Greetings from the confirmed location of 53.5° north latitude. Contrary to the standard definition, this past week was at least 15 days long. It was not a bad week by any means, just long. As I mentioned last week, I was trying to sell a car on Kijiji and that was an experience that I would not wish on many people. It ended up being a successful transaction and I am happy we did not just accept the trade-in amount from the dealer, but it was a lot of work.
From a sociological perspective, we - or at least I - have self-selected a pretty narrow slice of the population to interact with. Middle-class, cycling enthusiasts, technology focused, liberal-minded. Every once in a while, our daughters will make a friend with someone that comes from a family that is on the periphery of that slice. Maybe they will be more liberal, more educated, more religious, or younger, but usually there is enough common ground to build a relationship on.
Selling something on Kijiji puts you on the outside of that slice and exposes you to the entire spectrum of people and humanity. There is no way to be insular as the act of posting that ad blows up the bubble of comfort one has with the self-selected circle of friends. Of the nearly 100 people that I interacted with during the process, I was exposed to many different types of people. Some were quite friendly. Some were less concerned about keeping appointments and obligations than I am. (Trying to be polite.) There were lots of people with writing styles and grammar that suggest recent arrivals to Edmonton. There were lots of people with writing styles and grammar I would consider lazy . There were also a lot of people that knew how to fix up cars, which is clearly not a demographic represented in my current bubble.
As I said about, the transaction was successful and I was not concerned about the deal turning ugly, but walking away from the deal with a pocket full of brown bills was a bit nerve-wracking.
Moving on, I was catching up on emails the other day and I came across a newsletter from Studio D that was really interesting (sign up here if interested). I know about Studio D from a Kickstarter that I backed a few years ago. Their Field Study Handbook is an amazing book filled with best practices and templates to successfully do field work pretty much anywhere in the world. I pull it out and flip through it often just to read about topics like In-depth Interview Stages, how to build a Pop-Up studio, and how to pitch a research project.
In the newsletter, Studio D asks the question "What skills does one need today?". At the top of the list is literacy and numeracy, which seem like obvious choices.
We live in a time when literacy is the dominant skill—learning how to write, read, and comprehend what is written, closely followed by numeracy. Given that there was a time before literacy (roughly 7,000 years ago), will we live to experience a post-literate world? For example where communication with letters and words is essentially delegated to or abstracted by technology? - Studio D, Radar Newsletter #24
They suggest that there are five other -acies that one should focus on.
Four of those five -acies are made up words, but the concept behind them and the need for them seems obvious. I am particularly intrigued by the concept of Artificialacy. Knowing when some corporate algorithm tampered with your entertainment stream is not something I considered before but is something I will look out for in the future.
As a parent, one focus I am trying to impart on my daughters is self-sufficiency. They should know the basics like how to wash laundry, how to budget and invest, how to plan and manage conflicting tasks, how to cook at least ten different meals. I am also trying to teach them the importance of having a good toolkit. In the past, this meant knowing how to use a hammer, saw, screwdriver, and maybe even a multimeter. Today though, I am expanding the definition of toolkit to include macros and commands in Excel, and coding with Python. Most of those fit into literacy and numeracy. Thinking about how to incorporate the additional -acies presented by Studio D will be an interesting parenting challenge.
I was able to finish another book this past week, and got half way through another. Book #11 for 2021 was "Lost Light", the ninth book in the Harry Bosch series from Michael Connelly. I really enjoy the Harry Bosch books, but for some reason I have not read one since 2016. In this installment, Bosch is now retired but has not given up being a detective and decides to investigate a cold case from four years prior.
I really cannot say much more as I risk giving away the plot. Suffice it to say that for this book, Bosch comes to grip with life as an ex-cop, and because he is Harry Bosch, he pisses a lot of people off. Well worth the read if you are going through the series and potentially good enough to read without reading the first the first eight books in the series.
This week was for good for cycling and my cross-Canada virtual tour, with just over 100 km in the saddle. In addition, I closed off the final two segments of the current leg between Edmonton and Lloydminster.
With that leg complete, I now move into my third province on the virtual tour. This next leg between Lloydminster and Saskatoon is a decent length of 411 km. At my current pace, I will be able to complete is by early June.
