Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. I read the above Tolstoy quote in "Calendar of Wisdom", a book of daily readings that Tolstoy compiled near the end of his life. I challenge anyone to look at the world and say that this is not good advice. I am reading Tolstoy's Calendar to complement "War and Peace", which I am reading with the r/ayearofwarandpeace subreddit again this year.
Moving on, I made a technical change in the past fortnight to improve my personal security. I have added email to my robertwmartin.com domain and am running all emails for that domain through ProtonMail. I resisted for a long time due to the personal change management effort - moving subscriptions from Gmail or career contacts to Outlook / Live will take a lot of work and time. However, I feel that moving to a system that is paid for independently of generating advertisement revenue for the email provider is in my better interest.
The user experience with ProtonMail is decent in comparison to Gmail or Outlook. There are things I would like, such as the ability to color-code calendar entries and the ability to add a map link to "location" field in an invite (but I know exactly why that does not happen), but even with those deficiencies the experience is fine.
In other news, this past fortnight saw me finish two books, discover a great jazz Discord, sample four new beers, and learn a handful of new words. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Book #3 for 2022 was "Babylon's Ashes" by James S. A. Corey, the sixth book in the Expanse science fiction / space opera series. This was definitely my least favorite of the series so far. I found it dragged on much longer than needed, and most of the characters seemed flat and wooden. From discussions with others, it seems the series picks back up in the next book so I am sure I will continue with it, but there might be more of a gap between books this time as this book dampened my enthusiasm for the series.
One item I think of often when I read the Expanse books is how much time they spend flying between locations. Living in the pandemic where for months on end my world had shrunk to my house or yard must be similar to living on a ship like the Rocinate travelling between planets. It is not hard to envision the Rocinate being similar dimensions to the mid-sixties lot my house sits on, so the comparison of the physical restrictions seem reasonable. In addition, most of the interplay between the main groups of characters, especially in this book, is done through screens. I suppose I do not live on the float and have to propel myself around the house by grabbing handholds, but there are similarities that I think of as I read through the series.
Book #4 for 2022 was "The Secret to Superhuman Strength" by Alison Bechdel. I do not read a lot of autobiographies and did not know anything about Bechdel before picking up this book, so it was not obvious that I would read this book. In the form of a graphic novel, Bechdel decomposes herself from birth to 2021 and does so while explaining how society has changed around her, while struggling herself with change. I had no interest in reading anything by Jack Kerouac previously, but now I might based on Bechdel's book. That is a sign of a great book in my mind - something that makes you think and helps change your mind about something.
For that reason, I mentioned on my "Club Read 2022" post on LibraryThing that this is a book that will stick with me. It might not have as much impact on you, but I do encourage you to read it to find out for yourself just in case it does resonate with you also.
As I mentioned in the intro, I discovered a jazz music Discord that I really like. Jazzcord is a helpful community of jazz fans with good discussions about music and artists, and an Album of the Week recommendation. If you are not into Discord, there is also a website that has some articles reposted from the Discord.
Last week's Album of the Week was a 1960 live record of Cannonball Adderley called "At the Lighthouse". Adderley's "Mercy Mercy Mercy" is one of my favorite songs, so I was excited to listen to more from him. Tidal has a remastered version of the album and it is a great listen. Adderley died after a stroke in 1975 at the age of 46. He left us a lot of great music before passing.
There were four new beers in the past fortnight along with one coffee. I am not ready to review the coffee yet but will do so next week. Spoiler alert: meh.
For the beers, they were the latest in the Alley Kat Dragon Series of DIPAs, the Idaho Gem Dragon (3.25); the Debbie Approved IPA from Rural Routes out of Leduc, a new-to-me brewery (3.5); the Raspberry Milkshake Stout from Rochester Mills out of Michigan (3.25); and, another from Alley Kat, their Back Alley Brew limited run Calm Unity Red IPA (3.5).
This brings my unique check-ins on Untappd to 855 for an average a new beer every 2.93 days since I started tracking. Of note, that is down from the new beer every 2.74 days when I started writing on this site.
All four of these came from Bechdel's books.
Show Notes - Week of December 7, 2020
Greetings and welcome. My home at 53.5° north is surrounded by icy roads and sidewalks but for the most part the weather has been fairly nice. The ice coupled with my second flat tire in a month restricted my outdoor riding this week, and the short days as we approach solstice are not helping increase a desire to get outside. But in a week the days will start getting longer once again, so the worst is almost passed.
