Show Notes - Week of December 14, 2020
Greetings from 53.5° once again. What's new, you ask? I suppose anything that will get registered here is less new and more of an extension of previous weeks. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the country is in pandemic lock-down.
In addition, it is holiday time right now, or at least holiday-lite time. There is so much going on at work that I will get some time off, but certainly not the next two full weeks as I had hoped. While the amount of work is overwhelming, it is important work and keeping that in mind helps me get through the intense hours and multiple competing priorities.
Before I get into the regular sections, I want to highlight a podcast that helped me with understanding the appeal of Trump. The November 20 episode of On The Media from WNYC had a segment titled "The Ancient Heresy That Helps Us Understand QAnon". Having a roommate in university and a friend for the last twenty-five years who both studied religion in university gave me some awareness of Gnosticism. At a very high levels, gnostics value their own personal experience over the authority of experts and institutions.
You could listen to that segment, but it is likely that last sentence perfectly explains for you Trump and Trump's followers. My summary: Do not trust the experts (deep state) because only I (Trump) have the real knowledge. Search for the knowledge yourself and come to your own conclusions (flat earth, QAnon, etc.)
Call me a pessimist, but after listening to the segment and in particular the quote from the segment below, I do not think there is an easy path forward.
... when you take the red pill and you see the true nature of reality past the institutions and so on, that's an epiphany. I think, for those who really been red pilled, who have been born again into this Trumpian Gnosticism, there is no reason to let go. And anything that we would suggest as proof will become to them proof of our deception. And that makes for a dangerous situation that the best case scenario is going to simmer and simmer for a long time if it doesn't boil over. --Jeff Sharlet
With under a fortnight to go in 2020, I am doing what I can to get my reading total for the year over 50. I am confident I will hit 48 for sure, and 49 is looking pretty good. 50 or more will be tough though, especially if I have to work more than a day or two before New Year's.
Book #44 for 2020 was "The Better Mousetrap" by Tom Holt. Holt was an author I had no visibility on until this last year and we bought three or four of his books at used books stores and EPL book sales. The Better Mousetrap was an interesting book about two people drawn to each other, a magical world living out of view of most of the world, time travel, and insurance. It would be hard to give any sort of plot synopsis in under 250 words that would not spoil the book so I will not even try. I will just say that it was a good book and I am looking forward to diving into Holt's other books.
The weather was pretty good this week which allowed for some longer rides and faster times on those rides. I am still nowhere near the weekly distance of the most dedicated cyclists I know, but most of them these days are spending their saddle time indoors on Zwift and I am hammering out the kilometers through the snow and ice. I suppose I can claim a modicum of moral superiority for that fact, even though I know their fitness levels are way above mine.
I did make it to Hope in my cross-Canada virtual tour. According to Wikipedia, Hope is the easternmost point on what is called the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which accounts for the average temperature this time of year being 3.5°C. It is also a meeting point, being the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers, and the Coquihalla and Crowsnest highways. The Stó:lō First Nations peoples settled in that area between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, and were nearly wiped-out by smallpox in 1782.
Here is an update of my progress chart for the virtual tour.
Work got in the way of diving into the Art Blakey album I had queued up in the Music Finds playlist for this week, but I did give the new album by Kid Cudi a few listens this week. It is pretty clear that "Man on the Moon III: The Chosen" is not my typical music. The picture on the home page of my Tidal app caught my attention and after reading Kid Cudi's bio, I thought I would give it a listen. There were a few songs that I did not like of course, but that is the same as on any album I listen to. Of the eighteen tracks, most were good and "Else's Baby Boy (flashback)" and "The Void" were particularly good. Some of the other songs were musically great even if I could not get into the lyrics. Standouts in that category include "Rockstar Knights" and "Sad People".
I am glad I dug into this album. I will seek out more albums by Kid Cudi and maybe the likes on the songs on this album will help suggest new albums and artists that are out of my regular rotation.
Just one new beer this week, although you could reasonably expect that I would have had more based on my last Visa bill.
Beer #705 was the Dandy Lager from Dandy Brewing out of Calgary. Dandy is a great brewery that has interesting and unique beers. I have checked in three from them so those are the only ones I have evidence for, but looking at their beer list it is clear I have had others that I have not checked in.
The Dandy lager was a bit hazier than expected for a lager, but quite good. A bit of citrus. Nice and crisp. Definitely worth having again. (3.75 / 5)
I dug into a new coffee this week, happily moving past the Salt Spring Metta Espresso that was thin and bland. The Cliff Hanger Espresso from Kicking Horse has a glossy, black bean and much more taste than the Metta. I am not super happy with the flavor though. The packaging mentions cocoa and fruit flavors and I think it is the cocoa that I am not fond of. A couple months ago, I mentioned the Old School Espresso from 49th Parallel and I indicated that I liked the cocoa flavor, so maybe it is not cocoa that is the problem, but the amount of cocoa in the flavor.
