Monday, January 21, 2008

This Trick Has Lost Its Cuteness

My 10-month old labrador pup has figured out a way to open two doors and let himself outdoors. Now this newfound skill would be worth applauding, except for the fact that he doesn't close the doors after himself.

Saturday morning was a case in point. I came downstairs around 5:00 AM and nearly froze to the floor. He had left the doors agape and the temperature outdoors was below minus 30 Celsius. Upon closing the doors I thought, well, if he wants to freeze his soon-to-be-surgically-removed testicles off, that's fine by me - I might even save on his airfare and veterinary fees.

I went back to bed, only to be awoken at 7:30 by a banging on the doors. By the time I got downstairs I met a rime-coated black lab bouncing around, exulting in his prodigious accomplishment of not only letting himself out, but letting himself back in.

Here is what he does: we have latched doors which are opened by pressing down on the latch, which raises a lever and unhooks the door from the strike plate. He had figured out how to open the door which swings outwards when he was only about 4 months: he simply gets up on his hind legs and bangs away at the latch until the door swings open under his weight. But the second door which swings inward until recently defeated him - the pressure he exerted upon the door would always close it before he could get out.

Here is the new approach he employs on the tricky inward swinging door. He now stands up completely straight on his hind legs, looking like lion rampant emblem on the old heraldic coat of arms. He still pounds away on the latch faster than Gene Krupa, but tries to pull the latch towards him. As soon as the door opens a crack, he gets down on this side to paw or nose the door wide enough to escape.

Before you start thinking he is some kind of wunderhund, I must report he is abysmally dull in all other respects: you throw a frisbee at him and he doesn't budge until it hits the floor, whereupon he starts kicking it around - most undignified for a retrieving dog.

So, what to do? I can't let a hyperactive pup let himself out whenever the mood strikes. Not only does this consume a huge amount of heating oil, but up here, loose dogs are often shot. A keyed deadbolt is not feasible either, since we would need seven sets of keys, one for each family member. And a conventional round doorknob is not available in the requisite size up here.

Any suggestions?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Batten Down The Hatches

It was too good to last.

This winter, although colder than a gravedigger's arse, had been storm-free. But last evening the house we live in began to tremble, wisps of snow snaked down the streets, snowdrifts developed a surface coating of last year's vegetation, and I knew we were in for a good blow.

Now I like a good blow same as most men, but when the temperature is already at the bottom of the thermometer the cold sneaks in everywhere, through every stitch of your clothing, through every crack of your house (even through the walls), and into your soul. This storm is different though: not having much in the way of snow - we've had almost none all winter long - the visibility isn't zero/zero, more like 50 feet/zero. Had this been an average year you'd have difficulty in seeing the neighbour's house lights.

So I cut my outside dog free to find shelter, but checking up on him a few hours later I found him playing with the other local outside dogs. But at least he's moving around, and can find a sheltered niche somewhere should he want to lie down. I think next summer I will build him a dog house with an internal heat light so he'll be more comfortable. He's getting old now (12 years) and I notice he seems to be getting a little arthritic. I'll also store up some cardboard for the floor since it seems to have great insulating abilities.

The satellite television is basically unwatchable, since the wind not only deforms the dish but my house actually moves off satellite regularly. Internet seems to be working, but we have a very beefy dish and it would take more than a mere 100 kph wind to cause problems (touch wood and cross fingers).

In 10 days time I'll be going to warmer climes - Quebec City, Montreal and Ottawa - so in the meantime I'll just crawl under the covers, take some Dramamine for motion sickness, and hang on.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Something's Watching Me

For the past month or so, I have become acutely aware of the red eye of Mars glaring at me all night long. When I leave my office at 5:00 PM I see it start to rise in the east, the brightest, ruddiest and most ominous celestial object in the sky. Its presence will pursue me all night long.

We earthlings are apparently as close to Mars as we will get for another eight years, and to be honest it has been the first time in my life that I've been able to pick the planet out among other heavenly objects. Now it has become an obsession with me.

You would think that living in the Arctic and hundred of miles distant from any sources of pollution would make stargazing a national sport, but such is not the case. Light pollution abounds up here. If the moon is past the first quarter the light reflected off the snow allows only the brighter stars to be visible. Add to this the Northern Lights and all but the most brilliant stars are obliterated. So in the pristine Arctic, we end up with about as much of the night sky as visible as in a city park down south. I have never, for example, seen the Milky Way up here.

Lately I've been challenging some Inuit to name stars and constellations. So far, all I have learned is that Orion's belt is called the Three Racers, or something like that. But in the old days, travelling at night by dog team was not avoided on clear nights, and what we call Polaris or the North Star was used for directions. With the moonlight reflected on the snow landmarks could be recognized fairly easily as well.

But back to Mars. Each time I go out I am aware of its taunting gaze, seeming to assessing my strengths and finding me wanting. All night long it climbs a celestial ladder and by the time I go to sleep it is almost overhead. If I open my eyes while abed I can see it peering in through my bedroom window, omnipresent and ever-threatening, not to mention rude.

I just hope Mars gets hit by that huge asteroid at the end of the month, something it seems to have forgotten about because it spends all its time staring at me. A nice massive poke in the eye would be fitting pay-back.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ever Wanted To Get A Legal Name Change?