Fun facts about Vermillion and Lloydminster. Vermillion was founded in 1902 and had a population of just under 4,100 in the 2016 census. Lloydminster is a border city, with a split between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Lloydminster has a population of 31,410 according to the 2016 census, with 63% of the population living in the Alberta portion of the city. This makes sense when I first saw the numbers given the lack of a sales tax in Alberta which would seem to be an economic driver to focus living in Alberta. However, the Wikipedia article points out that the Saskatchewan side of Lloydminster is exempted from the Saskatchewan sales tax so as to not penalize Saskatchewan businesses.
Next up is North Battleford and then on to Saskatoon via Biggar and Rosetown.
There are a lot of beers to report this week, but that is because I did not report on any last week. Even so, seven beers in fourteen days is faster than my current overall pace since March 2015 of one new beer every 2.95 days.
The first beer of the fortnight and coming in as Beer #749 was the Troubled Monk If the Crown Fits Kettle Sour. A ton of pineapple and a very fresh taste. I find kettle sours are often not that sour but this one seemed too un-sour to carry that label. That said, this was very tasty and I could see this beer being a huge hit on a crowded patio some day. Hopefully. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #750 was the Pond Surfer ale from Town Square. I was expecting a more bitter taste based on the color but this was very easy-drinking. A bit of pithiness but not too much and a nice level of malt. Good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Next up and coming in as Beer #751 was the Albertosourus from Edmonton brewery Campio. Based on recommendations from friends, I went in with high expectations but was disappointed. This one smelled more sour than it was unfortunately. It did have a beautiful color, but I found the fruit flavors were too mixed and muddled. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #752 was the Arcade Glow Pale Ale from Boombox Brewing out of Vancouver. This was a decent ale with a fair bit of hops and some nice crackery malt. I will have to look out for more from Boombox in the future. (3.5 / 5)
The next beer was a complete departure from the standard offering. Beer #753 was the Phillips Zonkey is supposed to be a Brown Ale, which is not something I typically like. For this one though, the first taste was "wow". Very fresh. Added a nice sweetness to the standard muddled brown ale. The ginger has a bit of zing to it for sure. (3.75)
Last up were two beers from Cabin Brewing out of Calgary. I have raved about Cabin of late and was really hoping for another two knockouts. Beer #754 was their Starburst ESB (labeled as a Triple on Untappd). This was very good with the freshness completely masking the high ABV (9.5%). Lots of fruits and a great aroma. Definitely one to pick up and hoard in the back of the fridge away from unappreciative guests. (4.0 / 5) And finally, Beer #755 was their Night Kitchen ('Smores) Imperial Stout. I did pick up some creaminess from the lactose, but not as much as other Imperials. (My reference beer for this style is still the Iconic Milk Stout from Situation.) Overall, this was good but a bit weird. (3.0 / 5)
Note that my numbering on this blog and on Untappd no longer match, and I am not sure why. Untappd has me at 754 beers but the numbers seem to reconcile back to Beer #700. I will dig in and see if I can figure out the issue.
Greetings from ... somewhere?
For quite some time, I have opened this weekly blog with something in the vein of "Greetings from 53.5° north latitude". However, this week I became concerned that maybe I am not actually at 53.5°. Take a look at these different results.
These first two come from a Bing search of "latitude of Edmonton". The image below comes from the same search term on Google.
Which is the correct answer? One might be able to account for the difference between Bing and Google because, I don't know, Microsoft versus Google? That seems like a bad reason of course, but doing the math it becomes obvious the difference between 53.5461° on Google and 53.54624° on Bing is small enough to be ignored. (Assuming an average of 111 km as the distance between lines of latitude, this comes out to about 15 m of difference.) Both are clearly well within the city limits of Edmonton and the difference between the two is likely which side of the street you define the center of the city to be.
To further confound the problem though, the reason I noticed this was because I launched Google Earth for the first time in quite a while and I noticed that 53.5° is nowhere near "Edmonton" when viewed via the lens of Google Earth. The image below is snapped from Google Earth with the latitude line layer overlaid for easy reference.
Next I checked the Wikipedia page for Edmonton and from there linked to me to this page which linked various different references for the geographic location of Edmonton and has this handy image and table of information.
