Greetings from 53.5° north latitude on the second day of the new year. This week's post highlight items resulting year-end reflections and from the year-end rush to finish as many books as possible.
Before we get to that, look at this following image from a Daily Hive article from Monday.
On Monday, 14 of the 15 coldest places on the planet were in Canada. In addition, I live in one place on the list and have lived in three others and have visited eight of the other locations. I must really love living here to put up with this weather.
In other depressing news, there was a fantastically bleak opinion piece in the Globe and Mail this week titled, "The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. Canada must prepare." The author, Thomas Homer-Dixon, discusses the "weakening of U.S. democracy", "ideological polarization", and how "between 20 and 30 million American adults believe the 2020 election was stolen". Homer-Dixon proceeds to discuss five, maybe six, parallels between America today and Germany prior to the rise of Adolf Hitler. The article does not leave much room for hope, but it closes with a request, almost a plea, for Canada to do more to stop what will potentially happen to our only neighbor in the near future.
Canada is itself flawed, but it’s still one of the most remarkably just and prosperous societies in human history. It must rise to this challenge. ---Thomas Homer-Dixon
Okay, so it is brutally cold, and our closest ally and only neighbor is potentially into a nosedive into anarchy. Is there anything positive to reflect on? Yes! I finished another perfect year of Solitaire. Take that radicalized American polity!
I finished two books this week prior to the start of 2022 and ended up with a total of 45 books read in the year. Not bad, but not my best effort. One of these years I will actually hit 52 books in a year.
Book #44 for 2021 was VALIS by Philip K. Dick. I have never been a fan of Philip K. Dick (and no, I was not going to say I am or am not a Dick fan) (and yes, I am still 12), as his writing is not nearly as good as his ideas. However, VALIS was both interesting and intriguing. Unlike other books by Dick, I found myself interested in the story. I do not claim to have understood everything in the novel due to the complexity of the topics - see the New Words section below as evidence of that. However, in the end I feel that I understood it enough. But what is it about? That is hard to say, but the description on WorldCat does a pretty good job of summarizing the plot.
A theological detective story in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime. The schizophrenic hero, a Dick alter-ego named Horselover Fat, begins receiving revelatory visions through a burst of pink laser light. As a coterie of religious seekers forms to explore these messages, they are led to a rock musician's estate, where a two-year old Messianic figure named Sophia confirms that an ancient, mechanical intelligence orbiting the earth has been guiding their discoveries. ---Synopsis of "VALIS", from WorldCat.org
Book #45 for 2021 was the final book in the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Harry Potter has been an enormous cultural influence in the past quarter-century, with the release date for the first book sometime in 1997. I read the entire series once, and then re-read the first few books again as a refresher before the movies came out. I read the first six books to my older daughter, and she read the seventh book herself. In the past eighteen months or so, I have read the entire series to my younger daughter, and on top of that, we are watching all the movies again (well, for the first time for my younger daughter). A few years ago, my older daughter puffed up her voluminous hair and dressed up as Hermione for Hallowe'en, and my younger daughter is currently building a cosplay outfit of Luna Lovegood complete with a copy of "The Quibbler" to read while being held upside-down.
With all the time I have invested in these stories, it is weird to think that I am done with them. A couple more nights to wrap up the last movies, but that is it. I have no intention of reading the books again, and the movies are not good enough to watch again. I know I am getting old and that I am over half-way through my days on Earth, but like I said, it is weird to think that something that has been as big as Harry Potter will just be done for me. Said another way, it is weird to be experiencing a mortality revelation through the completion of a young-adult book series.
As for the book, it was really good, and definitely my favorite of the seven books in the series.
Four new beers this week, bringing my number of unique check-ins to 846. Warka Strong (3.75 / 5), Born Colorado's Mount Massive Russian Imperial Stout (3.75), Maxwell Spiced Mead from Australia (3.5), and Four Winds Nectarous Dry-Hopped Sour (3.75). A really good week for new beers!
I would have had more this week since I was on vacation, but it was too cold to leave the house to go buy more beer.
The novel by Dick was a huge source of new words, largely due to my lack of knowledge in philosophy. The first one below was from Harry Potter though, and I took the definition from Urban Dictionary.
done a bunk
(*Of interest, the phrase "Gordon Bennett" is listed as a synonym for botheration. Apparently, Bennett was quite a hellraiser.)
The denizens of 53.5° north latitude welcome you to the weekly blog. Or at least, I welcome you. It was a quiet week, with two new beers and one book finished. There was a lot of music listened to, but I want to get through it all one more time before I make any comments, so we will leave that for next week.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
Racism is ugly, dehumanizing, terrible. Reading about racism is difficult. Owning up to racist comments or actions is gut-wrenching. But talking about racism is absolutely necessary.
