Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where the days are getting colder and darker.
Speaking of getting darker, tomorrow is the province-wide municipal election, and this year there is a plebiscite on eliminating the time change we deal with every fall and winter. The plebiscite asks whether Albertans would like to eliminate the time change and stay with Daylight Savings Time.
However, that is not the correct way to approach this issue. The first question should ask whether we support eliminating the time change, and if so, the second question should ask if we support Daylight Savings or Daylight Standard. There is ample discussion and evidence that a northern jurisdiction like Alberta should go to Daylight Standard. In one story, Michael Antle, a psychology professor from the University of Calgary says "We've been presented with two bad choices. A bad one and a worse one." Dr. Antle advocates eliminating the time change but says that the move to permanent Daylight Savings is bad for Albertans.
If you are looking for more information on whether Daylight Savings is good or bad for Alberta, look at this chart from Elections Alberta. It seems clear to me that a move to permanent Daylight Savings is the wrong choice for Alberta.
Another CTV News story poses comments about how the plebiscite on the time change is a lure by the UCP to attract voters to the polls so that more people will vote for the binding referendum on equalization. Seems plausible and even likely, which is very unfortunate.
Finally, CBC has a handy page explaining all the different sections on the ballot this year. This page is from CBC Calgary, so it includes their local plebiscite on fluoridation.
I hope this does not come across as self-serving, but I do have one item to share. I completed the Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta that is available on Coursera. It is a twelve-week course, with a couple of hours of effort required each week. I found it extremely informative and eye-opening. The course covers topics starting with Indigenous world views and moving to first contact on Turtle Island (take the course if you do not know what that is), the fur trade, the promise and sad reality of the treaties across Canada, government assimilation programs, residential schools, and contemporary activism. I highly encourage everyone to take it so that we can all have better informed conversations about colonization and how to move forward with reconciliation.
I polished off two quick books this week, bringing my total for the year up to 37.
Book #36 for 2021 was "The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie. This is the first book in the Tommy and Tuppence series from Christie, and it was quite different from Christie's Hercule Poirot books. One quote I read after finishing the book is that it is a light-hearted romp. The edition I read contained an introduction that explained how the publisher was concerned about releasing this as Christie's second book, as it was so different than "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". After reading this book, I completely understand the points made. It was not a bad story, but it did not have the draw of a more intense novel and is quite a departure from the Poirot novels I have read.
The introduction goes on to say that the five Tommy and Tuppence books would not have been strong enough to stand on their own if not for the strength of Christie's more famous characters, Poirot and Miss Marple.
It is doubtful that any of the five books would still be available today if it weren't for the career of the famous Belgian of the little grey cells or the elderly inhabitant of St. Mary Mead.
A sad reminder that even the monumental achievement of getting published is no guarantee of immortality one generation removed from publication.
Moving on, Book #37 for 2021 was the fourth book in the Murderbot series, "Exit Strategy". It was only a few weeks ago that I read the previous book in the series, and I typically would wait longer between books in a series. However, the hold from the library came in quickly so I dove in this week. Once again, Murderbot is an incredibly enjoyable character and the struggles with its humanity and place in society makes the books worth reading. And on top of that, Murderbot blows up a lot of stuff which is fun to read.
Only one new beer this week as a result of finding a couple 2017 and 2018 Olde Deuteronomy Barley Wines from Alley Kat at Sherbrooke Liquor.
Beer #820 was the Innsmouth Mango Passionfruit Sour from Zero Issue out of Calgary. This is my fifth beer from Zero Issue, but the four previous beers were between April and August of 2018. I quite liked the first four offerings, but this one was sour without any complementing flavor. Maybe I am just tired of sours. Regardless, I will seek out more beers from Zero Issue as there is no reason I have not tried something from them for over three years. (3.0 / 5)
Greetings from Thanksgiving weekend from 53.5° north latitude. There was quite a bit of interesting news this week, some local but mainly news of global interest and impact.
The big news of the week was the Facebook outage. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were offline globally for six hours, completing removing millions of people from what they think of as the Internet. I was in an Uber on Monday afternoon and the radio station the driver was listening to was talking about the "forced social media vacation". I have a Facebook account that I never log into, had an Instagram account that I deleted, and have never used WhatsApp. There is no impact to me if Facebook applications are unavailable, however, that is clearly not the case for billions of people across the world, prompting calls for more competition in social media. There were concerns that Facebook was hacked, but a Facebook blog post blamed a botch update to a BGP router.
Beyond the outage, 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with a Facebook insider (whistleblower) the day before the outage.
