the province today than this one. However, it would be a challenge, because this is pretty moronic.

It seems that NDP leader Jack Harris has finally ended his long good-bye and stepped down as the MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that Premier Danny Williams didn't call the election today. But I imagine people won't have to wait too long.

But here's the thing, Harris is asking the other two political parties to not run a candidate against new leader Lorraine Michael. The Liberals have agreed. The Conservatives have not.

Now, here's the thing I've been struggling with ever since I read this story and might account for the headache I currently possess - which group is stupider? The NDP for asking that no one run against Michael or the Liberals for agreeing to it?

I honestly don't know, it's a bit of a stumper.

I kind of like Jack, so this is really pissing me off. It's called a democracy, Jack. You don't get to decide that there is only one choice in an election for people. Asking the other two parties to not run anyone is denying people their democratic rights. Maybe they don't want to vote NDP and if they don't, they should have an option. Otherwise, it's not much of a democracy, is it?

As for the Liberals, my only hope is that they surveyed the landscape and couldn't find a willing victim to be slaughtered in the Conservative-NDP crossfire, so they're trying to salvage some kind of high road out of the whole mess. Still, saying they're not running someone to give Michael a chance is just annoying me. And if they can't find anyone to run then the party is in pretty sad shape with a year until the election.

The Conservatives, of course, we're never going to go for it. Thank god for that. It's a bad idea to have one party control all the seats in St. John's, which is going to happen if they take Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi from the NDP. I think you need a voice that is not part of the ruling party in the city so that people can have someone to talk to or complain to when things are going wrong.

But if this is the kind of foolishness the NDP are getting up to already, if they're that desperate and their new leader things this is a good idea, that she should get a pass in an election rather than facing the voters, well, to hell with them. You're better off with nothing but Conservatives then a party pulling that kind of stunt.

Just a suggestion to the NDP - you might want to find another word to replace "Democratic" in your party's name. I'm not sure you really understand the meaning of the word.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Becoming an Ex

I still get e-mail asking me what I think of all the changes made to The Express (now the ex/press) and I normally demure. It's my old newspaper and while I don't care for the changes, I still have friends there and I didn't want to speak ill of their work.

However, I just found out that I have one less friend working there. Donnie Power, the paper's sports editor, is no longer there according to an e-mail I received.

I debated long and hard about whether or not to write the blog entry, weighing all the pros and cons. But it comes down to this - I'm pissed off. I'm pissed at the way a great reporter and good friend is being treated. I'm pissed at the way it appears a company is just destroying a struggling, but perfectly viable newspaper. It's a newspaper with a good history of investigative journalism and community involvement. Of telling stories that other people were missing. We used to be able to line the walls of a corridor with all the journalism and community awards the staff had won.

And now I feel like I'm watching a good friend (the paper, not Donnie) die. Slowly. Agonizingly.

So when I get like this it's either vent or spend the better part of the next month feeling like the top of my head is going to explode and driving Cathy insane.

Donnie has nearly two decades of journalism experience, most of it with The Express, and is considered one of the best reporters in the province. It's not just sports. He's a damn good reporter, with ability to get people to open up to him and tell him things they won't tell anyone else and then craft it into one hell of a story. He just happens to really love sports. He's also a top notch editor with some of the best eyes for grammar I've ever seen.

So yeah, letting him go and leaving the editorial "staff" at two, one of whom has only been at the paper for about a year, strikes me as odd.

I hate to say the "death watch" is on, but I'm not feeling all that confident in the long term survival prospects of the paper. I've yet to hear anything positive said about the redesign of the newspaper. Most people inform me that it is thin, cheap looking and with not much in the way of substantial content. Just to confirm this I went back and looked at the last couple of issues and I find it hard to disagree. It looks like a TV guide that's missing the listings. It's a shadow of what it used to be.

Admittedly, I don't know how much the paper is getting for the ads. Maybe they're doing ok. But if the paper has no respect in the community and they're just tossing it in the garbage upon receiving it (which I'm told is happening) then the advertisers aren't going to stick around forever. Businesses advertise in papers that are read. People read good newspapers with content they find interesting. And the current content in the ex/press is shaky at best.

It pains me to watch this. I have fond memories of my time with the paper. There were struggles, yes. And at the time I left, I was clearly ready to go. I had been getting antsy for something different for quite some time. But I liked the staff. They're good people working hard to put out the best product they could, challenged by a new company that didn't seem particularly interested so much on whether The Express continues, so much as they were in covering their ass with the Competition Bureau if/when the paper fails. One of the conditions of Transcontinental buying the Optipress papers was that they couldn't fold The Express and The Humber Log unless they became unviable. The Log became "unviable" earlier this year and was folded (In fairness, The Log had been struggling for more than a decade).

The "covering your ass" argument is not new. Craig Westcott made that point before a Senate Committee on media concentration last year. He argued (towards the bottom of the page) Transcontinental controlled too much of the Newfoundland newspaper market and didn't care about The Express, only about the rest of the community newspapers it acquired when it bought Optipress back in 2003. As The Express and the Humber Log competed with existing Transcontinental papers - The Telegram and The Western Star - he said they were slowly grinding those papers into the ground by strangling them of resources and demoralizing the staff. It's something Transcontinental denied and as you can imagine, didn't make Westcott many friends in the company. He left a year later.

I always thought Westcott was being a touch conspiracy minded when he made those points, but there are times I don't know. To this day I have no idea why you take the head of The Telegram's IT department and make him publisher of community newspapers (including The Express) in Newfoundland. I'm hardly the only one baffled by that move in local media circles.

My reluctance to say anything about The Express over the past few months, even though I was getting a queasy feeling, was twofold. First, I strongly suspect this post will get back to Steve and he's going to take it personally, which I feel bad about. He's a hell of a nice guy and if the paper is failing like I think it is, then I know he's doing everything he can to keep it going, despite the odds. I also suspect he's dying inside because he has sweated blood for this paper. Most editors are like that, to the detriment of having a real life if they're not careful.

And hell, I have the pragmatic, self-involved reason as well. You never know when I might need a reference one day, even though things are going well at work. Saying negative things about a former employer might be considered unwise in some circles (I believe in local journalism circles it's known as "Pulling a Westcott"). However, I suspect the next time I might need a reference, The Express probably won't be there. And I truthfully doubt I'll be working in Newfoundland anytime soon.

It's just sad that it's all come to this. The Express wasn't perfect when I was there. And I'm more than aware of my faults as a reporter when I was with the paper so I don't want to be casting too many stones.

Was my departure responsible for the dip? Good Christ no. Just fortunate timing on my part to get out before things went seriously weird. If I had stayed, would it have made a difference? Nope. I just would have been unhappy. Every time I looked at the paper online and started muttering something about it, Cathy responded, "Just be happy you got out when you did. Because you would be pretty miserable if you were still with the paper going through all this."

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise for Donnie as well. I can't imagine he was all that happy with the new format that curtailed the kind of sports coverage he excelled at. He did a story a few months ago on what kind of sneakers the cool kids were wearing these days. I dropped him a line to tease him about it. He sounded pretty disheartened when he responded, and I felt kind of bad about it afterwards.

I'm sure he'll land on his feet. Other media would be crazy to not make a real effort to snap him up. Not to mention the fact that he's one hell of a nice guy. I hope things work out for him.

I also hope The Express turns it around somehow, but the community rehabilitation needed will be extensive. It bounced back after The Sunday Express was gutted. It can happen again. All it takes is will, but that's something I'm not sure the fine folks at Transcontinental have at this point.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


It occurs to me that I haven't posted a lot of new writing this week. Part of it is that little creative burst is starting to run down. And part of it has just been finding a few interesting links to put up on the blog instead.

I actually have something written that I could post this evening. I got kind of bad news today. Nothing dramatic or terrible. My family is doing fine and I continue to be employed. Just heard something about a friend that's kind of disappointing. I'm debating whether to post it as is, edit it some more of just dump it. I have the suspicion it might upset a few people, so I'm weighing whether or not it's worth it.