It is easy for us Canadians to talk about how terrible things are in the US, with their overtly racist President who presided over them for four years, and how many of their policies and actions are specifically designed to demean black people. So when I read this week's book, Book #3 for 2021, Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s "Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own", I tried to reflect on what his book about America says about how Canada has historically, and presently, treats the Indigenous people.
Glaude talks about how the insistence of whites to be included in the future is ridiculous, given that they have never been EXcluded before. The insistence of expecting gratitude for providing rights and freedoms to black Americans is revolting, given that the black people should never have had those right and freedoms stripped from them in the first place. In Canada, this is reflected in how we have parceled out tiny bits of land for the Indigenous peoples and expected them to be happy that we gave them anything at all.
Glaude also talks about the need for truth and reconciliation, but how important it is that we know and speak the truth before we can reconcile. I was in my mid-thirties before I even HEARD the term "residential school", but at least in Canada we have started to speak the truth to what we have done. "Begin Again" highlights the lie and illusion of The American Dream and The Promised Land, both of which hide the truth of the racism in America.
The cries of "what about us" and "all lives matter" from whites underscores how distorted the racist view is. It is not that ONLY black lives matter, it is that THEY NEVER HAVE MATTERED in the eyes of so many people. The same could be true about how Indigenous people are viewed in Canada. As Glaude puts it:
... as if talking about a living wage and healthcare as a right, or affordable education, or equal pay for women, or equal rights for the LGBTQ community, or a fair criminal justice system, somehow excludes working-class white people.
Later in the book, Glaude discusses how Trump fits in to today's conversation about race and equality. The important point is that Trump "and his ideas are not exceptional." In other words, admit that America is racist. Admit that this hatred and demeaning of an entire population is a founding principle of America. Trump and "the people who support him are just the latest examples of the country's ongoing betrayal" of the promise of a true and equal democracy.
In Canada, the discussion a few years ago about what to do with the statues of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, pointed out the brutality and cruelty of pretty much every white person in the mid 1800's. This article highlights some of the amazing and awful things done in the name of progress in Canada's earliest days. We are not much better than our neighbors to the south.
I encourage you to read this book, whether you are an American looking to understand your country, a Canadian looking to understand yours, or just someone trying to understand the world in order to start the work in building a better world.
Baldwin's words that Glaude used to title his book are the signal we need. It is not about looking in the past to demonize or glorify, but rather to look to the future and to Begin Again.
It was a decent week for riding. The time in the saddle is increasing, even as the distances decrease. Colder weather means slower speeds. Earlier this morning I went out for a one-hour ride in the -19° C weather and only averaged 15.7 km/hr due to the cold temperature. However, getting out a few times in the cold is more psychologically bolstering than it is a cardio boost.
I was able to complete the segment to Clearwater, B.C. Looking up interesting information on Wikipedia did not reveal too much, which is not surprising given the municipality only became official in 2007 and there are just over 2,000 people there. The one fact of note is that the hospital is named after John Sebastian Helmcken, a physician and politician that was key to negotiating British Columbia's entry into the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Below is the updated image of my progress. I am unlikely to make it all the way to Blue River in this upcoming week, but Valemount (with a U) beckons in the distance.
Two new beers this week, one a pleasant surprise and one a disappointment. I will highlight the pleasant surprise first.
Beer #717 was the Lemon Lavender Radler from Yukon Brewing. Yukon is a brewery that I should pay more attention to. This radler was fantastic and I really, really liked it. It was sweet but not cloying, had nice citrus without the pith, and a smooth taste that was very refreshing. It was the highest rated beer in a long time. (4.0 / 5)
If I were asked to bet last week which beer I would like more before trying these, I would have swapped things around. Lemon and lavender does not sound that appealing to be honest, and the previous drinks from Fallentimber were all really good. Beer #718 was their Hopped Mead. I thought it tasted a bit burnt, and was not nearly as good as their other meads. I also realized that I have never checked in their Meadjito which is superb, so I will buy that again to grab a photo and a checkin. Not every product from a brewery, or in this case a meadery, is going to be perfect of course. One low rating should not take away from how good the rest of their product is. (3.0 / 5)
I will close out this week's entry with a few new words, most of which are from my ongoing catch-up of the words I flagged in 2020 as I read "War and Peace".
Greetings from 53.5° north. Another busy week with all of the COVID support work for the day job, interspersed with a few good rides, some good beer, and good music.
While I cannot, and will not, complain about my life, it is is remarkable how much it has shrunk. I went out today to buy a few groceries and it was the farthest I had been from my house in over a week, bike rides excepted. That might not seem like a big deal, but the grocery store is 1900 m from my house. I am reaching out virtually farther from my house to connect with others than I ever have, but more and more, I am not physically reaching out. I have to wonder if I will be able to connect in person if this continues for another year.
