Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sweet!

There's nothing like listening to Beethoven's 5th on a new 1000 watt sound system. Finally, I have a system that makes the floor shake. It is a fantastic recording as well...the 1962 recording by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

The first recording of a Beethoven symphony I remember owning was the Berlin Philharmonic's 1962 recording of the 9th Symphony.....back in the days of cassette players. That cassette has long since given up the ghost from wear and tear and likely over-playing to boot. So now I couldn't be happier to own a box set of all nine.

The other great recording I managed to get my hands on (finally!) was Glen Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations. I already have the 1981 recording but I had long sought the earlier recording since this is version that essentially launched Gould's career. The tempo of the 1955 recording is a bit faster and I expect I'll be listening to and comparing the two versions in the very near future.

For a classical music fanatic like myself, having these two recording gems in your collection is better than winning the lottery. If I didn't have to work, I'd likely listen to them all day tomorrow. Sometimes life is just sweet!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Keeping Busy

Now that we are into the "dark season" here, the big challenge during my non-working hours is to keep busy. This helps me cope with the long hours of darkness and on weekends, helps me from going "squirrel-ly".

The one thing I started doing Friday night (which explains the lack of recent posts) was sitting down and watching some DVDs on my laptop. I got the first three seasons of "CSI" on DVD last Christmas and I decided that now was a good time to sit down and check them out.

Usually when I sit down to start something new I tend to focus on it to the exclusion of other things. This is my fancy way of saying I managed to watch at least a dozen episodes from Season 1 almost continuously. I didn't think I'd get that "into" the show but now that I've started watching them I do find it a tad addictive. And I wouldn't really count myself as a TV-watching kind of person.

But at any rate, between CSI, a couple of good books I'm reading at the moment, Civilizations IV on my laptop and the new music CDs that just came in the mail today, it looks like I'll sail through the dark season with flying colours.

The other thing I'm looking forward to later this week is getting a new stereo system. I donated my old one to the table sale for student council on the weekend. I think it was the last major thing I owned from my time in Saskatchewan but it was getting old and I've been wanting to get a new system for some time so I can enjoy all my CDs in my slowly increasing library. I'd much rather fill the big hole on my tv stand with a decent sound system than with a TV. There are a couple of stereos I've been eyeing in the Northern store here so now I can't wait. Nothing too fancy but definitely a step up from what I have at the moment, which is nothing.

Hmmm...I wonder what I'll listen to first after I get it? Something from the box set of Schubert lieder I ordered at the beginning of the school year?......the Mahler symphonies I haven't gotten around to listening to yet? A little Chopin? Hmmmm.....I can't wait! Decisions, decisions...but enough to keep my little bean occupied for now.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Arrested!

.....okay, not really. It was all part of a fundraising effort on the part of our school's girls volleyball team. A popular way to raise money is to hold something called a "Jail-and-Bail". Basically, you enlist the help of the RCMP and go around the community "arresting" people. If you manage to come up with $10 or $20 toward whatever is being fund raised for (in this case, new uniforms), you are off the hook. If you are like me and carry little cash on you, it means you get a nice little ride in the back of the RCMP truck down to the detachment where you are "sentenced" to a little time in one of the two cells.

In my case, I was picked up for "being too loud" (students tell me I have a loud voice in class at times, just the way I talk I suppose, though outside of work I know I can be a bit of an introvert) and spent something like 12 minutes in jail. I've always found these events to be a lot of fun and the kids always know I'm more than willing to divulge the whereabouts of other teachers. (Oh I did see so-and-so at the Northern and I saw them heading home, so if you don't find them there, I'd check the school.)

We had our Meet the Creature night at the school earlier in the week and I left the school feeling quite positive. I easily had the biggest turn-out of parents in at least 4 years, which is always encouraging to see.

Tomorrow I am helping out with a Student Council fundraiser and I'm hoping to get in a good soccer practice Sunday afternoon with the boys. We've missed a few this week either because the gym was being used for other things or I had unexpected after school meetings to attend to.

It is getting colder temperature wise and may hit -30 over the weekend. I think my winter parka may make an appearance beginning tomorrow. This week I've pretty much walked to work in the dark and walked home in the dark. So the name of the game from now until Christmas is just to keep busy so your mind stays off the dark and cold preventing you from doing outdoor activities.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BRRRR.....

