Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hungarian Highlights - Part 9 (Veszprem)

Link to Part 8

Considering that the Habsburgs blew up Veszprem's castle and that most of its Medieval-era building are no more, the city still had plenty of sites to hold my attention. I should add that while finding the hotel I wanted was a bit tricky with the hills, narrow streets and alleyways, it was definitely worth the effort.

Castle Hill

Heroes' Gate - built in the '30's but using 15th-century stones.

Bishop's Palace

Remnants of the Dominican Convent of St. Catherine

The Gothic/Baroque/Neoclassical Firewatch Tower

Trinity Column in the foreground. I believe the structure behind is the Gisella Chapel. (Gisella was Hungary's first Queen.)

The Old Town was graced with many Baroque-era mansions, many of which are now museums or banks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Weather, Be Kind

Assuming the weather cooperates I will be heading out tomorrow with my boys team to Iqaluit for a weekend tournament. We also have a couple girls teams hoping to get there. They were scheduled to fly out this morning but no plane was able to land. Apparently, for some reason, the runway wasn't plowed. So tomorrow the boys and I should fly out at 9am with the girls following on a second plane later in the afternoon. Getting to any major tournament from here involves a, 2400+ km flight down to Iqaluit (3 hours in both directions) and back so sometimes just getting there is a victory in itself. At times I miss do miss simply loading everyone into a big van for a 3-hour drive down to a neighboring school for a tourney as I was able to do in Saskatchewan a few years back. Ah, sweet simplicity.

I have a pretty young team this year and for at least half of them, this will be there first major sports tournament. We also picked up a new set of uniforms for this weekend's games so it would be a shame not to make it there. It is at these times though, that I try (with varying degrees of success) to adopt the Inuit perspective where you don't fret and stress over situations over which you have no control (ie the weather). It is simply wasted energy.

The weather had been looking pretty favorable all week but this morning the forecast calls for cloudy conditions and a 30% chance of snow. It will all depend on what the ceiling is like in the morning. Our airport out at Nanisivik is at elevation, if you recall from earlier posts. So while I'm a bit edgy about our chances, I remind myself that in the past 3 years, I've never had problems getting teams to tournaments due to weather. A couple years ago we came close to not being able to get out but then, as luck would have it, we made it and won a gold medal that year. So I'm taking that as a good sign.

Time To Vote.....Again

In case you haven't heard, Round 1 voting for the Canadian Blog Awards ends this coming Saturday, November 29. I've been nominated in the categories of "Best Local Blog" and "Best Personal Blog" so thank you to whoever nominated me. I was planning to vote for my choices late Friday so I could see the result of my polls. As it turns out though, I will be traveling down to Iqaluit early tomorrow morning for a weekend soccer tournament so I partook in a little advance voting. It would be great to have your vote and if not, I might toss a snowball in your general direction but you're always welcome to stop by. (see Darcy: shameless pandering for votes) Fellow northern bloggers can use my poll results as a guide if people are interested in some sort of bloc voting for our fellow nominees. I enjoy our Northern blogs as an interesting read. They are part autobiographical, part educational and always informative and I'd love to see at least one make it to the second round (see Darcy: excessive vote panderer).

Good luck to all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let's Put Things In Perspective Here

I'm not sure how much play the CBC story regarding the narwhal cull over in Pond Inlet is getting in the South. I can only read so much commentary (of increasing ignorance and hystericalness by the looks of things) before I start bleeding out of my ears. Perhaps a little perspective is in order.

10 000 casualties in the area of Long Point, Ontario alone? That seems like an awful lot. And this is only one small part of Ontario (and North America). People need to stop casting stones. It seems they should be focusing more on their driving habits instead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back Off Green Peace I Just Want To Eat

I was actually going to write about this issue after I returned from my upcoming trip to Iqaluit but yesterday's post actually helps me make a better point. The culled narwhals will be used, among other things, for food for the community of Pond Inlet. Maktaq (sp?), the skin and its underlying fatty layer, is an important food source that has been consumed by Inuit for countless generations. Having so many animals trapped in this situation, while unfortunate, does provide an opportunity for local Inuit to harvest a bonanza of "country food", and, more importantly, provides food security. The issue of food security is not something faced by the North alone. People in many other parts of Canada, including any large city, also face problems of attaining a nutritious and ample food supply. As this story demonstrates, the problem of food security will likely only grow worse given the rather gloomy economic forecasts I've been hearing about.

Food security is a challenge in the North due to a number of factors, many of which are not issues in the South, or at least not to the same extent. So if you think the situation is dicey in Toronto or Vancouver, face North my friend. I guarantee you it only gets worse as you start to walk in that direction. High transportation costs, food quality and safety, high food costs, weather conditions, an increasing dependency on Southern foods, remoteness, economic and employment troubles and the increased costs associated with wildlife harvesting - all these factor into food costs up here. I know this from personal experience all too well. In one community I once lived in, I paid a whopping $23.99 for a dozen large eggs. (I made sure those were some of the best omelets I ever made, believe me.) A small brick of cheese here in town will set you back $7-$8. The talk amongst colleagues last year centred around the $32 cartons of 1.89L orange juice at one of the local stores. If you visit any of the blogs on my sidebar and read back far enough, I guarantee you the author will have a post on high food costs in there somewhere.

