Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jets and comic books

So most of the day has been people cheering loudly about the return of hockey to Winnipeg. Understand, I could not care less. Hockey is not my sport, at all. I cheer for Vancouver in the finals simply because if I have to read another sports story about how long its been since a Canadian team won the Cup, I might go mad.

Still, you know, good on Winnipeg if it makes them happy. There was a rumour swirling around on Twitter today that they might call the team the Manitoba Polar Bears. Which I don't think is likely, but will result in me cheering against the team whenever they play just because I have a think about polar bears. Although if, in-between periods, they put a live polar bear and two fans out on the ice and the one who survives the intermission gets a prize, that's a team promotion I could possibly get behind.

There's also the possibility of Winnipeg's AHL team ending up in St. John's, which has people all excited and Danny Williams back in the news. Just in case you forgot how much bluster and bullying the man possesses, read this story. Seriously, if he changed his mind and created the Williams Party to run in the next provincial election, not only would he win, but 2/3rds of the current PC caucus would defect to him.

Anyway, I tend to be of two minds on giving the AHL team money. First of all, I think it's going to happen. Williams is making a racket, it's an election year and there's only so much Dunderdale can do to piss off Williams, who is still beloved. I'm not sure about giving money to a professional sports team. Williams can afford the $500,000 so I don't understand what the big deal is for him needing the province to kick in the dollars.

On the other hand, lord knows the provincial government wastes more than $500,000 a year on stupider stuff than a travel subsidy. So I guess we'll see what happens.

But honestly, the thing that interests me the most is this story. DC Comics is rebooting its entire line of comics. Now, something like this seems to happen every few years, although this one seems to be bigger than most, what with all the titles being cancelled and relaunched from #1 (including Action Comics and Detective Comics, which have been running with the same numbering since the 30s.). They're also promising younger versions of the characters and more "real world situations". I expect you can kiss the Clark Kent-Lois Lane marriage good-bye for starters. Robin might be gone. God only knows what they'll do with poor Wonder Woman.

This is all fairly high end geek stuff. If you love the comics, you'll notice. If you don't, you might be somewhat interested in passing, but probably would have no interest in going out of your way to a comic store and checking it out. Which is where the clever bit comes in. In September, when the reboot happens, the same day the physical comic hits your local store, the digital version will be available online to buy.

This was inevitable, is going to piss off comic stores like nothing else, and entirely clever. Going digital was going to happen, but doing it when relaunching the comics to attract younger readers....not half bad. I'll be curious, that's for sure. I could download comics off torrent sites if I wanted, but I like the idea of sampling digital comics online.

We'll see how this all shakes out. More interesting than bloody hockey, that's for sure.

Last Five
1. Hollow - Drive
2. Mushaboom - Feist
3. Falling down blue (live) - Blue Rodeo*
4. Don't let the man get you down - Fatboy Slim
5. Yesterdays - Billie Holiday

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Regents again

Every three years my alma mater, Memorial University of Newfoundland (don't even get me started on dropping Newfoundland from most of the promo products), has the clever idea of allowing six alumi to be elected to the Board of Regents. Now, the Board is the governing body of the university and it has a decent amount of power on deciding how things are going to be run and done at the place. Those six people aren't going to change the world. Most of the 30 members are appointed to the board by the provincial government, so they tend to do whatever those up on The Hill tell them to do. Still, it's a chance for alumni to have a voice and I think it's an important election.

I've run twice - once in 2005 and in 2008. To surprise of pretty much no one, I didn't win. I finished about the middle of the pack each time. I give MUN a lot of shit, but I do love the place, have good memories and the place means a lot. I poke, bitch and complain because you do that to things you love sometimes. And lord knows MUN has needed a swift kick in the ass more than once over the years.

Case in point was the racket that happened around the last alumni election when then Premier Danny Williams and Education Minister Joan Burke blatantly inferred with the selection process for the university's next president. They had no business doing it and, to make matters worse, removed members of the Board of Regents for various reasons before the term. It was, I don't think, ever said in public but if I had to hazard a guess those members disagreed with what the government was doing and, of their troubles, they were removed.

I was pretty pissed with the Regents at that time. At the least they should have all stood up and said "The government doesn't get to decide the next MUN president. There's a process, we're following it so back off." But they didn't because Danny was Danny and it obviously required more balls than most of them possessed to do that. I think they should have resigned on mass, but again, requiring more guts than what was on the Board.

