Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hungarian Highlights - Part 15 (Sarospatak)

Link to Part 14

Sarospatak (meaning "Muddy Creek" in Hungarian") was a little off the beaten path but that was one of the things that made it a perfect destination in my mind. A second reason was that it didn't really have an Old Town so to speak. This was just a simple town with a castle -no tourist traps or kitchey souvenir stalls to be found. Getting here also entailed using a train, a welcome relief after many hours of traveling the countryside by bus.

Another reason this place stands out to me was because of my little hotel. The receptionist, as I had come to expect in the eastern part of the country, spoke English about as well as I spoke Hungarian. However, upon seeing my Canadian flag t-shirt, she asked if I spoke French. I do speak some French but I haven't really used it since high school. Now, I was forced to dig back into my memory in order to communicate. Seems the lady who owned the little hotel was originally from France but had emigrated to Hungary years ago. It was a strange sensation speaking one of Canada's official languages 7000-odd kilometers from home. In any event, by piecing together a little French, German and Hungarian, I made out just fine.

Here are several views of Rakoczi Castle (also referred to as Sarospatak Castle). Random fact #1 - Rakoczi Castle is pictured on the back of the 500 forint bank note. Random fact #2 - The castle served as ground zero for the Wesselenyi Conspiracy, a failed 17th century attempt to end Habsburg rule over Hungarian lands.

Some pictures of the inner courtyard. I believe these sections of the castle were added in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Nice views from the top of the Red Tower.

The Red Tower is the oldest part of the castle, dating from the 15th century.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Playoff Exhaustion

A win tomorrow night and my nephew's team will clinch their quarter-final series against Clarington. All that hockey makes for some tired boys...but a quiet drive home for my dear sister!

Sunrise Sunset

The sun returned here about a month ago. Day by day the amount of sunlight we receive increases by about 14-15 minutes. On May 5, 2009, the sun will no longer set here. By late April though we will no longer have dark skies at "night" but a nice lingering twilight which will slowly blend back into "day". For the curious then, I've chosen a few random dates along with their sunrise and sunset times just to give you a sense of how dramatic the changes are.

I pulled the following information from

January 30 sunrise - 1223h
sunset - 1323h
Although the sun rises, it is not yet visible here in Arctic Bay due to the mountains to the south.

February 5 sunrise - 1102h
sunset - 1445h
Assuming a clear, the sun is now briefly visible from town shortly before noon.

February 15 sunrise - 0948h
sunset - 1600h

February 28 sunrise - 0829h
sunset - 1716h

March 15 sunrise - 0806h
sunset - 1932h

March 31 sunrise - 0643h
sunset - 2051h

April 15 sunrise - 0509h
sunset - 2211h
By now if you haven't discovered the wonders of tinfoil placed over your bedroom window, you soon will.

April 30 sunrise - 0313
sunset - 0001h

May 5 24 hour daylight will last until August 9.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Hi Southern Canada, Baker Lake has cell phones...."

Flipping to the History Channel this afternoon, I stopped briefly on the Country Music Television channel*. A text message at the bottom of the screen caught my eye as I noticed "Nunavut" scroll across the bottom of the screen. Someone was using their cell phone to announce to the rest of Canada that cell phone service had arrived in Baker Lake.

Iqaluit has cell phone service and so does Rankin. I had heard shortly before Christmas that service was due to be expanded to include Arviat and Baker Lake in the Kivalliq Region. No cell phone service here in Arctic Bay but since I don't ever plan on owning a cell phone, I won't complain. Part of the appeal of living up here is the freedom from being entangled (more or less) in the web of the southern rat race. Having said this though, that little text scrolling across the bottom of the screen gave me a good afternoon chuckle.

*And you know there would have to be a very good reason for me to stop at this channel.


I was always struck by these two pictures (blow-ups of the signs on the bathroom doors of the school) taken during my year in Northern Manitoba, particularly since they very closely resemble Inuit syllabics used here in Nunavut. I'm not sure what the words actually say since I only learned a few words of the Swampy Cree dialect and that was now 6-7 years ago. Seeing them now, though, the first thing that come to mind is "Inuktitut".

With the exception of pictographs used by certain Micmac and Ojibwa societies, no aboriginal group in Canada that I'm familiar with had a writing system prior to European contact. The syllabic writing system, as far as I know, as invented by a British missionary named James Evans while he was working with Ojibwa people in Rice Lake, Ontario (not far from where I grew up interestingly enough). In the early 1840's Evans moved to northern Manitoba where this system was adapted for Swampy Cree.