Of course we do have a Food Mail program here which I do make use of from time to time, and Government of Nunavut positions include a Northern Allowance to offset the cost of living. But, while these might help make food more affordable, not everyone collects a Northern Allowance. All the order forms I've ever seen for Food Mail arrive by fax so I imagine it would be a challenge for unilingual speakers to place and order. Did I mention that the faxes we get at our school for Food Mail are in French? Even with these programs in place, its still nice to have lot of choice when it comes to food and we don't always get that here.

Anyhow, this is all to say that the issue of Food Security is a big challenge in Northern communities. I'm not sure that most Canadians fully grasp how much of a problem it can be to sustain an healthy and affordable diet. (Little did I know...and it didn't take long to realize that all my supposed "solutions" simply reflected my Southern biases of the time.) I'm in no way denying these aren't serious challenges elsewhere in the country but often they are magnified ten-fold up here. Keep all this in mind when you think about narwhal being harvested for country food.

(To further illustrate my point, we didn't get a plane in this morning due to unsettled weather up at Nanisivik so the store was out of bread.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Because Narwhals Just Aren't All Cute and Cuddly Like Baby Seals

Arctic Bay is not very far (relatively speaking for Nunavut) from the neighboring community of Pond Inlet, where, at the moment, there is a narwhal cull taking place. Funny, for all the stink Greenpeace raises during the Spring seal hunt, I don't see hide nor hair of them now. It must be the cold keeping them away I'm sure. It's much easier to throw stones from the warm confines of a southern metropolis than to, say, travel up here and help out. Or....maybe it's just that narwhals don't tug at the emotional heart strings in quite the same way that those adorable little white coats do.

Nah, it's got to be the weather.

Doors, Tournaments and Severed Heads

For a Monday, its been fairly uneventful. My front door is in the process of being replaced. Since Kendra has dubbed her old door a male, I'll call mine female. I'm not sure if I'll be able to top her story. (Although occasionally, I am known to write a little poetry.) Housing began work on it today (just the frame) so hopefully tomorrow my old door will be taken to wherever it is that retired doors go once they've outlived their usefulness. I believe our building is about 6 years old so with all the settling and shifting of the ground, my door and frame, while not nearly as bad as Kendra's, could use a little face lift.

I've had a few posts in mind lately on some Northern issues but they may have to wait until after I return from next weekend's soccer tournament in Iqaluit. Speaking of the tournament, I pretty much have all the grunt work out of the way for it. I love the competition and the gamesmanship though in the past I've probably put a little more (admittedly self-induced) stress on myself than was probably warranted. But we you consider that we are undertaking a 2400+ km round trip to play I'm sure I can be cut a little slack. I just want to make sure all the "T"'s are crossed and all the "I"'s are dotted.

And of course, go vote for your favorite blogs at the Canadian Blog Awards. I see I've forgotten to add a couple blogs I my poll so my apologies. One of these is a blog I've known about and read about for awhile now. Oops. As Townie is one of the Godfathers of the Nunavut blogging world, I can only hope I don't wake up to find a severed polar bear head in bed with me. Time will tell.

Congrats on your win last night Cole! 12-4-3 so far this season. Not too shabby!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Exactly Is The "Arctic"?

In some ways it is very easy to define where I live and in other ways it can be difficult. "So where exactly do you live again?" I get asked.
"Up in the Arctic."
"Up North."
"North of the Arctic Circle."
"The North coast of Baffin Island."

These are all typical responses depending on the questioner's level of familiarity with "The North".

Defining where I live, the place I call home, is a tricky thing. There are so many many ways of delineating Canada's northern region, usually based on average yearly temperature, permafrost, vegetation, geo-politics, the tree-line or the Arctic Circle. These factors don't always correspond with each other. For example if you define the Arctic as "those areas of Canada lying North of the Arctic Circle (66.33 degrees N), then Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories (68.36 degree N) is clearly in the Arctic; Iqaluit, Nunavut (63.44 degrees N) is not. HOWEVER, if you choose to define Arctic as "those areas lying above the treeline" THEN the situation is reversed. Inuvik sits just on the edge of the treeline (just like Churchill, Manitoba, I might add) while Iqaluit, on the barren rock of Baffin Island is not Arctic by this definition. Clearly, by pretty much every definition, you choose, Arctic Bay is in the Arctic. It gets a little trickier for a few other places.

The Arctic can also be defined as "those areas where the average July temperature is below 10C/50F." I'm no geographer, but as I understand it, this line, the July Isotherm, is not static, but constantly shifting. The Arctic region is also a region of permafrost, areas where the ground remains frozen the full length of the year. That is certainly the case here where I live. I would assume that the permafrost line, also difficult to define, would correspond roughly to that "July Isotherm". I have lived in places though (like northern Manitoba), where there are areas of "discontinuous permafrost", or small pockets of it, depending on the rock and water levels beneath the surface. And to put a further twist on things, Nunavut is not entirely devoid of trees. The tree-line cuts down through the extreme south-west part of the territory near Arviat. Baffin Island, even to my amazement, since I lived here for 3 years before seeing one, even has trees. A few scattered areas support the Arctic Willow, a very small vine-like tree, that closely hugs the ground, usually near rocky outcroppings where it can pick up reflected heat from the sun in order to survive. But Arctic Bay is still well above the tree-line, even though the exact distance escapes me at the moment. (The airport out at Nanisivik which services our town for the time being is 1233km north of Iqaluit as the crow flies.)

