Greetings from 53.5° north latitude on the second day of the new year. This week's post highlight items resulting year-end reflections and from the year-end rush to finish as many books as possible.
Before we get to that, look at this following image from a Daily Hive article from Monday.
On Monday, 14 of the 15 coldest places on the planet were in Canada. In addition, I live in one place on the list and have lived in three others and have visited eight of the other locations. I must really love living here to put up with this weather.
In other depressing news, there was a fantastically bleak opinion piece in the Globe and Mail this week titled, "The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. Canada must prepare." The author, Thomas Homer-Dixon, discusses the "weakening of U.S. democracy", "ideological polarization", and how "between 20 and 30 million American adults believe the 2020 election was stolen". Homer-Dixon proceeds to discuss five, maybe six, parallels between America today and Germany prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler. The article does not leave much room for hope, but it closes with a request, almost a plea, for Canada to do more to stop what will potentially happen to our only neighbor in the near future.
Canada is itself flawed, but it’s still one of the most remarkably just and prosperous societies in human history. It must rise to this challenge. ---Thomas Homer-Dixon
Okay, so it is brutally cold, and our closest ally and only neighbor is potentially into a nosedive into anarchy. Is there anything positive to reflect on? Yes! I finished another perfect year of Solitaire. Take that radicalized American polity!
I finished two books this week prior to the start of 2022 and ended up with a total of 45 books read in the year. Not bad, but not my best effort. One of these years I will actually hit 52 books in a year.
Book #44 for 2021 was VALIS by Philip K. Dick. I have never been a fan of Philip K. Dick (and no, I was not going to say I am or am not a Dick fan) (and yes, I am still 12), as his writing is not nearly as good as his ideas. However, VALIS was both interesting and intriguing. Unlike other books by Dick, I found myself interested in the story. I do not claim to have understood everything in the novel due to the complexity of the topics - see the New Words section below as evidence of that. However, in the end I feel that I understood it enough. But what is it about? That is hard to say, but the description on WorldCat does a pretty good job of summarizing the plot.
A theological detective story in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime. The schizophrenic hero, a Dick alter-ego named Horselover Fat, begins receiving revelatory visions through a burst of pink laser light. As a coterie of religious seekers forms to explore these messages, they are led to a rock musician's estate, where a two-year old Messianic figure named Sophia confirms that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries. ---Synopsis of "VALIS", from WorldCat.org
Book #45 for 2021 was the final book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Harry Potter has been an enormous cultural influence in the past quarter-century, with the release date for the first book sometime in 1997. I read the entire series once, and then re-read the first few books again as a refresher before the movies came out. I read the first six books to my older daughter, and she read the seventh book herself. In the past eighteen months or so, I have read the entire series to my younger daughter, and on top of that, we are watching all the movies again (well, for the first time for my younger daughter). A few years ago, my older daughter puffed up her voluminous hair and dressed up as Hermione for Hallowe'en, and my younger daughter is currently building a cosplay outfit of Luna Lovegood complete with a copy of "The Quibbler" to read while being held upside-down.
With all the time I have invested in these stories, it is weird to think that I am done with them. A couple more nights to wrap up the last movies, but that is it. I have no intention of reading the books again, and the movies are not good enough to watch again. I know I am getting old and that I am over half-way through my days on Earth, but like I said, it is weird to think that something that has been as big as Harry Potter will just be done for me. Said another way, it is weird to be experiencing a mortality revelation through the completion of a young-adult book series.
As for the book, it was really good, and definitely my favorite of the seven books in the series.
Four new beers this week, bringing my number of unique check-ins to 846. Warka Strong (3.75 / 5), Born Colorado's Mount Massive Russian Imperial Stout (3.75), Maxwell Spiced Mead from Australia (3.5), and Four Winds Nectarous Dry-Hopped Sour (3.75). A really good week for new beers!
I would have had more this week since I was on vacation, but it was too cold to leave the house to go buy more beer.
The novel by Dick was a huge source of new words, largely due to my lack of knowledge in philosophy. The first one below was from Harry Potter though, and I took the definition from Urban Dictionary.
done a bunk
(*Of interest, the phrase "Gordon Bennett" is listed as a synonym for botheration. Apparently, Bennett was quite a hellraiser.)
FWIW, I did all of the daily challenges in both Wordament and Solitaire this month. Tell my parents that when they tell you that I never amounted to anything.
In our weekly lunch hour session, I was back to playing as my stint as a guest DM is now over. I have to tell you that I really prefer DMing. All you have to do is show up when you are a player, so the level of engagement just isn't there for me. That was one change in perspective that I had. The other is how much weird the players seem to want. Our regular DM developed a campaign in a low magic world, but people seem to want to jump in with high magic, exotic characters. Our newest player came in with a Tiefling Bard. Wait, what? Yeah, exactly.
I watched the first forty or so episodes of the second campaign of Critical Role, and now that I look back at those episodes, I notice the same. A goblin, a tiefling, a half-orc (admittedly pretty low magic), an Aasimar, a furlbog played a person who previously played a Tiefling, and two humans. Every single one of the players behind those characters are great actors, but for my money, the best character in the lot is one of the humans. (You can argue about which one in the comments.)
When Matt Colville was ramping up for The Chain of Acheron, he told his players that the preponderance of the characters needed to be humans, even though the campaign is very high magic. Even so, within the first few episodes, one character gets turned into a pink mist and the player wants to play a githyanki. So much for the players adhering to the guide posts.
What does this mean for the DM? I'm not sure to be honest. Maybe the lure of the unknown and the magical is too strong, and the DM just needs to build that into the campaign. Maybe it is reasonable to expect players to want to stray from the mundane in a fictional setting. Playing a character that is essentially your neighbor in real life does seem less enticing than a githyanki that has never eaten a caramel sausage, for example.
My world's on fire, how about yours?
The wild fires in Northern Alberta are terrifying. The thought that out of control fires in the spring are the new normal is even more terrifying. The northern half of the province needs a Noah's Ark scale deluge in the short term, and we need to figure out how we can fix the planet in the long term. I don't ever recall hearing about the Air Quality Health Index before last year, but now with all of the fires, our local schools keep kids inside for recess when the air quality is too poor.
Just one new beer this week. It was the Red 8.6 from Royal Swinkels Family Brewers in the Netherlands. Red 8.6 seems like a strange name since the beer is only 7.9% ABV (only!), even though it is a red. But I digress. I'm not a big red fan, and this was okay, but it was quite a mouthful with the alcohol taste. Not great, but good enough that I will try out their other beers, like the Gold 8.6 for example. (3.0 / 5)
a : an act of proclaiming or preaching
b : sermon