Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, the land of nearly 11 hours of daytime! I jest of course, but it is nice to go leave for a bike ride at 07:30 with the sun fully up and it being bright outside.
In potentially interesting news, I am learning how to stream on Twitch and YouTube. I have no visions of becoming a full-time streamer, but I am keenly interested in how to make that work. I am also not a gamer per se, and certainly do not have the reflexes or emotional disposition to play first-person shooters which seems to be the most common game genre played by many full-time streamers.
Instead of that, I decided to stream a few sessions of playing Microsoft Solitaire. Solitaire is definitely more my speed, plus it is something I would do every day anyway. As a result, I figured it would be the easiest game for me to play while learning how to stream.
Even with something I am so familiar with, I found it incredibly hard to simultaneously talk cogently and concentrate on playing. I had respect for the FPS streamers before, but even more so now after experiencing how hard Solitaire was to do well during a stream.
As I say in the videos, I am doing this to learn about the Twitch and YouTube platforms. If people watch, great, but I will continue to post the streams and recorded sessions until I figure I have learned enough regardless of the number of viewers. That said, I somehow had four people watch a recorded Twitch session, which kind of blew my mind. If you are at all interested, you can see my Twitch channel here where the live streams and last thirty days of content are located. A more permanent record of the videos I deem "worthy" will be uploaded to my YouTube channel here.
Book #8 for 2022 was "Keep Sharp" by Sanjay Gupta. This was a book I started a couple of times and could not get enough momentum to finish. I finally had a road trip to visit my mom and used the three hours of travel time to plow through the second half on an audiobook version from the library.
To use an analogy from my career and work experience, many (all?) self-help or self-improvement books have enough good information for a memo or an agenda item in a meeting but get stretched to cover the entire time for a full-day retreat. Keep Sharp fit this analogy perfectly. Give me an overview of the science and I will be happy: Plaque on the brain is bad? Got it. Inflammation anywhere in the body is bad for the body AND the brain? Makes sense and I can use that to change habits. My diet affects my brain? Understood, thanks for the heads-up (pun intended). Definitely enough information for a memo or an item on the agenda for a larger meeting.
But instead of that, we get the full-day retreat version. Ten hours of information, anecdotes, and here-is-what-I-experienced-when-I-visited-this-famous-person stories. Ten. Hours. Thankfully, audiobooks have the option to be listed to at 1.25x speed. Sigh.
Four new beers this week, with two that were disappointments. Both of the Blind Enthusiasm beers failed in my mind because the goal seem to be different instead of just focusing on quality. This seems to be a real failing for so many breweries at present. Instead of making something good, the trend seems to be to combine elements from several beers - hoppy lager, dark lager, et cetera. Give me a Warka from Poland or a Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Gold from Germany any day over a lot of these mashups. There were two good beers though, with the best coming from Driftwood Brewing in Victoria.
The four beers were the Blind Enthusiasm South Island Hoppy Lager (3.25 / 5); Blind Enthusiasm Lager O'Darkness (3.0); the best of the week, Driftwood Brewing's It'll Be Fine Southern Hemisphere IPA (3.75); and, Samuel Smith's Tadcaster Taddy Porter (3.5).
These four bring my lifetime unique check-ins on Untappd to 870.
Three new words this week from either my year-long Reddit group re-read of "War & Peace" or from the Gupta brain health book.
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.)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, on a weekend that seems chilly after the record-setting summer we have had so far. The record set was 15 days of 30°C or higher in a year. The previous record was set in 1961. It is not hard to imagine another few days at or above 30 before the summer is over.
If I was saying this instead of typing it, I might subconsciously stay "I can even" believe how hot it has been. I point this out because of a great YouTube channel I found this week. Rachel's English highlights how American English is pronounced in practice, and not just how it should be pronounced. For example, the video I came across highlighted the various ways "can't" and "can" are used, stressed, and in some cases, mangled. I can even begin to say how interesting this was.
There is some good analysis of how American English is spoken on her channel, and it really made me think about how and what I say.
I was able to finish two books this week, one fiction and one about the fictions we create we get emotional. (Well, that is just one point in the second book, but I thought it was a clever segue.)
