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.
Show Notes - Week of October 25, 2021
Greetings. Hallowe'en is upon us, and once again three-quarters of our family carved a pumpkin. The last quarter, yours truly, may do so tonight, but that will not happen if past years are any indication. Instead, here are the other three pumpkins for 2021.
Just one book finished this week, and it was a reread of a book from 2017. Book #38 for 2021 was "The Fire Chronicle" by John Stephens is the second book in the Young Adult series, "The Books of Beginning".
As with the first book that I read with my younger daughter earlier this year, this is an excellent book and is worthy of your time. Young readers in your family will connect with the memorable characters and the multiple story lines. Be warned however that the story is not always happy and that sensitive readers might have difficulty with certain parts of the book.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
I am going to change things up a bit with the cycling updates. Given the spate of back injuries and inability to cycle regularly, I have reverted to walking. The cross-Canada virtual tour continues, but it includes walking now, hence the change in title for this section.
In the tour, I have now passed Ignace, Ontario. According to the town's Wikipedia entry, it was named after Ignace Mentour, a key Indigenous guide in the region during the railway survey work. This is notable given how few of the locations on the virtual tour to date have been named after Indigenous people.
Here is the updated progress chart. Next stop, Upsula.
I am also going to change things up a bit with the coffee and beer reviews. Going forward, I will combine them into one section, and the write-up for the beers will be shorter. I was finding it hard to do a review for the beers in Untappd and then copy that text here for this site. Hopefully this will lower the burden and remove the redundancy.
One new coffee to report this week. The Columbian is a local roaster, and their beans are served at Krew Coffee in Lendrum. I have grown to really like this coffee but my coffee experience is still too limited to have the vocabulary to describe it.
Six new beers in the past fortnight, bringing the total number of unique check-ins on Untappd to 826. From left to right in the image below: Coronado Orange Shandy 3.75; Nickel Brook Wicked Awesome IPA 3.5, Kozel Premium Lager 3.5, Railyard Pumpkin Spice Latte Nitro Stout 3.5, Annex Ale Profane Communion Black Saison 3.0, Brooklyn Lager 4.0. The winner this fortnight is definitely the Brooklyn Lager.
Show Notes - Week of October 4, 2021
Greetings from Thanksgiving weekend from 53.5° north latitude. There was quite a bit of interesting news this week, some local but mainly news of global interest and impact.
The big news of the week was the Facebook outage. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were offline globally for six hours, completing removing millions of people from what they think of as the Internet. I was in an Uber on Monday afternoon and the radio station the driver was listening to was talking about the "forced social media vacation". I have a Facebook account that I never log into, had an Instagram account that I deleted, and have never used WhatsApp. There is no impact to me if Facebook applications are unavailable, however, that is clearly not the case for billions of people across the world, prompting calls for more competition in social media. There were concerns that Facebook was hacked, but a Facebook blog post blamed a botch update to a BGP router.
Beyond the outage, 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with a Facebook insider (whistleblower) the day before the outage.
The thrust of Frances Haugen's comments and her subsequent testimony to the US Congress is that the angrier and more divisive the content is that Facebook publishes and promotes, the more money Facebook makes. This is not new information, but this is the first time that the allegations are from an insider, and that are backed up by internal documentation and data and not allegations or assumptions from an outsider.
In addition, more information is surfacing about how harmful Facebook's Instagram is for teen girls in particular. The NY Times went so far this weekend to call it a "cesspool".
The combination of the whistleblower, the outage, and the revelations of how toxic the apps are made several media outlets, including CBC's Day 6 program, to call this a "very bad week for Facebook". But how bad, and for how long is the real question. If the impact to stock price is any indication, this is nothing to worry about. As shown below, the stock dropped from $330.05 to $329.22 in the past week.
In the last month, the stock has dropped for $378, so more of an appreciable decrease, but not much different than what the stock market has experienced in general.
