It was a slow week, but at least it was warm enough to ride again. Nothing really profound to report, not a lot of reading, a couple of beers, and a few words. I probably could have deferred the post until next week, but I would like to reinforce the habit of regular writing. So for what it is worth, let's do this thing.
The first new beer this week was the Retrospectrum Pale Ale from Cabin Brewing. Cabin was co-founded by Haydon Dewes, a former co-worker. It is great to see someone move into a drastically different industry and be successful right from the start. This was my second beer from Cabin, and they have both been really good, and you can definitely see Haydon's attention to detail in their offerings. Retrospectrum was just a bit citrusy, and a bit malty, and had a nice flavor. Plus the can was super cool. (3.75 / 5)
The second was the Dark Gate porter from Legend 7. I had a Legend 7 a couple weeks back and commented on the great label art. This one had great art as well, plus it was a really well constructed porter. Too many times in recent years porters have been weighed down with chocolate or coffee, but this was just a nice, straight up porter. (3.75 / 5)
A small handful of words this week. I have been flagging a lot of words in my readings of "War and Peace" and "The Count of Monte Cristo". I should enter those soon, or my entry for the last week of December when I finish both books will be enormously long.
You know it has been brutally cold when you comment that -24°C doesn't feel all that bad. That was yesterday and today it is -21 and climbing. Daily highs will be over the freezing mark which will feel like nirvana, but with snow.
The last week was filled with work, reading, volunteering, a couple new beers, and a bit of a breakthrough with on the curation of my D&D group. Let's get on with it, shall we?
CKUA Annual General Meeting:
The CKUA Foundation AGM was yesterday, and I am grateful and humbled to have been reappointed to the CKUA Board for my third and final two-year term. This will be my fourth year serving as Vice Chair of the Board under and with the amazing leadership of our Chair, Cindy Andrew. The past few years have been filled with ups and downs, but happily with more ups than downs.
CKUA is 92 years old, and my time on the Board will end just after the 94th birthday. Even though I won't be formally involved after January 2022, I already look forward to being involved with the organization as it approaches its Centennial in 2027. My thoughts for the future were echoed by former CKUA CEO Ken Regan in a nice tweet at the AGM, and I was able to capture a meta moment of Ken in action.
I commented back in December that I am looking to curate a D&D group, and this week I made some significant progress in that regard. I had thought about creating a post on something like Kijiji to announce that I was looking for a group of like-minded people to play with. It occurred to me that Meetup would be a much better choice for something like that and so I created a new Edmonton-based D&D group called "Casual but Committed". Casual but Committed will be focused on story and character over rules and stats. There have already been four people join the group and I am hopeful that the personalities will mesh and we will have a good time. I honestly have no idea what will happen if we get a dozen or more players who want to join, but I suppose that is a problem for another day. Now I just need to figure out how to bring that group of people together so that we can learn and start playing.
Most of my reading these days revolves around the year-long reading projects of "War and Peace" and "The Count of Monte Cristo". I did finish "Stuart Little" with the younger daughter this week, but that was the extent of my other reading. I know Stuart Little is considered a classic of children's literature, but I really could not get into it. Stuart is a bit of a knob, to be blunt. He runs off on a fool's errand, and has little to no ability to plan or control his emotions. I suppose he is just a child, but by today's standards in youth fiction Stuart is overly emotional and rash. Not exactly a role model, to the point where my daughter commented on what a "weird" story it was. So book #5 for 2020 is done and accounted for, but I was really hoping for more especially after the glowing affection showed for it by the characters in last week's book "The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library".
Three new beers this week, and two of them were pretty good. First up was the Een Paar Luilin Belgian Rye Dubbel collaboration between Common Crown and Dandy. I had a friend describe Common Crown as making really solid accessible beers, and Dandy as always pushing the envelope while being less worried about failing miserably. Pairing those two extremes in a collaboration is sure to bring out some interesting tastes in a tempered way, and that is what this beer was. Good stuff, solid flavor, nothing radical but definitely well put together. (3.5 / 5). The next one was the Before 9 Mint Chocolate Stout from Troubled Monk. That is a nice play on the After Eight mint chocolates working with the knowledge that mint and chocolate is a great pair, as is chocolate and stouts. But mint plus chocolate plus stout just did not work for me. (2.75 / 5). Last up was the Lupita Especial Kolsch brewed by Alley Kat for Tres Carnales Taqueria. This was a good beer, and while I don't think it was their Scona Gold Kolsch which I really like, it was still decent pairing with tacos. (3.25 / 5)
Quite a few new words this week given the limited amount of reading. Some of them come from some podcasts I listened to but most come from The Count of Monte Cristo or War and Peace.
