Greetings once again from a laid back 53.5° north latitude. The trend of simple weeks without much to report continues, although this week was more interesting than the last few.
One thing I have not mentioned for quite a while is the groups I am in and playing the world's greatest roleplaying game. My work group sadly has only met once since COVID started, but I am running a group every two weeks that I pulled together via Meetup, and starting next week I will be playing in two groups with individuals I met through that Meetup group. I am also playing a Humblewood campaign with my daughters. I posted about the Meetup group and Humblewood back in February, and reading that post makes me realize how much I have learned in the last seven months.
I posted how the group I am now running was delayed in starting because I was nervous. I was worried about meeting with a bunch of strangers to play a game. As time progressed though, these strangers have become friends that have in turn introduced me to other people. I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and the rewards have been immense, and the experience has reinforced how much better moving forward is over stagnating.
The pressure to do a good job is still there, but I now know I can do it. I have confidence in my ability to plan and improvise. My writing is improving weekly, and I am finding ideas that I want to express in both stories and in the game.
The other remarkable learning since February is how to use technology to interact and connect. Undoubtedly, getting together in person with the group I run will be a magical moment, if and when that can ever happen. But in the meantime, we can still meet and chat and play. The technology combination of Roll20 for displaying maps and allow for token movement with Discord for voice and video really works well. Add in a good digital character sheet either from Roll20 or with the Beyond20 Chrome extension to connect Roll20 and D&D Beyond, and this is a hobby that can work independent of physical location.
As I look back at the post from February, I notice my comments about the Kickstarter campaigns I have backed. Since February, I have backed thirteen more projects, ten of which completely successfully and three which have hit their funding goals but have not finished the campaign yet. Of the thirteen, one is a collection of board games, one is a tarot card deck that I thought would be useful as a game prop back when we were planning on playing in person, and one is an audio book. The other ten are all supplements or add-ons related to the roleplaying game of choice.
I want to mention the audio book specifically as it is important and has a chuckle-worthy story. Cory Doctorow is publishing and audio book of his latest novel, Attack Surface, and in order to combat the Amazon / Audible monopoly and their requirement to use their Digital Rights Management software on audio books they distribute, Doctorow is self-publishing the audio book. Attack Surface is the third book in the Little Brother series. If you recall back in May, Little Brother was Book #18 for 2020 and I did not recommend it to the casual reader at the time. The message around digital surveillance and the need to fight for the right of privacy and security is important though and I really want Doctorow to be successful so I happily backed this project.
The chuckle-worthy story relates to what I posted in May. There were some scenes in Little Brother that were awkward to read to my daughter and so I posted a comment on the Kickstarter page. Doctorow's response is pasted below.
My reading time continues to ebb, and I really have not dug into anything in about a month. I did finish one book though this week. Book #35 for 2020 was a re-read of "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan. We own hard copy versions of each book in the series but I have only read the first seven of the fourteen books. I am hoping to read them all over the next year or so. I read this one with my daughter and it was a great experience, and we just started into the second book last night.
I mentioned in August 2019 that my friend Cam gave me an Advanced Reading Copy version of this book. I did not read through that version in case there were differences in the text. Regardless, it was great to read and I am now more excited to plow through the series than I ever have been.
Just one new beer this week, and once again it is from my local and much-loved brewery, Alley Kat. The latest sampled ware from Alley Kat, and beer #684 unique check-in on Untappd, is the most recent in their Dragon Double IPA series, the Southern Star. Alley Kat continues to get the DIPA series right. Great hops and citrus but without having the bitterness overpower the taste. Really enjoyable. (4.0 / 5)
Not a lot of reading, so not a lot of new words, except of course all those words that Jordan created for The Eye of the World.
Greetings. It was a weird week personally for me, with turmoil and angst that turned to clarity and finally relief.
Turmoil to Angst to Clarity to Relief
It was about this time in 2015 that I was interviewing for a volunteer position on the CKUA Board. The whole process took months, with the Board approving my nomination in October and then the CKUA Foundation ratifying that decision at the Annual General Meeting in January 2016.
The little more than four-and-a-half years I spent on that Board have certainly taught me a lot. I understand financials better. I understand not-for-profits better. I have learned more about human motivations, both mine and for others. The most significant learning however has been about entitlement. My time on the CKUA Board came to an end this last week because I did not fully understand how much of a reaction our actions would cause to a small handful of entitled individuals. Do not get me wrong - we made mistakes, most notably in our communications to the Foundation members. But those mistakes could have been overcome with a more reasonably-minded and less entitled set of stakeholders. We executed a decision in June that was wildly unpopular with those stakeholders, and so began the turmoil. As we worked an unreasonable amount of hours to satisfy the stakeholders requests, the angst grew as it became clear we would never make them happy.
