Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where the days are getting colder and darker.
Speaking of getting darker, tomorrow is the province-wide municipal election, and this year there is a plebiscite on eliminating the time change we deal with every fall and winter. The plebiscite asks whether Albertans would like to eliminate the time change and stay with Daylight Savings Time.
However, that is not the correct way to approach this issue. The first question should ask whether we support eliminating the time change, and if so, the second question should ask if we support Daylight Savings or Daylight Standard. There is ample discussion and evidence that a northern jurisdiction like Alberta should go to Daylight Standard. In one story, Michael Antle, a psychology professor from the University of Calgary says "We've been presented with two bad choices. A bad one and a worse one." Dr. Antle advocates eliminating the time change but says that the move to permanent Daylight Savings is bad for Albertans.
If you are looking for more information on whether Daylight Savings is good or bad for Alberta, look at this chart from Elections Alberta. It seems clear to me that a move to permanent Daylight Savings is the wrong choice for Alberta.
Another CTV News story poses comments about how the plebiscite on the time change is a lure by the UCP to attract voters to the polls so that more people will vote for the binding referendum on equalization. Seems plausible and even likely, which is very unfortunate.
Finally, CBC has a handy page explaining all the different sections on the ballot this year. This page is from CBC Calgary, so it includes their local plebiscite on fluoridation.
I hope this does not come across as self-serving, but I do have one item to share. I completed the Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta that is available on Coursera. It is a twelve-week course, with a couple of hours of effort required each week. I found it extremely informative and eye-opening. The course covers topics starting with Indigenous world views and moving to first contact on Turtle Island (take the course if you do not know what that is), the fur trade, the promise and sad reality of the treaties across Canada, government assimilation programs, residential schools, and contemporary activism. I highly encourage everyone to take it so that we can all have better informed conversations about colonization and how to move forward with reconciliation.
I polished off two quick books this week, bringing my total for the year up to 37.
Book #36 for 2021 was "The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie. This is the first book in the Tommy and Tuppence series from Christie, and it was quite different from Christie's Hercule Poirot books. One quote I read after finishing the book is that it is a light-hearted romp. The edition I read contained an introduction that explained how the publisher was concerned about releasing this as Christie's second book, as it was so different than "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". After reading this book, I completely understand the points made. It was not a bad story, but it did not have the draw of a more intense novel and is quite a departure from the Poirot novels I have read.
The introduction goes on to say that the five Tommy and Tuppence books would not have been strong enough to stand on their own if not for the strength of Christie's more famous characters, Poirot and Miss Marple.
It is doubtful that any of the five books would still be available today if it weren't for the career of the famous Belgian of the little grey cells or the elderly inhabitant of St. Mary Mead.
A sad reminder that even the monumental achievement of getting published is no guarantee of immortality one generation removed from publication.
Moving on, Book #37 for 2021 was the fourth book in the Murderbot series, "Exit Strategy". It was only a few weeks ago that I read the previous book in the series, and I typically would wait longer between books in a series. However, the hold from the library came in quickly so I dove in this week. Once again, Murderbot is an incredibly enjoyable character and the struggles with its humanity and place in society makes the books worth reading. And on top of that, Murderbot blows up a lot of stuff which is fun to read.
Only one new beer this week as a result of finding a couple 2017 and 2018 Olde Deuteronomy Barley Wines from Alley Kat at Sherbrooke Liquor.
Beer #820 was the Innsmouth Mango Passionfruit Sour from Zero Issue out of Calgary. This is my fifth beer from Zero Issue, but the four previous beers were between April and August of 2018. I quite liked the first four offerings, but this one was sour without any complementing flavor. Maybe I am just tired of sours. Regardless, I will seek out more beers from Zero Issue as there is no reason I have not tried something from them for over three years. (3.0 / 5)
Greetings from Thanksgiving weekend from 53.5° north latitude. There was quite a bit of interesting news this week, some local but mainly news of global interest and impact.
The big news of the week was the Facebook outage. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were offline globally for six hours, completing removing millions of people from what they think of as the Internet. I was in an Uber on Monday afternoon and the radio station the driver was listening to was talking about the "forced social media vacation". I have a Facebook account that I never log into, had an Instagram account that I deleted, and have never used WhatsApp. There is no impact to me if Facebook applications are unavailable, however, that is clearly not the case for billions of people across the world, prompting calls for more competition in social media. There were concerns that Facebook was hacked, but a Facebook blog post blamed a botch update to a BGP router.
Beyond the outage, 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with a Facebook insider (whistleblower) the day before the outage.
The thrust of Frances Haugen's comments and her subsequent testimony to the US Congress is that the angrier and more divisive the content is that Facebook publishes and promotes, the more money Facebook makes. This is not new information, but this is the first time that the allegations are from an insider, and that are backed up by internal documentation and data and not allegations or assumptions from an outsider.
