So yeah, let's lead with the weather. It is hot, getting hotter, and staying hot. There are people living in warmer climes that will scoff at my declaration that this weather is hot. Well, pshaw right back to you, mister. I live in a climate that regularly gets into the -30s Celsius. In fact, it was only six months ago when I posted a link of the weather at -30°C. Sure, it can get hotter where you live, but I doubt you must deal with 60 or even 70°C swings in temperature in six months. Part of the deal of living somewhere that can get super cold is that you do not also have to deal with temperatures that are super warm. Or at least that was my understanding.
The week was a bit underwhelming due to the heat. I did a bit of cycling, did a fair bit of reading, tried a couple new beers, and worked on a new game I am going to run for some friends. Things were a bit scattered though, and so not a lot was finished unfortunately.
Time to dig into the update for this week.
It was March 12, 2020. I got together with a small group of strangers to see if we could form a group to play D&D. This was one day after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic due to COVID-19. We were not sure how things were going to work out, but we said we would keep in touch.
Since then, four of us have become friends. I run one game and two of the other players run games that I play in. It has been a great experience and is something that helped focus my creative energy. I have written thousands of words for the games and have used that skill to craft a short story that is ready for a submission window to open. My improvisational skills have improved immensely, and I have a much better ability now to adjust in the moment when things do not go as planned. That is not limited to gaming though - it applies equally to my work.
As the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and the games are no exception, but luckily every new beginning is some other beginning's end.
My game wrapped up this week, one game I play in will likely finish next week, and the other has stalled mid-story. As COVID hopefully lessens in impact and we regain the ability to meet in person, I suspect many people will drop their "COVID hobbies". I will likely not have the ability to play games two nights a week in the future like I have been able to since March 2020, but I am confident that I will continue to play on a regular basis. So confident in fact, that I recently committed to running a group through the official adventure, Tomb of Annihilation.
I am not going to describe the adventure or the work I am doing to prepare in the Show Notes section. Instead, I have created a Gaming section where I will post my thoughts and preparation notes, and likely some writing based on what happened in the game. As of the time of posting this update, Gaming is empty. The first post will address the logistics of how I have setup the game with Foundry VTT and Discord. After that, I will get into the plans for the characters and what I plan on bringing in for house rules and supplements. I am looking forward to the year-long commitment to working through Tomb with my friends and I am looking forward to writing about it as we go. I hope you will find it interesting as well.
A good friend of mine started logging his rides to see how far he could go during COVID. That inspired me to ride more and do the same in the form of my cross-Canada virtual tour. My rides started getting longer, which in turn inspired that same friend to increase the length of his rides. He is now on course to hit 1000 km this month, which is truly remarkable. I am not sure I will go that far, but I am definitely going to increase my distance for July with a target of 650 km.
We can safely say that my performance in the saddle last week is not consistent with a 750 km month. Even so, I was able to finish another segment on the virtual tour, and have now virtually passed Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Wikipedia page for Moose Jaw lists a number of fun facts: people from Moose Jaw are called Moose Javians; I already knew that Moose Jaw was home to the Snowbirds, but I did not know that was due to the military base being a NATO training ground. The page was missing a reference to Al Capone using Moose Jaw as a base for northern operations, but apparently that is an urban legend.
Here is the updated progress chart.
With the heat of this week, I focused on beer-as-heat-antidote instead of focusing on trying new beers. That allowed me to stock the fridge with Alley Kat Scona Gold, which is a great Kölsch.
