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 once again from 53.5° north latitude. The week was long, but I am not off for a week and very much looking forward to riding, cooking, and likely doing a bunch of cleaning and yard work.
The entry this week will be pretty light. There was no time in the week to find anything really profound, and I will leave the beers until next week. That will leave two books, a cycling update, and two words.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
I was able to finish two books this week. As I predicted last week, I was able to finish one last week, but it was late Sunday when it got done, well past the time that I finished the blog entry. So technically one of the books this week was actually last week, but in the end it does not really matter, now does it?
Book #14 for 2021 was "M is for Malice" by Sue Grafton. This is the third book I have read in the Alphabet Series in 2021, and this one takes me over the half-way point in the series. This one was very enjoyable with a bit more of the soft side of Kinsey showing through. I was 90% through the book and I honestly thought the series was getting predictable. I saw through the obvious killer and picked up the subtle clues to the not-so-obvious killer. I had this one figured out, or so I thought. I do not want to give anything away, but we can just say that I was wrong, and surprised.
Book #15 for 2021 was "Stillness in the Key" by Ryan Holiday. This is a philosophy book, but not so much a self-help book. It presented numerous ideas, theories, and practices, all around pushing you to find time to be calm, relax, and think. There were a lot of references to Churchill, some of which I remember from my recent reading of "The Splendid and the Vile", but also Leonardo da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Buddha, and Jesus. It presented a lot to think about, but since it was not a self-help book per se, there was not a formula to follow and implement. I suppose that might be the point of the book - you need to spend the time to think about the lessons in the book to actually put them into action. The need to think and internalize is important, and I think that is part of the message Holiday was imparting. Really good stuff, and likely a book I will go back to periodically to refresh and refocus.
My last milestone report for my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour was two weeks ago when I rolled into Lloydminster. For the update this week, I made it past North Battleford, Saskatchewan and about half way to Biggar. (I am super excited to hit Biggar!)
Fun facts about North Battleford, according to Wikipedia. The population of the North Battleford area was 17,595 according to the 2011 census, which somewhat shockingly puts it as the fifth most populous area in Saskatchewan. Sadly, Maclean's magazine named it the most dangerous place to live in 2018. Finally, there is an airport close to North Battleford with the callsign of CYQW.
Here is the updated progress chart of the tour up to the most recent ride. I should have no problem getting to Biggar this week.
As mentioned above, just two new words this week. After the seemingly never-ending list of words coming from the Churchill book, it seems odd to have so few in the last three weeks.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude week that varied from highs of 22 °C to 9 °C. I suppose that should not be surprising given that we just entered May this weekend, but the variation is hard to deal with.
There were two interesting articles that I want to share before we get into the usual sections. One deals with the George Floyd murder trial, and the other deals with a Canadian Prime Minister that I honestly knew very little about before this week.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020 was a reprehensible act. There is no question in my mind that Chauvin is guilty of murder and thankfully the jurors agreed. On April 20, 2020, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.
60 Minutes interviewed the prosecution team for their show last week. The full clip is at both times sobering and heart-rending, but also hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, someone like Derek Chauvin in some other police force out there will realize that he cannot act with impunity, that he is supposed to respect and protect all lives and not just the lives of white people, and that there are real and significant consequences for all acts of police brutality.
"Was [racism] Mr. Chauvin's motive? Who knows? There weren't any explicit, overt statements made, but most people do have a hard time believing that this would've happened to the typical white citizen in the state of Minnesota." - Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell
The video and images from the murder are still hard to view, and hopefully they are always hard to view. George Floyd should not have died, should not have been murdered. If any good can come out of his death, I hope it is that this is the end, at least the beginning of the end, of systemic, institutionalized racism, whether that is against black people in America or Indigenous people in Canada.
Okay. Trying to ... move on? ... No, that is not what I mean. It is more like needing to continue to live without forgetting.
Switching gears, I now want to talk about a white, old, Canadian male who died nearly fifty years ago. Louis St. Laurent was Canada's twelfth Prime Minster, serving nearly nine years from 1948 to 1957. He was described as a strong Canadian nationalist and was by all accounts a very effective leader.
Not that I knew any of this about him, mind you. There is a Catholic high school named after him and I did not even realize who it referred to until this week. So yeah, some dude that I knew nothing about.
St. Laurent came to my attention this week when I read the March 2021 issue of "Inside Policy" from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The cover of the issue has a picture of St. Laurent with the words "The Legacy of Louis St. Laurent: When governments got things done". My immediate reaction was of scoffing indifference - here is another case of looking back at the past with a bias that everything was better before - but I read the article anyway thinking that this was going to be a series of potshots at Justin Trudeau, a leader that the Institute has made no secret of their dislike.
