Saturday, September 29, 2007

The end of Vacation

Hello Everyone,
Well its been a long vacation and I have to say I'm happy to see the end of it. I find myself in recent days not missing that which we failed to do, but the quiet and piece of the north. I don't know how I would cope if I ever had to move back to the south again but I know it would be hard to enjoy. The frustrations of daily life down here seem to be extra aggravating for me, the constant sound of traffic, the fact that every idiot on the road seems to need to take a phone call while barreling down the road at 130 kph (which make me wonder how business or anyone survived before these modern miracles, everyone feels they are essential but I swear I will never carry one again).
Everyone seems to float around the cities thinking everything they do is so important and they must just get to wherever they are before the world ends, it reminds me of a saying, "Everything I do, I rush through, so I can do something else", No one seems to be enjoying the day, just making money to enjoy another day. I find it amazing so many people can enjoy lives like this and they have my respect but they can have these lives for themselves.
Take Care
Be Nice
And slow down and enjoy a single day.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Peace be the Journey

A wonderful view from the waters off of Tobermory. I love the Georgian Bay, I'm not sure why but everytime I go there it seems like I'm coming home.
A shipweck in the harbor of Tobermory, another reason to love this area, the water "seems" pristine (although I do understand that clear water is a bad thing, not a healthy one).
A goose preening near Laurel Conservation area.
Christophers first tree climbing experience, We didn't even realize it till a little later that he'd never done this before, no tree's no tree climbing.
The Knox Presbyterian church in Kincardine, This church has one of the most impressive pipe organs I've seen in North America. And BTW when did they start locking churches during the daytime, that seems very sad.
The Harbor in Kincardine

A interesting statue standing watch over the harbor at Port Burwell.

Hello Everyone,
We leave for Tsiigethchic NWT in 4 days. This community formerly known as Arctic Red River is located on the Mackenzie river delta. Approx 200 miles north of the Arctic circle at 67°27'N, 133°44'W. Our journey will begin in London Ontario, to Calgary, to Edmonton with a overnight stay over. followed by a flight out the next day to Yellowknife, then to Norman wells and finally to Inuvik. from Inuvik will have to drive down the Dempster highway down to Tsiigehchic with the help of two ferries over the Mackenzie river as well as the Arctic Red River. Although this leg of the journey is currently in the air as we don't know how we are going to travel this last 50 miles, hopefully someone in home office or in the community is working on a solution to this problem.
Take care,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Goodbye POV

On our last night in Puvirnituq we were treated to this lovely sunset with the towns fuel tanker acting as a lovely backdrop.
After months of trying I finally got a photo of the northern lights that is worth a damn. It seems that the key would be to pack your equipment in a box and send it a few thousand miles away, then just make due with what you have left. These shots were taken with the new "dishtowel scrunched up under the camera atop the BBQ tripod", one which I now highly recommend. The lights showed up for us briefly on our final night, providing these images.

Hello everyone,
We have arrived safe and sound in the city of Montreal. And as usual traveling with a child causes way to much stress to allow for the enjoyment of a very long and tedious series of flights. On the plus side we were able to clock off one of the last small planes on our list by flying in King Air 100, a nice little plane that seats 9 but tends to be blown around a lot more than the Otter ever did. The Landing in Kuujuaq became a little hectic when the tail was suddenly blown about about 10 feet from landing, when we were suddenly no longer looking at the runway but rather the grass the stands beside the runway.
We have been traveling around the north for over 2 years pretty much straight and haven't had much experience traveling in the city since then. I'm not sure what has changed, the city or us, but things seem different. I looked out the window this morning and saw buildings, that's all just buildings, oh yeah and people driving around going places. The level of activity at 5:00 am just seemed preposterous. Now to Montreal specifically, I lived in this city briefly in the past and it never really grew on me, the only things I learned were that its dangerous to drive in Montreal, but not as dangerous as walking. It seemed to be a city stuck between trying to be European and retain the character of a St- Johns, for example, but failing both.
Yesterday we rented a car from Hertz (or as I like to call them now, king of the free upgrade), on of the free upgrades was a vehicle with a GPS system. Now, I've never been one to shirk technology, but last night I was just too damn tried to give a poop and just got in, asked someone where the hotel was and went. The when looking for food, I just drove in ever increasing circles till I found the tracks of the illusive Subway, then drove in ever decreasing circles till I found the hotel again. This morning by contrast I was feeling up to the task and sat before the unit with a renewed vigor at how this device could make my life easier. Now thanks to this device my 5 minute drive this morning to McD's took just under a hour, for the 7.9 km drive I put 50 km on the car. Now, your thinking I hate the GPS.... but that is not the case, I love it. I spent most of the trip trying to screw the machine up, it surprised me in the end by not asking me to get out and walk, if it said left in 2 km, I went right in 2 feet then as it was working on a solution to this problem I would quickly preform a high speed J-turn, snickering all the way. despite my best efforts the thing got me home without calling me any names. If we return to the city again this will be one of the first things I add to my wish list. for now, I'll stick to my Explorer GPS however, as it'll get you home in the worst storm of the year.
That's it for now,
Take Care

