Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Digging out

I try not to write about the weather too much up here because I think blog posts about weather can be a touch boring or whiny if not handled right. Also, I live in the Arctic. Complaining about cold or snow seems more than a little foolish. Even when it snowed every single month in 2013 (and it did, even July and August) I tried hard not to bitch about it. If you were born here, you're used to it. You're probably used to much harsher conditions that this, from what I've heard. If you moved here, well, what else did you expect? Palm trees?

Still, we're off to quite a start when it comes to blizzards in 2014. We had one a few weeks ago that made national headlines. Not so much for the snowfall amount. Even the worst of blizzards in Iqaluit rarely get more than 15 cm of snow. No, this one was noteworthy for the winds. Sustained at 115 kph with gusts hitting 151 kph. Environment Canada issued an alert that at one point described the approaching storm as a "roof-ripper", which while a delightful piece of evocative writing you do not normally associate with an Environment Canada weather alert, sent local social media into a tizzy.

I didn't write much about it because we managed just fine. We lost power for about eight hours on and off, but what else do you expect with winds that high? Others lost their power for longer and some did lose roofs. And siding. Our next door neighbour lost his shed. Blew across the street and down the hill. It's much....thinner...than it used to be.

Yes, there is something disconcerting about a house shaking quite that much. There's always the worry anytime you live in a house on metal stilts that one good stiff breeze is going to launch you to Oz. Or Greenland. But, knock on wood, we have a sturdy house.

So we managed just fine. Even got some bragging points out of it, given how much my friends and family in St. John's were losing their shit about blizzards and power failures over the holidays. When Iqaluit's wobbly power infrastructure holds up better than Newfoundland's, well, that's quite the smack in the face for Nalcor. Or Newfoundland Hydro. Or the provincial government. Or whoever is in charge of power down there these days.

So we had another blizzard roll through starting Monday afternoon and lasting into the night. No big deal, I thought. The winds, while high (apparently gusts hitting 129 kph) were not as bad as the "roof-ripper, so I figured this would be no big deal. I did notice an unusual build up of snow around the doors, but I believed if the wind shifted overnight, it would probably all disappear anyway. Still, we thought we should get up a little early Tuesday morning, just in case.

Yeah, the snow didn't disappear. The only thing it managed to do was solidify into some kind of concrete substance I've never really experience before.

Leave the house was slightly challenging.
Understand, I grew up in Newfoundland. I am used to backbreaking snow. I am used to wet snow. Snow that has a crusty ice layer on top of it. I am used to massive hunks of snow pushed back by a snow plow that weigh about 5 metric tons. I know snow shovelling and hate it with the passion that most Newfoundlanders possess.

Which is one of the nice things about Iqaluit. I rarely shovel. It's awesome. Why?
1. Arctic desert, folks. Our snowfall amounts are much less than most of southern Canada during the winter. Ours lasts longer, but we don't get nearly as much. This is a fact pissing off many local snowmobile fanatics who can't use their machines except out on the sea ice.
Standing on a six foot drift...on the deck.
2. We hired a local company to plow our driveway. I used to feel bad/lazy about this, then I remembered I have money now and I hate shovelling. Plus, it's a big driveway. I like looking out the window, watching the plow go to work. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mostly because I'm inside wearing a sweater when he does it.

But this was a special storm. I don't think it brought much snow, but what did fall managed to gather up its friends and have a party at our house. Most of our driveway was, in fact, bare. But up next to the house, the two decks and the car, were buried. By this dense, concrete kind of snow that I've never seen anywhere other than in Iqaluit. And for the first time since we bought the house, it was packed around our place.

So, first things first, getting out of the house. That took about 10 minutes and cost us two screen doors. Both are damaged beyond repair and will have to be replaced on the sealift. Then we had to get down from the decks without kill ourselves. The drifts were that high. Then there was the matter of the car. The front half was buried. And it wasn't like we could just shovel out the driver's side door, hop in and blast her in reverse. No, this "stuff" and bonded at a molecular level with the car. It was not giving up the car without a fight.

Next fun thing we learned...this snow laughs at shovels with a plastic blade. The shovel works fine with ordinary snow, but not this stuff. Cathy uses the metal blade shovel to do some damage, while I find a spade, hack away at the snow enough that I can use the plastic blade.

