Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Snow White? Part II

This is an example, albeit an extreme one, of what a snowbank in Salluit looked like yesterday. I kicked a little white patch on the bottom right hand corner for the purpose of contrast. Most of the dark matter is dust deposited during blizzards, but there is some vegetation mixed in.

I'd say that about 60% of the snow cover has disappeared, but we can expect little sheltered snow drifts to survive until the end of July. The sea ice is still in the bay, but should go out suddenly in about 3 weeks time (mid-June).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Snow White?

Nothing is more emblematic of purity than snow - clean, white, virginal snow. But at this time of year in the Arctic, snow is anything but white.

The dust and grime from the winter's winds which have blown over the snow for the past seven months are being revealed layer by layer, so that large smutty streaks of grey appear atop the receding snow drifts. On closer inspection, you will find mixed in with the dust very small brown leaves ripped from the arctic willow and other dwarf plants which hunker down low to the ground and lie dormant for many months awaiting a very brief growing season.

Around my manor, a crop of dog shit has seemingly pushed its way up through the snow and covers the area where the inappropriately-named Lucky lives out along side the house. This year's crop is too water-logged to rake or shovel clean yet, so I must wait for it to dry out a bit before cleaning out my own version of the Augean stables. Lucky now walks on tip toes.

In the south, spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, a dynamic period when new potential and possibilities abound. But where I live now it is a period when the sins of the previous winter come back to haunt me, having hidden themselves so well beneath a blanket of pure white snow.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Flywheel Day

Saturday morning has finally arrived, and I can divert my attention from my very onerous workload for the day and focus on changing the flywheel in my wife's truck, our only vehicle. Sadly, despite having recently changed the bendix on the starter (on my back in the snow), the truck won't start, and the application of the key just results in a lot of spinning.

I have no mechanical background, but necessity being the mother of initiative and having no commercial garages here I've been forced to learn, mostly by trial and error. I can now field strip a two-stroke snowmobile engine and put it back together again in less than 90 minutes, and the thing will usually start-up, as long as I haven't put the pistons in backwards.

The flywheel, though, is way beyond my meagre puttering skills as it involves pulling out the transmission. Ergo, I have had to hoof it for most of the last month, which generally hasn't been so bad since I've been on the road so much, but faced with at least 3 weeks in a row here, I am getting tired of lugging groceries back from the store on a daily basis.

I have been awaiting the return of Yuri, my friend working at the neighbouring mine, but he has decided to do a double rotation. But as luck would have it, a mechanic for the local airline is now in town and has agreed to help me (or, more accurately, agreed to let me help him) replace the flywheel. He has the unlikely name of Quentin McCallister, and I've already nicked him as McCaliper given his profession.

With any luck, the truck shall be resurrected in about 9 hours time, and I'll be mobile again. The wife, though, still has to walk.


Man, am I ever embarrassed!!! After removing the torsion bars, lowering the front suspension, taking out the drive shaft and a myriad of other greasy repair tasks it was revealed that the flywheel I was going to replace was in PRISTINE condition - just a problem with the starter. So what should have only been a half hour job maximum ended up being five hours of totally unnecessary work.

Quentin was not amused. He chased me out of the garage in a shower of box wrenches and metric sockets and told me, inter verba profanissima, to pick the truck back up later. I think I'll ask my wife to come along with me as protection - no one messes with my wife and lives to tell the tale. More later. Expect blood.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Steamy Simian Sex

The Darwin contraversy in the doltish little hamlet of Salluit is about to get restirred by yours truly.

Last week Salluit made headlines internationally by its outright banning of the theory of evolution in its high school curriculum, outdoing even the most insanely radical of court challenges in the United States which only sought to have creationism or intelligent design given equal billing with natural selection in American high schools.

By happy coincidence, and with a little help from my Uncle Terry, I came across this article speculating that humans and chimpanzees continued to have sex with each other for a million years after their evolutionary split.