As far as Inuktitut is concerned, there is a story that a missionary from Moose Factory encountered a group of Inuit from Northern Quebec who were interested in the use of syllabics to express their language in written form. This missionary, a man by the name of Horden, spent time modifying the syllabic he used to fit their language. The man credited for the widespread use of syllabics for Inuktitut, however, was another Anglican missionary, Edmund Peck, working in what was then known as Great Whale River (now Kuujjuarapik) in the Nunavik region of Quebec. With the support of both Anglican and Catholic missionaries, Peck helped translate the Bible and other materials into Inuktitut.

Today, syllabics are still prevalent in the eastern arctic, where they are still used along with Roman orthography. The syllabics used in the above pictures are all part of the syllabary used for Inuktitut. The only exception is the final character on each sign. At one point in time I believe this syllabic was used but this is no longer the case, at least with the Nunavut dialects that I know of. To a speaker of Swampy Cree, this symbol would be pronounced (I believe) as "la".

At any rate, this is the sum of what I know about the development of Inuktitut syllabics without getting into all the fun morphological/phenomenological stuff since I don't profess to be a linguist by any stretch of the imagination. But if you've ever wondered where all those cool-looking symbols the Inuit used came from, hopefully this was helpful to you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Year In La Loche

Before moving to Nunavut, I spent a year in Northern Saskatchewan where I taught grade 6 in La Loche. The ice fishing was first rate and I enjoyed my time there immensely. I have to say that Saskatchewan has got to be the most under-rated province in Canada. I spent more time with a fishing pole in my hands then a camera but here are a few pictures from my time there.

My house.

La Loche Community School, the elementary school.

One of the original Hudson's Bay Co. buildings I believe.

Road to nowhere....or at the least the road north to Cluff Lake Mine.

Tug of war on Lac La Loche.

Fantastic sunset.

An even more fantastic sunset.

The ice fishing on Lac La Loche was amazing..a great way to spend a weekend in the Spring.

Ice fishing on Fontaine Lake.

Gotta love one-room schools. This is tiny Isaac School in Descharmes Lake, a couple hours north of La Loche.

Just over the continental divide was the picturesque Clearwater River and the Warner Rapids. I was never really successful with fishing there but it was great little spot to relax and enjoy the views.

Saleski Creek on the outskirts of town. Again, never caught a thing but a nice spot to explore.

You know you're in small-town Canada when you see this outside the one gas station in town.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bob Is A Moron...Barking Up The Wrong Tree

I promise I did take a step back and breathe after reading this story and far be it from me to take pot shots at an octogenarian but.....come on. Does anyone think for a minute that Bob Barker is any more of an expert on elephants than I am?? Please. Barker maintains he will head to Edmonton himself but really, will he put his money where his collagen-filled mouth is and pony up the dough to move Lucy if need be? Or is he just another ex-star with an ego simply trying to generate publicity for himself?

I suppose when it comes down to it, it isn't all that surprising that Barker has cast his lot with the animal-rights fanatics, given how his former "Price is Right" show has been rocked with all the legal hassles in the past over how he treats people. You mean to tell me that Hollywood, or any other southern California metropolis is a model of environment protection or that any of the many prizes given away on your show over all those years didn't involve minimum-wage labour?? Give me a break.

Honestly, I am so sick so these so-called "experts" who are nothing more than an over-exposed "stars" using their publicity to fuel their own self-serving egos. Come on down, Bob. Either put up....or shut up.

My P.I.

An interesting week so far, not entirely to plan but I suppose it could have been worse. As I mentioned a few days ago, school is out this week while staff participate in professional development. The original plan for my Professional Improvement Week activity was to interview a local elder about the changes to traditional life and impact the move into communities has had on the social fabric. I had also hoped to collect some traditional stories. I am required to accumulate 120 hours of professional improvement in order to maintain my certification. Keener that I am, I already have 121 hours by my count and my certification doesn't need renewal until 2011. So compared to most of my other colleagues I'm sitting pretty.

Unfortunately, the elder I had chosen (and a second elder I had contacted as well) became unavailable due to medical travel this week. A third elder suggested to me by vice-principal had plans to go out on the land this week (Spring is slowly returning to the North Baffin). To make a long story short, I ended up filling out another activity application and, after a flurry of emails between here and Rankin Inlet, managed to get things sorted out. Basically, I'm going doing an activity similar to the original. The big difference is that I will be gathering information through research. So I'm a big disappointed as I was really looking forward to talking to people who had lived through and experienced the things about which now I am only reading about. On a brighter note though, I have a few books on order from Amazon which will be welcome additions to my classroom.