Prediction: nothing changes, at least until 2024 and then only if the European Union or a US Democratic Senate and Congress force regulation onto Facebook.
One segment was finished in the cross-Canada virtual tour this week. I have now pushed past Dryden, Ontario. Much like many settlements in Canada, Dryden is named by a white male even though it was traditionally an Anishanaabe locations called Paawidigong ("the place of rapids" in Ojibwe). Dryden has population of 7700, and is served by the Dryden Regional Airport which has the IATA airport code of YHD. Oh yeah, and they have a big moose.
Here is the updated progress chart. With good weather and health, I can make it past Ignace this upcoming week.
The quest for a perfect cup of coffee continues. In the few weeks since I last posted about coffee, I have cleaned the screen and replaced the gasket on my espresso machine and have fixed how fine my coffee grinder will grind the beans. The difference has been very noticeable, with the espresso taking much longer to come out and the crema to be much more pronounced. This is making me rethink all the coffee I have made at home for the past several months.
The latest coffee is the Umbria Bizzarri blend. This Italian blend has been very enjoyable, but again that needs to be tempered against how many improvements I have made to my setup. Here are some action shots of the bag, richly colored beans, and the end result.
Four new beers this week, with three that were quite good.
Beer #816 was the Omnipollo MAZ Oat Pale Ale 5.6% Strong Ale. Omnipollo is a bit of a mystery. The can says it is brewed in Canada, but the company identifies as from Sweden. I assume Omnipollo has licensed their beer to someone in Canada to brew on their behalf. Whoever did produce this did a good job. This was super hazy, with low but lacy foam, and a drying taste like a grapefruit soda that has almost gone flat. There was no discernible aroma which I found weird, but overall this was good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #817 was an Edmonton beer, the Town Square Flower Child Elderflower Gose. I quite liked the tang added by the sea salt. It had a nice gose sour aroma but was not very sour tasting. The color was beautiful. Town Square has some good beers and is definitely worth seeking out when looking for something to try (3.75 / 5)
Next up was the miss for the week. Beer #818 was the High River Cruisin' West Coast IPA. This is my second beer from High River and so far I have not liked either. This did not seem like a West Coast IPA as it had more of a strong, boozy taste than you would expect from an IPA. (2.5 / 5)
Last up for Beer #819 was the Blackberry Black Berliner from Omen Brewing. A Berliner is typically a cloudy sour, but the massive amount of blackberry put into this made it a dark-purple-almost-black beer. This also had a nice creaminess from the lactobacillus that was included in the brewing. So a fruity, dark, sour, creamy beer. Great combination. (3.75 / 5)
Just one new word this week, coming from research around my younger daughter's pet frog.
(Edited 17Oct2021: added missing picture of new beers)
Show Notes - Week of July 12, 2021
Greetings from 53.5° where overnight on Saturday the ambient air temperature and the air quality index were both 10. A temperature of 10°C overnight in July is not great but it is not the end of the world. An air quality index of 10 however is as close the End Times as I want to experience, thank you very much.
The portion of the week where I was not encamped indoors to avoid the smoke was spent preparing for the new campaign I start running tomorrow, cycling, drinking a few beer, and reading a few books. In other words, status quo.
I finished two books this week, or at least I would like to take credit for two books. I finished one for sure, if the definition of book is something with an ISBN or ISSN.
Book #23 for 2021 was "The Rosewater Insurrection" by Tade Thompson. This is the second book in the Wormwood series, and I read and commented on the first book two years ago. In summary, an alien lifeform has inhabited a large area in Nigeria and the relationship with the humans and other fauna and flora is complicated. In some ways, the - let's call it terran - flora and fauna benefit greatly from the alien presence. However, there are reasons to be cautious of course, and Insurrection deals with the debate of how to live with, or exterminate, a clearly superior and uninvited guest. Thompson has created a super series with this trilogy, one that is bursting with ideas. I highly recommend picking up the first book in the series, simply titled "Rosewater" and then diving into Insurrection as well. I will try to have less time between the second and third books in the series than I did after reading the first.
