Saturday, August 16, 2014


So this is a milestone post that more than once over the last few years I never thought I would make it to. Blogger is telling me that this is my 2,000th post.

The blog start in Newfoundland in February 2005 as a way, if I recall, to write about some stuff the Express wouldn't let me. Probably politics. Always drove me nuts that I had a successful, award-winning political column with the Packet and that was viewed as something the Express wasn't interested in.

Still annoyed about that, apparently. So anyway....

Record show I wrote a whopping total of 10 posts and then the blog went fallow and probably would have remained that way, as so many blogs do, until it got a jump start when we moved to Iqaluit in August, 2005.

(Yes, our 9th anniversary of the move is coming up. No, I won't be writing about. Maybe when we hit 10 years.)

And then we were off. Like a few bloggers before me, and many afterwards, the blog became about trying to adapt to a very different lifestyle and culture than what I grew up with. It wasn't entirely about that. There were other things like politics, movies, geekiness, and hell even some curling thrown in there. Blogs that tend to be just about how odd Nunavut is, as a way of explaining things to friends and family down south don't tend to last long either.

I have no secret to my success on this thing. I just wrote. Between 206-2009 I wrote a lot, sometimes more than a post a day. And then since 2010 it's faded. I can't precisely explain why; it's a number of things.

First, it can be hard to write about certain topics. I love writing about politics, but it's a challenge. I'm now nine years removed from Newfoundland and people writing about the politics of a place where they don't live....well, that often doesn't go well. There are people in Newfoundland who wouldn't piss on Margaret Wente if she were on fire.

Without getting into too much detail, I'm not comfortable writing about federal politics, no matter what my union representative tells me. I think that's just being prudent.

As for Nunavut politics, I...dabble in it. But so much of it is also based in the culture and traditions of the Inuit. I've been here nine years, so at least there are people realize I'm not here for a contract, a quick few bucks and a story before heading back down south. But I still try and be aware that I am perhaps missing something from not being from here.

Although, and this is a separate post, some heads need to roll over this dump fire. Next municipal election is going to be ugly.

Once I get away from politics, well, I do track what tends to be read most often. You guys really don't like curling (no worries about that, I'm not curling this year. I need a break), you can be hit and miss on the travel stories, and the geek culture stuff, which I've considered shifting towards, tends to be hit and miss as well.

Anyway, I really did think about hitting 2,000 posts, dropping the mic and walking off stage. It's a good number. A lot of blogs don't publish that much.

But it feels...limiting. I might not be posting twice a day anymore, but there's still stuff  I want to say. I like posting when travelling. It reminds me of what's going on that day, so I can write travel pieces later, if I want. There are times when there is stuff that's pissing me that I want to write about (the dump fire will be coming shortly. One on social media is forthcoming as well). Or just something weird (I have an ode to travel shoes coming).

I just like the option. I'm a not bad writer. I should be writing more. I really do try, but shiny things (internet, comic books) distract me. So does work. And, you know, I have this lovely wife who is mostly pretty patient with me. And she's fun and cute and I should be spending more time with her too.

So many I write when I can.

So 2,000 blog posts. Took me about nine years. I figure I'll be about 65 by the time I hit 4,000. But hey, stranger things have happened....

Last Five
1. All along the watchtower (live) - U2
2. Jesus was an only son - Bruce Springsteen*
3. The Hispanola/Silver and Loyals March - The Chieftains
4. City of lakes - Matt Mays
5. Nobody girl - Ryan Adams

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Hawaii wrap-up

I’m actually back in Iqaluit as I write this, so let’s wrap up with a few comments about Hawaii, and even a couple things about our stop in Ottawa, before moving on to other things. Besides, judging by my traffic stats, I’m not exactly setting the world on fire with “What I did on my summer vacation”. Then again, traffic on the blog always slows down during the summer.
1.    I was just starting to get the hang of Maui when it was time to leave. Cathy and I have been vacationing together for about 12 years now. A lot of these vacations have tended to be go go go…Cathy wanted this one to be a bit more sit around and do nothing. That’s not something I’m great at. I tend to wake up and go “what are we going to do today?” and Cathy’s response was often “we could do nothing, you know.” I wasn’t great at it the first half of our time in Maui, but I was just starting to settle down into sloth when it was time to go. Oh well….

