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.
Show Notes - Week of April 5, 2021
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. This past week was filled with beer, cycling, writing, and work. On top of all that, it snowed on Saturday which I suppose should not be surprising given that it is still early April.
Before we get into the regular sections of this week's blog, I want to highlight two different items. First up, let's talk about work. The most memorable work item from the past week is clearly the launch of Wave 3 of the Connect Care Clinical Information System. This is a smaller wave from the point of view of number of users, but is huge from a geography point of view. Covering the western half of the North Zone of Alberta, Connect Care went live in 31 sites. Launching a new system across that many users covering that much territory is a great accomplishment and everyone should be very proud of their collective success.
The other item I want to highlight before getting on to the regular sections is The Uncensored Library. This is an effort from the organization Reporters Without Borders to use the universal appeal of Minecraft to get around censorship and oppression towards journalists. From the website, the goal is to provide "access to independent information to young people around the world through a medium they can playfully interact with. Journalists from five different countries now have a place to make their voices heard again, despite having been banned, jailed, exiled and even killed."
I think this is a wonderful initiative, and in theory could actually reach a number of youth around the world. It is unclear how many people will actually reach out to download the particular Minecraft map and explore the information in it, particularly because it is only available on the Java edition. I did not understand why it would be exclusive to Java, but then I came across this explanation:
Unfortunately there are no plans to convert to Bedrock. Although there's a huge audience there, it's very difficult to share Bedrock content without going through the Minecraft Marketplace—which this map would not be suitable for,
It was not immediately clear why this map would not be suitable for the Minecraft Marketplace. My assumption is that the it would be a violation of the Microsoft Store Policies, in particular Section 11.10 Country/Region Specific Requirements. That section specifically calls out "providing or enabling access to content or services that are illegal under applicable local law". Publications of journalists that are censored would be illegal, so I suppose that must be the reason.
It is a bit of a shame of course as the Bedrock version of Minecraft has a larger and expanding user base, where the Java user base is decreasing. If nothing else though, this project has an opportunity to raise awareness on an important issue. Please consider donating to RSF at this link.
I was able to complete the short, first segment in Leg #4 from Edmonton to Elk Island National Park in my virtual cross-Canada. I still have a few hours to get another ride in today, but given the frozen ice on the road from the spring snow on Saturday chances are I am done for the week. Here is the updated chart.
Looking at the chart, I will easily reach Vegreville next week and have a chance of getting through to Lloydminster in two weeks. More likely though will be that I will not pass Lloydminster until the week of April 26 but will be on my way to Saskatoon that week.
In the meantime, here are a few fun facts about Elk Island courtesy of Wikipedia. As far as national parks go, it is the eighth smallest, which makes me wonder how small the seven other smaller parks are. Having been to Elk Island man times in my life, I can confirm that it is definitely small. However, it is the largest fully enclosed national park in Canada, mainly due to the need to pen in the large amount of wood bison in a park with a major national highway running through it. Wood bison are the largest terrestrial mammal in North America, and Elk Island is also home to the smallest terrestrial mammal in North America, the pygmy shrew.
To give some perspective, here is a picture of a wood bison on the road into Elk Island a few years ago. I am sure that bad boy's head was too big to fit in the window of our car and he would have had to bend his neck down to do so, if he was so inclined.
Three new beers this week coming from breweries across Canada.
First up and coming in as Beer #746 was the Good as Gold Dortmunder Lager from SYC Brewing here in Edmonton. This was a fine example of the style with a really nice balance of malt and tang. The taste was fairly understated, but that is consistent with the style. I am not a huge fan of textbook lagers, as maybe the flavors are too nuanced for me. That said, I was able to appreciate how well this was put together, and for what it was, it was quite good. (3.5 / 5) If you are looking for a good brewery to dig into, try SYC. I have tried four of their beers to date and they are averaging 3.6. (Technically, 3.625 for those of you that are as pedantic as me.)
Beer #747 was a super IPA from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 16. The elderflower was a nice add, not something I think I have had in a beer before. There was some nice tartness from the grapefruit without the annoying pithiness that often comes with citrus. Nice color and hazy without suspended sediment. (3.75 / 5)
Last up and Beer #748 was a collaboration headed up by Ribstone Creek Brewery out of Edgerton. This was a nice yeasty white with multiple flavors. Orange for sure, maybe pineapple or banana. Both of those last two were pretty faint. Nice head and color and a really sweet aroma. I am really glad that Ribstone is back in my rotation. They are a bit geographically outside the brewing corridor in Alberta and it would be great for them to stick around and prosper. This beer was a good sign. (3.5 / 5)
Seven new words this week, with the first two coming from the Churchill book, The Splendid and The Vile. After this week, there are still six new words coming from that book. The other five this week came from a book I am reading from Michael Pollan that should be complete next week.