Looking at this page, I realized my problem - I had mixed my units when comparing the various sources. The Google Earth image is shown in Degrees / Minutes / Seconds, or DMS. You can see from the image above that Edmonton is centered at 53° 32' as that latitude runs right through the downtown core. In Decimal notation, 53° 32' translates to 52.53°.
So. Problem solved and lesson learned. Without further ado, greetings, and welcome from a confirmed 53.5° north latitude. This week's entry will be a bit shorter than it could be, mainly because I am writing this late on Sunday after having spent most of the weekend trying to sell a car via Kijiji. I will focus on the one book I finished, my cycling update, and the new words. The four new beers this week and writeups about skills, COVID, and cryptocurrencies will be carried over to next week.
I was able to finish one book this week, this one being the second book I have read by food writer and journalist, Michael Pollan. Book #10 for 2021 was "The Omnivore's Dilemmna: A Natural History of Four Meals". This was a book that terrified me with its descriptions of industrial food production. It was not descriptions of what happens in industrial scale slaughterhouses that terrified me, as terrible as that is, and neither was it the descriptions of the dietary impacts of cheap corn, as harmful as they are.
No, it was the fear of the monoculture that modern agriculture supports that really scared me. If you have ever flown across the prairies in recent years, most of the farmland one can see at any point in a journey is of a single plant. In most cases around Edmonton, it is canola. In others it is soy and corn, with industrial corn production being the focus of much of Pollan's book.
Concerns about monoculture were not new to me, but Pollan really highlighted the importance of the issue. The vicious cycle of a single crop that requires lots of fertilizer, with no ability for the soil to regenerate and no animals or insects to aerate, fertilize, and nurture it and help it thrive. In addition, modern agriculture is a volume game, so bigger seems better, meaning annoyance like hills and trees need to be removed, and there resulting barren landscape exposes the soil which becomes more vulnerable to wind erosion. Modern industrial agriculture, as pointed out by Pollan, will say this is fine because we can make the soil more viable by pumping more fertilizer into it. However, to use a word Pollan used several times, that is a reductive way of looking at the problem because fertilizer production requires lots of fossil fuels and therefore produces lots of greenhouse gases.
While reading Pollan's critique of industrial corn, I kept thinking about what we are doing to the planet and the image that kept coming was the farm scenes at the start of "Interstellar", and how Matthew McConaughey had to wear a mask to go outside due to the awful dust storms. Are we creating that inevitability of a dying planet that can only be saved by the sudden appearance of a wormhole, all because of a capitalist need for profits and a consumeristic need to constantly pay less for everything? We want more and we want it cheaper, and that is all that matters? (See this link for other entries about capitalism.)
Pollan highlights one solution that might be an answer if not the answer, but it is radical in the extreme at least by what we think of today as conventional wisdom driven by capitalism. I will leave it to you as a reader to read about and analyze that potential solution yourself, as even if I had the time and space to summarize it here, I doubt I could do it as eloquently as Pollan did in his book. Suffice it to say that I think we should give the alternatives to industrial agriculture a significant amount of focus and brain power. Even if the current solutions are not globally scalable, they should be able to provide inspiration for ideas that may be.
Pollan also wades into the ethics of eating meat. In my mind, eat meat or not, that is your choice. But I think his words in the following quote (page 405 from the paperback version of the book) are an interesting take on the subject.
If there is any shame in that destruction (my note: of killing an animal), only we humans seem to feel it, and then only on occasion. But cooking doesn't only distance us from our destructiveness, turning the pile of blood and guts into a savory salami, it also symbolically redeems it, making good our karmic debts: Look what good, what beauty, cam come of this! Putting a great dish on the table is our way of celebrating the wonders of form we humans can create from this matter - this quantity of sacrificed life - just before the body takes its first destructive bite.
This was a really good week for cycling, and I did not even get a ride in on the weekend end. I hit 80 km by Friday in three rides and explored parts of the city that I may never have been to, and certainly have not been to since I moved here officially after university.
I made it to Vegreville on my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour this week. Vegreville is a nice town, one that I spent a lot of time in when I was an independent consultant as I had multiple clients there. In the years since I stopped consulting, I have only been back two or three times, and with younger kids at the time, each visit to Vegreville required a stop by the pysanka. As per the Wikipedia entry, a pysanka is a decorated Ukrainian Easter egg decorated with Ukranian folk designs. Pysanka can be beautiful objects, and we have several in our house. An image search of Vegreville comes up with mainly images of the massive pysanka erected in Vegreville.
