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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

NYCC recap

I've been back a few days now and I'm still kind of processing New York and the comic con in particular. I've been looking forward to that trip, and the con, for a long time and I'm kind of sad it's over. I may get to the one in San Diego next summer (although tickets sell out in mere hours), but I'm always going to have a soft spot for NYCC. It was my first con back in 2008 and it was a blast. I wasn't sure if this one could meet those expectation, but they did. I had just as much fun at this one, which I find hard to believe.

Oh sure, there were frustrations. The crowds, especially on Saturday, were insane. My feet were murdering me, the behaviour of some people (especially the diehards trying to make a buck) was occasionally maddening, but that kind of crap only gets you down if you let it. Any time I got frustrated by that I normally paused, took a look around, and the good mood returned.

What is it that makes a comic con so much fun? For me, it's a chance to come out of the closet. I haven't really been in the geek closet that much the last few years. Been pretty obvious for those who know me. But I've never forgotten what it's like to love something that others looked down on and mocked. I've never forgotten riding the bus home and reading some of the small stack of comics while others on the bus chuckled or mocked.

Even among my circle of friends, many of whom are geeks, I'm the one who tends to be the most knowledgeable about comic books. But at this kind of event, I am not the most knowledgeable. Not even close. And it's great. It's the people, the conversations and the happiness that people have wandering around. People don't tend to judge what you love, because odds are you love something just as weird.

So yeah, maybe you're an adult walking around in a My Little Pony costume, but if you're walking around in a Booster Gold outfit, or carrying a bag of anime figures, or a big stack of comic books for an author to sign, who are you to judge? And most don't? They're there to have fun and to hang out with people who love the stuff they love. It's honestly one of the most positive feeling events I've ever been to.

So what were some of the highlights?

1. Meeting Herb Trimpe, who drew the very first comic book I ever bought, an issue of Godzilla, and telling him how basically the last 35 years of my life is his fault. Which he laughed at and said if it hadn't been him, it would have been someone else. He also did a Godzilla sketch for me.

2. Meeting George Perez, one of the absolute legends of the comic industry and getting him to do a sketch for me. He drew the first super-hero comic I ever bought (Fantastic Four #186). He's also amazingly friendly and chats at length when drawing. However, he also poses for photos, which I forgot at the time. So naturally I had to go back and get another sketch and pose for a photo this time.

3. Artist Alley as a whole was just fantastic. You walk up and down the asile, look at all the artwork and comics being sold by some well-known creators and ones just starting. I had great conversations with artists like Russ Braun (who was mortified when I pointed out he had the artwork for the last pages of the last issue of The Boys on display at his table, which I hadn't read yet, which kind of spoiled things, but I just laughed and said I would have found out long before the next paperback collection came out anyway), Amanda Conner, Cully Hamner (he drew Red which became a movie about two years ago. We discussed the awesomeness of Helen Mirren), Katie Cook, Amy Mebberson, Aaron Lopresti, Terry Dodson and others. I could have spent all four days of the con there talking to people.

4. The random conversations you strike up with people. While waiting to get into Artist Alley I chatted with about a half dozen guys with similar goals to mine - get in and get commissions from favourite artists. We compared notes, showed off previous sketches, talked shop. It was great. I ran into a couple of them throughout the con and we compared what we had managed to pick-up, which was cool.

I also chatted with a dad who was just there for his 13 year old son. He wasn't into comics at all, although his son loved Thief of Thieves and desperately wanted to get his issues signed. Dad didn't get it, but his son loved it and that was enough for him. "I could have easily dropped $150 today on some crap. Instead I'm here and it makes my son happy, so that's good with me." I told him he was a good dad for doing that, which he seemed to really appreciate.

There was the guy who worked for CGC, a company that certifies and grades comics. I consider them the anti-christ of comics, but this guy was nice enough. His job was simply to go around that con with different collectors and witness that the signatures they were getting were from the actual creators. I thought it was a bizarre job. He agreed. "I have a job walking around this con and witnessing people signing books and then saying 'Yeah, that's their signature'. And they pay me for it. God Bless America," he said with a grin.

5. Yeah, the cosplay (costume play) was pretty spectacular to watch. Some of the costumes were astonishingly good, some were astonishing bad and some were just plain weird. But if you ever got bored or tired, you simply found a place to sit down and just watch the con walk by you. Odds are someone in an interesting costumes would walk past shortly. For a few terrifying moments on Saturday I thought I forgot my camera. Thankfully I didn't and got some of my best pics of the weekend that day.

