Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, a part of the world straddling alternate dimensions of eternal spring and eternal winter. Hey, it's nice! Hey, it's snowing! Where did that wind come from?
Beyond suffering through the vagaries of weather, the week was pretty quiet. I have decided to run a game of Tomb of Annihilation for the group of friends I am currently playing Curse of Strahd with. I am contemplating creating a blog with a series of prep session notes for Tomb. If I do, I will post a link here.
On top of the prep work for Tomb, I finished one book, hit the century mark for rides in my cross-Canada virtual trip, and tried two new beers from my favorite brewery. Let's dive in.
Book #8 for 2021 is a re-read of the fifth Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". This was something my younger daughter and I started reading on January 1 and I am pretty impressed that we ploughed through 764 pages in eighty-five days.
If you have read the series, you will know this is the longest of the seven books and it is definitely the darkest book so far in the series. The lamentable Harry Potter does not have much true hope for the first 7644 pages but I felt pretty good for him at then end.
It is hard to do much of a review of the fifth book in any series without going into significant detail that would spoil the other books in the series. Suffice it to say that this was an emotional rollercoaster. It is also the last Harry Potter book that I have read (or listened to) multiple times. Later this year we will dig into the next book in the series, and I will do so with relatively fresh eyes having not read it for about fifteen years.
I made really good distance this week on my bike, including a ride with my summer bike on Saturday that ended up being a fairly snowy affair after about half way through the ride. No segments or legs were completed this week, but I should be able to finish off the Edson - Edmonton portion next week.
I was comparing cycling notes with my friend Bryan earlier this week and I realized that I was at 100 rides since I started tracking my cross-Canada virtual trip. As you can see in the image, as of earlier this week I had tracked 100 rides for 1535 km. My average ride is over 15 km and I am averaging 8.83 km per day overall. At about 11,000 km if I cover a virtual route to every provincial or territorial capital, I am about 15% done. At the current pace, my entire trip should take me almost exactly two full years.
There were two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up, coming is as check-in #741 was a tribute to Alley Kat founder, Neil Herbst. Neil's Smoked Porter had nice malts and a rich color. There was a bit of smoke without the smoke being overpowering. Slightly more foam would have improved it, IMO. All in all nicely done and a great tribute to the Alley Kat founder and legend. (3.5 / 5)
Second up was the Sabro Dragon, another solid beer in their Dragon Double IPA series. The hop combination had a slightly metallic note, but the aroma and foam were good. The copper color was beautiful. This probably had more obvious hops taste than any recent Dragon. (3.25 / 5)
I thought it was appropriate that I also earned the Untappd "One Billionth Check-in" badge drinking a beer from my favorite brewery.
The new words below are all from my reading of "The Splendid and the Vile", the book that I finished and wrote about last week.
Greetings from 53.5° north. The past week was filled with reading, beer, and cycling, plus a recognition of the need to set weekly goals for words written if I am ever going to complete that proposal for the book I want to write. Tracking progress towards goals and milestones is instrumental for making progress in everything else I do, so I wonder why it took me to this week to realize that for this particular item. I am going to stay silent on the actual content of the book until the proposal is submitted, regardless of whether it is accepted or not, but I will comment on progress on this site.
With that, let's get on with the update - one book read, one segment completed, and two-but-actually-only-one new beers.
Depending on how you count which week we are in 2021, today marks the end of the eleventh or twelfth week of the year. If I am going to read 52 books in 2021, I should have finished eleven or twelve books by now, but I am unfortunately not close to that goal. I have one book in progress that should be done in the next week, plus another that is quite short that should also be done in the next few days. That will still put me below pace though, so I need to get focused.
Book #7 for 2021 was "The Splendid and The Vile" by Erik Larson. I picked this up from the library as I was intrigued by the name, without any idea that it was a historical account of World War II and the coterie around Winston Churchill. There was a lot about Churchill of course, but Larson goes into depth about one of Churchill's personal secretaries, his daughter, his daughter-in-law, his wife, a few close confidants, and to a certain extent, the King.
Showing the quirks of the protagonist's personalities highlighted that as great as these people were, they were just people with hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions much like anyone else. Churchill was clearly flawed - as we all are - but he was able to work with and around his flaws to lead his nation in a war that was constantly hammering his country. The Nazis thought Churchill's flaws would be Britain's undoing, but I think his flaws shone a light on his humanity, and it was this humanity that allowed his country to rally behind him.
The book was filled with great anecdotes and quotes. I will not share them here for fear of spoiling the surprise. It is a rather long book, but it was a quick read, and highly recommended at that.
I am working on increasing my average distance traveled to 10 km per day. My average ride per trip is over 15 km, which I am happy with considering we are just coming out of the winter months. The daily average overall regardless of whether I rode or not is too low though, coming in at 8.9 km. My goal is to consistently get that above 10 km per day, or 3650 km in a year.