[As a sidebar, I must voice my objection over the wording of this article's title: Men Mated with Chimps for 1M Years - it begs the question of who/what women were screwing over this period of time. Either that, or our ancestral females must have been really ugly compared to our simian relatives.]

So not only is Darwinism guilty of heresy by maintaining our descent from other primates, but this recent evidence suggests our Adam, and probably Eve, were into bestiality big time. This notion, once I circulate it here in Salluit, is certain to cause all sorts of mayhem, but what the hell - I've only been back from the south for two days and I'm already getting bored.

I am also requesting the Kinks' Apeman on the local FM station. Not that the lyrics would be understood, but I'd get a certain smug satisfaction from just doing it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Arockalypse Now!

I saw a clip on television of the Eurovision song contest winners - Lordi, a KISS-like band from Lapland in the north of Finland, and I thought to myself "no wonder Finland has one of the world's highest rates of alcoholism if this is the musical act which will represent their nation". But their entry Hard Rock Halleluja won this long-standing competition, previous winners of which have included Abba and Celine Dion.

My next thought was "Hmmm. . . just the band to bring over to my home town of Salluit", especially considering my previous post. I could propose it as a circumpolar exchange of indigenous peoples - Saami and Inuit. I could also suggest it is a new gospel group since the names of two of the members are "Lord" and "Amen".

But most of all I just want to get back at those narrow minded bastards who pretend that all is great in the world following their belief system while the bodies of their youth literally pile up in mounds.

Should I open a Paypal account for this?


Thanks to Dutch Bitch for including the Lordi video in her blog. I think half my town would believe they loosed the gates of Hell if they saw this. But the more I watch it, the stronger my resolve grows to bring them here is.

Friday, May 19, 2006

What A Way To Get Noticed

Well, my home town, Salluit, has finally hit the headlines across Canada. Was it because of some heroic exploit by one of its sons and daughters? - No. Was it due to some tragedy? - No. Was there a major meeting or event there? - No. So what was it?

In true Salluit style, it was the abysmally petty and incredibly stupid policies of the town's administrators which have garnered national attention. Apparently, our high school principal has reprimanded a teacher for teaching the accepted science curriculum of the province of Quebec and the regional Kativik School Board. His offense: to teach evolution to his students as required by his contract.

Before I go any further in my tirade, I should declare my religious affiliation: I am Christian but have respect for those of different beliefs. But what often masquerades as Christianity in many places in the Arctic bears no resemblance to mainstream Christian beliefs; rather, it is an adaptation of shamanism as practiced by Inuit for many milennia. And it is primarily being driven by the lunatic fringe of Christianity from the south.

When I first arrived in Salluit in 1987, some asshole of a Pentacostal preacher from the south incited the public to burn all cassette tapes and vinyl albums in a massive public bonfire. As well, at one of our many "Bible Studies", which are really old fashioned rivival meetings, one participant showed me gold dust from heaven which showered down upon those assembled - a cheap carnival trick.

As long as people keep their personal beliefs to themselves I really don't mind. But what really presses all of my buttons is the sheer hypocracy and selective reading of the Gospels. Molest children - let's cover it up. Misappropriate public funds - what the fuck it's only money. Assault someone - blame it on the victim or the influence of non-Inuit culture.

But let a teacher actually teach the accepted curriculum, let's screw him to the walls for offending some personal beliefs of the narrow-minded bigots in our town.

You want to teach creationism or intelligent design? My five children attend religion classes in school and Sunday school on the weekend for this purpose. You want to teach science and biology? Well, you have to discuss the theory of evolution and natural selection. You want to debate the differences, use some other class as a forum for this discussion.

I shall be returning to Salluit on Sunday (weather depending) and when I do I will be wearing a paper bag of shame over my head.

If any of you share my feelings and are aware of any organizations which would like to apply pressure on my community for this attrocity, please contact me by email.


My absence from the blogosphere this week has not been occasioned by a big blizzard, or stranding in some tiny, remote community, or alcohol-induced coma, or a run-in with polargriz, or getting lost looking for a sewage truck, or alien abduction. The truth of the matter is that I've been buzy in southern climes meeting with bureaucrats and partners all in an effort to improve Internet access for our residents.