Not much else happened this week. There was a lot of talk in Alberta about the mockdown / lockdown restrictions, and I did try out one new beer. But alas, that is all I have to report this week. Let's talk about the COVID restrictions, and what one former Albertan thinks of our plans.
"The evidence is that there's no conflict between what's right for the economy, what's right for people's health … people in hospital don't spend money." --Stephen Duckett, former CEO of Alberta Health Services, and currently one of the architects of Australia's plan to reach zero COVID cases
When Alberta Health Services announced its first CEO, my boss looked across the table at me and arched his eyebrows, visually asking me if I had any idea who this Stephen Duckett was. I of course had no idea. The short and turbulent tenure of Duckett is probably worthy of a book in itself, so I will not get into that here. What I will say is that in the limited times I was in the same room has him, it was clear he was intelligent.
CBC interviewing Duckett about what is happening in Alberta is a bit of inspired journalism and clickbait all rolled together, but there is some merit in understanding what Duckett is saying. In essence, under a plan that he co-authored, the idea was to do a substantial and complete lockdown, "done once and done well" as Duckett said. The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne and is home to 6.4 million people has not seen a single case his the end of October. Even at the peak, Victoria only saw 700 cases a day.
Looking at the most recent COVID stats for Alberta paints a much different number. A jurisdiction with a population of 4.3 million people registered over 10,000 new cases last week, so over 1,000 cases a day. Plus our numbers are going up drastically, including our hospitalization rates. The comparison is tainted by the difference in seasons of course, as Victoria is going into summer not winter, but even with that it seems that we had the wrong approach here in Alberta.
"It's an outdated view, of course, because we now know the evidence is pretty clear that the best public health outcome is also the best economic outcome." --Stephen Duckett
The argument the Alberta government espouses is that chasing a goal for zero COVID cases is illiberal and extreme. Premier Kenney has touted supported for Charter freedoms as a rationale for not forcing a complete lockdown and for waiting for the level of lockdown that he has implemented. So instead of three months of hard lockdown, we did what we could to keep the economy open. It is hard not to think that this government values dollars over lives.
I did not make it to Hope as I, pun intended, hoped I would. As I type this on Sunday morning, I am a moderate ride away from getting there and chances are I will be able to hammer through a stationary bike session later today to get it done. But for now, I made it about half way to Hope and have my sights set on Merritt.
I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to albums by Art Blakey and Brian Eno. Those two albums were the only entries in the Music Finds playlist of this week.
Eno's album "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" was from 1983 and the Extended Edition featured twenty-three tracks. It took me a while to get into it, but after the first three tracks I was really enjoying it. "Silver Morning" and Deep Blue Day" on Volume 1 and "The End of a Thin Cord" on Volume 2 were real standouts for me.
"Is it True 'Bout ..." is the sixth Art Blakey album I have listened to since the summer and this was much more to my liking that the last couple. The version of "Round About Midnight" was fantastic. Plus it had the 1'40" "theme song" and after hearing that on multiple albums, I have to smile when I hear that woman trying to whip up the crowd: "Art Blakey. ART Blakely. ART BLAKEY."
Just one new beer this week, another version of the Jelly King sour from Bellwoods Brewery. As I went into Untappd to check this new beer in, I realized I made a mistake. Back in October, I checked in the Jelly King sour, but as you can see from the picture, I checked in the Pink Guava version. I was not really a fan of that one and gave it a 2.75 / 5 rating.
Beer #704 was the normal Jelly King sour, and it was better for sure, but I still don't think it was as good as my Untappd connections stated. It could be that I am not into sours right now given the colder weather, or it could be that I am bored with grapefruit flavor. Either way, I only gave this a rating of 3.25 / 5.
Greetings from … 37.8° north latitude. That's correct, I am not writing this from my hometown of Edmonton, but rather from San Francisco, specifically the corner of Bush and Van Ness. I am down here for the RSA Conference and more specifically the ESAF session held annually on the first Monday of the conference. It is the highlight conference for me each year and I am really glad to be attending this year after having had to skip last year. In addition to attending ESAF, coming to San Francisco affords me the opportunity to spend the day at some of my favourite places like Blue Bottle Coffee and Yuet Lee for supper. However, I have to say that I was significantly disappointed that the Jack in the Box on Geary is closed indefinitely. I absolutely look forward to a Sourdough Jack when I am here, but it appears I will be denied this year. Thwarted by building maintenance!