2.   Apparently we need to split vacation between mountains and ocean. If you were to ask what my favourite moments were, they would have been flying over the volcano, hiking around Volcano park and driving up Haleakalā and hanging out at the peak. Cathy would probably pick swimming with manta rays (admittedly, very cool) and relaxing on the beach. Keeping this in mind, next year’s tentative plans seem to be a jaunt into the Austrian Alps followed by a cruise around the Greek isles. Something for both of us.

3.   Hawaii also confirmed that I’m just not comfortable being in the ocean. Cathy found it both amusing/worrying any time I went in the water. I can’t swim well, despite swimming lessons. I just can’t relax in it. I call it an environment that is actively trying to kill me every time I get in it. Cathy thinks that’s a touch melodramatic, but then again, she’s part sea mammal anyway. I envy her comfort in the ocean. I’ll never have it.

4.   I also seem to have become a bit nervous in planes, which is annoying. Granted, we had two bumpy flights and the one from the Big Island to Maui verged on terrifying at moments (overheads popping open and people screaming from the turbulence). But even on the big jets, I have difficulty getting comfortable. I don’t know if it’s paranoia from my Copenhagen flight experience a few years ago, or if American airlines are just so spectacularly uncomfortable and cattle-like that I can’t relax, but it is frustrating. Honestly, the best flight I had on the vacation was with Air Canada from Toronto to L.A.

5.    Hawaii is expensive. And this is saying something because we normally laugh at prices when we go out. Living in Nunavut gives you a different perspective on what is expensive and what isn’t. But even we noticed that things weren’t cheap in Hawaii. But the thing that surprised us was that even things grown locally (coffee, pineapples) weren’t cheap. If you’re going, gear up your budget for it.

6.    Perhaps that’s why Hawaiians are so eager to go on vacation. We heard a lot of radio ads for trips to Las Vegas while we were there. Basically to have some fun, gamble and do your Christmas shopping. I guess you need to get away, even if that away is a tropical paradise.

7. It is a dangerous thing to let me into a supermarket in the US while on vacation. The plan in Maui was since we were staying at a condo, we would buy groceries and not eat out every meal as a way to save money. Except I got in Safeway and wanted to buy everything. There was so much food, and stuff I'd never seen before and I wanted it all. I think Cathy was getting ready to taze me at one point to try and get me under control.

8.    We ran into a huge number of Alaskan ex-pats living there. I guess that makes sense.

9.   I remain baffled why Hawaii hasn’t gone all in on alternative energy. Maybe they have, but it just didn’t seem evident. Hawaii has easy sources of solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy. The one thing they don’t have is oil and gas. So why not have significant alternative energy and actively encourage hybrid and electric cars and punish gas-powered cars and trucks. Most of the islands are small enough that hybrids and electrics make a lot of sense, but I saw few of them. It’s a little baffling to me.

10.   I’m no good at litre/gallon conversions, but Maui’s gas tended to be in the $4.50 a gallon range. Although, in an interesting twist, the cheapest gas on the island was right next to the airport…at a Costco. If I lived there I’d have a Costco card just for the gas. I’ve mocked people in Newfoundland who drive 30 minutes, wait in line for another 30 minutes, and burn a ton of gas, just to fill up at Costco and save three cents a litre. But in Maui it makes sense. At their gas bar I filled up at $4.04 a gallon. A Shell station right around the corner was charging $4.52. That’s insane.

11.   This was our first experiment with staying in condos on vacation instead of hotel rooms. Gotta say, we quite liked it. Yes, the one in Kailua Kona seemed like it was leftover as a set prop from Hawaii 5-0…the 70s version of the show, but it was fine. And the place in Kihei, Maui, was just spectacular.