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Its that time of year again

Hello Everyone,
Whenever I blog I attempt to keep it vague and non-specific as well as trying to keep entries upbeat and avoid negative topics. That being said for the last couple of years there's something I've been wanting to discuss and get off my chest once and for all.
I guess you could say that the new year has begun in the north as this is when the communities encounter the most changes, Most southerner's try to take vacation during the summer and the teachers all take off for the summer so every summer the influx of new faces reoccurs and we go through the same thing every year. In each community there always arrive a few new teachers, who wish to express to you their displeasure with their shopping choices for the next year, I read on someone's blog this year that one of these people actually referred to Northern as "Evil" (how one attributes such a morality judgment on a inanimate object I'll never know). Now I realize these people are still wandering around thinking they are in the south and everything is the same here as everywhere else but I feel the need to discuss some very simple business realities with my readers in hopes that we can share some understanding. Any business details given here are simply example ratio's and do not reflect any actual charges or values of any store I have been in. Here, my southern example will be a large Southern chain that we'll refer to as WallyWorld and then a northern alternative.
In my time in the south we had to apply (actually it was built in) to any products we received at Wally's, this rate was the equivalent to 6 cents a kilogram, this charge pays for warehousing, at the distribution center, delivery by truck to your store and general receiving charges to get merchandise to your store. This charge was universal and it didn't matter what was being shipped really everything was 6 cents a kilogram for this southern Ontario location, items that required refrigeration trucks could cause a extra half a cent if the vendor didn't take care of delivery themselves. profit margins are then applied to these base costs and a retail price is established. There's a old truckers adage that states "if you got it, it came by truck" and that applies to almost everything you'll find in a southern store.
Now the northern example as many other factors to consider. Firstly not all freight is the same.
There are 4 basic types or freight; food mail (perishables such as milk, produce, dairy products etc), these items are heavily subsided by the government in order to make them the staple of a healthy diet even in the north, but they still carry allot of extra charges that you wouldn't see in the south. Instead of traveling by truck to your store these items travel by truck and/or rail usually to a distribution area near a northern hub airport. There, they are separated and sorted by community to await flight to their destinations, this involves warehousing facilities that include freezers, refrigeration facilities as well as cargo storage. Food mail always has priority over all other cargo. Based on the southern example I gave the equivalent shipping charge for these items would be $1.50 a kilogram. Now we have the product hopefully in a northern community sitting at the airport, we either ave to pay a local service or more commonly we go ourselves (to save costs) and unload the plane into our own truck and take it to the store for receiving , repackaging and placement upon our shelves. we take the value of the goods, add shipping costs apply margin and create the retail price. And yes we are a business that operates same as in the south, we would like to recover our costs and make a profit on items we sell in our store's. Why people assume we should operate as a charity up here is beyond me when most of the people from the south who come here to work are simply here for the money. The other difficulty with this type of product is that it is highly perishable, this means you must build into your profit margin the fact that these items frequently arrive in beyond sellable condition, due to missed flights etc. That and the fact that many people up here will bypass fresh, healthy product to get to product they consider fresher (when there going to use it within the next 2 days anyway) further increasing spoilage and driving costs up again. That is how fresh products arrive in our store.
The next category is dry goods. These items are food items that are part of a healthy diet but not perishable, such as canned peaches, spaghetti, healthy drinks, flour, some cereals, canned soups etc. These items also receive some subsidy from the government bringing their shipping costs in respectively at $2.00 a kilogram. These items follow the same shipping route as the perishables minus the refrigeration process, but they usually fail to have the added disadvantage of spoilage, the common problem with these items is shipping damage, ripped bags, dented cans, 22 packs etc. These items however can't be allowed to freeze which affects how much you can carry and where you can store them. The shelf life on these products is usually good enough for the next 8 months but space constraints mean you carry your supply for weekly needs.

The next type or regular order is Cargo, these are items where the actual costs of shipping must be paid and the government offers no assistance to their purchase, such as Pop, potato chips, candy, cookies, toilet paper, paper towel, health and beauty items, unhealthy foods basically and everything other than food. The respective cost of shipping these items would be $5.00 per kilo + extra costs for bulky and poorly weighted products. These products are the last priority in shipping and the reason these items are usually the first to be sold out and sit empty until a free plane can make room for them. These are the items people always hold up as examples of northern pricing for the shock factor.

The last type of shipping is Sealift/ Winter Road shipping. These are seasonal shipping alternatives that we get to use in some stores to reduce retail prices at certain times of year. For Sealift it means we try to order high volume items with high shipping costs that we can store and sell, hopefully before expiration dates. The relative cost for this type of shipping would be around the level for dry goods but represents substantial saving on some of the items. reducing the freight charges by half, which is passed on to the consumer. These products get shipped, usually to Montreal, where they are stored until the load is together, loaded into SeaCan's and loaded onto large ships such as the one's you seen on this site, they are then shipped around the Arctic and unloaded in their respective communities. We have to store these items until we can fit them all in the store and stores would like to be able to hold about a 8 month supply of these items in a perfect world. Winter Road shipping is for communities that are inland during the winter we commission convoys of trucks to perform this same function, and they travel up the frozen rivers to the various communities with the same goal.
I will not reveal true shipping charges for any community I have been in but these vary greatly as well for both the boat and the regular fly in, as fuel prices continue to rise so do these prices and the more airline's, trucking companies, railroads, and boats involved the higher the cost. So far I have seen it range from a ratio of around $50.00 nortern dollars vs $1 southern dollar, to $300 to $1.00, and oddly enough the profit margin's of the north vs the south, almost identical.
Thanks for letting me vent,
Take care,