Friday, September 29, 2006

Blogging at 25,000 Feet

NOTE: The following journal was composed yesterday while aboard a Dash 8 winging my woeful* way from Montreal to Salluit. I am only in a suitable condition to post it this morning, due to intense pain resulting from the last entry.

8:35 AM

It’s about a 5 and three-quarter hour flight back home. We’re only 40 minutes into the flight, but I’m surrounded by screaming kids and ignorant cows of mothers who refuse to discipline their spawn. The back of my seat is being kicked, the kid is pounding the window, and keeps on screaming “auka” at his mother, which means “no” in Inuttitut. It’s going to be a very long, long flight. I’m going to see if I can change seats, but this is a small plane (27 seats) so no matter where I go I can’t escape the brat behind me.

To compound things, I’ve been up since 4:30 and had little sleep.

What did W.C. Fields say about children?

9:26 AM

Why do I keep hearing warning indicators from the cockpit? I’m a lot paranoid about flying at the best of times, but this is ridiculous. If we make it to LaGrande I predict we’ll be on the ground for quite some time. But at least the airline has a mechanic there.

9:32 AM

We’ve started our descent into LaGrande, the gateway air terminal for the massive James Bay hydro electric. They will let us off the plane for about 20 minutes while we refuel. I also know that the captain likes to smoke. The smoke alarm-like beeps have died down lately.

LaGrande is on the northern edge of Canada’s great boreal forest. The trees – spruce, fir, larch and tamarack – are all stunted, barely reaching 20 feet high although some are hundreds of years old. Another interesting feature is a string bog, basically a small pond with strips of moss growing across it.

10:45 AM

Back in the air again on the way to Puvirnituq. While we were on the ground, I spoke with the pilot concerning the warning beeps coming from the flightdeck. Here’s the story: today we had a very strong tail wind, something around 110 knots. This would have put us in too early at LaGrande. So the crew pulled back on the throttles to such a degree that the airspeed indicator showed a very slow speed that the crew were being told to lower the landing gear, not the usual thing at 25,000 feet.

I watched Criminal Minds this week, and the lead character told one of his team who was displaying signs of nervousness while flying that fear of flying is actually a control issue. Now I usually don’t get my psychotherapy from television, but this makes sense to me. Once on the plane as a passenger, you’re there for the duration, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. For those of us control freaks, this is very difficult to tolerate. I met someone who had the same problem, and he had to fly a couple of times a week as part of his job. His wife convinced him to take flying lessons, and not only did his fear dissipate, but he was able to lease a plane on behalf of his company and fly it around Europe.

My little workarounds for my nervousness such as using a GPS to see where we are, how fast we are going and when we will reach our destination is just a way of trying to impose some control on the uncontrollable.


I broke my tooth. On a croissant. A soft croissant. Now I’ll have to go straightway to the dentist when I get home since I will not be able to eat over the weekend with the tooth like this. I hope he can fit me in.

1:00 PM

After Puvirnituq we’re down to two women, a baby and myself on the plane and should be back in Salluit in about 25 minutes. The clouds are very interesting today – cumulus – instead of the lower layer of stratiform clouds we usually get. I notice the pilot is making an effort to reduce turbulence by flying around the clouds as much as possible. These are the type of clouds we would find in the south of Canada.

1:56 PM

I landed half an hour ago at Salluit airport, but no pickup from the airport. Repeated calls home have gone unanswered. Is this punishment for my spending an extra day in Montreal? I will bum a lift home and call the dentist as soon as I can determine what has happened to my family.

4:57 PM

Intense pain. I was able to see the dentist almost immediately. He first fixed another split tooth I had on the same side, then removed the loose part of the molar which was cloven almost perfectly in half aboard the plane this morning. He then performed some gum surgery to expose enough of the remain tooth beneath the gum line to allow him to rebuild it this coming week. A bloody but relatively painless procedure requiring four stitches. But now the freezing is waning, and one side of my face is a throbbing mass of inflamed neurons firing pain signals en masse. Took a shot of straight vodka (my grandmother's traditional toothache remedy) but found it burned like Hades. I doubt any request to the nursing station for morphine will be acceded to. Lord, I wish I could just sleep this one off.

I'm going to review this post tomorrow morning before shooting it upwards to my blog.

* No alcohol served aboard to settle my nerves.

Baggiefied Bic Update

It appears my humble little blog has convinced those in charge of airport security within the Dominion of Canada to allow unbaggied lighters on aircraft. Obviously, my employment of marxist dialetics in my argument was a tour de force even the most hardened idiot couldn't withstand.

The only twist is one per customer.

Let's hear it for the Web 2.0.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bizarre Airport Security Measure

I've just got back to Montreal from attending a conference early this week in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The seminar I attended on business incubation was really stimulating, and the hospitality of Haligonians was nothing short of overwhelming.

What really has me scratching my head, however, is the latest wrinkle in Canada's airport security regulations.

I had forgotten to pack my lighter in my luggage in Montreal, and had to pitch it into a big pile of discarded Bics when going through security. This I had expected. I was unable to find paper matches (still legal) on my last day in Halifax, so I bought a cheap lighter I wouldn't mind turfing before getting on the plane.

So when I passed through security in Halifax on the return leg of my trip, I dutifully handed in the lighter to the security guard and told her to throw it out for me. "Don't worry, dearie", she said smiling, "just hand her over for a sec". She whipped out a small zip-loc baggie, placed the lighter inside, and gave it back and said "now it's okay to take it on board".