So that annoyed me. The other thing that annoyed me was that the vote totals for those people who ran in the election - and I think there was around 40 - were never revealed. We knew who the top six were. I knew how many votes I got and where I placed. But unlike virtually every other democratic election held in Canada, MUN's Board of Regents alumni election couldn't have the complete vote totals released because it would violate privacy regulations.

Yes, feel free to discreetly cough bullshit over that one.

However, I am pleased to see they've changed the rules on that one. You know what, I'm going to take credit for that one. I had more than one exchange with people at MUN over that, including getting a note from the university president. Not releasing the final totals for all candidates was bullshit and I'm glad to see they've changed that rule.

I thought about running again. But I'm pretty sure I'm going to pass. I've had friends tell me to just let it rest. Which is a fair point. I was pretty annoying (well, more than usual) for a few months back in '98 as MUN was taking up a lot of my time. Plus, the blog was a lot more active then, I had the radical notion of starting up a Facebook page to try and get people to vote for me (CBC interviewed me over the unique strategy). This time everyone is going to have a blog, Facebook page and god help Twitter. God help us all.

Also, I'm going to be out of the country for the last part of the election. So no, not running unless there is a sudden massive groundswell trying to convince me to run. Which I doubt will happen. But I will pay close attention to those who do run. They're important positions and people should be serious about running and what they want to do when they get elected.

Because if you're not going to go in there and fight and make a racket and try and change and improve things, why bother running?

Something those running should think about, at any rate...

Last Five
1. Honey - Best Coast
2. Ask me why - The Beatles
3. 7 - Prince
4. Me and Lazarus - Iron & Wine
5. Tired - Adele*

Thursday, May 26, 2011


1. I'm guessing I should probably do a review of Thor as I am the resident northern comic book geek. I've never been the biggest fan of the character in the world, with the exception of Walt Simonson's run on the series back in the 80s (Now collected in this bad boy which I will own soon enough). A norse God of Thunder is perhaps not the most likely candidate for a movie, but hey, Marvel seems to have a formula down with their movies. Take a basically good guy with lots of power and potential, but basically an dick with daddy issues, throw him into the deep end, watch him become a Man and then a good guy. The end.

So Thor is a fun enough movie. It's probably in my Top 10 all-time comic book movies, but definitely clinging to the bottom of the list as opposed to being near the top with films like X-Men 2, Spider Man 2, Iron Man and the Dark Knight. The acting is fun enough, the story does a decent job of making sense of a norse god walking the earth, Odin is a prick (Odin is a prick in the comics as well), Loki steals scenes like he's supposed to do, Natalie Portman slums along as nice eye candy and Kenneth Branaugh does a good job of making something fun not seem completely weightless.

But if I have a gripe, it's about the 3-D. I think it's a gripe I can have about almost any of the movies using 3-D and Roger Ebert is currently in the middle of a jihad against it on his blog, but he's right. I'm tired of spending extra on a movie that looks really dark and in which the 3-D adds little to it. I'm willing to bet I'm going to enjoy Thor a lot more on Blu Ray when it comes out because I'll appreciate how much brighter and sharper it is.

So a decent start for the comic movies of the summer of '11. And next week's X-Men: First Class is getting early comparisons to X-Men 2, which is a very good sign. Still not sure about Green Lantern. I think it's going to be spectacular, but good or bad I don't know. I still don't know enough about Captain America to have an idea of how that's going to work out.

2. An update for those of you who might possibly care about the banking stuff I mentioned the other day. CIBC seems oddly friendly to me right now. People at the bank certain seem to know who I am, although whether that's good or not I don't know. But they did step up. We got a much better deal at CIBC than RBC (and by much better, I mean 2.5% better at least) so that's enough to keep me happy for now.

I don't know if we're going to use it or not. We're juggling a few things here right now. The car (It's going to be an Equinox), upcoming sea lift order, our vacation and the desire to hammer some money down on the mortgage. Oddly, there is only so much money to go around.

But on the upside, we should have our new Equinox by early July, assuming the ice breaks up on time and the sealift boats stick to schedule. Which is questionable, but you can always live in hope. It'll be the first brand new vehicle for either of us in 10 years, which is pretty exciting. Mmmmmmm, new car smell...

Last Five
1. What you're missing - Sean Panting
2. DNA - The Kills*
3. Way out - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. Tightly - Neko Case
5. El Manana - Gorillaz

Monday, May 23, 2011

Being watched online

I've had a slightly odd encounter with the world of social media last week. And if nothing else proves the point that what you say online can have unforeseen results.