In the end, my time on the Board came to an end as we realized on Wednesday what we had to do, and then resigned en masse on Thursday. The clarity turned to relief on Thursday as I hit send on the email to the Foundation members that included our resignation note. The relief was solely because we knew that we would no longer have to face those entitled stakeholders and hear their misleading comments.
I am going to post a long form article on entitlement. I drafted most of it in late July at near the peak of the turmoil that I and the rest of the Board was going through. I will come back and edit this entry with a link once it is up.
I found myself with more time this week than expected. Funny how that worked out. I finished one book that nearly was done in time for last week, read about one-third of a non-fiction book and about half of a murder mystery.
Book #31 for 2020 was "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. I came to this novel as a result of seeing it on my older daughter's bookshelf and then realizing that the HBO series "His Dark Materials" was based on the trilogy that Compass is the start of.
I can definitely see why this novel would be an interesting basis for a television series. It has evocative characters with lots of imagery, wildly interesting twists on technology and magic, and a plot that twists and turns without becoming confusing or muddled. I am looking forward to watching the series, but I think I will read the next two books in the series first.
If I had a opportunity to provide feedback to the book publishers, I would definitely suggest they update the cover art on the books. What I saw on the book cover and what I read are two different things. I knew it was a YA book, but the cover art made me think it was another "Polar Express", admittedly a fine book in its own right, but not a dark tale at all. Compare the book art with the publicity material for the television series and I think you will agree.
Regardless of that bit of personal preference, I definitely recommend this book.
It was a quiet week for new music, pun definitely intended. The only album that I added to my Music Finds playlist for this week was "Pleased to Meet Me" by The Replacements. The friend that recommended this album said that The Replacements were one of his "favorite snotty rock bands ever". You can tell my friend is a music fan based on how he can classify his favorites into sub-specialties as focused as that.
I did enjoy the album and as I read a short bio for the band I noticed that lead singer Paul Westerberg had two songs on the soundtrack for "Singles". Singles was a huge movie and soundtrack for me in 1992 as I got ready to leave university and not be, you know, single. So while that soundtrack was not a music find for me this week, it was a nice nostalgia trip to get reacquainted with it from a link to a new-to-me artist and album.
There were a couple new beers this week, bringing my unique check-ins on Untappd up to 680.
Check-in #679 was the Irish Red from Hell's Basement. Admittedly, I am not a fan of reds, but this one seemed to have a too-harsh taste to it. The Red was my fifth check-in from Hell's Basement and this is right at their average of 3.0 out of 5. My overall average across my check-ins is around 3.3 so I have some definite evidence to indicate Hell's Basement is not a brewery I should personally seek out.
Being on a personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world will eventually land you at a table in front of this beer. Check-in #680 was the River Valley Golden Lager from Big Rock and it scored the same as the Red at 3.0 out of 5. However, it was a pleasant surprise instead of a disappointment, especially since - or maybe as a direct result of - it was $1.75 a can. Nothing super mind you, but I have spent more on worse beers.
A lot of new words this week. My readings are really disparate lately with a general theme of British influence, in particular Victorian-era Britain and technology.
Hello from a foggy and chilly morning from 53.5° north latitude. As with last week, this week was consumed by work, and while that was interesting and exciting, there really isn't much from that to report here. One new beer, one article, an RPG book, a sojourn with nature, and a couple new words. Let's get on with it, shall we?
I did read a bit this week, but not nearly as much as I was earlier in the summer or the spring. I will probably have a couple books finished by next week, but nothing for this week. The reading rate has decreased in the last few weeks, but I am still on pace to finish 56 books which is by far the most I have read in a single year.
Maclean's released an article by 338Canada summarizing recent polls for the upcoming federal election. As of today there are only 50 days until the election, and there is a good possibility that voters have already decided who they are going to vote for. If that is the case, analysis of the polls at this time might be a good predictor of the result in October.
According to 338Canada's analysis, the Liberals won the most seats in 57% of their simulations with a majority in 30%. A minority result for the Liberals would have to be deeply disturbing for every party. That result for the Liberals after their big win in the last election is an indictment on Trudeau's inability to deliver and likely highlights his constant parade of gaffes. Anything other than a majority for the Conservatives would show that Scheer is less effective than Harper, especially with the gift of the SNC-Lavalin fiasco and the ethics commissioner's report that was laid on his lap, In the simulations, the NDP get hammered, with less seats even than they won under Mulcair, making supporters likely want to question Singh as their leader. I suppose the Bloc might be okay with 13 seats as at least they still have their base. The Greens are predicted to win 4 seats, and I can't imagine that number could be spun into anything positive, but you never know what May is going to say. The only scenario to make any party happy is a majority, and that looks increasingly unlikely.