The week-that-was was a good one. I finished off a couple books, had a couple beers, and got together with my new D&D group. There were a few new words as well. Plus there was the last minute decision to travel to San Francisco which has certainly added to the week. So without further ado, let's dive in.
I commented last week that my Meetup D&D group was meeting for the first time. It was a great experience with five players showing up. Most of the people who showed up were absolute newbies, so there will be some learning for sure, but that's part of the experience. The age range was quite pronounced as well, with two of the players roughly my age and three between roughly 16 and 25. I will have to work to create a table that honors and respects the different ages and perspectives. No one ever said that a gamemaster was an easy job.
I finished two books this week, putting my 2020 total at nine. That is slightly over one book a week, and that reading rate makes me quite happy.
Book #8 for 2020 was "Dodger" by Terry Pratchett. This was the first non-Discworld novel from Pratchett that I have read. It was sent in Victorian England, so clearly not the fantastical setting of the Discworld novels, but Pratchett's charm and wit was evident throughout. It is a great novel about an urchin who uses his brain and strong moral compass to pull himself up from the sewer, figuratively and literally, into upper society. It was delightful reading how Dodger thought and reacted and learned so quickly. A bit racy to be reading to your 12 year-old daughter though, but still really enjoyable. (Note how the WorldCat link above notes it as a "senior high" appropriate novel. Oops.)
There is a quote early on in the novel where our young hero is thinking about his lot in life and his ability to affect change to his life. I highlighted it because I thought it was worth reflecting on.
The whole of life was a game. But if it was a game, then were you the player or were you the pawn? It seeped into his mind that maybe Dodger could be more than just Dodger, if he cared to put some effort into it. It was a call to arms; it said: Get off your arse!
Book #9 for 2020 was "Career of Evil" by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and I am still really enjoying these novels. This is my least favourite of the three however, largely due to the forced epiphany scene near the climax. Even with that, it was still well-written and suspenseful, and the tension between the two protagonists is really well done. I picked up the fourth book in the series at a used shop a few months ago, and I imagine I will dig into that soon.
Three beers this week, with one really good, one pretty darn good, and one awful.
The first beer was the awful one. The collab between Village and New Level was really disappointing. I actually wonder if mine had gone bad. It was very astringent and undrinkable and I couldn't finish it. I'm not a huge fan of Village but they do produce solid beers, so this was not expected. (1.5 / 5)
Luckily for me, things got better after that. The second beer was the Leffe Blonde. This is a solid beer worth drinking. It was a bit sweet, but the 6.6% ABV didn't show up too much in the taste. The overall quality of this beer is even more impressive given its mass-produced status and ownership by InBev. (3.5 / 5)
My favourite beer of the week was the Mulled Lambrusco Sour from Odd Company, yet another new brewery from my hometown. Odd Company touts themselves as "chemists who started brewing as a hobby in the garage" which implies that they will be brewing some pretty unconventional beers. This sour I had was a great foray into their craft, with a crazy amount of cinnamon aroma. It smelled like those cinnamon heart candies, but the cinnamon didn't show up in the taste. (I think that's a good thing, because that much cinnamon would have hurt to drink!) It was definitely a sour though, with a mouth-puckering taste. The copper color was also really well done. I'm glad I tried this and am looking forward to having more from Odd Company. (4.0 /5)
A handful of new words this week, primarily from War and Peace and The Count of Monte Cristo.
As I sit at my computer to write this entry, 53.5° north latitude is a frigid -18°C. The forecast has us popping slightly above freezing this week, but it is December after all, and December is typically cold and frozen. But still.
Luckily the workload has decreased significantly without a single meeting scheduled for this weekend. Even last weekend getting better with nothing scheduled for the Sunday. With the scheduled returning to normal, we now just have to figure out which "normal" we are returning to - September 2019 or September 2017.
As some semblance of normality returns, regardless of what level it is, the reading and the personal engagement are returning, and with that a few new words as well. Still not a lot of new beers though. But with that as preamble, let's proceed.