The second book is called a "pamphlet" by the author, which is, I think, a deliberate nod towards the pamphlets used to spread liberal, socialist, and communist ideology. Since it was not published and cataloged formally, I was unsure if I should count it as a "book' in my reading for the year. Given the thought-provoking ideas and the list of words I had to look up, I decided that it was sufficient to classify as a "book" so I created a book manually in my LibraryThing account.
Book #24 for 2021 was the previously mentioned pamphlet, "At the end of the world, plant a tree: Considerations for the end of Human Time" by Adam Greenfield. This was something that akin to my reading of Peter Fleming's "The Worst is Yet to Come" in 2019. The pamphlet was an overview of how so many of today's trends spell an end for the interconnected and global world that has only existed for a few decades and only for a small percentage of the world's population. There is, like anything that Greenfield writes, a lot to unpack.
It is said that depressives have a clearer view on the world, something that Greenfield mentions in his pamphlet. Greenfield lays out a stark assessment of how broken our societies and global structures are and how COVID has exposed the flaws and problems, again reminding me of Fleming's argument that things are only going to get worse.
There are positive points in the pamphlet, like the power of community and skill-sharing, and the long-term selfless act of planting a tree. There is symbolism in the act of planting a tree where it is a "gesture toward a time yet to come, even when you know full well there is no future you or your survivors will inhabit or give name to".
So, get out there, plant a tree, commune with your fellow humans, share some skills. And buy the pamphlet as a fundraiser for Libreria which looks like a super cool bookstore.
I finished another segment this week, pushing past Grenfell, Saskatchewan. There is a surprising amount to say about Grenfell on Wikipedia given that it has a population of roughly 1,000 people. My personal reason for including Grenfell as the end of a segment is that two of my great-grandparents are buried there. That would be my father's mother's parents.
Here is the updated progress chart. I am going to push to complete the rest of the next segment so that I can push into Manitoba.
There were three entries on the Music Finds playlist for this week. First up was a new single from Kurt Vile, an artist that I have discovered since subscribing to Tidal. His latest, "Run Run Run" is energetic and catchy. Looking forward to the rest of the upcoming album. Next was an album by the Drug Store Romeos. I must be honest and say that I did not like this album. The songs that had promise on first listen either changed tone halfway through or dragged on too long. For example, "Building Song" starts out strong and really hooked me in, but then it seems to just repeat for four minutes.
Last up was the latest album by the Wallflowers, "Exit Wounds". I read somewhere earlier this week that "One Headlight" by the Wallflowers might be the best song from the 90s, and I think even if it is not, it is one of the best. The new album is good with "The Dive Bar in My Heart" and "I'll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up)" as the standouts. I think this is an album that needs a few solid listens to to really appreciate.
Over the last month, I went through my first bag of coffee from Rogue Wave, a roaster from here in Edmonton. I heard from two sources that Rogue Wave is a "passion project", where the owners are in business to continuously improve and offer products that continually innovate and evolve. With an ethos like that, I thought I would try it.
I picked up a Guatemalan been called Bendición. This started out well, with the beans being quite fragrant. The first few cups were good, maybe not what I was looking for, but definitely good. Here is a picture from one of the first espressos I brewed with it.
You can see the nice dark beans and the rich espresso. Unfortunately, the beans got worse quickly. By the end, the beans were dried out and brittle and the output was weak and lacking much flavor. I do not think I did anything wrong as the beans were stored in an airtight glass container in the fridge, exactly like every other bean I use. I will go back and try another bag from Rogue Wave and will ask them if I did something wrong. If that second bag has the same issue though, that will be as far as I get with them.
Two new beers this week, both with a bit of personal connection.