In addition, more information is surfacing about how harmful Facebook's Instagram is for teen girls in particular. The NY Times went so far this weekend to call it a "cesspool".
The combination of the whistleblower, the outage, and the revelations of how toxic the apps are made several media outlets, including CBC's Day 6 program, to call this a "very bad week for Facebook". But how bad, and for how long is the real question. If the impact to stock price is any indication, this is nothing to worry about. As shown below, the stock dropped from $330.05 to $329.22 in the past week.
In the last month, the stock has dropped for $378, so more of an appreciable decrease, but not much different than what the stock market has experienced in general.
Prediction: nothing changes, at least until 2024 and then only if the European Union or a US Democratic Senate and Congress force regulation onto Facebook.
One segment was finished in the cross-Canada virtual tour this week. I have now pushed past Dryden, Ontario. Much like many settlements in Canada, Dryden is named by a white male even though it was traditionally an Anishanaabe locations called Paawidigong ("the place of rapids" in Ojibwe). Dryden has population of 7700, and is served by the Dryden Regional Airport which has the IATA airport code of YHD. Oh yeah, and they have a big moose.
Here is the updated progress chart. With good weather and health, I can make it past Ignace this upcoming week.
The quest for a perfect cup of coffee continues. In the few weeks since I last posted about coffee, I have cleaned the screen and replaced the gasket on my espresso machine and have fixed how fine my coffee grinder will grind the beans. The difference has been very noticeable, with the espresso taking much longer to come out and the crema to be much more pronounced. This is making me rethink all the coffee I have made at home for the past several months.
The latest coffee is the Umbria Bizzarri blend. This Italian blend has been very enjoyable, but again that needs to be tempered against how many improvements I have made to my setup. Here are some action shots of the bag, richly colored beans, and the end result.
Four new beers this week, with three that were quite good.
Beer #816 was the Omnipollo MAZ Oat Pale Ale 5.6% Strong Ale. Omnipollo is a bit of a mystery. The can says it is brewed in Canada, but the company identifies as from Sweden. I assume Omnipollo has licensed their beer to someone in Canada to brew on their behalf. Whoever did produce this did a good job. This was super hazy, with low but lacy foam, and a drying taste like a grapefruit soda that has almost gone flat. There was no discernible aroma which I found weird, but overall this was good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #817 was an Edmonton beer, the Town Square Flower Child Elderflower Gose. I quite liked the tang added by the sea salt. It had a nice gose sour aroma but was not very sour tasting. The color was beautiful. Town Square has some good beers and is definitely worth seeking out when looking for something to try (3.75 / 5)
Next up was the miss for the week. Beer #818 was the High River Cruisin' West Coast IPA. This is my second beer from High River and so far I have not liked either. This did not seem like a West Coast IPA as it had more of a strong, boozy taste than you would expect from an IPA. (2.5 / 5)
Last up for Beer #819 was the Blackberry Black Berliner from Omen Brewing. A Berliner is typically a cloudy sour, but the massive amount of blackberry put into this made it a dark-purple-almost-black beer. This also had a nice creaminess from the lactobacillus that was included in the brewing. So a fruity, dark, sour, creamy beer. Great combination. (3.75 / 5)
Just one new word this week, coming from research around my younger daughter's pet frog.
(Edited 17Oct2021: added missing picture of new beers)
I had a tidy little update completed last weekend but forgot to post it. That means this update is for the past two weeks.
Before getting into the regular sections, the big news from last week's unposted entry was the federal election. In some ways, one might think it was no news at all, since there was little change in the seat tally: the Liberals gained two seats but still have a minority; the NDP and Bloc each gained a seat; the Conservatives lost two seats but still hold sway in Western Canada.
However, it might not be that simple for a few reasons. First, there were ridings that the Conservatives would have won if the People's Party had not split the conservative votes. That would not have won them enough seats to win a minority, but it would have shifted the balance. Second, all parties said they do not want another election so no one will want to be seen as the leader or party that forced Canadians into another expensive, unwanted election. This might mean that Trudeau and the Liberals do not need a majority to act like a majority government.
Here is the non-Mercator map of how the seats distributed after the mail-in ballots were counted.
There were interesting developments locally as well. Two more ridings fell from the Conservatives in Edmonton. Randy Boissonnault was the beneficiary of right-of-center vote splitting in Edmonton Central, and first-time candidate Blake Desjarlais won big in Edmonton Griesbach to become Alberta's only Indigenous MP. Boissonnault is sure to get a cabinet post out of his win, and Desjarlais and NDP colleague Heather McPherson from Edmonton Strathcona will work to build momentum for their party in this term.
Beyond the election, I was able to finish two more books. But before I get to that, have you ever had multiple books on hold at the library, all with different estimated wait times, only to have them ALL come in at the same time? Once again, I ended up this past week with well over 1500 pages of holds with no possible way to finish them all before they are due. Alas, so many books, so little time.