The math behind my averages is as follows: It has been 172 days since I started logging my trips for my virtual cross-Canada tour, and I have traveled 1525 km. By the end of March I will be at the half-way point for a year and should be over 1600 km. However, a half year based on a 10 km per day average would mean 1825 km traveled. Much like my comments about reading and writing, tracking progress is important to keep me on track.
In the last week, I was able to complete the Hinton-Edson segment, and am now about 25% of the way through the Edson-Edmonton segment. At my 10 km day average, I will complete the Valemount to Edmonton leg in two weeks. For now, here is a visual look at my progress.
I was able to try one new beer this week, continuing a streak of disappointment with a favorite brewery. I also happily dug into a new beer from what I thought was a new-to-me brewery and was surprised to find that I had already had that beer.
Beer #740 was yet another from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 15. I was a bit down on Collective Arts after the last few beers so I went into this one somewhat tepid. It was close to being great, so close. It had lots of grapefruit without the drying pith that so many IPAs fail on. Very smooth, but unfortunately it was flat and without much life. If this was not a can, I would have suspected an old keg. Overall a lot of promise but just not quite a winner. (3.25 / 5)
The brewery that I thought was new-to-me was Trolley 5, a brewpub out of Calgary. They have a surprisingly large lineup and I tried their First Crush White IPA on the recommendation from a friend. I quite enjoyed it and was thinking about rating it 3.5 or 3.75 when I logged into Untappd. I first had First Crush in September 2018 and rated it 3.75 at that time. The consistent rating is a good sign that I do not vary in my assessments. Unfortunately though I was unable to claim another check-in, but my personal goal to drink one of every beer in the world is a stretch goal, after all.
So many new words, courtesy of Larson's book on Churchill. A number of the new words were taken directly from quotes from Churchill's minutes and memos that Larson peppered throughout the book. There are too many to address in one week, so I will do about one-quarter of them this week.
machicolations (plural noun)
Greetings from a day-after-daylight-savings 53.5° north latitude. There is still ice in alleys and on some roads and sheltered areas along the paths, but cycling became much more fun this last week. The average speed is increasing to a respectable number for the winter bike with studded tires, and the top-end speed is entering speeding ticket territory.
Beyond boring cycling statistics and a couple beers, there was not much to report this week. There is one follow-up to the Bill C-10 Broadcasting Act changes that I posted four weeks ago. Michael Geist posted an update on his blog this week and lamented that the bill continues to have "no firm thresholds, no rules on intellectual property, no exclusion of news, and nothing on Canadian ownership." Geist blasts the Liberals in his closing paragraph with this doozy of a sentence: "The amateurish release of the bill, the steady stream of blunders, and the absence of details all speak to a Minister and department that want a George W. Bush-like “Mission Accomplished” moment and then to quickly move onto the other issues, leaving the CRTC to clean up the mess."
In case the Liberals do not get their Dubya moment, I will offer this up for them. (As a bonus, read the linked CBS article for a synopsis of the a reminder of that bit of spin doctoring.)
Four new beers were tried this week, but none were homeruns unfortunately. That said, none of them were bad either but since all four beers were from my two favorite breweries, I was disappointed.
Beer #736 was yet another from Collective Arts. This one was their IPA No. 14. I had their IPA No. 12 eleven months ago. While I am on the number theme, this is my seventeenth check-in for a beer from Collective Arts. Back to No. 14, there was lots of citrus and juice but it tasted more like pineapple to me than the grapefruit the label suggested. Lots of juice flavor regardless. The citrus, hops, and malt hid the high ABV nicely. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #737 continued the Collective Arts streak, now up to 18 unique check-ins on Untappd. The Grapefruit and Pomegranate Sour had a great color and aroma. I definitely picked up the grapefruit in this one as opposed to the IPA No. 14 I mentioned above. I did not get much of the pomegranate flavor though and the sour seemed somewhat like an afterthought unfortunately. It was okay, but that's it. (3.25)
Moving from Collective Arts to Alley Kat now. I picked up a four-pack with two different Alley of their latest Back Alley Brews. I am a big fan of their limited run BAB series, in particular the Ocean Pearl and Bob's Your Dunkel were great, so I definitely went into these two with high hopes.
Beer #738 was the Alley Kat Highway to Helles, which I thought was a good pun until I searched on Untappd on got 58 hits. This was exactly what you should expect in a solid German lager. Crisp, clean, and clear. But it is styled after a German lager, which I find pretty dull unfortunately. Points for hitting the style though. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the week, the sixtieth unique check-in from Alley Kay, and Beer #739 was their Red Demon Red Rice Lager. Definitely sensed the rice as soon as I raised the glass. Reminded me of drinking Japanese rice beers at Nomiya (which made me sad and nostalgic). Good for the style, but I guess I was hoping for more from the last Back Alley Brew. (3.25 / 5)
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. The week that was was a week indeed. Since there was not really a post last week, there is a fair bit to cover this week, at least on the new beers front.