First up, Beer #780 was the Lavender Sour from Moody Ales in Port Moody, BC. This was a good sour, with a nice lemonade flavor and a wonderful aroma from the lavender. I know the owner of the farm that supplies the lavender, so that's a plus. (3.5 / 5)
Second up and coming in as Beer #781 was a beer that caught my eye since it literally has my name written all over it. I was not going to pass up the Robert wild ale from Trial and Ale, another local brewer. This is a wild ale, meaning that the yeast culture is captured from the air and not from a commercial yeast. As a result, there is definitely some wild "funk" in the taste, which is the defining characteristic of wild ales.
The naming of this beer came from the production process where the brewers were calling it "Blood Orange Brett", with Brett being short for Brettanomyces, which is the yeast. So Blood Orange Brett shortened to BOB and then was formalized for production by extending BOB to be Robert.
As for the beer, it was good. Dry and sour with some citrus. I am not sure it was worth $18 but this is an intriguing brewery, and I am definitely going to try more from them.
There were quite a few new words from the Thompson book but those are in my Kobo and I do not feel like getting them out right now. As a result, all of these words are from Greenfield's pamphlet.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude week that varied from highs of 22 °C to 9 °C. I suppose that should not be surprising given that we just entered May this weekend, but the variation is hard to deal with.
There were two interesting articles that I want to share before we get into the usual sections. One deals with the George Floyd murder trial, and the other deals with a Canadian Prime Minister that I honestly knew very little about before this week.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020 was a reprehensible act. There is no question in my mind that Chauvin is guilty of murder and thankfully the jurors agreed. On April 20, 2020, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.
60 Minutes interviewed the prosecution team for their show last week. The full clip is at both times sobering and heart-rending, but also hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, someone like Derek Chauvin in some other police force out there will realize that he cannot act with impunity, that he is supposed to respect and protect all lives and not just the lives of white people, and that there are real and significant consequences for all acts of police brutality.
"Was [racism] Mr. Chauvin's motive? Who knows? There weren't any explicit, overt statements made, but most people do have a hard time believing that this would've happened to the typical white citizen in the state of Minnesota." - Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell
The video and images from the murder are still hard to view, and hopefully they are always hard to view. George Floyd should not have died, should not have been murdered. If any good can come out of his death, I hope it is that this is the end, at least the beginning of the end, of systemic, institutionalized racism, whether that is against black people in America or Indigenous people in Canada.
Okay. Trying to ... move on? ... No, that is not what I mean. It is more like needing to continue to live without forgetting.
Switching gears, I now want to talk about a white, old, Canadian male who died nearly fifty years ago. Louis St. Laurent was Canada's twelfth Prime Minster, serving nearly nine years from 1948 to 1957. He was described as a strong Canadian nationalist and was by all accounts a very effective leader.
Not that I knew any of this about him, mind you. There is a Catholic high school named after him and I did not even realize who it referred to until this week. So yeah, some dude that I knew nothing about.
St. Laurent came to my attention this week when I read the March 2021 issue of "Inside Policy" from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The cover of the issue has a picture of St. Laurent with the words "The Legacy of Louis St. Laurent: When governments got things done". My immediate reaction was of scoffing indifference - here is another case of looking back at the past with a bias that everything was better before - but I read the article anyway thinking that this was going to be a series of potshots at Justin Trudeau, a leader that the Institute has made no secret of their dislike.
In contrast, the Institute extolled the virtues of St. Laurent. To wit:
On almost every issue it touched, [St. Laurent's] government modernized the idea of Canada, either in its support of new programs or in its international relations.
The list of accomplishments provided in the articles include: approving Canada's participation in NATO; recognizing the state of Israel; overseeing coordination with American air defence, which later resulted in NORAD; expansion of the shipways along the St. Lawrence; the Trans-Canada Highway; multiple radar lines including the Distant Early Warning system; the Canso Causeway; a pipeline from Alberta to central Canada; a push for the aerospace industry which resulted in the Avro Arrow; and, universal hospital insurance.
