End of the World party

My last week in Thunder Bay began on a saturday.

Adam was turning older the next day and I’d be leaving the city in less than 7 days so he threw a party.

In typical Adam fashion he really wanted it to be a success. His goal seemed to be to provide a fun time for everyone, and if he managed to do that, then he would be able to have a good time too.

The first step was to procure a disco ball. I think this should give you an idea of what kind of party he had in mind.

I helped Adam move some furniture into the backyard, clearing some floor space in the living room. We set up the lights so they would be just right for the disco ball and we began creating a playlist with Grooveshark for the night.

This being Thunder Bay we had no expectations that anyone would show up before midnight, but two people did arrive right at 9. The crowd slowly built up until the dance party component of the party was hopping, and the talkie talk component was talking.

The dance party component

Okay, it was sparse, but it was fun. Let's just call it a sparsty.

I was having fun with the strobe and long exposures. Yes, a strobe light. Adam is a party genius.

Yes! That's what I want: Multiple arms!

The talkie talk component

It all carried on until the wee hours of the morning. The sun was getting ready to crack dawn as I stumbled home. If you’ll recall I began this stint in Thunder Bay with a wild and raucous party, so this was a good way to end it.

Ah, but I was not quite finished with the city.

On sunday I slept late, then went out to play Bike Polo, hung over, seriously dehydrated, but with a newly tuned up bike, which meant I had brakes! I didn’t score any goals, but it was way more fun!

Unfortunately playing sports on a sunday day with a hang over has a bad effect on plans to watch a movie with Misty. I felt awful, but I felt awful, and had to reschedule. I slept from 8pm to 6am.

So that was my last weekend in Thunder Bay. Thanks for everything everyone. It was a year of adventure with a decent mix of good and bad and a crap load of learning. See you again soon.

If you want to find out how I got from Thunder Bay to Sudbury you’ll have to go over to Sudbury Matturday Night, the new blog.


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The end is nigh

Hey dudes, the Thunder Matt Blog is drawing to a close soon but don’t worry, the spirit of this blog will live on for an additional five months starting June 13, 2011 in the form of a blog about living in Sudbury!

Here we go again!

Right, so I have some news: My contract in Thunder Bay was slated to end at the end of July but I’ve just accepted a position in our Sudbury office and I start there June 13. It’s crazy and exciting! The job is a higher position than I’m in right now, it’s more money, more responsibility, more exciting!

Not to boast or anything but I’m feeling very awesome about it. Especially since I didn’t apply for the job, I was recommended for it.

So I’m going to start a new blog with a new name. I haven’t decided what to call it yet, so put your suggestings in the comments below. It’s been a year since I started this blog, longer than I expected it to last, and it’s really helped me feel connected to the world I left in Toronto. It’s also forced me to go out and explore the town and learn about things here. I guess a year is a long time though, and if I hadn’t learned something about this place I would have failed as conscious organism.

I’ve made a couple of good friends and I’ve become pretty good at my job I think. There have been a fair number of good times, a few great times and very few terrible times. It’s a shame that this Sudbury job is going to delay my triumphant return to Toronto by about three months, but  I’d rather spend those months working than looking for work so I really think this is the best choice.

Stay tuned for a couple more entries from Thunder Bay before I take off, and I hope you follow me on the next blog. Thanks for encouraging me!

Google has some interesting ideas about how I should try to get to work.

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Bully Beef (plus The News)

My office is having a multi-cultural potluck lunch on friday. It’s not the sort of thing where you bring in food from “your country”, that’d be a bit too white, instead we all drew from a hat which region we would bring food from. I was hoping to get something I’m not familiar with, and I certainly did: Pacific Islands (including Hawaii).

After doing a little research I found that Hawaiians are known for their love of spam, which became a major source of protein during WWII because fishing was prohibited and there was plenty of canned meat thanks to American soldiers. I also learned something about some of the foods most commonly associated with Hawaii: Pineapples, coconuts and pigs were all brought to Hawaii by its earliest settlers. There aren’t really any edible plants that are truly native to Hawaii, and most native birds were hunted to extinction.

This means that when I looked for traditional Hawaiian foods one of the most common results was the Loco Moco:

Loco moco is a dish native to Hawaiian cuisine. There are many variations, but the essential loco moco consists of white rice topped with ahamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy.

So I guess that’s the Hawaiian answer to the Persian.

There are a number of other, more “traditional” foods that people make on the Pacific Islands but most use ingredients I’m either entirely unfamiliar with, like taro, or can’t get a hold of, like banana leaves or swordfish.

I settled on a Bully Beef casserole, which isn’t from Hawaii at all, but Papua New Guinea. It’s rice, tomatoes and canned corned beef. Here’s how you make it:

And in the news:

Turbines Approved – This stupid NIMBY battle is inching its way to a conclusion. Last week Thunder Bay city council voted to settle with the proponent of a wind farm on the local hill rather than face a law suit from them for… hmm, not sure what the law suit was over. the article didn’t cover that. Anyway, the settlement meas two turbines that were to be built near a ski hill, won’t be. But the project overall is still moving ahead. It’s been opposed by residents of the homes nearest to the proposed sites who say that the wind turbines will cause health problems, disrupt bird migration and kill bats. No wait, now the only thing they seem to be concerned about is property values:

“The city has walked away and stuck their head in the sand,” said Beals, adding residents fear their property could be devalued by as much as 40 per cent.

