Greetings at the 1/24th point of 2022. It is depressing to think that half a month is already gone from the year, but at least the last week was relaxing, rewarding, and productive. Coming up is a recap of the first two books of the year, a look at my 2021 reading review, five new drinks, and one new word. Let's jump in.
First up for the reading section is an overview of my reading for 2021. I wanted to do a recap of the previous year's reading for the last couple years and actually did it this year. I was stoked as I started to draft the article earlier this week but ended up feeling a bit down. My numbers were done for the year and there were very few memorable books in retrospect. On the positive side, it did give me motivation to improve my reading in 2022 in several ways. I will leave the details for the actual article. If you want to know what I wrote about what I read, read "Reading Review for 2021" in the Long Form section of this site.
Moving on to the reading progress for this year, Book #1 for 2022 was "Joyland" by Stephen King. I purchased this ebook three or four years ago after I read that the publisher, Hard Case Crime, had asked Stephen King for an endorsement but instead he wrote them a book. The book he wrote was not Joyland but it was a neat enough story that I picked up Joyland anyway. Joyland is a really good story, not so much of a horror as one might think coming from King but thrilling enough to be enjoyable. King did a masterful job providing hints and foreshadowing, talking about events and people that would enter the story at a later point. The conclusion was as satisfying as the plot. I am looking forward to reading more of King's books from Hard Case Crime.
Book #2 for 2022 was my third lifetime read of "Our Man Weston" by Gordon Korman. This is a book I read in 2019 to my older daughter, and I enjoyed reading it just as much to my younger daughter in the past few days as I did three years ago. This is one of Korman's earliest books, and it is hard to find in any format now. That is a shame because the story is wonderfully put together and quite funny. I have a lot of good memories with Gordon Korman books both as a teen and as a parent, and this one is at the top of the heap.
Five new beers this week, up from the two or three I predicted in last week's entry. Most of the beers this week were disappointing, particularly the Alley Kat which continues their trend of turning out underwhelming beers. The best of the week was the Born Colorado Earl's Ale, and even it was not great as it was overly sweet.
Ol' Beautiful Okami Kasu Japanese Ale, made with rice (3.5 / 5); Hawk Tail Mexican Style Lager (3.25); Howe Sound Pothole Filler Imperial Stout (3.0); Alley Kat Candid Coffee Porter (3.0); and, Born Colorado Earl's Ale (3.75).
These five entries bring me up to 851 unique check-ins and 1003 badges on Untapdd.
Just one new word this week as the reading was fairly simple. There should be more next week as I will finish a relatively technical science fiction novel.
Greetings once again. I hope you are well and that you haven't given up due to COVID. So many people are just shrugging it off, adopting an attitude of "oh well". I hope this is nothing. I hope omicron is mild. I hope we don't destroy our healthcare system. But I fear for the worst.
In the twenty-two months since I first wrote about COVID, a lot has happened. We rallied around hope and supported our healthcare workers. We changed everything about our lives and daily routines. And we got tired. Author Chuck Wendig summed it up beautifully in his most recent newsletter.
Hahaha. Haha. Hahahhahgaaaaaaah yeah ---Chuck Wendig, "The Great Surrender: How We Gave Up And Let COVID Win"
Okay, to be fair he said a lot more than that. Read the article for yourself to see his take on how we have given up and are letting COVID win. Note: it is not for the faint of heart and you should probably not print it at the office.
Let's move on to other less depressing topics. How about the global economy? Nothing sad or depressing there, right?
My friend Chris sent me this link, a visualization of the global economy. Many interesting facts stick out.
If you want to ignore the economy and the pandemic and have ten minutes, try out "If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel." This is a wonderfully done model of the solar system scaled so that the moon is the size of one pixel on your monitor. Fun fact: the distance between Neptune and Pluto is much greater than the distance between Earth and Jupiter. Crazy.
That's it for this week, folks. No new books, no new drinks, no progress on the virtual tour, and no new words. I decided late Friday that I need another week off, so I should get through two books this week and I will likely have two or three new beers to report in addition to a new coffee. (It has "crema" in its name. Can't wait to try it!)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude on the second day of the new year. This week's post highlight items resulting year-end reflections and from the year-end rush to finish as many books as possible.
Before we get to that, look at this following image from a Daily Hive article from Monday.
On Monday, 14 of the 15 coldest places on the planet were in Canada. In addition, I live in one place on the list and have lived in three others and have visited eight of the other locations. I must really love living here to put up with this weather.
