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.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. I took last week off since it was a long weekend, and the three days were filled with relaxing. In the other days of the fortnight, I finished a couple books, tried a couple new beers, and gave a talk for public sector leaders in Australia.
The talk was only fifteen minutes long, but I think the material hit the mark. I used the time to explore a way of looking at the value of your Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) tool through a Knowledge Management lens, and then using the knowledge coming out of your SIEM to structure metrics. I will write that out in detail and post it on the Security and Risk section of this site.
Okay, time to move on to the regular sections.
I was able to finish two books in the last fortnight. Book #16 for 2021 was "Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson. This was an interesting read for the rigor it put into understanding the genesis of good ideas, and for providing insight into what we can do as individuals or in our organizations to foster the development of good ideas.
One theme from the book was the power of the public sector and the amazing advantages bestowed on society by people focusing on motives other than profit. In parts of the book, Johnson refers to government as a platform, much like any other platform a given age builds from. The argument Johnson makes implies that capitalism would not succeed without some non-market driven platform because the majority of the innovations in the last two centuries come from academia or the public sector. Once those ideas are in place, capitalism can, well, capitalize on those ideas.
Looking at the innovations that were directly spawned by the public sector, it is clear numerous private sector success stories innovations in the technology industry would not have been possible without the public sector. The obvious examples are the Internet and Web, but also include DNA / RNA, Aspirin, and even suspension bridges.
The corollary of this though is that ideas and processes of the private sector should be left there, and not thrust on the public sector.
Political leadership involves some elements that aren't best outsourced to a liquid network; decision-making and oratory.
In other words, not every problem is best solved by the market. In fact, Johnson identified the "fourth quadrant of innovation" which is categorized as non-market driven initiatives driven by a large network of individuals.
Johnson states in the closing paragraph of the book that it is possible to create and foster an innovative society regardless of where we work. This statement helps anchor me in my decision to spend half my career to the public sector.
Most of us, I realize, don't have a direct say in what macro forms of information and economic organization prevail in the wider society, though we do influence that outcome indirectly, in the basic act of choosing between employment in the private or public sector.
The second book this week, and Book #17 for 2021, was "Ringworld" by Larry Niven. This was one of those books I bought years ago and kept waiting for the perfect time to read. Given the influence this book had on science fiction since its debut in 1970, my desire to ensure I was "ready" is understandable.
Unfortunately, there really is no good time to read Ringworld. The book was sexist and in some cases just gross. There were latent and overt rape comments, and females without a purpose beyond sex.
I have read a few books by Philip K. Dick and always went away loving the IDEA of the story without loving the story itself, as Dick is not much of an author. In a way, Ringworld left me with a similar feeling, except for the fact that Dick is a better author than Niven. (Granted that is not fair because my sample size of Niven writings is n = 1, but I do not recall any cringing when I read any of Dick's works.)
My individual rides are enjoyable, and I am happy with the distance I am logging overall. However, I have moved into a different mindset now, where a 10 km ride does not seem worth the effort. This issue I find now is the lack of time on most days to fit in a two-hour ride.
In the last two weeks, I did finish the segment to Rosetown and almost made it to Saskatoon. I should be well on my way to Regina after this upcoming week, but as you can see from this image, I do not have a route planned past Saskatoon.
Not a lot of fun facts on Rosetown on its Wikipedia page beyond the fact that its motto is "The Heart of the Wheat Belt" and there is an airport servicing the area that is apparently not significant enough to warrant an IATA code.
There were three new beers this week, but the Alley Kat one was a six-pack so do not let the low numbers fool you.
Beer #764 was the Holsten Premium lager. I recently had Holsten's Festbock and Maibock, and both were better than this so-called "premium". This was a very thin lager with some active carbonation but no foam. Reminiscent of Budweiser. Draw your own conclusions from that comparison. (2.75 / 5)
Next up and coming in as Beer #765 was the Mangolorian from Alley Kat. Combining mango and the super popular Mandolorian was a clever pun that should have not made it all the way to production. Mango is not a great adjunct for beer IMO, but even so, this suffered from not having enough mango flavor. Sorry Alley Kat - love you guys, but just not this beer.
Rounding out the trio of disappointing beers for this fortnight, Beer #766 was the Glitter Bomb Hazy Pale Ale from Phillips. I should not be surprised about not liking a Phillips beer, given that I did write last summer about how underwhelming I find them. Glitter Bomb was overly foamy and tasted more like a glass of grapefruit juice than a beer. It was not terrible by any means and was the best of the three this fortnight by far, but it was not great either.
