Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, the land of nearly 11 hours of daytime! I jest of course, but it is nice to go leave for a bike ride at 07:30 with the sun fully up and it being bright outside.
In potentially interesting news, I am learning how to stream on Twitch and YouTube. I have no visions of becoming a full-time streamer, but I am keenly interested in how to make that work. I am also not a gamer per se, and certainly do not have the reflexes or emotional disposition to play first-person shooters which seems to be the most common game genre played by many full-time streamers.
Instead of that, I decided to stream a few sessions of playing Microsoft Solitaire. Solitaire is definitely more my speed, plus it is something I would do every day anyway. As a result, I figured it would be the easiest game for me to play while learning how to stream.
Even with something I am so familiar with, I found it incredibly hard to simultaneously talk cogently and concentrate on playing. I had respect for the FPS streamers before, but even more so now after experiencing how hard Solitaire was to do well during a stream.
As I say in the videos, I am doing this to learn about the Twitch and YouTube platforms. If people watch, great, but I will continue to post the streams and recorded sessions until I figure I have learned enough regardless of the number of viewers. That said, I somehow had four people watch a recorded Twitch session, which kind of blew my mind. If you are at all interested, you can see my Twitch channel here where the live streams and last thirty days of content are located. A more permanent record of the videos I deem "worthy" will be uploaded to my YouTube channel here.
Book #8 for 2022 was "Keep Sharp" by Sanjay Gupta. This was a book I started a couple of times and could not get enough momentum to finish. I finally had a road trip to visit my mom and used the three hours of travel time to plow through the second half on an audiobook version from the library.
To use an analogy from my career and work experience, many (all?) self-help or self-improvement books have enough good information for a memo or an agenda item in a meeting but get stretched to cover the entire time for a full-day retreat. Keep Sharp fit this analogy perfectly. Give me an overview of the science and I will be happy: Plaque on the brain is bad? Got it. Inflammation anywhere in the body is bad for the body AND the brain? Makes sense and I can use that to change habits. My diet affects my brain? Understood, thanks for the heads-up (pun intended). Definitely enough information for a memo or an item on the agenda for a larger meeting.
But instead of that, we get the full-day retreat version. Ten hours of information, anecdotes, and here-is-what-I-experienced-when-I-visited-this-famous-person stories. Ten. Hours. Thankfully, audiobooks have the option to be listed to at 1.25x speed. Sigh.
Four new beers this week, with two that were disappointments. Both of the Blind Enthusiasm beers failed in my mind because the goal seem to be different instead of just focusing on quality. This seems to be a real failing for so many breweries at present. Instead of making something good, the trend seems to be to combine elements from several beers - hoppy lager, dark lager, et cetera. Give me a Warka from Poland or a Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold from Germany any day over a lot of these mashups. There were two good beers though, with the best coming from Driftwood Brewing in Victoria.
The four beers were the Blind Enthusiasm South Island Hoppy Lager (3.25 / 5); Blind Enthusiasm Lager O'Darkness (3.0); the best of the week, Driftwood Brewing's It'll Be Fine Southern Hemisphere IPA (3.75); and, Samuel Smith's Tadcaster Taddy Porter (3.5).
These four bring my lifetime unique check-ins on Untappd to 870.
Three new words this week from either my year-long Reddit group re-read of "War & Peace" or from the Gupta brain health book.
Greetings from another winter week from 53.5° north latitude. I posted an updated on the Gaming section about the gaming campaign settings and rulebooks I have recently received. I also found a great jazz trumpeter that I have really dug into in the past week, finished one book, and had one new beer. So all in all, a pretty quiet week.
Book #7 of 2022 was "Hollow City" by Ransom Riggs, the second book in the "Miss Peregrine's" series. This is another book I read to / with my younger daughter. It was fairly good with some genuinely interesting emotional moments. There was a bit too much teen angst in parts, but the characters were decent, and the premise was novel. We both really liked the ending, which of course means we will read the third novel in the series. So all in all, 3.5 / 5.
Louis. Miles. Chet. Dizzy. Wynton. It does not take much of a jazz fan to recognize those names. All five are - were, I suppose, except for Wynton- amazing trumpeters, taking that simple instrument and doing so much with it.
When I think of jazz, trumpet is what first comes to mind, and it is definitely my favorite jazz instrument. That was why I was so excited to learn about jazz trumpeter Mat Jodrell. Jodrell's 2018 album "Echoes of Harlem" was recommended as the album of the week on Jazzcord last week. This is a great collection of jazz standards and new compositions. Jodrell's playing is superb and his range is fantastic. Below is a link to the album on Tidal, but his latest album called "Grateful" is only available on Bandcamp.