But then again, maybe connecting in person is not something that I really want to do. There was some nasty business years in the making at the US Capitol, and close to home there were pro-Trump rallies. I really do not understand this. Trump is American and we are Canadian. What will a protest in Red Deer, Calgary, or anywhere in Canada do to help support any attempts to overturn the US election? My guess is that those protests were less about Trump directly and more about white solidarity.
I will leave that discussion for now at least and post this image. Imagine being a black police officer looking at that mob.
It was a good week in the saddle. I cycled for 72 km this week, putting my monthly total at 101 km. More importantly, at least with respect to my virtual cross-Canada tour, I finished the leg from Vancouver to Kamploops. I have now cycled 863 km since I started keeping track in pursuit of the virtual tour.
Next up is Kamloops to Valemount. Just an FYI as it was news to me that it is "Valemount" and not "Valemont". This third leg will be 322 km and only has four segments. If you have driven this stretch of highway, you know there are very few towns and settlements along the way. Lots of great scenery, but that is it.
Some fun facts about Kamloops according to Wikipedia. The population of the census metropolitan area is over 100,000 people. The word Kamploops is the anglicized version of the Shuswap word "Tk'əmlúps", meaning "meeting of the waters". Kamloops is technically in a desert, and average temperatures for this time of year are just above freezing. The regional airport in Kamploops has the airport code of YKA.
The images below are the updated chart of the legs and segments to date, and a map view of the next leg to Valemount (with a U, remember that!).
The last few weeks have really seen me get into jazz. This week that trend continues with a bit of journey into swing and R&B.
The first find in the Music Finds playlist this week was the album "HH" from Lionel Loueke. HH is short for Hang Up Your Hang Ups. I assume that at least since Hang Up Your Hang Ups is the first song on the album. Loueke is a jazz guitarist from Benin and I love his style. The HH track I mentioned above, Cantaloupe Island, Watermelon Man and more are all really good songs. I added the songs and the album to my Tidal favorite list so looking forward to seeing more from him and seeing his music influence my feed.
The second find was the album with the journey into swing and R&B. "Last Man on Earth" by Big Boss Man is a fifteen-track album with great guitar, a bright horn section, vocals from multiple guest artists, and a nice clean percussion in the background. I favorited a third of the album so I will definitely be listening to more from Big Boss Man in the future. Note that this was a 2014 recording, so new to me but not new.
Two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up and coming in as Beer #711 was the latest in their Dragon Double IPA series, the Loral Dragon. This one had a striking amber color and had a nice maltiness. I found the taste had a bit too much pepper in it which took away from the malt and the hops. Still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
The second beer and coming in as Beer #712 was their 2020 Holiday beer. This year Alley Kat brewed up a Milk Stout which was a nice change. There was a nice creaminess in this as you would expect from a milk stout but it could have used a bit more flavor. I compared it to the Situation Iconic Milk Stout which I rated at 4.0 out of 5 and this was close but not as good. As with the Loral, still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I was going to catch up on a few words I have flagged in War and Peace, but I thought it would be appropriate to only have one word this week. If there was anything good out of the US Capitol Insurrection, it was that I learned a new word watching the news reports. Many of the media reports discussed how Trump had "fomented" the rioters. Apparently you can foment or ferment discord and rebellion, but you cannot forment it (with an r) as forment is not a word.
Greetings from a snowed-in 53.5° north latitude. The snow fell hard on Friday night and then through Saturday. It was not a snowfall of record amounts, but the amount raised the question of whether or not it was a blizzard. A quick search on The Weather Network came up with this handy mnemonic of the 4-4-4 Rule. Winds over 40 km/hr, visibility less than 400 m, lasting for 4 or more hours. So yeah, we had our first blizzard of the season.
The other big news, arguably way bigger than a simple blizzard, was the US election. After waiting for votes to be counted in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada, the election was finally called for Joe Biden. Now Biden might not be your guy, just as Trump might not be your guy. But regardless of who won, there are some really interesting and important concepts being discussed this week because of the election.
The first came on election night on the 538 election live blog. 538 contributor Julie Azari commented on how much energy was being expended in discussing the shortcomings and nuances of the US electoral college system, and how little was being discussed about the actual issues.
The other point that really stuck with me was the post from 538 Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver about the average voter versus the average reader of 538.
With a caution about stereotyping, I think the guy in the "BBQ, Beer, Freedom" shirt in this news clip pretty much sums up average. Don't believe me? Remember that in this election Donald Trump became just the second presidential candidate to receive over 70 million votes. Barack Obama won 69.5 million in 2008 which was the record until this year.
