Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Craft sale

My Tumblr has been sort of half-assed, with me reblogging a lot of comic book art, which is fine because I really happen to love that kind of thing and it's never been something I've talked about a lot on the blog. For whatever reason I've always found it hard to write about comic books. It's actually kind of frustrating. If you were to ask me what my dream job was when I was in my late teens or early 20s (I'd accepted the fact by that time I was not going to be an astronaut) then comic book writer would have been the next option.

Anyway, so yes, a chunk of comic book stuff is going to show up there. But I am trying to get better at putting up photos of around Iqaluit. I just keep forgetting to take my camera with me when I go out and about. However, I did have it with me last weekend when I went to the Christmas Craft Fair at the high school. A bunch of those photos are now up on the Tumblr.

I really love that craft fair. It's one of the events I really look forward to each year. It opens at 11 am, but it's that popular it's nothing for people to start lining up more than an hour before the doors open. We showed up at 10 am this year and there were a solid 50-60 people ahead of us. Thankfully they let people line-up inside. I remember the first year going to it and you had to wait outside. It was something like -35C with windchill. Let's call it not pleasant and move on.

Each craft fair tends to be a bit different. There was one a couple of years ago that featured a lot of what I would call "southern" type of items. Christmasy, sure. But it was the kind of thing you could find anywhere down south. If I got to one in Iqaluit, I want sealskin mittens and coats. I want Kamiks and jewelry and carvings. I want fun Christmas decorations (We picked up a sealskin Christmas angel for the top of the tree a few years ago). I want fun stuff that I can't get anywhere down south.

This year wasn't bad. A few too many baked goods, I think. Which is particularly torturous when you're on a diet. I managed to only buy one cupcake and one piece of bannock. What I wanted to do was buy all the deep fried bannock along with all the chocolate cupcakes, find a corner under a stairwell and make scary sounding noises as I ate it all. I managed to resist doing this thing. But don't think the thought didn't go through my mind a few times.

The other challenge is to remember that you are there primarily to buy things for friends and family for Christmas. It's hit and miss on that. We did get a few things for loved ones on the list. And then we see something like this...

...and there goes the budget and the plan. It's a stuffed bear made of sealskin. We walked away, came back, walked away again, and then realized we were doomed and just bought him. There was also a stuffed seal there that I wanted, but just for the irony. A stuffed seal, made of sealskin had me hooked. When the artist told me he was using a design from Greenpeace from when they sold stuff seals as fundraisers (presumably to stop the hunt) then I really wanted one, but contented myself with the warm feeling that such a thing exists.

It's a fun way to spend a couple of hours. There's cool stuff to look at, a good chunk of the town ends up appearing so you're constantly stopping, chatting and showing off the cool thing you managed to find. There will be other events in town between now and Christmas. The Francophone association will have one this weekend. Arctic College will have a Christmas ornament show in about a week's time (all the ornaments are gone in about 15 minutes, so it's not so much a socializing occasion as trying to get what you want without killing anyone). It's a good time for local artwork in town. Not so good for the wallet, but hey, having fun and unique things are worth a few dollars.

Last Five
1. Fannin Street - Tom Waits
2. 45 years (live) - Stan Rogers
3. Barely breathing - The Hold Steady
4. Fine for now - Grizzly Bear
5. Bullet the blue sky (live) - U2

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sri Lanka bound

This has been a pretty strange, and exceptional, year when it's come to travel. One of the reasons Cathy and I moved north was to get the resources to be able to see more of the world. We were deeply envious of our friends who were able to gallivant to different places. We simply couldn't do it for the first four or five years we were together. I remember having a serious conversation about whether or not we could go to the Dominican Republic for a week for our "early" honeymoon (we moved to Nunavut three weeks after we got married. There was no time for a honeymoon then, so we had it before we got married). We could, it just meant we couldn't make any RRSP payments that year.

Things have changed a lot since then. We've travelled so much this year that I've been getting questions on how we manage. Honestly, we save our money to do that thing. We don't have kids. We neither smoke nor drink (much). We don't own expensive "toys" like ATVs and snowmobiles (and yes, I know many people up here use them for hunting). We don't have many expensive hobbies. My worst one is buying graphic novels and getting some original art.

Still, I think even we've been surprised by how much we've travelled this year.

1. Back to Newfoundland in February for a friend's funeral. OK, that was not a fun trip, but a necessary one and I'm glad we were able to be there for our friend when she lost her husband.

2. Florida for a week over Easter. I keep swearing we're going to go some place different for Easter, but God help me, St. Petersburg is kind of growing on me.

3. Over to Europe for three weeks, including a cruise of the Baltics where we visited Copenhagen, Oslo, Aarhus, Berlin, Talinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. From there we went to Scotland for several days to visit some friends.

4. Cathy went to Newfoundland for the rest of the summer.

5. A trip to Nuuk, Greenland over Labour Day weekend.

6. I spent a week in New York City in October.

7. And in about a month's time we'll be going to Newfoundland to spend Christmas (we have housesitters, in case you were thinking it's an excellent time to break in. And one of them is about 250 pounds or more of muscle. Seriously). I think it's our first time back there for the holidays since 2009.

I didn't think it was likely we were going to top that in 2013. I genuinely hope we don't have to rush home for another funeral next year. I don't see us going to Greenland again and I know I won't be going to New York (although I'll be pining to go again around October. Maybe in 2014 or 2015). However, we got a little bit of a weird twist a few months ago.

I always swore if my friend, Dups, got married I would go to his wedding. Now, because he's originally from Sri Lanka, this meant a pretty awesome trip. So I was cheering for him to get married one day. I just didn't ever see it happening because, well, Dups is...high maintenance, shall we say. I've known him for about 20 years. I figure I had a good 20 more or so to go before he might settle down.

But then he surprised the hell out of me by announcing he was engaged (I discovered this while checking my email in a shopping mall in Talinn, Estonia. The screaming and profanity may have disturbed the locals). So now clearly there was going to be a trip to Sri Lanka in our future. He managed to further surprise me by announcing the wedding was going to take place in February, 2013.

I don't believe Dups thought many of his friends would make the trip. But a dedicated group of lunatics have decided we're going to do it. He's having a second wedding the summer for friends who can't make it, and I'll go to that as well. I apparently collect major Dups life events, what with me attending both of his university convocations and his citizenship ceremony.