I mean, I'm very proud of my name, but every once in a while I want to pimp it up a notch. I don't mean by adding a few eyebrow-raising middle names, or doing away with any trace of your original name - simply taking most of your name up to the next level.

I read through a Fark link that some musician in Ohio went before a judge and had his name changed from the rather mundane Daniel Michael Miller to the psychedelic The Dan Miller Experience. Holy Haight-Ashbury, man, that's really far out!, man, and way past groovy.

So I've concocted a new meme, and you're all tagged. I want you to come up with at least one name change for yourself or your avatar per decade from the 1950s through to the new millennium. I'll kick off:
1950's - Frankie Nanuk and the One Season or The Nanukettes
1960's - Seals and Nanuk or The Loving Nanuks
1970's - Bruce Springstein and the Ashbury Nanuks or Nanuk and the Whalers
1980's - Nanuk Goes to Hollywood or Nanuk's Midnight Runners
1990's - Vanilla Ice feat. Nanuk or Porno for Nanuk
2000's - Nine Inch Nanuk or Nanuk's Chemical Romance
There, I've had at it - your turn now.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

A PSA from Nanuk

I don't know about you, but I kind of feel left out after seeing all the cool people in this 1970s advertisement. The lyricist certainly deserves a golf "clap" for this effort.

My apologies to those viewing this from my net, but the smaller files were pixelated beyond recognition. Footage found at

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Frigidology - An Intro Level Course

There's been no warming in our little corner of the globe recently.

This has been one of the colder winters I've experienced in my 20 plus years of living up in the Arctic. The lows at night are dipping into the minus 30s, and with even a bit of a breeze the windchill plummets to near minus 50. I don't think we've been above the freezing point since way back in October. Last night was so cold I set my husky free to warm up by running around all night. And considering the amount of garbage bags he "recycled" in front of our house, he was quite active.

Since many among my faithful readership have not yet had to cope with such temperatures yet, I think a frank discussion of a few of the more popular concepts about cold is in order.
When you relieve yourself outside at extremely low temperatures, your pee will freeze in mid air.
FALSE. USUALLY. Sure, if you pee out the door of an airplane flying at 5,000 feet it probably will be crystals by the time it hits the ground. But under normal urethra to ground ratios you will end up carving yellow holes into the snow. Actually, the real trick about peeing outside at cold temperatures is getting about 1" of extremely retracted organ to stick out through 2" of outerwear.

Things start to break at very cold temperatures.
TRUE. Around minus 35 metal gets really brittle, so unless you are careful it is easy to snap the head off a bolt. Most plastics fare no better: a 25 foot extension cord will try to snake itself back into a 4 foot snarl of coils. And forget about putting up Christmas lights when it gets frigid - better to start in July, the only month up here without snow.

The colder it gets, the less slippery ice becomes.
TRUE. USUALLY. It is actually a thin film of water caused by friction which makes ice so slippery. So it follows that the colder it gets, the less water will be produced by walking over it. The one exception is when I walk on ice - it is slippery no matter what the temperature.

After a really hot sauna, you can roll around in the snow for a few minutes without getting cold.
UNPROVEN. Someone else try it, not me.

Hell can actually freeze over.
TRUE. I can see the proof out my window right now.

Sound travels further in cold weather.
TRUE. UNFORTUNATELY. Now I could go into a lengthy explanation concernig relative air densities and humidity, but suffice it to say I can hear every freaking snowmobile whine up and down the four quarters of this burg. All freaking night long.
So I think I've touched the basics, but if any of you guys have any questions I'd be happy to answer them. In the meantime, be sure to button up - there's to end in sight.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ring Out The Old And Ring In The New

Happy 2008 everybody!!

The celebrations up here are a little subdued for me, feeling my age I guess. Generally I stayed in, cranked up the motorola and listened to the latest Bessie Smith 78 - Give me a pig foot, and a bottle of beer . . . I should have been so lucky.

Last night I managed to make it to the front steps of the community centre for the stroke of midnight. As in other years, our small town turns into a battle zone as rifles of all calibers are shot off into the sky. And at minus 35 Celsius, the sound cascading off buildings and the hills has an extra sharpness and crispness. Needless to say, all the dogs in town hide beneath the houses fearing a canine version of Armageddon.

This year someone seemed to have a near inexhaustible supply of roman candles, bright red hand-launched roman candles. And the were letting them off right in front of the community centre with a growing mass of midnight revelers. Now again this is probably a function of the extreme cold, and also a result of discharging the fireworks at a medium trajectory rather than straight up into the air, but none of the pyrotechnics had consumed itself before striking the ground. Indeed, some continued to burn bright crimson against the white snow for a good five seconds.

I saw a whole battery of them land on roofs of nearby building and I started to yell "incoming" if any trajectories seemed to be heading our way. The kids started chasing them until one was nearly hit, ending up arse over tea kettle in a cloud of bloody red smoke, a scene worthy of any Hollywood war movie. All the while the northern lights looked down, disapproving of our folly.

All ended peacefully, and the casualties were nil.

But as I look out over the town this morning - with nothing moving save the occasional dog doing border patrol on its patch of real estate - I assume there are many suffering the effects of last night.

Curse them!! All I had was a snifter of cheap madeira, but as a consequence I am able to make these observations without the slightest tremor or heave of nausea. Every dark cloud, I guess.

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