6. Graphic novels priced 50% off US cover or better and they never charged tax. 'nuff said.

7. Just walking around the tables and seeing what people were selling. I picked up a couple of figures (an Aardman Batman and a Hallmark Dark Knight Christmas ornament), t-shirts (I really regret not buying the Dr. Who shirt that featured an owl coming out of the Tardis), posters, video games, and god knows what else. The exhibition floor was huge and I didn't see the last of the tables until Sunday morning. If you wanted to spend lots of money, NYCC had plenty of ways to part the money from your wallet.

8. Oh yeah, being front row centre for a Ben Folds Five concert on Thursday. I've always liked Ben Folds, even if he occasionally comes across as a bit of an asshole. But that was a hell of a good show he put off on Thursday.

9. VIP pass. Thank god for it. I spent an extra $100 for it and it was worth every cent. It was the envy of people whenever they noticed it. It let me skip the massive line-up to get in every day, got me onto the floor of the show about 30 minutes early each day and gave me access to a lounge where I could store my coat and bags for free, where there were couches and chairs, free water and snacks and an ATM if I wanted it. It was an island of calm when the con started to get overwhelming.

Are there things I regret? Sure. I wish I had managed to get to more panels. I kept promising to, but I always seemed to be stuck somewhere else and unable to get back in time. I wished I could have gotten in for the Firefly presentation, but the line for that was unreal. I wish I could have met Stan Lee, who was there, but the line for that was equally unreal. And there's always a book I should have bought or an artist who I wished I could have gotten something from (Amanda Conner broke my heart early by saying she just didn't have the time to do commissions this con, which I understand, but I would have loved something from her).

But that's minor stuff. Look, if you ever have a chance to do one of these comic cons, you absolutely should. Not all of them are going to be as epic as NYCC. I saw a site claim that attendance for the four days was 116,000 people. The last San Diego Comic Con, the largest in North America, was around 130,000. They're big bloody events and not everyone can handle the crowds. But there are plenty of smaller ones and they're really worth it. As long as they're well organized, they tend to be a lot of fun.

I've mentioned photos...I took a lot during my week in New York. About 350. I'm not putting them all up on the blog. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you can see most of them there. For the rest, I'm taking another shot at Tumblr. You can find me at I've put some of the sketches I got at the con up there, and I'll be putting cosplay photos and some shots from around New York over the next few days. After that, the tumblr will be just a collection of photos I've taken up here, pics from people I like and various comic book art. There'll be no rhyme or reason to it, at least at the start.

Anyway, that's enough rambling for this evening. Next post will have nothing to do with New York or comics, I promise...

Last Five
1. Gilligan's Island Theme - Bowling For Soup
2. Follow - Repartee
3. Dark streets of London - The Pogues
4. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes - Paul Simon
5. Tell yer mama - Norah Jones

Friday, October 12, 2012

New York, Days 3-5

Been busy doing, you know, New York things the past few days, so no updates. But as my feet will start to openly revolt if I do anymore walking today, I'm heading back to the hotel shortly to slip into a coma. But before then, a few things from the past few days. Although I may be distracted in my recollections as I'm sitting in McDonald's listening to a bible group debating next to me.

1. Wednesday morning I decided to do my walk through Central Park as I'm not sure when I will next see green trees. May have overdone it as I entered the park at 107th Street and walked all the way to 59th. So 50 blocks of the park, while it was drizzling. Insane to you, perhaps, but glorious to me.

2. The plan after that was to go to MOMA. Their site says that although they open at 10:30, to avoid the crowds sometimes it's better to show up around 11:30. Which I did. Only to discover a line-up down the block...which was to get inside to get into the line to buy tickets. After that, there was the line for the coat and bag check. And finally, there was the line to get into the museum. So that plan went out the window.

3. Plan B was to hope on the subway and go down to the Village and wander around, which I did. Going to Canal Stree was probably a mistake, but if that's the only one I make this week, I'll be happy. And then I stumbled on a armer's market in Union Sqaure which made me very happy, even if I couldn't buy anything.

4. Thursday was the start of the con. Wasn't plannong on spending all day there, but I found a group of people all trying to rush to Artists' Alley like I was, so we hung out and chatted comics, which was fun. And shared tips, which artists were cool, which ones to avoid. And then there was the rush to get commissions. A lot of the artists get booked up quickly, so I was glad to get some of the people I wanted, even if a few (Amanda Conner and Terry Dodson), broke my heart by either saying they weren't doing commissions or by my not winning the lottery system set-up to determine who gets one of the 10 sketches being done.