That is quite a list, by any measure. The Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent deserves more recognition that he currently has based on that list of accomplishments. I am sure he had flaws, but I could not find any online and none were referenced in his Wikipedia entry. There was an article by Conrad Black that said he had "never heard a negative, or even slightly disrespectful, comment, including from his opponents" about St. Laurent. Quite an individual, apparently.
I was able to finish two books this week and will likely finish a third this week but after I post the entry for this week.
Book #12 for 2021 was "But What If We're Wrong?" by Chuck Klosterman. This is a book of separate but connected essays around the theme that in the future people will look back at us and see our present / their past completely differently than we do. This makes sense when you think about how we in our present reflect on our past which is of course someone else's present. This book does a good job to blow up the idea that we know what is true, and what future people will think about our truths. There are a number of good points in the book, but the one about American football and team sports blew my mind.
"The first possibility is that football survives because of its explicit violence, and this this discomfiting detail ends up being its twisted salvation. The second possibility is that football will indeed disappear - but not just because of its brutality. It will disappear because all team sports are going to disappear, and football will merely be the first." --Chuck Klosterman, "But What If We're Wrong?"
I do not watch sports any more. I have watched two hockey games since the end of the 2012 NHL season (one of which I was in a bar celebrating a friend's birthday, and the other I was on a guys weekend in the mountains with a couple friends). I have watched a bit more baseball in that time period but not really much after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. I stopped watching football (soccer) after Tottenham lost the Champions League to Liverpool in 2019.
I bring that up because I just assumed my lack of interest in sports was just something about me, but Klosterman made me think that maybe society at large will move away from watching team sports. Not everyone of course, especially in the case of American football as Klosterman sees it, but for the majority of people. It is nearly impossible to imagine our world without team sports, but that is the essence of Klosterman's book - what about the modern and present day will seem ridiculous in the future?
Give his book a read to see if there are any similar revelations for you.
Book #13 was "The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street" by Lauren Oliver. This was a book that I read with my younger daughter. There was a lot to like about this book in the early stages - an interesting premise, strong characters, funny monsters, and a compelling mystery. But like a lot of books it unfortunately hobbled to the conclusion. We were thirty-two pages from the end assuming it was the first in a series because there was no way it would be wrapped up that quickly. It was, but unfortunately not in a satisfying way. There were definitely some high points along the way, but not enough to be something I would consider "good". Not every book can be something to savor for all time, but I would rather read a marginal book than not read.
It has been quite a while since I last reviewed a coffee. This is because I purchased multiple bags of the previously reviewed beans and was going through them before trying something new. My most recent new coffee was the Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso. I was looking forward to this one as the company has a good story to tell and I quite like their decaf. Their espresso though was quite thin and did not have a lot of taste. I upped the amount of beans but that did not help much. I get more crema and taste from their decaf. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the beans are very dry and brittle, which probably leads to the lack of crema.
I had two more beers from Cabin Brewing, the end of a four-pack sampler. Beer #755 was their Falling Skies Dark Sour with Apricots. The first taste of this was extremely sour, but I got used to it very quickly. I did not pick up much of the apricot flavor, which is too bad. In summary, a sour for the sake of being sour with an ingredient that did not add much to the beer. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #756 was their Morning Sun Farmhouse Ale / Saison. This was decent stuff. Refreshing and just carbonated enough to give a bit of a pop. Lots of mild fruit flavor and a nice aroma. (3.25 / 5)
(Note that I have recalibrated my beer numbers in this blog to align with what is on Untappd. If you recall, I mentioned last week that the numbers were out of sync between this blog and Untappd. I assume I just messed up somewhere on this blog since beer #700.)
Just two new words this week. The first one was from a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style rendition of Romeo and Juliet and was in the colophon. (Yes, I am the kind of person that reads the colophon.)