Book #27 for 2021 was "Nemesis Games" by James S.A. Corey. This is the fifth book in the Expanse series and is by far my favorite to date. Big characters caught up in and creating massive plot points that impact the entire solar system, all wrapped around a core story of humanity and how much we matter to each other. If you are familiar with the Expanse books, you will know how each chapter switches the focus of the third-person perspective. I particularly enjoyed how this book capitalized on that format to highlight how each individual coped with the crisis of the moment. This was especially powerful toward the end of the book as the characters convened in one place and everyone was reacting to the same moments. Good stuff, and definitely looking forward to the next book.
Book #28 was "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown. There is a lot of useful information in this book and I am very glad I read it. However, much like my previous reviews of the Cal Newport books, I cannot really say it was an enjoyable read and I had trouble getting into a flow. I think the problem is that there is a lot of filler in these books. The anecdotes are useful to a point but spending three pages of first-person exposition from an interviewee has me flipping through the pages and therefore losing engagement with the book. But even with this, I took a lot out of the book and there is a lot of personal time and investment I will make to ensure I really put the learnings into practice.
A tangential learning from this book is that I might be engaging with books like this in ways that do not work for me. To wit, I do own a copy of the book, but I listened to about half of it on an audiobook. The anecdotes and personal stories are better in audiobook format, especially as Brown narrated the book herself and she was a very engaging voice. However, the bullet points and substantial checklists of items to process are much better in a book in a visual format. I will keep that in mind for the next non-fiction book I read.
Time in the saddle was cut short this week by something that I knew was going to happen eventually but was still disappointing when it finally happened.
My bike frame on my 2017 Giant Revolt 2 broke, as you can see in the picture. I am not sure how it happened, but it has been weakened for a long time. Luckily for me, the actual moment it broke came when I was moving slowly through our neighborhood. I was able to unclip and hop out before crashing. Unfortunately, there is a global bike shortage right now, so I do not know when I will get a new bike. I still have my winter bike, but that needs to be cleaned up and serviced so for the time being, my rides are going to be limited to the amount of time I can stomach on the stationary bike in the basement.
I was hoping to make it to Portage La Prairie this week, but the broken frame squashed that goal. I did make it to Brandon though. According to Wikipedia, Brandon is the second largest city in Manitoba with a population of about 48,000 and has a municipal airport with the IATA code of YBR.
Here is the updated progress chart.
I had six new beers, bringing my total to 792 in my personal quest to drink one of each beer in the world.
Beer #787 was the Red Magil DIPA from Tailgunner Brewing Company in Calgary. This had a nice mouthfeel and carbonation. It tasted like spicy pineapple juice and was a bit too sweet for my liking. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #788 is another from Calgary, this time from New Level Brewing, a brewery that gets a lot of their inspiration from death metal. Their Hellion Lager had a bit of maltiness and a decent taste but had the sweetness endemic to lagers that I do not like. (3.25 / 5)
Moving back up Highway 2 to Edmonton, Beer #789 was my fourth beer from Analog Brewing. The Loot Box Hops is a rotational-hopped West Coast IPA. I had the most recent version hopped with Sabro. I like this quite a bit. The hops added good flavor without being overly bitter. Looking forward to their next version of this beer. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #790 was the Raised by Wolves IPA from Driftwood in Victoria. I liked the pine and resin flavor combined with the fruitiness. Lot of flavors in this and quite easy to drink. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #791 was yet another from Calgary, this time from Village Brewery. Village is a solid brewery with decent beers, but beyond their Blacksmith Dark Ale, I have always found their beers to be just decent. Their 2021 version of the Father beer is a New England IPA and like their others, it was decent. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was the only import beer in the last two weeks. I posted two weeks ago about a beer from Florissant, Missouri from the Narrow Gauge Brewing Company. For Beer #792, I had their Fallen Flag American IPA. This was not as good as their King Fallen Flag Imperial, but still quite good. I am definitely liking their beers. One more to go in the fridge. Hopefully, it is as good as the first two. (3.75 / 5)
One note: I had an Alley Kat brewed Blonde Ale for Fort Edmonton Park but it does not show up on Untappd. Hopefully it appears soon. For the record, it was not that good. (2.75 / 5)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where it is 27°C warmer today than it was a week ago, and 37° warmer than it was two weeks ago. Last week I lamented that my cycling was limited to the stationary bike in the basement. With the increased temperatures this week, three of my four rides this week were outside.