Book #35 for 2021 was "Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers" by Andy Greenburg. This is a journalistic exposé of what the Russian state-sponsored hackers dubbed Sandworm by American cyber researchers have done from Estonia to Ukraine to America. It is utterly terrifying and should be required reading for any policy-maker, corporate leader, or Internet user. In other words, everyone.
Changing gears quite a bit, the next book went back to fiction and a series I quite enjoy. Book #36 for 2021 was "Guards! Guards!", the eighth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The previous seven books were all enjoyable, but this was my favorite by far. Pratchett's humor and word play was in full form for the whole novel, and the story produced many real-world laugh-out-loud moments. The Discworld novels can be read in any order so if you have only one Discworld novel in your future, choose this one.
Between mechanical failures and personal injury, I just cannot seem to keep any momentum on my virtual cross-Canada tour. However, even with that, I did manage to complete the Falcon Lake to Kenora segment of the Winnipeg to Thunder Bay leg, and with that, have officially passed into the province of Ontario.
Kenora is not necessarily a town that would be a well-known city seeing it has a population of only about 15,000. However, someone of my age in Canada will surely remember the 1985 PCB spill on the Trans-Canada Highway near Kenora. A bit of ignominy that I am sure Kenora does not deserve, so I was happy to learn some fun facts about the city from the Wikipedia page. First of all, it was first call Rat Portage. Second, it (Rat Portage) is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood's 1910 story "The Wendigo", which is a story that has been on my to-read list for a while. Third, in the vein of so many Canadian towns and cities, it has an oversize sculpture, theirs being a forty-foot version of a muskellunge called "Husky the Muskie". And finally, the Kenora Airport has the IATA code of YQK.
Next stop, Dryden.
Five new beers in the past fortnight, bringing my lifetime total check-ins to 815, four of which were from Edmonton. There is a lot going on in Edmonton's breweries, and some of it is good.
Beer #811 was from Alley Kat's Back Alley Brews limited run series. There have been some really good Back Alley Brews, but unfortunately, the "At's Wits End" witbier was not one of them. It had a light banana taste. Maybe? Couldn't quite make it out due to the unappealing funk that pervaded the beer. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #812 was the "Dissent within the Caucus" sour from Trial & Ale. Trial & Ale is the brewery I mentioned in July that exclusively uses wild yeasts. The yeast in Dissent is called Pediococcus (see what they did there?) which is developed through very long fermentation cycles in oak barrels. The sourness at first drink was super intense, but it was easy to adjust to and enjoy. This process also lends to the dryness of the drink which helped with the desire to keep sampling from the glass. Another interesting beer from Trial & Ale, and another interesting lesson in wild fermentation. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #813 was another learning experience about yeasts. The Odd Company "Mandarina Sour" was made with kveik, which I learned is a family of ancient Norwegian farmer's yeast that is useful for brewing fast-maturing and tropical fruit-accented beers. This particular beer was solid, with nice juicy flavors but was otherwise unremarkable. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #814 was the last of the Edmonton beers, and it was back to Alley Kat for this one. This one was their "Ekuanot Dragon", the latest in their long-running series of Double IPAs. A 7.5% ABV highly aromatic and piney beer, tagged by the brewer as "best enjoyed in summer heat" seems a bit off to me. It makes me wonder if Alley Kat marketed it that way since they released it in June just prior to summer. Regardless, this was decent but not as memorable as some others in the Dragon series. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was my second of the beers I picked up from Almanac out of San Francisco. LOUD was a winner (4.0 / 5), LOVE was quite good (3.75 / 5), and so I went into their "Sabrosa DIPA" with high expectations. Maybe I am just tired of juicy beers, but this one felt underwhelming as I drank it. I am dulled by the amount of pineapple flavors in beers this past year, so I could not get the promised coconut and cantaloupe. Still, it was a beautiful beer, and the aroma was more intoxicating that the drink, so that was something. (3.5 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, but then I realized that most of them were made up, purposeful misspellings by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novel.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude on the last week of Summer 2021. It was a decent week, with two books read, one new beer, one great playlist, and a handful of new words. It was also a week of reunions with friends, even if the visits were outside and masked.
As noted above, I finished two books this week, one non-fiction and one fiction.
Book #33 for 2021 was "Between Man and Beast", by Monte Reel. The subtitle for this book is "An unlikely explorer, the evolution debates, and the African adventure that took the Victorian world by storm". This is a non-fiction book recounting of how Paul Du Chaillu an African / French / American explorer was the first non-native African to see, kill, and preserve the remains of a gorilla. The book explores Du Chaillu, his quest for acceptance, and the controversy he created in 1860s London during the debates over Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", which was published just as Du Chaillu was "discovering" the gorilla. This was a really engaging read and helped bring focus on some of the debates and issues of Victorian England. If you enjoy non-fiction that reads like fiction, I suggest picking up "Between Man and Beast".