So yeah, as of February 3 I'm on a flight Ottawa-London-Colombo. Which will take about 20 hours, so that'll be fun. I'll be heading back in the 15th, so it's a relatively quick trip. Fortunately, I'll have at least one, if not more, friends to make the trip with me. Unfortunately, Cathy won't be there. It's in the middle of the school year. She asked for time off without pay, but they didn't approve it (which didn't surprise her, but she had to try). It's sad, because I know she'd love to go, but she really pushed me to go when I was hemming and hawing about not going without her. This is why she's awesome.

Oh, and because it's a dig that needs to be made...the Ottawa-Colombo plane ticket? Cheaper than the Iqaluit-Ottawa ticket. So yes, a ticket for travel that will take 46 hours return and get me half way around the world and back (a distance of approximately 27,400 km return) is cheaper than the one for a flight that lasts six hours return (a total distance of approximately 4,100 km return). I don't care who shows up from First Air and Canadian North to defend it, that's bullshit.

Little things like that aside, I'm tremendously looking forward to go to Dups wedding and seeing a country I never thought I would get to visit (mostly because I never thought Dups would get married). So I'm excited by that.

So maybe not as much travel in 2013, but in terms of interesting travel, it's off to a great start.

Last Five
1. Cologne Cerrone Houdini - Goldfrapp
2. Jimmy standing in the rain - Elvis Costello
3. The Burroughs of carbs (comedy) - Patton Oswalt
4. Skip the youth - Frightened Rabbit*
5. England - The National

Monday, November 12, 2012


I watched a lot of my friends get excited in the past week because it looked like there finally might be an end to the NHL strike/lock-out/general fuckery. Of course it didn't happen. Because neither side has lost enough money yet to make it worth while.

Look, I'm not the biggest hockey fan in the world. The only reason I followed it when I was a kid was due to peer pressure more than anything else. A kid who did not like hockey when you're eight or nine years old is targeted. And really, kids can dig and find ways to make your life miserable, so why give them an easy target.

But it's just never been my sport. I think I've written that you follow the sport your father goes for and my dad was never really a hockey person. I haven't asked why, now that I think about it, but he was always baseball. So I grew up a Montreal Expos fan and later, grudgingly, a Blue Jays fan. But I just wasn't interested in the sport. But I have to admit, over the last few years, I've had a steady growing dislike of hockey. I suspect it's going to escalate into loathing and hatred in short order.

That's because it's a dumbass sport, with dumbass players, run by dumbass owners and watched by dumbass fans.

The only part of that sentence above you can argue with me about is the sport. I may concede that point. The rest of is pretty well spot on.

Look, I'm still bitter about the 1994 baseball strike. That strike cost the Montreal Expos an almost certain play-off spot and possibly a World Series. They were that good. The Expos were never the same after that year, to the point where they eventually left town. The main reason they left is the fans never forgave the owners and the players. It's easy to remember the laughable crowds of the late 90s and early 2000s, where free hot dogs still only generate crowds of 10,000 people. But back in the mid-80s, the Expos were huge. I remember my dad going to catch a four game series against the Cardinals around '84. All four games were sold out; more than 50,000 people in attendance for each game.

Montreal fans punished the Expos for their sins. It took a long time for baseball to bounce back from that strike. Some would argue they never recovered. Baseball went from being America's #1 sport to #2, maybe even #3 behind football and basketball.

But, hockey fans need their fix.

Look, I get you love the sport, but if you don't punish these silly bastards once this is all over - and I honestly hope the season is lost at this point - then you're nuts. Because they'll do it all over again in a few years time. Because they're deeply stupid people. But the best part is they think you're even stupider than they are. Because they expect you to forgive them. They view you as ATMs on legs and nothing more.

Seriously, punishment needs to be dished out. Love your sport if you must, just ignore the NHL. That means no buying of tickets to games. No buying licenced merchandise. No watching games on TSN. If at least two franchises don't fold because of this idiocy, then you haven't done your job. The punishment needs to last at least until the next set of negotiations, so that they actually remember the cost of being this stupid.

By the way, I'm really serious about not watching hockey on TSN. I blame TSN for a lot of the sins of sports in Canada right now. I've enjoyed watching the silly bastards put on old hockey games and sports movies because they have nothing else to put on, because they've spent so much time focussing on hockey to the exclusion of almost anything else. And don't point out the CFL to me, because if TSN put 1/100th of the money and energy into the CFL as they do hockey the CFL would have 16 teams by now. They deserve to spend the winter suffering for their sins.

Harsh? Maybe. But as I don't see a Fan's Union starting up anytime soon to represented at the negotiating table, this is the only option. Players and owners may not have given up on the season yet; as a fan, you owe it to give up on them for this year...and longer.

Last Five
1. Be the one - The Ting Tings
2. Crazy - Me First and the Gimme Gimmies
3. Original sin - INXS*
4. But, honestly - Foo Fighers
5. Love is nothing - Liz Phair

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Re-post: Remembering Enos Welsh

I first put this up in 2009. I still think it's one of the best posts I've ever put on this blog, even though I never wrote most of the words in it. So for Remembrance Day I can think of nothing more appropriate to put up on the blog then my great-grandfather's words about what he went through in World War 1.

It's a bit late on Remembrance Day to be posting this, but I still think it's appropriate to bring this up. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my great-grandfather fought in World War I. Last year I was discussing this with my father and then he mailed me this thing he had been sent several years ago. My great-grandfather made a prisoner of war statement after he was released and it was placed in the National Archives of Canada.

Reading it always gives me a chill. It was so close to everything changing. The chaos that comes from the creation of families over generations all nearly undone in one act, by one one bullet. Now when you think about that, multiplied by all the men who died during that war, you can only imagine how much more different the world would be today.

Anyway, this is what my great-grandfather, Enos Welsh, wrote about his time in World War 1 in his Prisoner of War statement.

Pte. Enos Welsh
Age on Enlistment 19 years, 9 months
Occupation: fisherman
Enlisted May 11, 1916, proceeded overseas September 27th, 1916.
Company in France - "A" Company

We landed at Rouen Dec. 1st, 1916, and after two weeks of training was drafted to the "Firing Line" on the River Somme. Took part in several raids near Chateau, marched to Arras on 13th April and on the 14th attacked the Germans at Monchy-le-Preux. At 5 am was wounded in the thigh, and a few minutes later was shot in the head by a German Officer and became unconscious for about three hours, was then captured as a prisoner by the German Red Cross and taken to an Advanced Dressing Station.

