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.
Happy holidays for all those celebrating, and for those that are not, peace and joy to you as well.
This is the second Christmas with minimal visiting and socializing, but all is not bad. Not having huge meals to prepare or large numbers of guests to provide for has made for a very relaxing holiday season. A few visits would have been nice, but I am not sure I want to go back to the mad rush of visits with dozens of people when we get out of this pandemic. I like how Neil Pasricha put it in his #pandemicedition of 1000 Awesome Things for December 25.
Regular readers of this site will notice that I missed posting last week. Since there was not a mad rush leading up to the holidays, I was confident that I would post last week. However, the week leading up to the holidays was filled with responding to the log4J vulnerability. There are numerous articles discussing what this vulnerability is and how pervasive it is, so I will not go into detail here. My December 2021 prediction is that we will still be discussing this in December 2022 due to the number of breaches this causes. log4J has been described as the worst vulnerability ever, and the timing for its release could only have been worse if it had come out while many people were on holidays, instead of one week earlier.
Beyond log4J, the last fortnight was filled with finishing two books, one milestone on the virtual tour, four new beers, and one new word. Let's jump in.
I finished two books in the past fortnight, one I had started in 2020 and my favorite murder mystery to date.
Book #42 for 2021 was "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. I absolutely loved this book, but I did not finish it in 2020 when I first picked it up. The reason is that I saw the title of this YouTube video and without watching the video, I felt like the book was completely spoiled for me.
As a result of seeing that title, Rothfuss's book sat on my shelf sixty percent read for about seventeen months. When I finally picked it up again, I was able to immediately recall the story and the characters. I attribute that to how great the writing is. This is a great book and I am looking forward to the second and eventually the third books in the series.
Book #43 for 2021 was "Sparkling Cyanide" by Agatha Christie. As I mentioned above, this is my favorite murder mystery to date. It was not the most suspenseful and it did not have the most startling reveal, but the setup and character development was superb. In the end, I was surprised but not shocked and ultimately satisfied as the murder could have been done by anyone of the main characters. If you only read one novel from Christie, I suggest this one.
Cross-Canada Virtual Tour:
My progress toward virtually crossing Canada has been significantly hampered since early August because of the bike failure, a back injury, and then treacherous ice conditions. My bikes are fine, and I can maintain my back strength once again, but progress this week will also be limited due to the extremely cold temperatures outside.
That all said, I was able to finish the Upsala-Thunder Bay segment, which completed - finally - the Winnipeg-Thunder Bay leg. I started that leg September 6, which means that it took nearly four months to complete 723 km. Not good.
But at least progress has been made. Thunder Bay is an interesting location with a population of approximately 108,000. Thunder Bay was two cities, Port Arthur and Fort William, until January 1, 1970, which I found surprising. Wikipedia does a good job of documenting the rivalries of the two cities, plus their involvement in the fur trade, colonization, and assimilation. In keeping with my previous cataloging of airports for each stop, Thunder Bay is serviced by an international airport, with the IATA code of YQT.
Here is the updated progress chart, complete with the segments for the next leg of the virtual tour, from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.
Four new beers this week, with two that were worth recommending. Snake Lake Miss Mermaid Pale Ale (3.75 / 5) and Juxtapose Four Winds IPA (3.5 / 5) are worth trying. The two that you should not bother with are the Leżajsk Pełne Lager out of Poland (2.5 / 5) and the Anarchist Amber from Cannery Brewing in Penticton (3.0 / 5).
Just one new word, assuming the words Rothfuss made up for his book do not count.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. It was a quiet week with the focus on work items and little time for extracurricular activities. There were no books finished, or even read this week, so no Reading Pile or New Words updates to provide. Physical ailments limited exercise to walking so there is no Cycling Update to give. The new coffee and beer updates can wait until next week.
That leaves two items of note, one work and one personal.
The work item is a video that we recorded this week with AHS CEO Verna Yiu around cybersecurity. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and we continued our increased focus on security messaging in October again this year for at least the fifth year in a row. For the message, I was joined by Victoria Lane, our Chief Privacy Officer for our discussion about why "Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility".
