Greetings from 53.5° north. Another very laid back week, one in which I jokingly told a friend that I did so little I barely kept a pulse. It was good to do essentially nothing for a week though beyond a little cooking as I am heading into fall with a very centered perspective on what is important to me and what I want to do. More on that in future weeks.
One interesting point of note regarding tea. I had run out of oolong tea and decided to head to a close-by David's Tea to pick up some of their tie kwan yin. The first shock was that the location was closed. The second shock was that David's Tea has effectively shuttered 90% of their bricks-and-mortar locations including the three that I visited. The catalyst for this seems to be COVID but I suspect they were in a weak financial situation going in to have made such a drastic move.
As sad as that made me, I thought that I would be able to at least shop online. But then the third shock was that David's is discontinuing their tie kwan yin oolong tea! I did some research to see how long oolong tea can be stored, and was happy to get confirmation that it ages well. Maybe not as long as the bricks of pu'erh tea that can be aged for a century, but this article on Tea How states oolong can last up to 40 years. Emboldened by that, I ordered 500 grams of tie kwan yin. I figure that might be able to drink that tie kwan yin for the rest of my life.
That of course really hit home - I just bought tea that might outlast me. Mortality is not something I spend time brooding over, but having entered my second half-century this week, it is definitely on my mind this week. Of course, I could die tomorrow and then of course my tea purchase will outlast me, but I could reasonably expect to live into my eighties which is now thirty to forty years into the future.
I can now imagine my elderly self finishing my last cup of tie kwan yin, thinking fondly back across the years of my life, and settling contentedly into my chair or bed to fall asleep one last time, smiling at how I at least lasted longer than my tea.
The only new beer this week was actually a mead. Check-in #685 was Mr. Pink from Fallentimber Meadery. I have quite liked their other meads, although I just realized I have not checked in their Meadjito on my Untappd profile. (Spoiler alert: 4.0 / 5.) This one was pretty good, but it was not as good as their Meadjito or Honey Buck. I think it needed more cinnamon flavor to give it more of a kick, but it did have a very nice aroma and color. (3.25 / 5)
Very little reading this week - reading would have distracted me from focusing on maintaining a pulse - so once again, very few new words. One I thought I knew but only had half right.
Greetings once again from a laid back 53.5° north latitude. The trend of simple weeks without much to report continues, although this week was more interesting than the last few.
One thing I have not mentioned for quite a while is the groups I am in and playing the world's greatest roleplaying game. My work group sadly has only met once since COVID started, but I am running a group every two weeks that I pulled together via Meetup, and starting next week I will be playing in two groups with individuals I met through that Meetup group. I am also playing a Humblewood campaign with my daughters. I posted about the Meetup group and Humblewood back in February, and reading that post makes me realize how much I have learned in the last seven months.
I posted how the group I am now running was delayed in starting because I was nervous. I was worried about meeting with a bunch of strangers to play a game. As time progressed though, these strangers have become friends that have in turn introduced me to other people. I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and the rewards have been immense, and the experience has reinforced how much better moving forward is over stagnating.
The pressure to do a good job is still there, but I now know I can do it. I have confidence in my ability to plan and improvise. My writing is improving weekly, and I am finding ideas that I want to express in both stories and in the game.
The other remarkable learning since February is how to use technology to interact and connect. Undoubtedly, getting together in person with the group I run will be a magical moment, if and when that can ever happen. But in the meantime, we can still meet and chat and play. The technology combination of Roll20 for displaying maps and allow for token movement with Discord for voice and video really works well. Add in a good digital character sheet either from Roll20 or with the Beyond20 Chrome extension to connect Roll20 and D&D Beyond, and this is a hobby that can work independent of physical location.
As I look back at the post from February, I notice my comments about the Kickstarter campaigns I have backed. Since February, I have backed thirteen more projects, ten of which completely successfully and three which have hit their funding goals but have not finished the campaign yet. Of the thirteen, one is a collection of board games, one is a tarot card deck that I thought would be useful as a game prop back when we were planning on playing in person, and one is an audio book. The other ten are all supplements or add-ons related to the roleplaying game of choice.
I want to mention the audio book specifically as it is important and has a chuckle-worthy story. Cory Doctorow is publishing and audio book of his latest novel, Attack Surface, and in order to combat the Amazon / Audible monopoly and their requirement to use their Digital Rights Management software on audio books they distribute, Doctorow is self-publishing the audio book. Attack Surface is the third book in the Little Brother series. If you recall back in May, Little Brother was Book #18 for 2020 and I did not recommend it to the casual reader at the time. The message around digital surveillance and the need to fight for the right of privacy and security is important though and I really want Doctorow to be successful so I happily backed this project.