In other depressing news, there was a fantastically bleak opinion piece in the Globe and Mail this week titled, "The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. Canada must prepare." The author, Thomas Homer-Dixon, discusses the "weakening of U.S. democracy", "ideological polarization", and how "between 20 and 30 million American adults believe the 2020 election was stolen". Homer-Dixon proceeds to discuss five, maybe six, parallels between America today and Germany prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler. The article does not leave much room for hope, but it closes with a request, almost a plea, for Canada to do more to stop what will potentially happen to our only neighbor in the near future.
Canada is itself flawed, but it’s still one of the most remarkably just and prosperous societies in human history. It must rise to this challenge. ---Thomas Homer-Dixon
Okay, so it is brutally cold, and our closest ally and only neighbor is potentially into a nosedive into anarchy. Is there anything positive to reflect on? Yes! I finished another perfect year of Solitaire. Take that radicalized American polity!
I finished two books this week prior to the start of 2022 and ended up with a total of 45 books read in the year. Not bad, but not my best effort. One of these years I will actually hit 52 books in a year.
Book #44 for 2021 was VALIS by Philip K. Dick. I have never been a fan of Philip K. Dick (and no, I was not going to say I am or am not a Dick fan) (and yes, I am still 12), as his writing is not nearly as good as his ideas. However, VALIS was both interesting and intriguing. Unlike other books by Dick, I found myself interested in the story. I do not claim to have understood everything in the novel due to the complexity of the topics - see the New Words section below as evidence of that. However, in the end I feel that I understood it enough. But what is it about? That is hard to say, but the description on WorldCat does a pretty good job of summarizing the plot.
A theological detective story in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime. The schizophrenic hero, a Dick alter-ego named Horselover Fat, begins receiving revelatory visions through a burst of pink laser light. As a coterie of religious seekers forms to explore these messages, they are led to a rock musician's estate, where a two-year old Messianic figure named Sophia confirms that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries. ---Synopsis of "VALIS", from WorldCat.org
Book #45 for 2021 was the final book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Harry Potter has been an enormous cultural influence in the past quarter-century, with the release date for the first book sometime in 1997. I read the entire series once, and then re-read the first few books again as a refresher before the movies came out. I read the first six books to my older daughter, and she read the seventh book herself. In the past eighteen months or so, I have read the entire series to my younger daughter, and on top of that, we are watching all the movies again (well, for the first time for my younger daughter). A few years ago, my older daughter puffed up her voluminous hair and dressed up as Hermione for Hallowe'en, and my younger daughter is currently building a cosplay outfit of Luna Lovegood complete with a copy of "The Quibbler" to read while being held upside-down.
With all the time I have invested in these stories, it is weird to think that I am done with them. A couple more nights to wrap up the last movies, but that is it. I have no intention of reading the books again, and the movies are not good enough to watch again. I know I am getting old and that I am over half-way through my days on Earth, but like I said, it is weird to think that something that has been as big as Harry Potter will just be done for me. Said another way, it is weird to be experiencing a mortality revelation through the completion of a young-adult book series.
As for the book, it was really good, and definitely my favorite of the seven books in the series.
Four new beers this week, bringing my number of unique check-ins to 846. Warka Strong (3.75 / 5), Born Colorado's Mount Massive Russian Imperial Stout (3.75), Maxwell Spiced Mead from Australia (3.5), and Four Winds Nectarous Dry-Hopped Sour (3.75). A really good week for new beers!
I would have had more this week since I was on vacation, but it was too cold to leave the house to go buy more beer.
The novel by Dick was a huge source of new words, largely due to my lack of knowledge in philosophy. The first one below was from Harry Potter though, and I took the definition from Urban Dictionary.
done a bunk
(*Of interest, the phrase "Gordon Bennett" is listed as a synonym for botheration. Apparently, Bennett was quite a hellraiser.)
Happy holidays for all those celebrating, and for those that are not, peace and joy to you as well.
This is the second Christmas with minimal visiting and socializing, but all is not bad. Not having huge meals to prepare or large numbers of guests to provide for has made for a very relaxing holiday season. A few visits would have been nice, but I am not sure I want to go back to the mad rush of visits with dozens of people when we get out of this pandemic. I like how Neil Pasricha put it in his #pandemicedition of 1000 Awesome Things for December 25.
Regular readers of this site will notice that I missed posting last week. Since there was not a mad rush leading up to the holidays, I was confident that I would post last week. However, the week leading up to the holidays was filled with responding to the log4J vulnerability. There are numerous articles discussing what this vulnerability is and how pervasive it is, so I will not go into detail here. My December 2021 prediction is that we will still be discussing this in December 2022 due to the number of breaches this causes. log4J has been described as the worst vulnerability ever, and the timing for its release could only have been worse if it had come out while many people were on holidays, instead of one week earlier.