Book #34 for 2021 was "Rogue Protocol" by Martha Wells. This is the third book in the Murderbot Diaries series. I have commented previously how much I enjoy the Murderbot stories, and this was no exception. Murderbot, as an individual, is filled with irony, melancholy, and even humanity, and the first-person narrative form does a great job of showing how Murderbot thinks and feels about everything that transpires around ... him? her? it? I am not sure what gender Murderbot is or if if matters, but I think of a male version of the android on the movie poster for "Ex Machina". Anyway, that is irrelevant to the book, but might be useful insight. Murderbot continues to be entertaining, and I hope to get through the fourth book in the series soon.
Not much progress was made on the cross-Canada virtual tour, but I was able to complete the Winnipeg to Falcon Lake segment. As per Wikipedia, Falcon Lake is "an unincorporated urban centre at the western end of Falcon Lake situated in the southeasternmost section of the Whiteshell Provincial Park in the Canadian province of Manitoba". The fun fact that caught my eye is that the local golf course was designed by prominent golf architect, Norman H. Wood. Wood designed many other courses, including the Glendale in Edmonton.
Here is the updated progress chart:
I have not had a music update for a long time. This week though I do have a great playlist to share. Tidal has a feature called "My Daily Discovery" which Tidal describes as "Songs by new and familiar artists inspired by your listening. Updates every morning." The problem with My Daily Discovery is that if I listen to a mid-70s album by one artist, every daily playlist for the next several days will be from the mid-70s.
However, last Monday the daily playlist was a great collection of old and new. "Ooh La La" by Faces from 1972. A new release by Billy Idol. A late-90s favorite by David Gray. Of the ten songs in the playlist, I added eight to My Collection. Take a listen and tell me what you think.
Just one new beer this week. This is another from Almanac out of San Francisco. Beer #810 was their LOVE Hazy IPA, and it was really good but not as good as their LOUD! Hazy IPA. It was well put together with a nice maltiness and a lot of citrus from the hops without too much bitterness. (3.75 / 5)
All of the new words this week came from "Between Man and Beast". One can easily imagine the Victorian bigots rating the worthiness of a person based on how "white" their blood was.
I have not done a real post on this site for three weeks, so there is a bit to catch up on, as I alluded to last week. I finished three books, finished a couple segments on my cross-Canada virtual tour, tried twelve (12!) beers, and compiled a minor list of new words. Let's jump in.
At this point in the year, I should have finished 36 books to be on pace for 52 in a year. I finished three in the last three weeks and will finish another in the next day or so. That will take me to 34 for the year and I have a couple short ones that should get me up to pace.
Book #31 for 2021 was "The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson. As you might guess from the title, this is a science fiction book but set in America and not in space. The story follows a journalist given an opportunity to document a particle collider like the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, but much bigger. In the slow build-up, the journalist befriends a disgraced author, strikes up a strangely platonic relationship with a physicist, and writes essentially nothing for his book. And then the book gets very science-fiction-y with explosions and chaos. There are characters introduced that play less of a role than expected, and plot elements that are not satisfactorily closed off. The 25-words-or-less review is that this is a book that is really close to being great, but is still very enjoyable with its flaws.
Book #32 for 2021 was "Third Girl", which is a Hercule Poirot book by Agatha Christie. I recently decided that I want to read all Christie's novels and this one was available in the library. It is one of Christie's latter books, published in 1964 (or 1967, or 1968 depending on which source you look at). Regardless of the year, it is Poirot in the Swinging 60s trying to fit in a London filled with beatniks. His mind and his investigative acumen was still sharp for the novel, but it was interesting watching him struggle with a world that has moved past his mustachioed, Saville Row suit era. I was very confident I had this murdered figured out, and was very happy to find out that I was wrong, and that the solution was elegant and believable. It seems that a Late 60s Poirot still could fit into the world, which of course means that the Late 60s Christie was also still relevant and connected to her world.
Book #33 for 2021 was a re-read of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". I read this with my younger daughter, and it was only the second time I read it. I had no recollection of what happened in the book, and it was as shocking to me as it was to my daughter. It was nice to move past the middle of the Harry Potter series and all the annoying teenage angst plot lines. However, Harry is still an annoying protagonist. As my daughter said, the heroes in books are supposed to be characters you cheer for that do things that we could never do, but "Harry is just an idiot". I could not agree more but am still glad for the series and for what they have done to stimulate a love for reading with people everywhere.
I am getting back in the saddle, but I still have not regained the momentum I had before I broke my bike. Even so, I am past Winnipeg and making my way to the Ontario border. Here is an updated progress chart.
The two completed legs were Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg, which closed off Leg #8 from Regina to Winnipeg. The one time I drove to Winnipeg in 1991, I drove the route through Portage La Prairie, but I cannot remember anything about it. That is likely because we drove through the night, and it was probably 06:00 when we passed through. According to Wikipedia, it is exactly half way between the Saskatchewan and Ontario borders, and it was once proposed as an independent Metis state called the Republic of Manitobah. Continuing my fascination with airports, Portage La Prairie is serviced by the Southport Airport, IATA code YPG, former home of Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie.