In the meantime, here's a small bit of cheer...Weird Al has a new album out and a music video. I hardly ever watch music videos anymore, which is too bad. But these days they tend to be either bad or hard to find.

But hey, this one is kind of fun. Weird Al is generally good for a laugh. And, you know, there are elements of this video that kind of hit a bit close to home. And I know there are more than a few people reading this blog who can relate as well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why Rae?

Simon's argument on why Stephan Dion and desire to see him as the next Liberal leader, and Prime Minister of Canada, rattled loose something that's been going on in my head ever since I read this article in Saturday's Globe and Mail about Bob Rae.

It isn't so much about Dion than it is about Rae. And that is my utter puzzlement with Rae's success so far in the Liberal leadership campaign.

Now, I understand that each candidate has his or her baggage. Most people will never admit it, but I'm sure part of Scott Brison's problem in this campaign is that he's gay. Dion's baggage is on how well liked he is in Quebec. Michael Ignatieff's is that he was out of Canada for the better part of 30 years and is a political rookie.

By the way, this baggage can be real or perceived. Maybe it's a good thing that Ignatieff was out of Canada so long and doesn't have his mind restricted by the way politicians tend to think, or the way governing is carried out in Canada. And I could give a shit if Brison is gay or not, as long as he could run the country effectively should he ever get the job.

But man, Rae has a two ton stone wrapped around his neck. How can you not destroy him in a federal election?

This is what baffles me when I look at polls saying he's looking pretty good to be the next leader of the Liberal party of Canada. I mean, he seems pretty smart, committed and a good debater. The fact that he actually has a chance to become the next leader says there must be something there that is making most Liberals abandon what I perceive to be common sense.

Because while you could make hay out of a guy crossing from the NDP to the Liberals, here's the thing you can crucify him on all day long - he nearly destroyed Ontario.

Yes, yes, there might have been extenuating circumstance. The economy was in a downturn, he was grossly unprepared for the job, and there was a grand conspiracy or some such thing against him. But the party he led is still widely reviled for nearly destroying the most powerful provincial economy in Canada. While he was leader, the province was a mess. People couldn't wait to vote him out. So much so that electing Mike Harris seemed like a really good idea at the time.

If you're Stephen Harper, you must love this shit. I'm not sure how many of the current Liberal contenders are really the guy to bump Harper off (I found myself agreeing with him again the other day on the decision to put the budget surplus into the debt. It's getting a little scary how often I catch myself agreeing with Harper on things), but Rae must be a dream come through. You can just hammer home on Ontario during the entire campaign. "Elect this man and he will do to Canada what he did to Ontario."

Tada. There's your sound bite. There's your scare mongering. Doesn't matter if it's completely true or not. Doesn't matter if he's a completely changed and wiser man. Five weeks or so of that and its variations and you have a Conservative majority government.

This is why I don't understand why people are supporting Rae. I'm hardly a genius and I know this is coming. And that it will work awfully well, especially in "vote rich" (© Canadian Press) Ontario. So why do this to your party and yourselves? Because barring a miracle, Harper's complete self-destruction or something I'm just plain missing, I don't see how Rae can become prime minister.

That might be unfair. Maybe he's a hell of a guy and would do a great job. But politics aint about fair. It's about picking the right man or woman. It's about picking the person with the best strengths and the weakness you can at least defend against. And I don't see how Rae is going to be able to defend his record in Ontario. I really don't.

Quick boost

So I discovered if you want a quick boost in your page stats, put the word "Apple" or "Mac" in your subject header and then talk about the computers for a little bit. There are at least two different websites which apparently put up links to any bloggers talking about the computers. Yesterday they linked to me.

To call my traffic stats for Monday retarded would be an understatement. I know that anytime someone links to you there can be a boost in traffic. Ed did it last week about my Idol rant and there was a small spike in traffic (Ed can be modest all he wants, I suspect he's the most read blogger in the province). But it was nothing compared to what I got yesterday. Approximately 400 page loads along with 300 unique visitors.

I know that's small potatoes for some, but that's running about 100 per cent over my normal traffic levels. So yeah, weirdness. It would be nice to hold onto some of that traffic, though. So if you're visiting for the first time – Hi. Welcome to the Canadian arctic.

Next week marks an anniversary for this blog. Not the first time I posted, which was in February 2005. Or even the anniversary of its resurrection after months of neglect, which would have been earlier this month. No, around October 5 was when I first started using Statcounter to keep track of how many people were coming to visit, who they were and where they were coming from. So on that day I think I'll do a look back on how my traffic was then as compared to now and what, if anything, I should do to boost it some more.

Without getting into it too much, I think it was a pretty good year, especially considering how little work I put into trying to draw traffic here...

Monday, September 25, 2006


Since so many of you seem to enjoy the young whipper-snapper rant, I thought I would throw this up as well. Each year Beloit College does their "Mindset List" for the incoming Freshman class. So this class, which will graduate in 2010 (theoretically) was mostly born in 1988.

I assume that's the anguished scream of Jason I hear, running off to his prscious stash of booze.

Anyway, they've been doing this for years and they can be pretty entertaining. Feel free to go and check them out.

However, presented here for your amusement is this year's list.

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
5. They have grown up getting lost in "big boxes."
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. "Google" has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their email.
21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.
25. Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
26. "Boogers" candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a "skyhook" in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents' attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Non-denominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing religious organizations in the U.S.
31. They grew up in mini-vans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
34. They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."
35. Young women's fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. "So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.
41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that "flock of seagulls hair" has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for "Waldo."
50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a "Savings & Loan."
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.
60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in Prime Time.
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. "Outing" has always been a threat.
69. Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.
70. They have always "dissed" what they don't like.
71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the Mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

Hard times

I've discovered that as my 30s continue to fly by, it's not so much my getting older that bothers me (Cathy's constant mocking and reminding me of how much younger she is than me has a numbing effect after awhile), but that some of my friends are now in their 30s. Well into their 30s.

I mean, the fact that Mireille is now 32 or something is likely far more horrifying to me than to her (by the way, happy birthday). Same thing with Dups and OM. They were fresh face, barely out of high school newbies when I first met them at the Muse, whereas I was a veteran of the paper. Now we're all in out 30s together.


So with that in mind, I post this thing that my cousin Penny sent me on the weekend. I'm trying not to dwell on the fact that my younger cousin is also well into her 30s. I'm sure this has been around, but it just whacked a particular funny bone when I read it the weekend. Because anyone who knows me knows there is a strong possibility that I'm going to be a grumpy old man by the time I hit 40...

I'd attribute it, but it's one of those Internet things that makes the rounds...


When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious
diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ...uphill both ways...yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it but you kids today you don't know how good you've got it! I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have The Internet.

If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look
> >it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter... with a
pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the
mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3's or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ'd usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

And talk of about hardship? You couldn't just download porn! You had to steal it from your brother or bribe some homeless dude to buy you a copy of "Hustler" at the 7-11!
Those were your options!

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it! And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your
school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections
agent, you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like "Space Invaders" and "asteroids" and the graphics sucked ass! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever!

And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and
faster and faster until you died! ... Just like LIFE!

When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad
with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just screwed!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels and there was no on screen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!

You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-bastards!

And we didn't have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up, we had to
use the stove or go build a frigging fire...imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that Stupid JiffyPop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.

That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled.

You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

-The 30 Something crowd!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ah Macs...

One of the issues we're having with the apartment is that it is a bit on the small side. Which means that I have no desk to set up our computers. We don't even have a kitchen table to set up the computers. Now add into that a dog that has shown a fondness for cables and you have a few challenges.

Now, what would make my life easier is if I had the office set up for wireless. However, the two Linksy wireless routers I had before, were both garbage that I could never get to work right with either my computer or Cathy's.

So I decided to hell with it, and went and order an Airport Express from Apple. Oh, and a little speaker system to go with the iPod because our old speak system was too big with too many tempting wires for the dog to chew on.