Why would property values go down? I have no idea. These homes will still have an amazing view of the mountains, plus the added beauty of a bunch of wind turbines. I bet these residents never thought a turbine was ugly until it was proposed on “their” skyline.

If anyone were to ask me, yes I would support a wind turbine within sight of my home. No, if I was in the market to buy a house in Thunder Bay the existence of a wind turbine within sight of an otherwise perfect home would not deter me from buying that home.

If you want to protest something ugly and dangerous, go protest Balmoral St.

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The News

More Power

Here’s something very cool. A paper plant in Thunder Bay will be expanding its BioMass-fueled electrical generator. This will allow it to produce up to 60% of the energy it needs on-site. That’s great right? It’s a Good New story, right? Well, it’s getting $9.6 million from the Province to do it, so everyone in the comments is up in arms. “Tax dollars down the toilet”, etc, etc. “What about that perfectly good coal plant across the river?” and so on.

and then it gets personal.

gone for good says:

Credit should be given where it’s due. Doug Murray has been to Toronto countless times procuring this deal. Really sad how the other two [Liberal MPPs Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle, pictured in the article] weasel in and try and take the credit for this. I spoke with one on the executive of the union that represents this workplacen this evening. He was at todays meeting and just shakes his head when he see’s this photo-op. We know who really did the work here. And it’s certainly not these two. Congrats Mr. Murray. Allot of hard work on your part and we truly appreciate all your time and effort. Anything for a vote it seems.

lori says:

ahhhhhhhhh gone, the things you will stoop too. So I am supporting LIberals but you are not supporting the NEVER DONE PROGRESS (NDP) party. Nice logic there. And once again you spoke to a guy and it was Mr. Murray who did all of this. Are you on drugs. Of course Mr. Murray worked hard and put company money forward but so did the government, you know the government you criticize for not doing anything. You sing the same words over and over again. [lori then goes on to explain how she found out through google the reasons why the mill laid off some shifts]

gone for good says:

I don’t need to google anything lady. I was on the floor in 2003 when Ruberto came up to # 5 and gave us the announcement. I LIVED the whole unfortunate incident. So keep your on drugs comments to yourself. You seem to be the one that should medicated. You have no knowledge of this. Never had, never will.

gone for good says:

RBosch says: The story was quite clear in stating there would be approximately 56 new jobs created within the mill due to this project. That is over and above the numbers needed to construct same.

So because the media reports this, it’s true?NOT TRUE,,,,,,,,,They want a 4% staff reduction AGAIN.What part here do you not understand. Or are you a fan of the “Delusional Lori Club”Watch carefully as we loose more people. They will get this cut. There are no jobs created here by the co-gen. Only more job losses. Media has very little knowledge of what goes on in there. They asked us if number 4 would be back online. That also will likely never happen. Better yet, ask Lori. She knows everything. Glad the sensible ones here don’t take her seriously.

gone for good says:

I worked in that mill for 26 years, but you know more about forestry then me. HAHAHAHAHA,,,,,,YOU are fricken hilarious Lady. [people up here say “fricken” all the “fricken” time. Sometimes I feel like I’m on frakkin’ Battlestar Galactica]

There’s a lot of pain up here related to the closure of pulp and paper mills and the loss of forestry jobs, and everyone blames The Government. They also moan and complain any time The Government spends money on something. I try to sort it out in my head, and the only solution I can think of that would please people like “gone for good” would be for The Government to make forestry and pulp and paper production a viable business somehow, without spending any public dollars. He’d probably punch me in the face for using the air dryer in the bathroom instead of the paper towels (the bathroom at work has both).

GO Transit orders 50 more cars from Thunder Bay Bombardier plant

Yeah! This is totally awesome and there’s no way anybody can trash this story. The Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay will be working hard to build 50 more 2 level cars for GO Transit to support the system’s expansion in southern Ontario. It’s fucking awesome! The only thing I can think of to say that sounds even remotely negative about this is that it would be nice if there was affordable passenger rail service in the north. But it’s not feasible so I’m cool with it.

Once again Bill Mauro (Liberal MPP) has his picture in the paper for the announcement. and once again he gets shit on.

pawn says:

Mauro did absolutely nothing and takes the credit. This is his usual trick that most people miss and actually believe he did something.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan) helped announce a $125 million contract for the local Bombardier plant Monday morning.

ibrando says:

This is great news for Thunder Bay. Although we could do without our local bootlicker grabbing a photo op. Billy admit it, this contract was coming to Bombardier anyway. Your party and your political career are finished in October. Nice picture though, the dimmer the lighting the better!

ibrando says:

d669, This was coming to Bombardier anyway because it is a simple extension of an existing contract between the province and the company. Billy is the Minister of Nothing and therefore is no more than gum stuck to the bottom of McGuinty’s shoe.

