Happy holidays for all those celebrating, and for those that are not, peace and joy to you as well.
This is the second Christmas with minimal visiting and socializing, but all is not bad. Not having huge meals to prepare or large numbers of guests to provide for has made for a very relaxing holiday season. A few visits would have been nice, but I am not sure I want to go back to the mad rush of visits with dozens of people when we get out of this pandemic. I like how Neil Pasricha put it in his #pandemicedition of 1000 Awesome Things for December 25.
Regular readers of this site will notice that I missed posting last week. Since there was not a mad rush leading up to the holidays, I was confident that I would post last week. However, the week leading up to the holidays was filled with responding to the log4J vulnerability. There are numerous articles discussing what this vulnerability is and how pervasive it is, so I will not go into detail here. My December 2021 prediction is that we will still be discussing this in December 2022 due to the number of breaches this causes. log4J has been described as the worst vulnerability ever, and the timing for its release could only have been worse if it had come out while many people were on holidays, instead of one week earlier.
Beyond log4J, the last fortnight was filled with finishing two books, one milestone on the virtual tour, four new beers, and one new word. Let's jump in.
I finished two books in the past fortnight, one I had started in 2020 and my favorite murder mystery to date.
Book #42 for 2021 was "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I absolutely loved this book, but I did not finish it in 2020 when I first picked it up. The reason is that I saw the title of this YouTube video and without watching the video, I felt like the book was completely spoiled for me.
As a result of seeing that title, Rothfuss's book sat on my shelf sixty percent read for about seventeen months. When I finally picked it up again, I was able to immediately recall the story and the characters. I attribute that to how great the writing is. This is a great book and I am looking forward to the second and eventually the third books in the series.
Book #43 for 2021 was "Sparkling Cyanide" by Agatha Christie. As I mentioned above, this is my favorite murder mystery to date. It was not the most suspenseful and it did not have the most startling reveal, but the setup and character development was superb. In the end, I was surprised but not shocked and ultimately satisfied as the murder could have been done by anyone of the main characters. If you only read one novel from Christie, I suggest this one.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
My progress toward virtually crossing Canada has been significantly hampered since early August because of the bike failure, a back injury, and then treacherous ice conditions. My bikes are fine, and I can maintain my back strength once again, but progress this week will also be limited due to the extremely cold temperatures outside.
That all said, I was able to finish the Upsala-Thunder Bay segment, which completed - finally - the Winnipeg-Thunder Bay leg. I started that leg September 6, which means that it took nearly four months to complete 723 km. Not good.
But at least progress has been made. Thunder Bay is an interesting location with a population of approximately 108,000. Thunder Bay was two cities, Port Arthur and Fort William, until January 1, 1970, which I found surprising. Wikipedia does a good job of documenting the rivalries of the two cities, plus their involvement in the fur trade, colonization, and assimilation. In keeping with my previous cataloging of airports for each stop, Thunder Bay is serviced by an international airport, with the IATA code of YQT.
Here is the updated progress chart, complete with the segments for the next leg of the virtual tour, from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.
Four new beers this week, with two that were worth recommending. Snake Lake Miss Mermaid Pale Ale (3.75 / 5) and Juxtapose Four Winds IPA (3.5 / 5) are worth trying. The two that you should not bother with are the Leżajsk Pełne Lager out of Poland (2.5 / 5) and the Anarchist Amber from Cannery Brewing in Penticton (3.0 / 5).
Just one new word, assuming the words Rothfuss made up for his book do not count.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where we are suffering with streets and sidewalks covered in ice after a freezing rain earlier this week.
This past week was busy with work, reading, and getting ready for the holiday season. The quick summary is two interesting articles to comment on, two books finished, two new beers, and five new words.
The first article was out of the National Post. Tristan Hopper wrote the article "Why this day, just 90 years ago, is Canada's real independence day", in reference to the Statute of Westminster which came into force December 11, 1931. The quick summary is that before 1931, the United Kingdom could overturn any law that was "repugnant" to English law. After the Statute of Westminster was enacted, Canada remained a constitutional monarchy with a Governor General, but we can pass our own laws and decide when we are at war, decisions we could not make independently before then. It is fascinating to know that even as tied to other countries we are in 2021, we had zero independence for the first sixty-four years of our existence as a nation.
The second article was from Slate, and it reframed Johnny Cash as an ally against racism and race-fueled violence. The article suggests that Cash's 1962 album, "Blood, Sweat and Tears" was not just a collection of stories about working men, but rather "a concept album about race in America, about the violent enforcement of racial hierarchies in America". If you read the album notes on Tidal for "Blood, Sweat and Tears", the author is solidly in the traditional camp, calling it an album "about the fables of the American working man". The Slate article busts that view apart, highlighting how Cash recorded songs about slavery, violence, and murder against black men.
I do not have a lot of experience with Johnny Cash's music, but I certainly have heard many of his songs. This article gave me a reason to really listen to his music, and to listen to it with a new perspective. If you are interested in understanding more about the messages in Cash's music, read the Slate article and listen to the album here.
It does not appear likely that I will hit 52 books this year, but if I finish a few books that I am part way through, I should be able to get into the mid-40s.
Book #40 for 2021 was "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. This was an amazing book and is probably going to be my favorite book for 2021. I found it to be very emotional, especially near the end. The synopsis is that it is a story about a young girl living in World War II Germany, and all the struggles and issues that entails. I am really glad I read this book and will likely read it again in the future.
Book #41 for 2021 will most likely be the shortest book I read this year. "Fortunately, the Milk" by Neil Gaiman was a fantastical tale of the exploits of a father explaining why he was late returning home with some milk. Picking this book up made it clear it was going to be a quick read, but with the numerous illustrations by Skottie Young, it was even shorter than expected. The entertaining story reminded me of a fast-paced Willy Wonka story, but this is definitely a once-and-done book unless you have young children that are just graduating into chapter books.
Two new beers this week. First was the Wanderlust IPA from Breakside Brewery out of Portland. (3.75 / 5). Second was the Do Something Lager from Sea Change here in Edmonton. (3.5 / 5). This brings my total number of unique check-ins on Untappd to 838.
Five new words this week. The first two came from the seventh Harry Potter book that had a sentence that said "a baize in a budgerigar".
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. It was another quiet week with little to report on. One new beer, one book finished, and one new word. There has been some time in the saddle as well, even though it has been quite cold in the last few days.
My goal of 52 books in 2021 is not going to happen. I am going to work on finishing books that I have started in December so I should get over 40 books this year, but I will be a long way from 52.
Book #39 for 2021 was "The Sittaford Mystery" by Agatha Christie. This is a stand-alone mystery from Christie, meaning that the protagonists are not Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, etc. However, I really liked Inspector Narracort and Emily Trefius and would like to have seen more from either of them in other books.
Even though I did like those two characters, the book was not great. I enjoyed the setup but I found it took too long to get to the character analysis and the various plot lines did not satisfactorily come together. In addition, Trefius did not show up until over one-third into the story. It was good enough to read through, but just barely.
Just one new beer this week. The Münchner Weisse from the Hofbräuhaus München Brewery in Munich. (3.5 / 5) The number of unique check-ins in Untappd is now up to 836,
Just one new word, this one coming from a book of spells for 5e.