So the router finally arrives and it took about five minutes to get set up on my iBook. We got Cathy's computer back (we had a tech take a look at it because she was getting a ton of error messages. Bloody Windows) and it took about five minutes to get the wireless working on her computer. Now all the wires are safely tucked away from where the dog can reach them. But we can use the computers anywhere in the apartment.

So allow me to once again boast of the virtues of Mac. It just makes your life easier, kids.

The only downside to the whole experience was the shipping. However, that really wasn't Apple's fault. The company uses several different couriers to ship their items. The speakers arrived using one and came here in about a week. The router, however, was shipped using Sameday. That took three weeks because, as best I can figure, Sameday doesn't have a clue how to ship promptly up here. Instead of it being delivered or having to go to the post office to get it, I had to go to First Air to pick it up.

On top of that they actually tried to charge me for shipping. I called Apple to complain and they tore a strip out of Sameday. So I think the next time I buy something from Apple I'll request that it not be shipped using Sameday.

That's a request I suspect I'll be making this evening or tomorrow. I've convinced Cathy that I need a new iPod, what with all the music Jaap gave me, plus some new music I've downloaded recently, clearly I need an iPod with more memory.

sigh. Anyone want a used, but still in good shape, two-year-old 20 gig iPod?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Your Boo update...

I won't be doing weekly Boo updates, mainly because I suspect people will quickly get tired of seeing the dog. However, I'll probably end up doing something ever two weeks or every month.

Last Wednesday was his four month birthday. Which means we're still deep in the puppy stage. He is sleeping through the night now, which is good. However, he's also still in his chewing stage and it's taking awhile for him to get some basic commands down. He's also horrible around food. Either vacuuming it off the floor as soon as it hits, begging at the table or even today outside of town, when we had to stop him from eating berries all the time.

Still, they're minor complaints. He's a good dog and is making Cathy very happy. Plus, she's picking on him, which is leaving me free and clear for the first time in ages. So for that reason alone, I love this dog...

It'll be interesting to see how many more walks he's going to get. There's snow on the hills outside of Iqaluit. I've been told that once the snow sticks to those hills you have two weeks until there is snow down for the winter in the city. And it's been hovering around 3 C for the last week. So we'll see. If that works, then it should be around October 7th and there will be snow around.

And while I'm dying to see Boo's reaction, I'm not sure how much cold he's going to be able to handle.

White lightening zipping across the tundra...

I'm fond of this shot.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I was trying to figure out what to write about today. I've been on a bit of a roll with blog ideas recently. It happens. You're magically bursting with crap you just need to share with the world. But I knew the whole being able to post twice a day was going to wear out sooner or later.

Although I do have a couple of things rattling around, they're just not ready for blogging yet. Then I heard about the trailer for 300 leaked online today. (It'll give Nancy some scantily clad men to drool over as I recall she liked the set diaries...)

Now, 300 is going to be an interesting movie. And I think it's going to boil down to this. If you liked Sin City, you'll like this movie. If you hated Sin City, then you're not going to like this movie. It's very stylized and is based on a graphic novel by the same writer/artist of Sin City - Frank Miller.

300 is the story of the 300 Spartans that stood against the Persians in Ancient Greece, thereby saving Greece and Western civilization itself, if you believe some historians. It's a great story and I highly recommend Miller's graphic novel. It's among his best works, and really, for someone like Miller, that's saying something. Along with Sin City, Miller wrote some of the defining Batman stories and reinvented Daredevil. Most of the good bits that you saw in the Batman movies, and definitely in the Daredevil movie, came from Miller's comics.

Anyway, go here if you want to see a trailer, that is of admittedly shaky quality. It may or may not still be there as Warner Brothers has been working mighty hard today threatening people if they fail to remove it. I suspect the reason for it is the special effects are not complete, which is one of the reasons why it might look a little wonky.

Still, I'm intrigued and it looks remarkably faithful to the source material. It'll give me something to look forward to in March.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The long way around

And now, less ranting and something just plain weird.

This is my favourite story in recent days. A 32-year-old Romanian citizen showed up in Grise Fiord, which is the furthest north community in Canada, last Monday in a boat and was hoping to sell and then head down to Toronto. He had also been in the country back in 2000 and was deported.

A follow-up story that aired today, but isn't on the CBC's site, said that he had been deported after being found guilty of several criminal offences.

Now, this is funny and weird on its own, but it gets weirder. Someone from Grise Fiord spoke to the guy and took some photos. They've been making the rounds over e-mail. Now, I'm not going to put the pictures of the guy on the blog because he is arrested (and the best part, is actually being sent south to face charges. So instead of paying for a ticket, he gets to go for free). However, I will put a picture of the boat he arrived in.

My fellow northern bloggers are no doubt looking at this picture and going "this idiot went from Greenland, across the Davis Strait, and to Grise Fiord in this boat?" Which is, just for the record, 18 feet long with minimal shelter. He also forgot to bring food because he didn't think the journey would take that long. It took seven days. The boat also suffered damage to its windshield and prop blades from waves and ice.

Also, the follow-up corrected an error in the above story. When I heard this guy came over from Greenland, I wanted to know from where. The story says Sisimiut, but that's where he landed in Greenland. He bought the boat there and then headed north along the Greenland coast, to Qaanaaq. Which is closer to Grise Fiord, but you would still have to be nuts to make that trip in that boat. Take a look at this map to get an idea.

Ironically, if he had just headed west from Sisimiut he almost would have come to Iqaluit. Certainly to Pangnirtung. I'm not saying it's any less of an idiotic trip. But you might have an easier time blending in arriving in Iqaluit (pop. about 8,000) then if you're a Romanian than showing up in Grise Fiord (pop. about 150). And the plane ticket would have been a damn sight cheaper.

Still, I'm sure Stephen Harper will be reassured to know that our northern borders are ably protected from foriegn intrustion. Especially when the foreign intruder is really, really dumb. Or crazy. Or maybe just both...

Conspiracy idiots

Note: This is a full blown rant. My friends know what this means. The rest of you are warned. There will be naughty words and unpleasant images mentioned.

I don't know how I missed this story on the CBC yesterday, but here is my final say on Canadian Idol for this year. The people in this story? The people who are nodding their heads in agreement with this story?


No, no, no...I'm not being too harsh. If anything, I'm understating their idiocy. Anybody, and I mean, anybody, over the age of 12 who agrees there was a conspiracy to prevent Sharpe from being the Canadian Idol should have their reproductive capabilities restricted until such a time as they can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are not this stupid.

It's a fucking reality television talent contest. You should not care that much about it. You should not be calling Open Line shows to whine about it. You should not be going online, where your comments can linger much longer than you think, and start espousing conspiracy theories about how Canadian Idol producers, CTV, Aliant, the Canadian government and the Military-Industrial complex has it for Craig Sharpe because he's a Newfoundlander.

Nobody should care that much because it is, again I emphasize this, A Fucking Reality Television Talent Contest. And one that might not be around much longer judging by the ratings it's getting. There were also 250,000 fewer people watching the finale this year than last. So gods willing, it will go into freefall and be gone in a year or two anyway.

People are going around still bitching about how the Nissan Bonavista commercial makes Newfoundlanders look bad. No, my friends, our whining reaction to this piece of shit, hackneyed television show is the real embarrassment. I could give a rat's ass about the Bonavista commercial. All our reaction to that ad is showing is that our fabled sense of humour needs to lighten up a bit. We're getting a touch too anal.

Our reaction to Craig Sharpe's loss on Canadian Idol - which is apparently getting some national headlines - is showing that we're touched in the head. Most people have already forgotten who the new Canadian Idol is. That's its lifespan. Forty-eight hours after it's over, most people can't remember who won.

I beg all of you, for the love of God, for the love of our dwindling respect at a national level, boycott the show next year. When they have try-outs, nobody should show up. Pay no attention to it. Go about your daily lives and don't watch the damn show. Better still, on nights that it's on, go and watch someone playing live if you're in St. John's. It might be closing the door after the horse and the whole bloody stable have bolted, but it'll help.