My wounds were dressed with my own field bandages and I was treated fairly well. Was then taken on a rubber sheet and carried to the nearest village where I lay on the sheet from 4pm to 8pm without food, drink or attendance of any kind. Was taken by box car and carried to another village and placed in a little chapel, used as a hospital. I was then inoculated by a doctor at 11pm, was take to Douai in a Field Ambulance arriving there at 3am. April 15th I then entered a hospital where they robbed me of everything I possessed and placed me in a bed without sheets. This hospital was in charge of Russian prisoners who were acting as orderlies. At 10am, April 15th I was operated on by three doctors without chloroform and suffered severely, they only laughed at my suffering.

I was then taken back to bed and was given a little barley water, the first food after being captured, was there till the 18th April without having my wounds dressed. From there I was taken on a hospital train and carried to Osnabruck (Germany), where my sounds were attended to and I was given paper bandages to put on them. Here I received a little more food. Was in hospital for four more months and was very badly treated - no nurses in attendance.

In August 1917 I was sent to Hammel and put in a prison camp where I received very little food till the Red Cross parcels arrived from England. My wounds were still giving trouble and were seldom attended to. After two weeks I was ordered to work but refused, as I was unable to work. I was then placed in a dungeon for four days without food or clothing. I was ordered to work, which I tried to perform. I worked on a small railway for four days and was then laid up for a month. Received very bad treatment from the sentries.

On December 7th, 1917 was sent back to Hammel and was marked for Manheim to be examined by neutral doctors. I was then sent to Chateau Dix (Switzerland) arriving there on Dec. 28th, 1917. Was three months in Switzerland. Arrived in England on the 24th, March 1918 and was there about two weeks and on Empire Day, May 24th, 1918 I arrived at St. John's.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Post election glow

It's been a good couple of days, I must say. Yes, there was the pleasure of watching the right man become president. There was the pleasure that came from a pretty successful congressional campaign as well. Democrats picked up seats in the Senate, including an openly gay woman in Wisconsin and, hell, just a woman senator from North Dakota makes me happy. Same sex marriage being approved by voters in four states (don't really care about marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado, to be honest). They even picked up seats in the House of Representatives, although not enough to get a majority. The only way it could have been better is if Michele Bachmann had lost her congressional seat. She won by 3,000 votes in a district that's apparently gerrymandered to within an inch of it it's life. Oh well. Maybe in two years time.

I also had the pleasure of being spot on in my state predictions. Florida and Virginia were trying to kill me most of the night, especially when Virginia was showing Romney with a massive lead early. Oh, and at one point there was a 300 vote difference between Romney and Obama with about 70 per cent of the polls showing. So that was fun. I tried to stay up late enough to see Obama's acceptance speech and see if they would declare Florida, but gave up at 1:30. Just as well, I think they only declared Florida this evening, which would have been a long time to stay up.

But the thing I've been enjoying over the past two days as been watching Republicans set their hair on fire over the results. Now, one shouldn't get too cocky...Obama won with by about three million votes. When you have about 120 million cast, that's not a hell of a large majority. But seriously, some Republicans have seriously lost their shit. I can't even link to a fraction of it, but a few highlights would probably include:

1. White People Mourning Romney tumblr
2. Andrew Sullivan sums up the reaction of the Republican pundit class to the results.
3. The reason why Obama won? Sluts. Seriously.
4. Karl Rove, who if is not the devil most certainly has him on speed dial, blames Obama for suppressing the vote. Then again, after his meltdown on Fox News when they called the election for Obama and the fact that the many rich people who gave money (about $400 million) to his PAC are slightly pissed that not only Obama won, but that every race Rove's PAC got involved in, the Republican candidate lost.
5. Donald Trump losing it was matched byVictoria Jackson losing it.
6. This idiot.
7. And while everyone was talking about what a gracious concession speech Mitt Romney gave, he was apparently cancelling all of his staff's credit cards at the same time. Which is not gracious, but not unexpected, given his background.

And that's just a sampling of it. There's been a ton of coverage about what Obama did right and Romney did wrong, just as I imagine if the opposite had happened, Obama and his crew would be raked over the coals right now. Although I think my favourite quote, which of course I can't find, was an African American voter saying that while 2008 was historic, this election was personal. The number of black voters went up in some states, which I find almost impossible to believe. But if you've spent the last few years watching the president treated in way that would never happen if he were white, it's hard not to take that personally.

I hope the Republican party gets their shit together after this, I really do. I mean, Fox News and their pundits are basically in it for the money and not to actually do anything helpful for the country. The fact that so many people were shocked Romney lost when it was pretty clearly showing that's the way the election was going means too many people were in a bubble. I have some Republican senator said people were crazy if you thought you were going to attract more people to the party by being even more hardass. There's a place for sane conservatives in the United States; they've just been drowned out by the lunatic fringe. I've linked to it before, but John Rogers "I miss Republicans" remains as timely now as it was when he wrote it in 2004. They need to start purging some of the crazies. Let them go and form a Tea Party. They can preach all the anti-woman crap they want; they'll be justifiably looked at as loons and will quickly fade away without the blanket of the Republican Party to make them look "respectable".

Maybe they'll get their act together. Maybe sensible conservatives will take back their party after spending too many years cowering before bullies. I hope so, but I guess time will tell.

Last Five
1. Invisible riverside (live) - Ryan Adams
2. Let me live - Queen
3. Bargain - The Who
4. Rush - Big Audio Dynamite*
5. Bite hard - Franz Ferdinand 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election prediction

A number of months back I predicted Barack Obama would win the presidency pretty easily. That might not have been the smartest thing I've ever written because anything can happen in politics, including the president taking a nap during the first debate in Denver.

Still, I stick by my prediction. I think President Obama gets a second term once all the votes are counted tomorrow. I wouldn't be shocked if he lost the popular vote, mind you. Turnout is going to be low in New York and New Jersey because of the hurricane, Florida appears to determined to make itself into an electoral punchline again and there are rumours turnout in California could be low because the president is up by as much as 20 per cent over Romney in some polls.

Oh, and by the way, while I really do try and see both sides of an argument, Romney would be a disaster as a president. And I still maintain my argument that President Obama has done a remarkable job given the challenges. Not a perfect one. There are things that could have been done better. But I think he's done a good enough job to get another four years. With no reelection to worry about, hopefully he'll take a few more chances on the environment and energy policy.

Having said that, I think I should make my prediction over how many electoral votes he gets. Now, each candidate has certain states locked in. They are:

Obama: Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Illinois, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, Washington DC.

Romney: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana.