The personal item is that Campaign 3 for Critical Role launched this week. If you are not familiar with Critical Role, it is a stream of "nerdy ass voice actors sitting around and playing Dungeons and Dragons", that wording taken directly from the show. If that seems weird to you, think of it as a long-running television show built around a fantasy setting and a game mechanic. So yes, one could say it a bunch of people rolling dice, but it really is unscripted improvisational acting with story elements driven by choices from the actors more so than by the dice rolls.
I started watching Critical Role Campaign 2 about 30 weeks after it started and never did catch up. In fact, I still have not finished Campaign 2 which completed this summer. The story is great, and the actor-players are amazing, but I never watched all the episodes due to the extent of the backlog that I had to work through. I always find it very daunting to catch up on any shows that have a season or two already released. The calculation of how much time I will have to spend to catch up usually turns me off, regardless of the show. With each episode of Critical Role averaging well over three hours, being 30 episodes behind means at least 80 hours of viewing time while watching at 1.25x normal speed.
Anyway, why is that important you ask. Well, for Campaign 3, I am going to try and stay current with the show instead of having to catch up later. I am not certain I will be able to do so, even if the story is great. Time will tell.
If this interests you at all, there is a good primer of Critical Role here, the Twitch stream is here, and the video-on-demand stream is posted on YouTube on Mondays. Finally, if I keep up with it and find interesting items to talk about, I will post them on the Gaming section of this site. Do note though that I consider Critical Role to be NSFW and not something you watch with your younger children.
Happy 2021 from 53.5° north!
I took last week off from writing as I needed time to rest, recharge, and reflect. It seems everyone else had the same thought, especially in regards to reflecting. A lot of content crossed my feeds about how crappy 2020 was, how glad we can be that it is finally over, and that better things are ahead.
I have multiple problems with those statements and the underlying attitude that creates statements like that. First of all, it is not guaranteed that 2021 will be any better and I am concerned that people are setting themselves up for a great disappointment. Second, not everything was bad in 2020 and it is important to recognize the good instead of simply bemoaning the bad.
The following text was something I sent to a person I got to know somewhat in 2020, somehow who I have followed online for a long time. The pandemic and the disruption to our lives was terrible, not mentioning the impact to human life across the world. However, I was able to take some solid positives out of the past year, and I hope this helps you reflect on your year more positively as well.
2020 was the year that I was able to connect with people from London to Toronto to Perth to Boston to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle to Vancouver to Hawaii. The very fact that I needed to be in my home office allowed me to (forced me to?) reach out and connect. It was not the same people every day. It was new people and new experiences. Granted it was not traveling to meet face to face, but the only way to meet with someone seven time zones away one day and another person four time zones the other way the next was to do this virtually. 2020 gave me that opportunity and for that I am grateful.
As 2020 came to a close, news outlets, consulting groups, social media networks, independent journalists and pretty much every other organization came out with a summary of 2020, and of course the focus of many of these summaries was COVID. Two that I really enjoyed were from Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. I featured the McKinsey charts on changing leadership behaviors from McKinsey a few weeks back. The one chart that really staggered me was the one about how many children are now learning from home. See the image below.
In other news, the cybersecurity industry was stunned by the extent of the SolarWinds breach. From a day-job point of view, I have read a lot about this and have a good understanding of what this means. I also have some information that is probably circulating in the CISO circles globally but is not public knowledge. In addition, I have a few subscription services that I could reference, but those are behind paywalls. As a result, I will stick to information in the public domain.
One consistently good source of analysis regardless of topic is Lawfare. In this post, the timeline of the attack is discussed. It is vital to understand that this is not something that was done, discovered, and remediated in a few weeks or months. This was an attack that was planned and executed years ago, and was executed with serious skill.
Thus, SolarWinds can be understood as the result of the operational success achieved three and a half years ago. --Dr. Richard J. Harknett, Lawfare
Even if we could wave our magic wands and remove the affected versions of the SolarWinds software, the scope and scale of the access this breach provided means we will be working to remediate for years. It is not hyperbole to say that we might never know the impact and cost associated with this breach. I am sure I will have more to say about this in the future.
I had a goal in 2020 to read 52 books, or one a week. I hit a terrible reading drought in September but still ended up with 48. I had to finish four of those books in the last ten days of the year, but a book read is a book read regardless of when it is read.