Yes, this lowly scribe has been lumbering around Ottawa, somewhat overwhelmed by the residents of our nation's capital all of whom seem to have Blackberries, Palm Pilots and cell phones grafted to their hands. When I was last in Ottawa it was cigarettes, beer cans and joints at the ready, even in our House of Commons, but now with our change in governing parties, it appears that anything pleasurable has been ripped from the soul of the city by government decree. Even the hockey team, the Ottawa Senators, an exciting franchise to watch prior to our January election, have morphed into some pathetically boring group of funeral home directors.

As the photo above aptly illustrates, it's been nothing but grey skies since the Tories have come to power. Even the clock on the Peace Tower only runs backwards, and I understand there is a motion now on the floor of the Commons to have right turns only at all intersections.

So I have left the phenobarbitol atmosphere of Ottawa for Montreal, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a palpable joie de vivre, at least until May 31 when a smoking ban goes into effect at all bars and restaurants.

Oh the times! Oh the morals!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

I feel sheepish to have put up such a cheesy post on such an important day. But having my own mother as well as the mother of my children to lavish attention upon today, while I also edit 70-odd pages of gobble-di-gook for tomorrow morning before flying and driving 14 hours to Ottawa, I'm really pressed for time.

So call or visit your mother today and let them know you love them and are thankful for their care, guidance and (especially in my case) patience. And for those whose mothers are no longer on this plane of existence, honour their memory.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Baker's Dozen of Idiosyncrasies

Am I the only person in the world who:
  1. Travels with a GPS on board commercial aircraft so I can tell exactly where I am and how long it will take me to get to my destination?
  2. Takes a break every ten minutes or so when working on a project so I can pace back and forth just to consider it?
  3. Leaves the first drink untouched for over half an hour on those rare occasions I go into a bar?
  4. Loves winter and snow?
  5. Feels that conspiracy mongers are just pawns in an even greater conspiracy?
  6. Has never watched a single reality television show (except Junkyard Wars)?
  7. Can still recite the opening dialogue to The Prisoner?
  8. Thinks that Texas Hold'em is wuss game?
  9. Believes that the garbage can is the most important office and household organizing tool?
  10. Gives his dogs nicknames which mutate on a weekly basis?
  11. Eats peanut butter, lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches?
  12. Has solved the "Which came first: the chicken or the egg" conundrum?
  13. Can spoon feed himself horseradish straight from the jar?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Extremes Are Not Healthy

Yesterday I flew from the southernmost end of Quebec to its most northern point which is my home town, a distance of more than 1,200 air miles. My voyage also highlighted the extremes of climate too: Montreal is firmly into summer foliage while the north still struggles to break free from the grips of winter.

Unfortunately for me, the extremes of temperature (23 C (73 F) in Montreal but -9 C (16 F) at home) have taken their toll on my immune system. I awoke this morning with a cough rarely heard outside tuberculosis sanitoria and a face puffed up and ashen. Exacerbating this raunchy feeling is a sense of duty brought about by having to drag my furry arse into the office and take care of some emergencies, which always end up being others' rather than my own.

It's going to be a very long day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You Know Who Your Friends Are

No calls from family and friends, but the kind people at my favourite distillery always remember.

I'm heading to the airport in a few minutes for my homeward flights. See you all tomorrow.

Oh, by the way, vis à vis yesterday's post concerning gifts for the women folk, I figured you just can't go wrong with socks. But we'll see.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pointless Purchases

Every trip I take to Montreal, I am expected to bring back presents for each member of my family. This is in addition to the 50 pounds or so of assorted truck parts, alcohol and computer peripherals and supplies.

In the eyes of a northerner, Montreal is just one incredibly long strip mall. Back home, the range and variety of consumer goods is very limited, so any traveller to southern climes is expected to return laden with silks and spices like Marco Polo returning to Venice.