Two new words this week, both from the Johnson book on good ideas.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude after a summer-like week with temperatures in the 20s. Very nice, indeed, but of course, it is only May so days with cooler temperatures are an inevitability. Check out the weather forecast below - high of 8° on Wednesday. That is not much warmer than an average refrigerator.
On the slate for this week is a Chinese work ethic slogan that I had not previously heard of, some comments on a book I finished this week, one of the "Biggar" milestones I will hit in my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour, seven new beers, and a single new word. First up, work in China.
There is a consistent and pervasive macho and even masochistic work ethos in all technology groups that I have been involved in, and the people I know working in the larger technology hubs like San Francisco and Boston would echo my comments.
Counter to that ethos is a growing body of research pointing to the futility of long hours. The most prominent is likely the Stanford study that showed a marked decrease in productivity once a work hit 50 hours in a single week. There are also some firms advocating for shorter work weeks, as noted in this Harvard Business Review article. In addition, the Ryan Holiday book "Stillness is the Key", a book that I finished and commented on last week, argues that long and frenetic hours are completely counter-productive to long term innovation. Taken to the extreme, working long hours can seriously imperil your health and the Japanese even have a word specifically for "overwork death" - karoshi 過労死.
Compare and contrast the research to the 996 model in China. 996 is shorthand for working from 9:00 to 9:00 (21:00), six days a week. 996 is not something I heard of before this week, but it it is not surprising. I do not think there is much difference in the success model of Jack Ma's Alibaba from Jeff Bezos's Amazon - work hard and long.
996 has come under criticism a few times. It seems that every two years there is renewed interest in the concept, and the interest does seem to be tied to deaths of workers. As reported in Fortune earlier this year, Earlier articles such as this 2017 Wall Street Journal article or this 2019 BBC Worklife article highlighted the issue. Forbes said in 2019 that China should move to a model of "work smarter, not harder". (No seriously, the article says that. Check it out - first paragraph, last line. That is such a cliché that countless images have been created with that phrase, but there is a point to the trope even if it seems incredible that it would be used in an article on Forbes.)
Now one cannot downplay the incredible growth China has experienced and the vast proliferation of giant Chinese technology companies. I am also not downplaying cultural differences and how different individuals will assess their personal situations. I am merely arguing that this is not a sustainable model. But as long as there are enormous successes stories like Huawei or Alibaba are often the justification for such grueling hours. In the BBC article quoted above, Alibaba's Jack Ma is quoted that 996 "is a huge blessing" because that is how his success was possible.
It is worth noting that this is not isolated to China. Pick any successful technology firm anywhere in the world and there is a good chance you will find the same mindset.
I was able to finish one book this week. Book 15 for 2021 was the thoroughly enjoyable "The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her MInd" by Jackson Ford. This story about a young lady trying to live a normal life while burdened with psychokinetic powers had a few stunning twists and multiple out-loud-gasp moments. I heard about this book from the weekly newsletter from Orbit Books and I am glad I did. I will definitely check out the other books in the series.
I was able to log 98 km in the saddle this week. I was planning on spending a couple hours this morning to crank out 40 km to close out two segments in the current leg, but instead I spent a couple hours riding 20 km of single-track and multi-use trail with my younger daughter. That is a perfect trade in my books.
So this week I was able to close out the segment to Biggar, Saskatchewan. I visited Biggar with my family as a kid of maybe 10 or 12, and still remember the town sign saying "New Your is Big, but this is Biggar".
I do not recall anything about Biggar beyond the sign, but Wikipedia has a few interesting facts. First, it is the birthplace of Sandra Schmirler, aka Schmirler the Curler, the skip for the 1998 Olympic Gold Medal curling team. Second, it was the closest urban center to where Coulten Boushie was murdered.
Below is the updated progress chart. It is unlikely that I will finish the Lloydminster-Saskatoon segment in the upcoming week, but it is possible.
There are seven beers to log this week, but before you call for an intervention remember that is over two weeks since I did not enter any last week. I stocked up on singles from the local Wine & Beyond a couple weeks ago, and their selection of singles that I had not tried was pretty much limited to Germans. That will be obvious as you go through the list.