Book #45 for 2020 was "The Great Hunt" by Robert Jordan, the second book in the Wheel of Time series. I finished the first book in the series back in September and was really glad I read the second book. I have had issues with the length of the series and a few of the gender stereotypes but I think this read of The Great Hunt helped clarify what Jordan was trying to do with his characters. Yes, the brooding-emotionally-distant-male and feisty-but-emotional-female tropes do exist, but the characters do have depth beyond the stereotype. I am glad I re-read this and am looking forward to the third book in the series.
Book #46 was the sixth and final book in the FunJungle series, "Tyrannosaurus Wrecks". My younger daughter and I read all six books in the series in 2020, and I said in late November I was not sure that I needed to finish the series. However, the final book in the series popped up as a loan from the library and so we decided to plow through it. In the end, it was an enjoyable book, and a great series, and I am glad we read it together. But six YA books in one series in a year was a bit much.
Book #47 was the Tolstoy classic, "War and Peace". I started reading this on January 1, 2020, and finished it on December 31, 2020. I did not read a chapter a day as I suggested a year ago, but I did follow along with the Reddit book group for a large portion of the year. This was a book that made me think a lot, and I think that reflection was worth the 1224 pages and 366 days of reading. There is probably an entire long form post about War and Peace, but I am not sure I could say anything that has not already been said. Let's leave it at the fact that I am glad I read it.
Book #48 and the final book for 2020 was "Wyrd Sisters", the sixth Discworld book from Terry Pratchett. I really wanted another Rincewind book as I find him a wonderful if hapless protaganist, but the Witches were really interesting characters - funny, intelligent, completely stupid, all at the same time. I am looking forward to reading at least a couple more in this series in 2021.
And finally, we need to get into the books for 2021. Book #1 for 2021 was "K for Killer" the eleventh book in the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. This was a really enjoyable story with a few gasp-worthy moments and a decent enough story to keep me up late two nights in a row. The elapsed time in the book was less than a week, so the story moved along quite quickly, and that kept me reading. It was not the tumultuous ending that some of the other Millhone / Grafton novels have had, but in a way that made this one more satisfying.
With that book started and finished in the first three days of the year, I am on pace to read 121 books in 2021. I probably will not get quite that many, but you never know what the year will bring.
I felt pretty good about my cycling in the last two weeks, even though I only rode for 112 km. The fact that I am getting out is part of it, but my rides are getting more challenging. It feels good to push myself up a hill, especially on a heavy, old bike with studded tires in the middle of winter.
I finished the segment to Merritt and am twenty per cent of the way to Kamloops. According to Wikipedia, Merritt has a population of about 7,000 people, with an economy focused on ranching, farming, forestry, transportation, and tourism. Being only 87 km to Kamloops and 270 km from Vancouver, it is probably close enough to other centers to have what it needs and far enough away to remain a small town and close community, but honestly on the drive to the coast, it has never been more than a pit stop for me.
Looking at this entry, it might seems like lots of new beers in the last two weeks. However, five beers in fourteen days is a new beer every 2.8 days which is only a bit faster than my pace since I started logging on Untappd. (For the record, my pace is one new beer every 2. 98 days) The five beers this fortnight were a dark ale, a strong ale, a scotch ale, a sour, and an IPA. Definitely winter beers in that selection.
Beer #706 was the Squid Ink Cascadian Dark Ale from the Olds College Brewery. Not bad, a bit bland but I think that was by design - a dark ale without the big booziness or powerful flavors of a winter stout. Decent enough to drink the four pack, and happy to support our local great agricultural college and brewmaster program. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #707 was the Hot Summer Nights IPA from SYC Brewing in Edmonton. This was a really good beer. There was a lot of juiciness, and the hops were strong but not overpowering. Easy to drink fast but watch out for the relatively high ABV for an IPA. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #708 was another 2020 Alberta Beer Week Unity brew. This one was led by Railyard Brewing out of Calgary. A decent beer with a lot of flavor. Seemed a bit flat but might have just been my can. I will look out for other beers from Railyard after this one. (3.25 / 5)
The fourth beer in the last fortnight was another Alberta brew. Beer #709 was the Haskap Aromatica Sour from Odd Company Brewing in Edmonton. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. Great color and aroma. The flavor seemed a bit off though, but that might have been because it was not cold enough. (3.0 / 5)
The last beer in the fortnight was from British Columbia. Beer #710 was the Hopraiser West Coast IPA from Howe Sound. Howe Sound is a brewery, a brewpub, and an inn in Squamish. Sounds like my kind of place. Back to the beer, the Hopraiser was not bad. It had a fair bit of hops and a fragrant aroma. Got a bit of malt in the taste but other than that, it was a bit bland. (3.25 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, partly due to all of the reading and partly due to the fact that I am catching up on all of the flagged words from War and Peace over the year.