Digging out the car took two hours, with both of us working on it. We barely touched the stairs, because we needed the car to get to work. Two hours to dig the beast out.

Normally touching the satellite dish is something I can't do
quite this easily.
Hansen's show up later in the afternoon to blast most of the rest of the snow out of the driveway (they couldn't have helped with the car), but we still had to dig out a path on one of the decks (no oomph for both) and also dig a path to the water intake pipe. City workers couldn't deliver water to us today because the pipe was buried under the 10+foot snow drift.

Cathy, enjoying her morning immensely, and not at all
So yes, that was fun. Still kind of achy even as I write this. Of course, because we're idiots, we then went to the gym Tuesday evening. Cathy kind of had to because she started a 12-week challenge at the gym this evening. I went to keep her company and to drive home if the weather got worse.

Although on the positive side, we were supposed to get another blizzard Tuesday evening. CBC weather person in Yellowknife put up a satellite photo that scared the crap out of most Iqaluitmuit Twitteratti. But for whatever reason, it stalled, sparing us another dose. Now we're back to cold, clear sunny weather. Which I have no problem with whatsoever.

Give me cold over snow any time of the week.

Last Five
1. Songbird - Oasis
2. Falling for you - Eskimo Joe
3. Romance to the grave - Broken Social Scene
4. Goodbye yellow brick road - Elton John*
5. The Great Salt lake - Band of Horses

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Year 44

I don't really do New Year's Resolutions anymore. They're kind of a waste of time. I enjoy that on my demotivational calendar January 17 is the day when you're supposed to give up on your New Years Resolutions. When I decided to start losing weight nearly two years ago, it was in February, and not on January 1. But I do like the idea of a year in review and and to try and do a few aims. But since my birthday (which is now in its dying hours as I write this) is close enough to the start of the year, I do like the idea of looking back at the last year of my life, seeing how it was, and what plans I should make for the next circle around the sun.

So how was Year 43? Bit of a mixed bag. Not bad, just one significant hiccup that threw things off.

1. The highlight was certainly the trip to Sri Lanka, which I will remember to the end of my days. That was a great trip, I got to see a part of the world I never thought I would and, better still, got to see it with some of my best friends for a great occasion.

2. Got to go to a wedding in Sri Lanka and see the same guy get married again in Canada, but this time with a lot more friends around. I only see some of them every few years, so every occasion is a highlight, even if I tend to be depressed after I say my good-byes for several days.

3. The lowlight was certainly losing my job with a local organization that I though I would be spending years with, a loss that came out of the blue and not because I did anything wrong. I recovered from that, but I was deeply hurt by that action for a lot longer than I thought I would be.

4. But from that came another highlight, which was getting another job almost immediately that is the equal in virtually every way as the old one and better in many ways.

5. The weight loss was kind of a mixed bag. After making great strides in Year 42 and being able to lose 67 pounds, I flatlined for most of the year and then slipped in the fall, putting back on 12 pounds. I'm back at it and I've already lost three of those gained 12 pounds. I knew keeping the weight off was always going to be work, but I think I knew it intellectually. It required a slip to really physically hammer home the point.

And what did I learn?

1. See the above point about the weight loss.

2. I think I learned the value about not burning bridges. I have a former work colleague who had a saying I loved which was "I'll burn that bridge when I get to it." Not when I cross it. No. If that bridge was crossing the River Compromise, he would burn it, bomb it, launch missiles at it...rather than than doing something he disagreed with or dealing with people he didn't like or respect.

I have a certain admiration for the....purity, if not the practicality, of that belief system. Something happened a few years ago that I had every right to be upset by, but I didn't get mad about it, I didn't burn bridges over it because I knew who was to blame, and it wasn't the people giving me the bad news. They were good people having to deliver crap news to someone they liked. Hard to get mad over that. And that attitude paid off this year.

I'm not perfect at it...lord knows I was looking at the price of flamethrowers on the internet a few times and was set to light a few bridges on fire this year, but I tried to remain calm about it. Didn't work all the time, but I also didn't go thermonuclear, which I was certainly within my rights to do. So there's that.