Personally, I would love to run the Ministry of Nothing.

I have no opinion of Bill Mauro as an MPP. But what I think is so hilarious about these comments is how much they resent him for not doing a damn thing to make this happen yet he gets his picture in the paper all the time like he’s a big shot.

These people clearly have no idea what they’re talking about (I don’t mean to suggest that he actually DID anything though). When Steve Jobs unveils the ipad2 does that mean that he was directly responsible for its creation? Frick no. There were hundreds, or thousands, of people involved in developing and producing the ipad, but he’s the head of the company so he gets to announce it as the company’s achievement. If he wasn’t available, some other appropriate person would make the announcement. It’s the same for provincial initiatives like this. Bill Mauro is making the announcement because this is his riding and he is acting as a representative of the provincial government because Dalton McGuinty can’t come up here every time someone gets some money or a contract.

Here’s how it goes when there’s an announcement:

  1. Can the Premiere announce it? If not, go to #2
  2. Can the Minister announce it? If not, go to #3
  3. Can the local MPP announce it? If not, find someone else.

It has nothing to do with taking personal credit for the thing. If the Premiere had announced it they would never assume he was trying to take personal credit for it.

Developer’s new plans for former school presented to city

There’s a closed school in the northish part of town. There’s a lot of school yard around it, and a lot of single family homes surrounding that. A developer bought the land and plans to convert the school into condos and build some other multi-unit buildings on the property. A lot of local residents are opposed to the project and complain that it’ll create too much traffic, and take away open space (they all have massive yards), and the usual anti-density NIMBYism you’d expect with this sort of thing. My initial response was, What a bunch of whiny NIMBYs, but then I had a look at the location of the site.

Like a lot of school sites it is tucked into the middle of a residential neighbourhood. In this case it’s a fairly low density neighbourhood, far from any employment or even commercial uses and the closest bus stop is on the wrong end of a loop that doesn’t go anywhere in particular. EVERYBODY in that development will drive to work, to shopping, to recreation.

But this city has a lot of closed schools. What else can the school board do with them? I have no answers.

The comments on this story are actually reasonably reasonable.

In Entertainment news

Films revealed


The North of Superior Film Association unveiled the line-up for its two-day Northwest Film Fest. Hey, that’s great. I wish more good movies would play in Thunder Bay, but I also wish those were movies that hadn’t already played here, and aren’t readily available on fricken DVD!

The festival takes place at the Silver City cinema, which is a terrible theatre. But it’s better than the alternative, which is no theatre at all.

This is why I shake my head okay, They’re showing Buried the Ryan Reynold’s film. Why would they bother?! It’s on video! It’s on video right now! I was at blockbuster today looking at used DVDs and there’s stacks of it for sale for less than $20!! They’re also showing Blue Valentine. That’s cool, oscar nominated performances and stuff, but the film society already screened that one!

All right I’m being a jerk. I shouldn’t let the big star movies overshadow the other films.

The documentary Steam of Life speaks to the city’s large Finn population as it shows a series of interviews with Finn men in what NOSFA president Mary Mascarin calls the “revered place of all Finlanders – the sauna.”


Music from the Big House, also a documentary, follows blues musician Rita Chiarelli as she puts on a concert in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Chiarelli is known to many Thunder Bay residents from the city’s popular Blues Fest and also her work with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Awesome! (even though I hate blues music)

So it’s not all terrible, and I appreciate the fact that the big movies are paying for the little ones to be here. I’m really just suffering withdrawl from all the film festivals that take place in Toronto. Do you people realize just how many film festivals there are in Toronto?! TIFF, HotDocs, Images, CineFranco, what else? Reel Asian, and more. Those are just the ones I can think of right now.

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Misty came to visit! (a couple weeks ago)


From this angle it becomes clear that the Sleeping Giant is in a sleeping bag.

I flew down on Porter arriving at about 1:30, but unfortunately I had to meet with the group I was working with on the project I was in town for. What was this? My employer decided to run a fun, extra-curricular training kind of program that help people develop additional skills and get to know each other, etc. It was almost exactly like the studio projects at Ryerson except we only had 5 weeks to develop a policy response to a huge broad question. My groups question was how to engage the private sector in affordable housing. Well that’s an easy nut to crack.

We went through our presentation a few times, and talked about Egypt (one of our group members has all her family there). I told them up front that I had to leave by 5 to see my girlfriend and some other friends and they all understood. We were in good shape anyway.

You can see almost all of Gerrard from up there. How many delivery trucks, or shredder trucks are parked in the bike lane?

Look at that hole! It's too bad though. I'm gonna miss that parking lot.

My room was at the Delta Chelsea and I met Misty in the lobby. For dinner we met Phil and Ryan around the corner at the Wolf and Firkin. It was good, the company I mean. Marla joined us a little later and it was great to see everybody. It was just too bad  we couldn’t hang out more.