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 from 53.5° north latitude, the land of near-summer daytime temperatures, open playgrounds, and a populace inching towards showing their middle finger to the concept of social distancing.
Thanks go out this week to the Public Sector Network for inviting me to deliver a speech on building a culture of security awareness in an organization. The slides are available here, but probably won't be all that useful without my narrative to accompany the deck. If you are interested in watching the security awareness videos referenced in the presentation, the full playlist is available at this link.
Beyond preparing for and delivering that talk, it was a pretty quiet week. I was able to start and finish a Douglas Adams classic, tried a quarter dozen new beers, and learned (and relearned) and a couple new words.
Let's get on with it.
I took a break from the Patrick Rothfuss masterpiece this week because I didn't have enough mental energy to properly focus on it. I'll jump back into it this week, so it will be even later in June before I finish it.
Book #21 for 2020 in its place was a re-read of "Life, The Universe, and Everything" by Douglas Adams. This was definitely my least favorite of the Hitchhiker's series so far. It had some interesting conceptual twists but lacked the irreverant humor that made me laugh out loud while reading it that made the first two books so memorable. It might have been a better written book in some regards, and is probably more serious than the first two books. If that was intentional, I can imagine how much resistance Adams would have received in changing the style of his novels after the success of his first two books. I wonder if that was why he followed up the Hitchhiker's series with the Dirk Gently books. Maybe I should pick those up again.
The point above about authors changing their writing style reminds me of a quote I heard from Neil Gaiman about eighteen months ago. He said that everyone pushes you to write something original and new, until they like your first book, and then all they want is more of exactly what you already wrote.
Twenty-one books in twenty weeks means I should be able to hit my target of 52 books this year when you factor in the group readings of War and Peace and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Two new beers this week, with one coming from a favorite brewer and the other continuing my foray into traditional European beers.
First up was the Life In The Clouds DDH IPA from Collective Arts. Before diving into this one, I had to figure out what a DDH IPA was. Thanks to Craft Beer Joe for deciphering the acronym to mean Double Dry Hops. The DDH process definitely explains the bold hoppiness of this beer, and why there was so much pineapple and citrus flavor. It was hazy but much more filtered than some of my previous selections. This was a very tasty beer that I would happily have again. (3.75 / 5)
Second up was the Destiny IPA from Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks in Richmond, B.C. This had a ton of taste, fruit, and hops. Seven hops varieties, and I was only familiar with four of them. Good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
The third beer this week was a European Pale Lager called Tatra produced by the marcro Zywiec. This was pretty decently tasty lager with a fairly crisp and slightly bready taste. Nothing to complain about. (3.25 / 5)
Just a couple new words this week. Apparently Douglas Adams didn't have much to expand my vocabularly in his third book, especially since one was a repeat.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where the week that was was worse than the week that was last week. In short, I felt bad at the start of the week, felt worse as the week progressed, and have now been tested for COVID. So yeah, pretty much sucky. I won't talk about that here because I am trying my hand at a long form diary for my maybe-COVID-journey.
There were some interesting highlights from this week, a couple new beers (back earlier in the week when I didn't feel quite so bad), and a list of interesting words. Upward and onward!
First up were two interesting experiences in online media consumption. Early in the week, I watched both an opera from The Met and a concert from The National. The Met streamed "Werther", and The National released footage of a concert from last August on YouTube. To be able to watch both of those on the same day was quite remarkable. The National will continue to be one of my favourite bands so they will get money from me from albums and (hopefully one day!) concerts, but I will have to think about sending some money to The Met to support their choice to stream from their archives..
