Sunday, January 28, 2007


Great Googly Moogly!

I learned how to build an igloo on satuday from a pair of professors doing a bush pilot survival course. I slept in in on saturday night wrapped in caribou skins. It was bananas. you can build an igloo using just a carpenter's saw and a small machete called a "snow knife." you cut 2.5'x1.5' blocks from hard-drifted snow using the saw and then mitre the corners to make the blocks sit snugly against one another. and there is a little more tomfoolery to get the layers of blocks off the ground going. you make it during the day when it is warm so that it is frozen solid by nighttime and not going anywhere.

Thanks to rick and jill for their knowledge and caribou skins. the igloo was very small. I couldn't sit up on my haunches, let along kneel. and I had to build an extension for my feet. I spent a long time patching the cracks between the snow blocks because building really good igloos takes lots of practice. but caribou fur is very warm.

if you click on the pictures, they enlarge. and there is not another person in the igloo with me. trust me, it is way too small for that.

Friday, January 26, 2007

hooray for sponge hockey! no bloodshed this year, and a Zoology victory! time to sharpen the skates.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Boy did I make the wrong career choice

so, this is life as a hedge fund manager (retractable playground roof!!)

and this is life as a field biologist (avoid this video if you are squeamish).

For those who are curious, the man in the video is my roommate, labmate, and general australian-style mate, Kyle. and the head of school greeted students where I taught as well. it was a point of contention with the faculty.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

so I was reading a huge NYT feel-good piece about a bunch of refugee kids playing soccer in georgia and thier inspiring female coach. It is a wicked-long piece and certainly makes you feel good about refugees and hate xenophobic georgians. as I was reading it, I realized that it encorporated at least two major themes from articles I had read elsewhere. There was a big piece in the new yorker in december about somalian refugees settling in Lewiston, ME and the issues surrounding that. so apparently there are lots of refugees in little towns with cheap housing who don't know what to make of these foreigners. this is interesting, but it sortof an exoticized, foreign correspondant view of small-town culture. The piece also brought up the idea of the "great teacher myth" which isn't terrible different from the "great man" theory of history. That it takes single people, usually non-black and from top-tier universities, giving over their lives and incomes to make the disenfranchised successful. (Magical Jordanian woman-coach went to Smith). This idea has been in the news recently with the painful-looking "freedom writers" and the woman whose autobiography the movie is based on. oddly enough, the myth of the great teacher breaks along partisan lines because it is huge issue of contention for the teacher's union and factors into the fight about NCLB. It also plays directly into the dreams of your friends who did TFA, and why they frequently met a lot of resistance from their peers. The NYT is usually pretty anti NCLB, so it is odd that they are propping up this notion in a purely anecdotal level in this piece. but it is fun. and who doesn't like to think about sudanese and bosnia boys playing soccer together in america? seriously.

I think john darnielle is an anti-anti-depressant. I am now listening to "the sunset tree" for the 5th time since friday. and it is making me miserable. laustintexas brought this idea up a while ago. well, they were right. I think the secret is that it isn't inherently mopey music as far as tempo and inflection goes (dashboard et al), the lyrics are just misery-inducing.

I woke up at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep until 6. this hasn't happened since I was 11. I blame the mountain goats. or maybe my colossal academic inferiority complex.

Friday, January 19, 2007

went to see "shortbus" last night at the our only art movie theater. It was really good. very funny and well constructed. but I found the storytelling got very forced late in the movie. Is it possible to end a contemporary fictional work in a satisfying manner. Shortbus resorted to magical realism, "little children" (the book at least) resorted to self-aware narrative. is it simply true that ending a story within the constructs of the fictional narrative is no longer acceptable, because fictional characters are meant to stand in for the reader/viewer? and you can't please all of the people all of the time. whereas, choosing an ending that dismisses the fictional reality doesn't leave anyone feeling abandoned.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

back from a 5 day trip to fairbanks. fairbanks is beautiful. It is full of snow-covered pine trees and northern lights. that being said, the sun doesn't rise until 10.30. It is warmer there than winnipeg, because they don't have wind.