So that leaves the toss-up states. And this is where pundits start going on about how tight it is. Except in most cases it seems like those states have also made up their minds. Of the remaining battleground states, I'd break it down like this:

Obama: Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida
Romney: North Carolina

So if that happens, the final electoral college total would be Obama - 332, Romney - 206

Not as big as 2008, but still not bad a margin of victory. I could be wrong on a couple of those, particularly Colorado, Virginia and Florida, but I don't think so. A lot of people have been making a big deal about the impact of Hurricane Sandy, about how Obama looked presidential and having the Republican governor of New Jersey standing by his side saying nice things helped him. Which may well be true. But I think Romney's comments about reducing FEMA to the point of giving disaster and emergency relief to private companies gave people in some key states - like Virginia and Florida - some pause.

Aside from it being a mostly dumbass idea, both of those states regularly suffer emergency situations. It doesn't require much digging back into history to find occasions where FEMA was needed to help with hurricanes. Even in mid-west states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa - which were close up until this week - FEMA has played a large roll helping after tornadoes.

So yes, there will be drama tomorrow night, like who controls the Senate and the House. I'm really hoping Michele Bachman, as loathsome a human being that walks the earth, loses her House seat. But I predict the drama over who wins the presidency will be over relatively early in the evening.

Last Five
1. Dead leaves the dirty ground - White Stripes
2. Monday morning - Death Cab for Cutie
3. Square one - Coldplay
4. My Oklahoma home (live) - Bruce Springsteen*
5. Foot shooter - Frightened Rabbit

Friday, November 02, 2012

Bring on the cable

I mentioned in the last post, the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ, that internet in Iqaluit is a shaky proposition. I'm not sure if it's the top thing that drives people nuts when they move here from down south, but it's probably top five. People get used to certain levels of internet quality...hell, I've heard people complain about how bad their internet is down south and it normally makes me laugh. It doesn't come close to how bad it is in Iqaluit. But then again, I have friends in other parts of Nunavut who would love to have what we have here...

Which goes to prove, no matter how much you whine about how bad things are, somebody always has it worse. For that matter, some would argue that given the many social and economic challenges that people face in Nunavut, is not being able to properly play World of Warcraft in Nunavut really the biggest problem we face?

I would argue having a proper telecommunications infrastructure is pretty vital to the development of the territory. Yes, there are negatives associated with that, and yes there will be frivolous uses, but for the positives will far outweigh the negatives.

For most of the time we've been here, better high speed internet has been a pipe dream. NorthwesTel and other northern communications providers have been unable, or unwilling, to make the investment in better satellite internet. And the notion of getting a fibre optic cable to Nunavut seemed laughable because the Government of Nunavut couldn't afford it and the Government of Canada certainly wasn't going to pony up the cash.

But then a funny thing happened. Arctic Fibre announced they were building a submarine fibre optic cable connecting Tokyo to London via the Canadian Arctic. It was going to cost about $600 million, but no worries, they already had the investors lined up. But seeing as how the cable was going right through Nunavut, was there any interest in doing a few branch lines to hook up some Nunavut communities along the route?

I think too many people were trying to pick their jaws up off the floor to react properly at first. I confess, my finally tuned bullshit sense (you develop it young when you grow up in Newfoundland and people you've never heard of before promise you the moon and the stars) went off. Especially since they were spending what seemed like an insane amount of money to shave a few milliseconds on the information transfer time between London and Tokyo.

Two things changed my mind about the seriousness. First, the satellite providers in the north went after Arctic Fibre as if they were the Spanish Inquisition. They were calling into question whether they would be able to get the funding, pointing the potential for the cable to be damaged by ice and not being able to be repaired for months, and that it wouldn't be able to service all of Nunavut.

The second thing was this article in Wired. It's not about Arctic Fibre, although the cable is mentioned a couple of times in the article. Rather it's about how some companies are willing to spend a lot of money just to get a few extra milliseconds advantage when it comes to trades on the financial markets. Milliseconds might not mean a lot to the average person waiting to watch a YouTube video, but it means millions to these guys.

(By the way, if you don't have the urge to pull every cent out of your RRSP and any other investments you have after reading that article, then you've a stronger constitution than I. It scared the crap out of me that this is how business is done. No wondered things are so fucked up.)

The last few months it's becoming pretty real. There's plenty of articles and editorials going up (Here, here, here, and here for some of Nunatsiaq News coverage. Even the Globe and Mail has noticed). At this point, I'm pretty much sign me up. Seriously, someone has just handed a gift wrapped package to Nunavut. You would have to be batshit crazy to pass it up.

Yes, there are risks. The cable could be damaged. But seeing as how it would piss off people with a lot of money invested in this, I think we can count on them taking a lot of steps to make sure that doesn't happen. There's the argument that since the cable will only service about half of Nunavut, we shouldn't take part unless all of Nunavut gets the same service.

That one makes me want to smack my head on a wall. Look, if a cable came from Manitoba and serviced Rankin and the Kivalliq, but nothing for Baffin Island, I'd be jealous, but I wouldn't say "You can't have it if we can't have it."It's so unbelievable selfish and shorts-sighted that it drives me crazy. Plus, there's the potential, with some government investment, to fix that problem. Maybe everyone doesn't get it, but most can. I believe towers with microwave repeaters could solve some of the problems.

Which comes to the last problem...someone is still going to have to invest some money from either Nunavut or the Government of Canada. The cable is going through Nunavut, but unless someone comes up with some cash, it's only going to land in two places, as I understand it. That being Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay (I find it amusing that the Iqaluit cable will link to Milton, Newfoundland, which is right outside of Clarenville. A place I mocked for years, even while working there, is potentially providing my internet. Oh lord). The cost could run more than $100 million.

Do it.

Seriously, I don't know who makes the decisions, but it's a steal. The Government of Canada makes a big deal about arctic sovereignty and economic develop in the north. Well, here's a gift. It's a big investment, but it can change the future of the territory more than just about any other investment they could make.

And seriously, screw Telsat and anyone else who provides satellite internet. It's been bad and getting worse for years. Xplorenet, which is what I use, is a fraction of what it was when we first got in 2.5 years ago. My three year contract is up in May, 2013. I'll keep using it until that fibre optic cable lands here. The day I can get internet via that route is the day I rip the dish off the side of my house. Satellite internet providers have had years to improve things, but did next to nothing because there was no competition and they were making big bucks off crap service. Now that there's serious competition, they're freaking out.