After a hectic afternoon yesterday with my grade 9 class, I consoled myself in the knowledge that its quite rare for me to have two crazy days in a row. I was confident heading into work this morning that today would be much more relaxed. Turns out it was even more relaxed than I could have imagined.

We ended up not having classes today and closing the school because the building was simply too cold to have classes. My room was only 12C but the prize goes to our high school English teacher, whose room rang in at a nippy 10C. Classes for high school students were put on hold until after lunch but then word came that classrooms in the primary end were also having heating problems so by 10am, word came down from on high that since it would likely take a full day for the building to warm up, all classes were cancelled for the day.

Inuujaq School is easily the largest structure in the community. It is mostly of wooden construction which doesn't strike me as being very energy efficient. You would think the powers that be would look into this as I cringe at the thought of how much it costs to heat the school over the course of the year. At any rate, I finished up a bit of work and am now back in my nice warm, more energy-efficient house.

On a brighter note, our boys' basketball team returned from their weekend tournament in Iqaluit with bronze medals. All in all not a bad showing considering Iqaluit, always a powerhouse in sports up here, had two teams in this tournament. The boys actually crushed the one Iqaluit team by a fairly large margin. So hats off to Harry and the boys for a splendid effort!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Promise is A Promise

Living up to a promise I made to my soccer team last weekend before their final game, I added a bit of color to my hair earlier this week. (I balked at the idea of coloring the moustache and goatee, probably not a good idea anyway) My intent was to dye it blonde as promised, however, the end result was more of a light brown. Just enough of a change so that I could say I was a man of my word and not too drastic as to freak out my parents when they see me at Christmas.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ice Ice Baby!

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally have ice on the bay. It had actually started forming about a week ago and I had intended to get some pictures of it then, but with last weekend's soccer tournament and mid-terms and preparing report cards this week, plus the fact that we have a pitch-black sky by the time I am able to leave the school in the afternoon, I had to wait a few extra days before finding the time. At any rate, this is Arctic Bay in mid-November.

These pictures were taken around 1:30pm in the afternoon. We are now into the "dark season". The sun won't appear again above the horizon until the first week of February. So this is what the 24-hour darkness looks like here this time of year. See, it's not really so scarey now is it?




Thursday, November 16, 2006

Additions To My Bookshelf

I found that I didn't get much free time during my stay in Iqaluit though I did manage to get to Arctic Ventures. Arctic Ventures is a large store (by Arctic Bay standards) selling all manner of groceries, electronics, clothing etc.. One of the reasons I appreciate this particular store is its selection of rare northern books. I never pass up the opportunity to pop in when I can to pick up a book or two for my own collection. I could spend hours looking over the shelves but I was chaperoning eight 12-13 year olds so my time was limited.

So what did I pick up?

"Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants", a biography of RCMP officer Harry Stallworthy by University of Saskatchewan professor William Barr. Stallworthy may not be as well known as Sam Steele (no relation to me), FJ Fitzgerald of the "Lost Patrol" or WJD Dempster but he did lead an interesting life patrolling in Chesterfield Inlet, upholding northern sovereignty sledging across Ellesmere Island and helping guard Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt while they visited Canada in 1944. I'm about a quarter of the way through so far and I'm finding it an enjoyable read.

I also picked up "Arctic Convoys: 1941-1945", by Richard Woodman, a history behind Allied re-supply efforts to Russia through the northern ports of Murmansk and Archangel. The history buff in me can't wait to crack this one open.

Also, "The Franklin Conspiracy" by Jeffrey Blair Latta. Much has been written about Franklin's ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage. What made me grab this one up off the shelf was the word "conspiracy" in the book title. I enjoy these types of historical mysteries. I'm not exactly sure what the conspiracy is but I guess I'll discover this soon enough.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 13, 2006

GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!






I hardly know what to say after this weekend except that it was one of the most thrilling events of my teaching and coaching career. We came close to not even getting down to Iqaluit because of a spell of bad weather out at Nanisivik. It was a tough competition and I can see how all teams are getting better from when we went last year. It was nice to see a number of players from other communities I had met at last year's tournament and I got to meet Jennifer from www.nunablog.ca who was coaching the Igloolik 15 and Under Girls team.

Our girls team picked up a bronze medal against some very tough competition. I was impressed with their grit and determination considering we had a number of girls that were 12 and 13 playing against girls a couple years older than them.