I smuggled some arctic cod samples back to canada to do calorimetry on. I was given these fish in a cooler with lunchbox ice packs for a 12 hr plane trip. My attempts to keep them frozen included wrapping the cooler in my fleece, putting the contraption in my carry-on duffel and wrapping the duffel in my winter jacket in the hopes of maximizing insulation. I cut a pretty absurd figure in all the airports. real scientists have dry ice and shipping permits. I might as well have been pushing my yellowmicrobus up to 30mph. I guess that is half the fun.

it has warmed up in winnipeg, so I will now stop whining about the cold.

sorry about the breathe vs. breath typo in the last post.

Friday, January 12, 2007

it is a new kind of cold: too cold to breath.

when I breath through my mouth, the breath catches in my throat. When I breath through my nose, I can feel the crystals forming in my nostrils.

If I inhale and exhale through my balaclava, there is nice warm air on my face, but the moisture supposedly promotes facial frostbite.

I think I have solved this problem by inhaling through my mouth covered by my balaclava, and exhaling though my nose. this seems to minimize associated problems.

It is also too cold to walk the 20' home.

but blue truck started like a charm last night. and the bus was on time. thank goodness for small favors

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Our Country

Perhaps you have been affronted by the John Mellencamp, "this is our country" Chevy ads. In them, John Mellencamp (nee John Cougar Mellencamp) sings a ballad about how great america is behind a montage of american images (Including vietnam interestingly enough). This is lame for several reasons including the fact that JM (nee JCM) used to be a populist protest singer instrumental in things like farm aid. but you probably know all that.

That ad is being shown up here with an edited version of the song that is not nation-specific and it is being shown against a montage of logging, fishing, and hockey shots. This is silly in and of itself. but imagine Chevy running that clip in other markets. What would the "national" montage look like for Mexico? France? South Africa?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On the recommendation of the new Physiology instructor, I tried a new radio station. I have been a pretty diehard UMFM fan since I arrived here. Maybe it has something to do with my working to develop loyalty to my region and university. and they do a nice job of sponsoring concerts. but my new station is run out of the local community college--Red River College. I recommend it if you are stuck at a computer like I am.

Things I have learned listening to community college radio this morning.

1. REM's delightful "superman" is actually a cover. The original was written in the '60s by Gary Zekley of "The clique." this unfortunately means that the charmingly quirky phrasing "you don't really love the guy you make it with, now, do you?" cannot be attributed to Michael Stipe's excellence, but simply to decadal shifts in lexicon.

2. That heartbreaking version of "I don't like Mondays" by Tory Amos that the West Wing deployed so brilliantly after the swimming pool bombing is a cover of a completely ridiculous piece of music by Irish band, the boomtown rats. The early 80's synth destroys all the pathos to me. It is interesting that people used to feel legitimate, beautiful, heartfelt angst to ridiculous background beats. We think of 80s music as being fun-loving and silly which makes it so successful as kitsch, but it was musical sensibility that enveloped a wider emotional range.

3. the rockin' "walking with a ghost" is by Tegan and Sara. I guess that means that I have to stop making fun of Tegan and Sara and be sorry that I missed them at TT the Bear's. This song was also covered by the White Stripes. Between that and their cover of Jolene, my respect for the white stripes just keeps rising.

4. The Weakerthans "Utilities" continues to be beautiful in that Zach Braff-y emo way. It includes such lines as "Our wishes don't do dishes or brake repairs" and "I've got more faults than the state of california." The effect of the song is amplified if you can imagine 5,000 winnipeg young adults singing along with John Samson and his guitar.

Monday, January 08, 2007

back to the cold, dreary north.
back to gloves and dry skin
back to pb+j on healthy cardboard bread.
back to halfway decent sportscentre without all the stupid interviews and ex-jock opinions
back to work,
back to terrible mexican food,
back to peers with similar earning potential
back to the wonderland of skiing, skating, and climbing ice
back to the joys of black beans
back to the Channukah-style miracle that is Blue Truck
back to the typos (like the one above) to characterize Clovers
back to a lax shaving schedule

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