Greetings from a cold, icy, and slightly snowy 53.5° north latitude. It was cold enough that I did not feel like going outside this week, and other than taking the garbage out on Wednesday and the recycling on Thursday, I stayed inside from Sunday to Saturday.
It was a pretty quiet week, with the focus on reading, music, and watching a few YouTube channels. There was one new beer and a new coffee, one book finished, and a handful of new words. Like I said, pretty quiet.
Book #4 for 2021 was "L is for Lawless", the twelfth book in the Kinsey Millhone series and the second book in 2021 that I have read from that series. L was a good book with a different feel and pacing from the first eleven in the series. This is likely due to the fact that Kinsey spent most of the story outside of California, and I cannot remember her spending much time outside of about ten miles from her home in the first ten books. She did venture to San Francisco in K so maybe author Sue Grafton was feeling trapped by keeping her protagonist confined to a small town. I also note that Grafton lived in Louisville, which is a location in the last part of L, so maybe there was a desire to write about her home town.
I am now essentially half-way through the series. These are easy books to read and I imagine that I will finish them all, but I doubt I will read them so soon in succession as I did K and L. Two Kinsey books in one month was a bit much, even if they are enjoyable reads.
Lots of music this week, with four artists and five albums in the Music Finds playlist.
First up was the Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk album I mentioned last week. Honestly, I was expecting more from this duo. The album starts out super strong with "Evidence" and Blakey killing it on the drums and Bill Hardman doing likewise on the trumpet. The rest of the album was good, don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for so much more.
Next were two albums by Nick Cave. The first one was his "Live from KCRW" album, which did not really resonate. The second, "The Boatman's Call" was much better. I thought the first half was superb, but I lost interest in the second half. There was too much melodrama and ennui to sustain me for nearly an hour.
The third artist was Robohands, a project of London musician Andy Baxter, and the album "Shapes". The whole album was good and "Leaves" and "Ikigai" were outstanding. I am definitely going to queue up more from Robohands in the future.
Last up was a Finnish psychedelic metal band called Jess and Ancient Ones. I gave their 2015 album "Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes" a couple listens in an attempt to force myself out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself by quite liking the album, especially "The Equinox Death Trip" and "Crossroad Lightning". The final song on the album, "Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever" is 22'35" long and would be a great song to listen to at the end of the evening at the Edmonton Folk Fest. Their Wikipedia entry lists the lead singer as Jess, no last name. Their vocals were very reminiscent of Grace Slick and early era Jefferson Airplane.
And finally, Phil Collins turned 70 this week and Tidal had focus on his music. I was, am, a big fan of his music so listening to some of his music with Genesis or his solo material was a great reminder of what a talented musician he is. Check out this article from Tidal and the link to a Phil-Collins-as-Drummer playlist.
Just one new beer this week, and it was unfortunately a disappointment. Beer #719 was the Radio the Mothership Imperial Double IPA from Collective Arts. This is highly bitter beer with an IBU rating of 100, and with a high ABV of 8.5%. I am a big fan of Collective Arts, and I think they are one of the best brewers in Canada. My average rating for the 16 check-ins I have for Collective Arts in my Untappd profile is 3.53, which is a fair bit higher than my overall average of 3.36. Like I said in the opening sentence though, this one was a disappointment.
I got a lot of peppery pineapple in the taste and it was quite carbonated, much more so than I would have expected in an Imperial. It did have a nice haziness and color, but the aroma was off somehow. I did have two cans of this and my experience was similar for both so unless it was old outdated stock, I recommend a pass on this beer. (3.0 /5)
I got a treat this week on the coffee front as I was able to open a new bag of beans. The Espresso Sicilica from Cherry Hill Coffee out of Kelowna. This coffee gives a nice dark espresso with a thick crema and a really nice aroma. The taste is a bit fruity and is definitely more dense than recent beans I have purchased. I bought one bag of this on my own and got another for Christmas, so I suspect I will be drinking this coffee for a couple months.
