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.