"When you understand what is to happen and why, you are more able to accept and comply." - Gus, coworker
Gus said that in a meeting a few days ago, and it struck me how true it was. People don't like to do things they don't understand the rationale for. They still might not like what they are being asked to do, but if they understand it, they will grumble while they do it, but at least they will do it. A great reminder for those of us that have to institute process and rigor.
"You can have strong opinions, but they have to be loosely held." - Brad, coworker
Another reminder for teams implementing process and rigor. I have long told my teams that they cannot be the "pedantic application of theory people" and this is a related message to Brad's quote. Have a deep knowledge of your domain and be able to articulate the value it brings. Be able to argue the impact of not implementing your process or control. But then stop. There is no need to implement for the sake of theory. There is no value in implementing something that is not going to integrate with the rest of your business.
This is not to say you should not implement process, rigor, or controls that are not popular. Protecting corporate assets and customer data is not done to win friends around the office. I just think we need better reasons than "best practice" or "it is in the framework". Know your framework, and then go in to the conversation with an open mind.
Sacha Baron Cohen on Facebook, Free Speech, and the Internet:
A friend of mine introduced me to the WTF podcast by Marc Maron a few years ago. I don't listen to it often, usually only for the interviews with people I already find to be fascinating. The first WTF I listened to was Maron's interview with Barack Obama, and the second was his interview with Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen has created characters that are able to shine a spotlight on the absurd, rude, racist, biased, and downright awful parts of people and society. It was with that interest in the comedian that I watched Cohen's acceptance speech for the International Leadership Award from the Anti-Defamation League.
The speech was a takedown of how Cohen sees social media spreading hate and lies, going so far as to say that "this can't possibly be what the creators of the Internet had in mind". This is in reference to the lack of checks and balances governing social media, especially in contrast to traditional broadcast media. Cohen calls for a "fundamental rethink" of the governance and oversight for social media.
Cohen particularly targets Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in the speech, calling "bullshit" on Zuckerberg's arguments of free speech over regulation. Zuckerberg and other social media billionaires such as Twitter's Jack Dorsey are likened to "high tech robber barons". Cohen appeals to have societies "prioritize truth over lies, tolerance over prejudice, empathy over indifference, and experts over ignoramus".
The whole speech is well worth 24 minutes of your time. The article I read about this is here and the video is also linked directly here.
I said in the preamble that I have been able to read more regularly again after about six weeks of Reading Drought. The main focus last week was to re-borrow "Abaddon's Gate" from the library and finish it off since I only got half way through before work consumed me.
This was another good book in the Expanse series. My reading of it of course suffered by being interrupted, but it was good even with that. Since it is the third book in the series, it is difficult to discus the plot in any detail. However, there were a few great quotes from the book that are worth sharing. The first might be seen as depressing or even blasphemous to spiritual individuals, but there is a lesson in the last sentence that regardless of what we are made of, we can still make a difference.
There are no souls. ... We are bags of meat with a little electricity running through them. No ghosts, no spirits, no souls. The only thing that survives is the story people tell about you.
This quote probably needs a lot of background of the book series to really make sense, but I think this can be extrapolated to the technological society will live in, and the dangers of not fully understanding our actions.
Holden was starting to feel like they were all monkeys playing with a microwave. Push a button, a light comes on inside, so it's a light. Push a different button and stick your hand inside, it burns you, so it's a weapon. Learn to open and close the door, it's a place to hide things. Never grasping what it actually did, and maybe not even having the framework necessary to figure it out. No monkey ever reheated a frozen burrito.
These two sentences apply to natural disasters, but there is also relevance to those of us that work in disaster recovery planning for complex information systems as well.
Disaster recovery could only go two ways. Either everyone pulled together and people lived, or they kept on with their tribal differences and fears, and more people died.
Just a single new beer in the past two weeks. This was the 2019 version of Brewster's Blue Monk Bourbon Barley Wine. Barley wines can often be so high in ABV and in boozy flavor to be nearly undrinkable. I would even say that previous years of the Blue Monk suffered from those characteristics, but this year the flavor was spot on and the there wasn't the overpowering hit. Really good stuff. I should go back and buy a few bottles. This also earned me the Beer-giving 2019 badge on Untappd.
With reading comes new words. It feels good to stretch the vocabulary again.