Before the weather went crazy, I did try a few new beers. First up as Beer #772 was another Alley Kat. Their Hot Tropic Pineapple Kviek (pronouned Quake) was a pleasant surprise. I have been down on real juicy beers lately but this one had a lot of nice flavor without it being just a big glass of juice. This is a Back Alley Brew, which means it is a limited production run so it will not be around for long. (3.5 / 5)
The second beer was from Banded Peak, a brewery out of Calgary that is consistently good. Beer #773 was their Summit Seeker IPA and was another really good beer from them. I really liked how the barley added some great color and flavor which made it more than just another IPA. Nice stuff. (3.75 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #774 was the Midnight Prairie Alberta Lager from GP Brewing. I thought GP closed down a few years ago, so I thought the single I picked up last week was something that had been sitting around for months. However, the branding makes it look like an off-label brew so maybe it was something they brewed for someone else. Regardless, I picked up a single can and tried it out on a hot day. One of the comments on Untappd sums this beer up quite nicely: "can get an 8 pack for about 12$". (2.5 / 5) On a positive note, if GP did close down, they are back in operations with more adventurous beer this time. Their website has an update from May 2021 that highlights a Blueberry Porter and a Cranberry Blood Orange. Sadly, there is no actual style listed for the Cranberry Blood Orange and the image for the Blueberry Porter is definitely not a Porter. My guess it that GP is trying to come back but they have a lot of work to do if they want to be a successful brewery. There is too much competition in Alberta for a brewery that puts out product that is mediocre at best.
Greetings from the end of a beautiful week at 53.5° north latitude. We are at Day 465 of the COVID-19 pandemic and are nearing the end of the major restrictions here in Alberta. Of course, lots of places in the US are already allowing mass gatherings without masks.
I mean, Ralph Macchio, right? You have to think that he was an Isles fan back in their heyday, so semifinal hockey must be pretty sweet for him. And just a note for the make-you-feel-old file, Macchio turns 60 this November.
Life seems like it will turn back to normal this summer, and if not normal, then at least much less restricted. Several of my friends already have their second doses and the invites for get-togethers are starting to flow. I cannot say I feel comfortable with this though. I have spent so much of the past 465 days in this chair in this basement office that getting out and getting together seem alien to me. The INTP is strong in this one, unfortunately.
The summer equinox will be about thirty-five minutes after I post this entry, and the nice weather and summer mindset have slowed me down. There was a bit of reading with one book finished this week, and one segment finished on my bike, and that is it for updates.
I was able to finish one book this week. Book #20 for 2021 was the 1971 spy classic from John Le Carré, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". I grew up on spy novels, constantly grabbing Tom Clancy or Len Deighton novels as soon as my dad finished them. Reading a spy novel set fifty years ago with antiquated technology and an adversary that has not existed for thirty years might seem to be a recipe for disaster. However, in the same vein as my comments about "High Fidelity" two weeks ago, good stories are independent of the technological era in which they exist. Rob Fleming making a mixtape or George Smiley ordering accomplishes to use a miniature camera to photograph pages from a book are just actions the characters do. The technology does define the story because the technology is intrinsic to the era the story is set in, but in neither case does it diminish the story. That is because the story is each case is so damn good.
I am not sure what to say about this book. It was really good. I enjoyed it. I am glad I finally read it. You should do the same, but if you do, focus on the relationships between the characters because that is where the real story is even if the Soviet Union and tiny cameras are fictions in their own right.
On a different note, this first copy of Tinker I bought was in about 1994. I never read it for some reason. I moved so much in those days that I packed it away and forgot about it. A couple years later I picked up another copy and eventually realized I had two copies. After that, I bought every copy I found and had six or seven at one time. I finally gave them all away except one. The image below is an homage to how many versions I have owned over the years.
I made a bit of progress on my virtual cross-Canada tour. I was able to get four rides in this week but only 68 km. That was good enough to finish the segment between Davidson and Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. It will be interesting to see if any location on the virtual tour is smaller than Chamberlain. The Wikipedia entry mentions a population of 90 people in 2016, up 2.2% from 2011, but that was down from 108 in 2005. Next stop: Moose Jaw.
Here is the updated progress chart.