The chuckle-worthy story relates to what I posted in May. There were some scenes in Little Brother that were awkward to read to my daughter and so I posted a comment on the Kickstarter page. Doctorow's response is pasted below.
My reading time continues to ebb, and I really have not dug into anything in about a month. I did finish one book though this week. Book #35 for 2020 was a re-read of "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan. We own hard copy versions of each book in the series but I have only read the first seven of the fourteen books. I am hoping to read them all over the next year or so. I read this one with my daughter and it was a great experience, and we just started into the second book last night.
I mentioned in August 2019 that my friend Cam gave me an Advanced Reading Copy version of this book. I did not read through that version in case there were differences in the text. Regardless, it was great to read and I am now more excited to plow through the series than I ever have been.
Just one new beer this week, and once again it is from my local and much-loved brewery, Alley Kat. The latest sampled ware from Alley Kat, and beer #684 unique check-in on Untappd, is the most recent in their Dragon Double IPA series, the Southern Star. Alley Kat continues to get the DIPA series right. Great hops and citrus but without having the bitterness overpower the taste. Really enjoyable. (4.0 / 5)
Not a lot of reading, so not a lot of new words, except of course all those words that Jordan created for The Eye of the World.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude after a fortnight since the last entry. Two weeks ago I said not much profound had happened, and that carried through to the following week. As a result, I decided to skip last week. Nothing wildly significant happened this week either, but I did finish one book, have one new beer to report, and a small handful of words. I think the lull in my productivity and creativity is the lingering after-effects of resigning from that Board.
But first, I came across a quote and a proverb that really struck me this last week. The quote was from Matt Colville in video #50 in his "Running The Game" series.
Cynicism is the death of wisdom. --Matt Colville
That lead me to look for more quotes about cynicism. The most interesting, at least contemporarily, were from Steven Colbert and Conan O'Brien. Note that even though both of them are satirists and provide significant social and political commentary, both are keen to highlight the toxicity of cynicism.
Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes". --Stephen Colbert
All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism, for the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. --Conan O'Brien
And finally, I was told a proverb from Cameroon from a co-worker. This seems to be similar to a quote from Shakespeare and there are numerous similar quotes peppered across the Internet.
The eye that sees others, sees not itself. --Cameroonian Proverb
Regardless of the provenance, it is useful to reflect on the words. If you are constantly and solely focused on the performance and flaws of others, there is no time to focus on improving yourself. Worry about you. Free your mind, and the rest will follow.
This last week saw the completion of Book #34 for 2020, "The Steerswoman" by Rosemary Kirstein. This is the first book in the Steerswoman series, and it follows two women as they try to uncover the origins of some odd jewels that are found scattered across the continent. Rowan is a Steerswoman, the title owing to a nautical background of a ship's navigator. However, in this world, the steerswomen are seekers of knowledge who scour the world for answers. While a steerswoman is undoubtedly useful onboard a ship, the majority of the story takes place on land. The other protagonist is Bel, a barbarian who chose to leave her clan to travel with Rowan.
Note that both of the main characters are women, and the title of the book and series is clearly about women. This is not a feminist book touting the need for equality, nor does it force comment how women can do whatever a man can do. Instead, it presents a world where there are no preconceptions about what is "a man's job" or "woman's work". There is no need to highlight differences when there are really no differences to highlight. For that reason alone, this book is worth reading.
In addition, this book is about knowledge, science, and rationality. There is some fighting and the threat of war, plus a brewing conflict between the Academy of the steerswomen and another faction. Beneath all of this is the more important story of how one woman, embedded in a culture of learning, undertakes to solve a mystery that defies her and her colleagues' understanding of the natural world. As above, for that reason alone, this book is worth reading.
There you have it. One book with two solid selling points. I am definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the series.
I put three albums in my Music Finds playlist for the last fortnight, but really only got into one of them. That was a 2008 recording by Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis entitled "Two Men with the Blues". This was a fantastic album highlighting Nelson's signing and Marsalis' playing. Covering standards such as "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Georgia on My Mind", the two seem like a natural pair which is so surprising when you think about how different their musical origins are. This is definitely worth a listen.
Beer #683 was the Nasty Trunks sour IPA from Evil Twin Brewing out of Brooklyn. There was the good hops of an IPA with a bit of of punchy but not overpowering citrus in the sour half of this beer. Fresh and a bit sweet. Nice stuff. (3.5 / 5)
As a complete aside, Evil Twin seems to produce a stunning number of beers. Doing a search on their site shows 278 beers, but for some reason the Nasty Trunks did not show up. Maybe I have the wrong Evil Twin brewery. Maybe I found the other one, you know, the twin? If you can find Nasty Trunks on their site or if I have the wrong site, please let me know.