Show Notes - Week of October 7, 2019
Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving from 53.5° north latitude. This week's post will be remarkably short unfortunately, mainly as a result of our relentless push toward launch of our new system in three weeks. Only one solid idea worth sharing, hardly any reading, one beer, and one new word.
I kinda feel like I'm living in a Three Dog Night song this week.
I participated in a meeting this week where one person was providing commentary on what to expect at the launch of our system. He made a comment about how to provide feedback in a stressful time that I quite liked:
If you don't have anything nice to say, at least be specific.
In other words, if you have feedback but cannot put it nicely or politely, at least make the feedback succinct and detailed enough that the recipient can do something with it.
Just one new beer this week. Beau's All Natural Brewing Company is a brewery that I had not
This section has evolved over the six months that I have been writing on this site to be called "New Words". However, this week is really should be called "New Word", since there is only one word to share. Old habits die hard, even if they are less than six months old.
Hello once again from 53.5° north latitude. It is post-Sunday supper as I write this, and it is a chilly and misty evening. A week past labor day and it feels like Halloween. But alas, the weather can only bring us down if we choose to let it. There was lots of good stuff this week, so let's dive in.
Your Daily Dose of Cynicism:
Let's start off with quote from a person with a decidedly cynical view on people. The cashier at a local liquor store said that if I didn't need a bag that would be good because "these bags hold up like most people's promises". I spontaneously laughed and immediately thought I should write it down, but after I did, I felt sorry for the cashier If that is his outlook on life. I am certainly a glass-half-empty person, and have often said that sometimes it feels like my glass broke last week. However, I work hard on being as positive as possible and that conscious effort takes a lot of work. I see in him a bit of who I was not so many years ago, and I know how living with a negative outlook makes life so much harder.
I regained some of my reading momentum in the last week, which makes me feel quite good. I had to jettison a couple books because I just didn't feel compelled when I picked them up. I will invariably try to read them again in the future, but for now, I had to move on.
My week was spent reading a good portion of "Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari. I am finding Homo Deus to be similar in style to "Sapiens", also by Harari, in that it is informative, thought-provoking, and incredibly accessible. The commentary about the treatment of animals stemming from our dominant monotheistic religions has really made me think about religion and even our contemporary humanism. Even his minor thought experiment and context-setting-aside about suburban lawns was thought-provoking enough for me to put the book down and think for a while. To me, that is the sign of a great book.
The premise of the book is about what humans will become based on our technology and outlook as of 2016. At the end of the second chapter, Harari talks about how we are becoming more reflective about the fate of the animals around us potentially because we are about to be left behind by the next evolution in humanity.
We are suddenly showing unprecedented interest in the fate of so-called lower life forms, perhaps because we are about to become one. If and when computer programs attain superhuman intelligence and unprecedented power, should we begin valuing these programs more than we value humans? Would it be okay, for example, for an artificial intelligence to exploit humans and even kill them to further its own needs and desires? if it should never be allowed to do that, despite it superior intelligence and power, why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs?
Also this week, I finished "Jed and the Junkyard War" with my younger daughter. I picked up a copy at the local library and noted with chagrin that it was published by Disney (technically Disney Hyperion, whoever they are). I was concerned that the book would be overly commercial and saccharine, but it was definitely not that. It was good enough for me to recommend it to you, and good enough for us to look forward to diving in to the sequel.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not Worth the Effort:
There I said it. I have now watched Endgame, and 20 other MCU movies. The only missing one is Captain Marvel, but I don't think I missed too much of the overall plot by skipping that one. I think with the investment of time it took to watch all of those movies, and in a few cases rewatch (because apparently you have to watch them in order and no one told me that until like 2014), plus all the time I spent reading plot summaries to figure out what the hell I missed from movie to movie, I feel confident that I am entitled to the opinion that I wasted my time.
I applaud the effort and moxie it took to pull all those story lines together, not to mention all of those talented actors, directors, and writers. But really, in the end, why? Cynically of course, one can point to the money. According to the IMDB link above, Endgame cost $356 million to make, but made all of that back in the first weekend in the US alone, and then went on to rake in nearly $2,8 billion since release.
But that is why the studio made the movie, not why anyone should watch it. Is it worth 50+ hours of your time, and $125 of your money, assuming you rent each movie online? I don't think it was. It was overly complicated and could really only be understood if you fully immersed yourself in it. There were a few funny scenes, and a few scenes that were even moving, but overall I just didn't feel ... satisfied. I didn't feel like cheering the heroes or lamenting the fallen. At the end, it was just ... over. And thankfully at that.