The final event of the program started with breakfast at 9, but at the kick-off all they had was muffins and orange juice so Misty and I had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs. It was okay. Scrambled eggs from a vat, small glasses for OJ, small table. Not entirely satisfying especially because I just wanted to go to the airport and fly back to Thunder Bay with Misty right away. Or spend the day with her in Toronto. I miss that city. It felt so good to be back.

Inside the Arts & Letters Club. They have family crests or something on the walls. My favourites are Button and Lefroy.



The day went pretty well. I thought that our presentation went better than anyone elses, but our group did not win the contest. We were fine with that. There wasn’t really a prize anyway.

I grabbed a pint with my group back at the Wolf and Firkin, then rushed to the subway and the Porter shuttle to meet Misty at the airport. We would have five days together in the cold, but it’d be fun, of course it would.


It was a bumpy flight. Misty and I sat together at the very back of the plane, and we wondered if that had anything to do with it. A Porter flight is kind of like a bus ride. Both times that I’ve flown down with my coworker she ran into different people she knew who were either coming or going. And I passed a Thunder Bay friend in the airport on the way north once before. It’s a bit like in 2001 when Dr. Heywood Floyd bumps into someone he knows on his way to the moon. “Where you headed? Up or down?” Pretty routine. And I know Porter doesn’t fly jets, but I sure feel Jet Set hopping over the great lakes to get to Toronto in less than 2 hours. When usually it takes about 2 days.

We had a few things we knew we wanted to do while Misty was in town.

  • Thunder Oak cheese Farm
  • Hike to High Falls on Pigeon River
  • Dinner at my dad’s cousin’s restaurant
  • The Hoito
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Kakabeka Falls
  • walkin’ around town

We also wanted to go to Historic Fort William for their winter carnival, but decided to skip it.

Originally we thought we’d just have to rent a car for one day, but the price was so good, and it was so cold, that we took it for the weekend.

Cheese, America and Frozenness.

A week or two earlier Adam and I took a drive down to the border to pick up a package of his, and it ended up serving as a dress rehearsal for Misty’s visit, which meant I knew where I was going, and I only felt lost for a brief moment.

Thunder Oak cheese farm was fun. When you go in there’s a little shop with dutch treats and hunks of cheese behind glass. Then to the right is a sitting area and a window through which you can see rows upon rows of shelves loaded with wheels of cheese. To the right of that room there are a couple more big windows into the room where they separate the curd from the whey and mush it into wheels. We were there in time to watch a couple of miserable cheese people in galoshes working away. It was so wet! I thought the windows might be one way, but they weren’t and I felt bad for staring.

Misty bought some curds for us to snack on in the car, plus some cheese to take home to her family. They make gouda there and they have a number of varieties. The black pepper is really good and the dill was good too. Ask for samples! The store also has a bunch of Dutch treats like toast sprinkles (candy sprinkles for your toast) and salty licorice. I acquired a  taste for salty licorice when I worked at the framing store and my coworker brought some in one day. I mixed some “sweet” licorice with salty licorice, and double salt licorice, and they were all great. and unpleasant. They kind of leave a gassy feeling in your mouth.

Norwesters, or some other short mountains. You know, even people in Thunder Bay are down on their mountains, saying they're not really mountains. I think they're great! So sudden (taken during the trip with Adam)

The cheese farm was on the way to Pigeon River Provincial Park, but just beyond that is the US / Canada border. And just beyond that is Ryden’s, where they sell $14 bags of delicious beef jerky (and American candy bars and sodas), so we decided to hop over the border. We weren’t planning to, and I didn’t bring my passport with me, but I thought if they weren’t going to let us across it’d be no big loss and maybe they’d let us across just because?

The Border (taken during the trip with Adam)

I was a little wrong. They held onto our ID and asked us to pull over to the side and go into the office. sigh.

They barely spoke to us. We explained that we just wanted to get some American chocolate bars and we’d be heading back. They asked for the keys to the car and went out to search it. We sat in the office for a little while. One of the border guards chatted with a Canadian in our same situation about UFC then they gave us back our papers and let us through. We considered driving down to Grand Marais for lunch but decide that since we told the border guards we were just going to Ryden’s then we’d better just go to Ryden’s.

Welcome to difficult to read Minnesota (taken during the trip with Adam)

Delicious Jerky.

We had no trouble crossing back to Canada.

Like I said, Adam and I had made this exact trip previously so I was undeterred by the god damn freezing cold hike to the water fall. Holy crap it was cold! It was windy, and cold, and horrible until we got into the woods. Then it was tolerable.

This is not poo. But it's also not that good. It's a fungus known as The Black Knot. Which is very interesting. I didn't realize that people in olden times referred to poo as the black knot (photo by Misty).

Look at this. Misty noticed things on the trail that Adam and I walked right past like a couple of goons (photo by Misty).

Two days earlier it had been 7 degrees above zero but the day we were there to walk around and hold hands and gaze at each other with a frozen waterfall behind us it had plunged down to -14 with a horribly wicked wind. Our faces froze, our fingers froze, my camera’s battery seemed to lose its charge in record time. And it had snowed recently, so the features of the frozen waterfall were kind of lost.

