Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. I read the above Tolstoy quote in "Calendar of Wisdom", a book of daily readings that Tolstoy compiled near the end of his life. I challenge anyone to look at the world and say that this is not good advice. I am reading Tolstoy's Calendar to complement "War and Peace", which I am reading with the r/ayearofwarandpeace subreddit again this year.
Moving on, I made a technical change in the past fortnight to improve my personal security. I have added email to my robertwmartin.com domain and am running all emails for that domain through ProtonMail. I resisted for a long time due to the personal change management effort - moving subscriptions from Gmail or career contacts to Outlook / Live will take a lot of work and time. However, I feel that moving to a system that is paid for independently of generating advertisement revenue for the email provider is in my better interest.
The user experience with ProtonMail is decent in comparison to Gmail or Outlook. There are things I would like, such as the ability to color-code calendar entries and the ability to add a map link to "location" field in an invite (but I know exactly why that does not happen), but even with those deficiencies the experience is fine.
In other news, this past fortnight saw me finish two books, discover a great jazz Discord, sample four new beers, and learn a handful of new words. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Book #3 for 2022 was "Babylon's Ashes" by James S. A. Corey, the sixth book in the Expanse science fiction / space opera series. This was definitely my least favorite of the series so far. I found it dragged on much longer than needed, and most of the characters seemed flat and wooden. From discussions with others, it seems the series picks back up in the next book so I am sure I will continue with it, but there might be more of a gap between books this time as this book dampened my enthusiasm for the series.
One item I think of often when I read the Expanse books is how much time they spend flying between locations. Living in the pandemic where for months on end my world had shrunk to my house or yard must be similar to living on a ship like the Rocinate travelling between planets. It is not hard to envision the Rocinate being similar dimensions to the mid-sixties lot my house sits on, so the comparison of the physical restrictions seem reasonable. In addition, most of the interplay between the main groups of characters, especially in this book, is done through screens. I suppose I do not live on the float and have to propel myself around the house by grabbing handholds, but there are similarities that I think of as I read through the series.
Book #4 for 2022 was "The Secret to Superhuman Strength" by Alison Bechdel. I do not read a lot of autobiographies and did not know anything about Bechdel before picking up this book, so it was not obvious that I would read this book. In the form of a graphic novel, Bechdel decomposes herself from birth to 2021 and does so while explaining how society has changed around her, while struggling herself with change. I had no interest in reading anything by Jack Kerouac previously, but now I might based on Bechdel's book. That is a sign of a great book in my mind - something that makes you think and helps change your mind about something.
For that reason, I mentioned on my "Club Read 2022" post on LibraryThing that this is a book that will stick with me. It might not have as much impact on you, but I do encourage you to read it to find out for yourself just in case it does resonate with you also.
As I mentioned in the intro, I discovered a jazz music Discord that I really like. Jazzcord is a helpful community of jazz fans with good discussions about music and artists, and an Album of the Week recommendation. If you are not into Discord, there is also a website that has some articles reposted from the Discord.
Last week's Album of the Week was a 1960 live record of Cannonball Adderley called "At the Lighthouse". Adderley's "Mercy Mercy Mercy" is one of my favorite songs, so I was excited to listen to more from him. Tidal has a remastered version of the album and it is a great listen. Adderley died after a stroke in 1975 at the age of 46. He left us a lot of great music before passing.
There were four new beers in the past fortnight along with one coffee. I am not ready to review the coffee yet but will do so next week. Spoiler alert: meh.
For the beers, they were the latest in the Alley Kat Dragon Series of DIPAs, the Idaho Gem Dragon (3.25); the Debbie Approved IPA from Rural Routes out of Leduc, a new-to-me brewery (3.5); the Raspberry Milkshake Stout from Rochester Mills out of Michigan (3.25); and, another from Alley Kat, their Back Alley Brew limited run Calm Unity Red IPA (3.5).
This brings my unique check-ins on Untappd to 855 for an average a new beer every 2.93 days since I started tracking. Of note, that is down from the new beer every 2.74 days when I started writing on this site.
All four of these came from Bechdel's books.
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.)