Of course, many people also use the term "North". For most Canadians, the North begins at the 60th parallel. This is pretty convenient definition and I've often used it myself even though it is not very accurate. As, an aside, I lived for a brief time in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, hugging the 60th parallel, which forms the northern border of Alberta. For the most part, the road leading out of town follows the border more or less. And while it was pretty neat to walk across the road several times and cross the imaginary threshold between what many see as "North" and "South", the novelty of it wore off after awhile. Crossing the road became just a way, the only way actually, to get to Wood Buffalo National Park. I never really felt as though I was crossing between between two worlds: North and South. It is a purely man-made construct in many ways. (And, not to get totally off topic here, but I remember as a child growing up in Southern Ontario, thinking the "North" began somewhere just outside of North Bay, Ontario. Clearly my definition has changed somewhat over the past 25-odd years.)

So what is my point with all this? I suppose one of the things that attracts me to the "North"/"Arctic" is how diverse the place is. It is hardly a monolith. In some ways I can describe or define this place and in other ways I cannot. Perhaps I can draw an analogy here to marriage (even though I am not married), in the sense that, part of the attraction is a familiarity but also a sense of wonder upon making new discoveries that continues to grow and enrich you over a lifetime.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And The Northern Nominees For The Canadian Blog Awards Are...

Just a reminder that the deadline for nominations for the Canadian Blog Awards is today. Round one voting begins tomorrow and runs until November 29. To give us the best chance of seeing a northern blog make it to the next round, I've created a number of polls on my sidebar of all the Northern nominees. My techie skills leave a little (ok, a lot) to be desired so I was thinking if people vote for their favorite nominee in each category over the coming week and then check back at the end of the voting period on November 29, this should give an idea of who is the strongest candidate is. I'm not trying to tell anyone who to vote for but I that this way we might prevent some vote splitting and give us a chance due to our small populations.

And just a friendly suggestion if northern bloggers are ok with it - Since there were a few categories with only one nominee, my suggestion would be to vote for that person's blog in the first round of voting. Those blogs would be -

Best Blog Post
Levi Johnson's 2008 so far..." by Townie Bastard

Best Blog Post Series
Being David Hasselhoff Contest from Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills

Best Cultural/Entertainment Blog
Townie Bastard

So go vote. Vote now.

NOTE - I will likely be away from my blog Nov. 29 since I should be down in Iqaluit for a sports tournament but I will do my best to follow up on my polls when I get back should some of our nominees get to the second round.

Ok, NOW go vote.

Canadian Blog Award Nominations

A little while back I mentioned the Canadian Blog Awards. Nominations are now closed and voting starts tomorrow. Now, I think there are some wonderful blogs out there, specifically Northern blogs. Unfortunately, due to our small population here it can be a challenge to make your vote count (see Canadian Federal Elections: Ontario decides). my own small way I'd like to highlight those northern blogs that picked up nominations to give them a bit more exposure.

(My apologies in advance if I've missed any nominees...there may be a few URL's I'm unfamiliar with and there are many nominees and I can only sit in front of a computer screen for so long)

Here no particular order...

Nominees for Best Blog

The House and Other Arctic Musings
Townie Bastard
Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills

Best Blog Post

Levi Johnston's 2008 so far..." by Townie Bastard

Best Blog Post Series

Being David Hasselhoff Contest from Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills

Best Cultural/Entertainment Blog

Townie Bastard

Best Family Blog

Dispatches From The Failed Mommies Club
The Adventures of Matt, Kara and Baby Hunter in Faro, Yukon
Just Below 63

Best Local Blog

The House and Other Arctic Musings
Tales From The Arctic
Way Way Up (blush)
Jen Of Nunavut
The Adventures of Matt, Kara and Baby Hunter in Faro, Yukon

Best Personal Blog

Dispatches From The Failed Mommies Club
Way Way Up (blush...again)
Jen Of Nunavut

Best Photo/Art Blog

The House and Other Arctic Musings
Kluganoch Corner
Inuvik Phil

Best Professional/Career Blog

Habeas Corpus Under Aurora Borealis
Tales From The Arctic

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Connected Students

As I had suspected it turns out I teach the niece of our new Premier. I am also taking one of the Premier's nephews down to Iqaluit next weekend for a soccer tournament. Small world.

This picture really has nothing to do with the Premier or soccer. I just think it's a unique thing to be able to walk into the classroom next to mine and see a giant piece of whale spine. Just thought I'd share.

I have also been fighting an urge over the past several days to rant about a frustration I see with soccer and organized sports in the territory generally. But seeing as I'd be flinging the vitriol around with pretty wild abandon, its probably best that I focus on other things instead. Sorry for the tease.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Man, That's Some Suction!**

The strangest thing just happened. Now, I've been in the North a little over eight years and I've seen some weird things and heard some even weirder stories. The sewage truck just came....funny enough just as it is. Normal "sucking sewage out of your tank" sounds occur. THEN, for some reason know only perhaps to the sewage gods, the toilet starts emitting a very odd sound, difficult to describe. The suction from that sewage truck must be surely something. Not only did the truck suck all the "Yuck" from the tank, but it also sucked all the water out of the pipe leading to the porcelain throne and then, not yet satiated, all the water in the toilet bowl as well. Yup, I opened the toilet lid just in time to see the last of the water disappear down the toilet. Perhaps you had to be there to witness it, but it was pretty darn funny. I'm sure there is more than one joke in this that probably shouldn't see the light of day on this blog. It was just plain funny as........