Just five new words in the last fortnight, with one my ten year-old daughter told me.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude once again. This was a week with a return to work so there was very little profound to note. A couple books were read, a couple beers were drank, much music was enjoyed, and there were a number of words to look up.
Let's get on with it.
I was able to finish two books this week. One was a dark mystery about a serial killer, and the other was another in a favorite YA mystery series that I am reading with my younger daughter.
Book #32 for 2020 was "The Darwin Affair" by Tim Mason. This was a highly enjoyable serial killer mystery novel. Four pages in, I commented to my spouse that this was going to be another "DaVinci Code"; in other words, a fast-paced, easy to read novel that kept me up until the wee hours. It did not quite live up to that prediction unfortunately. There were times when I found myself losing interest, and times where I felt like the often brilliant detective became a little too human. I lost verisimilitude in the world that Mason created as a result of those lapses. In the end, however, it was still enjoyable and worthy of a read.
Mason's novel reminded me of "Dodger" by Terry Pratchett which was Book #8 for 2020. This is clearly because of the same time period and the involvement of certain real life characters such as Charles Dickens. I did not realize before Dodger and The Darwin Affair that Dickens was such an activist for the poor. Mason hints at some failings of Dickens in the author's notes at the end of the book, but even with that Dickens does seem to have been a major influence on making nineteenth century London a bit better for everyone, and that must have trickled out across the rest of the world.
Book #33 for 2020 was the third novel in Stuart Gibbs's FunJungle Series, "Big Game". Since my daughter and I are reading these somewhat out of order, this is the fourth book in the series that we have read. I have to say it takes a bit away from the books when you can guess who the bad guy is because you know they do not appear in the next book in the series. There was a nice twist in this story, and it was as enjoyable and suspenseful as the others. As I have said before, this is a great series to hook a young reader into the mystery genre.
Looking at my reading pace for the year, we are 64% of the way through 2020 and I have read 33 books. That puts me on pace to read just over 51 books this year. That is a nice number, and it is good to know I have a chance to read a book a week on average this year.
I did not find any new music to add to a Music Finds playlist this week. However, I did watch through Ken Micallef video "20 Records to Build a Jazz Vinyl Collection" and created a playlist from that.
Some of the music in that list is mind-blowingly good. I had heard of some of the artists - Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie - but some of the others like Hank Mobley and Bud Shank were completely new to me. Same thing with the artists; "Porgy and Bess" was not new, but the soundtrack to "Alfie" was, and that was definitely my favorite on this list. The Alfie in question was the 1966 Michael Caine version and not the 2004 Jude Law version, in case you were wondering.
A lot of these albums are completely inaccessible outside of hunting through record stores and antique malls. This is why something like a subscription to Tidal or similar service is so valuable. Every one of the albums on Micallef's list were on Tidal, and some were remastered MQA versions. Check out the video from Micallef and if you are on Tidal, here is a link to the playlist I created.
There were two new beers again this week, bringing my unique check-ins on Untappd to 682.
Beer #681 was Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. With a name like that and with that can design, I went in with low expectations. Never judge a beer by its label, as the old saying goes, and that was the case this time. This had a nice amber color, very good foam, and a very drinkable silky maltiness. It seemed slightly acidic to me though, which dropped the ranking a bit but it was still a winner. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #682 was the Green Fields sour from Bench. I was surprised to realize that I this was my first check-in with a Bench beer. I suspect I have had others from Bench but forgot to check them in. This was not a beer that would have me seeking out more from them though, so hopefully my experience with this beer is not indicative of what I can expect. This was a sour, but a very weak sour which defeats the point of this genre. The flavor seemed musty, with the sourness at the front of mouth not the back, if that makes any sense. I was disappointed but will give Bench another try soon. (3.0 / 5)
There were a number of new words this week, plus one word that is not a word apparently.
Greetings. It was a weird week personally for me, with turmoil and angst that turned to clarity and finally relief.
Turmoil to Angst to Clarity to Relief
It was about this time in 2015 that I was interviewing for a volunteer position on the CKUA Board. The whole process took months, with the Board approving my nomination in October and then the CKUA Foundation ratifying that decision at the Annual General Meeting in January 2016.