If all goes according to plan, there should be a fibre optic cable in Iqaluit by the end of 2014. It's two more years of this crap. But hey, it's a lot less years than I thought it would be. It's a gift. Please let us not be so stupid as to pass this up.

Last Five
1. Do you want to - Franz Ferdinand
2. A round again - Once
3. Don't tear me up - Mick Jagger*
4. On the bus mall - The Decemberists
5. Instant karma - Duran Duran

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Moving to Iqaluit, v. 5.0

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

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

It's also apparently inspired at least one clone, as can be seen here. Of course, they seem to be trying to make some money off ads. I just do it because I love you. Well, no. But I know how hard it is to make the leap and how challenging it can be to find accurate and straightforward information.

This is the fifth version of this post. I keep updating because information keeps changing and people keep coming up with new questions. Once again, if you can think of anything I've missed, please add it in the comments section. And if I've missed something or get something wrong, then I beg you indulgence.

And, as always, if you speak to someone who has lived here for 20 odd years and what they're saying contradicts what I'm saying, I'd go with them. I've been here more than seven years and I know a fair bit, but I'm not infalible.

Iqaluit – What is it like?

Should I move to Iqaluit?
Answer. Why not? There are certainly challenges to living here, but there are perks and advantages as well. It's a nice place to live, there's a good sense of community and the place is growing quickly. It's a lot different now than what it was even seven years ago (the big subdivision on the hill overlooking the airport? Didn't exist when I moved here in 2005). The challenges, however, are a bit different than what you might find in other cities in Canada.

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

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

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

C. Things are expensive. A case of a dozen Pepsi is about $15. A large bag of chips is $6. A smallish honeydew is about $10. Gas is about $1.16 a litre (the only reason it's that cheap is a substantial subsidy by the Government of Nunavut). A mechanic will run about $125 an hour. A return plane ticket from Iqaluit to Ottawa costs about $1,500...on a seat sale. There is that shock the first time you walk into Arctic Ventures or North Mart. But odds are you're making good money working up here anyway. And there are ways to save some money on food. More on that in a minute.

D. The amenities you're used to in the south are likely not here. There is no Wal-Mart. There is no mall. There is no book store (but there is a library). There are no general practice physicians. So if you like those things, well, you're going to have to adjust or reconsider coming here. However, we now have a Tim Hortons so, you know, all is right in the universe.

E. You are isolated. There are only two ways out of town - boat and plane. You're not getting to another city by skidoo (you can ski-doo to Kimmirut. It takes all day and the population is about 400 people). The bay is frozen seven to eight months of the year. So airplane it is. Montreal and Ottawa are three hours away by plane and a normal ticket these days is $2,000. There are seat sales, but even then, a ticket is still around $1,450. So unless you're rich or work with the airlines (who give huge discounts to employees), you're not popping down to Ottawa for the weekend.

And the good things are?
Answer. There's a nice sense of community. For a small city (Stats Canada estimated a population of 6,700 in 2011, but the actual population is around 7,500) there's a decent arts scene. If you love the outdoors and can't stand cities anyway, then there's a lot to be said for Iqaluit. Hop on a skidoo for 15 minutes and you're in the middle of nowhere. It's a growing community and there are lots of opportunity.

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

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

Getting Here

What airlines fly here and what’s the difference between them, if any?
Answer. There are currently two airlines operating into Iqaluit from Ottawa - First Air and Canadian North have operated up here for years.

Idiotically, both arrive and leave at virtually the same time. Canadian North tends to arrive in Ottawa about 20 minutes or so ahead of First Air, so if you have a tight connection, keep that in mind. In terms of comfort, we prefer First Air, but that's just us.

You can use Aeroplan point to book tickets out on the airlines. However, be aware that they do heavily restrict the number of seats on each flight. I think it’s no more than four. So if you’re going to use Aeroplan, off-peak and in the middle of the week would be your best bet. On the upside, an Aeroplan ticket to Ottawa can be had for as low as 15,000 points, which is a steal considering how much a ticket can cost. It’s one of the reasons why Air Canada pulled out – no one was buying tickets, they were all using Aeroplan.

The prices are obviously very expensive, but there are perks. For one thing, both airlines feed you, which is nice. And they do have one very good thing that you should feel free to ruthlessly take advantage of – luggage. Each passenger gets two bags with a 70 pound limit. It's $75 for the third bag and $100 per bag after that.

Obviously this depends on you being able to do this from Ottawa. If you’re flying from Winnipeg first, for example, then you’re going to have issues. Also, there’s no guarantee all your bags will come up on the same flight. It’s might take a day or two for them all to come up. Still, if you need to take a lot of things, you should take advantage of this.

Getting Around

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

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

How can I get one?
Answer. You can buy new and used cars up here. For example, Driving Force is now selling Ford (mostly Edge and Escape), GM (mostly Terrain and Equinox) and Suzuki (Grand Vitara's, I believe). They do the warranty work on those vehicles, which is a big advantage. For example, we bought a Chevy Equinox last year. We paid more than we would have if we had bought it down south, but between the hassles of licensing and getting it shipped up north, I figure it was worth a few extra dollars. We had been looking at a Suburu Forrester, but they don't have anyone to do warranty work. Something goes wrong, even under warranty, you're on your own.

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

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

Also remember that this level of cold is hard on vehicles. Get used to being friends with your local mechanic and get used to the idea of large bills for simple things. For example, an oil change, which you can get done in Wal-Mart down south for about $25 will likely cost about $150 or more up here. One garage screwed me for $225 for an oil change this year. They're not getting my business anymore after that.

There are insurance companies that operate in town. Try Nunavut Insurance, for example. I believe Royal Bank also does insurance. Motor Vehicle registration is located in Inuksugait Plaza. Vehicle registration is some insanely low price like $40 a year. However, they do not send out reminders, so it's up to you to notice when your vehicle registration has expired. Local Bylaw lives to pull over people who have not updated their plates.

Food and Supplies

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

Regardless, you do have to either do it yourself or get someone to do it for you relatively early. I would try and do your sealift in June or July. If you leave it later than that, there's the risk it won't make it up on the boat, leaving you only very expensive options for getting your stuff up here.

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

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

What's Food Mail?
Answer. Recognizing that healthy, fresh food can be a expensive in the North, there is a program in which healthy food can be shipped up from down south at a subsidized rate. Significant changes to the Food Mail program are currently in progress. Previously Canada Post ran the program, but earlier in 2010 the federal government announced changes. Rather than explain at length what those changes are, go to this website which should be able to answer most of your questions.