** Yes, I know the title is perhaps a bit suggestive but I've been laughing so hard at what I just saw that I am incapable at the moment at coming up with anything better. Mea Culpa.

New Cabinetry

Nunavut's new Premier and Cabinet have now been sworn in. Premier Aariak (did I mention she's originally from Arctic Bay?) and the other MLA's met late last week to select a Cabinet. The Premier then assigned the portfolios which were revealed today. Here's the rundown without comment other than to say that some of my predictions were accurate while others were way off.

Eva Aariak - Premier; Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs; Status of Women.

Keith Peterson - Finance; Health

Louis Tapardjuk - Culture, Language, Elders and Youth (aka CLEY); Justice; House Leader

Hunter Tootoo - Education (aka my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss); Nunavut Housing Corp.

Lorne Kusugak - Government and Community Services; Energy; Qulliq Energy Corp.

Peter Taptuna - Deputy Premier; Economic Development and Transportation; Nunavut Business Credit Corp.; Nunavut Development Corp. and Mines

Daniel Shewchuk - Environment; Human Resources

Expect a little bit of cabinet shuffling next month. One final Minister will be assigned Cabinet responsibilities following a December 15 byelection.

"Truly, the Spark of divine genius resides in this Schubert!"

Out of all the composers I have been exposed to, Franz Schubert is probably the one I can most relate to on a personal level. He was a teacher for a spell, played piano, idolized Beethoven and was a quiet and introspective personality type just like me. Today marks the 180th anniversary of his death. Along with Beethoven, Schubert sat at the pinnacle of the Viennese Classical School of composers. And he wrote a lot of music considering he only lived 31 years. He didn't fare well with his dramatic works but it was his symphonies and in particular his lieder and song cycles, that the man's genius really shone through. The first lied I ever heard of Schubert's was a recording of "Der Erlkonig" by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau back while I was still in high school. I now have in my library a full recording of all Schubert's lieder. The box set includes a recording of "Erlkonig" along with a few recordings of the Goethe poem set by other composers - Zelter, Lowe, Ludwig Spohr. Now I know we all remember these guys. Come on now! While these are interesting settings of Goethe's poem, Schubert's version is just vastly superior to me. (playing all those repeated bass notes is one of the more unique ways of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.)

As for his symphonies, any child of the '80s that remembers the cartoon "The Smurfs" will recognize the opening theme song of the show as the first few lines from the first movement of his "Unfinished Symphony". And why "Unfinished"? Its hard to say though I'm certain it had to do with the fact that Schubert was writing constantly throughout his life. Symphonies by his time were huge in comparison to say a Haydn symphony. Quite likely, his pressing economic hardships forced him to set aside the work so he could dash off a few lieder and he never got around to completing the symphony. I'm hard-pressed to think of another large-scale symphonic work that is only two movements long yet is a staple of most major orchestras today.

Schubert's symphonies were still in the Classical form in many ways though his lieder were truly of the Romantic period. Who knows what directions his music might have taken if he hadn't died so young.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Amazing Grace

Today was a short day school-wise because of a funeral held this afternoon in the gym (which also doubles as the community hall). Jayko Tunraq was a good man. The Anglican minister asked me if I could play "Amazing Grace" on my trumpet for the service and I agreed to it. I've been to a few northern funerals and they can be pretty intense. The hall was packed. There were easily 250 people there - a little over one-third of the population of Arctic Bay. A few Rangers were there was well as some army cadets. Funerals are something that always make me uncomfortable and truth be told I initially felt a bit awkward. But having played I'm very glad I did it.

Jayko was very well respected in the community. He was well-liked by everyone. He worked for the Hamlet for 33 years driving the town's sewage and water trucks. I remember one time when I had been out of water for a couple of days and I watched as Jayko filled up my tank. I remember shouting "Qujannamiik! Qujannamiik (thank you)" as I ran out the door. Jayko gave me a quick wave and a friendly smile. He seemed to be involved in everything - the local DEA (District Education Authority), the Alcohol Education Committee and the Canadian Rangers. He was also a skilled hunter and spent a great deal of time out on the land. Sadly, he was not that old. Just 61.

I am struck by some poignant words from our Deputy Mayor at the funeral. They have been in my head all afternoon. The hunters that were with Jayko when he died spoke of how, as he breathed his last breath, his thoughts were not of himself, but of his community. It is selflessness like this that I sorely wish was much more evident in my own generation.

Interestingly, I've never learned the Inuktitut word for "good-bye". But I think in this case, it's not necessary - for I know his Spirit lives on still.

And We Will Take The Moon and Make It Our New Sun

(taken Saturday, November 15, 2008, 1:15pm)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nunavut Land Claim Agreement

Here is an interesting series of posts on the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement.

Part 1: What's In A Claim?

Part 2: Behind The Nunavut Claim

Part 3: What They Got, and What They Gave Up

Part 4: Bait and Switch

It Does Look A Bit Like A Giant Toblerone Bar

Back in the Spring I posted some pictures of the St. George Society Cliffs, a short distance from the community.

A commenter, Kara I believe, mentioned how they resembled a Toblerone chocolate bar.

It's a very apt observation. A find the resemblance quite interesting.