The thrust of Frances Haugen's comments and her subsequent testimony to the US Congress is that the angrier and more divisive the content is that Facebook publishes and promotes, the more money Facebook makes. This is not new information, but this is the first time that the allegations are from an insider, and that are backed up by internal documentation and data and not allegations or assumptions from an outsider.
In addition, more information is surfacing about how harmful Facebook's Instagram is for teen girls in particular. The NY Times went so far this weekend to call it a "cesspool".
The combination of the whistleblower, the outage, and the revelations of how toxic the apps are made several media outlets, including CBC's Day 6 program, to call this a "very bad week for Facebook". But how bad, and for how long is the real question. If the impact to stock price is any indication, this is nothing to worry about. As shown below, the stock dropped from $330.05 to $329.22 in the past week.
In the last month, the stock has dropped for $378, so more of an appreciable decrease, but not much different than what the stock market has experienced in general.
Prediction: nothing changes, at least until 2024 and then only if the European Union or a US Democratic Senate and Congress force regulation onto Facebook.
One segment was finished in the cross-Canada virtual tour this week. I have now pushed past Dryden, Ontario. Much like many settlements in Canada, Dryden is named by a white male even though it was traditionally an Anishanaabe locations called Paawidigong ("the place of rapids" in Ojibwe). Dryden has population of 7700, and is served by the Dryden Regional Airport which has the IATA airport code of YHD. Oh yeah, and they have a big moose.
Here is the updated progress chart. With good weather and health, I can make it past Ignace this upcoming week.
The quest for a perfect cup of coffee continues. In the few weeks since I last posted about coffee, I have cleaned the screen and replaced the gasket on my espresso machine and have fixed how fine my coffee grinder will grind the beans. The difference has been very noticeable, with the espresso taking much longer to come out and the crema to be much more pronounced. This is making me rethink all the coffee I have made at home for the past several months.
The latest coffee is the Umbria Bizzarri blend. This Italian blend has been very enjoyable, but again that needs to be tempered against how many improvements I have made to my setup. Here are some action shots of the bag, richly colored beans, and the end result.
Four new beers this week, with three that were quite good.
Beer #816 was the Omnipollo MAZ Oat Pale Ale 5.6% Strong Ale. Omnipollo is a bit of a mystery. The can says it is brewed in Canada, but the company identifies as from Sweden. I assume Omnipollo has licensed their beer to someone in Canada to brew on their behalf. Whoever did produce this did a good job. This was super hazy, with low but lacy foam, and a drying taste like a grapefruit soda that has almost gone flat. There was no discernible aroma which I found weird, but overall this was good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #817 was an Edmonton beer, the Town Square Flower Child Elderflower Gose. I quite liked the tang added by the sea salt. It had a nice gose sour aroma but was not very sour tasting. The color was beautiful. Town Square has some good beers and is definitely worth seeking out when looking for something to try (3.75 / 5)
Next up was the miss for the week. Beer #818 was the High River Cruisin' West Coast IPA. This is my second beer from High River and so far I have not liked either. This did not seem like a West Coast IPA as it had more of a strong, boozy taste than you would expect from an IPA. (2.5 / 5)
Last up for Beer #819 was the Blackberry Black Berliner from Omen Brewing. A Berliner is typically a cloudy sour, but the massive amount of blackberry put into this made it a dark-purple-almost-black beer. This also had a nice creaminess from the lactobacillus that was included in the brewing. So a fruity, dark, sour, creamy beer. Great combination. (3.75 / 5)
Just one new word this week, coming from research around my younger daughter's pet frog.
(Edited 17Oct2021: added missing picture of new beers)
I had a tidy little update completed last weekend but forgot to post it. That means this update is for the past two weeks.
Before getting into the regular sections, the big news from last week's unposted entry was the federal election. In some ways, one might think it was no news at all, since there was little change in the seat tally: the Liberals gained two seats but still have a minority; the NDP and Bloc each gained a seat; the Conservatives lost two seats but still hold sway in Western Canada.
However, it might not be that simple for a few reasons. First, there were ridings that the Conservatives would have won if the People's Party had not split the conservative votes. That would not have won them enough seats to win a minority, but it would have shifted the balance. Second, all parties said they do not want another election so no one will want to be seen as the leader or party that forced Canadians into another expensive, unwanted election. This might mean that Trudeau and the Liberals do not need a majority to act like a majority government.
Here is the non-Mercator map of how the seats distributed after the mail-in ballots were counted.
