Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Away from Home

This week I am in Kuujjuaq, the teeming metropolis of Nunavik. Not only does it have three, count'em, three stores, but it has two bars as well.

My posts may be a little infrequent this week as I soak up the local culture.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thanks for Another Month of Gloom - Part the Second

I am writing this while the outside is stilled entombed in late winter darkness. In about half an hour, roughly 6:30 AM, I'll be able to make out the first glimmerings of day in the somewhat lighter shade of blue edging the mountain tops to the east. By 7:00 AM it will be first light, and although the sun won't have officially risen in theory for another half hour, it'll be bright enough to carry on your business outdoors without additional lighting.

Over the past twenty years I have become accustomed to the very long winter nights, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate daybreak psychologically, as a symbol of the banishment of evil and the renewal of human activity.

So why the fuck is the government of Canada, with the complicity of provincial governments, forcing us northern residents back into the sepulchral darkness of night for another hour commencing March 11?

This decision was taken, it appears, administratively. There was no public debate, and it seems to have passed under everyone's radar until the doom-and-gloom prognostications of another Y2K-type mass computer failure started to appear in the newspapers. So why is Canada changing its clocks when it will most probably result in more power consumption rather than less?

My googling of 2006 news articles points to a perceived necessity to synchronize our time zones with our major trading partner to the south. But this is complete bullshit. I mean, why enforce a north-south symmetry and do nothing with the east-west time differences?
In Canada, we have five time zones covering a differential of four-and-a-half hours. Yet no one bitches about having to wait in Toronto until noon to contact a company in Vancouver or Los Angeles. And what about overseas time differentials? They are, granted, a bit inconvenient, but if placing a buy order at closing time on the Tokyo Stock Exchange necessitates having to phone Japan at 1:00 AM Halifax time, you just do it, or get someone else to do it.

So why does north-south trump east-west? This brings me to the arse lickers of Satan - the ruling Conservative Party of Canada.

This timorous bunch of braindead morons decided to go along with the early daylight saving time switch out of fear hexing the trade relations with the US. They were fearful of causing a collapse of the maple syrup market because calls from US investors at 9:30 their time would go unanswered, causing panic among American investors. And in true Conservative form, there was a backroom decision.

So, to pander to a perceived mercantile need which doesn't even exist, the right-wing ranters of rabid rhetoric in Ottawa have plunged yours truly back into the night for another hour.


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thanks for Another Month of Gloom - An Intermezzo

Those Australians are quick off the mark. No sooner had I called on the US Government yesterday to ban all incandescent light bulbs if they really wanted to cut down on waste energy, than I see the Aussie's reacting to my clarion call of ecological reasoning within a single day.

Today (actually it was yesterday in Oz, but today here) their environment minister announced a ban on the egregiously over-consuming tungsten-filamented light bulb.

Since this was obviously a result of yesterday's post, I now consider my carbon footprint shrunk by some 4 million metric tonnes. Starting tonight, I will start selling off my greenhouse gas credits à la Kyoto to those unwilling to change their ways. A bottle of Laphroaig per tonne is the going rate.

Reasonable, I think.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Thanks for Another Month of Gloom - Part the First

Rant time. And I sense a two-post rant in the offing.

Last night I downloaded a few updates for my computer, one of which was a patch to ensure that the early switch to daylight saving time on March 11 won't bugger up my time-sensitive data. While watching the download progress bar nudge over millimeter by millimeter over the course of an hour, I had plenty of time to stew over this, the most favourite of my pet peeves.

Long-time readers will recall a post made about 10 months ago where I asserted that Daylight Saving Time was perhaps a capitalist plot. I am now certain of this.

The US Congress passed this legislation two years ago, justifying this chronometrical tinkering by asserting that it will decrease energy consumption. "People go to sleep in the evening" is the logical train of thought, "and by having more sunlight in the evening people will have less hours with the lights on in their houses".

Methinks this translates into "more hours to go out shopping at night".

Never mind that the savings at night, if any, will be largely offset by increased consumption in the morning. People don't go shopping before going to work in the early AM, so the retailers of America won't lose out on any sales.

I did a Google News Search on this issue, and found 576 articles in the past three days suggesting, without being too alarmist, that firmware clocks may not be all that easy to reset. A mini Y2K might be in the works, some say. So this exercise in manipulating time is not without risk. So why do it in the first place?

I checked an on-line ephemeris for Minneapolis (since DST will begin AFTER the vernal equinox now, and the further north you go, the shorter the days), and on March 10 the sun will rise at 6:35 AM and set at 6:12 PM. Add a half hour on either side for civil sunrise (taking into account twilight) and we can see that it will get light in the Twin Cities around 6:00 AM and dark around 6:45 PM. This sounds reasonable - lots of light for having breakfast and getting the kids ready for school in the morning and putting away the supper dishes in the evening before having to switch on the track lighting.