I have to say how much I admire the man in the purple polo shirt. Joe Gloria, the election registrar for Clark County, was holding a press conference when the "BBQ, Beer, Freedom" guy interrupted by yelling how Biden was stealing the election. Gloria calmly let the man yell, waited for him to leave, and then turned back to the reporters and said, "Where were we? What was the last question?" That is a real pro doing his job.
Switching gears, I had never heard of Eddie S. Glaude Jr. before election day, but this 2'58" speech from 2019 was in the feed of several people on Twitter during election day. Glaude's speech was so powerful and so passionate that I immediately proceeded to buy his latest book. Watch the whole clip and feel the pain in Glaude's words. That hatred that causes that level of pain is what Trump released in America.
There was not much else happening this week beyond some cycling, great music, and some new beers. I did a lot of reading, including Glaude's newest book mentioned above, but did not finish any books.
It was a pretty good week for cycling. I had three solid rides including one after work on Friday that beat the blizzard by a couple hours. I might hop on the stationary bike in the basement and crank out a couple more segments, but the image below charts my progress as of the time of writing (just after noon on Sunday).
I really enjoyed a number of songs I put into my latest Music Finds playlist. The latest album called "Arm in Arm" by Steep Canyon Rangers was enjoyable, with Sunny Days, A Body Like Yours, and Afterglow being really solid listens. I do not think it was as good as their 2015 album "Radio", but still worth a listen.
"Azymuth JID004" (JID standing for Jazz is Dead) has a song called "Friendship Samba" that popped up in my Tidal feed that I really enjoyed. I need to put the whole album in my playlist for next week. This album is an collaboration between a Brazilian jazz band nearly as old as me (Azymuth), A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Adrian Younge, who is a composer, producer, and (wait for it) law professor. Some serious talent on this album.
I also gave "Existential Reckoning" a listen on a recommendation from a friend. Maynard James Keenan, front for Tool, put together Puscifer to explore his 'darker and more personal musings" according the artist bio on Tidal. I did not find the album to be my style, although I do admit "Apocalyptical" was pretty catchy, so maybe the entire album will grow on me after another listen through.
The best find for this week almost went to a cover of Leonard Cohen's "There is a War", done by Nathaniel Rateliff, Kevin Morby, and Sam Cohen (apparently no relation to Leonard). This cover has it all, from a great opening guitar note, scratchy solo vocals, and retro vocal harmonics in the chorus. Really great stuff, and easily my favorite single in recent weeks. With this single and his February 2020 release that I mentioned back in July, Rateliff might be my favorite artist of the year.
But even better than that was another release from Art Blakey. Earlier this week, I thought I should play that new release of material from 1959 that I also mentioned in July. I typed in "Art Blakey" into the search field in Tidal because I could not remember the name of the album (Just Coolin', as it turns out) and was excited and shocked to see five (FIVE!) more releases this year since "Just Coolin'" was released in July. I only had time to listen to to "Flapping Wings" but I will get to the rest later. Flapping Wings was great, and solidified Blakey in my mind as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time.
I will not admit to day drinking due to the US election, but I will let you draw your own conclusions based on your experiences in the last week. Three news beers, and I was pretty happy with all three.
Beer #695 was the Leisure Lagoon Hazy Pale Ale from Coronado Brewing. A whole lotta grapefruit and pith. More translucent than hazy, as in not a lot of suspended particles. Very nice. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #696 was the Black Tusk Ale from Whistler Brewing Company. Whistler is pretty hit-and-miss for me, and actually more miss than hit. The first seven beers I checked in average slightly over 3.1 out of 5, which is significantly lower than my average of 3.2-ish. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that I liked the Black Tusk as much as I did. It was dark and malty, with a bit of bitterness in a good way. I might have rated it higher because I was excited to get back into the dark, heavy beers of winter, but this was still good even with that bias. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #697 and the final check-in for the week was the Pater Dubbel / Abbey Brown Ale from Corsendonk out of Belgium. This had big brown foam, with a bit of booziness in a good way. and a bit of caramel. Smooth and easy to drink even at that ABV. Good stuff. (3.75 / 5)
I am closing in on 700 check-ins on Untappd. As that is a fairly significant milestone, I think I will throw them a few bucks again to get the updated stats. It would be interesting to see how my average rating has fluctuated over the past five and a half years. My guess is that it has gone down, with my ranking of lagers going up over that same period. We will see how well that holds up under detailed scrutiny.
Just two new words this week. But after this week, I can tell you I am begging for a break from the news and politics in Canada and the US so that I can get back to reading more, and therefore finding more new words.