How Shocking

No kidding.

...and for the curious, it is currently mainly clear with a few cirrus clouds....temperature -26C.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Inuksuk (Inukshuk)

One of the iconic symbols of Nunavut, and indeed the Canadian North, is the inuksuk ("something which acts or performs the function of a person"). A word about the word itself: "inukshuk" is the predominant English spelling even though the correct spelling is "inuksuk". "Inuksuit" is the plural. These are the spellings which I am familiar with here. Inuksuit were constructed as reference points, markers for hunting grounds and for navigational purposes. There was a time when I thought of them as nothing more than a pile of rocks. Building them, as I was to discover, is no easy task. It takes time and patience that I am now much better able to appreciate.

These symbols are now being used for the upcoming 2010 Olympics. It's worth mentioning that the little character being touted as an inuksuk, is not in fact an inuksuk, but rather an "inunnguat." These are constructed to more closely resemble a human form than the inuksuk. The inuksuk however, is the more common of the two, hence the confusion. At any rate, I think its wonderful that Inuit culture will play a part in this upcoming international event.

Having said this, here are a few photos of what Canadians recognize as inuksuit (inukshuks).

This isn't really an inuksuk, but a cairn. But it's still quite striking so I include it here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Perhaps They Should Just Stick With The Wine And Cheese Making

I like France. Really I do. Bill O'Reilly and the FOX network might not, but I say "Vive La France." Sometimes however, I wonder what goes through the heads of their politicians when it comes to education policy. As I was reading around online I came across an article that referred to something called the "French law on Colonialism". It was passed in 2005 (and thankfully, repealed shortly after). Let's re-write history trumpeting the positive role French colonialism has played in world history. Bravo. No really. Well, except that North Africa isn't exactly a model of democracy (so much for good government). Except that French colonialism aided in the spread of slavery in the Caribbean (so much for positive social values). Except that the French army got their clocks cleaned on the Plains of Abraham in 1759 (so much for military glory...oh sorry, I meant "la gloire."

Thankfully, there were a few French leaders that put down their wine bottles and bricks of cheese down long enough to realize this tripe was a bad idea and repeal it.

Musical Lights

And now for some lighter fare and as a follow up to this crazy guy, I bring you musical lights. I remember watching videos similar to this back in high school. These kinds of exercises were always good for teaching relative pitch and for showing how the different voices all fit together. PLUS, you have to admit, it IS kind of trippy.

Bach's G Minor Fugue

A Bizarre Light show

The Annoyingly Familiar

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Paul Watson, Where Art Thou?

Of course you knew as soon as I read this story of trapped dolphins in Seal Cove, Newfoundland it was only a matter of time before I'd break down and comment. To me the rightness or the wrongness of the actions of the would-be rescuers isn't important. What I'm really wondering about is "Where is Paul Watson, the so-called "saviour of the seas" in all this??" Sure I know that fighting Japanese whalers generates a lot of media publicity (and money) but surely the lives of 5 trapped dolphins are just as worthy?

So I got curious and visited the Sea Shepherd Society's website. Oh, you know these guys. The Society's Canadian arm is, according to their website, based in Vancouver, where apparently, they are East Coast experts. (Note to Sea Shepherd Society - don't you think you'd have an extra modicum of credibility if you were located closer to where the events actually took place.....or did you fail geography class?. Newfoundland is that really really big island off the eastern coast of know.....just so you know.)

But seriously, Paul, buddy, I'm disappointed. How blind are you that you are unaware of what is going on in your own country? (That would be that big frozen piece of land North of the United States in case you were confused.) Sea creatures everywhere are expecting you to protect them and yet you were no where to be seen in Seal Cove, Newfoundland. Really, Paul, I'm disappointed. You failed. Why do you continue to fail?? I just can't put my finger on it. There's just something about Paul Watson and failure.

Anyway, so I decided to check the Sea Shepherd website to see if the efforts of the dolphins' rescuers would be applauded by their group. And what did I find? Well, nothing. I suppose live animals and successful rescues make for poor publicity and aren't so good for padding the war chest. I did, however, find a commentary by Watson critical of Greenpeace. So much for left-wing, loony-tunes solidarity I guess.

More Traditional Inuit Clothing

Since yesterday was Traditional Inuit Clothing Day and since I plan to focus more on traditional culture this coming week when I interview my elder for my Professional Improvement Week activity, I thought I'd do a little digging through the archives to see what other photos of Inuit clothing I could come up with. Here is what I found.

This photo is from my first spring in Arctic Bay during the Nunavut Quest dog team races.