12.   We never did a luau, which I sort of regret. We begged off on the Big Island, figuring we’d get one in Maui. But the one everyone agrees is the best was sold out six weeks in advance. They’re expensive, and there were food allergy concerns, but it might have been fun. Oh well, next time.

13.   And yeah, I can see going back there in a few years. The nice thing is we only did two islands. There are seven. And each island has its own vibe. So yeah, I could see going back and exploring a couple of the other islands in a few years. We liked Hawaii. I was concerned it was going to be so touristy that it would be a turn off. And yeah, Maui caters to tourists a lot more than the Big Island, but it wasn’t too bad. I think it helped that we didn’t stay in, and actively avoided, the big resort areas north of Lahania and south of Kihei.
And as for the couple of days in Ottawa, three things...
1. I think we fell in love with Fiat 500. It's what Enterprise gave us at the airport. That is a fun little car. I enjoyed zipping all over Ottawa for a few days in it. Yeah, it's small and I wouldn't want to be sitting in the back seat of the thing, but I like the car quite a bit. Cathy and I have had semi-joking conversations about getting one next summer. The main problem, I think, is not the extravagance of having a second car in a place like Iqaluit when we don't have kids, it's that we would both be fighting over who got to drive it.
2. I was curious about what kind of reception I would receive after arriving at Southways, given the racket I kicked up last time. As soon as I mentioned my name to the woman at the desk, the manager came zipping around the corner to let me know my coolers were fine and to have a chat with me. So that appears to be resolved. Although I thought they might put us in a nice room to make up for some of the hassles. Nope. One of the oldest rooms in the place in some pea soup green colour. Oh well. I guess all is not completely forgiven (and don't tell me hotel people can't be spitey to annoying guests. I'm friends with people in the industry. I know they do it...)
3. Finally, if you're in Ottawa and think "I need donuts" and your first thought is to go to Tim Hortons, smack yourself in the face hard and go to Suzq instead. Best donuts I've had since I was a kid and used to hit the bakery at Woolworths on Water Street. The Dirty Chocolate is especially wonderful, although the maple bacon (with real bacon) is fairly brilliant too.
If nothing else, I doubt I will be eating donuts from Tim Hortons anymore. It seems a waste when I could get some from there. If anyone is flying up from Ottawa to Iqaluit and wants to buy me a dozen, I will be your friend forever. Or at least until the donuts are gone...

Last Five
1. Butterfly song - Andy Stochansky
2. What makes you happy - Liz Phair*
3. Save me - The Donnas
4. Shakin' - The Dandy Warhols
5. Buffalo seven - Matthew Good