In a family predominated by females, it is not unexpected that the bulk of requests centre around clothing. My success rate in this sphere of purchasing has always been a dismal failure: wrong size, wrong style, wrong material, wrong colour, etc. But for some unfathomable reason, my wife and three daughters continue to burden me with requests for jeans, blouses, shoes and the like.

I've tried to get them to identify what they want on the Internet, hoping thereby to increase the odds of making the right purchase, but once inside the physical stores they NEVER have on the shelves what they display on line. And don't get me started on women's sizing - a size 10, say, can span the gamut from the petite to the elephantine. And what the hell is a medium? Why can't they just size in inches or centimeters or some other standard unit of measurement?

So today, my final day in the south, I will persevere with a deep-seated feeling of futility once again into the department stores to trade my hard-earned cash for a bunch of clothing I am certain will never be worn.

Note to Yuri: buy your own fucking underwear.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There's a Lesson in Here Somewhere

In my home town we have a LOT of dogs, mostly loose, usually friendly, but completely and utterly shameless.

Twice a year the females go into heat, and the town turns into a massive orgy of unbridled dog sex. On every street corner, in every yard, even under the houses the canine population of my village indulges vigourously in the pursuit of making more puppies.

Now I don't very much mind the actual sex part: it's usually over and done with in under a minute, and that is something I can identify with. It's the aftermath which disturbs me on a number of levels.

For those of you who haven't witnessed it, the two dogs in question become locked together for a considerable time. And they don't get stuck facing the same direction, but, as if struck by shame, stand opposed 180 degrees from each other with confused looks on their faces, barely acknowledging each other's presence. From time to time the female will nip at the male in a vain attempt to get him to move on and get about his normal doggy business. But nature has to run its course, and it will take a good five minutes before they are able to extricate themselves from this ignonimious circumstance.

Conventional wisdom has it that if you throw a bucket of water on them, they'll break free. My advice - don't. I once had a 30 lb labrador mix who got stuck in a 75 lb huskie. Inevitably, he got lodged in the female, and I began to worry about the jealous male dogs which started to circle him in his vulnerable condition in a very menacing manner. So I filled up a bucket with cold water and throw it at the connected canines. Well, the female took off across the snow, dragging my hapless dog on his back by his penis for at least a 100 metres before he finally became free.

But I digress - I'm just wondering what goes through a dog's mind when glued to another in this manner. They don't have the option of rolling over and falling asleep like all decent humans do, so they must be thinking of something.

I wonder what it is?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Measuring Up

Sorry about the sparse posting lately, but I've been on the road and am now in Montreal for a few days. I have plenty of spare time on my hands now - no job, no kids, no appointments - so I should be able to make up for the lost time.

Anyhoo, I struck me that the names of some famous scientists have become units of scientific measure. For example, electrical resistance in measured in ohms, after German scientist Georg Ohm. Similarly, atmospheric pressure is calculated in pascals, in honour of French mathematician Blaise Pascal. Other examples of this are newtons, volts, watts, and teslas.

Now I'm sure all of us are a little bit vain - after all, we are bloggers - and I was wondering, if a unit of measure could be named after you, what would it quantify? Here are some examples:
  • holmes, a unit of penile size (after John Holmes)
  • hilton, a unit of vacuum
  • jackson, a unit of skin colour
  • dolly, a unit of breast size
So let's see how you'd like your name to be immortalized.

Oh, a nanuk is the base unit for quantifying sauveness.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blogs and Intellectual Property

I received an email from a reader the other day pointing out that I had used a graphic from his website (a chart comparing monthly birth rates in the US and Canada with those of hockey players) without permission. He nicely reminded me that he had requested that use of all material on his site must be cited.

This put me in a bit of a quandry, not about his specific request, but borrowing photos and other data with crediting the source in general.

Certainly this individual had a valid point - the graph was the result of his research, and I know I'd feel the same way too if someone uploaded some of my academic or professional writing without acknowledgement.