Beyond cycling outside, I had a pretty quiet week. The entry this week will be limited to one gaming update, a bit of music news, and four new beers.
This week was a big one for my RPG gaming group. Thursday was the 52 week anniversary of our group getting together after posting for players on Meetup. 52 weeks ago we got together (in person!) and rolled some characters and talked about what we wanted out of the game, what a lot of people will call a Session 0. There were six of us including me, and those six plus one more played again March 12, which was the eve of the pandemic madness. Three of that group plus me started playing online and the session on Thursday was number 23 and the end of what could be considered Chapter 1 of the story.
The text below is what I read out to the group 49 weeks ago as we got into our first real session. (Any references to official Forgotten Realms content is made under the Open Gaming License.)
It is a period of civil unrest. The so-called "dominant" races of humans and dwarves make up the majority of the population in the larger cities, and the larger cities control the economy of the Sword Coast. The economy is particularly strong in the centers of Luskan, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, and Baldur's Gate. Smaller centers directly on the High Road between the four centers are benefiting from increased trade along the High Road, but the true economic wealth is being concentrated in the major centers. Any spillover wealth along the High Road is a fraction at best, and this is leading to many public and private conversations about wealth inequality and the need for a different social contract.
The smaller centers along the High Road are able to experience the vast differences in wealth first hand as the nobles and merchants travel along the High Road in their expensive coaches accompanied by extensive support teams. However, there is even more dramatic differences immediately off the High Road. Settlements such as Lloreth, Mirabar, or Athkatla are experiencing almost zero economic growth. Smaller centers like Nashkel are faring even worse. They are bleeding people to the larger centers and are increasingly unable to protect themselves from bandits, thugs, and opportunistic humanoid races that have long felt themselves to be ignored by the humans and dwarves. The goblins of the Sword Mountains caverns have started to push into the foothill settlements into small villages such as Needlebush.
Needlebush is largely populated by a human population that historically welcomed settlers from all lands. However, the brash moves of the goblins have begun to change opinions and Needlebush has begun to openly distrust all visitors. After the most recent goblin raid two nights ago, all non-human races have been forcibly moved to a Safety Camp in the village center. This Safety Camp is a walled area with one locked and guarded entrance. The guards at the entrance and the roving guards throughout the village are part of the newly formed "Needlebush First" militia.
As the "Needlebush First" militia rounded up all of the non-humans, all weapons and magic items were confiscated from the non-humans. Needlebushians are still polite though, and you were given a numbered tag to ensure you get your belongings back when you leave the Safety Camp.
You and about fifteen other individuals have spent the last day and a half outside, exposed to the elements, with meagre rations provided. Earlier today, a loud, large half-orc became aggressive towards the guards and was beaten unconscious as a result. The beaten and bloodied half-orc lies off to the side, untended and probably dying.
That's where you find yourself now.
There were two items of note regarding in the Music Finds playlist this last week, but neither were really new. The first was that I discovered a live version of the Boxer album from The National. Boxer is one of my favorite albums of all time and definitely one of my Desert Island Albums. I have been listening to a few live albums yesterday, so Boxer live from Brussels popped into my Tidal feed. As with the studio release, the live album was fantastic and definitely worth listening to.
The other artist I added to the Music Finds playlist this week was Chick Corea, who unfortunately passed away on February 9. Corea recorded many albums as a soloist or member of a group in his half-century career, way more than I could ever completely dig in to. But there were some amazing albums and the one I think of when I think of Corea has to be "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" from 1967. As a result, that was the other album I added to Music Finds for this week. If you are interested in some videos on Corea, Rick Beato has a nice stream up on YouTube, and there is an NPR recording of a live concert, also on YouTube. RIP, Chick.
Four new beers this week, which seems like a lot when I think about it, but I suppose four beers in seven days is not that big of a deal.