Winnipeg is a provincial capital and home to three-quarters of a million people. A collection of "fun facts" about Winnipeg would take a lot of effort, so I will just post a link to the Wikipedia page. I will comment that I spent January to April of 1996 in Winnipeg, and I absolutely loved the city. That might have had something to do with the fact that I was single and was living on a per diem, and that my condo in Winnipeg was nicer than my apartment in Edmonton. But still, I have many fond memories of my time in Winnipeg.
The next leg is the biggest yet. There are 723 km between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and this is new territory for me. I have lived in Winnipeg, but never travelled by vehicle east past the city. Toronto, North Bay, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec are all places I have visited in real life, but other than that, everything for the rest of the virtual tour is new to me. Looking forward to the fun facts along the way. Next up, Falcon Lake, Manitoba!
As I said in the intro, I have tried twelve new beers in the past three weeks. This pushes me well past the 800 unique beers mark.
Beer #798 was the Phillips Benefit Brew Forest Citrus Lager. This was very decent. Nicely carbonated with a hint of juice. A Lager with some actual flavor which is great for a lager, and a pleasant surprise from a brewery that I am not keen on. (3.5 / 5)
Remember when Big Rock was a great brewery? It is a faint and distant memory, unfortunately. The downfall was slow and almost unnoticeable until they released their Purple Gas saskatoon berry beer. There has been nothing to look forward to from them since. Beer #799 was their Poolside Grapefruit Lager was no exception. It started out promising as it really smells nice, like a fresh grapefruit. However, the taste was bitter, and it was overly carbonated. Disappointing, once again. (3.0 / 5)
In early August, I mentioned that I tried the Alley Kat 1891 Special Blonde but that it was not available in Untappd. I checked again this week, and it now shows up. I figured it would be appropriate to have an Alley Kat beer show up as a milestone, so I will count that as Beer #800. As I said in early August, it is not that good. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #801 was from Collective Arts, a brewery that I sample from almost as much as I do Alley Kat. Seemed to be more like a hefeweizen / wheat beer than a blonde, but that might be due to the dry hops. It was tasty though, and quite easy to drink. (3.25 / 5)
The next beer comes from the Strathcona Beer Company, which excited me as I thought it was another Edmonton brewery. Alas, they are from Vancouver. Beer #802 was their Mosaic Pale Ale. I am a hops fan, but this was overly hoppy. Or maybe it was just that there were too many competing flavors. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #803 was my second from Tailgunner Brewing out of Calgary. While their Red Magil IPA was pretty good, I liked their Bobby Sox Strawberry Lime Sour more. This had an amazing aroma, and a nice foam. There was more lime flavor than strawberry, but it had a good taste overall. (3.5 /5)
Since there are so many beers this week, I am going to split up the reviews and provide the image for the first six beers here.
Next up was from the Almanac Beer Company out of San Francisco. The fact that Sherbrooke Liquor was carrying Almanac during my last visit was pointed out as a major plus, so I picked up a few singles. Beer #804 was their LOUD! Hazy IPA and it was quite good. Tons of citrus, great aroma, no bitterness. (4.0 / 5)
I have commented twice before on these regular updates that The Establishment Brewing Company out of Calgary has not lived up to its hype from fans. They are now three-for-three in the disappointing column. Beer #805 was their Brighten the Corners Extra Pale Ale, and it was too astringent to enjoy. (2.5 / 5)
Next up was a peach beer, which is something that does not sit well with me, likely due to the horrid peach beer from Stanley Park I had in 2015. [Since that was well before I created this blog, here is the report on the Stanley Park SunSetter Peach Wheat Ale - "The bottle says "natural peach flavors are infused" which I guess means artificial flavors. Tastes fake, smells tinny. Won't repeat.: (2.0 / 5)] However, Beer #806 was the Railyard Brewing Peach Sour, and it was really quite good. Lots of flavor with the sour contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the peach. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #807 was from Foxtail Beer, which seems to be out of Edmonton. I had their Next Chapter IPA which was flavorful and tasty but I could not really place anything particular as a standout marker. Still good, and I will definitely look for others from Foxtail. (3.25 / 5)
Phantom Beer out of Vancouver describes themselves as "Canada's only collaborative craft brewery, merging contract brewing, sales representation and its own proprietary brands into a one-stop, innovative solution for breweries and retailers in an increasingly competitive and difficult-to-navigate market." If I can parse out the various parts of that sentence, that seems like an interesting business model. What about their beer though? Their Mindfuzz IPA was Beer #808 and it was very good. Super flavor, grapefruit without pith, nicely hazy without sediment. Really well done. (4.0 / 5)
Last up was another from Driftwood in Victoria. For Beer #809, I had their Viewfield Brett Saison. A flavorful Brett is sometimes hard to get into with the characteristic funky flavors, and this was no exception. However, the flavors mellowed as I drank the beer. Very aromatic and crisp. (3.5 / 5)
Six new words covering the last three weeks.