I read stories like this and it makes me think that, God help me, Margaret Wente wasn't completely out to left field when she wrote in the Globe and Mail during the Atlantic Accord debate that Newfoundlanders can whine like nobody's business. At least that was over our financial future. This is over some seriously stupid shit. It's time to get a grip, for Christ's sake.

House and Smith

I wasn't really being sold on House last night as it read a little too much like "A Very Special Episode on Euthanasia." Yes, House got to get in a few good quips, especially the one about telling the coma patient (whom House put into a coma against his wishes) to "not go towards the light. You'll fal off the bed and break something" And the bit with House and the jailbait was...odd. Apparently it's going to be dealt with next episode.

I know House has a messed up views on sex, but I hope there is a little more going on here than just a mid-life crisis. Oh, for that matter, I hope the issue with his leg isn't completely resolved yet.

The main thing that annoyed me, I suspect, was the Cameron was all over the place on whether they should treat him or help him die. People were rightly calling her out on it, but I'm not sure it made sense for her. They've been turning her from more of a softie into someone, well, a little more like House over the past few seasons. Which I find interesting. But she seemed more like a first year med student in this episode, and I'm not sure that made sense.

I will say one thing, the show was saved in the last few minutes. While I am getting a bit tired of the musical montage at the end of each episode, that was an effective song playing over some gripping images. And the scene with House and Cameron in the chapel was moving.

What do you thing? Did House saying he was proud of her make Cameron feel better or worse?

As for Smith, a new caper drama, it's been getting mixed reviews so far. A few have incorrectly compared it to the work of Quentin Tarantino. It is a lot more like Michael Mann's movie Heat. Which I'm fine with because Heat is a classic.

I will agree with the critics on one thing, though. I have no idea how this is going to play out for a whole season without having some serious problems. And I have no idea how it's going to work as a multi-season show.

But hell, any show with Ray Liotta and Virginia Madsen in it, I'm going to give it a try. The premise, that Liotta's character seems like a boring salesman, but in fact is a master criminal who has a crew that works high profile robberies, is a pretty good one. The action sequences are good (really good. So good it makes you wonder, once again, if they can keep this up all year) and there are enough bits of damaged goods in the show as supporting cast (especially Amy Smart) that I'm intrigued.

My favourite thing is what's going on with Madsen's character. Does she know what her husband does, because she clearly knows something is up. Is she in on it? And what's up with the drug test?

Watching this show I wish my friends Seamus and Dups were here. We're all Tarantino fans. We loved Liotta in Goodfellas. And we loved Heat. It's a guy show, make no doubt. And I like it a whole lot. Now here's seeing if they can keep the momentum going...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Getting high...

I caught a story on VOCM last week (and a column in the most recent The Express) that T.A. Loeffler is reporting that she had a successful expedition to climb Mount Elbrus even though bad weather forced her back before she could reach the summit.

Now, good on her for trying this. Like most climbs at that height, and with those weather conditions, it's a dangerous thing to attempt. If you don't believe me, then read Dups account of climbing that same mountain back in June. He barely made it and there were certainly plenty of stories about people who didn't survive the attempt.

So if trying to climb the mountain and surviving is considered successful, then I agree. However, the way VOCM worded the story gave me some pause. So did her column. You see, Loeffler is trying to do the Seven Summits. That means climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. I just hope Elbrus isn't off that list. She didn't make the top so she's going to have to go back.

I only mention this because she's soliciting sponsors to help her do this and there's something about the way it reads right now that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But I stand to be corrected on this.

I have a couple of friends who are into climbing. And while talking about this Seven Summits one of them, Mike, mentioned the Twelve Summits. Which is to climb the tallest point in each of the 10 provinces and three territories in Canada. Oh, and in case you were wondering why it's 12 and not 13, the tallest mountain in Newfoundland and Labrador straddles the border with Quebec, making it the tallest in each province. It also has a somewhat messy history.

Anyway, it's an idea that they're kicking around in their heads, trying to climb all these retarded mountains, although I don't know how serious they are.

Now you might not think that would be as big a challenge as the Seven Summits, but apparently only person has done it. And he wasn't Canadian. He was from Ohio.

So it's really a great challenge and a way to get into the history books if you're feeling brave - be the first Canadian to climb the Twelve Summits. I mean, you wouldn't think the "mountain" in PEI would be that much of a challenge. And considering it's at the edge of a potato field you'd be right.

But the mountains in BC, Alberta, Quebec/Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon and Nunavut are a bitch and half. Even if some of them are not exceptionally tall, they are very technical. Or difficult to reach.

Like the one in Nunavut, for example. At 8,000 feet, it's not huge. Mt. Elbrus, the one that Dups and Loeffler just climbed, is around 18,000. It is, however, at 80 degree North and only about 500 miles from the North Pole. It's Northern Ellesmere Island. Fewer people have climbed this mountain than K2. It's difficult to get to, very expensive to reach (the charter flight from Resolute to Alert is $30,000. To get to Resolute from Edmonton would probably set you back more than $3,000) and a technically challenging mountain under harsh conditions.

Go here if you want to see where it is on a map. It's in the national park just south of Alert.

So I don't anticipate them doing this anytime soon, although it would be cool to think some of my friends accomplishing this. However, the suggestion among this group of friends, who are scattered far and wide, is that we should climb the tallest mountain in whatever province or territory we're currently living in and that we should do it at the same time, is nuts.

I want to see more of Nunavut, there's no doubt about that. But if you think I'm flying to Alert to climb an 8,000 foot tall mountain anytime soon, you're out of your mind...

Monday, September 18, 2006


One of the challenges of coming home this Christmas is going to be transportation. We're a little bit too old to be bumming our parents' vehicles and using buses or taxis is not going to work at Christmas, especially since I'm likely going to go around the bay to visit my grandparents. So we've decided to rent a car for at least one week while we're home.

Of course, renting a car while back in St. John's kind of sucks as well. We rented a convertible Mustang in California for a week and put about 1,500 miles on it for around $400 (plus gas). It's going to cost a little less than that to rent a compact for a week with a 700 km limit. After that, it's 20 cents a km. Oh, and the cost of gas as well, which is more expensive than California, I think.

How many other places in North America have rental agencies like this? I haven't rented many cars in my time, but I've always had unlimited mileage.

Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions, recommendations, discount codes or whatnot that I might use for booking a car in St. John's? I've already poked around Expedia and Travelocity and wasn't that impressed. I'd like to get it booked sometime soon just on the off chance that they all get booked over the holidays. I also have to figure out if we're going to put more than 700 km on a car in the run of a week. I figure it will be close.

Sadly, we're not getting a fun sports car this time. Kind of useless in Newfoundland in December. God, just don't let it be a KIA. Any car that has a name that can be an acronym for Killed In Action is not something I would feel comfortable driving.

A night of TV

A busy night of television last night. Which is perhaps a bit on the sad side, but we decided to have a weekend of sloth. Which meant catching some TV last night.

1. We only subjected ourselves to the last 15 minutes of Canadian Idol, just enough to see that my prediction was right about Sharpe not winning. Trust me, it's for the best. If he's good enough, he'll still make it and have a little more time to grow into it. I don't care how many successful 16 year olds there are in the music industry, more often then not they fail and the ones that get commercial success end up getting mentally and emotionally messed up.

So don't get too upset. First of all, it's a reality show. Secondly, he'll still probably make it one day.

2. My favourite reality show is The Amazing Race. And it looks like a good group of people. I was especially happy to see some diverse ethnic groups involved in the race (and handled better than the latest Survivor). So what happens? Two of the ethnic teams go down to defeat. The Muslim fathers, which was really too bad because it would have been fascinating to see how they would have handled the race and the way the other competitors would have dealt with them. Also, the Indian couple seemed quite nice, so it's too bad to see them gone so early.

I suspect Dups would empathize about trying to navigate around Beijing. Or the challenges of trying to scale up the side of the Great Wall.

Do I have any favourites so far? A bit early to tell. The triathelete couple look like they could be interesting. The recovering drug addict models are not as annoying as I might have thought. And God help me, the couple from Kentucky are making me laugh out loud right now, although in ways I'm not sure I'm proud of.