Also of note are the gloss on the beans. Like the 49th Parallel beans, the Cliff Hanger beans from Kicking Horse are quite glossy as compared to the matte finish of the Metta from Salt Spring. In addition, 16 grams of these beans completely fills my espresso portafilter and it took 18 grams with the Metta. I need to play with the amount of beans to grind because the Kicking Horse site suggests using 18 to 21 grams.
I will keep track of the next few coffees but I think I am settling on glossy beans with a bit of cocoa as components of the winning formula.
Two new words this week. I think we should all celebrate the winter solstice (tomorrow) but am willing to debate that suggestion.
[sab·bat | \ ˈsa-bət]
Show Notes - Week of December 7, 2020
Greetings and welcome. My home at 53.5° north is surrounded by icy roads and sidewalks but for the most part the weather has been fairly nice. The ice coupled with my second flat tire in a month restricted my outdoor riding this week, and the short days as we approach solstice are not helping increase a desire to get outside. But in a week the days will start getting longer once again, so the worst is almost passed.
Not much else happened this week. There was a lot of talk in Alberta about the mockdown / lockdown restrictions, and I did try out one new beer. But alas, that is all I have to report this week. Let's talk about the COVID restrictions, and what one former Albertan thinks of our plans.
"The evidence is that there's no conflict between what's right for the economy, what's right for people's health … people in hospital don't spend money." --Stephen Duckett, former CEO of Alberta Health Services, and currently one of the architects of Australia's plan to reach zero COVID cases
When Alberta Health Services announced its first CEO, my boss looked across the table at me and arched his eyebrows, visually asking me if I had any idea who this Stephen Duckett was. I of course had no idea. The short and turbulent tenure of Duckett is probably worthy of a book in itself, so I will not get into that here. What I will say is that in the limited times I was in the same room has him, it was clear he was intelligent.
CBC interviewing Duckett about what is happening in Alberta is a bit of inspired journalism and clickbait all rolled together, but there is some merit in understanding what Duckett is saying. In essence, under a plan that he co-authored, the idea was to do a substantial and complete lockdown, "done once and done well" as Duckett said. The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne and is home to 6.4 million people has not seen a single case his the end of October. Even at the peak, Victoria only saw 700 cases a day.
Looking at the most recent COVID stats for Alberta paints a much different number. A jurisdiction with a population of 4.3 million people registered over 10,000 new cases last week, so over 1,000 cases a day. Plus our numbers are going up drastically, including our hospitalization rates. The comparison is tainted by the difference in seasons of course, as Victoria is going into summer not winter, but even with that it seems that we had the wrong approach here in Alberta.
"It's an outdated view, of course, because we now know the evidence is pretty clear that the best public health outcome is also the best economic outcome." --Stephen Duckett
The argument the Alberta government espouses is that chasing a goal for zero COVID cases is illiberal and extreme. Premier Kenney has touted supported for Charter freedoms as a rationale for not forcing a complete lockdown and for waiting for the level of lockdown that he has implemented. So instead of three months of hard lockdown, we did what we could to keep the economy open. It is hard not to think that this government values dollars over lives.
I did not make it to Hope as I, pun intended, hoped I would. As I type this on Sunday morning, I am a moderate ride away from getting there and chances are I will be able to hammer through a stationary bike session later today to get it done. But for now, I made it about half way to Hope and have my sights set on Merritt.
I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to albums by Art Blakey and Brian Eno. Those two albums were the only entries in the Music Finds playlist of this week.
Eno's album "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" was from 1983 and the Extended Edition featured twenty-three tracks. It took me a while to get into it, but after the first three tracks I was really enjoying it. "Silver Morning" and Deep Blue Day" on Volume 1 and "The End of a Thin Cord" on Volume 2 were real standouts for me.
"Is it True 'Bout ..." is the sixth Art Blakey album I have listened to since the summer and this was much more to my liking that the last couple. The version of "Round About Midnight" was fantastic. Plus it had the 1'40" "theme song" and after hearing that on multiple albums, I have to smile when I hear that woman trying to whip up the crowd: "Art Blakey. ART Blakely. ART BLAKEY."
Just one new beer this week, another version of the Jelly King sour from Bellwoods Brewery. As I went into Untappd to check this new beer in, I realized I made a mistake. Back in October, I checked in the Jelly King sour, but as you can see from the picture, I checked in the Pink Guava version. I was not really a fan of that one and gave it a 2.75 / 5 rating.
Beer #704 was the normal Jelly King sour, and it was better for sure, but I still don't think it was as good as my Untappd connections stated. It could be that I am not into sours right now given the colder weather, or it could be that I am bored with grapefruit flavor. Either way, I only gave this a rating of 3.25 / 5.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. The week was crazy busy, but I managed to find time to read, ride, listen, and sample a few new beers. So all in all, a good week. Let's dive right in.
I was able to finish three books this week. I think that will be the strategy for the rest of the month - finish up all of the books I have started. That is the only way I am going to hit 50+ books this year, plus it will be a mentally liberating feeling to have that shelf cleared off.