New Addition

Here is a picture of the new community hall/rec. centre being built at the bottom of the hill at the moment. The pilings for the building were put in back in the Spring. The bulk of the construction materials arrived on the sea lift back in August. The construction workers have been moving at a furious pace and its amazing to see how fast it is being built. I don't envy these guys working outdoors in -28C conditions. I suppose the faster they work to get the structure closed in, the sooner they can begin working in a warmer interior.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cole The Goalie

My nephew's Triple A team is having a fantastic season so far. Currently they sit atop their division with a 10-3-3 record. Actually they are first overall out of all the Minor Bantam teams in the OMHA. Naturally, Cole has played a large role in this. This video is about a year old before he moved up to Triple A.

Good job at standing your ground and defending your net Cole!

I'm sure this video clip will be part of the montage they put together 10 years from now to show how you made it to the big leagues.

Hungarian Highlights - Part 8 (Keszthely)

Link to Part 7

Keszthely (Kest-hay) was a pretty town that dominates the western shore of Lake Balaton. Originally, I believe the town sprang up to help support a Roman fort which was built a few kilometres to the south. Regrettably, I wasn't able to see the remains of the fort, but the town was home to a pretty impressive palace where I spent much of my time.

14th Fransiscan Church. The tower and steeple are a late 19th century add-on. The Church survived the Turkish incursions in the 16th century.

The Festetics Palace, dating from the mid-18th century, dominates the north end of the town.

Lake Balaton was a vacation highlight. It is home to many species of birds and motorboats are banned. You can drive the northern shore from Keszthely to Veszprem in about an hour (or a little over 2 hours by bus as I did). The scenery is some of the most stunning in all of Hungary in my opinion and I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nunavut Has A New Premier

The territory's newly-elected MLA's held a leadership forum in Iqaluit to chose a new Premier and Cabinet. Under our consensus-style of government, all MLA's run as independents so the Premier position is not immediately known in the wake of an election. The political animal in me followed the speculation on who might get the Premier's job fairly closely, although obviously I can't come right out with it and say who I felt should get it on my blog here.

Three MLA's were vying for the position. There was lobbying, speeches etc.. MLA's then voted by secret ballot to elect a Premier. Up to this point, Nunavut has only had one Premier since its creation in 1999 - 2-term Paul Okalik. Today, a new chapter in the territory's political history begins as Eva Aariak,a former language commissioner and Nunavut's sole female MLA, takes over as Nunavut's second Premier. Ms. Aariak's first task was to select a group of MLA's who will serve as Cabinet Ministers. The remaining members function as an Opposition. So we now have an Executive. Specific Cabinet portfolios will be decided in the near future. And while I have plenty of guesses as to which Minister will get which portfolio, I'll just keep my hunches to myself.

And oh, as the CBC article also points out and as a few people here have told me, PREMIER Aariak is originally from.....Arctic Bay.

How cool is that?

Famous Fathers

Its one of those strange quirks of history. Today is the birthday of Leopold Mozart (1719) and also of Johann van Beethoven (1740). Both were rather marginal as composers though Leopold did write a textbook on violin teaching that remained in use for some time. Their sons, Wolfgang and Ludwig, managed to do pretty well for themselves though from what I've been told.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Killer Snakes

I had completely forgotten about these pictures until my Uncle Brian emailed them to me earlier this evening. My parents' house in Ontario backs onto a wooded lot on the edge of town, meaning that when I visit I can count on seeing wildlife that isn't a stray cat or a dead raccoon. Anyhow, as you can tell from the one picture below the wells around the basement windows are pretty deep and sometimes smaller critters get stuck in them. I'm sure this garter snake didn't mind being down among the leaves though. Small food items like tiny frogs also wind up in there sometimes.

So sinister-looking...

I volunteered to rescue this little guy simply so that he wouldn't fall victim to my parents' dachshunds. (They love snakes! They are like wiggly spaghetti to them.) What I hadn't counted on was how much fight this little guy had in him. I knew he couldn't hurt me but the way he coiled and lunged before I could get hold of him was a tad unnerving. But hey, we don't have snakes here in Nunavut so I'm sure my jittery-ness can be forgiven.

I am reminded of the garter snakes in Wood Buffalo National Park from my Fort Smith days. The deep karst formations in the park make a perfect habitat for them. The snake colony there is the northern-most one in Canada. The snakes are a slightly different breed of garter snake than the ones found in Ontario. Their exact name escapes me at the moment. Anyhow, a sure sign of spring in Fort Smith was when the snakes would surface out of their dens to engage in a giant coiling ball of spring-time um...."snake love"/baby-making activity. (Oh the weird search words my stat counter will pick up now.)

In other news, I took care of my soccer team's travel fees this afternoon (thank God for plastic) and I will be taking part in a coaching clinic next weekend here in town. Just in time for the tournament. Purrrrr-fect!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From Nanisivik to Mary River

This morning as I was straightening up a book shelf in my class I came across a small article on the former Nanisivik Mine (a lead/zinc mine that closed in 2002). Nanisivik (Inuktitut for "a place where something is found") was not just a mine, but a community as well (population about 350). It is connected to Arctic Bay by a road about 30km in length - the longest road in the territory actually. I was never able to visit Nanisivik while it was a functioning community though I know a number of people from town here who of course have been there or lived there (including a fellow blogger). I moved to Nunavut in 2003 and by the time I transferred here a great many of the buildings had been torn down.