It's a good start and the Race has only failed to entertain once - the disastrous Family Edition. So I'm looking forward to a fun season.

3. It would be hard to find a new show more hyped that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And since Aaron Sorkin, the guy who created West Wing, is behind this one, I'm willing to give it a long try. Although it premieres on Monday night on NBC, CTV is showing it on Sunday night.

How does it look? Like a heck of a lot of fun. There's a lot of "walk and talk" that Sorkin is famous for. I think a typical 60 minute drama has about 60 pages of script. I think a Sorkin script is about 75 pages. So yeah, it takes a special kind of actor to get through it. Bradley Whitford, who was with Sorkin on The West Wing was going to have no problem. And he looks perfectly at ease. Maybe a bit too much. He's still a bit too much Josh from West Wing in this so far.

But Matthew Perry is the revelation. He is very much not Chandler Bing. He's something else. Something much darker and funnier. And it looks like he is having a blast, especially in the pilot where he's riffing off his and Sorkin's well known drug problems (the two could probably compare favourites). So far he's the star of the show. Perhaps not a big surprise to some of you, given he's probably the biggest star on the show. But I was surprised and enjoyed it a lot.

It's not the West Wing. Nothing ever will be. But it's the best show I've seen so far this season. Time will tell if that holds.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


VOCM is reporting that a gambling website is putting Craig Sharpe as a 3-to-1 underdog for winning Canadian Idol this evening. The same site also offers the wonderful assessment that Sharpe's only chance is based on the voting of "fanatical Newfoundland fans".

This brings up two points:

First, the longer Canadian Idol goes on, the more disturbed I am by the province's reaction to it. Yes, if you're related to one of the contestants (and as I've discovered recently, some of my in-laws are) then I can understand going crazy about this. Yes, I like to see Newfoundlanders go out and do well in the world. I'm even supportive of those with marginal talents and abilities because it's hard to get a break sometimes when you live in Newfoundland.

And hell, the first year or two that Canadian Idol was on, it was kind of fun to see people rally and try to get performers like Jenny Gear and Jason Greeley further along in the competition. It felt like trying to rig the contest and play a joke on the Mainlanders. It was misguided Newfoundland patriotism, but mostly harmless.

But this is getting a bit creepy and weird now, folks.

It's a reality show talent contest. And people are freaking out about it. Every story I read about organized groups hitting every pay phone on the Avalon Peninsula and the near impossibility of calling long distance in or out of Newfoundland on nights when Sharpe is singing is a bit weird.

Surely God people have better things to do. Really. Come on. You must. It's time to let this go. Next year, just ignore the damn show. Channel your energies into something useful. Like, I don't know, charity work. Or going to see some musicians who actually play in St. John's and who could certainly use the support.

Secondly, and I realizing I'm dipping in the dark and scary waters of commenting on a show that I have just mocked for having crazed fans, is that Sharpe probably doesn't deserve to win if based on the criteria of the show. That being not only great singing ability, but also personality, charisma and the ability to be a "star."

Yes, he has a great (although very freaky) voice. But he's entirely too young and inexperienced and is being propelled far above where he ought to be, or where I even think he can handle it, by insane Newfoundlanders. If you wanted to put a picture in to describe what the phrase "deer caught in the headlights" would look like, you might as well put Sharpe's picture there from the last few weeks. I haven't followed the show every week this year, not even close. But the last couple of times I watched my reaction was "that kid looks like he's about to crap in his pants he's that terrified." The chick looks like she's having a blast.

If he had waited another three years to do the show, hell, two years, then maybe. But folks, Sharpe is not your Great (very) White Bayman Hope. He will not bring home the Idol crown. And if by some miracle, then what? The odds of this translating into any kind of success in the Canadian music industry are still daunting if previous experience is any indication.

I'll pick the top 10 of the previous three years. That's 30 people. Of those maybe, maybe five of them have any kind of national success. And very limited national success. We'll see how some of them do once their second records come out. They might just vanish without a trace like the rest of the failed Idol contestants.

This isn't unique to Canada, by the way. Most of the American Idol finalists have also tanked once the show ends. That guy who won this year has "Vanished" written all over him.

If Sharpe is good enough, and he may well be in a few years, then he'll make it. Funny thing about the really talented; they often manage to find their way without the help of crazy people and their shows.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pinsent Forever

I've yet to meet a single person who hasn't thought that Gordon Pinsent is just about one of the best things to ever come out of Newfoundland. He's 76 years old and he's one of those guys you wish you could clone or find something to de-age him about 30 years. Sort of like with Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. I can watch them forever. It'll be tragic when the day comes where I can't see new stuff from them anymore.

I know Pinsent's not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. And I love that even after that fainting spell at the Toronto Film Festival he has no plans to slow down or give up working. Good on him.

But here are the two best things I've read about that incident. First there is this story from the CBC relaying how embarrassed he was about it, which would ordinarily be enough. But he's also dismayed because it took away some of the attention from Sarah Polley's big night and her film, which he was helping to promote.

See, class guy.

Then there's this bit, which I found interesting. In the Toronto Star there is an article about the movie Pinsent stars in – Away From Her. Aside from the fact that it's expected to win a few awards at the film festival, Pinsent and his co-star Julie Christie are being "touted as possible Oscar nominees for their performances."

Speculating on Oscar nominations in September is a mug's game for the most part. The only thing that's determined about the Oscars in September is that movies the studios thought were contenders normally flame out and die (see, I suspect, All the King's Men starring Sean Penn, which is getting terrible early review). And the last time Pinsent was in a movie with "Oscar Buzz" was The Shipping News, which as you may recall, didn't meet with a whole lot of critical or financial success.

But hell, Pinsent was the best thing in The Shipping News and I wrote at the time that he deserved an Oscar nod for supporting actor. Foolish in retrospect, maybe. But I thought he was a lot of fun.

Obviously I haven't see Away From Her yet, and while the subject material – a man fighting to hold onto his wife of 40 years who is suffering Alzheimer's disease – doesn't sound like the kind of thing I normally rush out to the cinemas to see, I home it comes to Iqaluit.

And I hope to see Pinsent walking down the red carpet come Oscar night...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday TV

The official start to the new TV season starts on Sunday (that's when NBC, ABC and CBS begin launching their new programming) so new shows are still somewhat slim pickings. Of the new shows that Fox has been airing, the only one I've been giving any time to has been Justice, which is proving to be amusing. As for established shows, House is off to a much better start this season than last, when it struggled out of the gates with the ill-conceived romance story. The new story with House being able to walk normally and the mind games his co-workers and "friends" are playing to get him to be less of a bastard is interesting.

As for Survivor, well, the race thing doesn't infuriate me like it does some people. Although I do find it interesting, as this article states, that 13 of the 20 people on the show have SAG (Screen Actors Guild) cards. Hmmm...I suspect the more interesting reactions will not be the different tribes competing on the show, but rather how people react to the show overall. As far as I'm concerned, if this is an example of the worst kind of racism in America, some people aren't looking very hard.

Although I do like the idea the writer makes in an off-hand way about doing a Survivor by religious divisions. I'm not even talking about Christian vs. Muslim vs. Hindu vs. Buddhist. I'd be interested in watching Catholics vs. Pentecostals vs. Methodists vs. Baptists. That would amuse me for a few months.

Then again, it's possible I don't have the largest amount of respect for organized religions.

Still, this evening we'll likely be watching an older show that we're never really bothered with before. That being Kink on Showcase. Yeah, yeah…I know the reactions.

I've never really cared for Kink. I recall joining in with my former co-workers in steadily mocking the show. I think they were ridiculing it for the content. But I have a couple of friends who are into the BDSM scene and a few more who if they aren't, I'd be quite surprised. I have no problems with people who are into that lifestyle. My problem is the show is a cheaply made, boring piece of crap. If you can take people into a lifestyle that many people would consider a bit outside the norm and make it boring and tedious, then clearly you're doing something very wrong. I'm not saying it has to be pornographic. I am saying it has to be interesting.