3. I got a reminder of the value in friendship and loyalty. I learned to appreciate people who are willing to go through the wall for you because they think you're worth it. And if they think you're worth it, then perhaps when I'm being hardest on myself, it would be good to remember that others think I'm pretty ok. And really, why I should disagree with them on that, of all things?

3. I learned that I'm probably not going to be a writer. Still not 100% sure about that one, but there is a certain truthy feel to it. I'm quite fond of Tumblr, but more in a lurking sort of way. A lot of writers, both novelists and graphic novelists, that I like and respect, use it. And without fail the question they get the most is "How do I become a writer?"

The answers vary to degrees, but there is one constant...the good ones don't have a choice. They're driven by it, consumed by it. And if you're not, then it's probably not for you. There's no shame in that, but you have to recognize it. As always, Warren Ellis probably said it best. When asked what he does when he feels like giving up:

There is no such goddamn thing.  There is only getting up and doing it all over again, smarter and harder, until something ups and fucking kills you, because that’s the only thing big enough to stop you.This is The Great Work, and all you have to do is choose it, not look back and never fucking stop until you’re in your box, under the dirt and flowers are growing between your teeth.And that is why I’ll never be asked to do motivational speaking.  G’night.

I haven't felt that way in a very long time, if ever. I have a novel that's been 3/4 finished for seven years and simply can't find the will to go back and fix it. I have an excellent idea for a TV show that I simply haven't had the will to sit down and properly research and plot out. I have an idea for a second novel, but just can't find the right structure for it. I have this blog that I used to write for 300 times a year, and now can't be bothered to write a post about something so simple as the huge wind storm that hit us 10 days ago.

If I was a proper writer, I would do these things. But too many shiny things distract me. Plus, I like my comforts. So I don't know. I can write. I have the technical ability. I think when I put my mind to it and seriously work at it I'm not bad at it. But a Writer? Not so sure anymore.

4. Having said that, I increasingly learned the value of zen and trying to remain drama-free. Drama is just so goddamn exhausting and a waste of time. There was a time when I enjoyed a good drama and fight. Now all I can think is "I could be reading or do something useful instead of wasting time and brain power dealing with this foolishness." So here's to even less drama in Year 44.

So what's the plan for Year 44?

1. Better quality vacations. One of the sad realities with the change in job situation is that I no longer have as much time off (Nine weeks. sigh). So instead of long vacations, I think I just have to make sure they're awesome. If that means having to spend a bit more money to make them awesome, well, now that I don't have as much time off I have more money to spend on making them awesome. But yes, back to travelling. There's still so much of the world I want to see with Cathy.

2. Try and figure something out with the writing. As I said, I possess some skill, but so do a hell of a lot of people. I used to think being able to write was special. Everybody is online now and they're writing. Most of them are easily as good as I am, if not better. If I want to do this, what am I prepared to do?

3. Stick with the exercise, eating right and trying to stay healthy.

4. Drama-free. Ish.

5. Work on that whole "being a better husband" thing that Cathy seems to appreciate.

6. Try to be a better friend. I do miss and love those lunatics, even those bastards who call and sing me Happy Birthday like a funeral dirge and say I look great for 51 (ahahahaha, fuck you, Dups). But I hate phones and I suspect this might be the year where Facebook finally forces me to abandon it. So I need to do something.

7. And maybe try to get back into photography. We bought an Apple TV recently, and one of the features is that you can have photos scroll up the TV while music is playing. Seeing my pics that big reminded me that I used to be a pretty good photographer at one point. Just got out of the habit. Also, again, thanks to social media it seems like half the planet is a decent photographer.

8. Which reminds me, I have 10,000+ photos on my hard drive, in barely any kind of organization. I need to get them organized and delete the obviously crap one.

9. Keep building my Geek Room without shame. It is awesome and makes me happy.

10. And, you know, just try to keep being happy overall. It's not a bad life. Certainly not the one I would have predicted 20 years ago when I was gearing up to leave MUN and head to journalism school. But it's still a pretty good one. So when I'm feeling homicidal and frustrated, a deep breath and a mental reminder that I have it pretty good is a useful thing to remember.

Last Five
1. Where do you get off - Ron Hynes
2. Murder in the Southlands - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens*
3. Honeybear - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. Look after you - The Fray
5. Your algebra - The Shins