On the other hand, if we credit every last fucking picture, inspiration, idea or meme we borrow to lighten up our otherwise dreary writings, every blog will end up looking like a term paper and read like one too. So where do we draw the line?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a FAQ on intellectual property as it could be applied to blogs. I find this raises more questions than it answers, especially whether or not you are transforming someone else's property or if you are exercising fair play in your usage of their materials.

So I am left to exercise my own judgement in this matter. The underlying concept I am applying is simply one of etiquette: if I use something from a site, I will credit it if it forms a central focus of my post. But if it is incidental, and only serves to reinforce my post or give it a bit of visual sexiness, it will be uploaded without citation. Jeez, if you really want to know the source all you have to do is click on the graphic it and it will lead you back to the originating website.

I will also give acknowledgment if I like you and feel like directing readers in your direction. I will never create the impression that I have created something if I have not. I always leave my email address for those readers wishing to contact me about my use of their materials.

But a blog is a personal journal, and I share it with you without expectation of pecuniary gain - only glory. So my advice is, if you don't want someone to use your materials in a blog, don't post them in the first place.

I'm sure you all have thought of this, so what're your views on the subject?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Should I Stay or Should I Go

I've got that Clash track on permanent loop in my mind this morning as I'm faced with a decision. Should I get on the airplane this morning with the weather like this at my destination and like this at my home town?

Those of you who followed my tribulations back in March when it took me seven whole frustrating days to finally return from my previous trip will understand my trepitations. For those of you not up on the many possible fuck-ups in Arctic air travel you can catch up here, here, and here.

You see, I have a trip lined up to go to the warmer climes of Montreal on Saturday, so I have to return home tomorrow. And I desperately need that trip out since my sanity is quickly dribbling out my ears and my tooth aches like hell. And to miss this opportunity to do some shopping and restauranting would be nothing short of a major disappointment.

So should I cool it or should I blow?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Are Women So Filthy?

I once knew a woman who was so disgusted at the microbe-laden mayhem of the women's washrooms at a local bar she used to post guards at the door of the men's facilities, wait until it was empty, and go in to do her thing in the relatively pristine environment of the men's cubicles.

The relative sloppiness of women's bathroom hygiene compared to men's is paralleled in my own home. The one toilet used exclusively by the four females in my house is awash in a sea of cosmetic products, spilled hair dyes, Kotex wrappers and at least three half-used toothpaste tubes per person. The boy's toilet, on the other hand, is much cleaner save for the fresh toilet paper rolls which never find their way onto the dispenser.

The next time you are staying at a hotel and meet a housekeeper, ask her who generally leaves the cleaner rooms: men or women? If you manage to get an answer rather than an uncomfortable smile at such a strange question the response will invariably be "men".

Conventional wisdom has it that men are slobs, and I do admit that females generally place a much higher premium on neatness when it comes to personal appearance. But in accomplishing this, women leave in their wake a trail of cast-off flotsam and jetsam especially in public places which they don't have to personally clean up afterwards.

So what's the explanation for this?

My House Needs to be Sucked

For those of you who have not been following this blog for long, it is important to realize that many of the public services we take for granted in most of the world simply do not exist in my part of the Arctic.

The taps in my house are not connected to an endless supply of water piped in underground: instead, I have a relatively small (about 1.5 days) supply of water stored in a plastic tank in my furnace room. Similarly, we have no sewers. All our waste waters from toilets, sinks, the washing machine and shower are stored in another plastic tank in the same room.

Adding fresh water and removing waste is done by municipally-operated trucks fitted with tanks. Clean water is pumped in, and sewage is sucked out. In this town there are 3 sewage trucks which service about 240 houses, but due to poor maintenance and incredibly shoddy driving, their ranks have been decimated and we are down to one lone vehicle. Consequently, our sewage tanks have been full since Saturday, which also means we have been without running water because a sensor on the sewage prevents the water pump from operating if full. And since the assholes in charge of municipal services in this town haven't figured out that they can take up the slack by running three shifts a day rather than one, this situation promises no improvement in the near future.