The little more than four-and-a-half years I spent on that Board have certainly taught me a lot. I understand financials better. I understand not-for-profits better. I have learned more about human motivations, both mine and for others. The most significant learning however has been about entitlement. My time on the CKUA Board came to an end this last week because I did not fully understand how much of a reaction our actions would cause to a small handful of entitled individuals. Do not get me wrong - we made mistakes, most notably in our communications to the Foundation members. But those mistakes could have been overcome with a more reasonably-minded and less entitled set of stakeholders. We executed a decision in June that was wildly unpopular with those stakeholders, and so began the turmoil. As we worked an unreasonable amount of hours to satisfy the stakeholders requests, the angst grew as it became clear we would never make them happy.
In the end, my time on the Board came to an end as we realized on Wednesday what we had to do, and then resigned en masse on Thursday. The clarity turned to relief on Thursday as I hit send on the email to the Foundation members that included our resignation note. The relief was solely because we knew that we would no longer have to face those entitled stakeholders and hear their misleading comments.
I am going to post a long form article on entitlement. I drafted most of it in late July at near the peak of the turmoil that I and the rest of the Board was going through. I will come back and edit this entry with a link once it is up.
I found myself with more time this week than expected. Funny how that worked out. I finished one book that nearly was done in time for last week, read about one-third of a non-fiction book and about half of a murder mystery.
Book #31 for 2020 was "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. I came to this novel as a result of seeing it on my older daughter's bookshelf and then realizing that the HBO series "His Dark Materials" was based on the trilogy that Compass is the start of.
I can definitely see why this novel would be an interesting basis for a television series. It has evocative characters with lots of imagery, wildly interesting twists on technology and magic, and a plot that twists and turns without becoming confusing or muddled. I am looking forward to watching the series, but I think I will read the next two books in the series first.
If I had a opportunity to provide feedback to the book publishers, I would definitely suggest they update the cover art on the books. What I saw on the book cover and what I read are two different things. I knew it was a YA book, but the cover art made me think it was another "Polar Express", admittedly a fine book in its own right, but not a dark tale at all. Compare the book art with the publicity material for the television series and I think you will agree.
Regardless of that bit of personal preference, I definitely recommend this book.
It was a quiet week for new music, pun definitely intended. The only album that I added to my Music Finds playlist for this week was "Pleased to Meet Me" by The Replacements. The friend that recommended this album said that The Replacements were one of his "favorite snotty rock bands ever". You can tell my friend is a music fan based on how he can classify his favorites into sub-specialties as focused as that.
I did enjoy the album and as I read a short bio for the band I noticed that lead singer Paul Westerberg had two songs on the soundtrack for "Singles". Singles was a huge movie and soundtrack for me in 1992 as I got ready to leave university and not be, you know, single. So while that soundtrack was not a music find for me this week, it was a nice nostalgia trip to get reacquainted with it from a link to a new-to-me artist and album.
There were a couple new beers this week, bringing my unique check-ins on Untappd up to 680.
Check-in #679 was the Irish Red from Hell's Basement. Admittedly, I am not a fan of reds, but this one seemed to have a too-harsh taste to it. The Red was my fifth check-in from Hell's Basement and this is right at their average of 3.0 out of 5. My overall average across my check-ins is around 3.3 so I have some definite evidence to indicate Hell's Basement is not a brewery I should personally seek out.
Being on a personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world will eventually land you at a table in front of this beer. Check-in #680 was the River Valley Golden Lager from Big Rock and it scored the same as the Red at 3.0 out of 5. However, it was a pleasant surprise instead of a disappointment, especially since - or maybe as a direct result of - it was $1.75 a can. Nothing super mind you, but I have spent more on worse beers.
A lot of new words this week. My readings are really disparate lately with a general theme of British influence, in particular Victorian-era Britain and technology.
Welcome from 53.5° north latitude, where I wasn't for the majority of the week. We were fortunate to be able to escape to the mountains for a few days. Being out in nature was a great refresher, and the weather was fantastic which made it even better.
Back in March, I posted an article about the Goldman Sachs prediction that the US economy would decrease by 24%. I was thinking about that post as I listened to the Planet Money episode from July 30, entitled "GDP -32.9%???!!!" (emphasis theirs). As it turns out, the 24 % / 32% decreases are a bit misleading. The Planet Money episode describes how the GDP prediction is how much the economy would shrink if the current performance was extrapolated out for four consecutive quarters.
In fact, the US economy shrunk by 9.5% in the last quarter. Seeing a decrease of 9.5% is far less dramatic than seeing -32.9%, but it is still most likely the worst quarter in US history so the impact should not be overlooked. One economist on the podcast speculated that a lot of that decrease would come back once restaurants, bar, sporting events, and other social events return to previous levels.
However, I still question how soon that will be. Bill Gates was quoted in a recent Wired article that he suspects we still have between 18 and 30 months before we have a consistent semblance of pre-COVID normalcy in our societies.