If you look carefully at the above photo you'll spot a big white pyramid-shaped structure. This "pyramid", was the Borsato Dome and the only time I was there was during my very first day after transferring here. The mine was being de-commissioned and the workers would gather there for their meals as they did while the mine was still in operation. Anyhow, I had been picked up at the airport by one of the RCMP members from town and he drove me here for a much-needed meal before taking me into Arctic Bay.

The large building in the middle was the community complex, housing government offices, a library, recreation facilities, the RCMP (there was no station at Arctic Bay yet as I understand it), and even a school (Allurut School). The small yellow church is one of the few buildings that still exists. It was brought into Arctic Bay over the sea ice and was attached to the Anglican Church over by the school.

I'm no geologist (though my mother's cousin is!) but to me, the ore body seemed an impressive size, measuring 3km long by 100-150 wide by 20m high. Claims were staked here as early as 1937, but the area was so remote and the conditions so challenging that is wasn't until the 1970's that mining the area became economically feasible. Nanisivik Mine opened in 1977 and ran until 2002. (From the mine's beginning until the above article was published in 1989, Nanisivik produced up to 2% of the Western world's zinc.)

Anyhow, one of the points I wanted to make was that, at the time, the mine was touted as a great northern success story. A mine this far north was considered by naysayers to be the height of fancy. I was curious to see that the article mentioned that the Government of Canada had an 18% share in the profits. I'm very curious to know how much of that money was funneled back into the territory but I'm sure they wouldn't want THAT little detail to become public. I'll hazard a guess. I'm thinking of a round-shaped number. It needs to be pointed out though that this was during the pre-Nunavut era back when this land was still part of the Northwest Territories.

The mining hype in our little corner of the territory now focuses on the proposed Mary River Mine which I was fortunate enough to visit last June. Unlike with Nanisivik, Inuit are now in a position to negotiate for employment and royalties as this new mine site lies on Inuit-owned land under the Nunavut Land Claim Treaty. This might not seem that important, and I can't seem to recall the royalty percentages off the top of my head, but in a territory struggling to create an economic base, mining, if done properly, could go a long way to make this happen. The projected life of Mary River is estimated to be about 100 years. (Wow, that's a lot of iron ore!)

This new mine, coupled with the new port facilities the federal government promises to build out at the Nanisivik dock, means Arctic Bay is sitting on a lot of potential. And yes I know, government promises aren't always worth the paper they are written on, but these two stories are of great interest to me and I continue to follow them closely.

Full Moon

The view across town under a full moon. This picture was taken yesterday at 2:30pm.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Other Side

War memorial in Szigetvar, Hungary.

It was an interesting experience to see memorials to the Great War over in Europe. Monuments such as this one were things I had only ever seen in Canada. Of course I knew that Central Power nations had them too. Its just that I had never seen any before so it was all very interesting to see. I saw many similar monuments in several small towns though - a reminder that war, and death, don't discriminate based on nationality.


They wouldn't call themselves heroes. They are much too modest for that. But to me, they always will be.

To my grandfather, Sgt. Cliff Beamish, RCAF, who served in WWII, thank you. While I'm not a biological grandson, you always accepted me as your own and so it is with profound gratitude that I honour your service to our country.

To my high school chum Captain John Haylock, PPCLI, currently serving as part of Canada's mission to Afghanistan, thank you. Thank for dealing with the heat and dust storms of the desert and for taking time away from your young family to serve our country.

To a former student of mine, Pte. Damien Hocquard, currently serving in Afghanistan as well, thank you. Your selflessness teaches me now.

To my uncle Colonel Clark and my uncle Chris in the RCMP, both of whom took part in the UN-mandated stabilization force in the former Yugoslavia, thank you.

I am fortunate to know many heroes. Indeed, I am a lucky man.

To all men and women, regardless of colour or creed, who have chosen to wear our country's uniform and have gone into harm's way, THANK YOU.

They Called It Passchendaele

A short time ago I borrowed a book off Clare called 'They Called It Passchendaele'. I have known about this book for quite some time now but hadn't had the chance to read it until now. It incorporates first-hand accounts from the men and women who were there into the text and I'm enjoying it immensely. One short anecdote stands out in my mind. Since this is Remembrance Day, I thought I'd share it here. This little episode surely highlights the irony of war like few other accounts I have read.

During a lead-up engagement, known as the Battle of Menin Road, Corporal Nick Lee of the British Tank Corps was attempting to unditch a tank along the Menin Road outside the Belgian town of Ypres. The tank that Corporal Lee was working on took a direct hit from a German artillery piece, obliterating it. Miraculously, Lee was thrown clear of the tank, unscathed. His crew then came under attack from a group of German infantry sheltered in a nearby pillbox and began returning fire. Lee opened up on the pillbox with one of the tanks machine guns. A few minutes after the German guns fell silent, he saw a German sergeant rise up and wave to him. The man had taken a bullet in the leg. Lee then mounted a rescue effort to aid the man he had just shot to get medical attention. As a result of this action Lee was awarded the Military Medal.

Both Lee and the German Sergeant, a man named Jeff Lerner, survived the war. They actually met each other a second time following World War II. Lee and his wife looked Lerner up while on vacation in Munich where Lerner was a university professor close to retirement. Lee never revealed to Lerner that he had been awarded the Military Medal for his actions that day long before but the two men did keep up a regular correspondence for the duration of their lives.

War is indeed a strange business.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Still Single? Follow the Sign.