We had a minor crisis last week when Cathy went out to start the car and it failed to do so. Now, we're getting near the end of our time with the vehicle, so there's only so much money we're willing to put into her at this point. So if it was something cheap and simple, no problem. But if it was something catastrophic that would cost thousands of dollars, well, we were going to have a long chat about what was going to happen. Driving Force has one 2010 Equinox left on their lot, so we would have taken a look at buying that.

Now, as it stands, it was a dead battery. We got her towed, a new battery put in and she's right as rain.

But before we knew this, I popped into our bank - CIBC - to make an appointment to talk about a car loan. Now, I've banked with CIBC since I was four years old, however they burned a lot of graces with us back in 2009 when we couldn't get a mortgage with them because they didn't have anyone in town who could help us. The mad scrambling to instead get an appointment at RBC slowed us down enough that someone got a bid in ahead of us, which cost us the house. We were so annoyed we very nearly pulled our accounts from the bank. But inertia got ahold of us and we didn't do it.

So, last Tuesday I go into the bank to make an appointment about possibly getting a car loan. The teller informs me the earliest spot they have is sometime next month.

Understand, I forgive a lot of inconvenience because we live in the north. It's just the way of things. But when I go into a bank and they tell me there is no one available to talk to me about me borrowing money from them, then I get annoyed. Especially since I know at First Nations Bank I could get an appointment in about 10 minutes and at most it would take a few days at RBC, certainly not weeks.

I turned around and walked out of the bank without making an appointment. Later that day I vented on Twitter that CIBC was completely useless because it clearly didn't want my money or business.

Now is when the weirdness comes in.

Wednesday after work there's a message from someone at CIBC waiting for me. I think nothing of it, they're probably trying to sell me insurance again. Except on Thursday there's another message asking me to call them. So on Friday I finally call. They weren't selling insurance. Instead it was someone from their customer service department. Seems they have someone there who monitors social media, like Twitter, for complaints. They were calling to see what the problem was.

I'm still going back and forth on if that's cool or creepy. The jury is out.

Anyway, I had a lengthy vent about the situation, was told that was unacceptable and if I would hold on for a few minutes, they would contact the bank manager to fix the situation.

Ten minutes later, a not entirely pleased sounding bank manager made an appointment with us for Wednesday. So there you go, the power of social media networks in action. Kind of cool, but also deeply weird.

Are we going to stick with CIBC? Depends on what they offer. If it's a tie, no. RBC wins the tiebreaker. But if CIBC comes in a few points lower than RBC we'll stick with them. Money is money, after all. But if we end up getting a loan and going with RBC, that's our mortgage and car loan with them. I think then we ask if we're going to bother sticking with CIBC. Whether they care or not, I don't know. I guess we'll see how much they want us on Wednesday.

Last Five
1. Kiss and tell - Spirit of the West
2. The absence of God - Rilo Kiley
3. C'mere - Interpol
4. Backseat - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens
5. The union forever - The White Stripes

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ipads, cars and FAQs

Yeah, I'm not even giving excuses anymore. Let's just move forward with some things, shall we?

1. I forgot to mention that one of the toys I picked up in Florida last month was an iPad 2. It was borderline miraculous I managed to find one, really. I popped in to the Apple store in Tampa and they were polite enough not to laugh at me when I asked. Instead, they pointed out the store opened at 10 and the line-up to get whatever shipment they received that day normally started at 7 am. Which was too stupid for me to seriously consider on vacation.

There was a Best Buy nearby, and they were laughing too when I asked. But on our next to last day there, I popped in at lunchtime on a lark and they had a few just come in. So pure dumb luck.

So how are they? I admit, we picked one up more for travelling than any practical use around town or anything. But the the damndest thing....I really like using it. If we're out watching TV I'll pop in and grab that if I just want to poke online for a few minutes during commercial. I like it a lot. It's a slick little gadget. It's much better than the iPod Touch, which I was kind of disappointed in. The games are fun, the keyboard is pretty easy to use for writing. I downloaded the Kindle app and bought my first ebook (Espediar Street by Iain Banks, which is an old favourite of mine) and I liked the experience of reading it on the iPad.

On the downside, the auto-correct when typing can be a bit annoying and we had one glitch with the iPad not wanting to switch away from the US iTunes store to the Canada one which meant I had to reset it to factory settings.

My laptop is going to be four years old this fall. I was beginning to wonder, in the back of my mind, if I might not need an upgrade this year. Now I'm wondering if I really need a new laptop as long as I have the iPad.