Beer #724 was the Prairie Fairy Wheat Ale from Sea Change. I am a fan of Sea Change but this was a miss for me. It was fruity but without much intensity. Also it might have been over-carbonated. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #725 was the 2018 version of Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy barleywine. I always liked the Olde Deuteronomy barleywines every year, and I miss them now that they are no longer in production. I was happy to find this at the brewpub / head office. This had a nice boozy flavor without an alcohol burn and a nice taste to go with the beautiful caramel color. I wish I could buy more, but was happy to find a bottle in the Alley Kat brewpub / head office. (3.75 / 5)
I am a fan of vanilla flavors in stouts and porters, but I find they can be a bit sweet. In fact, Beer #1 back on March 22, 2015 on Untappd was the Mill St. Vanilla Porter and I commented that it was "a bit on the sweet side". Beer #726 was the Seaport Vanilla Stout from Lighthouse Brewing in Victoria. This was a winner as it had just a hint of sweetness and the vanilla was more smelled than tasted. It had a bit too much of an alcohol burn, but it was still really good, especially as it did not suffer from being too sweet. (3.75 / 5)
Last up for this week and Beer #727 was the Tumbling Goat Belgian Pale Ale from Endeavour Brewing in St. Albert. I am not a big fan of intense spices in beers like pepper or cloves. This one had a bit of a burn to it and I was not really a fan as result. The color and aroma were fine though, and it created a wonderfully foamy head. It was just the spiciness that turned me off it. (3.0 / 5)
Greetings from where the north latitude and the temperature are not that much different!
The week that was was definitely cold. There was no way I was going outside for a ride, so any and all cycling was confined to the stationary bike in the basement. In addition to saddle time, I did sample a few new beers, finished a book on the third try, and dug into some music. Before we get to the regular items, there are two items of note this week that I want to spend some time on.
The first is related to a question I posed to several people recently: which is more important, public health at the population level, or rights and freedoms at the individual level? In Canada, that can be phrased as a question between public health versus the Charter of Right and Freedoms.
I asked this exact question to several people in the last week, phrased specifically to pit the Charter against public health. The question elicited a strong response in every case. A few people were staunchly opposed to the argument that personal rights had any role in a pandemic. Others were tormented by the question and were unwilling to answer.
One friend found this blog entry for the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta law school. "The One vs the Many: When Public Health Conflicts with Individual Rights" highlights how hard it is to balance between the good of the many and the rights of the individual. One note from the blog that I was unaware of was how Canada was less respectful of individual rights during the 2003 SARS outbreak than either Hong Kong or Shanghai. The blog entry ends with a question that is still not answered as we close in on one full year of quarantine measures: How can the law both help protect the life of the population, and at the same time protect the individual against the powers the state takes upon itself to engage that task? How, indeed.
The second item of note is a TED Talk that I watched titled "Sleep is your superpower". Matt Walker is a sleep scientist and he made some great arguments for getting more sleep, and for getting it more regularly. The concept is not new, but there were some interesting scientific tidbits that I had not understood. Cue the opening sentence about testicles, for example. Or how the World Health Organization categorizes night shift work as a "possible carcinogen" due to the correlation between lack of regular sleep and cancer. It was a great way to spend twenty minutes, but please do not watch it late at night!
One week, one book finished. But that is not really fair. Book #5 for 2021 was "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a book that I desperately wanted to read, but I had two failed starts with it and was concerned that I would not make it through once again. The first attempt was several years ago and it was the audiobook format. I had significant trouble with the slow and overly deliberate pacing of the narration. (I think that was in the days before we had the option to listen at 1.25 times normal speed.) With a slow delivery and painstaking emphasis on the pronunciation of the protagonist's name (Mmm-mmAH RrrrrammmottssssWEY), I could not finish it.
The second attempt was on summer vacation in 2019. The rental home we stayed at had it in the shelves and I picked it up and read the first third. I did not finish it though, so I was concerned that it would never get read. I need not have been worried though as I picked it up and finished it in a few hours this week. It was entirely enjoyable and definitely worth the read. Mma Rowatswe's persistence and insight into people was nearly as great to read as was her view on how to live a fulfilling life. I am not sure if I will read the other books in the series, but I am glad I read this one. Finally.