Let’s just say that Nutrition North Canada is controversial and not beloved by everybody in the North (do a Google News search). Food security is a big issue up here that people take very seriously. I suspect there will be more changes and tweaks to the program before all is said and done.

How much would I spend in groceries a month?
Answer. No idea. There are a whole host of factors that would play into that. How much food you need, how many are in your family, if you did a sealift….

Cathy and I spend around $150-$200 a week. This is mostly for bread, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other perishables. We get most of our dried goods from the sealift, so we rarely buy cereal, pasta, sauces, soft drinks, etc. We normally take a cooler or two with us every time we go south and stock up on meat at Costco when we're there.

Also, there does come a point when you’ve been up here long enough that you cease noticing the prices. There are only so many places in town you can buy groceries and you have to eat. Odds are you’re being paid well. So you buy what you need and try not to think about how much it costs.

Are there things I really need to bring with me before coming up?
Answer. You can actually get most things you need either in Iqaluit or by ordering online. There are also good yard sales, especially in the spring, from people selling things as they head south. Also, Iqaluit Sell/Swap on Facebook has become huge. You have to ask to sign up to the group, but you can find all kinds of items for sale there.

However, I recommend buying your cold weather gear down south if possible. It is expensive up here. And buy proper warm weather gear. What will get you through a Newfoundland winter, for example, won't cut it up here. Get coats, boots and gloves that are rated for temperatures around -70C. And your coat's hood should be fur trimmed. It makes a huge difference in keeping your face warm. Also get the proper boots and gloves, although I recommend getting a nice pair of fur mittens once you get here. Canada Goose is the jacket of choice up here. North Face is popular as well, but not for super cold weather. It's good up until around -20C. After that, well...

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

I would bring enough entertainment to keep you amused for a few months until you get settled in. So if you like video games, bring them along. If you like books, bring some of your favourites. If you like movies, bring some of your favourite DVDs, although I know some people just burn all their movies onto terabyte drives and bring that up.

We brought plants with us up here, which was silly because stores sell plants. We brought lots of books, which was silly because there's a perfectly good library here. Not to mention Chapters and Amazon offer free shipping over $25. Whatever you don't take with you, odds are you can get it here or get it sent to you.

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

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


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

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

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

Housing and Utilities

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

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

If you're coming up here to work on construction sites or with a local business, odds are they're not giving you housing. Which means you have to find it on your own. Renting a room in someone's house is about $1,000. A small, one-bedroom apartment will set you back roughly $1,700 a month. A 2-bedroom apartment cannot be found for under $2,000. Check Northern Properties and Nunastar for some of the rental proprieties available.

Could I just buy a house?
Answer. Sure. In fact, we bought ours in December of 2009. Average house price is around $400,000 for a three bedroom house. There is only one real estate agent in town, John Matthews. You can reach him at 867-979-1343 and his website (he also handles some rental properties). A lot of houses are private sales, which means either finding them online or, just as often, wandering around town and reading the bulletin boards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the utilities like up there?
Your main utilities will be Nunavut Power, Northwest Tel, Uqsuq (if you need heating oil), along with water and sewer. Is it going to be more expensive than what you pay for down south? Yes. However, it won’t be as much as you might think as things like power and oil are subsidized to reduce some of the sting. They’re all fairly reliable. Most of the city is on water and sewer, although some of it is not, which means trucks. Basically, once the red light on the front of our house goes off, the water truck will swing by and fill up the 750 gallon tank in our house. Another truck comes by and empties the sewage tank located under the house.

We’re on truck supply, which isn’t bad at all. Some people hate it, but it’s just as easy to have pipes freeze underground as it is for a water truck to flood your house or a sewage truck to hit blow instead of suck (the later has happened to someone I know).

Social Activities

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

Oh, and keep in mind that if you order alcohol, you might have trouble getting European booze, like Scotch or French and Italian wines. The Government of Nunavut banned the importation of European alcohol into the territory as retaliation for the EU’s attempts to ban seal products. Seriously.

What about entertainment and sports?
Answer. It's not Toronto with its options, but there is a lot to do. There are two hockey arenas There's a curling rink (and as a member, I encourage you to join as well) a racquetball club, the Atii Fitness Centre, a very old swimming pool (a referendum to fund building a new one just passed. It'll probably be finished around 2016). The first Saturday after Labour Day in September there is something called Mass Registration where you can sign up for everything from ball room dancing, to speed skating, judo, the greenhouse society, etc. If you're in town I highly recommend going to this. The City of Iqaluit lists most of the recreational activities on their website.

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


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

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

Having said that, obviously there are plenty of stories about the troubles in Iqaluit and Nunavut as a whole. There is a high crime rate here. Personally, I’ve found it’s more mentally hard reading about it and hearing what people are going through. It can be more depressing than scary.

Living here

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

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

Your provincial medical card is, I think, still good for three months after you move up here. If you're staying longer than that, you'll need to get a Nunavut medical card, which can be a bit of a slow process. This is the link for getting your card.

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

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

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

There's also a French language school in town, if you qualify.

I have young kids who need daycare. How hard is it going to be?
Answer. Pretty hard. The bad joke in town is that you should call a day care to get put on the wait list as soon as the pregnancy test gives you a positive result. Still, if you need some numbers, this is a link to all the daycares in Nunavut. It was last updated December 2009, so bear that in mind.

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

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

Are there places of worship?
Answer: Yes. There are a few churches in town. For example:
St. Jude's (Anglican) - 979-5510 (they recently rebuilt their church after a fire several years ago. It's one of the more impressive buildings in town.
Pentecostal Church - 979-5779
Our Lady of the Assumption (Roman Catholic)
If you're Buddhist, apparently there is a local Facebook group that can provide more information. As for other faiths, I'd advise you to ask around once you hit town.

What are taxes like up there?
Answer. Well, there's no territorial sales tax, which is nice. The only sales tax is the GST, which is currently 5%. There is a payroll tax of 2% which is, let's just say, not that popular.

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

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

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

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

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

We both work with Inuit. Cathy's staff is at least half Inuit and I'm decidedly outnumbered in my office. Which is awesome. We both grew up in Newfoundland in the 70s and 80s, which couldn't be much more white, so it's nice to get thrown into the deep end of a different, and pretty awesome, culture.

Like anything, it depends on how much effort you want to put into it. You can have as much, or as little, interaction as you want. But I think it's a shame to come here and then have no interaction with the Inuit.