Beer #757 was the Holsten Maibock. I still found this to have a bit of silky maltiness even though a maibock is supposed to be less malty and more hoppy. The high ABV did provide a strong taste, but overall this was okay. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #758 was the Radenbach Classic. The guy at the checkout and my contacts on Untappd rave about this but I just did not see the appeal. There was only touch of sour, and a color like a brown ale. The long-lasting lazy carbonation was fun to watch, but the spiky booziness did not give it much flavor. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #759 was the Paulaner Salvator Doppelbockbier. I really liked this one. It tasted like boozy chocolates, with a nice haziness, and very lazy carbonation. Quite a lot of flavor and color for a German beer. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #760 was another Holsten, this one being their Festbock. I was hopeful that this would be better than the Holsten Maibock since it is supposed to be a traditional bock. Unfortunately, I liked it less than the Maibock. There was no carbonation, but it did have a nice color and was a bit caramelly. There was surprisingly little booziness for the ABV, but really not much flavor either. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #761 was another from Paulaner. Their Munchner Hell Munich Lager had active carbonation, nearly zero foam, but also nearly zero taste. Well constructed, very easy drinking, but also boring and as a result I was disappointed after having their Salvator earlier. (3.0 /5)
The only non-German beer to report on, coming in as Beer #762, was the Fernie Brewing Thunder Meadows IPA. This has lots of piney hops, a nice copper haziness, and a long-lasting foam. A solid beer. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the week and coming in as Beer #763 was the Schneider Weisse Aventinus Weizendoppelbock, or wheat double bock. Just like the Fernie, this was another hazy copper beauty but this was better. Almost sweet, and you can see the silkiness as it pours. High ABV, low booze burn. (3.5 / 5)
Just a single new word this week.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. This past week was filled with beer, cycling, writing, and work. On top of all that, it snowed on Saturday which I suppose should not be surprising given that it is still early April.
Before we get into the regular sections of this week's blog, I want to highlight two different items. First up, let's talk about work. The most memorable work item from the past week is clearly the launch of Wave 3 of the Connect Care Clinical Information System. This is a smaller wave from the point of view of number of users, but is huge from a geography point of view. Covering the western half of the North Zone of Alberta, Connect Care went live in 31 sites. Launching a new system across that many users covering that much territory is a great accomplishment and everyone should be very proud of their collective success.
The other item I want to highlight before getting on to the regular sections is The Uncensored Library. This is an effort from the organization Reporters Without Borders to use the universal appeal of Minecraft to get around censorship and oppression towards journalists. From the website, the goal is to provide "access to independent information to young people around the world through a medium they can playfully interact with. Journalists from five different countries now have a place to make their voices heard again, despite having been banned, jailed, exiled and even killed."
I think this is a wonderful initiative, and in theory could actually reach a number of youth around the world. It is unclear how many people will actually reach out to download the particular Minecraft map and explore the information in it, particularly because it is only available on the Java edition. I did not understand why it would be exclusive to Java, but then I came across this explanation:
Unfortunately there are no plans to convert to Bedrock. Although there's a huge audience there, it's very difficult to share Bedrock content without going through the Minecraft Marketplace—which this map would not be suitable for,
It was not immediately clear why this map would not be suitable for the Minecraft Marketplace. My assumption is that the it would be a violation of the Microsoft Store Policies, in particular Section 11.10 Country/Region Specific Requirements. That section specifically calls out "providing or enabling access to content or services that are illegal under applicable local law". Publications of journalists that are censored would be illegal, so I suppose that must be the reason.
It is a bit of a shame of course as the Bedrock version of Minecraft has a larger and expanding user base, where the Java user base is decreasing. If nothing else though, this project has an opportunity to raise awareness on an important issue. Please consider donating to RSF at this link.
I was able to complete the short, first segment in Leg #4 from Edmonton to Elk Island National Park in my virtual cross-Canada. I still have a few hours to get another ride in today, but given the frozen ice on the road from the spring snow on Saturday chances are I am done for the week. Here is the updated chart.
Looking at the chart, I will easily reach Vegreville next week and have a chance of getting through to Lloydminster in two weeks. More likely though will be that I will not pass Lloydminster until the week of April 26 but will be on my way to Saskatoon that week.
In the meantime, here are a few fun facts about Elk Island courtesy of Wikipedia. As far as national parks go, it is the eighth smallest, which makes me wonder how small the seven other smaller parks are. Having been to Elk Island man times in my life, I can confirm that it is definitely small. However, it is the largest fully enclosed national park in Canada, mainly due to the need to pen in the large amount of wood bison in a park with a major national highway running through it. Wood bison are the largest terrestrial mammal in North America, and Elk Island is also home to the smallest terrestrial mammal in North America, the pygmy shrew.