Greetings from 53.5° once again. This was a quiet week from an accomplishment point of view, but there was still progress was made in some areas. Two books are nearly done, one fiction and one non-fiction, but neither was completed this week. There were two new beers this week, and there were two cycling segments completed, the first completing the sixth leg of the cross-Canada virtual tour. It will be a short update, so let's dive in.
There was some good distance put in the saddle this week, and I was able to blow past Saskatoon and make it about a third of the way to Regina. Let's close off the sixth leg from Lloydminster to Saskatoon first.
I have always liked Saskatoon, but I bet I have not been there for twenty years. It reminds me a lot of Edmonton, with the river central to both cities including the fact that both cities were amalgamations of towns separated by that river. Plus, both cities are blessed by wonderful old hotels, with the Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton and Bessborough in Saskatoon.
Continuing with my pattern of listing fun facts about each stop based on the Wikipedia page for the location, Saskatoon is estimated to have a population of over 335,000 making it the largest city in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon is served by an international airport (IATA code YXE) named after Canada's thirteenth Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker.
Once I passed Saskatoon, I started on Leg #7 of the cross-Canada virtual cycling tour and headed toward Regina in a somewhat circuitous route. There is a direct route to Regina, but I thought I would virtually head to Moose Jaw because I have never actually been there. The first segment on the way to Regina was to Davidson. Davidson clocks in at just over 1000 people, but it has its own Wikipedia page, and, fun fact, Davidson claims to be the home of the world's largest coffee pot. Much like I reported about Rosetown a couple weeks ago, Davidson has an airport that does not rate an IATA code, but it has a Transport Canada Location ID of CJC3.
Here is a look at the updated progress chart with Leg #6 completed.
The first beer this week was from a favorite Alberta brewery, Troubled Monk. Coming in as Beer #770, their Juicy Gossip New England IPA really grew on me. I am growing a bit tired of "juicy" beers, however, this one had enough body to taste like a beer and not just spiked juice. (3.75 / 5)
The second beer was enjoyed 40 km into a windy and hot ride, so it was super awesome! I am confident though that it will hold up to scrutiny in less parched conditions. Beer #771 was the Nebali Hazy Pale Ale from Longroof Brewing. When we stopped in today, with masks on, the owners said they incorporated in 2019 but just opened their location seven weeks ago. I will definitely be back as the location is bike and dog friendly (don't really care about the dogs, TBH, but you know it does imply an easy-to-like vibe). I also like how that little wasteland area of tier three light industrial buildings is getting a real shot of inspiration from Longroof and their neighbors.
53.5° north latitude welcomes you to these pages. Or at least, I do, and I am at 53.5° north latitude, so I suppose I welcome you. Because I certainly do not speak for everyone. That would be presumptuous. Or something else. How would I know what glorified adjective describes what that would be? I don't even know what - insert inverted commas - speak for everyone means. But sometimes I do feel like I should speak for everyone, that only I know what should be said. Other times I want to speak for no one, not even myself. Sometimes the only thing that speaks for me is a song ringing through my ears. (We will cover the literary inspiration for that introduction below.)
The past week was interposed between the joy only long days and warm weather can provide, and bouts of melancholy that can only - at least for me - result from a memorable book. In between, there were three new beers, and a few good sessions in the saddle but not enough to close out a segment, and weirdly no new words unless D-Bag is a new word. Let's get into the recap.
I finished one book this week and finished one a couple of weeks ago but forgot to mention it until now. In the spirit of chronology, I will cover the forgotten one first.
Book #18 for 2021 was "The Flavor Matrix". Now you might look at this and say that it is a cookbook, and you would not be incorrect, and then emboldened by your accurate categorization of said book you might question how I could so cavalierly count a cookbook toward my reading goal. And while this complete disregard for literary integrity inflames your righteous indignation, you might throw down the gauntlet of "What's Next?" and caustically suggest that I will next count the latest three-ingredient cookbook from the neighborhood grocery store checkout counter (cream of mushroom soup, French's fried onions, and Velveeta!) and then scream "What's happening with this world? DOES NO ONE READ ANYMORE?."