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

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

Finally, we both think it's important to treat yourself. It can be hard for some people to live here and living an austere life doesn't help. I'm not saying going out and blow your paycheck every week, but do make sure you take care of yourself and do things for your mental health. Cathy and I like to travel and we try to go on at least one large trip a year - Italy in 2008, Australia in 2009, Costa Rica in 2011, the Baltic in 2012. It does wonders for your mental health. Travel might not be your thing, but whatever it is, do it. It helps.

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

There is now a full-time vet in town, but I admit I've heard a lot of grumbling about her, mainly that she can be difficult to reach. I suspect this is because she's on maternity leave until December 15, 2012. It's not that she's a bad vet; we've used her a couple of times and found her to be good. She even has a big truck she uses to come around and do house calls. This is her website.

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

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

If you're thinking of getting a pet up here, then give the Humane Society a shot, although they’ve been having problems lately with money and volunteers. Sadly, there are many dogs who are not properly taken care of. Many are sent to Ottawa for adoption. Although remember that the huskies, while beautiful, are high maintenance and not used to being kept inside. And the sled dogs are not pets, so don't even go there.

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

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

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

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

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

(Check the Free Shipping to Iqaluit group on Facebook. It's not that active now, but there's a decent list of sites with free or reasonable shipping, plus people will post updates on companies offering special deals. The list below is some of the standbys.)
1. Chapters and Amazon takes care of your books, DVDs and video games. Free shipping over $25 and only 5% tax makes this one of the best deals in Canada, especially when you take into account their online discounts.
2. An online drug store. They used to do free shipping to Nunavut, but that changed in 2011. I think it's still reasonable.
3. Canada Goose (you can't buy them online, but it does list retailers who will) and Woods Canada for arctic apparel.
4. Costco will sometimes offer free shipping across Canada on certain items. Worth poking around and seeing what you can find.
5. Apple and Dell both have free shipping to Nunavut. They are probably the two most popular computer brands in Nunavut.
6. MEC has good shipping and the quality is good, but be aware their cold weather is often not the best match for the environment up here.
7. The North Face has taken off in popularity the last year or so. I think they have free shipping if you spend a minimum amount.
7. Sealift if you want to try and order a year's worth of soup or toilet paper.
8. There are numerous clothing stores online. We're fond of TilleyLL Bean and Lands End, but please check carefully how much shipping will be, as it can vary from time to time and on the size of the order. Plus, remember than ordering from the US means you can get dinged with duty or customs, so be extra careful of that.
9. Future Shop was a joke for many years because of their ridiculous shipping rates. For example, asking $15 to ship a DVD. However, they've recently changed their shipping so that it's free if you spend more than $39. There are exceptions, such as large appliances and TV sets, but Future Shop is again worth taking a look at.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Listing calories

I was reading this article about outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg when I was reminded of something I saw in New York that I really liked - calorie counts on the menu. It's not on every menu; I've since learned that it only applies to companies that have 15 or more branches nationwide. Which cleans up some of the confusion I had when I was there. Because I thought it was such an awesome idea I wondered why all of them weren't doing it.

I tried very hard when in New York not to eat at franchises. I wanted to experience unique food when in New York. But the reality was that sometimes I needed wifi and McDonald's has free wifi. That meant buying something to justify spending 30 or 40 minutes in there. I might have gone for a treat that turned out to be a caloritic bomb, but thanks to having the calorie count on the items, I always tried to find the cheapest, and fewest calories, thing on the menu.

This editorial I found from the Economist, which is about a year old, talks a bit about what some of the fallout has been since New York brought in the law. At first blush it doesn't look like it's changed too many habits. But apparently when you drill down a bit, you can see some changes, both in terms of people's behaviour and the businesses behaviour. They don't want to be seen as only offering unhealthy choices, so they expand the options on the menu.

There have always been ideas to get people to eat healthier. I know there's been talk for years about adding a junk food tax, which I never thought was going to work. People would grumble, but they would still pay the extra money. It was just going to be a tax grab rather than a way to get people to eat healthier. I haven't seen the amount of soft drinks consumed go down any with the recycling tax levee that most have these days. Trying to punish people for the choices they make doesn't seem to work all that often.

But informing them of the consequences of the choices they make? Now that could work. It'll take time, but it'll get there, I think. Smoking isn't dead yet, but decades of information campaigns and restrictive laws have done considerable damage. With sugar and obesity the next big health crisis to fight, what's wrong with giving people information on how many calories they're consuming when they have a Big Mac?

It's an idea that's going beyond New York. You'll start to see it across the United States next year, which I obviously think is a good idea. So Canada's next, right?


One quick Google search to remind myself if I actually read that Health Minister (and Nunavut MP) Leona Aglukkaq opposed the idea pretty much confirmed it. Once you dig past the bafflegab, you'll read that no, the Government of Canada is not planning on doing this. Which shouldn't be that surprising, really. It's a government opposed to more regulations (see oil and gas, mining industries), that talks about it's concern for the food system and then cuts the budget for food inspectors. Also, the food industry in Canada doesn't want (I assume these were some of the same enlightened people who opposed banning smoking in bars and whatnot) and are talking vaguely about creating something "better" than what they have in the United States.

Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but it worked for me. Any time I look at a menu I'm normally trying to figure out which of about five different items I'm going to get. If I know what the calorie count is, it's going to influence my decision. Maybe I don't get the lowest calorie item, but maybe it persuades me to order something with fewer calories. Which is a good thing, right?

But back to Bloomberg for a moment. I'm sure if I was living in New York I'd have a more complicated view of the mayor. But I like this idea. I like the idea that he's taking on obesity. And I love the quote:

"If I finish my term in office … and have high approval ratings, then I wasted my last years in office. That high approval rating means you don’t upset anybody. High approval rating means you’re skiing down the slope and you never fall. Well, you’re skiing the baby slope, for goodness’ sakes. Go to a steeper slope. You always want to press, and you want to tackle the issues that are unpopular, that nobody else will go after."

Yeah, there are downsides to that attitude, but I still like the idea of it. I think he might have made an interesting president if he had ever taken the plunge.

Last Five
1. Love is a place - Metric
2. Long may your run - Neil Young*
3. Liar, cheater, loser - Colleen Power
4. The forty - Mark Bragg
5. Fantasize - Liz Phair

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


1. So the last sealift boat of the season sailed out of town earlier this week. I've heard there was supposed to be one more, but that they cancelled the sailing. I don't have that confirmed, but I can only imagine how frustrating that must be if you had stuff coming up on that boat. Your only option at this point is to get it flown up, which is not exactly a cheap option.