There is always a work-around for a no water situation: haul it in yourself, borrow from the neighbours, melting ice, etc. But what the fuck can you do when your sewage tank is full? My enthusiasm for do-it-yourself projects dissipates where siphoning off sewage into pails and carting them away (to who knows where) is involved.

So, we are now on to our third day without water. The toilets haven't been flushed in days and we need a gas mask in most parts of the house. Our kitchen counter is completely covered with food-encrusted pots, pans, juice glasses and the like. The dirty laundry is piled up in mounds in each of our five bedrooms, and is threatening to start marching out into the hallway. In short we are living in conditions rivaling those who live in the dumps of Rio de Janeiro or Mombai.

Our situation is not without its humourous aspects, at least from my vantage point. One of my teenage daughters decided on Sunday to dye her hair deep red without having first ascertained there was no water to rinse it out. Consequently, she now sports a wine red birthmark on her forehead, ear tips and down one cheek. To her credit, she bravely goes to school and hangs out with her friends despite this embarassment. To her discredit, she throws things at me everytime I call her Gorbachev.

So the next time you flush a toilet, think of me and flush it a second time out of solidarity with those less fortunate than you. Meanwhile, I think I'll take a crap on the front porch of the mayor's house. Every dark cloud should have its silver lining.

A 9:15 AM Update

I went driving around town to find the single working sewage truck, and where did I find it? Sucking the sewage out of the fucking mayor's house, that's where!! I feel like hijacking the truck later on and running the pump in reverse on his house. A pox on him.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A May First Modest Proposal

Happy May Day, International Worker's Day, Labor Day, or for those of you into paganism, Happy Beltane, Lei Day or May Pole Day.

On this side of the Atlantic, May 1st is an undistinguished day. No massive parade of military hardware, no wrapping of the May Pole, no public demonstration of international trade union solidarity, no performance of Morris Dancing - in short, May 1st in Canada is nothing short of a non-event, an un-happening, un jour comme tous les autres.

In most of the country, we have now managed to repel the worst of what Mother Nature could throw at us since November: snow, blizzards, ball-freezing temperatures, the recalling of Parliament and the like, although we up here in the Arctic we are still under her onslaught. So the thought has struck me that we Canadians deserve, more than any other area of the globe save Russia, a day to celebrate having survived winter.

Apart from the religious observance of Easter, we Canadians have been labouring our asses off since New Year's Day, with no end in sight until the May 24th weekend when we celebrate, in typically anachronistic and confused Canadian fashion, the 19th century birthday of a sovereign from another country.

So, in a triple salute to hard working Canadians, the end of winter and our national identity, I propose that May 1st be henceforth declared a statutory holiday: Curling Day.

I can picture it now as hordes of of pasty-skinned Canadians take to the streets with hearty cheers of "Hurry hard" and "Sweep sweep sweep". In nationally televised splendour live from the front lawn of Parliament Hill a symbolic last bonspiel would be staged. This pageant would rival anything North Korea could mount in its scope, colour and cultural relevance. A thousand member youth choir would sing a medley of Anne Murray songs, the girls gaily outfitted in plaid pleated skirts and the boys all wearing tams. This gala evening would culminate in the burning of a huge wicker man called the auld skip made entirely of curling brooms. Afterwards, those assembled would rush down to the Ottawa River at midnight and throw eight symbolic stones into its waters and recite "Draw to the button, draw to the button, bless us all with barley and mutton", thus ensuring fertility for this great nation of ours in the coming year.

Meanwhile, back in the towns, villages and hamlets of Canada crowds would assemble in a circle around two curling rocks, hold hands and discuss for hours how to best remove one and promote the other. And, in commemoration of the great Air Canada Silver Broom brawl of 1971 and the many spectators who fell there, the local detachment of the RCMP would march past in red serge with batons at the ready. All in all, a solemn and moving occasion.

So write your local Member of Parliament and demonstrate your support for Curling Day. Lord knows we deserve another holiday.