2. As long as we're talking about spending money, we're also in full car-hunting mode right now. I recently test drove a Subaru Forrester, which is a lovely ride. The downside is they do no warranty work in Nunavut. Which means if something goes wrong, we're totally on our own. Which can get pricy in a hurry.

So back to plan b. The only vehicles that get warranty work done in Iqaluit apparently are GMs, Fords and Toyotas. There's a place in town that sells Fords and GMs, so we're now looking at either a Terrain or an Equinox. They're essentially the same vehicle. The main difference is that I like how the Terrain looks and Cathy likes how the Equinox looks. Place your bets on who is going to win that battle of the wills.

It's not ideal, but it's better than going to Ottawa, going through all the hassle of buying it, going through the licensing and taxes and then getting it shipped up and not having anyone to do maintaince work. This way, we can go into Driving Force, tell them what vehicle we want, they'll order it up here and then they'll call us when it arrives on the sealift boat. Much simpler. Probably a little pricier, but you take a certain price hit for not dealing with a ton of hassle.

And yes, I know, GM. I'm aware of the potential downfalls, although both vehicles are well reviewed. But we shall see.

3. And yes, I'll try to get better with the blogging. If nothing else, I need to start gearing up to revamp the FAQ again, which is an annual thing. I've had no less than three people at work tell me they read the FAQ and it helped them decide to move here. That's always good to know.

Last Five
1. Shaking the tree (live) - Peter Gabriel
2. Road trippin' - Red Hot Chilli Peppers
3. I would die for you - Garbage
4. The long way home - Norah Jones
5. Sodium - Ian Foster

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ten election thoughts

An assortment of random thoughts about the election that will have to tide election junkies over for the next four years.

1. Cleary and Penashue, Newfoundland? Really? I mean, it's not as mind-boggling as electing Bonnie Hickey back in '93, but all right, sure. If that's the way you want to go.

2. By all accounts Siobhan Coady was a hell of an MP. And while it sucks to lose, given the current state of the federal Liberal party, I suspect more than one are glad to be out of Ottawa for the next four years. Also, tell me she wouldn't make an interesting pick as the next leader of the provincial Liberal party. With due respect to Yvonne Jones, I don't think she's going to stick around long after the next provincial election. Coady is an interesting choice. If nothing else, if you've stood up to John Baird, I imagine Kathy Dunderdale and Jerome Kennedy are not exactly scary people to have yelling at you in the House of Assembly.

3. Humour is not something that translates from culture to culture well. I remember being in South Korea and the audience would not laugh at Men in Black until the group of English teachers I was with laughed first. Because they didn't get the jokes (they did laugh a lot at weird moments during Romeo + Juliet, though, including the death scene at the end). It's why Hollywood likes action movies more than comedies these days. It's easier to sell tickets on shit blowing up with minimal dialogue than trying to explain why Zach Galifianakis is funny.

All of which is a preamble to I'm sure there's a punchline to last night's election results in Quebec, but I've never really got French humour. For example, Ruth Ellen Brosseau won her seat despite:
A. Not living in the riding.
B. Going to Vegas in the middle of the campaign.
C. Her riding is 98% French and she can't really speak it that well.
D. Appears to have not even visited the riding during the election.

Yet she got 40% of the vote, won the seat and now gets a $150,000+ a year job, which is a bit of a step up from assistant manager at a pub.

So yes, there's a punchline here somewhere, I just don't get it. Can someone explain French humour to me, please?

4. Although, seriously, the day I would see that much orange on a map of Canada I would assume I had a stroke and was hallucinating.

5. I have something like 170 friends on Facebook. Of those, I have about two who admit to supporting the Conservatives. Most were supporting the NDP and were giddily ecstatic for a chunk of the evening. And I swear, most of them must have went to bed early, because the amount of shock and bile on Facebook this morning to discover that, yes the NDP have a historic high number of seats, but one of the results of that is the Conservatives got a majority.

Why this is a shock is beyond me. I saw enough projections that said if the NDP got 100+ seats it was all but certain they were going to take them from the Liberals and the Bloc and not the Conservatives. Reading Facebook it looked like a bunch of people went to bed with the hot babe and woke up to something....not quite what they were expecting....in the morning.