There were a couple interesting items to note before we get to the beer. The first was the result of a conversation with a friend about epidemiology studies spawning from a discussion about PubMed. My friend noted a study from 1984 published in the Journal of Trauma about emergency rooms statistics on injuries caused by falling coconuts. First of all, coconuts falling on heads is apparently a thing and a potentially fatal thing at that. Second, it is interesting to see how the process from a physician with an idea evolves into a research study and eventually into a journaled article. This is possible in 2021 with coding standards such as ICD-10 or ICD-9, but I have no idea how it was done in 1984. I imagine it was much more manual and therefore, at least to me, more impressive.
But the most interesting point of this is how the story changes, morphs, and gets exaggerated. From one article with references to two fatalities, the legend of the falling coconuts grew to where coconuts kill 150 per year and to having coconut trees removed from some Australian beaches. The related Wikipedia article has some interesting information.
The second item is somewhat related. The reason my friend and I were discussing PubMed was that we were discussing whether it was true naporxen was in fact less harmful that ibuprofen, which then led to investigation into NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In our house, we have both Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) and happened to open a new bottle of Advil this last week. Based on the discussion and research, I was curious to see the list of non-medicinal ingredients in Advil. What I read surprised me.
As per the sheet that comes with Advil, the "important" non-medicinal ingredients (not sure if there are non-important as well) are:
So there you have it. Coconuts are more dangerous than titanium dioxide.
I have read quite a bit in the last two weeks, but have only finished one book. Book #6 for 2021 was "The Reader" by Traci Chee. This book signified the end of an era because it was a book that I started reading together with my older daughter but that we did not finish together as she no longer wants to read together. So there is that. The story was quite good though so I wanted to finish it. As one might expect from a book geared to a teen audience, the protagonists were themselves teenagers and were of course orphaned. However the story was not so filled with YA tropes to be annoying. The adults were nuanced and not completely evil. The kids were scared but also independent and powerful. The part that surprised me was how dark the story was. Not a lot of good things happen and the world in the story is quite harsh.
All in all, this was a good story and worth reading. It is the first book in a series and I am certain I will get to the others in the future.
In the past three weeks, I have completed the first two segments of the current Leg from Valemount to Edmonton. At this point, I have cycled 1390 km since I started logging my trips on my virtual cross-Canada tour. The updated progress image is given below. I am not going to post any fun facts about Jasper or Hinton since they are so familiar to me. I will probably start doing that again once I get past Edmonton.
No new music this week. The music playlist that I am going to share is entitled "Dad's last playlist" and came from him a couple years ago. Like any good playlist, every song has a story. As I explained to a friend earlier this week, when Dad listened to music, he *listened*. Plus he was a drummer when he was younger so if got into a song, he would grab pens or chopsticks or wooden spoons and beat the piss out of an imaginary set of skins to a song like "Devil with a Blue Dress" (song #6 on the playlist). Enjoy the music, and grab your own wooden spoons.
A lot of new beers were consumed in the last fortnight. As you will see in the notes below, I have come to the likely unpopular opinion that Blind Enthusiasm produces only mediocre beer.
Beer #728 was a local beer, the Resolutions 2021 from Bent Stick. This was a really good example of a barleywine. Nice taste without an alcohol burn. Well done. (3.75 / 5)
The next four are from Blind Enthusiasm, a local brewery that gets a lot of love. They have some decent beers, but I have never thought they were worthy of their Alberta brewery of the year award in 2018. Having interesting concepts is important, but so is consistency and quality control.
Beer #729 was their Kook Birds gin barrel-aged ale. This would have been great if it wasn't so overly carbonated (look at those bubbles and foam!). It was super tasty from the gin and really juicy without pithy citrus but I think they need to work on their quality control. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #730 was the Union Bhouys Euro Pale Lager. The description mentions lots of fruit and some malt. I did not get that much fruit from it but I did like the malt. I did pick up a lot of spice though once again, and it was off-putting. Might just be a personal preference coming through. (3.0 / 5)
Next up from Blind Enthusiasm and Beer #731 was their OKT which they call on the label as fruit-forward copper ale. I really liked the taste and color of this one. Good hops without being overly bitter. (3.5 / 5)
The final Blind Enthusiasm for this week and Beer #732 was the Fabhelles Helles Lager. Again, there is something in this beer that I don't like. I don't know if there is a consistent yeast or process step with Blind Enthusiasm that is off-putting to me. It isn't peppery but there is an off taste. Nice maltiness though. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #733 was the last local beer of the fortnight. The 2017 version of the Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy was another good barleywine. Another Olde Deuteronomy that makes me wish Alley Kat still produced these. High ABV but not alcohol burn. Great malts and aroma. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #734 was the Żywiec Lager out of Poland. One of the comments for it on Untappd says "Is there a word for "more generic than generic?" and that is pretty accurate. Nothing really stands out but nothing is really wrong with this either. Decent taste, light malt. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the fortnight and coming in as Beer #735 was the Samuel Smith Welcome Back 2021 ale. This was a nice winter ale with some good background spices and really solid malts that one would expect from a good UK ale. Nice stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I am collecting quite a list of new words on my Kobo that I will add in when I finish my current book. For now, there is just this one word.
[ham·mam | \ hə-ˈmäm \]