However, we're watching the new season of the show now because it's set in Halifax and a friend of ours is supposed to make an appearance in the show at some point this season. We're hoping sooner rather than later, you understand, so we can stop watching this piece of shit show.

I suspect it will be a bit weird, watching our friend beating someone for fun and pleasure on TV (pretty sure she's a dom). Still, it's not everyday you get to see a friend on TV, let alone wearing leather and using a whip. I must make a mental note to get her autograph when I'm home for Christmas. Hopefully I won't get punished for asking out of turn, though…

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Coming home

So the good news is I appear to be coming out the other side of whatever bug I managed to pick up. The bad news is that Cathy caught it during the relatively short period of time I was sick with it. I am getting grumpy looks and being told that this is "all your fault." I can't really muster up much of a defence. I don't even think any of her kids are sick yet so it's pretty obvious she got it from me.

There is a bug going around, though. Perhaps it's linked with the almost three consecutive weeks of Rain, Drizzle and Fog that have settled over Iqaluit. It's just like back home. And like back home, this is the point in time where people start getting depressed and cranky over the lack of sunlight and the cold bugs start to make the rounds. Really, I haven't been craving sunshine like this since last February when we were getting about 6 hours of it a day. At least it was six hours. The sun came out for the first time around 5 p.m. in days.

The dog is also starting to go crazy for want of a walk. Because he's rather low to the ground and very, very white, it's a pain in the ass to take him out for a walk when the weather is like this. We go out with a little white dog and come back with something that looks like the mop used to clean a high school bathroom.

The one upside of the past few days is that I am now officially going back to St. John's for Christmas. There was some uncertainty because I am low person on the seniority list at work. Also, I just got back from vacation. It's a little odd to go up to the boss and ask about taking more time off even though I am owed it. But I had to do it now because everyone knows how quickly tickets home disappear around the holidays, especially with CanJet gone. Fortunately, the boss was quite cool about it, so I'm off…

Still, I could not imagine what a bizarre trip home I'm going to have. I'm flying four different airlines to get to St. John's and back.

First Air to Ottawa on Dec. 20. WestJet to St. John's, via Toronto which gets me in early (12:08 a.m.) on Dec. 21. I head back on Jan. 2 by catching an Air Canada flight (leaving at 5:10 a.m., dear God) to Ottawa, via Toronto. I then fly back to Iqaluit on Canadian North.

Why? A combination of scheduling and prices. In order to save the most money and not overnight anywhere, this is what has to be done. Even with all that shagging around, and even with Canadian North and First Air having "seat sales" on, it's still going to cost me just shy of $2,000 to get home for a couple of weeks.

So yeah, it'll be nice to get home. It'll be 16 months at that point, which I appreciate is fairly insignificant to some, but does mark the longest I've ever been away from Newfoundland. But $2,000 does sting a bit. My dad flew to Thailand earlier this year for less than it's going to cost me to fly from Iqaluit to St. John's. And that's fucked up, no matter what way you look at it.

I mentioned this last year, but I don't know if there's any thought to some of the Newfoundland bloggers getting together near Christmas for a night out. Nothing fancy, just a drink down at the Duke or something. I know it's Christmas and with family commitments, it might be nearly impossible, but it's something to think about. It would be nice to meet a few more of the people in the local blogging community in person.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Our ship has come in, year 2

Most people in the north don't really get to have any say on when their sea lift order comes in. Smaller communities might only have one or two boats come to their community during the couple of months their harbour is ice free. It's different in Iqaluit, where there is a steady stream of boats from the time the ice lifts at the end of June, until about the middle of October.

So we opted to have our sealift order delivered in September. Taking the chance that we wouldn't run out of everything before the next order arrived. As it turns out, our timing was pretty good. The cupboards weren't bare, but there was certainly space to be found.

Sadly, while we like the new apartment, it's fairly apparent that the sealift room is smaller than the one we had in the other apartment. However, we had no way of knowing we were going to have a smaller apartment when we put in the sealift order last spring. Plus we were dealing with a different company for our order this year. So let's say the order and if it was all going to fit was going to be a surprise when it arrived.

It arrived today, when I wasn't feeling well. Surprise.

In case you were ever wondering what $3,000 worth of groceries looks like, here it is.

The initial reaction was that there was no way it was all going to fit. We had finally gotten the apartment in shape and now we were going to have boxes piled all over the place.

But apparently I underestimated Cathy's ability to pack stuff into every conceivable corner available. So all this stuff now has homes. There are still a few problems...a couple of boxes didn't show up so we have to check on the whereabouts of about 9 cases of soft drinks, some pasta and granola bars.

Oh, and we also discovered that some things we ordered were different than we thought. The cereal boxes are huge. The bottles of Tide are smaller than we had last year. Little nuisance things.

But hey, it's all here. The apartment is fine shape. All is good, I should think.

In the Wake of Empires

I'm home sick today, which is something I almost never do. But I feel like crap, would get little work done and would probably only make my co-workers feel sick as well. So I'm doing something I almost never do and burning a sick day.

Normally this would mean moping around the house or reading a book/comic. I've long since learned that trying to watch daytime TV does not make me feel better and is, in fact, more likely to make me want to kill myself.

However, I got a bonus bit of reading material today. After much delay and a whole lot of typing, Dups has finally got the journal of his recent travels put online. Some of you may recall me mocking him back in June, saying the odds of him surviving the trip were slim. Well, he did survive and as best I can figure, he isn't married to a Russian mafia bride either.

I'm only part way through the journal so far. It comes in at more than 45,000 words, so there is a bit of reading to keep me going. There is also Dups' as usual excellent photography to enjoy. Go here and read with awe how one many could get himself in that much trouble, drink that much alcohol, and climb mountains and yet remain alive.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mmmmm, new toys...

You have to hand to Apple, if nothing else they know how to build up hype. About 10 days ago, they send out a little e-mail saying "It's Showtime" to a bunch of technology reporters. And then the Internet exploded with rumours about what Apple was about to unleash. A little bit of everything was mentioned. I was personally rooting for a brand new super-duper iPod that has been speculated on for months.

The rumour on this iPod was that it was going to be "widescreen" - meaning the entire front of the iPod was a screen. If you wanted to access the features, the screen would be touch sensitive. So an imaginary wheel would appear on screen when you need it and disappeared afterwards.

Plus, there were rumours about it being either bluetooth or wifi enabled so you could transfer songs wirelessly. Even more elaborate were stories of a radio receiver or a satellite radio built in.

Instead, we got this...

And I mean it's nice and all. I like the 80 gigs of hard drive space. I like the longer battery life and brighter screen. I like the video games. I couldn't give a rats ass about being able to download movies. I mean really, I can rip the ones I own and put them on my iPod if I understand it right.

It's nice. I was just hoping for a lot more.

Why do I care? Well, I'm in the market for a new one. The one I've had for the last two years is doing just fine. Battery life is fine. Works just great for what I need. The one downside is that it's 20 gigs of hard drive. I currently have 9 megs left and a lot more music I could easily add. So I really would like a new one.

(Which is funny because when I got the 20 gig one I figured there was no way on earth I would ever fill it up. Now, I'm looking at the 80 gig one.)

I just wish this one was a bit flashier or with more stuff. This iPod feels like a placeholder. I know a new one is going to come along eventually and leave this new version in the dust. I just hope it isn't a few weeks after I get one of these.

And if I get one, when will it be? Not sure. Cathy wouldn't mind getting it for me for Christmas, but I'm not I'll last that long. Besides, it's a lot of money for a Christmas gift.

And, you know, it's shiny electronics. Guys can't really resist that sort of thing for very long if they really want it.

What's really offensive...

You know, I mentioned this point in RJ's blog, but it's pretty far down and it occurs to me that it's probably worth mentioning in a separate post here.

As most Newfoundlanders know, there's a small racket over an ad produced by Nissan over their X-Trail SUV which is now out in a "special" Bonavista Edition (i.e. It's virutally the same as the regular edition, but we'll call it special and add a new name). The salesmen in the ad is speaking with a thick pseudo-Newfoundland accent accompanied by sub-titles.