Greetings once again. I hope this post finds you well. The last two weeks have been focused on writing, but in other areas than this blog. The main output of writing was a lengthy post I made on the Gaming portion of this site, detailing the design choices and in-game highlights for a game I am running for five friends. There was also one other output that I will potentially dive into in future weeks.
The lesson learned in the past two weeks is that it is hard to write a few thousand words, edit another thousand, and hold down a full-time job. If I want to continue with this blog, and the gaming updates, and the other writing I want to do, all while being otherwise full-time employed, it will take much more discipline and rigor than I currently have.
But that is okay and is the type of challenge that I look forward to. My goal for this upcoming week is to have a comprehensive Show Notes entry that will cover the weeks of August 23, August 30, and September 6, plus a follow-up post on the Gaming site. As I mentioned, that will require discipline and structure to pull off.
For now, I will leave you with this link to my post on the game I am running for my friends.
Greetings from 53.5° north. It was a pretty quiet week, with all of my time in the saddle stuck in the basement on the stationary bike. Luckily though, I am blessed with great friends, and one lent me a bike. I will be outside on the trails once again starting Monday. Beyond that, there were two books completed, one new beer, and a couple words. Time to jump in.
My focus on reading over the summer is paying off, as I am now on pace to read my target of 52 books this year.
Book #29 for 2021 was "N is for Noose" by the late Sue Grafton. This is the fourteenth book in the Kinsey Millhone detective series, and unfortunately was not one that I really enjoyed. The ending was interesting and a bit suspenseful, but I felt like I wanted the book to end so I could move on to something else. The last few in the series were much better, so hopefully "O" gets back in form. To be fair, N was not horrible, and I will certainly look forward to continuing with the series, but maybe with a bit less enthusiasm that I had going into N.
Book #30 for 2021 was a book I read with my younger daughter. "The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling", by Maryanne Rose was a wonderful story about three children literally raised by wolves - or at least, that is what we are lead to believe - and then rescued and housed in the expansion Ashton Place estate. The story takes place post-Dickens, pre-Conan Doyle according to fourth-wall-breaking references in the book. It was quite enjoyable and provided a nice cliff-hanger segue into the second book of the series. I imagine we will read the next book in the series later this fall.
There was just one new beer this week, and it was not good. I remember when Troubled Monk started brewing and I was very excited. A good brewery in Central Alberta was previously unheard of, and their beers were good. Since then though, the best thing to come out of them is their Saskatoon pop. Case in point, their Daycation Lager. As it says on the can, low hops and low malt went into this beer. As a result, there is very little taste. I am not much of a lager fan, but even so this was disappointing. I really hope Troubled Monk can change their trajectory and produce something to be excited about once again. (2.0 / 5)
Even with the two books completed this week, and another likely to be finished shortly after this is published, there have not been a lot of new words to produce. One is definitely a repeat, as I remembered it from the Wheel of Time books as soon as I looked it up.
Greetings. The week that was was fairly mundane. As a result, there is not much to report, just a few beers and a bunch of words. My cycling distance has plummeted since the frame broke two weeks ago so nothing new to report there unfortunately. In addition, summer vacation is over, so it is back to work next week.
Four new beers this week, and a 50/50 split between them. My total is now 796 unique check-ins in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world.
The first two beers were from Grain Bin Brewing in Grande Prairie. We were in Grande Prairie for the first visit with grandparents since before COVID and they welcomed me with some local beers, which I thought was super nice of them. Grain Bin is an interesting brewery with a definite push toward variety in their beers.
The first one from Grain Bin, Beer #793, was on the positive side of the ledger. It was the Twigs and Berries Haskap Stout. This tasted like a forest in a beer, in a good way. It had a really nice flavor and aroma, with a good stout booziness and a rich foam. I had to look up what haskap is. It is a berry high in antioxidants that was introduced to Canada from Japan in the 1950s, with the first cultivation in Beaverlodge which is just west of Grande Prairie. A beer that is local, international, and unique all at once. (3.75 / 5)
The second one from Grain Bin, Beer #794, was on the negative side of the ledger. I am not really a seltzer fan and not a gin fan. As a result, I had trouble getting over those biases bias to enjoy this. (2.75 / 5)
Beer #795 was in fact a cider, specifically the Blue Tractor Modern Dry Cider from Woodward Cider in Kamloops. This was put together really well and was tasty. As the name suggests, this was quite dry. My sweet tooth extends to ciders however, and so it was the second entry this week to hit the negative side of the ledger. To be fair, it was close to being on the positive side and was a personal preference and not a failing of the cider that put it there. (3.0 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #796 was another from Narrow Gauge out of Missouri. The first two came in at 4.0 and 3.75, and this one was even better than the first two. Their Emperor Fallen Flag is a take on their Double IPA King Fallen Flag. I suppose you would call this a Triple IPA as a result. I really like this one and it is my favorite of the three beers I have tried from Narrow Gauge. The multiple hops treatments gave this beer a ton of flavor and a real kick at 10% ABV but zero booze burn. Fantastic stuff. (4.25 / 5)
There are quite a few new words this week, but to be honest, most of them are from "Nemesis Games" that I reviewed a couple weeks ago.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, on a weekend that seems chilly after the record-setting summer we have had so far. The record set was 15 days of 30°C or higher in a year. The previous record was set in 1961. It is not hard to imagine another few days at or above 30 before the summer is over.