In the category of self-promotion, I was part of a webinar with three other security executives and a current Board-level moderator. Thanks to Securonix for inviting me to speak at the session which covered general info and cyber security areas, but also highlighted a few healthcare-specific topics as well.
If you are so inclined, it is available on-demand here, and here is my little behind-the-scenes look at how I set up my recording area. It was difficult to get the camera set up properly, and I am constantly struggling with how the image width changes between video conferencing tools. Skype for Business barely showed any of the bookcase behind me, but BrightTalk showed all the way out the door. I have another session on May 29, so I have a bit of time to make improvements.
One more note before we move on to the beers and words. In early- and then mid-April I mentioned a reading group pulled together by Adam Greenfield. This week we read Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto", which was more of an essay than a book so I won't count it in this year's reading list. Manifesto was thought-provoking and much easier to read than most of what we have delved into, but was still pretty dense. This was our last meeting of our reading group unfortunately, but I am definitely happy for the experience.
Early in the week when I felt decent, I tried a couple new beers. The first was the Tyskie Gronie lager out of Poland. Decent. Did the trick but nothing more than that. Then again, if that's all you ask and you get what you ask for, then that's a win in my book. (3.25 / 5) The other beer was another from Postmark. I tried out their Juicy Pale Ale a couple weeks ago, and was quite happy with it. This time it was their Westerly IPA which started out great. Nice citrus and hops but a disturbing amount of sediment. The sediment knocked the rating down a peg or two. (3.25 / 5)
A handful of new words this week, largely from the reading and discussion in Greenfield's reading group, and I am pretty sure one is a repeat.
Greetings from 53.5 ° north latitude. The week was filled with reading and guitar and little else. So really, a pretty awesome week.
We are just finishing up the nineteenth week of 2020, with the first week of the year being a few days short of the full seven. I'm doing well with my reading, clocking in at an average of one book per week. If I can keep it up and also finish War and Peace and The Count of Monte Cristo with those reading groups I have previously mentioned, I will read 54 books this year. That is a momentous number and would be a hard mark to surpass in my pre-retirement years.
Book #17 for 2020 was the audiobook version of Simon Sinek's "The Infinite Game". Sinek came to my attention during an executive education program I was enrolled in in 2013 - 2014. His TED talks about leadership related to his earlier books continue to be a popular favorite, wracking up millions of views. This latest book is short but worth the time. Sinek distills his thoughts about why an infinite mindset built with thoughts of the long-term and abundance is superior to a finite mindset built with only the short-term in mind and with a focus on scarcity. One quote that stuck with me was that "leaders are not responsible for results; they are responsible for the people that are responsible for the results." That is a good maxim to keep in mind while leading teams and organizations, as is Sinek's comment that we should "go slow now to stop problems later."
Book #18 for 2020 was "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow. This was a book I decided to read with my older daughter, and it opened a lot of conversations about surveillance and the Internet, It was also about a teenage boy falling in love, so that kept me scanning a few lines ahead so that I could strategically avoid certain topics.
This was my least favorite of Doctorow's books that I have read so far, mainly because I already understood the lessons he was communicating, but also because of the somewhat jingoistic references to the US Declaration of Independence. I was probably a bit overly sensitized to references to the Declaration because Sinek also raved about it in his book as the ideal infinite game.
Would I recommend this book? Probably not, at least to a casual reader. Would I use it to reference the problems with surveillance technology. Sure, but something like Bruce Schneier's "Secrets and Lies" or "Data and Goliath" would be better, albeit non-fictional sources.
Book #19 for 2020 was "The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes" by Mark Urban. This was a historical account of George Scovell, the man that provided Wellington with vital intelligence in the war against Napoleon's army in Spain and Portgual. Scovell used captured communications to decipher both the Army of Portugal and grande ciphere used by the French.
Urban was able to write the entire book from journals and official war correspondence, and so it provides an interesting portrayal of Wellington, Napoleon's brother Joseph, and the French marshals in the Iberian conflict. The marshals are shown to be vapid and selfish, and completely vested in only their own wealth and position. They are clearly not in this war for the infinite game of anyone beyond themselves. Urban also highlights the cultural and societal biases of the British gentry and of Wellington in particular, and holds that up against the barbaric behavior of the common British soldier.