Now, for those of you not from Newfoundland, you probably don't see what the big deal is. However, Newfoundlanders are touchy about outsiders making fun of us. We can do it to ourselves. That's fine. We have a long, storied tradition of self-mockery. But outsiders? They're not allowed. That's racist.

The ad itself doesn't bother that me. I've seen and heard much worse and I think people are over-reacting. But the more I thought about it, the idea of a really nice name like Bonavista being given to a terrible gas-guzzling SUV is kind of offensive to me. What's the vehicle's mileage like? Well, according to it's website it gets about 26 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on highways.

Out of curiosity I went and saw what the mileage was like for a nice Hybrid such as the Prius. This site lists the Prius' mileage is 60 MPG in the city and 51 MPG on the highway. So on average nearly double that of the Bonavista.

I just don't like SUV's very much. I understand they have their uses, but they are so very rarely used that way. Normally it's people driving their kids to the mall in one of these things, not going to off-road construction sites carrying hundreds of pounds of equipment.

So wouldn't Bonavista be a much nicer name to have for a hybrid? I wouldn't even have a problem with some psuedo-Newfoundland salesman hocking it on television.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later

By the time most people have read this blog post they may well be tired or done with reading or see things about September 11. Which might seem impossible to some, but it happens. Time and overwhelming media saturation can have that effect. I guarantee you, more than one person today will turn off the TV upon seeing one more story about the day. More than one person will skip on through the post, having had enough of it all.

Fair enough.

But this blog has always been first and foremost about me. About trying to get thoughts straight in my head, in trying to figure out the whole writing process. About amusing or entertaining myself. Because if you're writing and you aren't trying to do some of these things, then you might as well not be doing it.

And September 11, was a weird, surreal day for me. It was for most who lived and experienced it. But I was a reporter, trying to cover one tiny sliver of the story and feeling more over my head as a reporter that day than any other day in my life, before or after.

Here's one of the truths for most people on that day. They were watching the TV and saw the news break. Or they got a call from a friend or family member and flicked on the television. Perhaps they went home and with a loved one tried to make sense of what they were seeing. They watched it live on TV.

That never happened with me. I honestly never saw any of the images of the World Trade Centre, of the Pentagon or even the wreckage in Pennsylvania , until I got home that night around 9 p.m. That's when I finally got an idea of what it was I had been covering all day. That's when it hit.

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. For The Express it was also a deadline day, when we cue up the stories we've been working on all week, lay them out on the page and get them to press. It's a hectic day on the best of circumstances. Then we got a call from one of our columnists about planes crashing into the World Trade Center. We thought she was kidding. Then we flicked on the radio and learned otherwise. Attempts to get more information online were futile as, if you recall, the Internet practically locked up from the number of people going online trying to find information and learn what was going on. The Express also didn't have a TV, so we couldn't watch what was happening.

I had been with The Express for exactly one week. The previous three years had been with The Packet in Clarenville. I was used to covering small, community stories. I disliked covering even car accidents, feeling it was intrusive to families dealing with a terrible situation and I wasn't making things any easier for them.

Now imagine being called into your editor's office and being told that I was it. The planes were diverted and they were coming to Newfoundland . We were on deadline, get as much as you can and we'll try and hold the press a bit for you, but you've got about six hours on this.

It was terrifying. Some reporters love this kind of story. Indeed, I saw more than one that day - obviously scared by what was happening, but also thrilled to be covering what they knew was going to be the biggest story in years. Perhaps it's the wrong reaction. Perhaps it says something about me as a reporter, but I desperately wished someone else could do it. But no one else had the time. So I sucked it up and did my job.

I honestly don't recall most of the day. I was at the airport when the planes were coming in. There was lots of driving and talking to people and frantic writing. I can't recall what I wrote or if it was any good. By the time I got out of the office I went and got some takeout, sat down and decompressed for about 30 minutes while eating a burger, and then went home.

And that's when I finally got to see what was happening. All day I had been talking to people about it or hearing about it on the radio. But that was the first time I got to see what had actually happened.

I think I was too numb to really feel anything. Some wept. Some were angry. At that point I was too exhausted and numb to feel anything. And I know I had colleagues in other media that had longer days and went through more than I did. I can only imagine what it was like for them.

I only knew two people in the New York area, both ex's, oddly enough. A med student I dated briefly was working at one of the hospitals that expected to be overwhelmed with casualties. She told me her most heartbreaking moment was when none came and they realized why.

Kirsten was also there and write about it here. We also later interviewed her for The Express and put her on the cover. Both, thankfully, we're okay.

I think the one thing I hoped for, and I've seen in a lot in the personal commentaries and stories I've read today, was the hope that something good might come out of this. It's hard to believe or even remember now, the outpouring of grief, shock and rage from the other countries in the world. The willingness to assist the United States in whatever they needed to do to make sure this didn't happen again. The U.S. had a vast well to tap if they wanted.

There was that hope. That perhaps out of something so horrific that something good and positive might come from it. That from ashes might come something stronger.

That never happened. That well was squandered and people grow more frustrated with the U.S. all the time. Which is the great tragedy of September 11. After the sorrow and pain and fear, the potential was there to build something better. That the United States, which is great, but could be so much more than what it is, could have become something truly wondrous in the aftermath. The world really could have been a better place.

If only the right leaders had been thereÂ….

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Your weekly Boo update

I really wasn't planning on doing this every week, figuring people will quickly get tired of seeing the dog. But I am getting requests, which are beginning to hedge towards demands, from relations that a new photo fix is needed.

So here you go, Boo at a little under four months old.

It's also becoming apparent that if I disappeared that it might take Cathy a few days to notice I was gone.

Wordpress and other rambles...

Thanks to everyone who made recommendations and told me what I already knew...that Internet Explorer really sucks. I'm looking at the information for an online course I'm starting tomorrow and the web browser they're recommending I use, on a Mac using OS 10.3.9, is Internet Explorer 5. Honestly, it's enough to make may reevaluate the whole online course thing if that's what they're recommending. Dear lord...

Anyway, the suggestions are enough that I'm going to start seriously playing around with Wordpress, even if it means I might lose my favorite guy on the right, cheerfully smashing himself to a pulp. I really do like him, but he's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if I can make other site improvements without Blogger driving me mad.

Starting up my own site is certainly an option, but I think that falls under the category of more than I need with the little time I have. I talked to Dups about that when I first started blogging, and he said that if I was just blogging, then something like Blogger or Wordpress is all I need. And as he tends to know what he's talking about (when it comes to Internet stuff, I hasten to add) I think I'll just stick with that.

Now it's just a matter of finding the time to play with Wordpress, set it up the way I want and transfer everything over. God only know when that will happen. I mean, the weekend is just flying by. Cathy has a course this weekend (and oh, she's so very, very happy about that) so I thought I might have some spare time. Nope. Things needed cleaning, taking care of the dog, some supplies shopping and I volunteered at the Mass Registration for several hours yesterday.

Honestly, I don't know how people with kids do it. One more reason to not have them, I suppose. Then I'll have even less time to do the things I don't want to do before I can relax and do the things I want to do.

Mass Registration, by the way, is one of those interesting Iqaluit things. Basically early in September most of the recreational and social organizations gather in town to promote themselves. This year it was at the sinking Arctic Games Complex. Which is a lovely, relatively new building, but sadly built in a location that means it is slowly, unevenly, sinking into a bog. Anyway, it's a good chance to see what groups are in town and what ones you can register for.

People tend to over-commit themselves, which causes problems later in the year. But for right now, you can sign your kids (or yourself) up for swimming, guides, speed skating, ballroom dancing, drama, broomball, quilting, judo, karate and a bunch more.

I was there because I am on the Board of Directors of the Iqaluit Curling Club. I mention this solely because I love saying that I'm on the Board of Directors of a curling club. Because it sounds awfully impressive. But when you consider the President of the Curling Club is a guy who picked up the sport about three or four years ago, well, it loses a bit of its impressiveness.