I still have that WTF expression on my face as I ponder what possible deterrent to acts of terrorism simply encasing a lighter in a plastic bag any two-year old could open provides if taking an unbagged lighter was such a serious security consideration. Come to think of it, what does placing any of the recently permitted lotions and liquids in a baggie do for our safety? All I can think of is speeding up the inspection of said items by grouping them together.

Personally, I am glad for airport security, although I am no longer able to take a walker of panic-abating vodka on board the plane for the time being. I am not so much afraid of terrorists as I am of idiots and deranged individuals. If preventing someone from stowing a half-filled can of naptha from a camping trip means having my luggage opened up and inspected, I'm all for it. But as far as the carry-on stuff is concerned, I'm afraid the human brain is imaginative to dream up some Plan B to wreak distruction if they thought seriously enough about it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Acts of Supreme Selfishness

Last week our town of 1100 had 2 suicides. Both were young men, and the two incidents apparently had nothing to do with each other.

Nunavik, that Arctic part of Quebec north of the 55th parallel, apparently has the highest suicide rate in the world. It is also where I, my wife and five children live. I can honestly tell you I live in constant fear lest a suicide affect my family as well.

What pisses me off is that those in charge closed the school and put all the flags in town at half mast. To my mind, this only reinforces the notion in the minds of those contemplating suicide that "they'll miss me when I'm gone". I feel very much for the families affected by these two deaths, but I also feel a great anger towards the two young men who killed themselves in what basically are selfish and childish acts.

A few years back we had a suicide cluster, with eight in one calendar year. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we are not going to repeat the same history this year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Canadian Prime Minister Doubleplusungood

I've always been deeply suspicious of the Canadian federal government headed by Stephen Harper. Their programme is next to non-existent (minimize criticism by doing SFA, a political version of rope-a-dope); everything is spin, spin, spin (all ministers' speeches have to be vetted by the Prime Minister's Office); and now they are imposing language doublespeak on our bureaucracy.

The case in point: a senior and respected scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, who basically told his political superiors to shove it where the sun don't shine when ordered to refer to the government as Canada's New Government (with capital letters) and was fired for his temerity.

Even though Harper's government is a full nine month's old, and is only in power by the grace of the other 3 parties in parliament (minority government), it seems to be in a constant state of information control. There were indications of this early on where Harper tried to stop public broadcast of military funerals and flying flags at half mast, so as too shield future voters from the realities of our presence in Afghanistan.

I fear the next political reorganization in Ottawa will see the creation of a Ministry of Love.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Putting the Internet to Good Use

There's a new toy in town: we now have two webcams installed at the airport to give an idea what the local weather conditions are. For those of you who recall my epic journey last March in which it took me 7 days to get back home due to inclement weather, I'm sure you will be able to see why I am so fascinated by this innovation.

The cameras are updated about every ten minutes or so. Unfortunately, because our Internet feed is via satellite it is not feasible to stream the pictures as video. But once every ten minutes isn't too bad.

I will be adding the URL to the sidebar soon, but for those of you who just can't wait to see what the current meteorological conditions are in Salluit, here it is:

One caveat, though. Our airport apron is not lit at night, and the aperture of the cameras are set for maximum depth of field, which doesn't allow much light to get in in dim conditions. So you will have to check the Salluit ephemera for sunrise and sunset, and adjust for Eastern Stnadard Time.

Being ever the prankster, I plan on getting some aluminum pie plates and a fishing rod and start a UFO craze in town. I'm envisioning something à la Ed Wood, and maybe I'll jazz it up with some LEDs and a couple of crucifixes. But I need your help: in order to further develop this hoax, I need to bolster it with some other strange and other worldly phenomena. Crop circles are out of the question, obviously, and I'm not the sort of person who would go in for animal mutilation. So have any of you out there got some ideas? Let me know.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Multiple Choice

I've missed you all very much lately, and feel I should offer up some kind of explanation for my lack of slinging bloggy bits and bytes out at you from my humble abode in the North.

From your own blogs and your comments on mine I have a mental image of each of you. Now I don't know how well these portraits jibe with reality, but they are mine and I treasure them. Therefore, so as not to dispell any ideas you have built up about me, and to sustain an air of mystery about myself and this blog, I give you a variety of excuses for my recent absence from the scene.

1. Nanuk's answered his country's call. Although few realize it, Canada is a mega-power on the world stage, but being a retiring and shy sort of nation, you wouldn't know it. I am sworn to secrecy about the nature of my mission, but I can tell you it involved that nasty business over in San Marino.

2. Nanuk went into hibernation. I simply vegged out for the past month, refusing to so much as boot up the old Commadore 64 to see what's cooking elsewhere in blogland. But as nature's paint brush paints the autumn hillsides with splashes of slushy white, I feel suddenly revitalized and ready to face the world again.

3. Michael Eisner is a real prick. You know, you just can't force genius. But Disney won't let up on badgering me for my latest script. So I've been burning the midnight vodka on my latest screen treatment, but how in hell can you write for a character to be played by Paris Hilton? With any luck, it will be in theatrical release in 2009.

4. Flotsam and jetsam. A gale in the north Atlantic blew a rudderless cargo ship from Glasgow into my bay, and by enforcing the Law of the Sea I claimed its consignment of Laphroaig whiskey as my own. I've spent the last month engaged in quality control to ensure that each bottle didn't suffer from the storm.

5. Nanuk was on a religious retreat. I wandered the trackless tundra for the last forty days and forty nights on a spiritual request. Okay, I know it's only been 37 days and nights since my last post, but who has a calendar when they wander the trackless tundra on a spiritual quest, I ask you?

So there you have my excuses. Take your pick. But again my apologies - I've missed you all!