From the visit with Adam.

From the visit with Misty about a week later (photo by Misty).

It was still neat though. At the top of the falls was all ice, with no liquid water showing, looking completely solid. At the base of the falls however was a gushing torrent of water spilling out of a hole in the ice. Where was it coming from? The liquid pool of water at the bottom of the falls was populated with softball-sized balls of ice which I guess form naturally at the bottom of waterfalls in the winter? We took some pictures and made our water around the loop of the trail and headed back to the car. So damn cold!

Ice balls way down there (photo by Misty).

A closer look at ice balls.

On the river looking towards the falls (taken during the trip with Adam)

Down river from the falls, looking upstream (taken during the trip with Adam).

There used to be a resort cabin on the river. This chimney is all that's left. I think the plaque said it was more than 80 years old (taken during the trip with Adam).

When we got back to town we decided Misty needed a bit of a tour of the city. She still hadn’t really seen the place at all! We drove through Fort William and the Intercity then into Port Arthur and had a look at the Sleeping Giant from Marina Park. It was too cold to leave the car though, so we just sat for a little bit and looked out over the frozen water.

When this giant wakes up... look out (photo by Misty).

Next we took a drive around Boulevard Lake and up to the bluffs and spent a little more time looking at the Sleeping Giant. It really is just about the only thing we’ve got going for us in Thunder Bay.

The Sleeping Giant from the bluffs (photo by Misty).


The restaurant is almost impossible to see from the street now that the site for the new regional courthouse has been cleared and they’ve begun digging the foundation (last week the small fires they use to melt the permafrost for construction up here got out of control and nearly burned down the whole city).

The restaurant is located at the back corner of the Victoriaville mall. The mall was built on top of a major intersection in the middle of the downtown of the old city of Fort William. Imagine if the Eaton Centre hadn’t been built at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, but on Yonge and Dundas, stopping people from moving through the centre of downtown and forcing them to bypass the shopping district entirely (on a small scale of course, but still. Downtown Fort William is a dreary place and this mall is partly to blame).

One of the roads that is blocked by the mall used to terminate right at the door of the restaurant, but the size of the courthouse required that that section of the road be eliminated. This doesn’t cut off the restaurant entirely though, there is a back lane that crossed the road and provides a convenient spot to use intravenous drugs.

The restaurant used to be located at the corner of a a street and a laneway, but when the courthouse is finished the restaurant will just be in a laneway, completely invisible from the nearest road that gets any kind of traffic. That might work fine for The Green Room, but this isn’t exactly The Annex. At least the people working at the courthouse will know that it’s there.

The food is really good by the way. This was the second time I’d eaten there. Misty had one of the dishes I had last time and I had a chicken dish that was tasty. This restaurant gave me an idea for a website I don’t mind sharing. Golden Plates. I don’t know if it’s already out there, but this website would review the most expensive dish at restaurants. The concept being that the most expensive dish must be the best dish, right? People don’t mind paying money for things they know are worth it. Maybe I should pitch it to The Walleye.

We also went to the Brodie St Library; said hi to Thunder (photo by Misty).

The library has great stained glasses of authors. Here I am with Tolstoy with an i (photo by Misty).

Kakabeka Falls

On saturday we drove out to Kakabeka Falls to look at more frozen water. It was less cold, but there were more people. Again, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Ice, covered in snow.

Kakabeka Falls. Contrast with my photo from August (photo by Misty).

On our way out of Kakabeka Falls we stopped in at the Metropolitan Moose for coffee, hot chocolate and baked treats. That’s a really cozy place to sit for a little while if you’re passing through. There’s one table on the main floor but if you go up stairs there are a few more chairs and a nice spot next to the window where Misty and I sat.

Terry Fox

(photo by Misty)

We took the highway past the city to take a look at how Terry Fox was doing. He looked cold. Apparently they’re going to improve the entrance off the highway so it’s a little less of a surprise when you’re driving along. Haven’t heard of any plans to improve the information kiosk there though.

Here’s my beef (and I’ve heard it from others as well). You go up to see Terry Fox, look out at the lake and the Sleeping Giant, think about the amazing contribution Terry made to this country. On your way out, or maybe you noticed when you parked, there’s a building, a nice looking newish looking building. If I wanted to know more about Terry Fox that would be the next place I would go to. But you wouldn’t find anything specific to Terry in that building. All you’d find is general tourist information about Ontario. The usual assortment of flyers and booklets. Not even a sign or anything about Terry. Lots of space for something like that too. It’s a shame. The statue is very nice. The whole monument is great but I can’t help but think the rest stop as a whole is incomplete. At least the toilets were open.

Had to get in one more shot of the Sleeping Giant.

The Hoito

We knew ahead of time that we wouldn’t be cooking too many meals during Misty’s visit because even though I always complain about the lack of interesting or good restaurants in Thunder Bay (I never go out, I’m not sure where I got this idea) there were a few places we really wanted to go to. So my dad’s cousin’s restaurant is one, and The Hoito is the other.