Book #41 for 2020 was "Talk to the Hand" by Lynn Truss, of "Eats Shoots and Leaves" fame. This second book from Truss about manners and kindness was nowhere near as memorable as her book about punctuation, which is a phrase that feels very weird to type. Talk to the Hand was okay, but did not really hold me. On a personal note, it was a book I borrowed last fall from a co-worker who has since retired and now the book is mine since we felt it would be too hard to meet up right now. Bill, thanks for the book!
Book #42 for 2020 was "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. This was my third book by Newport in 2020 and as I have reported previously, I really do not like his books. To be clear, I think his ideas are fantastic and are remarkably important, but the concepts are so much better suited to an HBR or Medium article and not a full book. Deep Work, So Good They Can't Ignore You, and Digital Minimalism are likely still worth reading even so, but be warned as you dive into them.
And finally for this section, Book #43 for 2020 was "Lion Down" by Stuart Gibbs. While writing the last paragraph, I thought it was remarkable that I read three books by one author in 2020, but topping that is the five books I read by Gibbs. Lion Down is the fifth book in the FunJungle series and is another book I read to my younger daughter. This was not my favorite of the series, but it was still enjoyable enough to read. I suspect it must get pretty hard to find interesting story ideas to write about when your protagonist lives at a zoo. I imagine we will still read the sixth and I think final book in the FunJungle series just to wrap up the series. I do recommend this series for the young readers in your life, but you might not want to read five of them in under a year. (Well, that might work for you if you are 10, but maybe not if you are 50.)
It was a good week in the saddle. Distance-wise it was just shy of 60 km, but in the snow and on the ice I feel that is equivalent to 90 km at least. For the second leg of my cross-Canada virtual tour, I passed Abbotsford and ended up 2.0 km outside of Chilliwack. I will obviously get to Chilliwack by next week, but not sure if I will get to Hope as well. Another week like this one will get me there, and the weather forecast looks like it will be another good week for riding.
Fun facts about Abbotsford, courtesy of Wikipedia: It has 141,000 people, making it the largest municipality in British Columbia outside of Metro Vancouver. Abbotsford has its own international airport, with an airport code of YXX. The airport hosts a world-class annual airshow, which was designated as Canada's National Airshow by then-Prime Minister Trudeau the First.
Here is a look at the progress chart after this week. These small segments are nice as it keeps things interesting since it is so easy to get to a new destination each week.
There were three entries in the Music Finds playlist for this week. Technically it is named the "Music Finds - Week of 23Nov2020" playlist since I created it two weeks ago but did not listen to it until this past week.
First up was "Tunnel of Love" by Art Blakey. I liked this one better than "A Christmas Soul Night" perhaps since it was one-sixth as long. Prince Albert was a good track, but I was not really keen on the rest of the album. I have listened to a lot of Blakey lately, and I thought there were three more albums released in 2020 covering his catalogue. Of those remaining, I am really looking forward to two of them ("Is it True ...? and an album with Thelonious Monk). In addition, there were two more released in the last two weeks. So much Blakey, so little time.
Next was a jazz piano album recommended by my friend Trent. Aaron Parks "Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man" was a fantastic album with three standouts. Here and Friendo were really good, but the title track was superb. I am definitely going to seek out more albums from Parks.
Last up was my favorite for the week, a live album from Arctic Monkeys. "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" really blew me away. Their live performances are amazing and definitely made me want to see them live, if that is ever possible in the future.
All in all, a really good week for music. Looking forward to digging into a 1983 Brian Eno release, and another Art Blakey. Plus I think I will listen to the new song from Elvis Costello and Iggy Pop. What a combo that is!
Three new beers this week, bringing my unique check-ins up to 703.
Beer #701 was the 2017 Russian Imperial Stout from Brewsters. This was a good version of a Russian Stout, and was boozy without masking the flavor of the beer. I would really like to see a 2020 version of this beer. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #702 was my second beer from Corsendonk. I had their Pater Dubbel a few weeks ago, and I liked that one quite a bit. The Grand Hops (2020) was another high alcohol beer and it did not taste like 6.9%. It had a good taste but I did not really gets much hops taste from it. (3.25 / 5) While a bit of a disappointment after the 3.75 rating for the Pater Dubbel, this was still good and the average for the two beers from Corsendonk is 3.5, so I will definitely look for others from them.
Finally, Beer #703 was yet another high ABV and this was my favorite of the week. Part of Alberta Beer Week for 2020, SYC Brewing from here in Edmonton created a Unity Brew Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. Great color and taste, nice foam. A wee heavy that did not lose the flavor due to the ABV. Nice stuff from a local brewery. (3.5 / 5)
Two words this week. Note that I did not say new words, since I am sure that one was a repeat. Forgetting these words makes me feel like a pox on society, and I sometimes wish I could find someone who could supply me with what I need to travel back in time to make it so I learn these words the first time.