5. The evening was a Ben Folds' Five concert at the con. Because of my pass (I have a VIP pass that I splurged on), I was literally front row centre. Which was kind of cool. Almost two hours of Ben Folds. The man can do a concert, even if I remain baffled so many women love his music ("Give me my money back, you bitch" is one of his songs, which the self-admitted "Worlds' biggest Ben Folds fan" standing next to me was belting out at the top of her lungs). Great show, though.

6. Today was about picking up some of the commissions and wandering the exhibition floor. The first day was relatively calm because only a few 4-day passes were old. Today it was crazy. Tomorrow will be total looney-tunes. Which is why I will only be getting a couple of books signed and then staying out of artists alley and the main hall. Because it will packed full of geeks losing their shit and all desperate to get the cool thing they want ahead of everyone else.

So that means I'll be hitting some panels and just wandering around outside with my camera, taking photos of people in costume. Much more fun and relaxing. I'll put photos either up on the blog or trying to resurrect my Tumblr.

7. But you know, it's a blast. Everyone should do a day at a comic con, even if you're not into comics. It's a fun vibe. Although I'm not sure if the number of scantily clad women I saw today was properly balanced by the number of topless guys who really should have been wearing more. Ah comic con, it giveth and it taketh away.

8. Right, I should go. The bible group is getting fiesty. Apparently someone was using her cell phone instead of listening to the Word.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

New York, Day 2

Patton Oswalt does the comedy bit about New York, a city that he's not exactly in love with, that I'm quite fond of. Basically, he says that New York transforms is skull into a cage, his brain into a rat and New York is a bit stick poking the rat through the bars all day long.

For the record, he's not exactly wrong. And he lives in LA, not exactly a quiet city. Now imagine landing here after living in Iqaluit. Yeah, Day 2 did quite the job on the senses. Let's take a moment to consider:

1. Smell - Well, for good or ill, New York does a number on them. Whether it's the urine on the way down to the subway, the occasional bathing optional person you run into while riding the subway or the smells coming out of all the restaurants, there's no shortage of things to cause the nose to freak out.

2. Sight - Times Square should all I need to say, but there are dozens of things every hour that give you pause. Like the Japanese guy in a powder blue tuxedo riding a bike, the guy where a pink jacket, pink capri pant and diamond earings on the subway or any other thing.

3. Hearing -  There is no quiet place in New York...not even in Central Park. Although I did get to experience my first cabby screaming profanities out a car window while leaning on his horn (not at me, I might add). It was a special moment.

4. Taste - I'm not a foodie and I'm more concerned with eating cheaply than anything else. But today I had my first decent cappacino, a marvelous chocolate chip cookie and a small bowl of proper macaroni and cheese. The stuff with some crunch on top and not that liquidy crap (hello, Patricia) that some like. And it was a quiet moment of happiness.

5. Touch - Not so much with touching, although New York does make me wish I had web shooters like Spider-Man, but instead of web fluid, it shot out hand sanatizier.

Even with being over-whelmed, it was a good day. I got the non-comic shopping portion done. I managed to go to FAO Schwartz and not buy anything, so someone call the pope about that miracle. I discovered I now wear a size large shirt, which is nice and my waist size is a 36, which is probably still a touch to large, but compared to before, I'll take it.

It was a good day. Tomorrow, the Museum of Modern Art, I may go up a tall building and my first comic book related event.

New York, Day 1

I tried posting last night and the McDonald's wifi at the post. So an abbreviated version of yesterday's events.

1. I'm staying in a hotel in the Upper West Side which is exactly the kind of hotel you get when you're trying to stay in Manhattan on the cheap. But it's clean and safe, and I'm out most mornings by 8 am and not getting back until late, so who cares what it looks like.

2. Left the hotel yesterday and immediately came upon an elderly Jewish lady chastizing her dog for the way in which it was trying to pee. So it didn't take me long to feel like I was in New York.

3. Shortly afterwards, found a store that has more fresh fruit than you would find in Iqaluit in a month and a great little bakery. So that's snacks for the comic con taken care of.

4. Took the train to the Staten Island ferry, which is one of the best deals in New York. For free, you go over to the island. Along the way, you get views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Libery. So that was pretty awesome.

5. When to the visit the World Trade Center site. Couldn't get into the memorial area because I didn't realize you needed advanced tickets. Still, it was ncie to visit. When I was there last time, more than four years ago, it was a whole in the ground. Now it's the tallest thing on the island, even if it isn't finished. And it still feels...sort of sacred. Commercially sacred, you understand, because it's still New York and people will find a way to make a buck, but it has an interesting vibe.