I mentioned last week that I wanted to give the Umbria Gusto Crema a second try since I suspect I had an old bag with drier beans. I ordered the beans on Sunday and they arrived on Tuesday, so I am already digging in on that bag instead of moving back to Ace No. 1. The first few cups have been better with more flavor and a darker color. The crema is not as gusto as I hoped, but I am still learning how to improve my coffee so it might be my technique at this point. I will keep working on it and if I get a good cup, I will post another picture.
On the beer front, there was just one new beer this week. Beer #866 in the lifetime unique check-ins on Untappd was the Blindman Brewing Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout.
I was very excited when I bought this based on previous beers in the series. This release was good, but mine seemed a little flat. As you can see in the picture, there was very little foam. The flavors and the punchiness from the high ABV did not come through as expected. Like I said, it was good, but not as good as others from Blindman. (3.25 / 5)
Greeting from 53.5° north latitude on Valentine's Day Eve. I am sure Valentine's Day Eve is a thing, but if it is not, I assert my copyright to that phrase and the abbreviated version of VDE in accordance with all applicable Canadian and international laws.
It was a good week. I finished one book that I really enjoyed. I started another really good one and will likely finish it and another this upcoming week. There was some interesting news about state censorship in China and I posted an updated on the Gaming page. Beyond that, there were four new beers and one new coffee to report on, and after many weeks, a completed segment in the cross-Canada virtual tour.
First up is the update on the Gaming page. In the past two years, I have backed several Kickstarter campaigns and have achieved Superbacker status. (I am not sure that title gets me much other than potentially a bit more attention when I post something about a campaign on the Kickstarter site.) In the past, I have written about the Kickstarter campaigns I backed, but the last two updates were July 2021 and October 2020. So many campaigns have been delivered since then, and I thought I should write them up.
With that in mind, there is an entry on Gaming about exactly that. As you can see in the entry, most of the campaigns I back are related to gaming. Some of the campaigns I back are not, but I purchased as props and supplements for gaming regardless. Hop over to the article on Gaming for that update.
Next is an article from BBC about censorship in China. From what I read, censorship by the Chinese government is a given, but I did not have much context for how it manifested in day-to-day life. Apparently it is more than a lack of books or magazines that speak of topics inconsistent with what the Chinese government promotes. The BBC article highlighted how movies can be changed for release in China. Note: significant spoilers ahead.
The movie in particular was "Fight Club", the 1999 classic with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. In the ending of the uncensored version I, and likely anyone who reads this, watched, Norton kills Pitt and blows a bunch of stuff up. In the censored version, the ending is replaced with some text.
"Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding."
I mean, come on! I am not a fan of censorship, but if you are going to censor something, just make the material unavailable. Allowing them to watch the whole movie and then cut to a textual ending that completely changes the story is inane. It is no wonder this act "ignited intense debate about cinematic censorship in China". More surprisingly, after the debate, the original ending was restored but one minute with nudity was not.
The world is weird right now, maybe weirder than it ever was. I am afraid it will get weirder still, and with that, more dangerous.
Book #6 for 2022 was "Moon of the Crusted Snow" by Waubgeshig Rice. There was a quote on the front cover that said, "Chilling in the best way possible". That quote concerned me as I am not a huge fan of thrillers and I do not like knowing that something bad is about to happen. That is probably why I do not like horror films.
Anyway, back to this book. It was an interesting story and the buildup of suspense was much less hard for me to read through than I feared. Once I picked it up in earnest, I read most of it in one evening. The bad guy was obvious, and the resolution was mostly satisfactory. I have one unanswered question but that is not a result of poor writing. I will refrain from posting the question here as it deals with the closing chapter and is a big spoiler. (If I ever meet Waubgeshig Rice, I am totally asking him my question!).
While I have read more eloquent writing, I am still glad I read this book. The best part (is best the correct word to use in this situation?) was the conversation with the Elder who explained how the end of the world is subjective depending on your perspective.
As a note, when I originally posted this update on my LibraryThing Club Read 2022 thread, I was informed that there is a sequel in the works. I am really looking forward to reading that, and to reading more from Rice.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
After many weeks of rehabilitation from a back injury, brutally cold temperatures, and then insanely icy roads, I finally finished another segment in the cross-Canada virtual tour. This was the first segment in the Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie leg. I am now past Nipigon and am rolling toward Terrace Bay.