In contrast, the Institute extolled the virtues of St. Laurent. To wit:
On almost every issue it touched, [St. Laurent's] government modernized the idea of Canada, either in its support of new programs or in its international relations.
The list of accomplishments provided in the articles include: approving Canada's participation in NATO; recognizing the state of Israel; overseeing coordination with American air defence, which later resulted in NORAD; expansion of the shipways along the St. Lawrence; the Trans-Canada Highway; multiple radar lines including the Distant Early Warning system; the Canso Causeway; a pipeline from Alberta to central Canada; a push for the aerospace industry which resulted in the Avro Arrow; and, universal hospital insurance.
That is quite a list, by any measure. The Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent deserves more recognition that he currently has based on that list of accomplishments. I am sure he had flaws, but I could not find any online and none were referenced in his Wikipedia entry. There was an article by Conrad Black that said he had "never heard a negative, or even slightly disrespectful, comment, including from his opponents" about St. Laurent. Quite an individual, apparently.
I was able to finish two books this week and will likely finish a third this week but after I post the entry for this week.
Book #12 for 2021 was "But What If We're Wrong?" by Chuck Klosterman. This is a book of separate but connected essays around the theme that in the future people will look back at us and see our present / their past completely differently than we do. This makes sense when you think about how we in our present reflect on our past which is of course someone else's present. This book does a good job to blow up the idea that we know what is true, and what future people will think about our truths. There are a number of good points in the book, but the one about American football and team sports blew my mind.
"The first possibility is that football survives because of its explicit violence, and this this discomfiting detail ends up being its twisted salvation. The second possibility is that football will indeed disappear - but not just because of its brutality. It will disappear because all team sports are going to disappear, and football will merely be the first." --Chuck Klosterman, "But What If We're Wrong?"
I do not watch sports any more. I have watched two hockey games since the end of the 2012 NHL season (one of which I was in a bar celebrating a friend's birthday, and the other I was on a guys weekend in the mountains with a couple friends). I have watched a bit more baseball in that time period but not really much after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. I stopped watching football (soccer) after Tottenham lost the Champions League to Liverpool in 2019.
I bring that up because I just assumed my lack of interest in sports was just something about me, but Klosterman made me think that maybe society at large will move away from watching team sports. Not everyone of course, especially in the case of American football as Klosterman sees it, but for the majority of people. It is nearly impossible to imagine our world without team sports, but that is the essence of Klosterman's book - what about the modern and present day will seem ridiculous in the future?
Give his book a read to see if there are any similar revelations for you.
Book #13 was "The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street" by Lauren Oliver. This was a book that I read with my younger daughter. There was a lot to like about this book in the early stages - an interesting premise, strong characters, funny monsters, and a compelling mystery. But like a lot of books it unfortunately hobbled to the conclusion. We were thirty-two pages from the end assuming it was the first in a series because there was no way it would be wrapped up that quickly. It was, but unfortunately not in a satisfying way. There were definitely some high points along the way, but not enough to be something I would consider "good". Not every book can be something to savor for all time, but I would rather read a marginal book than not read.
It has been quite a while since I last reviewed a coffee. This is because I purchased multiple bags of the previously reviewed beans and was going through them before trying something new. My most recent new coffee was the Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso. I was looking forward to this one as the company has a good story to tell and I quite like their decaf. Their espresso though was quite thin and did not have a lot of taste. I upped the amount of beans but that did not help much. I get more crema and taste from their decaf. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the beans are very dry and brittle, which probably leads to the lack of crema.
I had two more beers from Cabin Brewing, the end of a four-pack sampler. Beer #755 was their Falling Skies Dark Sour with Apricots. The first taste of this was extremely sour, but I got used to it very quickly. I did not pick up much of the apricot flavor, which is too bad. In summary, a sour for the sake of being sour with an ingredient that did not add much to the beer. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #756 was their Morning Sun Farmhouse Ale / Saison. This was decent stuff. Refreshing and just carbonated enough to give a bit of a pop. Lots of mild fruit flavor and a nice aroma. (3.25 / 5)
(Note that I have recalibrated my beer numbers in this blog to align with what is on Untappd. If you recall, I mentioned last week that the numbers were out of sync between this blog and Untappd. I assume I just messed up somewhere on this blog since beer #700.)
Just two new words this week. The first one was from a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style rendition of Romeo and Juliet and was in the colophon. (Yes, I am the kind of person that reads the colophon.)