6. What's the over/under on how much longer Michael Ignatieff stays in Canada? I give it a year.

7. I'm disappointed the Hasselhoff Party didn't make more inroads in this election, but I'm bitter to discover there was a Pirate Party and they got 3,198 votes. I seriously would have been tempted to run for the Pirate Party in Nunavut. Arrrr. Although apparently they're about copyright instead of, you know, actually talking like a pirate and plundering, which is kind of disappointing. Clearly this needs to be addressed at their next national convention.

8. And, you know, the Communists and the Marxist-Leninist Party are never going to form a government if they keep vote splitting like that. 

9. Quote of the day, making the rounds on Twitter: "The Conservatives are like Nickelback. No one you know likes them, but they always seem to do very well." - Anonymous

10. The next federal election isn't until October 19, 2015. For those of you who hate federal elections, this is a break. However, you will pay for it with interest as I believe there will be several provincial and territorial elections scheduled for the same time. For example, the next election in Newfoundland after this fall is, I think, October 12, 2015.

Try not to think about the campaign signs.

Last Five
1. Vow - Garbage
2. Pinball wizard - The Who
3. Subterranean homesick alien - Radiohead
4. Semi suite - Tom Waits
5. The long day is over - Norah Jones

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Lo, I am risen

What? Easter was last week? Oooops, sorry...

So yes, Hi. Sorry about that. Certainly hadn't planned on disappearing for quite that long. I really figured at some point the urge to blog again would become over-powering. Figure for sure it would kick in while on vacation. It's not like it was action-packed, but stuff happened that was amusing and worth writing about.


Not even after being back for a week, it didn't kick in. So, at some point, you have to give something a kick all on it's own and hope the creaky thing swings back into life.

However, I will not be writing about the Royal Wedding. You can go somewhere else for that.

So, first, the vacation. It went well, I think. A trip to St. Pete's Beach is not meant to be an epic vacation. But it was my first one in a year and it achieved what it was supposed to. We resupplied and we did a lot of relaxing next to the pool or on the beach. Mission Accomplished. Although I think we managed to throw a bit of a scare into Cathy's parents. They've never seen a full-power Northern Power Shop before. It can be a terrifying experience if you're not used to it. It is not unlike a plague of locusts hitting a location. In this case it was hitting an outlet mall south of St. Pete's. Cathy and I even printed off coupons for the stores in the place and had a plan of attack. At the end of it, much money was spent, but we essentially had all of our clothing for the next year.

Oh, and a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Those things are spiffy.

And from there on out, it was mostly about the relaxation. Sure we might pop out for some air conditioning and twacking (window shopping for you non-Newfoundlanders) when the beach got too hot (about 33C every day down there). The ocean was also cooking quite a bit, so I suspect hurricane season is going to be an unpleasant one for Florida. They all kind of know that there, after speaking with some of the locals.

If there was a disappointment in the vacation it was the lack of wackiness. Last year I had a guy dragging a 10-foot cross along the beach on Easter weekend, marginally racist barbers, my first trip to the Wagon Wheel flea market and a stop at the Golden Corral for feeding. This year, no crosses, the flea market was kind of boring, the barbers were more worried about the weather and the Corral was completely unexciting.

Perhaps I'm getting used to Florida. I mean, all the heavy metal tapes and t-shirts disappeared from the flea market. Was there a run on them or something? Although the volume of betamax tapes....I didn't know there were that many left in the world. The only funny thing I heard was a woman saying "well, she went and divorced his ass once he got out of prison." Which was funny only because of the southern accent. I've overheard the same thing when I lived in Clarenville and it was just another day at Sobeys.

Still, here are some pics. A bit of wackiness. And I include the fruit ones just to drove people up north mad.

Enough to make you cry. 
It was Sunday. I guess Jesus was busy somewhere else, 
I really wanted to buy this for my friend Karin.

Just in case the flea market gets rowdy.
Happy Easter!

So yes, a good vacation and certainly a much needed one. Although I will say this one thing - and perhaps I've been watching too much Fringe - but is it possible that at some point during our flights we were transported into an alternate universe where the NDP is now a real political party. Just asking.

Oh, and here a few photos of sunsets and the beach. Just to prove we were there.

An attempt at me being creative.

Bridesmaids on the beach. Stalking wedding parties was a favourite thing to do with Cathy's family.

Us looking all happy.

The clan. Cathy, her parents and her aunt.

Good-bye Florida...
Last Five
1. Dignity - Bob Dylan
2. Down for the count - Girl Talk
3. The great pretender - Queen
4. Surveyors and cranes - Bob Mould
5. Out of touch - Hall & Oates*