Our boys team really shined, picking up the gold in the 13 and Under division. We were one of the smallest communities there so really we were considered the under dogs. The competition was very strong from the other communities we faced. The final match against Cape Dorset was tied at two after regulation so we went through overtime, a shoot-out and then finally a sudden death shoot-out to decide it. The boys were absolutely ecstatic. The only thing I remember thinking as I flew off that stage was of how hard the boys had worked and now I was seeing the results of all that effort. They were up to the wee hours last night telling anyone who would listen about their big game. A few of them even slept with their gold medals around their necks last night.

When we arrived back in town, we had our banner out for all to see and were told that right after we had won and some of the boys had called home that people had gone on the local radio to spread the good news. Back in town, our rec. director had the gym set up with a stage and sound system. All the parents came to see the two teams. I introduced the team to the crowd and tried to express how proud I was of them without breaking down in tears. I managed to do this but just barely.

What makes this special for the community is that I was told this is the first time an Arctic Bay team had ever won a tournament like this. So our school has a grand total of one sports banner to hang in the school and I look forward to seeing more in the future. Tomorrow we start building again for next year.

All in all a fantastic weekend with gold medals to show off. Not too bad considering we almost didn't go.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Go

Unfortunately with the high winds and blowing snow we had last night and this morning our soccer teams were unable to fly out for Iqaluit. I felt pretty bad for the kids and there were many long faces. It was a quiet ride back into town. However, I got word late this afternoon that the plane will try again tomorrow. So here's hoping. Otherwise it looks like we'll have to wait until next year.

I spent a good chunk of the day on the phone trying to get in touch with our rec. director, a guy from Sport Nunavut, parents and students trying to figure out what was going to happen and letting people know what was going on. It took me a good long while trying to get in touch with our girls' coach who is already down in Iqaluit with a couple of players who left Tuesday because there weren't going to be enough seats on this morning's flight. Finally after a mere 8 hours of trying to track down a contact number and playing phone tag I was able to let her know about our plans for tomorrow.

The one bit of good news is that she will be able to pick up the boys' new soccer uniforms from the company we ordered from which will save us a huge headache since we will need to get them and I have no clue when the boys play their first game once we (hopefully) arrive at the high school. Fortunately tomorrow is a staff day and with this coming Monday being a stat day for Remembrance Day, I won't have the headache of prepping for a substitute.

Work has started in Arctic Bay on a new airport which is scheduled to be completed in 3 years. This new airport is much closer to town and unlike the one in Nanisivik, it will not be built on the top of a mountain. Hopefully this will cut down on the number of weather delays and accompanying frustrations. Unfortunately this won't help us much for tomorrow though I did remark to a few people I'd be more than willing to head out to the new airport site on weekends and work for free if it would make things go a little faster. Nah, better not. I'd make a lousy engineer. Math was never my strong suit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Would I Make A Pretty Blonde?

Well, I have now done all I can do to be ready for the soccer tournament. All that remains to be seen is whether the weather will cooperate so we can fly out in the morning. We had one last good practice after school today. I combined both the boys and girls teams and I made an announcement that we would challenge any other students who wanted to show up for a match. I was impressed by the number of kids that showed up since I had almost forgot to make an announcement about the challenge.

We had a number of spectators and a few teachers come and watch. Some students wanted the teachers to join in but as they said "You guys are too good." I found the game was a good stress-reliever for the week and certainly everyone had fun.

There will be 3 other teams in the boys' age division and I'm toying with the idea of telling them I will dye my hair blonde should they make it into the finals. That is our goal for this year. Last year we were beat out in the semis so team members that were part of last year's team would love to improve on that.

The boys are excited to pick up the new soccer uniforms in Iqaluit. I'm looking forward to picking them up too. Our student council would like to make school t-shirts or sweat shirts and I'll be able to look into this in more detail when I go to pick up our uniforms. So I can kill two birds with one stone here. Some student council members are keen on getting a student canteen up and running which is something I know was done in the past. They also mentioned having a prom at the end of the school year. I'd love if they were able to pull it off. I'm confident in the group we have. Although I'm sure I won't be doing much dancing at a prom. It's not pretty trust me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Soccer and Politics

Our soccer teams are pretty much set to barring any last minute glitches. I was over to the school this evening to put the cadet sleeping bags we will be borrowing into my classroom. Our ride out to the airport is all arranged now and we will be leaving the school at 7:15am Thursday......bright and early - dark and early actually.