And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022. --Bill Gates
If Gates' prediction is accurate, then the temporary nature of the GDP decrease starts to become much more permanent.
In other readings about the impact of COVID on society and industry, the New York Times had an interesting long article on how COVID crushed the fashion industry, and interestingly how it was already imploding over the last few years. I had not realized how much venture capital influenced the fashion industry, but apparently the toxic mindset of needing quick profits and immediate results was a crushing blow to several small fashion houses. Added to this was the collapse of traditional retail channels, and the fashion industry was ripe for failure just as COVID came along. It is an interesting article as much about bubble economies as COVID.
I highlighted the band Dead Horses in last week's entry, and mentioned that I was looking forward to checking out their February release of the EP entitled "Birds". After a few listens through, I definitely enjoy the album but I do not find the personal connection that I did with "My Mother The Moon". Still, they are a good duo with good music.
That is it for new music this week. So much time was spent outside that I did not have much time to dig into anything new.
Even though I was on holidays and even though the weather was super warm for most of the week, I only had two beers. The first was a great hot weather beer, and the other was unfortunately something that would have been better in cooler weather.
The first beer was the hot weather hit, the Big Chutes Lager from Freehold Brewing in Calgary. This is a very good lager, which is a style I tend to dismiss fairly consistently. Big Chutes was clean and very drinkable and is definitely worth keeping around the house, even on less than blisteringly warm days. (3.75 / 5)
The second beer was the Parkway Porter from Folding Mountain Brewing. I was sitting 200 m from the brewery and taproom when I drank this, which is always a nice way to enjoy a beer. It was really hot when I drank it, and a porter is not really a great beer for the heat. I will have to have it again when it is cooler to check my rating. (3.25 / 5)
I picked up a few new words this week, and as you can see, they are all words that are outdated or archaic, which speaks to the setting in the story I was reading at the time.
Greetings from 53.5° north once again. It was a hot one this week, with temperatures far above my preferred range.
As far as blog-worthy commentary goes, this week was pretty thin. This is likely due to the push to wrap things up before I take some holiday time. Even with that however, I was still able to finish one book accompanied by a nice handful of words, found some new music worth commenting on, and had one new beer .
Let's get on with it, shall we?
I read a fair bit this week, and finished one book. Book #30 for 2020 was "The Secret World of Og", by Pierre Berton. Labeling this book a Canadian classic seems a bit of a stretch. It was definitely on the plus side of good, but it was hardly a classic. It was written by Berton though, who is of course one of the great Canadians, so maybe it is a classic just because of the author. One definite redeeming feature was the art in the edition I have was done by one of Berton's daughters, and clearly done at a young age.
Looking at the stats for the year, I am now on pace to finish 51 books in 2020. That pace makes me pretty happy. For my upcoming reads, I want to do a lot of reading in August as the month will hopefully be pretty laid back. I certainly have a lot of books to read right now; unfortunately, all of my holds from the library started arriving this week so I have nearly 1300 pages of books sitting on my desk, plus two ebooks clocking it at probably another 500 pages total. I will need a can-do attitude to get all of that done before I have to return everything.
I added a couple good albums to my Music Finds playlist for this week. All three came from this week's episode of Acoustic Tuesday with Tony Polecastro. Polecastro discussed ten albums that changed his life. The first one of his ten that I added to my playlist was "Fork in the Road" by The Infamous Stringdusters. My experience with this album was not the same as what he experienced. It was definitely okay and the playing was quite good, but I did not find myself really getting into it.
Luckily the other two albums had much more impact. "Evening Machines" by Gregory Alan Isakov was a solid album, and I really enjoyed "Bullet Holes" and "Dark, Dark, Dark". The real highlight of the three though was "My Mother the Moon" by Dead Horses. I was already familiar with Dead Horses as their song "American Poor" appeared in my feed a few months ago. Added to that were "A Petal Here, a Petal There" and "On and On" as real standouts. I really find that singer Sarah Vos sounds like Carole King on "Tapestry", and that is pretty good company. I'm looking forward to digging into the album Dead Horses released in February in the upcoming week.
When I was in high school, our school sports teams played against other schools from around Central Alberta, including the small town (as in even smaller than my hometown of Stettler) of Rimbey. Being 16 and in a competitive situation on the basketball court, we were quick with the insults to the town, the school, the girls, and pretty much anything else related to Rimbey.
In the three-plus decades since, I have certainly moved beyond name calling for towns like Rimbey, but that is due to my maturity and not because something changed or improved. But now there has been a change in the town of Rimbey that I can be excited about, as the town is the proud home of Hawk Tail Brewery.