As I mentioned in the intro, the frigid weather limited the cycling time to the stationary bike in the basement. I logged the equivalent of 62 km this week, which is definitely the upper limit for me on a stationary bike. But even though inside rides are suboptimal, it was better than being completely sedentary for the whole week.
I was able to make it through to Blue River, British Columbia on my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour. There is not much to say about Blue River. The Wikipedia entry suggests a population of 157, and the biggest highlight seems to be that the Lodgepole pine is the most common tree in the area. Onward to Valemount (with a U!)! Only 66 km to get there, which I should be able to do, even if I am stuck in the basement all week.
Two new albums in this week's Music Finds playlist. One was fantastic, and the other was not up my alley.
First up was the fantastic album. A couple weeks ago I mentioned The New Mastersounds and their album "Shake It". Back then I said that album was okay but that I heard "Tantalus" from their "Renewable Energy" album and that it was great. The whole album was really good, with "Green was Beautiful" and "Groovin' on The Groomers" as the other standouts.
The other album was "Delusion Rain" from the prog rock band Mystery. Yeah. I just am not into that type of music. Lots of high pitched male vocals, loud guitar and bass-heavy drums. Plus the songs are SOOOO long. "The Willow Tree" clocked in at 19'29", for crying out loud! To be fair, I did find myself getting into the beat on "The Last Glass of Wine" but six tracks taking over an hour is hard to get through, for me at least.
I was able to try three new beers this week, bringing my total number of check-ins on Untappd to 722.
Beer #720 was the Imperial Stout with Coffee from Blindman. I have extolled the virtues of this Lacombe-based brewery many times, and this was another solid offering. It had good flavor and aroma. Not as much coffee flavor as I expected though, but it was smooth and tasty. At 11% ABV, the 250 mL can size was a good idea. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #721 was another Alberta beer. Blind Enthusiasm did a sour based on plums aged in oak casks. The result was a very colorful and nicely tart beer that was easy to drink for a sour, but I wish it would have had more fruit flavor. It was good, but I was hoping for something more pronounced. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was a bit of a nostalgia trip for Beer #722, and the third Alberta beer of the week. We spent time at the Jasper Gates resort this past summer, which is a few steps from the Folding Mountain brewery. So in remembrance of that good time spent with some friends, I picked up their Founding MTN Lager and dropped off a few cans at our friends' house before a long Zoom call with them. This was a good lager, with a nice maltiness and a bit of spice as well. It was definitely good, but the memories and time on the call friends certainly did not hurt the rating. (3.5 / 5)
There was only one new word this week. I guess Mma Ramotswe's life lessons did not extend also into vocabulary.
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.
Show Notes - Week of October 12, 2020
Greetings from a slightly colder than usual 53.5° north latitude. It is not cold enough for the entire day to stay cold, but that is likely not far into the future. However, it is cold enough that bigger gloves or mitts are required for early morning rides. Riding at -5 C without good gloves or mitts is a very painful experience.
Beyond a few rides which I will give an update on below, a number of good listens and views, there was a great gaming experience this week, and two new beers. Let's jump in to the gaming story first.
If you look up role-playing on Wikipedia, the article branches into the various types of role-playing and then provides this definition for role-playing games, or RPGs:
A role-playing game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterisation, and the actions succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, they may improvise freely; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the games. --Wikipedia
The key concept is that the story is created collaboratively. The Game Master needs to be in charge at least to keep the game following within the prescribed rules, but the actual story that is created is the responsibility of everyone involved. As a GM, I think the key is to provide lots of options for the players and to be prepared enough to be flexible if the players do something unexpected. It is important to be prepared but to not let that preparation narrow your options. Having a series of encounters that your players must do in order at a prescribed time is a recipe for either frustrated players or for you to be unable to proceed because you are not prepared.
In our recent session this week, the party needed to travel and I had three potential encounters planned. The first one was with a travelling merchant. I knew there would be nothing exchanged beyond information, but I was hopeful that the players would engage as there was one bit of flavor and information I wanted to get across. The second encounter was completely optional and I tried to describe it in a way that they would not be forced to engage with it. They ended up doing what I hoped they would because I was able to give them a reward that will be useful. To that point in our session, we had two encounters that were engaging and I think memorable. I was struggling though because both encounters went exactly how I thought they would, and that made me feel like I was railroading them. In the parlance of the game designers I follow online, I felt like I was taking away player agency.