Hoito means care in Finnish, and according to the placemat this restaurant began as a place for Finnish forestry workers to get a decent meal for a good price. Most of them were living in boarding houses and that sort of thing so it was tough. The restaurant was started with money pitched in by the workers and meals were less than a dollar. Today it’s easily the best known restaurant in Thunder Bay.

You get Finnish-style pancakes here. They’re as not as thin as a crepe, but almost. You can also get a bowl of Finnish yogurty stuff called viili, which tastes a bit like sour cream to me, and salt fish. Then there’s more usual Canadian breakfast and lunch food. It was busy when we got there and we waited a while for service but that’s was fine. By the time we left it had quieted down a bit.

After the Hoito we walked around Bay and Algoma a bit and popped into a few of the stores in the area. The weather was great. Still cold, but not freezing, and it was sunny. Sure felt nice to have Misty with me.

That night I made dinner and we stayed in, watched a movie.

The Sovereign

Sunday we had dinner at the Sovereign. It’s a newish restaurant/bar with a decent menu, nice interior and very much a Toronto feel to it. Dare I say “Hipster”? I had the burger which was a bit too greasy. Misty had the poutine which I’d ordered the last time I was there. It’s really good.


Sunday night we headed over to Adam’s place for a game of Settlers of Catan. Misty was worried her skills wouldn’t stand up against the rest of us so she’d brought along the instructions for Cities and Knights and had been studying on the plane and any other spare moment. I quizzed her on the walk over and she seemed very well prepared. I was totally confident in her abilities. Once everyone was there the gang decided to play a different version of the game, with a variant scenario that possibly nobody had played before. So it was an even more level playing field.

Unsurprisingly by the end of the night it appeared Misty was bound to win the game but things had devolved somewhat by then and we didn’t end up finishing. Just as well, the game was more of an excuse for my Tbay friends to meet my girlfriend. Ending the game early allowed us to actually converse about things not related to Catan. Not bad at all.

Monday (goodbye)

Misty’s flight back south was on Monday. We heard there could be snow in Toronto so we crossed our fingers and kept checking the Porter site to see if the flight was delayed. It was, but only by twenty minutes. We had a very lazy day. Just tried to stretch out the hours as much as possible.

So that was our visit together for February. We won’t get to spend any time together in March or most of April. After Easter our next chance to see each other will be when I stop in Toronto on the way to St John’s, Newfoundland for a planning conference I’ll be speaking at (more about that in the future).

It was tough saying good bye. I really didn’t want to let her go, and I think she was hesitant as well. but you know, grown up obligations and all that. I’m looking for work in the GTA, preferably in another office with my current employer. I actually really like the work I’ve been doing, everyone I work with and the organization, but it would be so much better to be doing this in Toronto. And if I can find work within the company before the end of this contract, maybe I can transfer? I’m not sure. The Future is uncertain.

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Thank you, The Sadies

It’s rare that I recognize the name of a band playing in Thunder Bay. TBshows seems to be the best place for listings but band names like Skepsis, Push My Car, or Webster Death don’t really get my attention. And April Wine… nah.

So when I saw The Sadies were playing in town I got excited.

None of these pictures are very good.

I’ve seen the Sadies a couple of times. Once or twice on New Years at the Horseshoe, and once in Hamilton. That was a particularly fun night. I think it was the opening of a bar called The Underground and Jay called me at work to see if I wanted to go. I was working at the framing store in Bloor West Village and he picked me up at the end of the night.

We drove to Hamilton, I don’t think we ate. It was winter, I remember it was cold outside but the bar was disgusting. It was, predictable, in a basement. At about 2:30 the band finished their set, then came back for an encore. Dallas Good said they were going to play ten more songs. People laughed. I laughed anyway. I was really tired. I’d had a great time, but I was ready to go home. They played ten more songs. It was grueling.

It might have been 3:30 before we left and Jay and I were both going all the way back to Courtice. I’m not sure what he was doing the next day, but I was getting up early and taking the train back to Toronto for another day of work.

His country western jacket was adorned with sparkling mushrooms.

I’d posted my intention to go to the show on my facebook wall and Patty said she was planning on going. Adam seemed keen too, but on the night of the show I started to feel like excited about it. I was tired to begin with, but it got later and later as I put off leaving so I wouldn’t be too early. I knew the band wouldn’t go on until 11, and I expected them to play until late. And I definitely didn’t want to be stuck there alone. So I made some chicken and washed the dishes and put off leaving, until it was my bedtime.

I didn’t really want to miss it but I could have easily been talked out of going. Instead, a couple of text messages from Toronto renewed by enthusiasm about the show.

This show was not listed on the Sadies' website show calendar. Oh Thunder Bay, you poor neglected cousin of Winnipeg.

I called Adam to see if he’d left yet, but he explained that he wasn’t feeling up to it and was going to stay in. but he offered to lend me his car, which was incredibly generous of him. And very convenient for me.

I arrived minutes before the Sadies went on and I found Patty and Kathleen. but I couldn’t stay seated near the back. It wasn’t a big audience, but it was tight in front of the stage and people were having a good time. They didn’t play until 3, but they did come back for their encore and announce they would play nine more songs. Which they did.