There were interesting developments locally as well. Two more ridings fell from the Conservatives in Edmonton. Randy Boissonnault was the beneficiary of right-of-center vote splitting in Edmonton Central, and first-time candidate Blake Desjarlais won big in Edmonton Griesbach to become Alberta's only Indigenous MP. Boissonnault is sure to get a cabinet post out of his win, and Desjarlais and NDP colleague Heather McPherson from Edmonton Strathcona will work to build momentum for their party in this term.
Beyond the election, I was able to finish two more books. But before I get to that, have you ever had multiple books on hold at the library, all with different estimated wait times, only to have them ALL come in at the same time? Once again, I ended up this past week with well over 1500 pages of holds with no possible way to finish them all before they are due. Alas, so many books, so little time.
Book #35 for 2021 was "Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers" by Andy Greenburg. This is a journalistic exposé of what the Russian state-sponsored hackers dubbed Sandworm by American cyber researchers have done from Estonia to Ukraine to America. It is utterly terrifying and should be required reading for any policy-maker, corporate leader, or Internet user. In other words, everyone.
Changing gears quite a bit, the next book went back to fiction and a series I quite enjoy. Book #36 for 2021 was "Guards! Guards!", the eighth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The previous seven books were all enjoyable, but this was my favorite by far. Pratchett's humor and word play was in full form for the whole novel, and the story produced many real-world laugh-out-loud moments. The Discworld novels can be read in any order so if you have only one Discworld novel in your future, choose this one.
Between mechanical failures and personal injury, I just cannot seem to keep any momentum on my virtual cross-Canada tour. However, even with that, I did manage to complete the Falcon Lake to Kenora segment of the Winnipeg to Thunder Bay leg, and with that, have officially passed into the province of Ontario.
Kenora is not necessarily a town that would be a well-known city seeing it has a population of only about 15,000. However, someone of my age in Canada will surely remember the 1985 PCB spill on the Trans-Canada Highway near Kenora. A bit of ignominy that I am sure Kenora does not deserve, so I was happy to learn some fun facts about the city from the Wikipedia page. First of all, it was first call Rat Portage. Second, it (Rat Portage) is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood's 1910 story "The Wendigo", which is a story that has been on my to-read list for a while. Third, in the vein of so many Canadian towns and cities, it has an oversize sculpture, theirs being a forty-foot version of a muskellunge called "Husky the Muskie". And finally, the Kenora Airport has the IATA code of YQK.
Next stop, Dryden.
Five new beers in the past fortnight, bringing my lifetime total check-ins to 815, four of which were from Edmonton. There is a lot going on in Edmonton's breweries, and some of it is good.
Beer #811 was from Alley Kat's Back Alley Brews limited run series. There have been some really good Back Alley Brews, but unfortunately, the "At's Wits End" witbier was not one of them. It had a light banana taste. Maybe? Couldn't quite make it out due to the unappealing funk that pervaded the beer. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #812 was the "Dissent within the Caucus" sour from Trial & Ale. Trial & Ale is the brewery I mentioned in July that exclusively uses wild yeasts. The yeast in Dissent is called Pediococcus (see what they did there?) which is developed through very long fermentation cycles in oak barrels. The sourness at first drink was super intense, but it was easy to adjust to and enjoy. This process also lends to the dryness of the drink which helped with the desire to keep sampling from the glass. Another interesting beer from Trial & Ale, and another interesting lesson in wild fermentation. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #813 was another learning experience about yeasts. The Odd Company "Mandarina Sour" was made with kveik, which I learned is a family of ancient Norwegian farmer's yeast that is useful for brewing fast-maturing and tropical fruit-accented beers. This particular beer was solid, with nice juicy flavors but was otherwise unremarkable. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #814 was the last of the Edmonton beers, and it was back to Alley Kat for this one. This one was their "Ekuanot Dragon", the latest in their long-running series of Double IPAs. A 7.5% ABV highly aromatic and piney beer, tagged by the brewer as "best enjoyed in summer heat" seems a bit off to me. It makes me wonder if Alley Kat marketed it that way since they released it in June just prior to summer. Regardless, this was decent but not as memorable as some others in the Dragon series. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was my second of the beers I picked up from Almanac out of San Francisco. LOUD was a winner (4.0 / 5), LOVE was quite good (3.75 / 5), and so I went into their "Sabrosa DIPA" with high expectations. Maybe I am just tired of juicy beers, but this one felt underwhelming as I drank it. I am dulled by the amount of pineapple flavors in beers this past year, so I could not get the promised coconut and cantaloupe. Still, it was a beautiful beer, and the aroma was more intoxicating that the drink, so that was something. (3.5 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, but then I realized that most of them were made up, purposeful misspellings by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novel.