However, if you left stuff until this late to get it up here, well, you were taking a pretty big risk. Yes, the bay has been freezing later in recent years. The last couple it didn't really happen until the end of December/early January. But that's not the norm. And this year has all the feel of being a more normal year. I've already seen some "glaze" on the bay out there. Cathy thinks all the ice we had lurking around this summer kept the water colder than normal, meaning things are more likely to freeze. As good a theory as any. Plus, I know the waters around Arctic Bay are already freezing up. So I suspect our bay will be frozen by early/mid-November at the latest.

2. Last weekend was the annual Cape Dorset Print Sale. This was the seventh one we've attended and we managed to get two prints in all those years. Cathy and I have a basic rule when it comes to these prints, and artwork around the house (with the exception of the comic book art in the office), we both have to like it. So that should tell you something, that in all those years, there have only been two pieces we've agreed upon. We really don't have similar taste in art.

However, this year we found two prints we agreed on, both by Tim Pitsiulak. A couple of really nice whale prints. We liked the third one he had at the show, but agreed it was just too large. We already have two bloody huge Dorset prints on our walls. There's just no room for a third.

The way the Dorset auction works is like this - you go in, say I want to take part and then put your name on one half of the ticket; they give you the other half. About 45 minutes after the start of the show, once everyone has had a chance to walk around and look at the pieces, they start drawing names out of a hat. That's when the moaning and groaning begins as everyone starts lamenting the loss of the piece they wanted.

This year, they had two copies of each piece of artwork, which was unusual. Didn't make any difference to us, though. My name was drawn 45th and the two whales were long since gone at that point. To add insult to injury, Cathy's name was drawn dead last, somewhere in the 60s.

We could put our name in on the wait list to see if any other copies become available, but judging by the number of people rushing to get their name on the list for the whales, we didn't even bother. Still, nice to see Tim's work so much in demand. Next to Ashevak's always stellar pieces, his was the best artwork in this year's collection.

3. It occurs to me the blog is a bit of a mess because of just general neglect so I'll be trying to tidy it up this weekend. A new header, perhaps a new layout, a proper link to the new Tumblr. As well, the Nunavut blogger roll is pretty desperately out of date. If you're a Nunavut blogger and want to be included in the roll, please drop me a line. I'm not slighting you, I promise. I've just gotten very far behind on my Northern blog reading to the point where I'm sure who is out there anymore.

Last Five
1. In the neighbourhood - Tom Waits
2. Hollywood - Jenn Grant*
3. Rich girl - Hall & Oates
4. Summertime kitchen ballad - Josh Rouse
5. Twisted hair - Robbie Robertson

Monday, October 22, 2012

Real estate weirdness

Real estate is one of those things that makes my head want to explode. I guess it's because I never really grew up with it. I remember moving from a basement apartment to a townhouse when I was five, and then move to another nearby house when I was seven. And then that was it. Our house on Drake Crescent is where I grew up and lived well into my 20s. Hell, I even made appearances there in my 30s (not exactly proud of that, but such is life). The rest of my time was spent in apartments. I (well, we) did not buy our first home until I was 39 years old.

Now, a chunk of that was simply not having any money. I remember when I was working in Clarenville and living in a damp basement apartment where the rent was $400 a month and I still needed a roommate to help with the bills. But even then, I recognized there was something fundamentally looney tunes about the real estate market.

People who really couldn't afford to buy houses were going out and getting 35-year-mortgages (see, US housing bubble crash of '08) or banks were throwing money at people who clearly shouldn't be getting money. Or people would be a giddy over how much their house was now valued at. Which is lovely and all, but if you have to sell it, doesn't that mean you have to buy another house to live in, which will probably be just as expensive?

People get weird around houses. Cathy had to twist my arm, put me in a headlock and threaten other forms of torture to convince me to buy our current house back in '09. I wanted nothing to do with it. I really liked our apartment; it was downtown, close to everything, a five minute walk to school for her and had a great view of the bay. Plus I was between jobs and I'm the anti-handyman when it comes to repairing stuff, which I understand you have to do when buying a house. So why buy one?

As it turns out, she was right to pressure me. It's nice to have our own space, to not worry about producing too much noise, or having to endure any manner of weirdness from neighbours. I like having a spare bedroom for guests and another one to convert into an office. We still have a nice view and Cathy, it turns out, is quite the handyperson which prevents me from being put into situations where I accidentally wreck the house. So yes, I am man enough to admit that my wife was right and I was wrong. Getting the house, as insane an idea as it was back at the time, was the right move in the long-term.

But I guess once you own a house, the crazy bug can happen from time to time. And it goes beyond interior decorations (note: let wife do pretty much whatever she wants as long as I have my office). We found out one of our neighbours was having an open house over the weekend. And seeing as how their house, from the outside, is nearly identical to ours, well, curiosity got the better of us. Well, Cathy. I went to the gym and tried to figure out what was going on with curling.

When I came back, Cathy was still in a mild state of shock. The conclusion: their house was slightly smaller than ours, probably not as well lit in the living room and master bedroom, but still a pretty nice house. And, oh yeah, they were asking $100,000+ more than what we paid for our house three years ago.

Now several thoughts go through the brain at a time like that. The first is "Are they nuts?" The second is "Has Iqaluit's real estate market seriously gone that crazy in the past three years?" and finally "How cow, are we now rich?"

The answers are: Possibly, Possibly and No.

I mean, I wouldn't have put our place on the market for that much. Apparently I would have been wrong, although it's one thing to ask the price, quite another to get it. If the previous owners of our house has been looking for that much, we wouldn't be living in our place right now and would still be in our apartment downtown. But there's been weird things going on with housing in town this past year. Even with houses springing up like weeds on the Plateau Subdivision and aggressive expansion planned up there over the next few years, people have been having a hard time finding a house to buy. I know a couple of that have been looking for about six months without much luck.

So maybe there is something to asking that much.

But as for us being rich, well, no. Look, it's nice to think that in some distant future if we decide to leave Iqaluit that we won't take a loss selling the house, but that's about all that number is worth to us right now. It's an easy enough path into loopiness when you start obsessing over house prices. All I need for it do for me right now is to keep me warm and dry, be a place to keep my stuff, and not be a money pit. It is doing all of those things very well. It does not need to be a lottery ticket.

Last Five
1. You hung the moon - Elvis Costello
2. Dead in the water - David Gray*
3. Jet lag - Brendan Benson
4. Across the river (live) - Peter Gabriel
5. Knocked up - Kings of Leon