Beyond log4J, the last fortnight was filled with finishing two books, one milestone on the virtual tour, four new beers, and one new word. Let's jump in.
I finished two books in the past fortnight, one I had started in 2020 and my favorite murder mystery to date.
Book #42 for 2021 was "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I absolutely loved this book, but I did not finish it in 2020 when I first picked it up. The reason is that I saw the title of this YouTube video and without watching the video, I felt like the book was completely spoiled for me.
As a result of seeing that title, Rothfuss's book sat on my shelf sixty percent read for about seventeen months. When I finally picked it up again, I was able to immediately recall the story and the characters. I attribute that to how great the writing is. This is a great book and I am looking forward to the second and eventually the third books in the series.
Book #43 for 2021 was "Sparkling Cyanide" by Agatha Christie. As I mentioned above, this is my favorite murder mystery to date. It was not the most suspenseful and it did not have the most startling reveal, but the setup and character development was superb. In the end, I was surprised but not shocked and ultimately satisfied as the murder could have been done by anyone of the main characters. If you only read one novel from Christie, I suggest this one.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
My progress toward virtually crossing Canada has been significantly hampered since early August because of the bike failure, a back injury, and then treacherous ice conditions. My bikes are fine, and I can maintain my back strength once again, but progress this week will also be limited due to the extremely cold temperatures outside.
That all said, I was able to finish the Upsala-Thunder Bay segment, which completed - finally - the Winnipeg-Thunder Bay leg. I started that leg September 6, which means that it took nearly four months to complete 723 km. Not good.
But at least progress has been made. Thunder Bay is an interesting location with a population of approximately 108,000. Thunder Bay was two cities, Port Arthur and Fort William, until January 1, 1970, which I found surprising. Wikipedia does a good job of documenting the rivalries of the two cities, plus their involvement in the fur trade, colonization, and assimilation. In keeping with my previous cataloging of airports for each stop, Thunder Bay is serviced by an international airport, with the IATA code of YQT.
Here is the updated progress chart, complete with the segments for the next leg of the virtual tour, from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.
Four new beers this week, with two that were worth recommending. Snake Lake Miss Mermaid Pale Ale (3.75 / 5) and Juxtapose Four Winds IPA (3.5 / 5) are worth trying. The two that you should not bother with are the Leżajsk Pełne Lager out of Poland (2.5 / 5) and the Anarchist Amber from Cannery Brewing in Penticton (3.0 / 5).
Just one new word, assuming the words Rothfuss made up for his book do not count.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where we are suffering with streets and sidewalks covered in ice after a freezing rain earlier this week.
This past week was busy with work, reading, and getting ready for the holiday season. The quick summary is two interesting articles to comment on, two books finished, two new beers, and five new words.
The first article was out of the National Post. Tristan Hopper wrote the article "Why this day, just 90 years ago, is Canada's real independence day", in reference to the Statute of Westminster which came into force December 11, 1931. The quick summary is that before 1931, the United Kingdom could overturn any law that was "repugnant" to English law. After the Statute of Westminster was enacted, Canada remained a constitutional monarchy with a Governor General, but we can pass our own laws and decide when we are at war, decisions we could not make independently before then. It is fascinating to know that even as tied to other countries we are in 2021, we had zero independence for the first sixty-four years of our existence as a nation.
The second article was from Slate, and it reframed Johnny Cash as an ally against racism and race-fueled violence. The article suggests that Cash's 1962 album, "Blood, Sweat and Tears" was not just a collection of stories about working men, but rather "a concept album about race in America, about the violent enforcement of racial hierarchies in America". If you read the album notes on Tidal for "Blood, Sweat and Tears", the author is solidly in the traditional camp, calling it an album "about the fables of the American working man". The Slate article busts that view apart, highlighting how Cash recorded songs about slavery, violence, and murder against black men.
I do not have a lot of experience with Johnny Cash's music, but I certainly have heard many of his songs. This article gave me a reason to really listen to his music, and to listen to it with a new perspective. If you are interested in understanding more about the messages in Cash's music, read the Slate article and listen to the album here.
It does not appear likely that I will hit 52 books this year, but if I finish a few books that I am part way through, I should be able to get into the mid-40s.