My wife thinks it is cheating to look up something in order to solve a crossword puzzle. I have a different viewpoint. I agree that looking up specific clues just to get the answer does seem a little off-putting, However, looking up "1925 trial name" and then finding out about the Scopes trial in Tennessee is different, at least in my mind. In the former case, all the search does is give one an answer without the requisite knowledge. In the latter, I can now say I understand how it was illegal to teach evolution in state-funded schools at that time in Tennessee, and how the trial was really about modernists versus fundamentalists. As the Wikipedia article liked to above notes, it was "a theological contest and a trial on whether modern science should be taught in schools". So yeah, totally not cheating.
Two new beers this week. First was the Common Crown Ploughman Hopped Wheat Ale. This was a decent beer from a quality brewer. Second was the Sea Change Irish Red Ale, which is a hazy, malty brew with a higher punch than one might think for a 5.0% ABV. That is a similar comment to what I said for Sea Change's Session Ale a couple weeks ago. I'll have to investigate further if there is something in their malt or yeast that I am consistently picking up on. The only badge this week from Untapped was The Great White North (Level 86).
The new words picked up this week as a direct result of reading Harari's book. Plus there was at least one that was checked just to make sure, and one repeat.
Hello from 53.5° north latitude. Life continues to be consumed by work, which is likely the steady state reality for the next ten weeks or so. There is not really much to report on as a result, but for what it is worth, here is what happened this week.
David Foster Wallace 2005 Kenyon Commencement Speech:
I was poking around on Mark Manson's site looking for something inspiring to read and I came across a post of Wallace's 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College. The text is available, in addition to an audio recording on Soundcloud. I really like the speech, and wondered if I would ever be able to write something so elegant and thought-provoking. The following excerpt really stood out for me:
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving… The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
I mentioned last week that we spent most of the weekend at a family reunion. That experience resparked my interest in genealogy, and as a result, I spent a couple hours one evening going down rabbit holes looking for traces of my relatives online. I found one fascinating individual, who isn't related to me by blood, but is still on the family tree. Specifically, Captain Charles Edward McCune is the father to the wife of my first cousin three times removed. The obituary of Cpt. McCune, which can be found here, references his prowess in navigating a ship in the stormy waters the same night as the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. I can't say I was familiar with that disaster, but the story is fascinating to read, and clearly McCune had some serious skills given the storm was a 10 or 11 on the Beaufort Scale.
Quote about spoilers:
Picked this up from Aardvacheology, which is a site I sometimes read through my Feedly feed.
Do spoilers bother you? There’s an easy cure. Quit watching / reading what everybody’s currently talking about.
Friends bearing books:
I was able to spend time with my friend Cam on the weekend. He and I go back to Grade 2, and we spent most of our childhood together. He and I also went through university together, he in mechanical engineering and I in electrical. As with a lot of relationships, we haven't seen each other much at all in the last 15 years, even though we swap emails on birthdays and other occasions. So let's just say it was mighty awesome getting to spend a handful of hours with someone that I have known since I was seven years old.
But what does this have to do with books, you ask? Well, take a look at these pictures:
Cam found an Advance Reading Copy of "Eye of the World" which of all the books I have read in my life, it probably influenced my reading more than anything. I have to say I'm not a huge fan of the series, and even though I own the whole series, I have never read past Book 7. However, Eye of the World was one of those magical finds where I picked up a random book and got totally hooked. And now nearly 30 years after picking up my first copy of the book, I now have four versions of it - mass paperback, hardcover, trade paperback, ARC (in order of acquisition). Note how the front cover is different than what went to print, and look at that back cover sans barcode. Pretty cool. Thanks, Cam!
Maybe someday I will share the story of my conversation with Robert Jordan as he signed a copy of Book 10 for me.
Two new beers this week. First was the Keeper's Point New England Ale from Ribstone. I really like that one. It was refreshing but complex enough to be interesting. Great stuff. (4.0 / 5). Next was the Salty Senorita Kettle Sour from Situation. I'm a big fan of Situation, and I'll gladly try whatever they have brewed. This was a good beer, but wasn't sour enough for my taste. If you are new to sours, this would be a good gateway for you. (3.5 / 5). The only Untappd badge this week was Middle of The Road (Level 57).