This was an interesting read, and especially interesting in light of the shared backdrop with War and Peace and Monte Cristo. The impact Napoleon had on Europe in the early 1800s can clearly not be overlooked. I'm glad I read this book for that reason, however, it was not as focused on George Scovell as I would have liked. I understand that Urban could only write this history from his sources, but it would have been nice to have more information about Scovell's early life or retirement years. Scovell seems like he would have been a great person to know and I would like to know more about him. This quote from Scovell definitely helped me form that opinion of him.
I think it by far the most instructive part of a campaign to know why we fail; success is in the mouth of everyone to account for. --George Scovell
Regardless, this is a good book both to get an idea of the mindset, diligence, and meticulousness of an early cryptographer, and to get another perspective on the Napoleonic era.
With all that reading, there are bound to be a lot of new words.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. If my weeks had themes, this week's theme would have to be "The Triumph of the Introverts". I could see the struggle and the fatigue in the faces and hear in the voices of my friends and coworkers this last week. What seemed like a holiday a few weeks ago, a chance to hang out, try some new tech, ignore the commute, turned this last week into the slog of quarantine. The fact that we haven't hit the peak yet, that we have a significant amount of time before isolation ends, the fact that we should mentally prepare for another wave in the fall, has all taken its toll on those around me.
But not everyone is doing poorly. Some of us, the introverts especially, are faring much better. One might even argue that we were made for these times. If you have a deep-seated need to be in physical contact with someone, you are going to be in a much worse place right now than if connection via video conference is sufficient for you. Mental health issues will be paramount while and after we deal with the physical issues. I'll point out the same mental health support videos that I highlighted in last week's entry. Watch them for yourself and those close to you, and share those with others in case they might benefit as well. Even if you are doing better than most because of your innate personality and genetic makeup, it is highly unlikely that you are immune from mental health concerns. Take care of yourself.
There were a few other COVID-related items worth highlighting this week. The first was this combination sun hat and face shield. My spouse is looking seriously at getting one, but for some reason I just cannot take it seriously. The company selling these hats has various other "Health Protection" items for sale, but the main categories of their products on their web site include "Spring Fashion" and "Accessory and Beauty" so I can't help but feel that this is nothing more than a cash grab.
60 Minutes broadcast an interview with Peter Navarro, who US President Trump appointed to lead the initiative to distribute Personal Protective Equipment. Watch that interview for a quick lesson in deflection and redirection, and to see pushback in action instead of leadership. In the end though, 60 Minutes comes out on top with this interview with their mic-drop moment when they highlighted their previous reporting on pandemic response after Navarro openly challenged their role and leadership.
And speaking of a lack of leadership, take a read of this article and a look at the picture below to see what happens when poor leaders lead poorly. Note the vitriol of the Trump supporters with their MAGA hats and their "Don't Tread on Me" flags, all because of the American cellular-level need for loudly protecting personal freedoms, rekindling the "age-old U.S. debate over government regulation vs. personal liberty", fueled by a leader who just cannot lead.
There is more to life, well my life at least, than COVID, so let's talk about something else for a while, shall we?
Cybersecurity is important to everyone, and I would be remiss if I did not pass on this note about CIRA's new Internet protection service they call "Canadian Shield". CIRA touts their DNS privacy service, ransomware blocking, and pornography filtering service as "enterprise-grade protection for all Canadians". It is super easy to setup and free. If you are Canadian and don't already have access to a similar service or commercial offering, there is no reason why you shouldn't configure your home network using CIRA's Canadian Shield settings.
There was a lot of reading in my life this week, and I was able to finish one small book. Book #14 for 2020 was Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor", the third book in our social science reading group hosted by Adam Greenfield. We only read excerpts of the first two books, but this week we read the whole book from Sontag. To be fair, it clocked in at a paltry 88 pages, but I will count it as a full book regardless.
There was a lot of very powerful language in this book; language that made me think about the social "value" of diseases, and how two diseases can be viewed so differently. A lot of the book is focused on tuberculosis, and early in the book, Sontag discusses how the consumption and wasting comes from TB has lead to the skinny mindset in the twentieth century.