I have to admit that I am still confused about how much coffee I should be using in my espresso machine. The minimum recommended amount seems to be 17 grams of coffee, but I can barely hit 15 g in my portafilter. Cherry Hill recommends 21 g on their site. I did have an issue with my manual grinder and I have wondered for the past few weeks if my grind was too coarse which was therefore not allowing me to pack enough into the portafilter.
I had to get a replacement shipped out to me last week, and I am happy to say that the grind is significantly better with the replacement. The pictures below tell a story.
There are two grinds in the left image. The coffee in the glass jar was ground with my original Eparé Manual Coffee Grinder (epare.com)Manual Coffee Grinder, and the grounds on the counter beside it are store-ground espresso. You can see how much finer the grind is with the store-ground. After asking a few questions with the customer service team at Eparé, they sent me out a replacement grinder. The image on the right is what the new grinder does, which is quite an improvement. I am happy with the grinder, but I am even happier with the customer service.
There are a decent number of words this week. Some are from recent readings, and the rest are the remainder of the words I flagged while reading War and Peace.
[ uh-lee-juhnt ]
putti (plural noun)
[ex·suf·fla·tion | \ ˌeksəˈflāshən \]
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 November 16, 2020
Happy end of the week, and what a week it was. Locally here at 53.5° north latitude, nationally across Canada, and throughout the world, COVID numbers continued to rise at a frightening rate. Our family is now in close contact with at least one COVID positive case, so we have one and possibly two people needing to isolate, and then the whole family depending on the results of the test results of our family members.
The week beyond watching COVID numbers was spent doing a lot of reading and listening, but not much else. I am writing this early on Sunday morning and as of right now I have not finished a book this week and have only had one new beer, and I finished one more segment on my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour but not the two segments to complete the first leg like I hoped. However, I suspect that by the end of the day I will have another new beer to hit the 700 check-in milestone, I will finish a book, and I will go on a ride to finish the leg. But that will have to be in the update for next week.
It was a disappointing week for cycling with the outdoor rides curtailed by a flat tire and no replacement tube. Most of the distance this week was on the stationary bike in the basement, which is just not as satisfying as an outdoor ride.
I was able to finish off the segment to Duncan this week which was a nice milestone. Like I said above, I expect to finish the segment to Victoria later today as well which will see me complete the first leg in my cross-Canada virtual tour. But for now, here are some fun facts of Duncan according to Wikipedia. Duncan has only 5,000 people but it serves the 84,000 people in the Cowichan Valley; there are 44 totem poles throughout Duncan; the average temperature for this time of year is 5°C; it is the birthplace of former NHL players Geoff and Russ Courtnall; and the current President of the University of Alberta, my alma mater, David Turpin, was also born there.
Here is a look at the updated chart for Leg 1, from Port Hardy to Victoria. It will be great to see that whole block green next week.
There were three albums in the Music Finds playlist for this week. A couple weeks ago I mentioned the Azymuth JID004 album and the track "Friendship Samba". I listened to the album a few times this week and really liked its sound. "Surnamé" and "Pulando Corda" were other standouts, but I really think this album needs to be listened to in whole and not as a collection of singles. As I said a couple weeks ago, there is some serious talent on this album.
The second album was another Art Blakey. "A Christmas Soul Night" is a 3'49", 30 track collection with a mix of live and studio recordings. I have to admit that I found this to be an oppressively long list of songs. The only song I favorited was "Prince Albert" and that was the second song of the thirty. It was a slog to get through which was really disappointing after how much I liked "Flapping Wings" and "Just Coolin'".
Last up this week was "Shapeshifter" by Sean De Burca. De Burca is a finger-style guitarist who can really pull out a number of sounds and melodies from his guitar. Shapeshifter is an 18-track album, with nine acoustic guitar songs followed by the same nine songs re-recorded with an electric guitar. I listened to this album a lot this week, and liked it more each listen, and much preferred the acoustic versions. Really amazing stuff from an artist I will check out more in the future.