If I was saying this instead of typing it, I might subconsciously stay "I can even" believe how hot it has been. I point this out because of a great YouTube channel I found this week. Rachel's English highlights how American English is pronounced in practice, and not just how it should be pronounced. For example, the video I came across highlighted the various ways "can't" and "can" are used, stressed, and in some cases, mangled. I can even begin to say how interesting this was.
There is some good analysis of how American English is spoken on her channel, and it really made me think about how and what I say.
I was able to finish two books this week, one fiction and one about the fictions we create we get emotional. (Well, that is just one point in the second book, but I thought it was a clever segue.)
Book #27 for 2021 was "Nemesis Games" by James S.A. Corey. This is the fifth book in the Expanse series and is by far my favorite to date. Big characters caught up in and creating massive plot points that impact the entire solar system, all wrapped around a core story of humanity and how much we matter to each other. If you are familiar with the Expanse books, you will know how each chapter switches the focus of the third-person perspective. I particularly enjoyed how this book capitalized on that format to highlight how each individual coped with the crisis of the moment. This was especially powerful toward the end of the book as the characters convened in one place and everyone was reacting to the same moments. Good stuff, and definitely looking forward to the next book.
Book #28 was "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown. There is a lot of useful information in this book and I am very glad I read it. However, much like my previous reviews of the Cal Newport books, I cannot really say it was an enjoyable read and I had trouble getting into a flow. I think the problem is that there is a lot of filler in these books. The anecdotes are useful to a point but spending three pages of first-person exposition from an interviewee has me flipping through the pages and therefore losing engagement with the book. But even with this, I took a lot out of the book and there is a lot of personal time and investment I will make to ensure I really put the learnings into practice.
A tangential learning from this book is that I might be engaging with books like this in ways that do not work for me. To wit, I do own a copy of the book, but I listened to about half of it on an audiobook. The anecdotes and personal stories are better in audiobook format, especially as Brown narrated the book herself and she was a very engaging voice. However, the bullet points and substantial checklists of items to process are much better in a book in a visual format. I will keep that in mind for the next non-fiction book I read.
Time in the saddle was cut short this week by something that I knew was going to happen eventually but was still disappointing when it finally happened.
My bike frame on my 2017 Giant Revolt 2 broke, as you can see in the picture. I am not sure how it happened, but it has been weakened for a long time. Luckily for me, the actual moment it broke came when I was moving slowly through our neighborhood. I was able to unclip and hop out before crashing. Unfortunately, there is a global bike shortage right now, so I do not know when I will get a new bike. I still have my winter bike, but that needs to be cleaned up and serviced so for the time being, my rides are going to be limited to the amount of time I can stomach on the stationary bike in the basement.
I was hoping to make it to Portage La Prairie this week, but the broken frame squashed that goal. I did make it to Brandon though. According to Wikipedia, Brandon is the second largest city in Manitoba with a population of about 48,000 and has a municipal airport with the IATA code of YBR.
Here is the updated progress chart.
I had six new beers, bringing my total to 792 in my personal quest to drink one of each beer in the world.
Beer #787 was the Red Magil DIPA from Tailgunner Brewing Company in Calgary. This had a nice mouthfeel and carbonation. It tasted like spicy pineapple juice and was a bit too sweet for my liking. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #788 is another from Calgary, this time from New Level Brewing, a brewery that gets a lot of their inspiration from death metal. Their Hellion Lager had a bit of maltiness and a decent taste but had the sweetness endemic to lagers that I do not like. (3.25 / 5)
Moving back up Highway 2 to Edmonton, Beer #789 was my fourth beer from Analog Brewing. The Loot Box Hops is a rotational-hopped West Coast IPA. I had the most recent version hopped with Sabro. I like this quite a bit. The hops added good flavor without being overly bitter. Looking forward to their next version of this beer. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #790 was the Raised by Wolves IPA from Driftwood in Victoria. I liked the pine and resin flavor combined with the fruitiness. Lot of flavors in this and quite easy to drink. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #791 was yet another from Calgary, this time from Village Brewery. Village is a solid brewery with decent beers, but beyond their Blacksmith Dark Ale, I have always found their beers to be just decent. Their 2021 version of the Father beer is a New England IPA and like their others, it was decent. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was the only import beer in the last two weeks. I posted two weeks ago about a beer from Florissant, Missouri from the Narrow Gauge Brewing Company. For Beer #792, I had their Fallen Flag American IPA. This was not as good as their King Fallen Flag Imperial, but still quite good. I am definitely liking their beers. One more to go in the fridge. Hopefully, it is as good as the first two. (3.75 / 5)
One note: I had an Alley Kat brewed Blonde Ale for Fort Edmonton Park but it does not show up on Untappd. Hopefully it appears soon. For the record, it was not that good. (2.75 / 5)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where it is still hot and getting drier. There was no update last week, so the usual sections are a bit meatier this week: two books, one segment, five beers, and a metric boatload of words.