Next up on the cross-Canada tour is Vermilion. I probably would have made it there this week if not for the Kijiji focus all weekend. I doubt I will make it all the way to Lloydminster this week, but that might happen if I can get four good rides in.
The updated progress chart is shown below.
Just one new word this week, that being the first one. The rest are the last tranche of words from "The Splendid and The Vile" that I finished a handful of weeks ago.
chaffing (present participle)
[im·pe·ti·go | \ ˌim-pə-ˈtē-(ˌ)gō , -ˈtī- \]
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.
Greetings and well met. 53.5° north latitude welcomes you both from this blog and as the latest destination in my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour. The week was also witness to the completion of one book and the consumption of three new beers. No new words were logged, but I still have a number to catch up on from my reading of the story of Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II. Diving in commences in three, two, one, ...
I was able to finish one book this week, but it came at the cost of a bit of running around. Book #9 for 2021 was "Pharaohs" by Terry Pratchett, the seventh book in the wonderfully imaginative Discworld series. I had the ebook from my local library and the loan expired with about thirty pages left. I was left to drive to another branch to grab a physical copy so that I could finish it.
Pharaohs is another funny Discworld story, and is nearly completely standalone from the first six books in the series. There is a physical location that is repeated from other novels, but none of the characters have appeared in any of the previous books. This is good in how it fleshes out the world more, but somewhat disappointing because I would love to know what happens to Rincewind or Luggage or the Wyrd Sisters.
Beyond that, this was another good story with numerous laugh-aloud moments. Seven books done in the series, thirty-three to go. I am looking forward to reading each of them and already sad that I know the series is finite.
This morning, I virtually rode into and slightly past Edmonton. In 186 days since I started logging my rides towards the goal of virtually crossing Canada, I have traveled 1681 km over 108 rides for an average of 15.57 km per ride. That is up from the 15.36 km average I posted just last week, so clearly my rides are getting longer.
The following image shows the map of the next leg - Edmonton to Lloydminster. This is by far the shortest leg to date, but I feel Lloydminster is an appropriate goal since it is on the border with Saskatchewan. The first segment to Elk Island National Park is only 53 km, and with the carryover from my most recent ride, I am already 3.6 km done.
The next image shows the progress to date on the first four legs in the virtual tour. Note that the Edmonton - Lloydminster leg shows up as 261 km on Bing Maps as noted above, but the Edmonton - Elk Island - Vegreville - Vermillion - Lloydminster leg with the stops logged along the way comes in at 264 km. I will be going with the larger number for the tour.
Now that I am back on segments that are less familiar (to me) than the leg between Jasper and Edmonton, I will continue the "fun facts" updates for each destination along the way.
I had three new beers this week, all from great Alberta breweries.
Beer #743 was the Cloudburst from Calgary's Cabin Brewing, which was described on the label as "tart blueberry and lemon ale with vanilla and lactose". This was a fantastic beer. The lactose provided a wonderful creaminess which was nicely offset by the tartness. Plus that startling dark red color was wonderful. If Cabin keeps this up, they are going to supplant Collective Arts as my favorite non-Alley Kat brewery. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #744 was the Tumbling Tide Tripel from Dandy Brewing, once again in Calgary. This silky and smooth beer did a wonderful job of hiding the high tripel level ABV of 8.5%. It also had a nice lacy foam and aroma. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #745 was the Full Circle Roggenbier from Blindman Brewing in Lacombe. I had no idea what a roggenbier was, so lucky I found this web page that asked "What the Hell is a Roggenbier?". I learned that roggen is German for rye and a roggenbier is a beer brewed with a high percentage of rye malt and a low amount of hops. I really liked the use of rye and the clove added a nice spice that I typically equate with winter stouts but worked really well with this lower ABV beer. From reading the label though, I had no idea who brewed it. (3.5 / 5)
All of the words this week are still from "The Splendid and The Vile" from a few weeks ago. Well, technically there were a bunch of new words in "Pharaohs", but they will all words Terry Pratchett made up.
riven (past participle)
calumniated (past tense) · calumniated (past participle)