Book #40 for 2021 was "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. This was an amazing book and is probably going to be my favorite book for 2021. I found it to be very emotional, especially near the end. The synopsis is that it is a story about a young girl living in World War II Germany, and all the struggles and issues that entails. I am really glad I read this book and will likely read it again in the future.
Book #41 for 2021 will most likely be the shortest book I read this year. "Fortunately, the Milk" by Neil Gaiman was a fantastical tale of the exploits of a father explaining why he was late returning home with some milk. Picking this book up made it clear it was going to be a quick read, but with the numerous illustrations by Skottie Young, it was even shorter than expected. The entertaining story reminded me of a fast-paced Willy Wonka story, but this is definitely a once-and-done book unless you have young children that are just graduating into chapter books.
Two new beers this week. First was the Wanderlust IPA from Breakside Brewery out of Portland. (3.75 / 5). Second was the Do Something Lager from Sea Change here in Edmonton. (3.5 / 5). This brings my total number of unique check-ins on Untappd to 838.
Five new words this week. The first two came from the seventh Harry Potter book that had a sentence that said "a baize in a budgerigar".
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. It was another quiet week with little to report on. One new beer, one book finished, and one new word. There has been some time in the saddle as well, even though it has been quite cold in the last few days.
My goal of 52 books in 2021 is not going to happen. I am going to work on finishing books that I have started in December so I should get over 40 books this year, but I will be a long way from 52.
Book #39 for 2021 was "The Sittaford Mystery" by Agatha Christie. This is a stand-alone mystery from Christie, meaning that the protagonists are not Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc. However, I really liked Inspector Narracort and Emily Trefius and would like to have seen more from either of them in other books.
Even though I did like those two characters, the book was not great. I enjoyed the setup but I found it took too long to get to the character analysis and the various plot lines did not satisfactorily come together. In addition, Trefius did not show up until over one-third into the story. It was good enough to read through, but just barely.
Just one new beer this week. The Münchner Weisse from the Hofbräuhaus München Brewery in Munich. (3.5 / 5) The number of unique check-ins in Untappd is now up to 836,
Just one new word, this one coming from a book of spells for 5e.
This will be the shortest update on record in over two and a half years making these updates. Very little writing, no new books, only one new drink, no segments completed on the cross-Canada virtual tour, and only one new word.
On the bright side, there are less than three weeks until vacation and hopefully that time will be filled with writing, beer, and reading. Until then, or at least for now, here is the update for this week.
I have been listening to a lot of music lately, but most of it was not new, or even new to me. Tidal has been great, and we re-subscribed to SiriusXM for the vehicle. I have to admit that I did not think too highly of SiriusXM when we first bought the new car in the spring, but I have really grown to like it. I picked up the subscription as an early Christmas gift for my spouse but use it all the time as well.
One notable album on SiriusXM this week has been the new release between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Their new album "Raise the Roof" is really good with Plant's and Krause's vocals contemplating each other very well. I am not a huge Led Zeppelin fan, but I have always like Plant's solo work, and have been a fan of Krauss since "Forget About It" in 1999. Raise the Roof is laid back with moments of real intensity, and my favorite parts are with Krauss as the lead singer with Plant providing haunting background vocals. "Trouble with my Lover" is a great example of this.
There was one new beer this week, another from Edmonton's Trial & Ale, this being their "A Saison Apparent" (4.0 / 5). My number of unique check-ins on Untappd is now up to 835.
This was my favorite from Trial & Ale so far. Nice fruit flavor with funk from the Brettanomyces without being too ripe. Really good stuff, and I feel my enthusiasm for this brewery is definitely warranted.
New word, singular, to be exact. This one sounded evil and foreboding, but was actually quite domestic, literally and figuratively.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude after taking a week off from posting. Life has been mostly consumed by work in the past fortnight, leaving little time for anything else. I do not have much to talk about but thought I would post a brief update just to not completely lose momentum from my forced habit of regular writing.
All that is on the agenda is a quick virtual tour update, a handful of new beers, and a few words. Even so, time to get to it.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
The cycling is picking back up, albeit very slowly. Most of the progress I am making on the cross-Canada virtual tour is via walking, which is good but awfully boring. I was able to close off the Ignace-Upsala segment, so I am now homing in on the final segment of this leg towards Thunder Bay.
Upsala was named after Uppsala in Sweden. Note the difference in spelling. Upsala, Ontario was an important fur trade settlement, and was eventually connected via road with the TransCanada connection from the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, which coincidentally, are now a single city named Thunder Bay. The Wikipedia page does not provide any more information, so it appears that Upsala is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it location on the highway.
Here is the updated progress chart.