...apparently, in Hungary, all the "nice women" are to be found at the bus station.

heh...on second thought, perhaps not.

Snazzy Duds

After a bit of anxious hand-wringing my soccer uniforms arrived at the school this past week. I had a quick unveiling meeting for the team Friday and of course everyone can't wait for the tournament now.

In the past I've had a few problems with uniforms disappearing from the school. Not all our sports teams are school teams but rather community teams. Unfortunately kids on community teams aren't always regular school attenders. I discovered this much to my annoyance, by freely giving out uniforms in the past only to have them disappear on me. Clearly, buying new uniforms every year isn't going to cut it so I decided to do things a bit differently this year by buying a set of uniforms out of pocket. This way I can claim them as my own and keep them safe and sound at home.

I love the goalie uniform. Out of all the goalie uniforms I've seen in the past few years, I have to say I like this one the best. It reminds me a little of the old-style Vancouver Canucks jerseys from the '80s. My goalie this year can be a bit of a character so I jokingly told him I ordered a bright-coloured uniform this year to help me keep an eye on him.

It will cost us a bit more this year to travel to Regionals this year (despite claims by Sport Nunavut to the contrary) but I decided not to let this stand in the way. Barring bad weather, we are going and that's all there is to it. I love these tournaments. They are a highlight of the first part of the school year for me and I can't wait to get down there.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Light Show

While I can no longer see the sun from town here, the light we still receive is simply glorious at times. Here are a couple pictures from our "sunrise" taken shortly after 11am this morning.

More Unapologetic Bragging

Awesome job bud!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Canadian Blog Awards

As I discovered a few days ago, blogs have their own award show. Who knew? Ok, not really a show, but there are the Canadian Blog Awards. Sort of like the Oscars, Grammys and Academy Awards for the blogosphere. There are categories for "Best Blog", "Best Blog Post", "Best New Blog", "Best Local Blog" and many more so be sure to stop by and nominate your favourite blog, even mine if you wish. Nominations end on November 22.

I've had a look through the different categories and was pleased to see that a few other northern blogs from my sidebar have been deservedly nominated. It would be nice to see at least one Nunavut blog make it to the final 5 in one of the categories. I've seen a lot of deserving Nunavut blogs grow over the past couple years. Voting begins November 23.

So go and nominate. Do it right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Back On Track

After the craziness that was last week I feel like the wheels are back on and I've turned a corner. I have plenty of things on the go at the moment to keep my attention. Not the least of which is that the soccer uniforms for my team should be here any day now. They actually might be sitting in the post office right now. I noticed a small mountain of parcels in the post office when I dropped by after work so I'm hoping the uniforms are in there somewhere. We have a little over 3 weeks until I take the team down to Iqaluit so I notice they are much more focused now. The goal is in sight. We had a good practice this afternoon against one of the older girls teams and it went well considering how little access we've had to the gym this fall with all the different events that were going on there at various times. Anyhow, this will be my 4th tournament. It will be a nice break and I always look forward to the competition.

Tonight (in about an hour from now actually) I have to head back down to the school gym to practice with the local army cadets for next week's Remembrance Day ceremony. I've been asked to play Last Post and Reveille. The past couple years I was down at sports tournaments so I've missed the ceremony. I'm looking forward to playing in it again. This is something I've done for a number of years since I was a teenager and its a privilege to play my small part in this very important day. I took my trumpet in to work with me this morning and grabbed a little bit of practice time during some spare time so hopefully I'm not too rusty.

Tomorrow is also parent-teacher interviews at the school and I really have to get off my backside and get my Christmas travel plans worked out. I am also slowly making my way through a great book on the Battle of Passchendaele at the moment as well as sifting through some seldom-heard music in my collection. So while the 24-hour "dark" season will be shortly upon us, I find myself with plenty to keep me focused.

When Martin Brodeur Was Young

As Martin Brodeur inches closer to the NHL record for all-time wins and all-time shut outs, I wonder where the next great one will come from. How many shut outs has it been so far this season, Cole??... 3??...4??

...and the team has a 7-2-2 record. You're off to a fantastic start bud.

Thanks Amber, thanks Scott.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bye Sun

This morning I managed to get what is, in all likelihood, my last picture of the sun until the new year. After several moments of wondering whether the sun would peek over the mountains, I got this shot at about 11:40am this morning. A few more days and it will be gone.

Bye Sun. It was nice knowing you. See you in a few weeks.

Sunrise - 10:20am
Sunset - 2:28pm

We Mark An "X"

Sometimes I just have to look at the entire US election system and laugh. Glaciers move faster than a US election. Really, what has it been? 2 years since Obama and McCain declared their candidacy? I'm not sure. It's been so long I've almost fallen asleep. And in the two year span we've had an federal election call, a campaign (mercifully 35 days long rather than 700-and-something) and a vote. We've also seen elections in Alberta and Nunavut in that span.

In Canada, we mark an "X" on a piece of paper, fold it and drop it in a box. Very high-tech I know. In the US they use some fancy ultra-tech. scanning machines - hopefully its better stuff than they used in the 2000 election. Honestly, a 4-page-long ballot? I've heard of developing nations with a smaller ballot. I'll admit I don't understand everything about the US electoral system but this seems a tad excessive. All this technology and I'm sure it will still take a good couple days to tabulate all the votes. How about a piece of paper, a pencil and a box?? Sure, its a very simplistic system, but it works.