First up, a quote from the mid-week pickup Brain Pickings email. For this week, Brain Pickings creator Maria Popova went back to 2015 for an article on the famed mycologist, Beatrix Potter. (Yes, she also wrote a book or two.)
Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something. --Linda Lear
The quote is from Linda Lear, who wrote what Popova calls the best book on Beatrix Potter. The quote struck me as I had recently written about imagination in the Gaming section. Imagination is not just for gaming and writing, but also allows us to see into the future and gives us a view at a world we would like to live, which in turn illuminates the targets we need to strive for to bring the ideas in our imagination into reality.
I was able to finish one book and one book-that-was-actually-a-play this week.
Book #25 for 2021 was "Authority" by Jeff Vandermeer, the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I read "Annihilation" in 2018 and liked it enough to pick up the second book. This has a significantly different feel than Annihilation as it takes place completely outside the mysterious and deadly zone that was the focus of the first book. Authority is largely the story of an interim administrator of the Southern Reach organization brought in to determine what exactly is going on with the flagging and directionless organization. Throughout the book, the protagonist flounders and control (authority) eludes him, but it is unclear why. The story comes together nicely and sets up for an interesting end to the trilogy. If you are not a fan of psychological terror, this might not be the book for you. There were many scenes which could definitely unnerve the reader, including and one completely freaky spine-tingling scene.
Book #26 for 2021 was the play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)". This was originally written in 1920 and was translated to English in 1923. I was drawn to it as it is described as the work that introduced the word and concept of "robot" to English and science fiction. As with all good fiction, the technology is a stage prop, a reason to explore a facet of humanity. In this case, it is a story of human hubris and how the human race lost its purpose and was easily replaced by its creations. Highly recommended. Various versions exist, including on the Standard Ebooks site.
As an aside, I discovered Standard Ebooks this week while searching for a version of R.U.R. The ebooks they publish are much nicer to read than the average fare from Gutenberg, and in fact use the translations from Gutenberg and other sources. Check them out.
I was able to complete the Grenfell-Virden segment in the cross-Canada virtual tour since the last update. When I picked route for this leg, I thought I would have a stop in Virden to identify the transition into Manitoba. Little did I know that Virden had such an outsized impact for a town of just over 3000 people. According to Wikipedia, Virden is the birthplace of the co-founder of Boston Pizza, the co-founder of Reader's Digest, and a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Nice work, Virden.
Here is the latest progress chart. Since I started tracking my rides for this virtual tour, I have rode 165 times in 305 days for a total of 3007 km.
Five new beers in fourteen days. I am now at 786 unique check-ins in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world. One standout, one decent offering, and three that will not make the drink-again list.
Beer #782 was The Tragically Hip Road Apples cider from Thornbury Village Cider House and Brewery in Thornhill, Ontario. I really wanted to love this cider, but it had a weird taste that I just could not get into. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #783 was the King Fallen Flag Imperial IPA from Narrow Gauge Brewing in Florissant, Missouri. This was quite a good beer with a deep flavor that was not overpowered by the high ABV. I have a couple other beers in the fridge from Narrow Gauge and I am looking forward to those as well. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #784 was the Valley of the Giants Belgian Strong from Polar Park here in Edmonton. The first taste was surprisingly good. It was crisp like a lager but definitely a strong ale taste. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #785 was the Bobbing Duck Wit from High River Brewing in High River. I was not a fan of this beer. The taste was overly peppery from the coriander, and I did not taste much else. (3.0 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #786 was the Gold Past Life Czech Lager from The Establishment Brewing Company. For the only other beer I have had from Establishment, I commented that it "came highly recommended and well reviewed so I am surprised how little impact this had on me". Ditto on this one. Admittedly I am not a fan of lagers, but this did not have much to draw me in. (3.0 / 5)
A surfeit of words this week, mostly from "Rosewater: Insurrection" that I finished two weeks ago.
massacring (present participle)
ex post facto
[ˌeks pōst ˈfaktō]