Only one new word this week, which isn't surprising given how little I read this week.
Hello again from 53.5° north latitude. If anyone is in fact reading this, or ever will read this in the future, it will be obvious that this entry is for a two-week period. That is because our family was on the coast for a week, including last Sunday, which is when I typically post these blog entries. To give you an idea of what our vacation was like, the picture below was taken from the north shore of Salt Spring Island, one evening close to sunset.
Salt Spring Island and Edmonton are both in Canada, but in some ways are so far removed from each other to be foreign nations. The Saturday market in Ganges on Salt Spring is quite similar to a Saturday market here, but there are more people selling "natural" remedies that "harness the power of nature", with sellers making statements like "rose resonates with the natural harmonies of love". If the use of quotation marks doesn't make it obvious, these are not ideas that I personally give much credence to. However, there are many people on the island and in streets and shops in Victoria that are more removed from the necessities of commerce and action than myself or the people I typically interact with, while still remaining grounded in a world that I can relate to. One was a metal worker at an outdoor market on Bastion Square in Victoria. We talked to him for quite a while and bought one sculpture and would have purchased several others if the budget would have allowed it. On the back of his business card, he has a quote that I quite liked, and will use it as an anchor in my own life.
The nature of life is a circle. You define the circumference; the centre defines you." -- Mead Simon
Somewhat contrary to expectations, the amount of reading done in the week-long vacation was much lower than usual. I read one novel, finished a short story, and completed a book on philosophy that I started weeks ago.
First off, I finished "On Basilisk Station", which I mentioned in the last entry. It was good, but I remembered too much of it for this re-reading to be special. I originally rated it a 4.0 / 5, but this reading had it at maybe a 3.0 or 3.5 tops. I wonder if my tastes in books has changed in the 15+ years since I read this the first time. If I don't really like the second book in the series, I suspect that is the case.
The short story was "Gods of Risk", which is the second short story in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. This was was a lot longer than "The Butcher of Anderson Station", the Expanse short story that I mentioned in the last post, and it probably wasn't as good but was still enjoyable. The best part was how the story wasn't about Gunny Draper, but really it was. Read it to find out what I am. As with "Butcher" it is hard to rate short stories, but I'll say 3.5 / 5, but a stronger 3.5 than "Basilisk".
The greater the scientist, the more he realizes that his laws and labels, descriptions and definitions, are the products of his own thought. They help him to use the world for purposes of his own devising rather than to understand and explain it."
He also rails against the constant need to change, for improving, and going faster. This is probably where the references to the contemporary smart phone era came from. Instead of focusing on how to make the current better, why not focus on the current as it is?
How long have the planets been circling the sun? Are they getting anywhere, and do they go faster and faster in order to arrive? How often has the spring returned to the earth? Does it comes faster and fancier every year, to be sure to be better than last spring, and to hurry on its way to the spring that shall out-spring all springs?"
The journey Watts takes the reader on also addresses human emotion, connection, and love. Love for others, Watts says, can only come when the person understands that it is impossible to love oneself, because to use the words of Watts, there is no "I", there is no separation from "I" and the self.
Everyone has love, but it can only come out when he is convinced of the impossibility and the frustration of trying to love himself. This conviction will not come through condemnations, through hating oneself, through calling self-love all the bad names in the universe. It only comes in the awareness that one has no self to love.
This is a book that will probably gain from occasional re-reads and reflection. I encourage you to read it.
The Huawei Threat:
There is a lot of interest in Huawei around the world, and in my industry it is something that needs to be understood. If equipment from Huawei is in fact being used to capture information and relay it back to China, there is no way it can be trusted to transmit our sensitive information.
There are large national security issues, and there are many political issues that arise from the Huawei situation. It is difficult to wade through the stories to get to a common understanding without facts and without dispelling myths and rumors. The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has written an article and produced an accompanying infographic to help with that.
It is important to do your own research on Huawei and come to your own conclusions if there really is an issue to be concerned with. If you think this won't impact you personally, realize that your next smart phone service will likely be 5G and there is a good chance that it will run at least in part on Huawei equipment. And on a more consumer level, walk by any mobile provider kiosk in your local mall, and see how many of the new phones on display are in fact from Huawei.