Kayaking at Elk Island:
Elk Island National Park is roughly 75 km from my driveway. I can leave the house and be out there in about an hour. As I found out today, I can be on the water in a rented kayak in less than 90 minutes after I leave the house. Haskin Canoe has a rental shack right on Astotin Lake, which is super convenient. I was able to capture a couple great shots from the water of the lake islands and some waterfowl on the lake. However, the nearly ancient camera I used to take the pictures uses an SD card, and I don't have a single SD card reader in the house. Maybe I'll find some tech in the next week and will be able to salvage those pictures. In the meantime, here are pictures of a bison and a few deer I grabbed with my phone.
After several months of waiting, my copy of "Strongholds and Followers" arrived a few days ago. This is the D&D 5e supplement written by Matt Colville and produced by his company, MCDM Productions. Strongholds and Followers provides guidance on how to take a mid-level character through the process of creating a base of operations and having it populated with relevant NPCs. The idea is fantastic for people that want to explore how their characters influence their world through more than dungeon crawls and fighting. I really hope I get into a campaign where I can use this supplement.
A friend of my brother said back in the university era that Bono could fart into a microphone for 60 minutes and he would still buy the album. I am like that with Colville. I love his style and thought process for how he approaches be a better Dungeon Master, and he seems like the kind of person that would be great to hang out with. After hearing Colville talk about this project on his YouTube channel, his Kickstarter campaign raised over $2 million Canada with over 28,000 backers. That implies that it isn't just me who feels that way about Colville.
This week was pretty limited on the new beer front. There were a few beers from Common Crown in my fridge, but alas, they were not new. The only new beer was a double-hopped 8.2% ABV from Brewsters, the Mad Hops Double IPA 2019. Nice taste, not too bitter, with a high ABV without a whole lot of booziness. Good stuff from Brewsters once again (3.75 / 5). This one gave me the 2X (Level 5) badge from Untapped, for 25 beers with Double or Imperial in the name.
Not a lot of reading this week, so not a lot of words.
60 Minutes interviewed Samuel L. Jackson. I would say I am a fan of Jackson ("Kong: Skull Island" excepted), but I don’t think I ever thought of him as a truly interesting person, any more than any other celebrity. The interview gave me three reasons to rethink that. First, Steve Kroft tries to call out his actions on campus in the 1960’s as part of student protests against the Vietnam war (6’ 20”). Jackson’s reply was a cool “That’s just one day in a life.” In other words, judge me by the course of my life, not by one moment that you see as a weakness.
Second, he described his goal for his impact on the stage (13’ 27”):
"You want to light it up to the point that when you leave, people want to go with you. I hope that's who I am when I show up.”
Third, he desperately wanted to be in the Star Wars prequels, and would not have let ego or pride stop him from doing so, even if the role was only the chance to play a Stormtrooper running across the screen.
IDW released The Highest House in March, 2018 and I only picked up the first two issues a couple weeks ago. The comic is beautiful, and the story is rich and deep. I special-ordered the remaining four issues, and I can’t wait for them to come in. It is also a larger-format comic, which provides more room for the art to shine. Fans of comics and of good fiction should check this out.
Life lessons from comics:
Speaking of comics, I finished “Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow” (another comic from last March that I just got to now), and there is a brilliant quote that I plan on using.
“One plan is nothing. Two plans is a plan.”
Life lessons from business / self help books:
Another great quote this week came from the performance coach, Peter Jensen, in his book, “Thriving in a 24-7 World”.
“Focusing on everything is focusing on nothing."
I just read “Grounded” by Miki Dare, as part of the Tesseracts 20 anthology. Dare created a new world with new ideas with beings that weren’t human in an environment that was totally alien yet entirely relatable, all wrapped around heartbreaking emotion. That is great speculative fiction.
New words this week:
whipsaws (third person present) · whipsawed (past tense) · whipsawing (present participle) · whipsawn (past participle) · whipsawed (past participle)
(Whipsaw was used in an article about Trump, so yeah, it was the "cheat or beat / collusion" definition.)
Three new beers this week. First, two local brews from Analog Brewing. In Another Castle is a peach and mango IPA that I wasn’t a fan of (2.75 / 5). However, their Bull’s Strength strong ale was much more to my liking (3.5 / 5). Finally, the Javalanche coffee stout from Banded Peak Brewing was quite good (3.75 / 5). Reminded me of the Iconic Milk Stout from Stiuation.