Yes, Let's Create A Bunch Of Mini-Hitlers

Okay, so I know it's not wise to blog when you're angry and I don't normally comment on educational issues, but really, when it comes to stories like this, I just can't help myself. What a ridiculous, insensitive, shallow, callous, incendiary and just plain retarded lesson is this? I'm not sure what upsets me more, the fact that a teacher dreamed up this exercise, or that the principal initially defended the teacher for doing it! At least the powers that be had the good sense to intervene and put a stop to it.

Frankly, if I was the teacher or the principal in this situation I would be thankful. Yes, be thankful. Be thankful that I'M not your superintendent because I swear to God, if I'd both be fired!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Traditional Inuit Clothing

Today was Traditional Inuit Clothing Day at our school. Here are a few random pictures from this afternoon's assembly.

As an added bonus, I dug into the archives and came across this older picture of me from June 2005, dressed in caribou skins.

For more pictures of the event, see Kendra's blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lost and Found (She's Gone B'ye, She's Gone Version)

Here are a couple pictures of the "Lost and Found" box up at the airport. I took these pictures when I first arrived out at Nanisivik (how long ago that seems now....well 2005 so perhaps not) with my film camera and I've been eager to share them. Many a visitor to town has mentioned seeing this particular box and it always gives me a good chuckle when I think about it.

Not a sight you'd see in many airport terminals elsewhere I would think....and in so many languages too! The pictures are scans so they are a bit fuzzy but you get the idea.

Books, Bird Counts and Blog Shares

As good fortune would have it, I've won a book (Birds of Canada) in a draw held by Clare for participating in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count. He ever so kindly dropped it off at work for me over lunch. I'm very much looking forward to plowing into it. To my novice eyes, it has a wealth of information and I was humbled by the author's ornithological awesomeness. With my newest acquisition, in one fell swoop, I have now doubled my library of wildlife guides.

Clare mentioned perhaps contacting the media to get the word and about the territory for next year's count and I think that's a great idea. Nunavut is a huge territory for a small amount of counters to cover so the more the merrier. Going back through the data, I only saw lists submitted from 4 communities over the past 11 years. But on the bright side....Arctic Bay had the highest number of Common Ravens counted. We were in first place until being unseated by Clearwater BC I believe. It's neat to see my little arctic community on a list with all these major centres from Canada and the United States. Anyhow, all this is to say that since 1) I now have a couple guidebooks, 2) I look like what I know what I'm doing (more or less) and 3) my knees held out much better on my weekend hikes than I thought they would, I look forward to giving it another go again next year.

The blog share has been good for my blog as I had twice the normal number of page loads I usually get before I even left for work yesterday morning. I'm hoping to be able to break 100 000 page loads in time for my blog's anniversary next month and I'm on track to do it at the moment. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to share my writing with a wider audience and was happy to see my own post that I submitted on another blog has generated a goodly number of comments (and hopefully some added traffic) for its host blog.

And finally, I'm gearing up for my professional improvement week next week. I will be interviewing and collecting stories from a local elder and I'm very keen to share my experiences here so stay tuned.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blog Share 2009

PostSecret is, without a doubt, my favorite site on the Internet (although Television without Pity runs a close second).

It's such a simple and brilliant concept because Art + Secrets = Compelling Reading. I've wanted to submit a post card for ages, but I've hit a few stumbling blocks: general laziness and inertia as well as the fact that my art skills never progressed past the third grade. I color inside the lines real good, but that's about it.

I've decided to take advantage of my anonymous status in BlogShare to create three Post Secrets. The only catch is that they'll be text-only, because I'm still lazy and artistically-challenged.

Postcard #1 Description: A hand-drawn picture of a #33 Dillon Panthers football jersey with the words "I can't....I can't stop thinking about Tim Riggins.....I can't."

Postcard #1 Explanation: If you watch Friday Night Lights, then you know exactly what I'm talking about and can picture the scene in your head. If you don't watch FNL, then you need to go to Netflix, I-Tunes, or Amazon and get Season 1. It's been called "the best show on television that you're not watching" for a reason. I don't want to hear that you don't like football. The show is not about football. It's about relationships, families, struggling for small victories in life, and finding your way in the world.

But back to my point, I have developed this ridiculous and giddy crush on Tim Riggins, despite the fact that he's a fictional 17-year-old kid and I'm an actual woman sliding down greased skids towards 40. (I'm just thankful that the actor who plays the kid is 27, otherwise it would be a lot more uncomfortable to admit this crush.) Defining Riggins is just not as simple as calling him the retina-searingly-hot bad boy with an alcohol problem. It would have been easy for Riggins to fall into the stereotype of a partying, womanizing jock. But thanks to the tremendous skills of the writers and actor, the character has developed into a conflicted and flawed but wholly redeemable person. And I don't think there's a woman in the world who can watch Riggins and not feel an inexorable pull to want to save him.