I was excited to grab a couple of their Amber Ale this week. The beer did not hold up to my level of excitement unfortunately. I thought the maltiness was pretty good, but I picked up too much burnt taste from the caramel. That does not mean this is bad brewery of course, and so I will check out others from Hawk Tail in the near future.
Rimbey, where the men are men, and the .. men are now brewing beer.
Quite a number of words this week, with some coming from Berton's Og but mainly from the other in-progress books.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude at the tail end of a week filled with work and reading but little else. There was a bike ride before 06:00 one morning that was pretty magical as it was warm, quiet, fog-filled, and through muddy trails, but it was pretty quiet beyond that.
Quiet is probably the theme of the week. Quiet leads to more time to talk and contemplate, and it allows for a more relaxing life. I had not fully internalized that point until I was able to visit my favorite coffee shop, Coffee Bureau, the other day. I asked the owner-barista how life was treating him and he said that COVID means a more relaxed lifestyle. When he said that, I realized how true that was and how much I am enjoying a more relaxed life. No more getting up and rushing around all weekend or every weeknight. Everything is still getting done but we are playing more games as a family, having longer discussions with family, friends, neighbors, and work colleagues. Instead of rushing to go somewhere to do something, we seem to be happier to find something to do close to home.
A friend and I were talking about kayaking and he said COVID has provided him the opportunity to finally paddle the various segments of the North Saskatchewan river. Over a few weekends, he is going to paddle from Devon to Highway 41 south of Elk Point. That route via roadways is 251 km, so not an insignificant distance.
This is not to say that COVID is a good thing, of course. Here in Alberta our numbers are rising fairly dramatically. We have had over 100 new cases each day for a week now, and the numbers in Central Alberta went from essentially zero to 167 in the last ten days or so. But I am trying to be a glass-half-full kind of person, so I'll take whatever good I can out of this.
Getting out is important. I understand that seeing friends and family, being outside, trying to find normalcy in our routines is important for our mental health. But gathering en masse to watch hockey does not seem to me to be a smart idea, however that is what the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) is working on. Earlier this week, CBC reported that OEG was working on building a drive-in and beer gardens for fans to watch the hockey playoffs from. In the run-up to the announcement that Edmonton would be one of the hub cities for the playoffs, Alberta was touted as a safe place because we had not hit 100 cases a day since May 2, but we now know that is not the case any longer. How many cases will it take to shut down the playoffs in Edmonton? How many cases will it take to shut down the mass gathering of jersey-wearing fans flocking to downtown Edmonton?
This week saw me finish one book, my second memoir in a row. Book #29 for 2020 was "The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss" by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. There are a couple interesting items to note about this. First, good on Cooper for building his career and life without leaning on his Vanderbilt lineage, and then explicitly calling out that even with being a Cooper that he has lived a privileged life. Second, this book originally came from an email conversation between son and mother, so throughout the book the narrative switches back and forth between perspectives. It is a very interesting way to learn about two people, especially as they learn about each other in the process.
The third and most interesting point in my mind is how messed up Vanderbilt's life was, especially in her earlier days. It would not be inappropriate to label her as hopping from bed to bed after reading how she describes her sex life. The relationships she had is studded with famous names like Howard Hughes and Frank Sinatra (but only for three weeks with Sinatra apparently). On top of this, or maybe the cause of this, was the tumultuous life and custody battles she was thrown into by her scheming family. I had no idea who Vanderbilt was outside of the recognition of her name, but now that I know her life story, it is fascinating if only in a morbid and sad way.
In order to explain herself, Vanderbilt frequently relied on quotes from famous people and authors. Early on in the book, Vanderbilt relied on quotes such as "Perhaps someday it will be pleasant to remember even this" by Virgil, but as the book progressed and her writing warmed up and she opened up, it was her own words that were the true insight into who she really is. I'll leave you with the one that sums her up for me.
I have no respect for those who harbor self-pity and I have none of it in reference to myself, but the rage is there, burning hot, deep in my core. --Gloria Vanderbilt
I added a few things to my Music Finds playlist for this week. First was an album called "Mordechai" by Khruangbin that was a mix of funk and laid back electronic sounds. Decent stuff and probably worth another listen, but not really my thing. Next up was "Xoxo" by The Jayhawks. I admit I was surprised how varied their sound could be as the album ranged from country rock to folk with a female lead vocal to a song that was reminiscent of late Beatles. Good stuff for sure.