This is the only good picture of the night.

I had a meeting with the bosses at work in the morning, but I stayed for the whole show, like a trooper. and I got Adam a sticker to thank him for the use of his vehicle, which was so useful! I’m starting to get it. Bikes are totally stupid.

This show was at Crock’s in Port Arthur, which is the other side of town. Or, the other town. My plan was to take the bus there and a taxi back, which would have delayed my arrival by a lot probably, and would have cost me a bunch of money. Cycling there was not an option.

Instead I rode my bike to Adam’s, drove there and back to Adam’s, then rode my bike back to my place. Which was fine. But freezing. For some reason my nose was in a lot of pain from the cold. It usually isn’t because of my mask. The next morning I checked what the temperature was and i think it said -32 or so. Plus it seems my nostrils have been so dry from blowing my nose lately that a little crack has formed in my nostril skin. It’s not nice to talk about, and it’s a bit painful but you can’t see it unless you get right in there. That must have been what was so sensitive in the cold. I’m sure it’ll heal soon.

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YQT to YTZ (and the news)

I went to Toronto last week. Yeah, I know, sorry I didn’t call to meet for drinks or something, I was only there for about 24 hours. Business. You know how it is.

I’m participating  in an extra-curricular kind of project at work. It’s a contest across the organization to produce a policy proposal. My group has the topic of affordable housing and the private sector.

The nice thing about it is that the kick-off and conclusion are both in Toronto. So last Tuesday I flew down on Porter, checked into my room at the Park Hyatt (for a reasonable rate), had dinner at the Roof Lounge with a lovely girl I don’t get to see often enough at all, and went to bed in “Italian Linens”. Sadly, in the morning I could see police lights up the road. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I heard what happened.

I spent the day drinking coffee and learning all about the project, getting to know my team members and wishing I had another day in the city. Afterwards, I met up with that girl again and she made me almost miss my flight! Which would have been wonderful.

There’ll be a repeat of the trip in February except at the end of it I’ll be bringing the girl back to Thunder Bay with me for a few days. Oh, and I’ll have to make a presentation to some very important people. I guess I should work on that.

Here’s a video of the flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto with music by John Southworth.

In the video you’ll see Mount McKay in the background of the airport. Some of the stills show the tops of the feet of the Sleeping Giant. There’s a ski hill as we get closer to Toronto.

Our flight path took us east to about where the 401 crosses the Rouge Valley but then we loop around Toronto Island to land from the west. It was a little confusing to fly past the airstrip you’re meant to be landing at but at least I got a good view of downtown.

In other News:

  • While Toronto tries to figure out the best way to spend $9 billion the new mayor of the town of Schreiber (pronounced scriber) is trying to reassure people that just because they delayed paying town employees, that doesn’t mean the town is broke. Population: <1000. Annual budget: $5 million.
  • Keith Hobbs, the new mayor of Thunder Bay, campaigned on transparency and accountability, among other things. Now he’s upset with a cabinet minister (and local MPP) because that guy won’t use his political muscle to make sure some new mining facilities are located in his own riding. Because that’s what we want ministers to do, play favourites. (this story is a bit old actually. Hobbs made amends with the minister).
  • A bit closer to home, a cyclist was struck and injured in Thunder Bay last week (it wasn’t me). The five sentence article drew 39 comments at last count. Some of which called for a by-law to make winter cycling illegal. Most of which expressed the feeling that it is stupid or ridiculously unsafe to ride a bike in the winter. Nevermind that the cyclist blew out of an alleyway without looking and got hit by a truck that had just turned onto the street. Nothing to do with the weather at all.
  • and finally, local criminal masterminds tend to make weapons out of whatever they find lying around. Aside from sticks, Thunder Bay also has a lot of syringes lying around. Still no word about a safe-injection site, or sharps containers in the alleys though.
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Jalapeño Chicken

I was buying groceries and trying to think of something good to eat. I thought of chicken, and jalapeño peppers.

Soak some toothpicks

1/2 a cup of brown rice per serving

Cook the rice as you will.

Chop some jalapeño

Chop some garlic (smaller than that if you can)

Add some horseradish. It's good.

Add some pepper

Smush together the jalapeños, garlic, horseradish and pepper.

Slice open the chicken breast and spoon the mixture into it

Older Cheddar is Bedder

Fit the cheese into the fold, and hold everything together with the toothpicks

I imagine that some other bready coating would also be good.

Add some chili powder to that breading

this is how it looks when you start to mix it together. aren't you glad I took pictures?

oh yeah, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees

Toss the chicken in a bag with the breading mixture.

splash some olive oil on a baking sheet and place the chicken on there

Middle rack of course

25 minutes.

look at that tasty cheese. Rice should be ready now.

Eat it, you'll like it.

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“Gettin’ Pretty Cold Out Eh?”

Took this photo as soon as I parked my bike at work the other day. It was -35 Celsius with the wind chill (I quickly photoshopped out the wriststrap from my camera, which is why the space to the right of my head might look a little blotchy).