Postcard #2 Description: Part of a medical pamphlet with the warning signs of some serious disease, including "unexplained weight loss." In red, the hand-written words: "If it happened to me, I'm afraid I'd wait until I hit my ideal weight."

Postcard #2 Explanation: I've struggled with my weight ever since high school. I'm healthy and active, but I'm still about 20 pounds overweight and it's all I can see when I look in the mirror. Losing weight has been a difficult and painstaking process for me, so I'd notice if it was happening too easily or quickly. I hope that I'd have the good sense and strong self-preservation instincts to recognize a warning sign. But I'm still terrified that my vanity and inner self-loathing Fat Girl would want to wait until the magic numbers came up on the scale. I hope that identifying this secret is half the battle and that I'd do the right thing for my health, regardless of what the stupid scale says.

Postcard #3 Description: A grainy black and white photo of a production line in a factory with the words "My job is really just a mental factory that's grinding down my soul and giving me mental repetitive stress injuries. I want so much more than this."

Postcard #3 Explanation: I have a good-paying, stress-free job in a pleasant office where I work with nice people. But I hate it because it feels as pointless as making widgets. This isn't what I went to college and graduate school for. This isn't what I thought my life was going to be. I'm trying to make changes and hope that in the next few years, I'll be able to land my dream job. But sometimes, it's hard to see past the next widget that's coming down the line.

Thank you for letting me share my deepest, darkest PostSecrets (sans the post part). I hope you're enjoying BlogShare and have a chance to check out the other participants.

And You Know What Else
Andrea Unplugged
Blue Soup
Bright Yellow World
Caity of the Keps
Daily Tannenbaum
Did I Say That Outloud?
Dispatches From The Failed Mommy Club
Face Down
For The Long Run
Full Of Snark
In Java, Literally
Just Below 63
A New Duck
NonSoccer Mom
The North Is My Snowcone
Not The Daddy
Operation Pink Herring
Pants, Pants, Pants
Red Red Whine
Sassy Buster
Sauntering Soul
Shushing Action
Snow-Covered Hills
Swimming With Sharks
Thinking Some More
Trueish Story
Way Way Up
Whiskey Marie

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ice Shark

All was calm in the small arctic burg, until one fall day, the giant ice shark silently crept closer and closer to shore.....

....where it was met by a determined Darcy, who promptly lured it away, armed only with an old rusty spoon...and a stick of butter.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Nephew Is A Red Devil!

My nephew's hockey season is over for another year - or at least the regular season is. Since my sister gave me the Ontario Minor Hockey Association link, I've been following the team's progress fairly regularly. I'm not sure how the playoffs will shape up yet since the teams in the western division still have a few games to finish up. At any rate, Cole's team finished first in the East with a 26-5-5 record - 12 points ahead of the second place team. They finished strong, going 12-0-2 down the stretch. By my count, the team had 9 shut-outs. Cole was responsible for at least 5 or 6 of them if I'm not mistaken. I'm no hockey specialist but I'm betting that if your team is giving up on average 1.4 goals per game over a 36-game season, you're going to be tough to beat. Good job bud! You make us all proud. You succeed because you have a strong work ethic (good job Sis!) and show up for each game ready to give 100%. Best of luck in the playoff Red Devils!

Blog Share

Sometime either tomorrow or Wednesday I will be publishing a post as part of a blog share. This will be a post by another blogger from the great big blogosphere. A post by yours truly will also appear on one of the participating blogs. People who know me may be able to figure out which post is from me. I also hope to post a list of the participating blogs so happy hunting and perhaps you'll find a new blog that catches your fancy.

This is my first blog share and I'm quite looking forward to it. I had hoped to participate in one last year but it just didn't work out for me due to work obligations. Anyhow, just so you know, the blog share post is not from me. I have no idea who the mystery blogger is but I'm sure the post will be a good one.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count - Day 2

For my second day of the Great Backyard Bird Count, I decided to head up to Victor Bay and veer off the road across the top of the cliffs surrounding the town. It was great exercise and I was well-winded by the time I returned home. I was hoping to see something other than a raven this afternoon and although I struck out in that endeavour, I was able to add a few more ravens to my count - plus I was treated to some nice views. Here is a small selection from this afternoon's little jaunt.