Maybe this is my white-guy bias showing, but I thought with a name like Nipigon, I would find more connection to Indigenous history than I did. Wikipedia does reference how the Ojibwe people formally ceded the watershed draining into Lake Superior, which included this area, to the Province of Canada in 1850, but that is on the Lake Nipigon page, not the Nipigon page. The Wikipedia page for Nipigon does not reference any nearby airports, but it does state that it was the birthplace of famous Canadian curler, Al Hackner.
Here is the updated progress chart.
Four new beers were consumed in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world. My unique check-ins now sit at 865. None of the beers this week were remarkable, but only one of the four was not worthy of a recommendation.
The four beers were the Analog Fandango Horchata Porter (3.25); Rochester Mills Imperial Milkshake Stout dropped 0.25 on the rating due to sediment and late-can bitterness (3.25); Hopworks Blood Orange Ferocious Citrus IPA had lots of off-putting floaties (2.75); and, Bent Stick Four-Thirty PM Late Afternoon Stout (3.5)
On the coffee front, I finished off a bag of beans from Umbria, their Gusto Crema. I was excited about this coffee since I had one other bag from them that I really enjoyed. The reviews for Gusto Crema are quite good as long as you can get fresh beans. I am pretty sure the bag I purchased had sat on the shelf for a while as the beans appeared dried out. To give it a fair review, I ordered a bag directly from Umbria. Here is what the beans I bought produced for comparison later. In the meantime, I am back to Ace No. 1.
(Note that I forgot to post this on Sunday, so it is a couple days late.)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. The weather has drastically improved, and the days are getting noticeably longer. Technically it is still deep winter, but at least the worst seems to be behind us.
This past week was filled with the posting of two game summaries, finishing one book, a six-pack of new beers, and two new words. I will not comment on the "freedom convoy" protests that hit most cities in the country other than to say they happened. Beyond that, there was nothing really profound to report on.
I continue to spend a considerable portion of my discretionary time on gaming pursuits. I find gaming in all forms to be very enjoyable and the time I spend preparing satisfies my desire to create and be creative. In the past week, I summarized two of the sessions we had in the biggest campaign I currently run.
The two sessions I recapped took place in the last week of August and the first week of September. Clearly, I am behind in posting about the game, but there is some value in that much time separation due to the objectivity that time provides. I hope to post at least two updates a week going forward, meaning that the gap between session dates and posting the recaps decreases each week. It will be interesting to see how I handle the session recaps as the gap decreases and the objectivity is potentially replaced with more emotional reactions.
The posts for both sections are in the Gaming section of this site. Session 6 - Heading to Fort Beluarian - Mirtul 16 - 20 and Session 7 - Dinner with the Fist - Mirtul 20 -24 are now available if you are interested. If you do read them, I would appreciate feedback on the format I have settled on with the in-game recaps followed by a first-person section where I discuss my design process for the session.
I finished one book this past week. Book #5 for 2022 was "Mortality" by Christopher Hitchens. This is a collection of Hitchens's essays on his last year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. This was on my radar for the last year or so and showed up as a library hold from our public library's "recommend me a book" suggestion program. Mortality is a waif of a book, more like a long article from Atlantic or Foreign Policy. My father died last February from esophageal cancer like Hitchens so I thought the commentary about his experiences as a patient would hit me harder. Knowing a bit more about Hitchens now from reading this book, it makes sense that his essays would not be overly emotional even thought it would make me think and reflect. However, the afterword from his wife did hit me harder than expected. A good book, and worth reading.
Last week was either stressful based on how much I drank, or really relaxing, again based on how much I drank. I averaged almost one new beer a week, which is significantly higher than the normal output (input?) of one beer every three-or-so days (2.74 was the correct number I reported last week).
Even better than the quantity was the quality of the beers consumed. Three of the six were fantastic, and two of the less-than-stellar ones were decent. In order, the beers consumed were the Blind Enthusiasm Testo made with pizza dough yeast (4.25 / 5); New Level Pumpkin Porter (3.75); Born Colorado Autumn Amber (3.5); Cabin Brewing Amaaaaazing Sour (4.0); Growlery Belgian White IPA (3.0); and Eighty Eight Brewing Wet Bandits Triple IPA (4.0)
That brings my total unique check-ins to 861. As always, my full profile and reviews are available on Untappd. Once you login, search for my username, robertwmartin.
Two new words this week. One is courtesy of one of my RPG games and the other is a word my mother used in her Wordle game the other day. I have no idea where she learned it, or if she knows it is not a nice word.