I’m still riding my bike to work everyday. Yes it’s cold out, but it’s a short ride and I dress up for it. Usually by the time I get to work my toes and my fingers are frozen but my back is a little slick from sweat. My route is along a residential street that doesn’t get a lot of traffic. It’s all very safe.

There’s a bike pen outside at work. It’d be nice if it was indoors or covered but it’s pretty cool that it exists at all. There’s a change room and shower  at work too and I think people use it quite a bit in the summer. This is also really cool. I seem to be the only person who cycles to work these days though. The gate to the bike pen is right at the designated smoking area in the corner of the parking lot. Sometimes there’s a smoker there smoking when I pull up or leave.

“Getting cold out eh?”
“A bit nippy this morning eh?”
“Better you than me!”
“Still riding a bike in this?!”
etc, etc, etc.

The only response I can usually muster is, “Yep!” and a chuckle. People say people in Thunder Bay are friendly. Maybe I’m just a jaded Torontonian, but what that friendliness translates into is: People in Thunder Bay think nothing of yapping at you about nothing.

There, I said it.

I’ve stood in line at the grocery store while the teller has a full-on conversation with a customer. They’re just standing there having a chat. The transaction is complete, receipt’s been printed. Business is over. Move along now.

Finished up at a urinal in the bathroom of the Intercity Mall. Next guy to come in starts talking at me about how windy it is outside. “Boy is it windy out there! I rode my bike, felt like I was standing still!” I took the bus and hadn’t noticed.

Bought a bottle of wine at the LCBO, “Oh I haven’t tried this one, is it good?” How many bottles do you see in a day? How many have you actually tried? Do you ask everyone this question?

Unlocking my bike in front of Canadian Tire while the hot dog lady has a cigarette. We tend to our business in silence the whole time until she’s finished her butt and I’m about to walk my bike off the sidewalk. Then, just as she’s leaving she says, “Riding a bike in December?” I reply, “Sure, it’s nice out today.” It was sunny and -6 or something. She touched the side of my arm as she walked by, “Well, keep it up!” and she laughed. This is the woman I bought a hot dog from the week before and who wouldn’t break up my change so I could have some quarters for the bus. She had a bowl of tips but wasn’t willing to give up the coins in the till.

I don’t know. I think there’s chatty, and there’s friendly, and they are different things and I would choose friendly over chatty 100% of the time.

You’re talking a lot but you’re not saying anything. When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.

In other news:

Additional Reading

I also wanted to mention that I’m not the only Ryerson grad living far from home in the interest of gaining professional experience. In fact, I’m living the closest to home of all the people listed below:

Up the Black River – Planning and Adventures in Jamaica

Brody and Danny are in different parts of Jamaica for something like 10 months working with the Canadian Urban Institute and local governments on planning stuff. Brody’s keeping a blog about it. We like to trade weather reports. It’s fun.

10 Months in Malawi with Don

Don is in Malawi, Africa working with the first class of planning students from a local university and doing research for some folks. He’s even teaching classes. It’s not all fun and games though. Students staged a strike because the only printer in the whole school had been broken for the past 8 months. So the police arrived in riot gear to break it up.

I am in Iloilo

Irem is in Iloilo City, Philapines for 6 months. She likes Star Trek, Shopping Malls, T-shirts with tigers on them and using words that use letters that I don’t know. Irem is also with the Canadian Urban Institute. They do these international internships every year and if I hadn’t gotten my job in Thunder Bay I would have been crossing my fingers for one of them. Looks like a pretty incredible experience for everybody.

Update: The Canadian Urban Institute website has links to all of their interns blogs. Here!

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C is for Kaluha

This recipe came highly recommended from a highly reliable source.

and I’d like to remind you all that men may bake as well as grill.

Here are some of the ingredients.


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups whole wheat flour Unbleached white flour (locally milled!)
  • 1½ teaspoons instant coffee powder, slightly crushed finely ground coffee (how convenient that I’d just bought a coffee grinder)
  • ½ cup quick cook oats
  • 8 ounces bitter-sweet chocolate chips Chunks (but I don’t know how many ounces it was)

I’d never made cookies before. I’d helped plenty of times, but I don’t think I’d ever really paid attention. It ‘was fun, but a little distressing at times.

I don’t have a mixing bowl
Is it supposed to look like that?
There’s no way the ball are supposed to be that big!
They’re never going to flatten!
They must be overdone by now!

They turned out fine. I should have put more chocolate in there, and/or more coffee and/or Kaluha. They don’t taste very coffee-like, except when you get a bit of a coffee ground on its own. And the oats are very present when not offset by a gob of melty chocolate. I supposed I still have a thing or two to learn.

What I have mastered, however, is the art of close up cooking/baking photography with a cheap digital camera. Eat your heart out every-low-budget-cooking-show-on-food-network-Canada!

Oh yeah, cream that butter with the sugars

This egg is about to get a lot sweeter

Nice lump

A little coffee for your dough? (what does that mean?)

Those look pretty good eh?

take a closer look

ready to get eaten

In Other News:

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