The next day, after DST is invoked, it will be bright around 7:00 AM and dark at 7:45 PM. Unlike the day before people will be fumbling for the light switch upon arising and I predict electrical consumption will actually go up. For shit's sake, if the US government wanted to effect a real change in electrical consumption they'd phase out incandescent bulbs over the next 3 years, but I guess that would be construed as unwarranted government interference in business.

The justified interference is when the government extends the daily shopping cycle by an extra hour. The captains and crew of the mercantile fleet must be kept happy.

Here's another thought: if we concentrated our efforts on renewable energy sources - hydro, solar, wind and the like - we wouldn't have to worry about large spikes and brown-outs so much. Energy can be stored by innovative means, such as the Dutch plan to cool the country's large refrigeration units by one degree at midnight when demand is low, and basically let it creep back to normal without running the compressors in morning when demand is higher.

Has anyone done some investigative journalism into who the lobby was behind this legislative move in Congress? I guess the press south of the 49th is too concerned with Britany's alopecia fetish.

Tomorrow, how the "arse-lickers of Satan" in Ottawa followed suit and have conspired to keep me in the dark even longer.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Select All, Copy, Paste

Select All, Copy, Paste. Select All, Copy, Paste. . .

Sorry about not posting for the past few days, but I've been working on a family project for my sister's 50th birthday fete. And in true Nanuk style, the project I've taken on has morphed into something so large that the party has been and gone already. Funny, it didn't seem so large when I started out. Deadlines - meh!

I thought, since my sister lives a good 1,300 miles to the south, that I'd put together a short cartoon using photos and adding legs and arms to them and then pasting them cel by cel into from Photoshop into Quicktime. Well, I've put together 39 seconds worth of MPEG4, which has taken about 15 hours so far. You see, I never figured that each second contains 25 frames, ergo around 1,000 cut and pastes.

Although my cartoon makes South Park look like something made by Max Fleischer, it isn't half bad. My character actually move around the screen, flap their wings and kick. So tonight I'll record the audio track with my family, and with any luck I can upload it to my sister come Monday.

Select All, Copy, Paste. Select All, Copy, Paste. Select All, Copy, Paste. Don't worry, I've only got another 300 frames to go. What's RSI anyways?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sonnet for Mrs. Nanuk

On the occasion of his wife's departure.
You hopped the plane early last Sunday morn
And left me sadly alone to face this day.
No choc'lates and roses and bearded seal fillet
Just empty bottles, barren thoughts and heart forelorn.

I curse your ear! - the one whose otic affliction
Has caused your removal from our blissful concord
And flung you south to a remote hospital ward
Where my ardent kisses are but a cruel fiction.

That portal through which my words of love once sped
Has failed. Whether t'was anvil or tympanic membrane
That did conspire and leave us parted in pain
It matters little now you have southward fled.

So this sonnet I've written to plant the idea
That I'll love you forever, right down to your cochlea.
I miss you this Valentine's Day. Come home soon, my dear.

Your Nanuk

Monday, February 12, 2007


Bannock is a staple of Inuit cooking (now there's an oxymoron!). Borrowed from Scots fur traders, it is an essential complement to tea and is ideal for a high-energy nibble. It tastes a bit like a scone, but with a heavy smack of lardy goodness.

It is also one of the simplest of recipes, consisting of flour, baking powder, lard, water and salt.

The trick is in the cooking. In northern Quebec, most bannock is heated in a frying pan on top the stove or baked in a frying pan in the oven. A "cake" is made about an inch thick and the diameter of the pan. The heat has to be just right or else you'll burn the exterior and have an uncooked centre.

Its popularity isn't just due to its simplicity and taste: it is just as easy to make in camp or outdoors on a Coleman stove (naptha, not the newfangled propane abominations) as at home. Moreover, it is high in carbohydrates, something you'll much appreciate when outside at -30º C. Speaking of which, being dryish it doesn't freeze solid, so it's easy to bite off a mouthful without fear of cracking a tooth even when it has been packed on a sled for a couple of days.

The ultimate high-carb bannock is inuluyaak* made primarily in the Hudson Bay communities of Puvirnituq and Inukjuak. Same ingredients but deep fried in melted lard. Definitely not for those of us watching our waistlines, but incredibly tasty and filling.

When I first moved north, I asked a woman for a recipe to make bannock. She laughed and said she'd show me, since it's one of those foods whose ingredients are eyeballed rather than measured. Just don't forget the salt.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Got a Spare Nose?