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Maui: Land of Car Sickness

Maui has many virtues going for it. The sunshine, the beaches, surfers, rainforests, extinct volcanoes…but my lasting memory of the island will be one of car sickness.
Ordinarily I only get car sick if I’m trying to read while in a moving car. Frustrating, but I’ve learned to adapt by not doing that thing. But Maui managed a new one my making me car sick while driving, not once, but three separate times. Let’s just say there are few straight lines in getting from Point A to Point B.
The first was by accident, and it’s a decision I will be paying the interest on for the rest of my marriage. Ever make a decision that disagreed with the option provided by your wife, realize it was the wrong one and have a vision of a conversation you’ll be replaying for decades to come? That’s what happened when, after enjoying a spectacular sunset just north of tourist hub of Lahaina, I decided to turn left when leaving the beach. Cathy advised turning right and retracing our path back to our condo. I was sure that left was faster. It would take us over the north-western part of Maui and, from a quick glance at the map, appeared to be a shorter distance.
What I had failed to take into consideration was that while it might look shorter, it was not the four-lane highway we had enjoyed earlier in the day. My option, Route 340, can generously be called a goat path in places. It’s not just that it’s a narrow two lane road filled with hills, valleys, twists and blind turns, it’s that it occasionally narrows to one lane, then to one gravel lane. Then one narrow gravel lane against the edge of a cliff with the Pacific Ocean below. Assuming we could see it, of course, as I was driving it at night. Occasionally traffic would come from the opposite direction. Just to make life more interesting.
It’s not the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s Top 10. I told locals what I did and they looked at me like I had a death wish. They avoid driving that road during the daytime. Driving it at night is insane. I look on the bright side. By driving it at night I was less able to see how close I was to driving the car off a cliff than if I’d done it during the day time.
After we finished, and survived, there was a McDonald’s. I pulled in, ordered something to drink (I forget what) and spent 15 minutes taking a lot of deep breaths and getting my hands to unclinch.
The second case of car sickness was at least during the day time and more pleasant. The Road to Hana ends up on a lot of lists as a Must-do if you’re in Hawaii. It ends up on a lot of bucket lists as something you should drive in your lifetime.
And it is spectacular. The scenery as you’re driving along the narrow and winding road is some of the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Just as long as you stop regularly and enjoy some of it. One of the smarter purchases we made was the audio guide Gypsy Guide to the Road to Hana for our iPhone. It’s a battery hog, but provides a ton of useful information about places to stop along the way, and some history of Maui. So we stopped at several spectacular waterfalls, botanical gardens, roadside food stops, beaches and parks along the way.
If you’re ever looking for proof that the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination” is true, then the Road to Hana is it. The actual community of Hana is barely worth the trip. It’s small and there isn’t much to do. We only spent a few minutes there before driving onwards to the Haleakala National Park a few miles later, with its “sacred” pools. They’re not sacred to Hawaiians, but to marketers, who very effectively sold the idea that tourists should travel there and spend money along the way. Instead of the crowded pools we spent a few hours hiking up the side of the volcano to Waimoku Falls.
It really is a beautiful drive, even with the 64 bridges and reported 620 curves (I didn’t count) during the 84 km drive from Hahului to Hana. The traffic is bad and yeah, I got a little nauseous by the end of the day. But unlike the first drive, this one was well worth it.
The final bout came courtesy of Haleakala National Park again. It’s a huge park, taking up more than 130 square kilometers. One day we did the lush tropical side, a couple of days later I drove to the summit of the extinct volcano that makes up the heart of the park.
Notice there was an I not a we in that last sentence. After two lots of winding roads and with her ears not really recovered from the ear-popping they got on the Big Island, Cathy opted for a day at the beach instead.
Yeah, I got a little nauseous driving to the summit, but it might have been the most fun drive of the trip. No cliffs, for one thing. The traffic wasn’t too bad. There are plenty of places as you’re climbing to the summit of Haleakala, which is an extinct volcano, to pull over and enjoy magnificent views. You get to drive through Maui’s Upcountry, which is a world different than the beaches and resorts of Lahania. As you’re driving up you pass cattle ranches and cowboys. Occasionally, you see a small horde of mountain bikers barreling down the mountain, apparently living out a dream/death wish (note, most did not bike up the mountain. There are companies that will bus you to the top and then guide you to the bottom of the mountain via bike. Bit of a cheat if you ask me).
The view from the summit of Haleakala can also make you giddy. Possibly it’s the lack of oxygen – you are at 10,000 feet – but on a reasonable clear day you can see the Big Island, about 50 miles or more away. The volcanic crater is huge, and you can hike it if you have the time. Apparently the sunrise from the summit is spectacular but I didn’t have it in me to get up at 4 am to start the drive.

I loved being on top of Haleakala. I was reluctant to leave...
Three very different road trips. They all made me a little nauseous, but hey, sometimes a little car sickness is worth it. Except for that Route 340 trip. That one is going to haunt me…
Last Five
1. Call me on your way back home (live) - Ryan Adams*
2. Slippery slopes - Jenny Lewis
3. Dear Prudence - The Beatles
4. Hold me now - Thompson Twins
5. It's hard to be a saint in the city (Live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band