Still, I'm happy to be involved and looking forward to curling again this winter and hopefully reining in my competitiveness a bit. It's a hard go, but I do what I can. And really, registration is $110 for a year's worth of curling. That's a joke. You'll pay four times that in most places down south. So it's a good deal.

Oh, I also joined a writer's group and I'm thinking about Tai Chi, the local gym and Badminton. Those from my Muse days might be amused at the notion of me trying badminton again. Let us just say I was not the best player in the world and somewhere there is a drawing done by a friend of mine graphically illustrating how bad I was. Still, got to do something to keep active. It's easy to put on the weight in Iqaluit during the winter.

Hmmm, that was a long trip from talking about Wordpress. Ah well. Not every post has to be focused. I can ramble a bit. Besides, it's better this than talking about the Pope's latest comments. Dear lord. I have Catholic in-laws who read this blog so I shall do the polite thing and refrain from commenting other than to say someone might want to check his medication...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Technical question

Out of curiosity, is the sidebar with the links on my blog looking weird? Or for that matter, is it even there?

I rarely check my blog at work. Call it paranoia if you will. But one time I checked and the sidebar looked...skewed. And when I checked today it didn't even appear.

The reason I ask is that it looks perfectly normal at home. But here I'm using Safari as my primary web browser and Firefox as a back-up. At work I'm forced to use the festering piece of crap that is Internet Explorer (Pleas to our IT department to let me use another browser have gone on deaf ears, alas).

So I'm wondering if my browser is looking weird in IE, basically.

This is just the latest racket I'm having with blogger. I'd like to do more with the blog in terms of how it looks. Not flashy, necessarily, but just cleaner and more attractive. But I don't have time to go and learn all the necessary HTML code. I know it's not rocket science, but really, I have a hard enough time in the run of a day to write new stuff for the blog, let alone spend the necessary hours tweaking the code.

So basically, for those in the know, is Wordpress a better option? Is the layout and stuff easier to do in Wordpress if you're not a whiz at HTML and don't have the time to learn? I've done a quick look at it seems that way, but I figure it can't hurt to ask.

Also, if I opt to head over there, would there be much of a problem transferring over what I've written in Blogger? I've written something like 400 articles on Blogger so far. They're not all works of genius, but I'd be loathed to just leave them here if I move to Wordpress.

Recommendations and suggestions would be welcomed...


Via Aint it Cool News comes a link to the brand new James Bond movie trailer. Which ought to make Helmut a very happy girl.

I must admit, it's looking pretty good right now. Granted, trailers are such that if you can't make a movie looking interesting there, then the movie is pretty well doomed. Trailers these days are designed to tell you how great a movie is; trailers are to tell you that there is a possibility that it doesn't suck completely.

Anyway, it has potential. Maybe Daniel Craig won't be a bust as Bond like I thought (shades of Timothy Dalton). Although I still maintain that Clive Owen would have been better...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Shipping up north

It occurs to me that since we now have a small Nunavut blogging community one of the things we ought to do occasionally pool resources. For example, a list of places from which you can order online that have reasonable shipping. I got the idea when reading a post on Claire's blog.

People down south probably can't fully appreciate the cost of shipping things up North. I've all but abandoned Canadian Tire since the last time I tried to order something, the cost of shipping was close to double the cost of the actual item. Most places down south that offer free shipping normally have a little asterisk and when you read the fine print discover that it applies to everywhere except Nunavut.

There are exceptions, though. Places that offer free shipping, or free after you spend so much money. Or even just plain reasonable shipping. So what I'm going to do is compile a list of places that I know of that have free or reasonable shipping. Other people are encouraged in the comments section to add any places they know of and I'll update it this post. I'll also probably put a permanent link to this post on the sidebar so people can find it easily enough. I'll also update it when I find some new place.

One thing about Iqaluit, once someone finds a good deal on shipping, they tend to tell others. Once they ruthlessly abuse it for themselves first, of course.

And yes, I appreciate that I should shop locally and support local businesses. And I do, believe me. But there are some items you simply can't find in the North or you would be crazy to pay what they're charging here when you know you can get it considerably cheaper elsewhere.

Support local business doesn't mean being stupid with your money.

Anyway, the list I have so far.

List of online retailers with reasonable shipping fees
1. Chapters - Free shipping on purchases over $39. Mostly books, music and DVDs, but some computer games, gifts and iPods. iRewards card gets you extra discounts on books for an annual fee.
2. Amazon - Much the same deal as with Chapters. Free shipping over $39 on books, music, movies, video games, software and other items.
3. Apple - Offers free shipping on purchases over $75. Primarily computers, although iPods, some electronics and software also available. iTunes store has music available for purchase online. Also has an educational discount for teachers and students. And, to be honest, is fairly easy to get. Just know the name and address of a local school.
4. Equator - Free trade coffee. If you purchase four pounds or more on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) the shipping is free. Plus, fair trade coffee benefits coffee bean growers more.
5. Sony - Free shipping on items over $24.99. However, I believe there are restrictions on large TV sets, so check first before ordering. Sony sells TVs, DVD players, cameras, MP3 players, Playstations, computers and tons of accessories.
6. The Source - Shipping of $29.95 per order. That's not a great deal on cheap items, but a fantastic deal if you want to order a new TV set. The usual selection of electronics.

Note. Future Shop is not included in this list as they're recently started charging for shipping.

A few points in the early morning...

Well, 8 a.m. is early for me. This whole being grown up and going to work in the morning thing has not grown any more appealing as I get older.

1. Oh look. It seems that with extensive use of phone in shows, weak happy news announcements, carpet bombing newspaper letter pages and other tricks, you can rig a poll. Of course, it helps to have a patheticly weak opposition.

Yes, I can certainly see why Danny gets 78% approval when Gerry Reid and Lorraine Michael are your fallback options as leader of the province. Although 412 people is a pretty small survey.

2. One of these days I really wish someone would make the argument to those who want to crush the commercial seal hunt, that exempting the native one doesn't make a goddamn bit of difference. If you kill the commercial hunt, you kill the international demand. And then pelts drop to about 50 cents each, making the hunt almost completely useless for native hunters.

How do I know? Because that's what happened the last time the commercial hunt went down. And I gotta tell you, from what I've been told, people in the North didn't do so well when that happened.

3. Yes, I've seen the truck commercial for the Bonavista featuring the salesmen with the thick accent. And yes, maybe having the truck drive up the lovely highways of the Bonavista Peninsula might have been a better idea. But I'm certainly not offended by the commercial, and I'm not one to shy away from the outrage if I feel Newfoundland is being done over by a bunch of Mainlander.

All I kept thinking is they could have done that better. For one thing, it doesn't sound like the actor is from Newfoundland, although I don't know for sure. I've been told that I don't sound like I'm from Newfoundland. They could have gotten someone from out in Baie Verte or Notre Dame Bay to have done the commercial. Then you certainly could have justified the subtitles.

Or hell, Buddy Wasisname. That would have been fun. But as for this? Eh. Pretty low on my offensiveness scale. Sorry.

4. Haven't been keeping up on my TV reviews. I stopped watching Vanished because I got bored. I didn't watch Stand-off because it has the stench of Doom around it. An early pick for the Fall's first TV casualty.

I am sort of enjoying Justice, though. Hell, any show that uses Warren Zevon's "Lawyers, Guns and Money" over its credits isn't all bad in my books. I don't know if it's a show that's is going to hold up over the long haul, though. Using all the gadgets to rig trials in favour of their client is interesting for the first few weeks, but is it still going to be interesting in April of next year? We'll see. I had the same thoughts about CSI when I first saw it, and it seems to be chugging along just fine.

I'd say something about the actors, but it's almost "who cares" at this point. You know little about the characters because right now the emphasis is on the flash of the show, not them. I imagine that will have to change over time if the show is going to survive. Although I do also like the bit at the end where they show you if the person was actually innocent or not. That alone might be enough to hook people and get them coming back.

However, those who say it's like House for Sorry. House is still a much, much better show. This one has a long way to go before it can be mentioned in the same breath as House.