The last week-and-a-half have been a blowout. I have been laid low by a nasal cold the likes of which are unparalleled in the annals of snot. I have worn out at least three noses, and have had a kleenex so often on my schnoz that my forehead and cheeks have a contact rash.

Luckily, it has not affected my appetite, nor any aches and pains. But my sinuses were wriggling the Turkish Dance of the Damned beneath my skin and eyeballs and I half expected a living entity to burst through à la Alien.

But today I can report I am feeling much improved, and after having chipped the dried nasal droppings off the keyboard with a jack hammer and from the monitor by sandblasting I can summon enough energy to type this short update.

I may even have enough energy to prowl through this prohibitionist-blasted wasteland of a town looking for some liquid I can use to banish this damn cold once and for all. Keep your fingers crossed. And as always, send booze.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mussels and Shrimp

I realized yesterday's blogging would have been more interesting with photos.

So here is our dinner table tonight. Please note we usually don't use garbage bags as a table cloth, but it is much easier to clean up the shells and shrimp heads this way.

This is about mid-way through the meal, and you can get an idea of the carnage.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Arctic Winter Harvest

Mussels for supper tomorrow! Fresh mussels for supper tomorrow!!

Those of you who thought the moon module on the right is because I shape-shift into a polar bear every full moon - I want to tell you it has another purpose as well. The moon phase affects the tides, and the extent of the low tide affects the degree which mussels are exposed from their watery blanket. And now we have a full moon.

My wife just got back with a bucket from up the bay. There is an area there which almost never freezes over in winter, and for those willing to brave the cold you can go with a long rake and see what you can drag up. This mini polynya is caused by the combined effect of shallow water and tides, which go in and out do so with such speed that the water virtually never freezes over. I can only remember one winter in the past twenty where the hole closed up completely.

It is quite safe to go out on the ice at this time of year. I've even driven the truck over about 4 kilometres of landfast sea ice to get there. But I am not brave enough to pick mussels like they do in Kangiqsujuaq, about 130 kms east of here, where they crawl under the ice through holes created by the shifting tides. There's not enough money in the world to get me to do that. I've never heard of of anyone getting trapped or crushed, but I'm sure I'd be the first one.

But I do like mussels, especially steamed with a bit of garlic and bay leaf in the water. Since mussels are small and somewhat fidgety to eat, I find their consumption becomes almost as compulsive as eating pistachio nuts. I think the harder you have to work at eating your food, the more you get engrossed in the process.

However, unlike a lot of people up here who just dig right in, I prefer to soak mine overnight in some salted water so these bi-valves spit out most of the grit on the inside.

We have been saving a 5 kg box of prawns given as a gift by Makivik Corporation to each household in town as a much-appreciated Christmas gift. I have some pre-proofed French bread, a couple of sticks of garlic butter but alas no wine (or anything else worth drinking). Rest assured the shells will be flying tomorrow night.

Friday, February 02, 2007

CPAP blues

Yesterday I had severe sinus problems. Today, my nose is an angry red mess. Tomorrow, and for the next week, my nose will seem like in belongs to a leper as it sheds sheets of dead skin brought about from using a box and a half of Kleenex in less than a 24-hour period. And I fear having to consult Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon for rhinoplasty.

This has been happening a lot lately, three times in the last month and a half to be precise. And I think I now know why.

I have sleep apnea, and have been using a CPAP appliance for the last six years. I have never felt 100% comfortable with the mask which is fussy to wear and produces annoying little air leaks unless I lie certain ways. Now in October my respirologist upped the pressure to 14 inches of water, which means a force equivalent to a wind tunnel fan is blown up my nose for 8 hours a night. Recently, this has been exacerbated by the extremely dry air in the house caused by Arctic winter conditions.

The last time I went to a sleep lab, I was clocked at having an "event" (usually waking up) every 75 seconds. This means that without the CPAP device I never reach deep sleep, but bob in and out of REM sleep all night long. Although it is not unpleasant being in dream level sleep throughout the night, my body cannot get the restorative Delta-level sleep needed for good health. And my blood pressure increases.

So abandoning the CPAP therapy is not an option.

I have also experimented with a full face mask (covering both nose and mouth), but by breathing through my mouth I wake up in the morning with a mouth so dry that my inner cheeks are welded to my teeth. The respirologist also feels that the full mask is not as effective as one which just covers the nose, but at least I find it doesn't create sinuses so active that I can almost see them expand and contract underneath my skin.

I googled my symptoms, I can see I am not alone in this dilemma, and the one consistent anecdotal theme expressed by fellow sufferers is to use a heated humidifier attachment to the CPAP device. Having gone through 4 kleenex just to write this short post, I'm at the point I'd try just about anything.