The third album was "And It's Still Alright" by Nathaniel Rateliff. This was not new as it was released on Valentine's Day in the BeforeTime, but it was new to me. I really liked this album and will come back to it repeatedly. Last up was a single called "Racing Stripes" from Bombay Bicycle Club which was a live release. Racing Stripes came from an album they released in January, again in the BeforeTime, that I missed. I have not yet dug into that one, but will get to it in the upcoming week. I will suspend judgement on the song until next week.
Just one new beer this week. I wrote a couple weeks ago how Phillips Brewery was not that great in my experience, with their average being pretty mediocre. It would then be completely apropos that I would find a beer from Phillips that I really like. Their Oro Blanco Grapefruit Sour was really nice with lots of citrus flavor that did not overpower or get too pithy. Definitely worth trying if you are into fruit beers and sours. (3.75 / 5)
A small handful of words this week, largely from the words of Gloria Vanderbilt.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where the rain has subsided and the COVID numbers are starting to head back up. This week was populated with lots of reading, a bit of listening, a new beer, and a handful of new words.
I listened to two really interesting podcasts this week. The recent Longform interview with Maria Konnikova was a particular treat because I had just discovered her writing based on her endorsement for David Epstein's book "Range" that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Being the kind of reader that takes stock in book endorsements, I had looked up Konnikova when I read her name on the cover of Range. So being a fan of Longform and having some knowledge of who she was, I was very interested in this interview.
Konnikova had some good insights in physchology, poker, luck, and human nature. My biggest takeaway though was her comment about her podcast, "The Grift". She said that she wrote 10,000 words for each episode, and at ten episodes for the series, that totals 100,000 words. According to Konnikova, that is a full book.
So a full book at 100,000 words is a good metric for an aspiring writer, or someone who would like to develop a podcast. I'll be sure to pass this learning on if I ever find someone who fits either or both of those criteria.
The other podcast episode worth mentioning this week was the "Tick Tock for TikTok" episode of Rational Security. Of particular note was the discussion about Huawei. I have written about Huawei on this site a few times (here and here).
As usual, the team at Rational Security highlight a number of issues while discussing the various and important nuances of the topic, in particular how the US has seemingly forced the UK to abandon its long-standing approval of Huawei technology through the use of sanctions. I got the impression from the discussion that this approach has the short-term win that the Trump administration is looking for but at the cost of long-term erosion of a very important relationship with the UK. Huawei and China aren't going away - we need to figure out how to address them soon.
I was able to plow through two books this week. The first for this week and Book #27 for 2020 was Eddie Izzard's autobiography, "Believe Me". I really like Izzard's comedy, especially his bit about the Death Star Canteen. Watch that here, or watch the totally clever Lego adaptation here.
This autobiography was a bit of a rambling story that almost came together to communicate Izzard's personal life vision. The description of what he went through when he first came out was gut-wrenching, and it was interesting to read about how many failures and setbacks he had in his life to get to the point where he is an internationally celebrated comic, actor, and activist. I would totally love to meet him and have a chance to chat with him, but I'm not going to recommend his autobiography.
Book #28 for 2020 was "Artificial Condition", the second book in Martha Wells' Murderbot series. The first Murderbot book was #2 for 2020, and for that I wrote that "the protagonist and narrator is an augmented human designed to be an It instead of a Person, but it has decidedly human impulses and concerns." The second Murderbot builds on that theme, having our hero explore its background while simultaneously struggling with wanting to connect with humans and detach into the void of "media", i.e bing-watching on the future equivalent of Netflix. Really good stuff with a bit of humor, some touching emotional scenes, and enough hooks to make me eager for the next book in the series.
There are two interesting finds to point out this week. First, I missed adding a song to my Music Finds playlist for last week. One of my favorite finds in 2019 was a band called Future Islands, and they released a new song on July 8. "For Sure" is another boppy and poppy song with a great backbeat and the unique vocals of lead singer Samuel T. Herring. I'm biased for sure (see what I did there?), but I liked this new song from the first listen.
I added three albums into my Music Finds - Week of 13Jul2020 playlist. I had listened to Yo La Tengo a few times and liked some of their stuff. However, their album "We Have Amnesia Sometimes" was like Emo Gregorian Chants. Hard Pass. I also gave The Chicks, fka The Dixie Chicks but they apparently thought that was a stupid name, a listen with their new album, "Gaslighter". That was pretty good, with a few songs like "Sleep at Night" and "Julianna Calm Down" to be quite catchy.
The highlight of the week though was definitely the Bluenote release of a previously unreleased studio album from Art Blakely called "Just Coolin'". Recorded in 1959, the six tracks are a rare treat. Cool era jazz previously unreleased and now available on MQA format on Tidal.
It's great living in the future, especially when you can revisit something from the past that only came out in the present.