limns (third person present)
Greetings from an absolutely frigid 53.5° north latitude. We have entered into a cold weather stretch that is too cold to ride a bike in as the bike components themselves freeze. There isn't much to do but stay inside and read, which I did a lot of this week. The main accomplishment this week beyond getting back to work was to finish four books. So let's get into what I read and the other few interesting tidbits from this past week.
China's Influence on Canada:
There was a lot said in the media in 2019 about China and in particular about whether to allow Chinese made (and Chinese Communist Party-owned) Huawei telecommunications equipment into Canada. I commented in November and July on this site. The source of my commentary in July was an article from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute on some of the myths in the Huawei case, and they have continued to provide commentary in their December issue of their Inside Policy magazine. Inside Policy picks the Canadian Policymaker of the year, and this year they awarded the title to Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the eyes of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, Xi's influence over Canadian politics in the last several years has been vast and sweeping, The article claims that Xi has forced Canada's hand in foreign policy more than any other leader, including the US President, and have caused our government to weaken our backing of international rule of law and human rights. If half of what said is true and not xenophobic fearmongering, then it is hard to ignore their claim. It is also hard to ignore the economic impact of such a large market, which is precisely why we find ourselves in this position.
If you need a more relatable analysis of the impact of Xi, the CCP, or Huawei, understand that Huawei continues to sponsor Hockey Night in Canada.
Moving on to better news, this week saw a series of books fall from the daunting heights of my Reading Pile and into the small but growing Read Pile. Four books were completed, with three of those having commenced in the waning days of 2019. Let's move on to the four.
The first book, Book #1 for 2020, was "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid. This was a unique book in that it portrayed one side of a conversation taking place over several hours in Lahore, Pakistan, between a Pakistani who used to live in America, and an American visiting Lahore. There was a small and ever-growing tension in the conversation cleverly built by subtle hints and comments. The reader was, or at least I was, constantly wondering what would happen between the two individuals. Would there be violence, or would the two find common ground and become if not friends, then at least companions?
I highly recommend this book if for no other reason than it challenged several stereotypes I have, some that I was conscious of, and others I was not. If you have read this novel, please reach out as I would love to discuss it with someone. I'll leave you with a wonderful quote from the novel. It wasn't particularly pertinent to the story or its underlying tension, but it struck me as I read it.
"Time only moves in one direction. Remember that. Things always change." --"The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid
Book #2 for 2020 was "All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries" by Martha Wells. This was an extremely quick read, coming in at 140 small pages.
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. It was really enjoyable and thoroughly unique, and I definitely recommend it, especially in between larger or more emotionally demanding books.
Book #3 for 2020 was the second book in the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's series, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe". This was a second, or maybe third, reading for me, and this was one that I read with Daughter 1. Definitely funny, definitely quirky, definitely thought-provoking, but not quite as laugh-out-loud enjoyable as Hitchhiker's. Even so, well worth reading and sharing.
Last up for this week, Book #4 for 2020 was "The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library". This is one of the books up for a Young Reader's Choice Award at the local library system, and was written by one of the best Young Adult books I have read with my daughter's, that being Linda Bailey and "Seven Dead Pirates". I read Pirates before I started this site, so I unfortunately don't have anything to link to for that book, but I do suggest reading it. Anyway, back to Tiny Hero, this might seem like a trivial book to read even for Daughter 2, but it really was delightful. The characters were great, the story was believable as could be given that the tiny hero is in fact a green bug, and most importantly, the author's love for books and reading really shines through. We immediately grabbed one of the books discussed in Tiny Hero to be next in our readings - stay tuned next week to find out which one.
Just one new beer this week. Sea Change is a great local brewery and I have posted about a few of their beers in past months. This week I had The Wolf, which is their Pale Ale. It was pretty decent, but didn't have a ton of flavor. It did smell nice with a definite citrus punch to it. It wasn't up to par with some of their other offerings, but it was still good.