Seven new beers to report, bringing the total unique check-ins on Untappd to 834. Karlovačko Lager (2.0 / 5), Cabin Luminosity (3.0), Collective Arts IPA No. 17 (3.5), Collective Arts Mai Tai Sour (3.25), Delirium Red (3.75), Delirium Nocturnum (4.0), and Dandy in the Underworld (3.75)
The winner this week was the Delirium Nocturnum, which was a treat to drink. On the opposite end of the scale was the Karlovačko which was so disappointing after the really good lagers I have had lately. Plus, I learned that orgeat (pronounced \"or-zat\"), which is highlighted on the Collective Arts Mai Tai Sour can, is a non-alcoholic almond-flavored syrup that is commonly used in tiki and classic cocktails, most notably in the Mai Tai.
Three new words this week. Can you pick which one came out of COVID research?
Welcome to November where it is definitely not November-esque weather yet. It was a pretty quiet week, with only one item of note and a lone beer to comment on.
The item of note was an interview with Yuval Noah Harari on 60 Minutes. Harari is known for his books "Sapiens", "Homo Deus", and "21 Lessons for the 21st Century". I have read Sapiens and Homo Deus and am a fan of Harari as a result. The interview certainly delves into territory consistent with those books, with statements such as "Within a century or two, Earth will be dominated by entities that are more different from us than we are different from chimpanzees", and how today's technology will allow us to "a new species of human".'
While interesting and thought-provoking, the main takeaway for me was Harari's comments on the importance of data. Harari commented that "data is worth much more than money". Interviewer Anderson Cooper's soundbite was that "data is the key". Harari raised concerns about how biometric data, data about what is going on inside our bodies. Inside of the surveillance we allow upon ourselves now - surveillance of what we read, watch, eat, date - Harari warns that we are moving to surveillance of our body and our health. To his credit, Harari does acknowledge the power of the data we have about our bodies. He says that our times are not just dystopian, but also utopian.
The interview is worth watching, whether you are a fan of Harari and have not yet discovered him.
As an aside, Cooper's "data is the key" soundbite instantly reminded me of Ben Kingsley in "Sneakers".
"There's a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think... it's all about the information!" - Ben Kingsley as Cosmos, in "Sneakers"
I am going to rewatch that movie for the first time in well over a decade. It will be interesting to see how well it holds up.
Just one new beer this week, bringing the unique check-ins on Untappd to 827. This was the Deschutes Royal Fresh Imperial IPA. 3.75
Greetings. Hallowe'en is upon us, and once again three-quarters of our family carved a pumpkin. The last quarter, yours truly, may do so tonight, but that will not happen if past years are any indication. Instead, here are the other three pumpkins for 2021.
Just one book finished this week, and it was a reread of a book from 2017. Book #38 for 2021 was "The Fire Chronicle" by John Stephens is the second book in the Young Adult series, "The Books of Beginning".
As with the first book that I read with my younger daughter earlier this year, this is an excellent book and is worthy of your time. Young readers in your family will connect with the memorable characters and the multiple story lines. Be warned however that the story is not always happy and that sensitive readers might have difficulty with certain parts of the book.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
I am going to change things up a bit with the cycling updates. Given the spate of back injuries and inability to cycle regularly, I have reverted to walking. The cross-Canada virtual tour continues, but it includes walking now, hence the change in title for this section.
In the tour, I have now passed Ignace, Ontario. According to the town's Wikipedia entry, it was named after Ignace Mentour, a key Indigenous guide in the region during the railway survey work. This is notable given how few of the locations on the virtual tour to date have been named after Indigenous people.
Here is the updated progress chart. Next stop, Upsula.
I am also going to change things up a bit with the coffee and beer reviews. Going forward, I will combine them into one section, and the write-up for the beers will be shorter. I was finding it hard to do a review for the beers in Untappd and then copy that text here for this site. Hopefully this will lower the burden and remove the redundancy.
One new coffee to report this week. The Columbian is a local roaster, and their beans are served at Krew Coffee in Lendrum. I have grown to really like this coffee but my coffee experience is still too limited to have the vocabulary to describe it.
Six new beers in the past fortnight, bringing the total number of unique check-ins on Untappd to 826. From left to right in the image below: Coronado Orange Shandy 3.75; Nickel Brook Wicked Awesome IPA 3.5, Kozel Premium Lager 3.5, Railyard Pumpkin Spice Latte Nitro Stout 3.5, Annex Ale Profane Communion Black Saison 3.0, Brooklyn Lager 4.0. The winner this fortnight is definitely the Brooklyn Lager.