I will be keeping my eye on the sky and watching the weather forecasts with religious fervour for the next couple days. So far it's looking okay. Our one coach and a couple players that had to leave on this morning's flight got out okay so now as long as Thursday's weather cooperates we'll be on our way.

The other competition I'm keeping tabs on tonight are the mid-term elections south of the border. I really shouldn't care as much as I do. Afterall it IS American politics. But when you think about, tonight's results will have an impact on the global community whether we like to admit it or not. Personally, I'm hoping for a Democratic sweep, though a work colleague told me this morning he predicts a Republican Senate and a Democratic House. I checked up on the results so far just before sitting down to do this post and it seems his prediction may come to pass. But it's still early.

I'm curious to see how FOX News (aka Republican Propaganda Channel) will spin the results should it end up being a Democratic sweep. Republicans kind of remind me of the netting on the boys' old soccer nets at the school - tired, old, full of holes and badly in need of being replaced.

Friday, November 03, 2006

TGIF

Well, I've finally made it through to Friday after a long week. I quipped today more than once that every day this week felt like a Monday. What I've found is that sometime between the start of the school year and Christmas you hit a wall. It gets colder and darker, attendence begins to dip, a few kids start acting up and you just hit a wall.

My first year of teaching in Fort Smith, it seemed "the wall" came on my second day in the classroom. A couple years later and it seemed late September/early October was the time of "the wall". I remind myself of this during long weeks. At least now it seems I have pushed "the wall" back into November which I suppose is a good thing.

Not that this week was a total wash-out for me. Some of my stress I know is self-imposed. I found that in the lead-up to our soccer tournament last year there were 101 details and last minute things to take care of but once I was actually in Iqaluit, we had a blast and I definitely wouldn't change that.

The most challenging thing for me at the moment is dealing with the one grade 9 class I teach in the afternoons. Its been 5 years since I've taught this grade so perhaps I'm just a bit rusty. They can be a handful at times and I know the other teachers that work with them also are facing the same challenges at the moment. I think what frustrates me the most is how the small minority of students who actually want to work are losing out. Losing out because I can't even keep some of the kids in the classroom to begin with and then some just want to wander around the class and cause disruption. This afternoon was the first time in almost 2 years I thought a student was going to punch me. Not that it would have done much damage. I'm at least a foot taller than this girl. But still, I find the outright defiance, insubordination and childishness a little much to bear with on a Friday. I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to deal with some of them for an entire school day instead of just a 40-minute afternoon period. The past couple days that class has felt like a 40 hour period.

We're going to nip it in the bud pretty soon. Several of my colleagues have reached the boiling point with them so there will be some big changes coming up soon. So I can calm myself down now and breathe a little.

Times like this I'm reminded of the e-mail my mother wrote me the other night. There was a bad fire back in my hometown. A couple young girls in grade 9 and 10 didn't make it out of their apartment. So I guess I really have no problems in the grand scheme of things.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Last Hurdle?

Hopefully after today we've cleared our last hurdle to get our soccer teams to the tournament in Iqaluit next weekend. I was told our flight times this morning. Most of us have to be out at the airport to catch an 8:30am flight. I say most of us because I learned from Sport Nunavut that the flight only had 14 seats for our two teams. We are sending a total of 15 players plus 2 coaches. The only way to get everyone to Iqaluit would be for 3 of us to head down a couple days early. So I had to figure this out and let Sport Nunavut know by the end of the day.

I spent the rest of the day hoping I had a couple players who had relatives they could stay with in Iqaluit since Sport Nunavut would not pay for hotel rooms for them. I also knew that I would be too busy to head down early with the two players since I will be in the middle of mid-terms early next week. Luckily the girls coach came to the rescue and was willing to travel down with the kids. We had a quick meeting after school to decide on the 2 players and then I called Sport Nunavut back with the names.

Now all I have to do is pack, wait for the sleeping bags we will be borrowing from the Cadet Corps to be dropped off at the school, slip in a few last practices, meet with the team to go over the rules and expectations of the coaches, hope that the boys uniforms we ordered get dropped off at the high school in Iqaluit by the company we ordered them from and arrange to get the players out to the airport for an early flight out. No sweat. Man, school teams traveling to tournaments in the South have it so easy. It's all worth it in the end though and I'm looking forward to watching the kids compete.