I started a new coffee this week, the Metta Espresso from Salt Spring Coffee. Salt Spring Island is close to Duncan, the location noted from the virtual cycling tour, and was the location of last year's summer holiday. Back to the coffee, I really wanted to like this but am struggling to get into it. I find the flavor to be very thin. I even bumped up the amount of ground beans used from 15 to 17 grams but that did little to improve the taste or the amount of crema. The picture in the far right below is the 17 g pull.
Looking at the beans, they are very dull and matte finished, which is a definite contrast to the other beans I have used recently. As I learn more, I will look for a correlation between the color and gloss of the beans and the flavor I like.
This is not a terrible coffee, but I have a lot of cups of it to go through before I can move on to a new bag.
Just one new beer this week. Beer #699 was the Super Saturation Pale Ale from Cabin Brewing out of Calgary. It is a hazy, citrusy pale ale with a bit of pepper spice coming through. It was nice to have a hazy beer without a lot of sediment, so that was a plus. I have rated three beers from Cabin on Untappd and all three have been 3.75 out of 5. Clearly a brewery to follow more closely.
Just one word this week, but it is a spicy one!
Show Notes - Week of October 19, 2020
Greeting from 53.5° north. Hopefully you are warmer wherever you are reading this. It was an unseasonably cold week. Life was filled with a number of work related successes, a couple new beers and another coffee to report on, a completed segment in my virtual cycling tour, plus a couple new words. I nearly finished two more books this week, but the summaries for both will have to wait until next week after they are fully completed.
The work success mainly revolve around the launch of our second wave of the Connect Care tool. Connect Care will eventually be deployed across the entire province, but for now it is focused on the Edmonton zone, with the addition of the suburban Edmonton hospitals launching this weekend. Most of the functionality in this wave is the same as in Wave 1 last November, with the addition of labor and delivery. And of course, there was a baby born right after the system went live. This tweet from the official AHS account says it best: the first baby born in Alberta with a fully digital medical record. It is a good feeling to be part of something like this.
There were two near beers this week. Beer #693 was the Guinness Hop House lager. Decent stuff, especially for a lager. Nice malty flavor, coloring, and aroma. (3.25 / 5) Beer #694 was a real let down and am riding against the popular opinion on the Jelly King from Bellwoods Brewery. I found it overly sour, with the sourness being the only discernible taste. I was really looking forward to this one based on the reviews of my connections on Untappd. (2.75 / 5)
At this point in my five and a half years (2043 days, to be specific) of logging beers on Untappd, I am averaging logging a new beer every 2.94 days. When I started writing on this site, I was averaging a new beer every 2.74 days so I am slowing down. Maybe that is a good thing? I'll have to think about that, maybe over a beer ...
This is my second coffee I have written about, but it is one I have drank several times before. 49th Parallel is out of Vancouver and is the coffee served at Square One, the local coffee shop just a few blocks from home. Their Old School Espresso is a wonderful smelling bean that creates a nice crema. The taste is lighter, with just a hint of chocolate.
You can see that these beans are much less glossy than the Burnt Timber beans I wrote about a few weeks ago. As I write more about coffee, I am going to figure out what those different characteristics mean - at the most mundane, the ground coffee is much less greasy before going into the machine.
I had to ride indoors three times this week. My winter bike is not yet ready and the roads were covered with snow for most of the week. I only tallied 57 km this week, but I did get in the saddle five different times which was a nice accomplishment. In my virtual cross-Canada tour, I got all the way to Campbell River and will start the trek to Nanaimo and am now about 45% of the way to Victoria.
Fun facts about Campbell River: it has been long touted as the Salmon Capital of the World, and its Indigenous name is Wiwek̓a̱m. The average high for October is 13° C, and its airport code is YBL.
Just two new words this week, which does not seem like a lot but at least this list gets to the point quickly.