Surprisingly few words this week given that four books were crushed, but I suppose that it was easier reading this week than with finishing off something by Jared Diamond. Maybe more surprising is that very few of the words are from "War and Peace" or "The Count of Monte Cristo", which highlights that the hardest part of both novels is their size and not their required level of reading comprehension.
Welcome to the first entry for 2020, still from 53.5° north latitude, still reading, still finding new beers to drink. So what's the big deal with the new year then?
I hit 50 books read for 2019 with under 15 hours left in the year. I finished the last 57 pages of "Collapse" by Jared Diamond in the morning of New Year's Eve. This was a book that I started with great enthusiasm, but ended with relief. The second section on the history of past societies such as Maya, the Vikings, and Japan were great. I was genuinely interested and learned a lot, and I could see how Diamond was using history to teach us about the present. The third section was decent, but was hard to get through, maybe because I have heard a lot about China and Rwanda in particular in the years since Collapse was released (2005). The fourth section, titled "Practical Lessons" and structured to be the follow-up to the history lesson Diamond presented in the second section was a hundred pages of tedium. When I said I finished the last 57 pages, I probably only read the equivalent of 10 full pages. The rest was just skimmed through.
I think Collapse is an important book in that it is filled with science and research on the impacts of societal decisions that lead to environmental disasters that then cause those societies to fail. However, I do not know how relevant Collapse is anymore. If you staunchly do not believe in the need to make different ecological decisions, this book will not likely sway you. If you already believe, there is not much point in this book other than as a reference. Maybe this will be a useful tool to sway the rest of the population that does not fit into either camp, but I suspect that camp is rather small at this point.
I'll leave this section off with a quote from Collapse that seemed directly pertinent for the current political and economic climate here at home.
Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies' responses also make a difference. So, too, for better or for worse, do the actions and inactions of their leaders.
joined two reading groups on Reddit this month to help further my reading goals around big classic novels. The "War and Peace" (r/ayearofwarandpeace) and "The Count of Monte Cristo" (r/AReadingofMonteCristo) groups have so far been very engaging and interesting to participate in. War and Peace comes in at 361 chapters, so we will be reading and discussing a chapter pretty much every day this year. That will be an interesting way to read a book. Monte Cristo has an equally daunting thickness but with less chapters, meaning that we will only hold discussion threads every third day or so on that subreddit.
Wish me luck on having the stamina to read and follow along with both reading groups this year.
With a couple weeks off came a small handful of new beers. Three came in one sitting at Brewsters, and two were pickups from various stores, four were Albertan, and all were Canadian. The locale unfortunately did not translate into really good beers though. The list started off positively with the Howitzer Strong Winter Ale from Brewsters (3.75 / 5), but after that everything was at best average. The first taste of Brewster's Civic Pride Watermelon Ale was shockingly tangy but only got marginally better after the initial taste (3.0 / 5). The final offering from Brewsters was their Cappucino Stout and I couldn't finish it. The coffee flavor seemed like it was brewed by someone that didn't know how to brew coffee (2.25 / 5). After that, I had the Serpens Pilsner from Legend Seven Brewing in Calgary. That was decent (3.25 / 5), but I have to say the labels on the Legend Seven beers are fantastic pieces of art. Lastly, fading back into the land of disappointment, the 78 Kolsch from Philips was uniformly underwhelming - not a lot of flavor, not really that crisp, no aroma. (2.75 / 5)
With those five beers in the last fortnight comes four new badges from Untappd: Winter Wonderland (Level 2), The Great White North (Level 90), Rising Steady (Level 59), and Hopped Down (Level 33). Regarding the Untappd badges, when I initially starting logging my beers, adding the Untappd badges added some interesting visuals to the page, but I don't get anything out of them and really don't care. As a result, this is the last time I am going to post anything about the Untappd badges.
I do like the statistics that can come from Untappd however, so I think I will export my statistics from time to time and then work on my graphing and data manipulation skills to post something of value. For now, my total as of today is 621 unique beers since joining Untappd, which means a new beer every 2.82 days. I had the 78 Kolsch was Saturday night during supper, so I suppose I should schedule my next new beer early afternoon on Tuesday.
Quite a few new words this week, in fact this must be the longest list I have yet to compile. The vast majority are coming from the technical descriptions in Diamond's Collapse, but a few come from the Tolstoy and Dumas readings.
vicissitudes (plural noun)