6. If only there was some place to buy a "I (heart) NY" t-shirt. There's a lost marketing opportunity.

7. Picked up discount tickets to see the Spider-Man musical. Got a ticket in the middle, row N. Spectacular seats, 50% regular price. Not bad at all.

8. Promptly got lost trying to get to Union Square, but the nice thing about New York is that even getting lost, there's still lots to see while you try to figure out where you are.

9. Went to Strand Bookstore. Realized I was in serious trouble. Realized I only have a limited amount of space and I'm going to comic con in a few days. Got out before things escelated.

10. Headed up to the David Letterman. Was told it was vitally, desperately important that I laugh. Hinted the fate of the free world might depend on it. Suspected the seats had ejector launch devices to hurl me from the theatre if I didn't laugh. David was pretty good, and Jack Hanny was surprisingly entertaining. Not often you can say you've seen Siberian tigers in a theatre in New York. I was in the second last row in the balacony, but still had a decent view. Didn't make it on TV, alas.

11. The Spider-Man musical was surprisingly good. And no fatalities. So there's that. It starts slow, but kicks into gear once Peter becomes Spider-Man. As a musical, it's mixed. Some very good numbers, some very meh ones. But as a visual experience, it's astonishing.

12. Spent an hour or two after the show hanging out in Times Square. If you're going to go there, why go in the middle of the day. You go at night.

And that's the day. Now to do some shopping, I think.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Pre-debate night

I have to work tomorrow evening, and it's proving to be a touch frustrating. It's not the working in the evening thing that bothers me (although I'm going to lose a night at the gym because of it), but because I can't do my full geek out on the presidential debate Wednesday evening.

Seriously, I had plans for this. I had a few friends I was going to invite over, I might have splurged on some popcorn (I think the last time I had popcorn was when I saw Brave this past summer. I miss it), fire up the iPad, stalking Facebook and Twitter for reaction while watching Obama and Romney have a go at each other.

Look, I love US presidential politics. I freaked out some Americans on the cruise by stating how much I love it, that most Canadians do, because it's the best spectator sport in the world. Hockey? Please. American football. No. Regular football....not really.

For pure high stake, big money, intense drama and, literally, the fate of the world riding on the decision, it's hard to beat what the Americans put out every four years. And this hasn't even been a particularly good election cycle, what with Mitt Romney shooting himself in the foot every five minutes during the month of September. I mean, I though John McCain had a bad month in 2008, but I think Romney might have just topped it.

Like most Canadians I'm pretty much in the bag for Obama at this point. Although this is a bit unusual. I try to keep an open mind and listen to as many sides as I can in politics. I didn't make up my mind who to vote for in the last Canadian election until I walked into the voting booth. Of course, all the political party options were pretty awful, which contributed to some of the confusion.

But Christ, there really is no alternative in the United States this year. I understand the frustration some people have with Obama and the economy, but you'd think most could see that he inherited the mess, that these things don't turn around on a dime and that things are starting to get better. Oh, and that he's been dealing with absolutist lunatics in Congress.

Plus, Romney has been a disaster. You don't know what he stands for, because he doesn't know what he stands for, other than wanting to be president. I think you need to keep some flexibility in your views and be willing to admit you're wrong and shift your position in the face of a good argument or overwhelming fact. But you get the feeling that Romney shifts because he thinks it's politically expedient, even if it's a dumb idea. He's spent way too much time catering to a Republican base that are...disconcerting.

I try to avoid terms like "lunatics", but when you're:
1. Against women's rights on things like birth control. And make statements about "legitimate rape."
2. Think that cutting taxes, increasing defence spending and wanting a balanced budget are completely doable.
3. Wanting to get mixed up in another war in the middle east.
4. Think climate change is a myth.
4. Have a tendency to believe in every half-assed conspiracy theory involving Obama that's up on the internet.

Then there's something wrong with your base. Deeply wrong. I can't empathize with them at all. They're just so wrong on so many things.

So yeah, I'm hoping for Obama to do some serious ass-kicking Wednesday night. I don't think it's going to happen just because of how these debates are set-up and structured. But he needs to win. Because as I like to remind my friends who rant and foam at the mouth about Harper, any perceived damage he does over the next four years can be pretty easily altered by the next government. It's just the nature of Canadian democracy.

Four years of Romney and a Republican congress...not sure how the rest of us are going to survive that.

Last Five
1. The broad majestic Shannon - The Pogues*
2. Maybe we should just go home - Joel Plaskett Emergency
3. Box hat - Beck
4. Shenandoah - Bruce Springsteen
5. The trawlerman's song - Mark Knopfler