I think the most shocking thing I've heard in recent days was a US survey in which 16% of Americans said they wouldn't vote for Obama simply because he's black! Sad sad sad.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trying To Paint A Picture With Words

It won't be too much longer now until the sun doesn't rise high enough in the morning sky to clear the mountains to the south of us. This morning around 11am I noticed it, but just barely, through my classroom window. I meant to bring my camera in to work with me for a picture of the event. I don't have too many opportunities left to capture the sun before it disappears for a few weeks. Unfortunately, being Monday, I forgot to take my camera along with me. The sky displayed some fantastic shades of pink and purple and I missed it. Sure the air temperature can be a bit crisp in the morning if you're not used to it but the sunrises (or the light from the sun if it doesn't quite clear the horizon) can be a sight to behold. Hopefully tomorrow I remember and I get a decent picture. If the sun still manages to peek above the mountains it may be the last picture I take of the sun here until early February.

For the curious, the official sunrise time I have for this morning is (or was) 10:12am; and the sunset was 2:37pm. Yup that's right, I pretty much walk to and from work in the dark.

(I can appreciate that walking to wok and home in the dark might not be everyone's cup of tea but after 8 years of doing this for varying lengths of time I supposed I'm used to it.)

.....hey don't give me that funny look.....I think its cool. :)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Here's Another Story Of A Crazed Lady In A House Far Away...

...only this time, its not a Hungarian Countess but some crazy Republican supporter.

The thing that most surprised me was that it was FOX 2 Detroit reporting the story. I sure hope this lady eats the candy she refused to hand out to the children of Obama supporters. It sounds like she needs a little sugar. Lighten up lady!

...and I thought some of my old English teachers were scary!

My Encounter With A Blood Countess

A couple days ago I posted pictures of a few of the castles I saw over the summer. It just occurred to me this morning that one of them had a pretty creepy resident at one point. Perfect. Just in time for Hallowe'en, more or less. You can either go down two posts or click here to see a picture of Nadasdy Castle.

Anyhow, this castle was once home to a pretty blood-thirsty Hungarian Countess named Elizabeth Bathory. The Countess lived here from about the age of 11 until she was married. The family is well-known in Hungary for helping repel the Turks in the 16th century. Apparently, all that blood and gore wasn't enough for Liz. After the death of her husband Franz, she apparently went a bit wacky. She became convinced she was getting old before her time. (Oh come on girl, you were only do you think that makes me feel?) Her solution - kill as many female virgins as possible and bathe in their blood. The dear Countess became quite the obsessive bather it would appear. She was accused of murdering in excess of 600 girls and young women. She is even referred to as some sort of female Dracula. I should point out that she didn't commit her supposed atrocities here but it was still interesting to see what the house of a mass murderer looked like......rubber necker that I am.

Eventually she was apprehended and put on trial. She spent the rest of her days bricked up in a few rooms in a castle on the family's Slovakian lands. Now, whether she was as guilty as believed is open to question. The Countess stood to inherit land in what is now Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and of course in those less enlightened times, that was just crazy to give a woman so much power. In addition to the murders, she was also accused of witch craft, a pretty popular accusation to throw at a woman at this period in time. So she may just have been framed. However, I was told that if you dig around long enough in the archives in Budapest, you will come across books listing the Countess's victims, although the material is extremely difficult to read. So who really knows.

The tale of the Blood Countess has persisted through time. After returning to Canada, I heard that a movie was made out of the Countess's life earlier this year. I believe it was a joint British-Slovak effort and from what I understand it is in English so I will definitely keep a look out for it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I'm A What?

Apparently, I'm a bourgeois. Yep, that's what I once labeled by someone. I have to admit using a foreign-sounding word to describe myself does seem kind of cool. How "soupe du jour" is that? But am I really, in the words of Marx Himself, a bourgeois?

Now, before the Commies got hold of the word it had an entirely different meaning. "Bourgeois" is derived from the Old French word "burgeis", meaning "medieval village", which in turn comes from the Latin word "burgus" (fortress). Since I'm fairly confident I have never lived in a medieval village or a fortress, (although I have visited my fair share in the past couple years), "bourgeois", doesn't really apply to me etymologically speaking.

Apparently, the term now refers to some sort of business person or upper class person, depending on your take on the word. Sorry, Mr. Marx, can't help you there. I've never owned a business (I always seemed to struggle with math as a kid 'cause I just didn't have that number line in front of me) and I'm hardly upper-class. Okay, I'll make a concession, meine Komrade. In the North I suppose I might be referred to as "upper class" based on my salary and the colonial history of this place. But drop me in most other places in Canada and I doubt I'd stand out so much. I suppose labeling people according to class, or race for that matter, is pretty meaningless. Really, its all relative.

Sorry to wreck your nice little theory Karl. The bourgeoisie did support revolutions - the French and American revolutions. The communists supported a revolution too once.....I think the place was Russia and...., oops, we all know how well that went over.

Hungarian Highlights - Part 7 (Fascinating Castles)

Link to Part 6

After leaving Sopron, I slowly made my way down toward Lake Balaton. On the way, I passed through the towns of Koszeg (Kuss-egg), Sarvar (Shar-var) and Sumeg (Shoe-meg) home of some interesting castles.

3 views of Juriscics Castle in Koszeg.

Nadasdy Castle in Sarvar.

Sumeg Castle.