To give some perspective, here is a picture of a wood bison on the road into Elk Island a few years ago. I am sure that bad boy's head was too big to fit in the window of our car and he would have had to bend his neck down to do so, if he was so inclined.
Three new beers this week coming from breweries across Canada.
First up and coming in as Beer #746 was the Good as Gold Dortmunder Lager from SYC Brewing here in Edmonton. This was a fine example of the style with a really nice balance of malt and tang. The taste was fairly understated, but that is consistent with the style. I am not a huge fan of textbook lagers, as maybe the flavors are too nuanced for me. That said, I was able to appreciate how well this was put together, and for what it was, it was quite good. (3.5 / 5) If you are looking for a good brewery to dig into, try SYC. I have tried four of their beers to date and they are averaging 3.6. (Technically, 3.625 for those of you that are as pedantic as me.)
Beer #747 was a super IPA from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 16. The elderflower was a nice add, not something I think I have had in a beer before. There was some nice tartness from the grapefruit without the annoying pithiness that often comes with citrus. Nice color and hazy without suspended sediment. (3.75 / 5)
Last up and Beer #748 was a collaboration headed up by Ribstone Creek Brewery out of Edgerton. This was a nice yeasty white with multiple flavors. Orange for sure, maybe pineapple or banana. Both of those last two were pretty faint. Nice head and color and a really sweet aroma. I am really glad that Ribstone is back in my rotation. They are a bit geographically outside the brewing corridor in Alberta and it would be great for them to stick around and prosper. This beer was a good sign. (3.5 / 5)
Seven new words this week, with the first two coming from the Churchill book, The Splendid and The Vile. After this week, there are still six new words coming from that book. The other five this week came from a book I am reading from Michael Pollan that should be complete next week.
Greeting from 53.5° north. Hopefully you are warmer wherever you are reading this. It was an unseasonably cold week. Life was filled with a number of work related successes, a couple new beers and another coffee to report on, a completed segment in my virtual cycling tour, plus a couple new words. I nearly finished two more books this week, but the summaries for both will have to wait until next week after they are fully completed.
The work success mainly revolve around the launch of our second wave of the Connect Care tool. Connect Care will eventually be deployed across the entire province, but for now it is focused on the Edmonton zone, with the addition of the suburban Edmonton hospitals launching this weekend. Most of the functionality in this wave is the same as in Wave 1 last November, with the addition of labor and delivery. And of course, there was a baby born right after the system went live. This tweet from the official AHS account says it best: the first baby born in Alberta with a fully digital medical record. It is a good feeling to be part of something like this.
There were two near beers this week. Beer #693 was the Guinness Hop House lager. Decent stuff, especially for a lager. Nice malty flavor, coloring, and aroma. (3.25 / 5) Beer #694 was a real let down and am riding against the popular opinion on the Jelly King from Bellwoods Brewery. I found it overly sour, with the sourness being the only discernible taste. I was really looking forward to this one based on the reviews of my connections on Untappd. (2.75 / 5)
At this point in my five and a half years (2043 days, to be specific) of logging beers on Untappd, I am averaging logging a new beer every 2.94 days. When I started writing on this site, I was averaging a new beer every 2.74 days so I am slowing down. Maybe that is a good thing? I'll have to think about that, maybe over a beer ...
This is my second coffee I have written about, but it is one I have drank several times before. 49th Parallel is out of Vancouver and is the coffee served at Square One, the local coffee shop just a few blocks from home. Their Old School Espresso is a wonderful smelling bean that creates a nice crema. The taste is lighter, with just a hint of chocolate.
You can see that these beans are much less glossy than the Burnt Timber beans I wrote about a few weeks ago. As I write more about coffee, I am going to figure out what those different characteristics mean - at the most mundane, the ground coffee is much less greasy before going into the machine.
I had to ride indoors three times this week. My winter bike is not yet ready and the roads were covered with snow for most of the week. I only tallied 57 km this week, but I did get in the saddle five different times which was a nice accomplishment. In my virtual cross-Canada tour, I got all the way to Campbell River and will start the trek to Nanaimo and am now about 45% of the way to Victoria.
Fun facts about Campbell River: it has been long touted as the Salmon Capital of the World, and its Indigenous name is Wiwek̓a̱m. The average high for October is 13° C, and its airport code is YBL.
Just two new words this week, which does not seem like a lot but at least this list gets to the point quickly.