But luckily you are not that kind of person, and instead you will merely tilt your head to the side and with a slightly furrowed brow, you will calmly say, "Interesting. That doesn't sound like something you typically count in your reading list. Tell me why you added this one." That will make my smile in silent recognition of why we are such good friends, and I will go on to explain my thought process, which will then cause you to smile back in silent recognition of why we are such good friends.
There are numerous recipes in the book, which therefore qualifies it as a cookbook. I have lots of cookbooks and there is rarely a week that I do not look through "They Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)" and "How to Cook Everything" for ideas, reminders, and inspiration. In fact, if I cannot get ideas and inspiration from a cookbook, it is no good to me. However, both are cookbooks and not books that one reads. With this in mind, I have never added either to the list of books "read" even if I have read most of both multiple times over the years.
Even though The Flavor Matrix is in part a cookbook, I added it to my list of books read because it is a lot more than that. There is extensive science in the book explaining how each of the obvious and obtuse food pairings make sense. To do that, Matrix covers topics such as the difference between volatile and aromatic compounds and R and S isomers The index provides the main aromas for many foods. For example, one of the main aromas of a grape is beta-ionone. Who knew?
The science and the amount I learned from this book justifies it entering the list of books read for the year. The bonus of this book is that the recipes are quite good.
And as some D-Bag (see below) bellows into the abyss of the Internet that I have no integrity because only morons count cookbooks on lists of books read, we will once again smile at each other in silent recognition of our friendship.
Switching gears completely, Book #19 for 2021 was "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby. My most-likely-pathetic ode to the mental musings of the protagonist was what you read in the first paragraph of this week's entry. I felt a distinct kinship to Rob Fleming, and not just because of the same first name. His emotional shortcomings and need to find meaning in everything except what is important really hit home. But to be fair, I also feel a kinship because in the end, Rob (the book Rob) got his shit together at similar age and stage to Rob(ert) (the me Rob).
It was a bit weird reading a book that revolved around music written in a time before Napster, a time where mixtapes were still a thing. However, all good books are inevitably about people and relationships, and High Fidelity was no exception. It was easy to ignore Rob the DJ from a quarter-century ago because the point was not about his music but rather about how he used his love for music to enable him being a D-Bag.
That is too close to a spoiler though and I never want to ruin a reading experience on this site, but I feel safe that what I said is okay since the quotes on the book talk about Rob being "suffering" and "self-centered" and mention "childishness". For those of you not good at math, I am pretty sure Suffering + Self-Centered + Childishness = D-Bag.
So a good point, even if it hit a bit too close to home. Go out and read it and see how much of Rob you see in the mirror after you are done.
I had three new beers this week, bringing my total beers logged on Untapped since March 23, 20215 to 769. That comes to a new beer every 2.95 days, which is a bit slower than when I first started writing on this site. My average rating currently sits at 3.36 making all those 3.25 ratings on the wrong side of average.
Beer #767 was the Fantacity Witbier from 2 Crows in Halifax. This was a nice wheat beer with good flavor and hops and is quite refreshing. I'll seek out others from 2 Crows after having this one. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #768 was the Voodoo Ranger IPA from New Belgium. This was good stuff with a nice burst of hops. It had a high ABV that was hardly noticeable, coupled with a great aroma from the mixture of hops. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in at Beer #769 was the Leifur Nr. 32 from Borg Brugghús out of Iceland. Long-suffering friends of mine will know that their GaRun Nr. 19 is one of my favorite beers of all time and one that I would do extreme things to get my hands on once again. With that as a preamble to picking up the Leifur, I was bound to be disappointed. This was a good beer, no question. But it failed to live up to my memory of the GaRun Nr. 19. (3.25 / 5)
I just had to include it. In case you think I made this up, here is the actual link I used.