On a Lighter Note - Murder Mystery:
"Murder Mystery", the latest Adam Sandler film on Netflix, was pretty enjoyable. It spoofed the classic mystery genre - obviously hated individual is murdered, locked room, everyone with a motive - and added in a classic Sandler sad-sack character, and even threw in a pretty great car chase. Enjoyable stuff if you have 90 minutes and a Netflix subscription.
Only four new words this week, with one being a word I just can't seem to ever grasp.
Show Notes - Week of June 24, 2019
Hello from 53.5° north latitude. It was a fairly quiet week with most of the effort this week channeled towards preparing for a bit of time off work.
A new arms race is underway, bringing with it the threat of a new Cold War. This article in the New York Times describes what the US is doing to develop a hypersonic missile system. Hypersonic is apparently defined at any speed over Mach 5, with some of the systems described in the article operating at Mach 10, 15, even 20. The weapons travel at "mile-per-second" velocity and are largely unstoppable. They operate too low for one defense system, too high for another, and could take out missile bunkers, seats of power, individual leaders, or even the US aircraft carriers.
This technology is not limited in scope to the American or Russian militaries. The Chinese, Indians, French, Japanese, EU, and Australians are also investing in the technology, according to the article. Interesting, scary, fascinating, and unbelievable, all rolled into one topic.
Roosevelt quote on "The Man in the Arena":
I came across this quote in a meeting this week. It is from Theodore Roosevelt in 1910:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt
Reading this week was focused one book, "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson. This was the easiest Gibson novel I have read to date, with fairly limited new concepts to have to assimilate. It was also his first novel after 9/11, and so I found it interesting to read a novel written a year after 9/11 depicting a time a decade or so after the fact, and how the characters processed and were still affected by what happened. Clearly the events of September 11, 2001 were fresh in Gibson's mind as he wrote the novel.
As far as a story goes, it was good. Not great though. I was hoping for some sort of Wintermute meets Putin meets Versace-clone, but that didn't happen. It did have some memorable characters, but not ones that were memorable enough to feature in other interrelated stories. I suppose that might be too much to expect again from his novels, but I would love to see it.
On a lighter note, Gibson penned a new acronym that I love: LOMBARD - lots of money but a real dick.
Other reading started at the end of the week: the aforementioned "Command and Control" and a re-read of "On Basilisk Station" by David Weber.
Only one new beer this week, and that was the Ebony Dragon from Alley Kat. I didn't really like it too much but I wasn't sure why. I read a few reviews on Untappd and "resin" came up a few times. I wonder if that is indicative from the Denali hops. Something to explore. (3.25 / 5)
I also unlocked Level 14 of the Beer Explorer badge on Untapped. I don't know what is the difference between the 25 countries unlocked last week and the 70 regions unlocked this week, and unfortunately the stats in Untappd are a bit lacking. I am contemplating becoming a Supporter again to figure out if I can parse that sort of detail out of the stats provided to Supporters.
Speaking of stats, I hit 600 beers with 563 unique entries since March 23, 2015, which means a net new beer every 2.77 days.
Show Notes - Week of May 20, 2019
Related to "Lemon Juice":
Following up on my comment two weeks ago about opinion, entitlement, and how some people are unskilled and unaware of that fact, here is a quote from "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson.
They knew many things but had no idea why. And strangely this made them more, rather than less, certain they were right."
Quote about Inspiration and Motivation:
This came from Freakanomics, specifically the third episode in their series on creativity:
And there is a quote from Chuck Close that I’ve heard many people quote, which is “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” And I think that that’s really true. You sort of have to just be ready so that when you kind of encounter that magic moment, you’ve got the muscle memory and the experience and the instincts to let you grab that opportunity."
A disappointing week for new beers. I had two from the latest Big Rock sampler. Their "craft" lager was void of anything craft, as far as I could tell (2.25 / 5). Their Jackrabbit light American ale was better, but that's not saying much (2.5 / 5). Finally, I had the collaboration between Blindman and Troubled Monk, but I think the keg at the Wine and Beyond was flat. Quite disappointing. (2.75 / 5).
sans-culottes (plural noun)
[kalˈsednē, CHalˈsednē, ˈkalsəˌdōnē, ˈCHalsəˌdōnē]