This concern of taking away player agency was weighing on me because the third encounter was one that regardless of how the rest of the session had gone I needed the players to have. This encounter was really like a Talking Notice Board that tells the players "You are hereby requested to go do such-and-such and then report over yonder." There is nothing wrong with this of course, as long as the players feel they can do something other than mindlessly follow the orders of the Talking Notice Board.
It might have been a reaction from the players against two encounters that they felt they had to engage with, but their reaction to the Talking Notice Board was one of sarcastic enthusiasm. "Yes, sir, right away sir." "We'll be sure to do that right away, nudge, nudge, wink, wink."
And so they did not report in. They might check in during the next session, but for this week, they completely ignored the "request". They instead went for a drink and a meal and then proceeded to find a room at the fleabag inn instead of the nice place I assumed they would stay at. This resulted in three fabulous role-playing sessions, one with each player. A new ally was found, a super reward was given to the party, and a really touching story was created.
I am really glad my first two encounters went the way they did, but I was prepared for the players to not engage with either. Our collective story would not have suffered if those encounters were ignored, but the world is more alive and the players have more knowledge about how to act and react as a result of both. However, when we look back at the game, we will see that the moments with the player agency at its most free were the ones that will have the most impact on the long-term story we are creating. That required preparation on my part, but in a much different way than the scripted set pieces I created.
The last thing I will say about our game is that in a three hour session I rolled dice exactly zero times. It was completely role-playing and I all I had to do was talk. And laugh, and smile, and have fun.
There were a few good music finds this week. The first album was Lucinda Williams' "Live @ The Fillmore", which was released in 2005, and was a recording from a 2003 concert. (It would be great to see a concert at The Fillmore!) (It would be great to see a show anywhere!). This album was 22 songs over two volumes and was filled with Williams' gravelly singing. Volume 2 was that the better of the two, in my opinion, with great versions of Atonement, Pineola, Righteously, and others. Her voice really shone on Volume 2.
Switching gears completely, the second album was Massenet's opera, Thaïs. I have switched my weekend radio listening recently, and am really enjoying getting back into "Saturday Afternoon at the Opera" on CBC. Host Ben Heppner does a great job of helping listeners like me understand the story and the music.
Last up this week was a single called "Who's Gonna Stop Me". This was a collaboration between Portugal, The Man, and Weird Al Yankovich. It was a good song, but I have to admit I probably listened to it much more intently just because of Weird Al's inclusion. I am not saying that it is not a good song, but I do feel I would have given it less of a listen if Weird Al was not part of it.
The other music item this week was a great interview on Tidal with Chuck D. This might have been the first interview I have seen with Chuck D. I enjoyed his stories especially the one about how Jam Master J convinced Chuck D to become a recording artist. The best part though were two quotes that really made me think.
The first quote was Chuck D quoting Bruce Lee.
"I cannot teach you. I can only help you explore yourself." --Chuck D quoting Bruce Lee
The insight in that quote is enormous. The power to change and to grow is in you and you alone. There is no magic potion or methodology or drug or app that can teach you to grow as a person if you do not want to grow.
The second quote was even more powerful, and I think this is something that I can empathize with and work to change, but I think it is impossible for me to really understand it being a white man. All I can do is listen and support.
If you black, it's the side you on versus the side that hates you. --Chuck D
Great stuff from a musical legend.
I closed off a couple segments on the way to Campbell River on my virtual cross-Canada tour. I need to pick up my pace a bit. At this rate, it will take me four years to finish the trek.
Two new beers this week. Both were good, but neither were great. Beer #691 was the Galactic Space Dragon IPA from Odin Brewery Company. This had some good pineapple citrus juiciness, not much hops, quite hazy. Tasty but would have liked more hops. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #692 was the Earl Grey Wheat from Collective Arts. I am a big fan of Collective Arts, so this one was a bit of a disappointment. This could have been a really interesting take on witbier but it was pretty bland. It was refreshing though, just nothing spectacular. (3.0 / 5)
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.