Twentieth-century women's fashions (with their cult of thinness) are the last stronghold of the metaphors associated with the romanticizing of TB in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Sontag then contrasted the new waifish chic brought along by TB with how their male contemporaries stereotyped themselves.
Gradually, the tubercular look, which symbolized an appealing vulnerability, a superior sensitivity, became more and more the ideal look for women—while great men of the mid- and late nineteenth century grew fat, founded industrial empires, wrote hundreds of novels, made wars, and plundered continents.
I'm glad we read Sontag's book, but I couldn't help but feel it was dated. The book quotes Kafka a couple times as he ultimately died from TB in 1924. One quote from him from 1920 said that he had an illness of the mind that had moved to his body. Sontag's book was written in 1978, meaning there is a span of 58 years between his quote and Sontag's book. At present in 2020, there have been 41 years since Sontag wrote this book, which is getting close to the gap between Kafka and Sontag. Think how much has changed in collective thinking in those 41 years, and it seems that a 2020 Sontag book on the same topic would arrive at new conclusions.
It is unfortunate that Sontag passed away so many years ago, as it would be insightful to read a 2020 version with a new foreword by the author.
Lots of new words this week from a combination of War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo, Sontag's book discussed above, and a new science fiction book that I will hopefully be able to finish this week.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where it was well above freezing today, but of course all that means is that the puddles will freeze overnight. Still very little to show for the week now that I have worked 28 straight days without a break. The fatigue is really becoming a factor. Only a couple articles of note, and a couple beers. Hopefully there is more to report in the upcoming week.
More on Capitalism:
HBR published this article entitled "Is the Business Roundtable Statement Just Empty Rhetoric?" back in August, but it only came to my attention in the last week. I have written about capitalism a number of times on this site. This article highlights a potentially important shift in the ultimate purpose of a corporation. Shareholders have been touted as the primary concern for organizations for nearly fifty years. Shareholder primacy is the cornerstone of neoliberal economics. But now the Business Roundtable is shifting away from shareholder primacy to creating value for all stakeholders. Their one sentence mission statement states the promotion of the (American) economy "through sound public policies".
This would be a significant shift for companies as it would require moving from a short-term to a long-term outlook. A move to focusing on results through sound public policies would force companies to do more than just make money. It would put them on equal footing with society, which of course they are a part of, in finding solutions to today's big issues.
... the world faces enormous, thorny challenges that business is feeling: climate change, growing inequality (and awareness that these CEOs make hundreds of times more than their employees), water and resource scarcity, soil degradation and loss of biodiversity, and more. These issues require systemic efforts, cooperation, and pricing of those “externalities” (like pollution and carbon emissions) that business has been able to push off to society. The current shareholder-obsessed system is not fit for this purpose. Individual profit-maximizing businesses will not be incentivized to tackle shared global challenges.
I'll keep reading more from the Business Roundtable group and will see if they have other information worth reporting.
More on Huawei:
Back in July, I commented on the security threat posed by Huawei and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's push to socialize that threat. Last week there was an article in the Globe and Mail outlining how Canadian intelligence agencies could not agree on whether to ban Huawei equipment in the upcoming 5G communications networks. The article is unfortunately behind the Globe's paywall,
The article highlights how CSIS wants to ban Huawei while the CSE says "robust testing and monitoring of Huawei's 5G equipment could mitigate potential security risks". Security is not easy. It is a constant battle of detect, respond, change, and repeat. The foes on the Internet are constantly forcing us to adapt and react. Forcing security teams to focus on testing the network infrastructure in addition to all the work that is required to testing what is running on the network is ludicrous. We don't have enough resources to do the work we need to do now. Adding to the workload is a bad idea. I am fully behind the position that CSIS is taking: ban Huawei now.
Two new beers this week. The first was the Sunset Summer Ale from Smithers Brewery. I had their Hudson Bay ISA last week and this ale wasn't quite as good as that one. It had a bit of caramel nuttiness, low carbonation, and a high ABV at 5.5% for an ale. It was good all around but not exceptional.(3.25 / 5) The second was another Backalley Brew from Alley Kat. This was nice and light., with a little zip from some tangy carbonation. Tasty without screaming "pay attention to me". (3.5 / 5) No badges from Untappd this week.