Just one new beer this week. I was not planning on trying any new beer this week as I wanted a break, but a friend gave me this to try mainly because he found it undrinkable. The Hack Weight Imperial Stout from O.T. Brewing was decent, but it was quite boozy especially since it was only 8% ABV. I can see why someone (most people) would not enjoy it. It was pretty well done, but not my favorite in this style. (3.0 / 5)
As I mentioned above, a handful of new words, mostly from the Izzard autobiography.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. The week was action-packed and full of suspense and intrigue. Or at least one good book, another local nature walk, a couple good beers, and a few new words. Before we get into the regular sections of the blog, there are a couple things worth noting.
Facial recognition software has really hit the news of late, with Microsoft, IBM, and others voluntarily pausing sales in the surveillance software in light of issues raised with police violence and the death of George Floyd. This followed the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the provincial Commissioners in Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta jointly investigating Clearview AI amid concerns of personal information being collected without notice or consent. It is unclear if or how the joint investigation will proceed now that Clearview AI has completely pulled out of the Canadian market. This will be an interesting and important story to continue to follow .
The second interesting item was in the recent Freakonomics podcast, "Remembrance of Economic Crises Past". Near the end of the podcast, Freakonomics host Stephen Dubner asks his guest Christina Romer about the particular US brand of capitalism. I found that a particularly interesting phrase to use, as it admits that there are different forms of capitalism and implies that the particular version in place in America might not survive. Here is the full quote of what he asks Romer.
DUBNER: And let’s say that some of the changes that have happened thus far to travel, to live entertainment, to restaurants — basically all of them wiped down close to zero — let’s say that for a variety of reasons, they sort of stick, and that people don’t return to them, in in large numbers at least. Do you feel that the U.S. economy and our brand of capitalism is still set up to be as vibrant and nimble to adjust and for people to job-reallocate? Or do you worry that a lot of people in those industries, which employ millions of people, that they will essentially be adrift, perhaps for a long time, unable to reallocate into commensurate jobs?
I wrote a lot about capitalism in 2019, and a lot of my readings dealt with the concept of post-capitalism. In 2019, a lot of people on the outside of mainstream were struggling with the rules of the game associated with capitalism. Now in 2020, a lot of people that are solidly in the mainstream, see Dubner above, seemed to be are openly wondering if the intellectual ruminations of a year ago have actual credence. If they do, we are about to enter a very interesting period in history.
And lastly, since travel has been curtailed due to COVID, a lot of people are spending more time close to home. As a family, we have always been fairly comfortable with staycations, but this year we are definitely trying to make the most of the local nature scene.
Enter the Alberta Discover Guide. This free guide is usually something I pick up when I buy my fishing license for the year, but this year it has become a valuable source of new locations to visit. The Guide lists over 150 sites in the Edmonton area alone, and I would be surprised if we have previously visited 25 of them.
Yesterday we visited the John E. Poole Interpretative Wetland and Boardwalk. This was a great location for a quick walk to get out into nature and see a lot of birds including Barn Swallows, Coots, and Ruddy Ducks. If you live in Alberta, grab a copy of the Guide or the corresponding mobile app, and get out and explore nature in your area.
I suggested last week that I might actually finish a third book before the end of last week. Alas, that did not happen and so that book became the only book I finished this week. Book #26 for 2020 was "Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett, the fifth book in the Discworld series. This might have been my favorite book in the series so far, mainly because I have become fond of the bumbling Rincewind. Getting into any part of the plot will be difficult without this post being a total spoiler, so I will just comment that it was an enjoyable and quite funny book and that I continue to look forward to the rest of the books in the series.
I'm going to try something different for a while when it comes to music. I have been creating weekly playlists in Tidal for my "Music Finds" and it occurred to me that I could share what I found on this site as well.
My "Music Finds - Week of 06Jul2020" playlist includes new albums from Rufus Wainwright which seemed a bit to "show tunes"-y for me, one from a singer-songwriter named Margo Price that I really enjoyed, and a live album from Blossoms, which is a band that I hadn't heard of before but quite liked what I heard.
Two new beers this week, and they were both really good. First up was the Kasteel Tripel, a nice Belgian tripel. Really good stuff. Lots of flavor and aroma. The high ABV really didn't dominate the experience. (4.0 / 5) The second was a latest in the Dragon series from Alley Kat. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a big fan of the Dragon series, and Enigma didn't disappoint. The Australian Enigma hops took a bit to get used to, but I definitely enjoyed the flavor and aroma once I did. Nice stuff once again. (4.0 / 5)
Just three new words this week. I have to admit that I'm sure the first one was some sort of pun or inside joke from Pratchett, but I did not get it if it was.